Father Thomas Philippe

A return to the Creator

In times of crisis — whether they be personal ones or those of a community — surely a return to the origin is needed, a return to what was chosen and desired at the beginning, in order to overcome the crisis with love and intelligence. This is perhaps the ultimate meaning of a crisis and the very reason that God allows it to happen.  – – Father Marie-Dominique Philippe ‘The Mystery of St Joseph’, elaborating thoughts ingrained upon my being by Pope Leo XIII in the crucial social justice document Rerum Novarum–a huge influence upon my political and personal views.

An interesting note on tthe precious French family Father Marie-Dominique Philippe was born into and formed as an individual.

Father Marie-Dominique Philippe was born on September 8, 1912 at Cysoing, France, the eighth of twelve children in a family who gave the Church three Dominican brothers and four contemplative religious sisters.

Marie Domnique Philippe brother to Thomas

Marie Domnique Philippe brother to Thomas


Virtue: Contemplative Fundamentals

They (Gospel Virtues) make the soul docile and foster in it the dispositions necessary to profit fully by the intervening of the Holy Spirit.  Humility, meekness, patience, gentleness, these and others, are indispensable virtues required by the Spirit of Love for all who want to be Christ’s disciples.  It is useless to ask for His divine education if we do not possess the Gospel virtues, or at least if we do not have the firm will to practice them: the Gospel Virtues are the fundamentals of all mystical life.  Without them, access to the interior life will always remain irremediably closed……If at times a chasm seems to divide the theological and the moral realms within us, perhaps this is because we have not sufficiently sustained and cultivated those Gospel Virtues to which the Good Master, in his merciful wisdom, has so many times drawn our attention, and which He seems to love with such predilection: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”  –Father Thomas Philippe ‘The Fire of Contemplation’

The Theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.  Spiritual maturity is the refining of the essential eternal elements of God within.  First Corinthians chapter 13, the masterful doctrine of love, guides us beyond to the contemplative mastering of life, the advancing into spiritual adulthood, a being beyond a knowing: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish was.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.  So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The Cardinal Virtues, deeds I must acquire: prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice.  The Catechism of the Church teaches: Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

The Gospel Virtues, painted colorfully by Father Thomas Philippe, point to the Beatitudes, once again the Catechism of the Church establishes principles:

The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven: 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward is great in heaven.

The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection; they shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life; they are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations; they proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples; they have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.

The Sermon on the Mount Carl Bloch, 1890

The Sermon on the Mount



The Mystical Body as a whole

However, we must note that in this privileged milieu (consecrated religious life), man does not have to practice exactly the same virtues, or in the same way….In the family, and still more in the city, he has to cultivate especially the great moral virtues…These compromise the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, as has been noted, and the other moral virtues immediately related to them; in a word, all the virtues that develop man’s true human values and prepare him to perform his function in society. These are at once the great human virtues and the great social virtues.

…Gospel virtues: humility, patience, meekness, and so on….consecrate religious life….somewhat lacking in dignity and nobility, they are rightly called the “little” virtues….precisely because of their lowliness and poverty…they have a very close bond with the theological virtues. There is less danger in esteeming them for themselves and stopping at them….They add a tone of sweetness and humility to the moral virtues; they keep them from closing in on themselves and bring a sort of deep aspiration toward God and supernatural realities.

…live in the world but feel impelled to advance further, have an excellent practice…they select some monastery or convent…as a second home—a home for their spiritual life. A few days, or better still a week or more, once or twice a year, when the duties of their calling allow, they withdraw to their second home, their spiritual home, to live the spiritual live more fully and deeply…In short moments wrested from a life of work that is more and more engrossing and agitating, they go back in memory and imagination to that ideal setting of solitude and silence where the Heart of Jesus made itself felt so near, where they tasted the sweetness of His endearments, where Mary, his Mother, was so prodigal of her caresses. The memory of these Holy, familiar places, still perfumed with graces received, helps them to rise above their daily turmoil, to bring a little light and peace to their souls, to dispel the thousand distractions that almost inevitably assail those who can consecrate only a few moments each day to mental prayer.  –Father Thomas Philippe, ‘The Fire of Contemplation’

At night


Build the bridges high

Yesterday, the idea tantalized throughout that I am living a life I do not want to.  My will glorifies in a retreat to the monastic life in North Dakota.  It would be a splendor.  I am positive God would bless the endeavor.  A full concentration upon the expansion of faith, hope, and charity within the mature confines of Assumption Abbey would produce good contemplative fruit, a disposition seeking the source and summit of Catholicism through daily life centered upon the Eucharist.  The comfort of wide open spaces geographically assuaging; dominant sky and expansive rolling tundra offering an ambiance of grandeur.  The purposeful community provides stellar developed religious fellowship.  There is not the slightest questioning of authenticity.  I would pack my bags tomorrow if it were of my doing.  I have become convinced that certain chosen contemplatives must desire in their heart and mind the monastic life.  The consecrated life under total obedience to the Church, vows and permanency rigidly entrenched, must be held as a fantasy presenting ultimate freedom; a possibility of sublime potentiality.  Thoughts of the cloistered monastic life have always existed within the mind of the contemplative.  The realization that a full attentiveness to faith, hope, and charity, isolated from the world, protected by the Church, gratifies their deepest needs—strengthens and invigorates their every breath.  It is a rhythm, a heartbeat, within the madness of the world.

Sad eyes, sad eyes, where you going with that confidence?  I am going to where the call divides…Still waters laying over, still waters laying over….wild eyes in the wilderness where you going with the devil in hand?  Going to build the bridges high for work and money…building bridges high…the river far away…going to where the rain falls to find my brother, to find my brother. 

Concretely establishing the consecrated life as a healthy lovely longing, I open myself to the voice of God, imaginary perfection no longer entertains.  The devil does not deceive through good intention and imagination.  My ways become closer to the ways of God.  Within this doing, I clearly recognize the solidity to a presence; deeper thoughts and behavior emerging, when I embrace working with the Hospice of Western Reserve.  Now is a time of further waiting, patience.  My paperwork is being processed, demanding further days passing.  I bite upon the chomp, hungry to begin, aching to offer myself in servitude.  Life demands I wait longer.  I see the time as critical (maybe all time is critical).  It is a time to further establish virtue, to prove my genuineness; the conducting of proper thought and behavior, attending to daily mass, prayer, and adoration, while also giving myself to my new employer.  The effort loses selfishness, becoming something done for brother and sister, a calling allowing devotedness to blossom within acts of love and giving, fellowship and sharing nurturing amidst the structure and organization of the world, philanthropic while remaining dependent, lowly as I answer to hierarchy and authority, troubled by the demands of the world, struggles and exhaustion from work and worries, unsatisfied demands and loneliness all placed lovingly upon the burdens by the most loving of Creators.

Carried away by the gentle wind of the Spirit of God, the soul breaks through the limits of knowledge (i.e. speculative knowledge) to let love have full play.  Freed from every hindrance, charity penetrates more deeply than intellect.  Charity has confidence in the Spirit of Love, trusts in Love’s initiatives, is carried along into the deep mysteries clouded in the darkness of faith.  Love no longer stops short at the concepts or propositions by which the Divine is revealed to us, but rather goes deep into its mysterious and hidden reality.  –Father Thomas Philippe ‘The Fire of Contemplation’.


Holy Spirit inspired

My new employment is demanding time and attention.  I find it profitable, a truly divine alteration in the living of my life, a proper preparation to my active time of working with the Hospice of the Western Reserve,  I cannot focus all of my intellectual power upon contemplative reasoning.  My faith becomes centered upon mass and the Eucharist, adoration and the Rosary daily placing me before the gaze of my Lord.  Father Thomas Philippe is being savored in small doses upon waking.  His writing upon Holy Spirit inspired interior instruction astounded.

There is a great mystery in all this–especially in view of the fact that Our Lord, the word of God, is the interior teacher.  Exterior teachers, such as professors of theology, only present the object, the truth, whereas the interior teacher gives understanding.  But when the Word, the interior teacher, came to earth, he did not follow the order that would seem logical.  Before teaching the Apostles, and in order to be understood by them, it would seem that he ought first to have given them the Spirit.  As master of the Spirit, he could have done so.  But the mysterious fact is that Our Lord’s disciples did not have the Spirit and so could not profit fully from His preaching. (thus improper interpretations, the argument who would be first, Peter being rebuked–told to get behind the Lord)  They did not know how to receive it as contemplatives.

Light is shed on this mystery (making it all the darker, as always with mysteries) when we consider Mary had already received the Spirit; indeed she was the bride of the Holy Spirit.  When she was present for Our Lord’s preaching, she took in everything, and profited fully from it.  “Mary kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19).  

…preaching is a word addressed to faith.  It does not try to show by arguments that the mysteries of faith are credible; rather it presents them as mysteries and abides as deeply as possible in their mystery…Holy preaching is the overflow of contemplation.

There is a scene from ‘The Passion of the Christ’, the audio of the movie haunting–intensifying mysteries, where Mary, portrayed powerfully by Maia Morgenstern, searches for her imprisoned son.  Listening with her heart, Mary sinks to the floor, crawling about on the floor, perceiving with her heart.  Beneath her is her shackled and bound Divine Son.

the passion of the christ mary temple floor passion098


Fully alive above knowing

Before the Eucharist, these words identified a reality emerging. Being called into service, my contemplative life matures into a living reality beyond concepts, surpassing intellectualism, disconnected from linear thought, disassociated from reason, something set apart, on into a world of its own, a world of the Creator Himself.  I am living a contemplative life activated by Divine Will, set into purposeful motion with, in and through the Trinity, obedient to the Church and worldly organizations.  A perennial existentialist, an isolator and misfit, I come into greater fruition by abiding by the structure, guidance, and authority of the Hospice of the Western Reserve, true to the Church above all things, trusting in God, content with lowliness and simplicity, following the footsteps of Jesus, invigorated by the Holy Spirit–armed with His gifts and fruits attained through purging, psychological healing, …if it dies, it bears much fruit, always striving for purity, Neither is new wine put into old wineskins, making progress within imperfections, patient with myself, renewing strength continually under the mantle of my Holy Mother Mary.  Expecting nothing, while open to giving everything, I can, remaining responsible, maintaining sanctifying grace, sacrificing both great and small, inspiring in the world, contribute to God’s greater glory.  What more is there to do?  Instead of reading and writing, suckling upon the breast, I venture out into the world, hidden as a contemplative, outrageous to a likable degree, unafraid to be different, yet unassuming, diverting attention, remaining quiet, seeking anonymity.  Clarity within moments, my every thought becomes accountable, my behavior even more: holiness a consequence.  A strict demand is made upon myself, always willing to forgive myself, starting the next moment refreshed, vigorously focused upon servitude.

His mind no longer reposes in the contemplation that theology makes possible. It is not acquired contemplation (a thing of human doing) that directly nourishes his life of love. The more his interior life develops, the more his theological knowledge and mystical knowledge tend, each, to become specifically distinct. We might say that they become more specialized. Prayer becomes more and more simple, more and more divine and filled with love; it is stripped of a too human intellectualism that impedes love’s upward thrust and hinders it simple openness. –Father Thomas Philippe ‘The Fire of Contemplation’

Father Thomas Philippe with a gifted child.

Father Thomas Philippe with a special needs child.


The Mother of God; beyond boundaries and limitations

God did not want to sanctify Mary as a creature–that is to say, within certain limits–or as a part (even though the principal part) of the Church.  He willed to sanctity her as a whole, as “a world in herself,” as St Bernard says.  He gave her a fullness of grace that was indeed finite in comparison with that of our Lord, but which had a kind of infinity in comparison with the grace given to us.  He wanted her to be like a universe in herself, with all the graces that have been given to any of the saints recapitulated eminently in her.   –Father Thomas Philippe ‘The Contemplative Life’

Our Lady Undoer of Knots

Our Lady Undoer of Knots