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Devra Torres

The Power of Bad Example

May. 31 at 8:14pm

The things that have inspired me most are not what you might expect.

 Some of them are not very inspiring at all.  For example:

  • I once had a professor who went to daily Mass.  He’d sheepishly walk in late---sometimes extremely late—every single day, as far as I remember.  This didn’t make me want to emulate the lateness, but it impressed me no end: the humility to keep showing up, day after day, so imperfectly, so publicly.  (The chapel was too tiny for an inconspicuous entrance.)  Most people would have given up altogether.

  • Once, when I was a fairly new convert, I visited a friend who was a serious Catholic.  She had many small children (actually, two, but they seemed like seven). 
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Devra Torres

Q & A with Jacques Philippe

Nov. 29, 2013, at 11:01am

A recent gathering with Jacques Philippe ended with a question-and-answer session. One question especially caught my attention.  I’m certain this participant spoke for large numbers of us.  How, she wanted to know, are we supposed to reconcile “Accept your failures” with “Be perfect”?

This conundrum is a stumbling block to many—they’d like to take to heart the encouraging words of people like Fr. Jacques and Pope Francis, who insist that we can enjoy peace and an unshakeable interior freedom despite our weakness and moral failures.  But just how do you do that, without shrugging off divine and moral law--in this case, a clear directive, from the lips of Christ Himself, to "be perfect"?

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Devra Torres

Jacques Philippe in Ann Arbor, Part Two

Nov. 21, 2013, at 8:51pm

Jacques Philippe, author of Interior Freedom, Searching for and Maintaining Peace, Time for God, and several other life-changing books, was in town last week.

Here he is, signing autographs in the gym!

 Below are some of his thoughts (reconstructed from my notes) on living in the present moment.  (You'll have to imagine the endearing accent and the occasional pauses to laugh happily whenever he cracked himself up. I got the sense that years of being a spiritual director give a person a lively sense of how ridiculous human beings can be, as well as an enduring compassion.) 

                                              *     *     *     *     *

Living in the present moment means entrusting the past to God’s mercy, the future to

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Devra Torres

Jacques Philippe in Ann Arbor(!)

Nov. 17, 2013, at 11:11pm

After all my criticism of Eugenio Sclafari, who talked to the Pope without taking notes or recording the conversation and then published the results as an “interview,” I find myself doing something just a little bit  similar.

What you are about to read is based on a bunch of notes scribbled at breakneck speed—and since I don’t understand the speaker’s native French, they’re based on a simultaneous translation.   It wasn’t a conversation, but a series of talks.  The speaker is Jacques Philippe, who, astonishingly enough, addressed us at my parish, Christ the King,

ten minutes away from my house, this weekend.  He was the centerpiece of our parish’s women’s retreat.  The theme was

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Devra Torres

The Wide-Awake Life

Nov. 10, 2013, at 1:29am

I fully expected to spend this decade in a state of bitterly nostalgic melancholy.  I had planned to squander it sitting helplessly by as my babies all got older, lamenting my inability to make them stop.

 I’ve been happily surprised to find it hasn’t been like that at all (or only occasionally). 

Maybe I speak too soon: my youngest is only five, still happy to sit on my lap and listen to “Big Y, little y, yawning yellow yak. Young Yolanda Yorgensen is yelling on his back.”  I reserve the right to eat my words when the day comes that he’s too cool for such things.

But I find myself unexpectedly content to be enjoying my eight children right now, precisely at their present ages.  It’s not

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Devra Torres

The Good that Depends on Us: Jacques Philippe Meets Flylady

Aug. 5, 2013, at 10:30pm

Here's Jacques Philippe.

And here's Flylady.

You’d be amazed how much they have in common. 

Marla Cilley, known as Flylady, is a “personal online coach to help you gain control of your house and home.”  She bills herself as part cheerleader, part drill sergeant, and (lucky for me) she takes a special interest in well-intentioned people with no natural flare for organization and no earthly idea where to begin.  (She’s some sort of Christian and occasionally posts a spiritual reflection, but mostly she operates on the natural level.)

Jacques Philippe is a French priest, author, speaker, and spiritual director. He gives deceptively simple advice about peace and freedom and holiness. I’ve written about him here, here, here, and here,

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Devra Torres

It’s Not My Fault!

Jul. 28, 2013, at 10:52pm

Occasionally, on my morning trek to the coffeepot, I encounter a small child standing next to, say, a little pile of broken glass and strawberry jam. 

The child will immediately launch into a convoluted and highly implausible explanation of why the blame for the mess ought to be laid at the feet of some absent (or even fast-asleep) party.

The trouble with this is not just the blatant falsehood, even though, as both a philosopher and a mother, I take a keen interest in truth.  It's also that the child so firmly believes that identifying the guilty party is the ultimate destination of his quest.  Wiping up the sticky and hazardous mess and carrying on as a slightly wiser and more cautious

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Devra Torres

Examining Your Examination of Conscience

Jul. 19, 2013, at 12:59am

I’ve been reading Jacques Philippe again.  This brings on the urge to just string together Jacques Philippe quotes and call it a post, because, after all, who could say it better, or what is there to add?

The book in question is called The Way of Trust and Love: a Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux (Scepter).

It’s perfect for people like me—and I suspect there are many—who suffer from the uneasy conviction that there must be more to the Little Flower than what we imagine, but who are too allergic to nineteenth-century religious prose to find out for sure.

This short paperback, as accessible as it is profound, will allow you to derive enormous amounts of spiritual nutrition from St.

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Devra Torres

Anti-Spontaneity

Nov. 2, 2012, at 2:01am

Last week, we considered the uses and abuses of spontaneity.  But what about the opposite extreme?

According to legend, my grandfather was once discovered to have penned the reminder “Kiss Thelma” on his to-do list.

Thelma was his wife.

This is as good an illustration as any that Grandpa Lenny was not a spontaneous man. 

Now, it’s true, as Jacques Philippe points out, that steady, proven faithfulness, year in and year out, is a far more convincing proof of love than sporadic bursts of passionate affection alternating with stretches of neglect.  But what to make of such, well, extremely steady steadiness as my grandfather’s?

Did he love his wife?  Yes, of course he did.  They stayed

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Devra Torres

In Praise of Spontaneity, Under Certain Conditions

Oct. 25, 2012, at 12:53am

For a long time, I labored under the illusion that spontaneity, especially as practiced by me, was a charming thing.  This misconception has been slowly, and I do mean slowly, draining away over the past couple of decades.

One early intimation that something was amiss came when my husband and I were newlyweds moving to a different apartment.  He seemed distinctly uncharmed by the large quantity of boxes I had packed up and helpfully labeled “MISCELLANEOUS.”

 I was mystified.  What did he want: a boring, regimental, conformist wife?

(Now that I have eight children who take after me, his perspective is much less baffling.)

I’ve been reading Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe again,

and

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