COLORADO SPRINGS. The Diocese of Colorado Springs’ Office of Marriage and Family Life is sponsoring a retreat for married couples Feb. 3-4 at Holy Apostles Parish. Father Jacques Philippe, a France-based priest of the Community of the Beatitudes, will lead the retreat.
Father Philippe is a native of Lorraine, France. After studying mathematics in college, he spent several years teaching and doing scientific research. In 1976, he met the then recently-founded Community of the Beatitudes and answered the Lord’s call to follow Him through this vocation. He then spent several years in Nazareth and Jerusalem immersing himself in the study of Hebrew and the Jewish roots of Christianity.
In 1981, he traveled to Rome to study theology and canon law, was ordained a priest in 1985, and began his work as a spiritual director, working in the formation of priests and seminarians of the Community. In 1994, he returned to France, where he assumed various responsibilities including the development of training in the Community, and participation in its General Council. He has also preached retreats regularly in France and abroad and has consolidated his principal retreat themes into several books on spirituality. Some of his titles include “Interior Freedom,” Searching For and Maintaining Peace,” and “Time for God.”
In recent years, he has devoted himself primarily to spiritual direction and preaching retreats.
The Colorado Catholic Herald recently interviewed Father Philippe to get a preview of the retreat for married couples that will take place at Holy Apostles. To register, visit www.diocs.org and click on “Married Couples Retreat” under “Quick Links”. There is no fee to attend, but a goodwill offering will be taken.
CCH: What will be some of the themes or threads explored during the retreat?
Father Philippe: I will speak about the importance of the vocation of the married couple today. Marital love and family life are fundamental to society and to the Church and reveal essential aspects of the mystery of God: God as communion of love, life, fruitfulness . . . The vocation of the couple and the family remind us of the deep and genuine meaning of human existence according to the plan of God.
I would also like to show how the love for God and human love are not opposing but mutually-nourishing realities. The closer we are to God, the closer we can be to the other, but it is also in the deepest love for our neighbor that we can express our love for God in all his truth.
What kind of experience do you have working with married couples? What are some of the common struggles that are experienced by couples today?
I do not specialize in coaching married couples, but I have given many retreats for couples, and I often have the opportunity to listen to married people sharing their questions and difficulties. I must say that, every time I preach a retreat for couples, I feel a special grace — a special tenderness from God for couples and families. God knows their struggles and difficulties and wants to take care of them!
Besides the attacks on the family peculiar to modern Western society, there is the big challenge of the Christian education of children. There is also the struggle, proper to the conjugal life, of a love that has to be constantly rebuilt between husband and wife, through the test of time, experiencing the limits of the other and personal limits. This struggle is not easy, but it is a beautiful opportunity for a true conversion — a great deepening of spiritual life and human maturation.
What is the format of the retreat?
The retreat starts Friday evening at 7 p.m. and ends Saturday at 4 p.m. There will be four talks, Mass, time for personnal reflection and prayer, and a special time of prayer for the couples.
How many times a year do you usually visit the United States? What differences do you see between the Catholic Church in France and the Church in the United States?
Since 2012, I have usually come to the United States twice a year for one or two months at a time. The situations of the Church in France and in the U.S. are quite different. The situation seems to me more difficult in France, for dechristianization is more pervasive and there are few priestly vocations. The Church in the U.S. seems to be more alive and dynamic.
That said, there are very great spiritual riches in the Church of France because of its history and also because of the presence today of many realities where faith is alive and deep — on both the spiritual and intellectual levels — and this foreshadows a renewal. The churches of France and of the United States should share more of their own riches!
In addition to being a retreat master, you are a prolific author. Are you currently working on any new books?
I am writing a book on the Beatitudes (according to the Gospel of Matthew). It is not progressing very quickly because of my schedule. I believe that this Gospel is fundamental for the church and the world today. Only a life according to the Beatitudes can heal our world. And the family is a very privileged place to understand and practice the Beatitudes!
You visited our diocese last year to give a parish mission at Pax Christi Parish in Littleton. What is your impression of the Catholic Church in Colorado?
I find the Church quite alive. I met a lot of generosity, and desire to deepen the spiritual life.
How has Pope Francis influenced your priestly ministry?
The personal testimony of Pope Francis and the principles he wants to promote in the Catholic Church are a great encouragement for the way in which I understand my vocation as a priest. He desires a Church free from a wordly spirit — more in conformity with the Gospel — which proclaims the Gospel with courage and cares more for the poor — for those who are wounded by life and for those who are distant or marginalized. He wants a Church whose main concern is not to preserve institutions or external rules but to communicate to all men the infinite mercy of God. This coincides with my personal experience as a priest.