Miss Goux, a quiet saint

Last week, on Monday, 6 July 2014, a 91-year-old woman silently left the world to be with our Father in heaven. Marie Louise Goux lived a quiet life but her courageous heart, practical wisdom, and gentle whisper formed many women and men to become mature Christians. Just simple Miss Goux to her sisters and brothers in Notre Dame de Vie (Our Lady of Life) and to generations of us who went to Holy Week retreats in the NDV House of Solitude/Mother of Life Catechetical Formation Center (MOL) in Novaliches, Quezon City, she came to the Philippines in 1954 and, except for periods of solitude or for meetings, never returned to her home country France.

Miss Goux arrived in the Philippines on Dec. 18, 1954 on board SS Vietnam with Miss Marie Pila and Elizabeth Moulin and since then has served our people and helped built the Catholic Church and this nation for 61 years. She was a member and Responsable (Superior) for many years of NDV, a Secular Institute of Pontifical Right belonging to the Carmelite family, in the Philippines. NDV’s founders were Venerable Fr Marie-Eugene, a French Carmelite priest, and Marie Pila, a laywoman. Both had visited the Philippines as well but it was Miss Goux that led the work in the Philippines.

In her many years in our country, Miss Goux collaborated in the creation of the Summer Institute of Spirituality (SIS) which had bishops, priests, religious, and lay people as participants. Imbued with the Spirit of Carmel and knowledgeable on the doctrine and masters of Carmel, she was a much-sought speaker and Retreat Mistress of the different communities of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the Philippines as well as to many other groups.It was in her capacity as Retreat Mistress of the annual Holy Week retreat at the NDV House of Solitude that many of us, teachers and students from the Ateneo de Manila and the University of the Philippines, got to meet Miss Goux in the 1980s and 1990s. In my case, I was fortunate to know her even better as I was then teaching philosophy at MOL, also located in Novaliches, which was founded and run by the NDV.

It was a challenging time in my life as I was discerning about my vocation – with dilemmas like choosing between going to law school or taking up arms against the Marcos regime, and deciding about getting married or going off to Europe to study philosophy. Miss Goux helped gave me perspective during those years. She taught me to pray the Carmelite Way, how to gaze at and more importantly be gazed by the Lord. She also introduced me to two spiritual masters that up to now I continue to run to for guidance and intercession – St. Therese of Lisieux and Venerable Father Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus. Later, my wife and I would be naming one of our sons Enrico after Henri Grialou, the secular name of Father Marie-Eugene.

I was not the only one that attended those retreats in Novaliches and who was fortunate in being guided by Miss Goux. Supreme Court Spokesman Ted Te, for example, shared in Facebook an account of how Miss Goux helped him at a crucial time in his life when he was the human rights lawyer assigned to defend death penalty convicts.

According to Ted: “I recall meeting her for the first time during the Holy Week retreat at Mother of Life, of course; she was already silver haired then but she was still very energetic. She had that rare gift of focusing on someone while listening, such that you felt as if you were the only one who was present; she hardly spoke while you were speaking to her but when it was her turn to speak, there was a lot of wisdom in her words. I would make the MOL retreat several times; one of those times was before the first execution (Leo Echegaray’s) and it was then pretty clear the execution was going to happen and while there was still a lot of denial on my part that my client would be executed, I knew that soon I would have to face the inevitable. I went to the retreat troubled and the first opportunity I got, I sought out Ms. Goux. I recall just unburdening myself to her, like someone I knew really well and I remember that she just listened. When she spoke, she told me that there is grace available in what I was doing and when that time comes, there will be grace available to deal with my fears. I didn’t really understand it then but later on, I discovered what she meant. I would make the MOL retreat a fourth time after the execution of Leo and sought Ms. Goux out, but she was then in France. I never did get the chance to thank her for her wisdom and the comfort that her words gave me during my own ‘dark night of the soul’.”

Another friend and colleague, who is now a high level government official, also shared this story: “One time, I was in a personal retreat in Novaliches.  During one break from the long hours of silence, I related to MLG (Miss Goux) that I was mostly falling asleep as I sat in before the tabernacle into the Nova Chapel or in the priests’ chapel.  I was bothered that I was not praying well.  I will never forget what MLG told me.  One that I have taken to heart to this day.  She said Jesus was just so happy I spent time with Him.  No dialogue, just gazing at Him.  And yes, even falling asleep in His presence.  She said that this all He asks – to be with Him as a little child resting in the God’s comforting embrace.  I have never forgotten this.  This is still how I pray.”

As for me, my last extended conversation with Miss Goux was in 1998, in Venasque, France when I was discerning what to do next after my stint in government. I sought her counsel on this as she was well informed  (in fact opinionated) about the politics of the country while having a perspective of detachment. As always, she was encouraging and supportive and assured me that God will take care of things. And she was right.

One of the final projects Miss Goux spearheaded was the building of the NDV Center of Solitude for Asia at Encanto, Angat, Bulacan. And, rightly so, it was in the grounds of the Center that her mortal remains were buried last Thursday. How wonderful this was! Miss Goux’ body is now surrounded by many trees and flowers that she herself had planted – like she did of the seed of God’s word in the hearts of many. Indeed, Miss Goux was the Lord’s sower, a saint who lived quietly amid us; she is what the psalmist referred to in Psalm 116: “”Precious in the sight of the Lordis the death of his faithful servants.”

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