Lord, Send a Phillip

Do you love someone whose life is unraveling, and long for him to connect with God? But he rejects your suggestions, wants nothing to do with faith, or can’t stand being “told what to do”? When a recent caller to Relevant Radio™ pleaded for help with a similar dilemma, show-host Patrick Madrid suggested the caller pray this Scriptural four-word prayer: “Lord, send a Philip.” Expounding on this, Madrid summarized Acts 8:26-39, in which Philip, a devout disciple of Jesus, was instructed to race down a particular road to catch up with a distant carriage. The carriage’s occupant was struggling, but Philip was well-equipped to address his need. As the two conversed, one thing led to another, until the man accepted the good news of Jesus and asked Philip to baptize him. This account illustrates that when you plead with Our Lord to “send a Philip” you are asking that he put into that person’s path an individual well-suited to help your loved one move towards Jesus.

When I was thirty-something I was far from God. My relationships were tanking and my eating and weight escalating out of control. When my mother begged me to talk to a priest, my comeback was ‘how could any priest have the least idea of what I need?’ I do not know how my parents prayed, but pray they did. And I know that it was my encounter not with Philip but with Philomena,* that got me where I needed to be.

Work-mates, Philomena, and I hit it off instantly. Soon we found ourselves commiserating heart-to-heart about a wretched, mutual problem, compulsive overeating. I told her how crushed I’d recently been after glimpsing my reflection in a store window. Revolted, I’d tried to suck in my gut but it wouldn’t suck. It had nowhere to go. Beneath my dress hem I saw legs bulging like hams; self-loathing flooded me. Very soon after this Philomena disclosed that she’d been exploring something I’d never heard of, a Twelve-step group for people struggling with food. Their approach was holistic. Members asserted that disordered eating is integrally connected with one’s emotions and spirituality; this meant that anyone wanting to lose weight and keep it off needed to address all three components together. This resonated with me. Despite my scorn for groups, I ventured to some meetings.

There I heard much I didn’t understand and much I disliked; however, one frequently-repeated phrase grabbed me: “Take what you like and leave the rest.” To me that meant I was free to search out my own path, and to take all the time I needed. Hooked, I began attending meetings weekly and dabbling with suggestions which appealed to me. To my surprise my weight began to drop.

But some of the God-talk I heard baffled me. I’d been pushing God out of my life for some time, and I’d entirely stopped attending Mass. When I heard a member describe God as her benevolent coach, who provided precisely what she needed in order to achieve her personal best, I was perplexed to say the least. Fascinated, yes, but—unable to comprehend the notion of a caring God—I just didn’t get it. Sure, I believed God was “up there” all right, but wasn’t he too busy with cosmic preoccupations to care about my heartache? How could he be bothered that not a single pair of the pants I owned would zip? Why would he give a hoot when I collapsed into yet another binge?

Still this new kind of God- talk began to affect me. In my heart something new was stirring. A yearning I couldn’t name, a kind of homesick hunger. Hope was flickering in my soul.

At the same time, every night was beastly—torment and defeat, for I binged wildly from the moment I arrived home from work until I rolled into bed. I longed to break this bondage, and God desired this too. But above all he desired my heart. So—via a most incredible series of circumstances—he made use of my defeat and my desperation as only God could do, and he drew my feet to daily Mass.

There, he was waiting for me. Truly present in his Body and Blood, he delighted to have me back. Silently and hiddenly, he went to work feeding me with His Heavenly Bread, healing my soul, and laying the solid foundations my recovery required. In time, his Eucharistic graces in combination with the twelve steps and tools of my program and other supports, empowered me to forge the complete and stable recovery from compulsive overeating which by the grace of God I enjoy to this day.

Philomena faded out of my life long ago. But I will never forget her; nor will I cease to thank God for so graciously jump-starting my recovery by sending her my way.

*Name has been changed for anonymity’s sake


Margaret is a retired psychotherapist and member of the Catholic Writer’s Guild. Se has published several articles and helped assemble an inspiring collection of reflections shared by friends of a beloved local priest, Father Stuart Long. Margaret is presently working with an editor on her first book, Honey from the Rock: Forty Reflections for Troubled Eaters.