Small Catechism on the Spiritual Life – Part 3

Small Catechism on the Spiritual Life – Part 3

  by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen O.C.D

  (text in French published by Le Sel de La Terre)

(continued)

Chapter V The Difficulties of Mental Prayer

1. What are the principal difficulties encountered in mental prayer?

As mental prayer consists in lifting the soul to God, in other words occupying oneself with Him by thought and affection, the difficulties arise in mental prayer from all which hinders or makes more difficult this double application of our soul. With regards to thoughts, there are distractions, with regards to affections there is dryness.

2. What is meant by distraction?

We mean by distraction the intrusion into prayer of thoughts incompatible with the exercise that we are doing. They push us so that we occupy ourselves with something else. This assault of foreign and even contrary thoughts to the recollection of the intelligence with God can take place in two ways willingly or unwillingly. There is a great difference between the two ways

3. What do willful distractions consist of?

Willful distractions consist in the willful introduction or consented acceptance of thoughts which deviate our intelligence from the Divine Object of which it was occupied. In becoming distracted willingly, the soul either stops or interrupts mental prayer. If it is done without a sufficient reason, it is culpable of irreverence towards God. More so than a difficulty, the willful distraction in mental prayer makes it an infidelity. If on the other hand a wondering thought comes and is not accepted, the distraction is said to be involuntary.

4. What are the causes of involuntary thoughts?

We must accept two causes, the first occasional the second natural. The first is made by the impressions of the senses, the second by the intimate tendencies of our nature which engender spontaneously in us images and thoughts. We must distinguish, according to their origin, exterior or interior distractions.

5. Can we avoid distractions in mental prayer?

The exterior distractions can be avoided in a large part by the close watch on our senses and especially in choosing to pray in a surer place, as Our Lord suggests in the Gospel. We will avoid many distractions caused by the eyes in closing them or in fixing them on a religious object or a book of meditation. It is much more difficult to avoid interior distractions.

6. Where does this particular difficulty come from?

The particular difficulty of avoiding interior distractions comes from the spontaneity of the natural tendencies which are at the bottom of our being. They are manifested by the easy apparition of images and thoughts which relate to things we either like or fear. When our attention is fixed on an object of our consideration this interior world bound to these spontaneous tendencies remains more or less in obscurity, but as soon as our attention diminishes they are noticed. Then thoughts and memories appear in our mind which can contrast greatly with the mental prayer that we are doing.

7. Can one avoid interior distractions?

Yes, there is a way, at least in a certain measure, to avoid them either directly or indirectly:

* The direct way to resist the distractions consists in bringing back our attention to the religious topic that we are meditating on, or simply on God making an act of faith or love.

* The indirect way consists in intensifying our spiritual life. In becoming more profound one gains new energy which will reinforce the tendency of our soul towards God counter the natural tendencies which distract us. It should be noted that such a result will not be gained very quickly, but will be the fruit of a long application to the interior life.

8. Are the interior distractions sometimes unavoidable?

Yes, because they are spontaneous. Especially when the soul suffers from the difficulty in fixing its attention interior distractions can be very invading, insistent, and annoying. This difficulty in fixing the attention can come from an accidental cause. It can also come from a habitual disposition, as in the case of certain temperaments, very mobile. If the soul continues to suffer seeing itself distracted, and doing its best to remain attentive to God, these sorrowful distractions far from hurting it, transform it into an instrument of moral perfection and are an occasion of supernatural merit.

9. What is meant by dryness?

Dryness is the suppression of comfort that the soul feels often in the spiritual life, especially in the beginning which follows its conversion to a better life. The soul which recognizes that it possesses a more intense spiritual life has a certain joy because it is a psychological law that one is happy when he knows he possesses a great good. The intense spiritual life does not however consist in this comfort nor receive it. Also it can exist and develop outside all consolation, only because true devotion consists only in promptitude of the will to do the service of God.

10. Is dryness an evil?

The moral quality of dryness depends on the cause which produced it:

* If comfort disappears in the soul but if the resolution to give oneself completely to God remains in the will, far from being an evil, the dryness will be an occasion for good.

* If on the other hand the dryness comes from the weakness of the will it lacks recollection in the spiritual life.

11. Is there blameworthy dryness?

Of course, when they have their source in our infidelity. It can be greater or lesser. The soul called by God to a generous and mortified life who, after corresponding some time to grace, gives itself to look for small human satisfactions is no longer faithful to the invitation of God, and loses its original fervor, and remains weak in the will.

But more unfaithful still is the soul who falls into luke-warmness in committing deliberate venial sins. It is natural that such a soul can no longer forcefully express its love to God, precisely because it is no longer strong. It falls into dryness. The only way to cure the problem is to correct oneself returning to the original generosity.

12. Is there dryness which does not depend on the will?

Without doubt there are. Even the circumstances in which we live in are often occasions of dryness. They can provoke in us a sentiment of discomfort which deprives us of any consolation in the spiritual exercises, physical tiredness, physical problems, worries, small injuries, incomprehensions. All of that signifies for us causes of weight, annoyance, and overwhelming emotions and thoughts, which puts the soul in a sorrowful state where all joy and peace disappear. In this form of dryness the soul must arm itself with patience knowing that in supporting it for the love of God, the soul offers to Him a very agreeable sacrifice which proves its love for Him.

13. Can the dryness come from God?

Definitively, and even in the mentioned ones, we must affirm that it is caused by God since all circumstances in life are arranged by Providence. But sometimes the suppression of comfort that the soul feels in mental prayer is more directly the work of God, and precisely when He makes it impossible for the soul to meditate with the help of the imagination, and to make acts of love as beforehand. It is a common phenomenon to souls after some time of fervent application to mental prayer. St. John of the Cross teaches that by this type of dryness God invites souls to a more simple form of mental prayer that is called an initial contemplation.

14. How must the soul comport itself in this dryness?

The soul must not persist in wanting to continue the meditation as it is often obliged to do. It must, on the contrary, omit it simply and apply itself to remain tranquil in the presence of God looking at Him with a simple regard of faith and wanting to please Him at every moment. Little by little this regard of faith will become easier and more loving and the soul will pass gradually from a painful state of dryness to a peaceful rest in God.

15. How can the soul know that the dryness comes from God?

A sign that the dryness comes from God is that the soul perseveres in the exercise of virtues and prayer although it only feels dryness. As the application to virtues is more difficult in these circumstances the soul will find less success, but its repeated efforts show that its will remains strong. Such dryness cannot come from a culpable weakness of the will, but is the work of God.

16. What aim does God have in sending dryness to the soul?

By this trial God foresees to deliver the soul from the childlike sensitivity, to carry it to a more solid and hard ground of the will. Not finding sweetness for the spiritual life in the representations and sweet emotions as just a little time ago, when all went well, the soul sees itself constrained to hold on with the will to the exercises of faith and love. As this state comes from the Divine Will, the work of grace joins with the effort of the soul. Undoubtedly it will make great progress in the spiritual life. The dryness sent by God, besides the trial, is a great precious grace which the soul, far from being discouraged, will look to correspond generously.

Chapter VI The Presence of God

1. What is the presence of God?

The presence of God is an exercise of the spiritual life destined to maintain us in contact with God in our diverse daily occupations. It is in some way mental prayer which is prolonged during the whole day. As mental prayer it is composed of two elements – thought and affection. It is, in effect to think of God and to turn one’s heart towards Him.

2. What is the principal element of the presence of God?

The principle element is not the thought as most of people believe, but the affection. As in mental prayer, the thought serves to orient the heart or will towards God, and directs towards Him all its actions. It is easier to remain for a while in contact with God by means of the will than by the intelligence.

3. From where does the difference come?

The difference between the ease of application of the intelligence and of the will comes from the fact that it is not practically possible to think of God in an uninterrupted way, given that many times our occupations take all our attention, and that we do not have the possibility to think at the same time about two different things. On the contrary when the intelligence is occupied with work that we are doing, the heart can remain turned towards God because even if the work is distracting in its nature, we can do it for God, meaning in order to fulfil His Will and to glorify Him.

4. How can we more easily hold our heart oriented towards God?

We can do it in nourishing the attention by small affective exercises as short prayers, pious invocations, the offering of our actions, asking God’s help, or short conversations with God in which we manifest to Him our love and our confidence. This will not however be possible for us if thoughts of God are not often present.

5. Is there a way to frequently recall the presence of God?

There are many diverse ways. We distinguish ordinarily the forms of the exercise of the presence of God using the means to recall this thought to our souls; so we speak of the presence of God external, imaginative, and intellectual.

6. In what does the practice of the thoughts of God external consist?

It consists in using an exterior object to often think of God. A crucifix that we always carry with us putting it before us during work, kissing it, venerating it, will maintain living in us the memory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and will give us the occasion to speak affectionately to Him. Even the thought of the Eucharistic Presence which we come back to without stopping, can help hold us in contact with God and incite us to speak with Him. It is the same for pious images, etc.

7. In what does the practice of the presence of God imaginative consist?

This practice consists in representing to us by the imagination that God, Our Lady or some Saints are close to us, near us, and accompany us everywhere. We look to address ourselves to them by short spontaneous words or by diverse affectionate exercises to which we have already alluded to. Everybody however cannot practice this type of the presence of God which requires a lively imagination and a complete mastery of this faculty.

8. Does such a representation lack truth?

Not in any way because if the humanity of Our Lord or Our Lady or the Saints are not present to us physically, they are morally present in the fact that the Saints and Our Lady see us in the Divine Essence that they contemplate, and are in relation with us, and because the humanity of Our Lord exercises on us a physical influence in the communication of grace. This spiritual relation we can easily represent to us in putting ourselves in the company of God and the Saints.

9. Can we make the exercise of the presence of God in turning ourselves towards the Saints?

Evidently, because the thoughts of Our Lady and the Saints help orient our heart and our actions towards God. And in this orientation of the will is found the most necessary element of the presence of God.

10. What is the practice of the presence of God intellectual?

The practice of the presence of God intellectual is that by which we recall to our mind the memory of God by means of a thought of faith. The soul remembers, for example, of the continual presence of the Most Holy Trinity in it, and looks to please its Divine Guests, or it considers that its duties are the manifestation of the Divine Will, and the soul unites itself constantly to the Divine Will. With the supernatural light, it sees that all the circumstances of life are dispensed by Providence, and the soul tells its Heavenly Father “I am happy with all”, or knowing that God looks after it always, the soul looks to do something to make it agreeable in the eyes of God.

11. What is the best way to make the exercise of the presence of God?

The best way to do this exercise is the one which fits best our mentality, and it is not determined by reasons but by experience. It is to be remarked that we must not attach ourselves to an exclusive way or a determined formula, but we can very well vary them according to the circumstances. Ordinarily we will prefer a particular form of this exercise, and we will choose the one which is most useful for us. It is praiseworthy to use a holy freedom.

12. Can the exercise of the presence of God be united to the natural ordinary actions and even those of recreation?

Undoubtedly, we will find in this exercise the most practical way to sanctify these actions. Even in eating we can elevate our heart towards God, and in place of looking for satisfactions we eat food with a holy indifference with the goal of restoring our strength to serve God with more energy. St. Paul taught us “Whether you eat or drink, do all for the glory of God”. It must be the same for our recreations. We must offer them to God having in view to obtain new force to give in His honor. We must even put our sleep to this end. We will prepare it making an explicit offering to God. So the exercise of the presence of God will allow us to live the whole day and our life of love.

The End.

Small Catechism on the Spiritual Life – Part 2

Small Catechism on the Spiritual Life – Part 2

  by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

  (text in French published by Le Sel de La Terre)

(continued)

Chapter III. Preparation and Reading

1. Are there different kinds of preparation for mental prayer?

The Carmelite authors distinguish often a double preparation:

* The near preparation by which the soul puts itself in the presence of God to start the intimate conversation with Him;

* The distant preparation by which the soul uses its powers to gather one’s thoughts before praying.

2. What is necessary for the soul to be disposed for prayer?

It is necessary for one not be absorbed excessively by creatures, and have a tendency to occupy oneself with God. To favor these dispositions there are two parts which constitute the distant preparation:

* The first is to remove obstacles: it’s “negative”;

* The second is destined to produce a quality: it’s “positive”.

3. What is the “negative” element of the distant preparation?

One must absolutely avoid the distractions and [disordered] attachments of the heart. In order to practice the love of God easily, a free heart is necessary. This means one must have a great detachment from creatures. Who wants to love much, must reserve for God the strength and tenderness of his affection, and not spread it to people and things who easily draw a heart which is not protected.

On the other hand, the freedom of spirit is not attained without great mortification of the senses which are open windows to terrestrial things, and the control of the memory which brings us into the world by the memories we have. So, the soul must avoid the useless thoughts. The heart and soul must be watched.

4. What is the positive element of the distant preparation?

It is the exercise of the presence of God that we will look for and to make it continuous as much as possible. By this holy exercise our thoughts and will are recollected in God, and we keep a certain contact with God, even in the middle of the most material occupations; and we converse with Him often in the day. Faithfulness to this practice creates in us a certain facility to speak with God as well as a certain ease to put us in a more intimate contact with Him: this is the near preparation.

5. What spiritual attitude helps the soul the most for this contact with God?

It is the attitude of humble confidence which puts us before God in the position which fits us best. God, in effect is our Father, and He wants that we act towards Him as destitute children. We will anchor in us the sentiment of our poverty by the memory of our numerous faults which bring to light our misery. Far from folding in on ourselves or becoming discouraged at the sight of our nothingness, we will look for refuge in the arms of Our Lord who said to us “Without Me you can do nothing” That’s why saint Teresa of Avila invites us to examine our conscience at the start of the mental prayer, to say the Confiteor, and then to look for the company of Jesus.

6. What is the most practical manner to put the soul in the presence of God?

Any manner to put oneself in the presence of God is useful for this aim, provided that a large application and intensity is used. There are however two manners especially indicated for mental prayer: 1) put oneself in the presence of Most Holy Eucharist (if we do mental prayer before the Blessed Sacrament) and, 2) recollect in one’s soul, keeping in mind the Three Divine Persons who live in the soul that is in the state of grace and offer themselves to the soul to be known and loved. To start this colloquia with (God present) we will remind the subject chosen in the reading.

7. At what moment must the reading be done?

Preferably, before going to mental prayer, meaning during the fifteen minutes granted for the preparation. If we cannot do it at that time, we could do it in the beginning. In some religious communities it is the custom to do a short reading out loud at the beginning of mental prayer.

8. Why is there common reading?

It has as its aim to offer a subject of meditation to those who do not have one. There is no obligation to use what is read. Ordinarily those who meditate come with a prepared subject by the private reading. But if at this moment that which is read draws us more than the chosen subject, we can change it with great liberty.

9. Must the reading serve to prepare a subject of meditation?

Such is the original destination, and it is that which has a larger goal — to instruct us in the spiritual things. The reading we speak about serves to supply us immediately with a Truth that we will penetrate by reflection, to draw a more profound conviction of the love of God for us. For those who no longer do mental prayer in the meditation form, but reach the level that St. Theresa calls “recollection” or to a way even higher, the reading no longer serves to choose a subject, but to recollect the soul in disposing it to sweetly taste to rest in God.

10. What books must we prefer to choose to do this reading?

It depends on the aim of the reading. When it concerns finding a subject of meditation, besides the books for meditation, all those that enlighten the many manifestations of the love of God for us, will be able to serve this aim. It will be, however, good to use books already known. When the aim is to recollect oneself only, any writing which inspires an intense love of God will be useful. The works of the Saints belong to this category. The choice of the book is determined by the immediate aim of the reading, but the culture and spiritual age of the person will have to be considered in this choice. Books too intellectual or spiritual will not be well understood, and necessarily cause dryness.

11. Can the lives of the Saints be read?

These lives are not excluded, especially because many souls are touched by the example of the Saints who have lived the spiritual doctrine, than by explaining it speculatively. However, we must not read them to satisfy our curiosity and not to prolong unnecessarily our reading. Also, it is fitting to not read them as preparation for meditation, a “new” life, because it greatly excites the imagination. It would be better to read a summary of a saint already known.

12. How must we read?

We must read with attention, since the aim of the reading is to find a subject of conversation with God. It is necessary to read it carefully, to not let any light escape us. It will be read with devotion and recollection because this good disposition of the heart favors in us the seeking of something useful for the soul, making us attentive and sensible to good ideas. We will be able to foresee more easily and prepare in some way the affections that we want to express and the resolution to be taken. All of it without binding us too much, because the aim of the reading is simply to help us according to our needs. Let us add a last remark: if it is done in common before the mental prayer, the reading must be short so as not to annoy those who do not use it ‑ and they are many.

13. Can we take again our book during mental prayer?

It is not excluded and can even be indicated in particular occasions. St. Theresa never went to mental prayer without a book with her. It will happen sometimes that we will find ourselves so distracted that the most practical manner to return to God will be to gain another good thought by reading again. Also, when in mental prayer and in the company of God, our affection becomes difficult by tiredness. It is often good to read again our theme of mental prayer. It is an exterior aid for our attention. One must be careful not to turn it into a simple reading. It must remain at least a meditative reading in which we stop to allow affections and resolutions to enter. So, the reading itself becomes an instrument of our conversation with God.

Chapter IV. Meditation and Colloquia

1. Is the meditation always explained in the same way by the Carmelite authors?

The Carmelite authors have some differences in their explanation of the meditation, but all are in agreement on the essential. Some do not explain the different parts; some others make a distinction between the meditative reflection and the affectionate colloquia which is the aim of the reflection, which they call contemplation. Others separate in the meditative part the representation and the reflection. Those who do not classify explicitly these diverse elements refer more or less to them.

Most of the Carmelite authors distinguish three elements in the meditation:

* The representation as an act of the imagination,

* The reflection as an act of the intelligence,

* And the colloquia as an act of the will.

2. What is the representation?

It is an activity of the imagination by which we form: 1) an image or representation of the mystery we want to meditate on, or 2) sensible objects which lift our thoughts to God.

3. What is the usefulness of the representation?

The aim is to render easier the work of reflection which leans on natural representations of the imagination. It is easy to think of the scourging [of Our Lord] before an image. It offers the advantage to fix in some way our thoughts which, without an object to look at, easily digresses. A certain stability of imaginative knowledge helps our intellectual knowledge to have fewer distractions.

4. Is the representation always necessary?

The same authors do not insist on its necessity in mental prayer, but they explain to us in what way it can be useful. Its usefulness is evident when we consider the life of Jesus Christ or of the Saints. Even in the consideration of the most abstract mysteries, for example the Divine attributes, the intelligence can start by thinking of sensible things represented by the imagination. It is also praiseworthy to elevate ourselves from the beauty of nature to God, Supreme Beauty. The Carmelite Theologians distinguish different cases one can find himself in, when he meditates. Some have a lively imagination easily able to represent the mystery, others are almost unable to do it. The former should use their faculty of representation, the others should know that it is not an exercise at all cost. To be useful, the imaginative representations must not be very perfect, a vague representation is enough.

5. In what way must the representation be formed?

1) One must apply oneself to it, otherwise nothing serious will be done. But it is not fitting to excite the imagination too much in order to see what we are meditating on too quickly. Those who have an especially lively imagination will try to proceed with a great simplicity because, otherwise, the imagination would be led to illusion and make them believe that they are having visions.

2). As to those who look at the perfection of the representation, the details should not be too precise. The Carmelite authors have equally said that a representation schema can be enough for someone with little imagination. A representation that is more precise is more useful because it fixes more easily our thoughts. The Carmelite authors never speak of the application of the senses.

3) It is not necessary to consecrate much time to form the representation. Some instants are enough, but it is necessary that we have it present during the whole time of meditation. If we can do it, we will find it easier to avoid distractions.

Let us conclude in saying that, without being absolutely necessary, the representation is often useful and those who succeed, must not deprive themselves of this help. Those who, on the other hand, find it difficult, can omit it, and start directly the reflection.

6. Is the reflection or consideration more important?

Reflection is the first of the elements that directly make the meditation, which consists in a certain work of the intelligence. This must remain secondary in comparison with the affectionate conversation with God, which must find in the meditation the stimulating base.

7. Must this work of the intelligence remain a long time?

Its subordination to the affectionate conversation indicates that it must only last as long as necessary to lead the soul to this conversation, meaning until it produces in the soul a profound conviction that it is loved by God and invited to love Him in return. We would however be in error if we believed that we had to interrupt or put to the side the reflection as soon as we feel some pious affection which would suddenly vanish leaving us empty. We must on the contrary insist and continue until the will is completely stable and can remain at least some time in the affectionate attitude.

8. Must the reflection be done methodically?

It can be. St. Theresa following in it other contemporary authors, advices, in the meditation of the Passion of Our Lord, to consider who suffers, what does He suffer, why, with which dispositions? It is not however necessary that there is such a rigorous order in the order of the arguments and one can think without harm to go freely from one thought to the next, provided that it leads to the goal proposed to better understand the love of God for us which is manifested in the mystery meditated on.

9. What will the souls who “cannot meditate” do?

For souls who, because of a certain mobility of the imagination and of thought, have great difficulty stopping at a determined idea to go deeper by deep reflections, St. Theresa teaches another way to excite thoughts which excite love. This method consists in reciting slowly a vocal prayer full of substance stopping to consider with attention the sense of the words and taking the opportunity to form some reflections and express affections.

10. When does the affectionate colloquia start?

It starts when the soul has the strong conviction that it must answer wilt love for the love God gives to it. It all depends on how easy it is for the soul to put itself in this necessary disposition. It is acquired by practice.

11. What is said in the colloquia?

The soul expresses especially to God its will to love Him and show Him its love, taking the motive of its purpose in a particular mystery. It can be done in many different ways and the colloquia will be done in many ways as well. The soul can express its love not only to the Holy Trinity, but also to Jesus. It is also praiseworthy to speak affectionately to the Saints.

12. In what way is the colloquia done?

It can be done in many different ways. We can express our affection with words pronounced vocally, but we can also do it with interior expressions of the heart or will. These expressions can be short and happen with a certain frequency, or be prolonged for some time, saying them at longer intervals. The soul also can be happy only keeping company with God [without any expression].

13. Must the conversation be continuous?

We can answer yes in the way that the soul must remain in conversation with God, but no in the manner of “speaking” continuously. Also the Carmelite authors teach expressly that the conversation done by the soul must not be too long or agitated, but peaceful and many times interrupted, as to permit the soul to listen to God’s answer.

14. Does God speak in the colloquia?

If we were the only one to speak, it would not be a colloquia. On the other hand St. Theresa taught that God speaks to the soul when it prays with all its heart. One must not believe that God is heard in a material way. He answers the soul in sending it graces of light and love by which the soul understands better the ways of God and feels greatly inflamed to follow them with generosity. Listening consists in, for the soul, to accept these graces, and thinking how to look for profit.

15. Why is the colloquia called “contemplation”?

Because, when the soul speaks with God and listens, the soul stops reasoning as it did in meditation and now is happy to pay attention in a general way to the mystery better understood because of the meditation. Or even the soul looks simply at God the Father, or Son with Whom it speaks. In this simple look is realized the traditional notion of contemplation ( a simple look which penetrates the Truth). And as in the colloquia, God communicates to the soul His light. Under this aspect is realized in some way which is more fully the essence of the true contemplation: an infusion of heavenly light.

16. How long can this colloquia last?

There is no limit. It can occupy the whole time of mental prayer. Even more, the simplification of mental prayer consists to make the reflections shorter, to give more time to affections and to give them, little by little, a calmer form by prolonged acts. It is not easy for the soul in the beginning to stop from time to time to express its love. This is why we can have recourse to the last acts of mental prayer: thanksgiving, offering and asking.

17. Why do we need to thank God?

Many reasons push the soul to express its gratitude to God. We have received much from Him either in the natural or supernatural order: to be born of Catholic parents and to have been baptized without delay, to have been raised in the True Religion, and especially to have been given a vocation; so many free gifts from God for which we cannot thank Him enough. And also how many graces God surrounds us with, without stopping. Even the exercise of mental prayer is a call to Him to penetrate further into us. We must show ourselves grateful to these favors. Let us add to that the goodness of God towards those for whom we show an interest for: our friends, benefactors, those confided to our care. We can thank not only God but also the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints for their intercession in our favor.

18. What can we offer to God?

Having received all from God, it is praiseworthy on our part to offer ourselves to Him, wanting to use all our strength for His service. As our holy profession is a consecration of our whole life to God 1, we will be able to renew it. We should not be satisfied with general offerings which, because of their vagueness, do not exercise a large influence on our way of acting. It is good to take a particular resolution and to offer to God our will to practice such a virtue or to fight generously against a temptation or to willingly accept a trail of suffering. By these firm resolutions we put our mental prayer in contact with our daily life; this is why it is good for all to finish with a particular resolution even if an offering has not been done.

19. Whom must we pray for?

Our large spiritual destitution forces us to have recourse continually to prayer. After having told that “without Me you can do nothing”, Our Lord added, “ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened to you.” Our spiritual progress depends extremely on the prayers that we will say with confidence and insistence.

We must pray for others: for their temporal and spiritual needs and especially for their sanctification and salvation.

We will have an interest in not only souls in particular but also our country, Religious Orders, our Spiritual Family, and Holy Church.

Knowing that the souls dear to Our Lord are more powerful on His Heart, desirous to obtain much from Him, we will try to make ourselves agreeable to His Majesty by a life detached from the world and oriented only to the research of intimateness with Him. In this way one will realize the ideal proposed by St. Theresa to her daughters: to become an intimate friend of God who uses this intimateness to make His Divine Graces overflow on this world.

(To be continued)

1 ‑ He is speaking here to religious.

Small Catechism on the Spiritual Life

Small Catechism on the Spiritual Life

  by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen O.C.D.

  (text in French published by Le Sel de la terre)

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen O.C.D (1890-1953) was a consultant for the Congregation of Rites and professor of Spiritual Theology at the at the Discalced Carmelites School of Theology in Rome

He is also the author of the book Divine Intimacy: Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Year that appeared in editions of “The Carmel” in 1955.

Preface

This small catechism, first published in the magazine Vitae Carmelitana, was welcomed with joy by pious people who found in it peace and comfort. It could not be otherwise because it contains the substance of teachings with which for four centuries the Order of the reformed Carmel directs souls in the spiritual life.

The author, a specialist in this domain, has wanted to bring the faithful to the schools of St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. He exposes in clear pages their method of mental prayer with developments received by their spiritual sons, being careful to keep themselves in line with Tradition. The readers of the Vitae Carmelitana, had many times expressed the desire to see gathered in one volume the lessons from which they drew the greatest advantages. So, in 1943 Fr. Gabriel prepared this catechism. He believed it good to change the original text a little, to render it more adapted to the conditions of those living in the world without changing the essential.

May the Seraphic Mother St. Theresa, the great mistress of the spiritual life, obtain the abundance of benedictions from on high for all those who will use this work where one of her children proposed to nourish the hearts of bread of the celestial doctrine. (Collect of the Saint)

Fr. Eugene of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus

Chapter 1: Mental Prayer in the Contemplative Life

1. What is the Catholic Life?

The Catholic life is the life lived in conformity with the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to which we must direct all our actions to the glory of God in loving Him and in observing His holy laws. The Catholic soul lives for God.

2. What is the Contemplative Life?

The Contemplative Life is a form of Catholic life in which one tries to live not only for God but also with God. It is not only for Religious but can be lived perfectly in the world. It is concentrated completely in the research of the Divine Intimacy, and in this goal during the day practices that which we call Spiritual Exercises. These are special exercises of prayer which must be accompanied by exercises of mortification because, as St. Theresa the great mistress of the contemplative life said, mental prayer and comforts do not go together.

3. What is the place of mental prayer in the Contemplative Life?

In the Contemplative Life, mental prayer takes the first place. Practically, the Contemplative Life is a life of mental prayer. For this reason the Contemplative Orders dedicate much time to prayer. In the Carmelite order, which is eminently contemplative, the central precept is one of continual mental prayer: that each one stays firm in his cell meditating day and night on the law of God and watching in prayer. The Carmelites perform many exercises of piety. They do mental prayer twice a day [one hour each time], assist at Mass, recite the Divine Office, put themselves in the presence of God during the day; without speaking of personal exercises of devotion.

4. What is prayer?

Prayer is a conversation with God in which we manifest to Him the desires of our heart. Prayer can be either vocal or mental.

5. What is vocal prayer?

Vocal prayer consists in the recitation of a formula which expresses our desires. For example, the Our Father, taught to man by Our Lord Himself, and in which we ask God seven things. We recite this formula with the intention to honor God. Often we do not think of, in a distinct way, the sense of the words that we pronounce. But that does not stop our prayer from being a true prayer provided that our soul remains turned to God with the desire to honor Him. This prayer can be recited to the Saints with the same desire to honor them.

6. What is mental prayer?

This consists in speaking to God with the heart, not with prepared formulas of learned by heart, but in a spontaneous manner.

7. What do we say to God in mental prayer?

In this form of prayer, we are able to show God all desires that we have in our heart. But following the teachings of St. Theresa, a contemplative soul will prefer to say that we love Him or want to love Him.

8. Why is the love of God often spoken about?

Because this love is the substance of the contemplative life. The contemplative souls must become intimate friends of God and love precisely makes flower the friendship and introduces intimacy. St. Theresa wants us, in going to prayer, that we be convinced that God invites us to love Him in doing it and that we do it to answer His call.

9. Is it necessary to think in prayer?

It is not possible to love without having some thought on the loved object. To move God, one must think about Him. This thought can vary much according to who it is. It could consist of a prolonged reflection on the love of God for us, or could be a simple souvenir of God: His Goodness and love of us. In Consequence, in prayer we think only to love and nourish love. St. Theresa said in effect that prayer consists not in thinking much but in loving much.

10. What is love?

There is sensible love, and there is love of the will. Sensible love consists in a sentiment which carries us with affection towards a person; makes us feel pleasure in his presence or a souvenir of it. Love of the will consists in wanting the good for a person by free choice and determination of the will. Then when this love takes all our soul, one wants to be with the person loved, and consecrate to him one’s proper life.

11. Which of the two is better?

The love of the will is better because the will is, in us, that which is most personal. In the will resides our liberty, and it is precisely with it that we give ourselves to God. For this reason, God asks from man the gift of his will. The full consecration of man to God consists in this gift.

The sensible love is something complementary, of secondary importance. It does not depend on us to feel it while it depends on us to love with the will.

12. Why do we naturally desire the sensible love?

We desire it for its sweetness, and because it gives us comfort and consolation. But because of that, in the sensible love we often seek ourselves, while with the love of the will we seek God. God often suppress in us the sensible love, so that we will love more firmly with only the will.

13. With which love must we love God in prayer?

Certainly the love of the will is the most important. If the sensible love is there too, instead of seeking our own pleasure, we profit by its help to strengthen our will in its act to give itself to God. The sensible love lacking, we will follow the path with the will alone.

14. How can I occupy myself during an hour in this conversation of love with God?

In the beginning of the life of prayer many souls encounter great difficulties. They are bored and feel dissipated. One must remember that to pray is something that needs to be learnt. To teach it, the Carmel Theologians given to the study of prayer life have constructed a method of mental prayer.

Chapter II: The Method of Mental Prayer

1. What is meant by the method of mental prayer?

The method of mental prayer is the teaching which explains to us the way to pray with ease. We will indicate here the diverse acts to do one after another, in order to better do this holy exercise.

2. Is there a method of mental prayer in the Carmelite Order?

Yes, in the Carmelite Order we find a method of prayer from the beginning of the reform of St. Theresa. It was exposed in our two oldest “Instructions of novices” in Spanish (1591) and Italian (1605).

3. What is the origin of this method?

This method has its origin in the teachings of St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross. The definitive and concrete form was elaborated on by their disciples. We will give firstly a general explanation of this method, and then explain the various parts after.

4. Into how many parts is this method of mental prayer divided?

Normally we distinguish 6 or 7 parts or acts in this exercise of mental prayer: preparation, reading, meditation, (with the affectionate colloquia) thanksgiving, offering, and petition.

5. Do so many distinctions lead to a complication?

This distinction of parts does not complicate the practice of mental prayer. In effect, the two first are not mental prayer, but they make the beginning. The three last parts are purely complimentary and optional; we will omit them when we will no longer need them. It is reduced to the essential, the meditation accompanied with an intimate conversation with God (affectionate colloquia)

6. What must one consider to do the mental prayer well?

To understand the Carmelite method of prayer well, the conception of mental prayer exposed by St. Theresa must be present. In the eyes of the seraphic Virgin, mental prayer is an intimate conversation with God, in which we speak to Him especially of love, in answering His call to Love. The different parts of prayer have the aim of leading us easily to this loving conversation with Him.

7. How does the preparation serve this aim?

The preparation helps to put us in the Presence of God. It is not possible to speak intimately with someone if one is not close to Him. We must put ourselves in the Presence of God with a living Faith and in the humble attitude of a soul which recognizes itself as a soul of God.

8. What does reading do?

Reading supplies us with a subject for the loving conversation with God; conversation which can nourish itself in the consideration of the mysteries of Faith, and the gifts and graces received from God for us. In that, the love of God is manifested for us. But since it is not possible to speak of each of these things together, we can choose by the book the subject of which we want to occupy ourselves for the moment, and make it easier for our consideration in following the explanations and reflections of the book.

9. Why meditate?

The meditation or personal reflection that we do on the divine gifts or on the mystery that we have chosen in the lecture serves a double aim, one intellectual, and the other affective. The intellectual aim is to better understand the Love of God for us, love which accomplishes itself in the mystery of the divine gifts that we consider and so convince us more of the call to love made by God to our soul. The affective aim consists to move the will to the exercise of love and to its manifestation in responding to the Divine Invitation. The meditation so appears as an immediate preparation to the affective conversation with God.

10. In what way does one go from the meditation to the affectionate colloquia?

This passage must not be done at a precise moment mathematically determined, but in a spontaneous manner. In making personal reflections in the presence of God, and in seeing more closely by them how God loves us, the soul feels itself easily pushed to say the words of love. It happens often that the reflections that the soul made in itself continues them for some time in addressing words to God, and it serves to understand better His Love for us. Finally, the soul leaves all consideration to abandon itself fully to the exercise of love and its manifestation. In other terms, it passes to an affectionate colloquia. In this colloquia the soul says and repeats in a thousand ways to God that it loves Him, and that it wants to love Him, that it desires to prove Him its love.

11. Is there importance in the colloquia?

The colloquia has a very great importance, and it is the essential part of mental prayer. In it is realized directly the concept that St. Theresa had of mental prayer which consists in an intimate conversation with God to respond to His love for us. Also, the soul will be better able to occupy itself during so much time in prayer and even during an hour.

12. What is the aim of the three last parts of the mental prayer?

The three last parts or acts of mental prayer are: thanksgiving, offering and petition which aim at prolonging more easily our loving conversation with God. They are nothing else than affectionate acts more determined, of various manners, to manifest our love.

13. What is our attitude in these parts?

In the Thanksgiving we manifest to God our humble gratitude for His extreme love for us and for the lessons received from him.

In the offering, drawn by loving recognition, we want to give something to God.

In the petition, humbly convinced of our lowliness and weakness and desire to truly love God, we implore His help to succeed and be faithful to the resolutions formed in the offering.

These acts are, in the strict sense, a prolongation of the affectionate colloquia issued spontaneously from the meditation.

14. Must a determined order be used in the order of the parts of mental prayer?

The order indicated above is the most logical, but great liberty is allowed. We are free to change around these parts as we please. We can even repeat the same parts many times. It goes also for the meditation and the affectionate colloquia that we are able to alternate as we please in the same mental prayer.

15. Are the last parts necessary?

No. These acts are optional. One who can sufficiently occupy himself in the loving colloquia without recourse to these acts can skip them. But in the beginning of the life of prayer the attention of the soul is often helped by a variety of these actions. In this case the soul should have recourse to them.

(To be continued)

Dialogue About Perfection – Part 3

Dialogue About Perfection (Part 3)

by Saint Catherine of Siena

  (Published in French by Éditions du Sel)


The Instruments of Perfection

And, when that soul had heard what the will of God was, that to execute it faithfully a perfect charity was required, and that this could only be obtained by an entire annihilation of self-will, she spoke thus to the Lord:

Catherine

Thou hast manifested to me, O my Lord and God, Thy Will, and hast shown me, that, if I love Thee perfectly, I shall love nothing transitory and earthly, nor even my own self for myself, but all alone for Thee and in Thee. Thou hast added, that, in order to love Thee, I must seek with earnest care to praise and glorify Thee in all things and at all times; and that in such a manner as that others may do so like wise; that I must endeavor further to bear with a peaceful, cheerful, tranquil heart whatever may befall one in this miserable life.

And now, since I gather from what Thou hast hitherto said that all these things are to be done by the abnegation of my own will, since the more I die to myself, the more perfectly I shall live in Thee; I beseech Thee to teach me in what manner I may acquire this great virtue of the perfect abnegation of myself.

And God, who is so good that He can deny nothing to the pious desires of His servants, thus replied to her:


The Lord

It is certain that everything depends upon the perfect abnegation of thyself, since the more thou dost empty thyself of thy own will, the more will I fill thee with My grace. And all thy perfection comes from the participation of My Divine goodness by means of grace, without which the human creature, in all that concerns its true dignity and perfection, is absolutely nothing.

Humility

The Lord

If thou dost indeed desire to attain this perfect abnegation of self, thou must prostrate thyself before Me in the most profound humility, with a thorough conviction of thine own poverty and misery; and thou must at all times eagerly seek this one thing, to obey Me alone and to do My Will only.1

The Inner Cell

The Lord

And to this end thou must make in thy soul as it were, a little spiritual cell, closed in with the material of My Will, in which thou must enclose thyself and make therein thy constant dwelling-place; so that, wherever thou goest, thou mayest never go forth from it, and, wherever thou lookest, thou mayest never see anything beyond it; but My Will must so encompass every faculty of thy body and soul, that thou shalt never speak of anything but what thou deemest pleasing unto Me, nor think, nor do anything, but what thou believest agreeable to My Will.

And it shall be that the Holy Ghost shall teach thee what thou shalt do in all things.2

Spiritual Direction

The Lord

Moreover thou mayest attain this abnegation of thine own will by another road, if thou canst obtain those who are able to guide and instruct thee according to My Spirit; namely, by subjecting thy will to them, by obediently following their counsels, and by trusting thyself and thy concerns fully to them; since he who hears My faithful and prudent servants “heareth Me” (St. Luke 10:16).

Contemplation of God

The Lord

* But I desire further that thou shouldst consider with firm faith and profound meditation that I, thy most glorious God, I, who have created thee for eternal beatitude, am eternal, sovereign, omnipotent; that I can do with you whatever pleaseth Me; and there is none who can oppose himself in the least degree to My Will; that no good can happen to you unless sent by Me; nor can any evil befall you except by that same Will of Mine, as I have already told you by My Prophet Amos: “shall there be evil in a city which the Lord hath not done?” (Amos 3:6), that is, which I have not permitted.

* In the second place, I wilt that thou seriously meditate that in Me, thy God, dwell the most perfect Intelligence, and Knowledge, and infinite Wisdom; that, therefore, I behold all things with the utmost clearness and acutest penetration; so that in My government of thee, the heavens, and the earth, and the entire universe, I cannot be deceived in any way or misled by any error. Were it otherwise, I should neither be all wise, nor should I be God. And, that thou mayest acknowledge the more the power of My infinite Wisdom, know that even from the evil of guilt and punishment I am able to draw a good greater than the evil.

* In the third place, consider attentively that, as I am thy God, so am I infinitely good, yea, charity itself by My Essence; that, therefore, I cannot will anything but that which is useful and salutary to thee and to all men; nor can I wish any evil to My creatures; that, as man was created by My bounty, so is he loved by Me with inestimable charity.

The Fruits of Contemplation

The Lord

1. Acceptance of Trials and Adversities

When with a firm faith thou shalt have received and pondered in thy mind these truths, thou shalt see that I only suffer tribulations, temptations, difficulties, sicknesses, and all other forms of adversity to befall men for the greater advantage of their eternal salvation; that through the very things which to you seem evils, the true evil of your bad habits may be corrected, and firm resolutions made to attain that virtue which can alone guide you to that true and ultimate good which as yet you know not.3

Thus illuminated by the living light of faith, thou wilt perceive that I, thy God, have infinitely more Knowledge, Power, and Will to advance thy happiness than thou hast; and further, that thy own knowledge, power, and will for thine own good depends entirely on My grace.

2. Peace and Joy

For this cause, seek with all diligence to submit thyself totally to My Will; so shalt thou take thy rest and abide in continual tranquility of spirit, and shalt have Me for ever with thee, for My “place is in peace” (Ps. 75:3). Nothing will then agitate or irritate thee; nothing shall be to thee an occasion of sin or scandal, for “much peace have they who love My law; and to them there is no stumbling-block” (Ps. 118:165). For they so love My law, that is, My Will which is My law by which all things are directed, they are so intimately united by it to Me, and experience such great delight in observing it, that (sin only excepted, which is offensive to God) nothing has power to disturb them, from whatsoever quarter it may come, or of whatsoever weight or quality it may be. For the eyes of their soul are clear and undefiled; and therefore they see that from Me, the sovereign Ruler of the world, Who govern all things with infinite Wisdom, Order, and Charity, nothing but good can spring; and that I can take care of them and their affairs far better and more successfully than they could of themselves.4

2. Patience and Inner Sweetness

And thus considering that I and none other am the Author of all that they have to endure, they are strong with an invincible patience, and suffer all things, not only with resignation, but with cheerfulness and joy,5 tasting in all things which befall them externally or internally the sweetness of My ineffable charity.

And this is to “think of the Lord in goodness” (Wis. 1:1), that is, to believe, and meditate with a cheerful and grateful spirit, even in the midst of tribulations and difficulties, that it is I who sweetly dispose all things, and that whatever happens springs from the inexhaustible fountain of My goodness.

But the great good which this holy consideration and blessed disposition of heart would effect, is hindered, corrupted, and destroyed solely by this one thing, the love of yourselves and of your own will. If you destroy this within you, there shall be no more hell for you, neither the eternal torment of body and soul prepared for the damned, nor that other hell of interior turmoil which you make for yourselves and suffer during your mortal life, through your perpetual agitations and anxious cares about many things.

Conclusion

The Lord

If, therefore, thou wouldst live in grace in this world which passes rapidly away, and if thou wouldst live in glory in that world which has no end, seek to die to thyself, denying thyself and laying down thine own will.

For “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” (Apoc. 14:13), and “blessed also are the poor in spirit” (St. Matt. 5:3), since they already see Me in a manner in this their pilgrimage by reciprocal love, and shall behold Me hereafter in glory and honor in their true home. So be it.

Translation by Sister Drane

Footnotes by Fr Bernadot O.P., published in 1919

1The eternal Father also said: “if you will arrive at a perfect knowledge and enjoyment of Me, the Eternal Truth, that you should never go outside the knowledge of yourself, and, by humbling yourself in the valley of humility, you will know Me and yourself, from which knowledge you will draw all that is necessary. No virtue, my daughter, can have life in itself except through charity, and humility, which is the foster-mother and nurse of charity. In self-knowledge, then, you will humble yourself, seeing that, in yourself, you do not even exist; for your very being, as you will learn, is derived from Me, since I have loved both you and others before you were in existence” (Dialogue 4, Treatise of Divine Providence, § “How desire and contrition of heart satisfies”).

2St. Catherine loved to recommend her followers to live in the inner cell: “if you want to hear and find the fruit of my will, be you always dwellers in the cell of your soul, which cell is a well, and which well holds water and earth within itself (in which earth we can know our misery: we know we do not exist; since we are not, we thus see that our being is from God). O ineffable inflamed charity, I therefore see that the earth is found, the living water is gushing, that is, the true knowledge of His sweet and true will, which wants nothing more than our sanctification. So let us enter the depth of this well, for by force it will be agreed that, by living in it, we know ourselves and we know the goodness of God. Knowing we are not, we humiliate ourselves and enter the open consumed burnt heart, like a window without a door that never closes.” (Letter to Br. Th. della Fonte, n. 41).

3St. Catherine herself wrote: “God allows us to be tempted to prove our virtue, and for the growth of grace; not because we are defeated, but because we are victors: not trusting in our strength, but in divine help, saying with the sweet Apostle Paul: through Christ crucified “I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me.” (Ph. 4:13).” (Letter to Dom Christopher, 335).

4St. Catherine to Br. William of England: “For, were it truly humble and not presumptuous, it would see well that the Sweet Primal Truth gives conditions, time and place, and consolation and tribulation, according as is needful to our perfection, and to fulfill in the soul the perfection to which it is chosen. It would see that everything is given through love, and therefore with love.” (Letter 54; Catherine of Siena. “To Brother William of England of the Hermit Brothers of St. Augustine.” In Saint Catherine of Siena as Seen in Her Letters, translated by Vida Dutton Scudder, 61. London; New York: J.M. Dent & Co.; E.P. Dutton & Co., 1905. https://archive.org/details/saintcatherineof00cath/page/61).

5The Lord said to Catherine: “Those who are in this sweet light know it, and remain constantly in peace and quiet, and no one scandalizes them, for they have cut away that thing by which stumbling-blocks are caused, namely their own will. […] And he rejoices more in the different ways of holiness which he sees, than if he were to see all traveling by one road, because, in this way, he perceives the greatness of My Goodness become more manifest, and thus, rejoicing, draws from all the fragrance of the rose.” (Dialogue 100, Treatise of Prayer, § “Of the third and most perfect state”).

Dialogue About Perfection

Dialogue About Perfection

  by Saint Catherine of Siena

   (published in French by Éditions du Sel. English version by A. A.)

The Honor of God; The Misery and Fragility of Man;

The Need to Strive for Perfection

The Author of the light communicated to a soul1. He made her understand her fragility and misery, ignorance and natural inclination to evil; at the same time, He gave her some glimpses of the greatness of God, His wisdom, power, goodness, and the other attributes of His majesty.

Thus enlightened, this soul saw how just and necessary it is to render perfect and holy worship to God. It is just, because He is the universal Lord Who created all things to praise His name and obtain His glory. Do not propriety and justice require that, respectful of his master, the servant give him service and loyalty? It is necessary, because man, composed of body and soul, was created in such a condition that he will only attain eternal life by voluntarily rendering faithful service to God up to the point of death; otherwise, he will never obtain the felicity that accumulates all honors.

However, there are few who render this service and, consequently, few who are saved, because almost all have their own interests in mind and not those of God.

This soul also saw that the days of man are short, that the day is uncertain when the fleeting time to merit will end, that no redemption is possible in hell, and that in the future life, He will justly pronounce an immutable and inevitable sentence on each, the reward or punishment that his way of living deserved.

This soul again considered that, on the one hand, we often talk too much and preach abundantly and variously on the virtues which render this worship and faithful service to God; and that, on the other hand, because of his lack of aptitude, obtuse intelligence, and feeble memory, man cannot understand many things nor faithfully retain what he learned. Also, while many are in a perpetual quest to learn something new, very few apply themselves to attaining perfection and serving God as is right and necessary for Him; but nearly all, preoccupied and given over to the agitations and fluctuations of the mind, habitually live in extreme peril.

The Desire for Perfection

This soul, therefore, seeing all this, rose up before the Lord, moved by a burning desire and violent love, and asked the Divine Majesty to be good enough to give her some short and clear precepts to regulate our life now and to lead it to its perfection; precepts whose formulas would embrace the teaching of the Church and Holy Scripture, and whose observance would render the necessary honor to God and lead us from this brief and miserable life to the beatitude that He intends for us.

God inspires holy desires and never arouses them in a heart without satisfying them 2. So he immediately manifested Himself to this soul ravished in ecstasy and replied:

In What Does Complete Perfection Consist?

• The Lord

My beloved, your desires delight Me; I like them so much that I am much more eager to satisfy them than you can, and eager to see them satisfied. My desire is immense to give you, when you want it, the useful and necessary benefits for your salvation. So I am ready to do whatever you want.

Listen carefully to what I am going to tell you, I, the ineffable and infallible truth. To answer your request, I am going to explain to you in a few words the practice which contains complete perfection, along with all the virtues, the summary of Scriptures and many discourses. If you conform your life to it and observe it, you will accomplish all that is clear and mysterious in the divine teachings, and you will enjoy perpetual joy and peace.

Doing God’s Will Alone, Following Christ’s Example

• The Lord

Thus, know that the salvation and the perfection of My servants consist in one thing: to do only My will, to strive with a sovereign diligence always to accomplish it; to work at all hours to serve only Me, to honor only Me, to seek only Me. The more diligence My servants bring to it, the more they approach perfection, because they more closely adhere and are united to Me, Who am sovereign perfection.

To better understand the truth contained in these few words, look at my Christ in whom I am very pleased 3. He annihilated himself in the form of a slave; He took on the likeness of sin because, plunged into thick darkness and straying from the path of truth, He wanted to enlighten you with the splendors of His light and bring you back to the straight way by His word and example4. He was obedient unto death to teach you through His persevering obedience that your salvation depends on a firm resolution to do My will alone. Anyone who wishes to meditate diligently on His life and His doctrine realizes, without a doubt, that the justice and perfection of men rests solely on generous, perpetual, and faithful obedience to My will.

Your leader, Christ, has taught it many times: “Not everyone that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father” (Mt. 7:21).

And notice that it is not without reason that He repeats twice: “Lord, Lord”; the states of this world being reduced to two principal ones, the religious state and the secular state. He means that no one, in any state whatsoever, can attain eternal glory, even by giving Him all external honors, if he does not do God’s will.

My Son said again: “I came down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me5. (…) My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me6. (…) Father … not My will, but Thine be done7. (…) as the Father hath given Me commandments, so do I8.”

So if you want, like your Savior, to do My will, which contains your happiness, it is necessary that in all things you despise your own will, that you renounce it, that you destroy it9. The more you purify yourself of what is yours, the more I will give you what is mine.

To be continued

1It is the soul of Saint Catherine.

2On another occasion, the Eternal Father said to St. Catherine: “I do not despise the desire of my servants, yet I give to him who asks and invite you to ask. (…) sometimes, to test your desires and perseverance, I pretend not to hear you, but I hear you and give you what you need, because I give you hunger and the voice with which you cry out to me, and seeing your constancy, I fulfill your desires when they are ordered and directed toward me.” (Dialogue ch. 107)

3St. Catherine wrote: “Christ is on the cross as our rule, like a written book which anyone, even the ignorant and blind, can read. The first line of this book is hatred and love: love of the honor of the Father, hatred of sin.” (Letter to Br. Lazzani)

4The Eternal Father had already said to Catherine: “What caused the great obedience of the Word? The love which He had for My honor and your salvation. Whence proceeded this love? From the clear vision with which His soul saw the divine essence and the eternal Trinity, thus always looking on Me, the eternal God. His fidelity obtained this vision most perfectly for Him, which vision you imperfectly enjoy by the light of holy faith. He was faithful to Me, His eternal Father, and therefore hastened as one enamored along the road of obedience” (Dialogue 154 ; THOROLD Ed., Treatise of Obedience, §1).

5 John 6:38

6 John 4:34

7 Luke 22:42

8John 22:42

9Self-will is that which, being inspired neither by the glory of God nor the salvation of souls, proposes only its personal satisfaction. It is directly contrary to charity. Nothing is more essential than its destruction.

In the Heart of the Message of Fatima

In the Heart of the Message of Fatima

  The Offering of the Sacrifices of Our Daily Duties to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the Conversion of Sinners

Jesus wants to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. For those who accept it, I promise salvation, and these souls will be the beloved of God, like flowers placed by me to adorn His throne.”

(Our Lady of Fatima, June 13, 2017)

The Blessed Virgin told me that God has given the last two remedies to the world: the Holy Rosary and the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Because these are the last two, there will be no others.

(Sister Lucy’s interview with Father Fuentes, in 1957)

What should we do?

There is of course the Communion of Reparation on the first Saturday of every month for at least five consecutive months.

But the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary doesn’t consist only in some prayers once a month. It must be a devotion of all life.

Let us read Sister Lucy:

The most important thing is to perform our daily work, and to offer up the necessary sacrifices for the accomplishment of our work, for the poor sinners.

The secondary requests are the Rosary and the scapular, and perhaps especially what each of these two devotion requests respectively: attentive meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary, and consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

(Sister Lucy, in the book of John Haffert, The brother and I, chapter 27)

“The sins (of the world) are numerous, but [the most painful] is the neglect of the souls for which Our Lord had such a ardent hope for his service. Only a very limited number of souls [serve Him as he wants]. The worst thing is that I [sister Lucy] am among the lukewarm, even after all the efforts He made to draw me into the circle of the fervent. I make easily promises, but I fall short more easily. Dust accumulates around our actions like it does on our clothing, and we don’t know how it came.”

(Letter to Father Gonçalvès, April 24, 1940.)

“Our Lord bitterly and painfully laments the very limited number of souls in the state of grace, who are ready to renounce themselves according to what His Law requires. This is the penance that the Good Lord requires today: The sacrifice that each one must make on himself in order to lead a life of justice in the observation of His law.

He wants that we make this clearly known to the souls, for many think that the word “penance” means great mortifications. Since they feel neither the inner power, nor the generosity for that, they become discouraged and adopt a lukewarm and sinful life.

One Thursday, while I was in the chapel at midnight with the permission of my superiors, Our Lord told me:

The sacrifice of everybody to fulfil his own duty, and to observe my law: this is the penance that I want and that I require right now.

(Letter to the Bishop of Gurza, February 28, 1943.)

“It is so good to live totally dependent on the Will of God! It is this dependence that guides our each and every step. This is why peace and joy overflow our souls, even when we are making sacrifices, since our only inspiration is to please God by sacrificing ourselves for Him and for the souls that He wants to save. This sacrifice consists in the perfect accomplishment of our work each day and at every moment. You know, don’t you know, that he understands what it is we owe God, our neighbor, and ourselves. The true spirit of penance consists of the following: knowing how to sacrifice oneself so as not to sin; knowing how to sacrifice oneself rather than being imperfect; knowing how to sacrifice oneself in order to go further and further to the point of love’s generosity. This must be the ideal of each soul who aspires to arrive at the day on which he beholds God and exalts in His presence in Heaven.”

(Letter to a friend, November 17, 1954.)

This is what Our Lady wants : the penance of the duty of state, fulfilled as perfectly as possible. There are some souls who think about great and extraordinary mortifications, going so far as to macerate themselves. They know they are not able of doing this, and so they lose courage. When Our Lady requires penance, she speaks about the perfect fulfilment of our duty of state: this is holiness!

(L’appel du Cœur Douloureux et Immaculé de Marie, n°78.)

The Message of the Sacred-Heart of Jesus to Sister Consolata

The Message of the Sacred-Heart of Jesus

to Sister Consolata

  A Sermon Given in Avrillé,

  and Published in “Le Sel de la Terre” 74, Autumn 2010

We would like to take advantage of this month of June, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by saying a few words about the message of the Sacred Heart to Sister Consolata.

* * * * * *

Public and Private Revelations

Let us make clear here at the outset that we will be speaking about what are called “private revelations,” and that these should not be confused with public Revelation.

Public Revelation is the Revelation given by God to the prophets of the Old Testament, and by Our Lord Jesus Christ – and the Holy Ghost after Pentecost – to the Apostles in the New Testament. The Church’s mission is to transmit infallibly, and to offer to our faith, this public Revelation that we must believe in order to be saved. This public Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, St. John.

But God, who governs the world, reserves for Himself the right to intervene in the course of human history to help men to save themselves.

Private revelations are revelations given by God, by the Lord Jesus, by Our Lady, or even by saints. These revelations are given to private persons, whether for their own salvation or the aiding their own souls, or for a certain part of the Church, or even for the entire Church. Such revelations add nothing to the deposit of Faith.

Before reading books about private revelations or apparitions, we should read works on doctrine that explain public Revelation and strengthen our faith. It is faith that gives charity its purpose. If our faith is weak, the works of mystics risk giving us an appearance of charity that in reality will be only sentimentalism.

Of course, we must be careful about private revelations, especially today when false mystics and false apparitions are plentiful.

The revelations of the Sacred Heart to Sister Consolata have all the guarantees of authenticity: they have been approved by the local Church authorities, and several bishops have also attached indulgences to the invocation taught to Consolata by Our Lord.

Sister Consolata Betrone

Piérina Betrone – who would become Sister Consolata – was born in 1903 in Saluzzo, Italy. She was called home to God in 1946 at the age of 43, after only 17 years in religious life.

Wanting to devote herself since her youth, she first entered the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, founded by St. John Bosco in Turin for the education of young girls. Various interior trials, however, prevented her from remaining; and Providence then oversaw her entrance at the age of 26 into the Poor Clares – cloistered sisters dedicated to a very penitential life.

Nothing seemed more opposed to the active temperament of Piérina: “Nothing attracted me about the capuchin sisters,” she wrote. “The renouncement is complete.” But Our Lord only hid His servant so that He could give her a global apostolic influence, somewhat as with St. Therese of the Child Jesus. In fact, Sister Consolata considered herself as a spiritual daughter of St Therese.

The Message of Jesus to the World

Essential Highlights of the Message

Mercy and Confidence

The message that Our Lord wants to transmit to the world through Sister Consolata as His intermediary is, above all, a message of mercy and confidence, as with all manifestations of the Sacred Heart:

The devil has promised himself the destruction of the world,” said our Lord, “and I, its salvation. I will save it by the triumph of My mercy and My love. Yes, I will save the world in My merciful Love.”

But during the era when the Sacred Heart manifested Himself to Sister Consolata, there was an economic crisis and then World War II – which made it seem that Our Lord was proving His justice rather than His mercy. But this was not so.

What Our Lord said concerning the global economic crisis that started in 1929 also applies today, and especially if the crisis intensifies:

The current misery that reigns in the world is not the work of My justice, but of My Mercy. A certain lack of money prevents many faults, and in the economic restrictions numerous are the prayers that rise up to Heaven. Do not think that I am insensitive to the sorrows of the earth. I love souls and I want to save them. For this purpose I use rigor, but believe Me, it is out of pure Mercy. In abundance, souls forget Me and are lost, whereas in times of misery they turn toward Me and are saved.”

Regarding the war (World War II), Our Lord told Sister Consolata in December, 1940:

— “Take heed, if I grant peace today, the world will return to its mire.”

— “But, Lord,” replied Consolata, “so many youths are being slaughtered!”

— “The greatest part of these young soldiers, remaining at home, will stagnate in vice,” responded Our Lord. “But on the battlefield, to the contrary and far from the occasions of sin, they will die with the help of their chaplain and will be saved. Two or three years of cruel and intense sufferings, crowned by an eternity of joy, is this not preferable to an entire life of sin that will finish in eternal damnation? How many young people will thank God in eternity for dying in this war that has saved them forever? The just (who suffer in the war) will see their merits increase.”

At all times, the sinner must never despair of being pardoned. Our Lord told Sister Consolata the following – and this must be applied to all souls, even the greatest of sinners:

Your miseries have a limit, but My Heart does not. If it happens that you commit a fault, do not allow yourself to sink into sadness, but come immediately and cast it into My Heart, while renewing in great calm your resolution to practice the opposite virtue. Thus, each of your faults will be as a step forward.”

Of course, this does not dispense from the obligation of confession, at least for mortal sins.

The Mercy of Our Lord for His creatures calls for a return of confidence without limits. On August 14, 1934, Sister Consolata would even make a vow of confidence written out on paper in her own blood:

Starting today and until my death, I want never to open the door, oh Jesus, to any thought of discouragement or defiance.”

Jesus replied: “If you had placed your confidence in yourself alone, or if you had only relied on one of my creatures to reach the summits, you would have taken only ‘turtle steps.’ But since you put your trust in Jesus, you will be relying on His Omnipotence. I will thus accomplish marvels and we (together) will take the steps of a giant.”

Honor God by your confidence,” Jesus would repeat often.

Consolata, in the heart of the Church, you will be confidence.”

Even Judas would have been saved if he had had confidence. His greatest sin was not having had confidence in the infinite Mercy of the Heart of Jesus.

The Call to Love

If the first part of the message of the Sacred Heart to Sister Consolata is a message of Mercy and confidence, the second part is a message of Love, and more precisely it is a call to love along the lines of the revelations of the Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial (i.e., to St. Margaret Mary.)

Our Lord came to light the fire of charity on earth. In exchange for the Love that He has shown for us, especially by dying on the Cross for us, He asks for a reciprocity of love. But as love is continuing to diminish in the world, Our Lord, through His servant St. Margaret Mary, came to ask of those who still loved Him, a compensation of love to make reparation for the coldness of men toward Him, and thus giving love to Him for those who do not love Him and obtaining their conversion. This was the purpose of the First Friday Communions of Reparation and the holy hour of adoration on the preceding (Thursday) evenings.

Our Lord had also asked the king of France – Louis XIV at the time – to consecrate himself and France to the Sacred Heart. This would have led to an immense surge in devotion to the Sacred Heart among his people – and from there it would have spread to the entire world, considering the great influence that France had at that time. But alas, the French kings did not heed the requests because they did not understand that this earth is a battlefield between the faithful people of Jesus and Mary on one side, and the devil and his adepts on the other. And that if in this battle we do not rely on divine powers, we cannot resist the diabolical and superhuman powers that unceasingly wage war against the Church and Christianity. Having preferred to organize politics according to their human ways, they left the field wide open for the devil and his henchmen to destroy the entire Christian social order: such was the French Revolution.

Ever since the Revolution (1789), as the world has accelerated towards its destruction, Our Lord’s pleas have become more urgent: He tried without success to have France consecrated to the Sacred Heart by Louis XVIII in order to save the Restoration; then it was the revelation of the scapular of the Sacred Heart to Estelle Faguette (a Dominican tertiary) at Pellevoisin; then there were manifestations of the Sacred Heart to a mother of a family, Madame Royer, and also to Claire Ferchaud of Loublande; then to sister Josefa Menendez at Poitiers. And we must not forget the vision at Tuy, Spain where Sister Lucia of Fatima saw the word Mercy that was written in fiery letters under one of the crucified arms of Our Lord.

To make a counterbalance to the sins of the world, and to allow mercy and pardon to flow down to souls, Our Lord had asked one very simple thing from sister Josefa Menendez: to multiply acts of love through all the actions of our everyday lives:

I want you to give me souls. For this, I ask nothing more than love for Me in all your actions. Do everything out of love, suffer out of love, and above all give yourself to my divine Love.”

Charity, indeed, is given to us by God so that we exercise it.

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us: “Charity consists more in loving than in being loved.”

Thus, the first object of charity is God before our neighbor. To exercise charity we must, above all, make interior acts of the love of God.

We must make clear here, however, that this does not necessarily mean sensible acts; charity is not found in the senses but in the will. The acts of love of which we are speaking are interior actions through which we tell our Lord of our union with His will, even in the middle of the greatest dryness and aridity of the senses.

A Formula

With Sister Consolata, Our Lord added something very specific: he taught an invocation – a formula – that would tell God of our love. This formula is the following: “Jesus, Mary, I love you. Save souls.”

This is an easy formula to observe, and which can be used by all age groups, and in all conditions of life and even health.

And above all, when it is said with all one’s heart (and not in a mechanical manner of course) this formula is a perfect act of love as it contains the love of Our Lord, Our Lady and souls. It is the most perfect summary of our catholic religion.

Our Lord is indicating here a very simple spiritual path to transform our individual lives into acts of supernatural love, while helping us offer through this love all of our everyday actions and all the events of our lives.

Of course, it is not necessary to pronounce this invocation with our lips. It is sufficient to pray it interiorly.

This practice is certainly not obligatory. Spiritual paths are varied in the Catholic religion, corresponding to the differences in souls. But for those who embrace it, the fruits of this devotion are numerous.

Fruits of this Practice:

If we say often “Jesus, Mary, I love you. Save souls” this will first of all dispose our souls to receive new infusions of charity that will increase our love of God and neighbor. Then we will live in an entire abandonment to Providence and a total availability to our neighbor.

One ‘yes’ to everything out of gratitude and appreciation; and one ‘yes’ to everyone with a smile, seeing and treating Jesus in everyone,” says Father Lorenzo Sales 1.

To say often “Jesus, Mary, I love you. Save souls” is also an apostolic formula that obtains fruits for all souls, said Our Lord: “souls in purgatory, as well as those in the Church militant; guilty souls as well as the innocent ones; those dying, and those who are atheists, etc.” Our Lord revealed to Sister Consolata that by her acts of love, she would harvest an immense number of souls.

As “the smallest act of pure love has more value in the eyes of God, and is more useful to the Church…than all exterior works [without this pure love] put together,” as St. John of the Cross said, so these acts of love also form a great power against the enemies of the Church and Christianity. This young Poor Clare, Consolata, deep in her convent in Italy, even played a decisive role in the victory of the Catholic Spaniards over communism in 1936. To Sister Consolata, who prayed for this intention, Our Lord said:

Yes, I will give to you the victory over communism in Spain. But you, do everything possible to give Me the unceasing act of love. The victory over communism in Spain will say to the world how much Jesus concedes to the unceasing act of love.”

This must encourage us today. With little exterior means – and in fact we have hardly any – we can do a lot to counteract the current assaults of Satan against the Church and Christianity.

Lastly, when facing a task to accomplish, or before trials and crosses of every sort, if we say, “Jesus, Mary, I love you. Save souls,” this will allow us to respond “yes” to all the requests for sacrifice that Jesus makes of us, and it will permit us to endure our sufferings by offering them in love.

Answer to an objection, and conclusion

One will perhaps object that it is not so easy to think of saying this formula throughout the day. Father Lorenzo Sales gives an enlightening and inspiring response:

A dozen acts of love during the day -– which is within everyone’s reach -– accumulate in an impressive way over the course of a month and a year. And as the habit grows, the numbers will increase, and union with Our Lord will be ever deepened.”

There will thus form, in all parts of the world, a continuous wave of love that ascends toward Heaven so as to come back down to earth in a torrent of mercy and pardon 2.”

**

Whether or not we embrace this practice, let us take advantage in any case of this month of the Sacred Heart by rekindling our love for Our Lord and Our Lady, as well as our zeal for the salvation of souls.

Sermon by a Dominican Father of Avrillé

Translation by Mrs F.

From: “Le Sel de la Terre,” Number 74, Autumn 2010.

1 — Father Lorenzo Sales, biographer of sister Consolata, in La toute petite voie d’amour, Message abrégé du Cœur de Jésus à soeur Consolata Betrone, Sherbrooke (Québec), Editions Saint-Raphaël, 1995, p. 50. The biography of sister Consolata by Fr Lorenzo Sales, is called: Sœur Consolata Betrone, Mulhouse, Salvator, 1963; edited again by Résiac.

2 — Father Lorenzo Sales, Jésus parle au monde, Fribourg (Switzerland), Éditions Saint-Canisius, 1957, p. 185-186.

From Sadness to Cheerfulness

From Sadness to Cheerfulness

  According to the “Dialogue” of St Catherine of Siena

  Meditation for a Time of Trials

  By Fr de Paillerets O.P.

Resignation

St Catherine is not surprised that sufferings, of any kind, cause tears to flow. But she doesn’t want them to be evil tears, purely human tears, that show our excessive attachments to the good things of this world, and even if those good things can have us in chains.

If a trial is sent to us, it has this precise purpose: to detach us from the world and from ourselves, so that we put ourselves entirely in the hands of Divine Providence.

The soul does not learn how to suffer the first time around. In the beginning, even if the tears are good, they are still mixed with a lot of self-love. And so, crying over herself “tears of tenderness and compassion“, — even if she accepts the sufferings in expiation for her sins — the soul has not yet, for all that, yet “thrown underfoot and entirely renounced her own will“.

God [who spoke to Catherine] says that she must learn “to despise herself and to hate herself perfectly, at the same time as she arrives from there, at a knowledge and familiarity with My goodness, which will turn her love into a fire. She begins from that moment to unite and conform her will to Mine, and to find and see in herself an entirely new joy and compassion. The joy that she feels in herself is from loving Me and the compassion that moves her is for the neighbor closest her [herself]”. So self-love has disappeared. “She doesn’t regret her own suffering, the damage to herself.” (89)

It is entirely necessary that we aim and move toward total acceptance and patient resignation to the things God wills. This is because, since we have categorically refused to align ourselves with the rebels against God, we don’t have any other path to pursue than the hatred of ourselves.

The thorns and tribulations” of this earth couldn’t even begin to make us turn back. Again, with the light of reason and of the holy faith, we must clearly see the love of God, which cannot will anything but what is good for us.

Respect for the Will of God

My servants “know that it is for their good and not out of hatred for them, but out of love, that I send trials to them.”

“…they purify themselves from their sins, by contrition of heart, they acquire merits from their perfect patience, and their trails will be rewarded by an infinite Good. They know that every suffering in this life lasts only a short while, like [earthly] time itself. Time is like the balancing point of a scale, nothing more! When time runs out, it is the end of suffering. It’s not very much!

With respect, they put up with everything that happens to them, judging it a grace to be tested and tried by me, and willing nothing other than what I will.

That’s how my servants bear their present trials, they go with patience through the thorns, which do not injure the heart. Their heart was not taken away from them by self-love involving the feelings!” (45)

For sure, self-love does not easily let go of its place without resistance. Beneath the deliberate acceptance of the will, self-love makes feelings of sadness, but we must not let it take the fort. What do these suffering feels count for compared to the essential peace to be found in the will? It’s in that sense that we read these words:

Whoever is born into this life is subject to pains, be they bodily or spiritual. My servants have bodily pains, but their spirits are always free; I mean that these bodily pains do not cause any sadness, because their will is in accord with Mine. However, it is in the will that man really suffers.”

Joyful Acceptance

Joy calls us so much, the joy of love. And this joy must invade us. God doesn’t want us to be satisfied with mere resignation. Or, even more, it is His love which brings joy to birth in the soul which suffers in accord with His will.

That’s what the soul has met in the teaching and example of the Lamb without stain. And so, passing by way this Word, she puts up with and takes “with a true and sweet patience all the pains and all the afflictions that I send to her for her salvation. She receives them with the strength of a courageous man, without choosing which one she prefers. She is not satisfied with accepting things patiently with mere resignation, but she cheerfully accepts them. As long as she has something to suffer she is happy! The soul is invaded with such a great joy, such a perfect tranquility of spirit, no tongue would know how to express it.” (89)

The cheerful joy of the strong, the patient, the loving: it’s not too high, to great for us. I want to say that Christ calls us all, and that we should not fear to desire this and to arrive at it. It might be that this will require long and painful efforts to conquer and to follow the Lamb. The Lord gives to some a rapid route that he doesn’t give to others. That doesn’t matter, as long as we welcome his designs with a trusting respect.

From the book of Rev. Father de Paillerets O.P., The Cross and Joy, 1932.

Translation by Fr M.

Sanctification of Sunday in Times of Crisis and Persecution

Sanctification of Sunday

in Times of Crisis and Persecution 

In these days when attendance at Mass is impossible for many of the faithful, remember that we must distinguish:

The Command of God, which is general (You will sanctify the day of the Lord)

— And the Command of the Church which clarifies the command of God by obligating one to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Normally, both are obligatory, under pain grave fault, on all baptized persons who have reached the age of reason, but circumstances can dispense one from the command of the Church (attendance at Mass) without this dispensing from the command of God.

When attendance at Mass is impossible, it is necessary to sanctify Sunday in another way, giving time to prayer and catholic instruction (at least the equivalent of a Low Sunday Mass, which normally includes a sermon).

One can, for this, read the texts of the Mass and pray a rosary (5 or 15 decades), if possible as a family.

It’s advised to make a spiritual communion (for that, one can read in the missal or in a prayer book the prayers before communion to excite in us a great desire for union with Our Lord, then we can read the prayers after communion).

St. Thomas Aquinas says: “the effect of the sacrament can be secured by every man if he receives it in desire, though not in reality. […] so likewise some eat this sacrament spiritually before they receive it sacramentally” (III q. 80, a. 1, ad. 3).

The Catechism of the Council of Trent says those “are said to receive the Eucharist in spirit only […] who, inflamed with a lively faith which worketh by charity (Gal. 5:6), partake in wish and desire of that celestial Bread offered to them”.

If it is difficult to get to confession as often as before, one should also arouse in his soul acts of perfect contrition, regretting our sins for the suffering they have caused to Our Lord during His Passion, and having the firm purpose to go to confession with a priest as soon as possible. The Way of the Cross (which you can do at home) is a great way to achieve this perfect contrition. Just kneel at each station, then get up to go to the next station.

These principles apply to Sundays and to Holy Days of obligation.

Prayers taken from the Mass in time of epidemic

Collect:

O God, who wiliest not the death of the sinner but that he should repent: welcome with pardon Thy people’s return to Thee: and so long as they are faithful in Thy service, do Thou in Thy clemency withdraw the scourge of Thy wrath. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son…

Secret:

Let the sacrifice which we now offer succor us, O Lord; may it wholly release us from sin and deliver us from all ruin and destruction. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son…

Postcommunion:

Graciously hear us, O God our Savior: deliver Thy people from the terrors of Thy wrath, and assure them of that safety which is the gift of Thy mercy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son…

continued: A Model Catholic Wife and Mother: Anna-Maria Taïgi

A Model Catholic Wife and Mother:

Anna-Maria Taïgi (1769-1837)

  (continued) 

  By Dom Bernard Maréchaux, O.S.B.

  Published in Le Sel de la terre 62, Autumn 2007

Patience for any trial

Testimony of Domenico Taigi, her husband

Fairly frequently, I would return home in a bad mood. She had the talent of calming me. She knew well when to be silent, but she also knew even better how to speak and when she should do so.”

Another witness reported:

Fairly often, Domenico would return home in a bad mood after a day of squabbles among his fellow servants; but he always found in Anna-Maria the consolations that he needed. She always studied him so as to better understand his tastes and to please them, and his sorrows so as to lighten them. As soon as he arrived at the door, she sensed if he was in distress and she would pleasantly say, “Is it true that you had many stresses today? Yes, it is so! Well, then, do sit down and rest freely because here everything is going well 1.”

She arranged that her little family would have various innocent pastimes. Most often it was to attend an event at a church in the city; other times it was to enjoy the country. On such occasions, Anna-Maria would relax her austerity a little so as to take part in the communal enjoyments. Once on a certain Friday, she allowed herself to take a bit of food between her meals. She was corrected from above for her indulgence.

But there were certain boundaries over which she should not transgress:

When her son found a bride, and her daughter became engaged, after all the relevant information was gathered and the parental consents granted, Anna-Maria did not want the engagement to be longer than one month. She insisted that the youths not be together except in her sight, and the religious ceremonies concluded with a simple family meal.

We like to show our blessed governing her family in the traditional Catholic principles that foster mutual love and nourish respect. Her home was a thus little paradise. Prayers were said together in a little oratory where she would spend part of her nights in prayer, or where sometimes Mass was celebrated.

To raise and care for a family with seven children was always a difficult task when supported only by resources earned by Domenico’s daily labor. In his service to the Chigi household that often kept him until late in the evenings, Domenico earned only the equivalent of 25 euros ($33) each month. Anna-Maria supplemented this very modest wage by her own personal labors undertaken during what would have been her times of rest.

There were complications. The mother and father of this saintly woman ended up under her oversight: she had to feed and care for them for several years, and the condition of her father required particularly burdensome and even unpleasant duties. Also, since the Chigi family left Rome during the French occupation, Domenico lost his income for a time. And a dreadful famine was declared in Rome. Squeezed on all sides, Anna-Maria did not lose heart. She learned how to make women’s corsets and shoes, which she would spend part of her nights doing. God came to her aid in ways that can be considered miraculous.

After her mother and father passed away in bona pace [good peace], Anna-Maria was able to breathe easier. But then we see that her daughter Sofia became a widow and came back home with six little children. The great heart of our blessed opened up to these innocent ones and she adopted them without hesitation. Sofia already knew the apostolic charity of her mother, but this admiration was to grow as she saw even more of Anna-Maria’s energy and confidence in God.

While poverty reigned in the household, so too did peace. The daughter-in-law of Anna-Maria, the wife of Camillo, who lived for a while in the Taigi home, had a particularly difficult character. The saintly woman endured these difficulties with an angelic patience.

We do not want to omit any of the character traits that show through in Anna-Maria’s actions, and so by uniting everything we can reconstruct a portrait that is worthy of the “Strong Woman of Solomon.” Here indeed was a great woman. And since Anna-Maria was from humbler conditions 2, this is the only difference that distinguishes the one woman from the other.

We will see that women of the highest rank and people in the Roman court all had relationships with the wife of the Chigi servant. Anna-Maria was able to obtain assistance for them in their times of distress. She made nothing of it. She distributed supernatural assistance all around her, and even miracles; she never accepted what was offered to her in exchange. It was not pride. It was simply the application of the Gospel maxim: what you have received freely, give freely. She pushed the enforcement of this even to scrupulosity.

Model of Mothers-in-law

Domenico relates:

My wife always made peace reign, a heavenly peace in the family even though we were numerous, of different characters, and especially when Camillo my son came to live with us during the first years of his marriage. Our daughter-in-law had a very difficult personality. She wanted to command things, but the servant of God knew very well how to make everyone happy. Even if I were to speak of everything, it would not be sufficient.”

Fr. Bessieres comments:

Model of spouses and mothers, here now is also the model for mothers-in-law! Can this masterpiece even be imagined? Anna-Maria imposed peace, under the rainbow of Noah, where to the right were situated spouses and in-laws, a daughter-in-law and two tribes of children, seven on one side and six on the other 3!”

The Contemplative and the Mysterious Sun

On the foundation of this humble life as wife and mother of a family, God was pleased to construct a spiritual palace of magnificent proportions. After her renouncement of the vanities of the world, there blossomed in Anna-Maria all the gifts and graces from above, her profound recollection, intimacy with God, ease of ecstasy, and her exercise of heroic virtues. And God crowned his heavenly generosity with a truly extraordinary favor: he took up His abode in a mysterious sun and so appeared in this way to the eyes of His servant who enjoyed the continuous presence of her Lord by this means for the duration of 47 years. Let us enter into some of the details of this phenomenon that we can say is unique in the lives of the saints.

It was in the early days of the conversion of the servant of God that this remarkable phenomenon manifested itself. She was in her oratory when the mysterious sun appeared before her eyes of flesh. It was the same size as the sun that shines on us every day. It was in flames, with its disk of a matte gold. Little by little, and following Anna-Maria’s progress in the spiritual life, it became increasingly resplendent — so much so that during the last period of her life it shone as seven suns. This sunburst did not overwhelm her view, even when she had a nearly lost eye that could not endure light.

The sun in itself contained representations that gave her mystical meanings. In its upper portion was a thick and tangled crown of thorns, and on each side a very long and harsh thorn was situated. These 2 thorns, appearing like 2 sticks, crossed into the lower part of the disk. Within the sun’s middle section, and a little to the right, a divinely beautiful woman was seated: from her forehead a double ray of light mounted up to heaven. Her feet rested toward the left on the edge of the sun. The images and smoke that rose out of the earth were propelled with force outside the disk. Sometimes symbolic figures passed before her without obscuring the disk.

According to plausible interpretations of theologians, the solar disk represented the Incarnate Word; the seated woman represented Eternal Wisdom; the thorns and crossed sticks represented the Sacrifice of the cross to which the Word-made-Flesh submitted.

The marvel was that the sun reflected for the eyes of Anna-Maria all the events that were happening in the entire world: plots of secret societies, conspiracies in the process of being carried out, wars, deaths of famous people, floods and cataclysms. Our Blessed Anna-Maria announced these before anyone could have had any natural knowledge. Weeks later, news of the events would arrive, and never was the clairvoyance of our seer incorrect. But still more remarkable was this: she read consciences with an absolute confidence; she knew the eternal fate of souls after their deaths and she followed them whether they were in heaven, purgatory or hell. With views of the present she joined prophetic announcements of the future; other times it was events from the past that took on life before her eyes and thus did she inform Pius VII of a particular incident from his childhood. In a word, the book of divine knowledge opened for her in this mysterious sun: as saints see everything in God, she saw everything in this mirror.

In the presence of such a constant and ongoing phenomenon, our dear blessed held herself as annihilated: Who could thus endure such a spectacle? Of herself, the servant of God never dared to raise her eyes to the disk-sun. It was necessary that she be urged to do so by a strong interior inspiration or her charity for the needs of another that constrained her. The Savior evidently proposed that she make of herself a victim. When she saw a deluge of evils ready to converge upon the Church, she offered herself to prevent this. When she saw a soul on the edge of its eternal damnation, she immolated herself to save it.

She had wanted to keep silence regarding all the heavenly favors of which she was the recipient, but as an obedient daughter she had to open herself to her confessor, who himself consulted with high ecclesiastic dignitaries. These men recognized the veracity of the information given by Anna-Maria concerning events that were outside the realm of normal knowledge. They determined that her phenomena was useful for the Church and for souls. They permitted that the humble woman was consulted, and they themselves consulted her. Numerous times she had to give heavenly warnings and to reveal divine secrets. It became very clear that she had become a victim and her life henceforth was a martyrdom.

And while the sorrow caused by the view of her mystical sun was severe enough to make her a victim, this was not all of her martyrdom. The devil, furious that his plans were revealed by a poor woman, rushed upon her with a veritable rage. He struck her cruelly, as he had done previously with St. Frances of Rome. She submitted to the most woeful maladies and to the most complicated infirmities. She had an eye that suffered as if it had been pierced by a thorn; she felt the stench of the sins of the world; she tasted in her mouth an intolerable bitterness. At any given moment, she was assailed with temptations against the faith; deprived of all sweetness and consolation, surrounded by darkness, and thus consigned to a hell-like imprisonment. She endured these spiritual trials, worse than death, with an invincible patience.

The devil tried to induce her to thoughts of despair; Anna-Maria wondered tearfully whether she would be saved. But here Our Lord intervened: He gave the most formal of assurances to his beloved victim.

The evil spirit raised up evil people to overwhelm her with calumnies, which came back upon the evildoers themselves. Our Lord declared that He would send upon them the injuries that were hurled against His servant and that He would punish them severely and even mercilessly in this world and in the next. And, in fact, these people became insane or were reduced to poverty and died sadly. It was only due to the strength of Anna-Maria’s self-immolation that several of these were rescued from their eternal damnation.

Those on the contrary who showed her sympathy obtained graces of conversion or advancement in the ways of God.

Apparitions, Gift of Miracles

The portrait of our Blessed’s sufferings that we have outlined has been frightening. One wonders how a human being could have endured an entire lifetime thus tortured in all her members, both body and soul. But among those who are familiar with the lives of the saints, one is certainly aware that ineffable consolations alternate with heartbreaking sufferings, and that if at times a saint has been lowered to the depths of hell’s entrance, they are also sometimes lifted up to the threshold of heaven. And even more than this, something humanly impossible happens wherein there develops a coexistence within the saints between their ravishments of divine intimacy and their violent sufferings. And this was true of Anna-Maria.

Her spirit did not cleave to the earth, but was always ready to fly away. In thousands of small incidents, she perceived the indications of the goodness of God that are poured out upon all His creatures but which carnal people do not recognize. The song of a bird, the perfume of a flower, the breath of a light breeze could be sufficient to send her into an ecstasy. And even more so would a circumstance of the life of Jesus Christ or an interior touch of the Holy Spirit. And these ecstasies would occur everywhere: in her home, or during meals, in the streets of the city, or in churches. She would say to Jesus, “Leave me be, as I am a mother of a family!”

From time to time our Blessed heard heavenly voices. The Madonna spoke to her from the apse of the Ara-Coeli Church (Santa Maria in Ara-Coeli, Rome). The Child Jesus appeared to her (in the church with this title) in great beauty, in a Host, and said to her: “I am the flower of the fields, I am the lily of the valley. And I am totally yours.” At Sant’Andrea della Valle Church, the Savior revealed Himself to her amidst a resplendent light and with a majestic mantle. Her Holy Communions were typically accompanied by raptures of ecstasy; and when she was in a church she was able to “feel” where the Eucharist was located.

One apparition of our Savior that is notable among all others occurred when she lived on the “via del Sdrucciolo” near the Chigi palace. Anna-Maria was gravely ill and during the night people feared for her life. Toward dawn, Jesus appeared such as is typically attributed to Him as the Nazarene: with a violet garb and with a magnificent blue mantle with folds and layers. He was as imposing as a king, but tender as a spouse. He took Anna-Maria’s right hand in His and held it tightly for a long time He told her that He was taking her as His spouse and that he was bestowing upon her hands the gift to cure sick people. When He disappeared – He Whose grace and beauty ravish hearts – Anna-Maria experienced a great sadness and let out a loud cry. People ran near to her bed, but she reassured everyone and announced that she was cured. She got up, washed and went about her ordinary business.

One time she saw the globe of the earth as if surrounded by flames that threatened to consume it. On one side, Jesus on the Cross poured out streams of blood; the Virgin was at His feet, weeping and casting aside her mantle, calling out to Heaven on behalf of sinners and offering the Blood of her divine Son to appease the wrath of God. Anna-Maria melted into tears and supplications, and God pardoned.

Nevertheless, miracles burst forth from contact with the hand of this humble woman. We will relate but a few of these marvels only, and one among many worked upon her granddaughter Pepina, which were in reality numberless. Anna-Maria never wanted to receive anything from the sick that she cured.

The conversions brought about by her prayer and by her intervention were actually even still more surprising. Some freemasons or carbonari came back to God and made honorable amends because the Servant of God took an interest in them; likewise, devoted priests consoled the Church by their return. In general, her prayers for a soul, supported by her penances, obtained their effect; however in the cases of souls who had abused the mercy of God, she could not prevent the divine just judgments from falling upon such sinners.

Deeply Involved in the Life of the Church

From her conversion in 1790 until her death in 1837, by means of her miraculous sun, Anna-Maria was deeply involved with the life of the Church. She entered into relationships with important people in the Roman Court, and through them she was known by the pontiffs who reigned on the chair of Peter in her lifetime. For example, Cardinal Pedicini would consult with her. This prince of the Church introduced her process of beatification.

Our humble blessed predicted point by point the details of the return of Pius VII (prisoner in Savone) to Rome during a time when nothing could have foretold such a happy event. She recalled to him a detail of his childhood that only God could have revealed to her, and she predicted his noble death.

She prayed for the successor of Pope Pius VII, Leo XII. She announced the former pope’s death and saw the state of his soul as a beautiful diamond when it departed this world, already in light but still imperfectly purified. She foretold the short reign of Pius VIII. When he was ill, she declared that he would recover but then fall ill again and then quickly die. She then announced the elevation to the papacy of Maur Cardinal Cappellari, who took the name of Gregory XVI. She had the greatest veneration for him and sent several communications regarding the dangers that were threatening the Church.

During this time period, there was a particular group of holy people in Rome: the blessed (and now Saint) Gaspar de Bufalo; Mgr. Strambi, Passionist bishop of Macerata; Msgr Menocchio, Sacristan of His Holiness; Dom (Saint) Vincenzo Palloti, and Felix de Montefiascone, Capuchin. Anna-Maria was involved with all of these and when they came to visit, her sun shone with an extraordinary brilliance. She saw brother Felix rise straight up to Heaven; she saw Mgr. Strambi do likewise after a period in purgatory.

It was given to her to unmask several falsely pious people who sought to acquire a reputation for holiness. She was not surprised to see souls being lost that people thought were on the road to salvations — priests, ecclesiastic dignitaries, religious sisters and brothers – as they had forgotten that it is not the religious habit that saves, but humility, charity, and fidelity to God.

On one occasion, two priests were discussing in her presence their thoughts on the number of the elect. One asserted that the number was great, while the other maintained that according to the words of Our Lord Himself (Mt.7:13) it was a small number. Both men had recourse to our blessed and asked her to consult her sun. God then gave her to know the fate of the souls who had died in the last 24 hours: very few, not even ten, went straight to heaven; a certain number went to purgatory; and the rest all fell into hell like flakes of snow. Assuredly this is terrible and is due to the perversion of ideas and the general corruption of morals everywhere, in spite of the advances that a merciful God extends.

Nevertheless, there were some consoling aspects in Anna-Maria’s revelations. She saw, for example, how God takes a fatherly care of the souls that He wants to save, helping provide occasions for them to do good works, or drawing them little by little in the way of penance and salvation. Alms given to the poor or pardon granted to an enemy can be decisive in determining the balance of the scales of divine judgments.

In sum, Anna-Maria’s revelations drawn from the mysterious sun could penetrate a soul with a profound fear of God – the fear that is so necessary to Catholic life. Likewise, the visions could excite souls to a true vigilance over themselves, and to a great humility because people would see that deficiencies in uprightness and purity of intention were severely punished in purgatory. Lastly, the revelations convey confidence when we see all the astounding favors with which the humble and loving Anna-Maria was blessed by God, the efficacy that He gave to her prayers and immolations, and the great number of souls whose salvation was due to her. Oh, God, please give us similar saints!

Death and Beatification of Anna-Maria

She died of a chest inflammation on June 9, 1837, after announcing her death several days previously and having endured with the greatest patience the pains of a malady that lasted seven months. An order from Heaven prohibited meat, and she became bedridden on October 24, 1836. She was not, however, deprived of Holy Communion, as Mass was celebrated each day in her domestic chapel. Pope Gregory XVI permitted her to receive Communion without any Eucharistic fast. The Monday before her death, after receiving both Holy Communion and a Heavenly apparition, she announced clearly that she would die on the Friday of that week.

It is impossible to convey the expression of happiness that shone on her face. She asked for her husband, thanked him for his solicitude, and had with him a final and private conversation. She called for her children, exhorted them to fidelity to God, devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and daily recitation of the Rosary together. Lastly, after blessing her children and bidding her final goodbye to her husband, she recollected herself so that she could think solely of Heaven.

Her sickness worsened in the following days and she received Viaticum and Extreme Unction. A Trinitarian Father gave her the indulgences of his Order, as she was a tertiary. And although she suffered horribly, God permitted that she was abandoned by everyone during the three last hours of her agony. It was not until the very last moment that two priests came running to recite the prayers for the dying. She died during an invocation to the Precious Blood of Jesus, at 12:30 am.

The death of this holy woman made for a sensation in Rome. No one was indifferent, from the average man all the way to the sovereign pontiff. On instructions from Gregory XVI, Cardinal Odesalchi had Anna-Maria buried in a special section of the Agro Verano, the great cemetery in Rome near Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls. The coffin was sealed and the tomb was marked with an inscription in marble.

Miracles exploded through her intercession. Introduction of her cause took place under Pius IX, January 8, 1863. In 1865 the body of the servant of God was found to be incorrupt and transported to Blessed Mary of Peace. It was then buried in the church of the Trinitarians at Saint Chrysogonus. Pius X proclaimed her heroic virtues on May 4, 1906 and the two miracles required for beatification were approved by Benedict XV on January 8, 1919. The beatification took place at Saint Peter’s on May 20, 1920, Feast of the Holy Trinity.

Our Lord had said to Anna-Maria: “I have chosen to place you among the ranks of the martyrs.” Likewise, He said: “I have destined that you be known throughout the entire world as an example of penance and as the model of married women.” The humble woman was confused to have to repeat such words to her confessor, to whom she was obliged to tell everything. But today, these words have been proven true.

Annex:

Anna Maria Taigi (1769-1837) and Napoléon (1769-1821)

Napoleon and Anna Maria Taigi never met. Yet Providence has established mysterious bonds between them – links of opposition, but also intercession and compensation – throughout their lives:

*Both were born the same year (1769), both of Tuscan parents.

*Since 1790 (she and Napoleon are 21 years old), Anna Maria Taigi is favored with the mysterious sun, in which she can follow the progress of the French Revolution, but also the rise of the young Bonaparte, who is appointed general at 24 and commander-in-chief of the Army of Italy at 26 years.

* 1798: On the orders of Napoleon, and thanks to his brother Joseph, the Roman Republic is proclaimed. Pope Pius VI was kidnapped by Massena and imprisoned in Vienna, then in Valencia – where he died in 1799. From Rome, Anna Maria follows and describes his agony. But she also announces the coup d’etat on Brumaire 18: Bonaparte will reopen France to the priests. The concordat of 1801 will allow the renewal of French Catholicism.

* Austerlitz (1805), Iena (1806), Eylau (1807): the mysterious sun shows in real time – or even in advance – to the eyes of Anna Maria the fresco of the events of the world. She sees the successive victories of the Emperor, and, at the same time, the Masonic convents, the mass graves of Europe, where thousands of soldiers die without priests, Spain on fire, the Church administered by the Emperor like a regiment, daily crushed, open to schism, bishops prone to resistance, imprisoned, the Pope threatened… And a voice repeats to Anna Maria: You must fulfill in your flesh what is lacking in my passion, for my Church and my vicar.

* February 2, 1808: the troops of Napoleon occupy Rome and point their artillery on the Quirinal where Pius VII lives. The Papal States are united to the Empire, the pope is arrested and incarcerated. Anna Maria long since announced these events and their unfolding. God explained to her that he left the ungodly free to act, but that he would stop them at the moment when they thought they were about to triumph, provided that she, on her part, satisfied his justice. As soon as she sees in her sun the threats that Napoleon makes to the Church, she reminds God of her promise and offers herself to suffer “so that the arms of the impious are broken and their power dispersed.”

* 1809: While Napoleon wins the Battle of Wagram, Pius VII, thrown into a locked carriage, is dragged from Florence to Turin, then from Turin to France, from where it is brought back to Savona, and finally to Fontainebleau, where he seems to be dying. For five years Anna Taigi followed his tribulations hour by hour and informed the cardinals about them. But she also predicts his deliverance. Our Lord explains to her: “For what purpose have I raised up Napoleon? – He is the minister of my anger to punish the iniquity of the wicked and to humble the proud. An impious one destroys other ungodly people.” Napoleon himself declared, on his part: “I feel myself pushed towards a goal that I do not know. When I have reached it, as soon as I am no longer useful, then an atom will be enough to knock me down.” Anna Taigi announces from the beginning that the pope’s captivity will last five years. She describes in advance to Cardinal Pedicini and Bishop Natali the future campaign of Russia, the abdication of the emperor, and the return of Pius VII to Rome.

* 1814: Anna Taigi predicts a year in advance that Pius VII will officiate in St. Peter’s Basilica on the day of Pentecost 1814. This is fulfilled literally. On April 4, Napoleon signed his abdication at Fontainebleau in the same palace where he imprisoned Pius VII. May 24, 1814, is the triumphal entry of the Pope into the Eternal City.

* May 5, 1821: Napoleon dies in Sainte-Hélène. The news will not arrive in Rome until two and a half months later, but on the very day of her death, Anna Taigi describes it to Msgr. Natali. She sees the exile’s bed, arrangements, to­mb, ceremonies, funeral, and destiny in eternity.

* February 1st, 1836: Letizia Bonaparte, mother of Napoleon, dies in Rome, where she took refuge. The funeral takes place in the church Santa Maria in Via Lata, right in front of the house of Anna Taigi. She will have her mass of burial in the same church, a year later (June 11, 1837). During her last four years, Anna Maria met Napoleon’s uncle, Cardinal Fesch, several times. It is not known whether he echoed their conversations in passing this judgment on the fallen emperor: “God did not break him; he humbled him, and this is the way of salvation.”

Translated by Mrs M.F.

1 — – Cited by Albert Bessieres, SJ, Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi, Mother of a Family. Paris, DCB, 1936, p. 79, 84-86.

2 — In fact, Anna-Maria held a certain “rank.” Her husband was a servant, but in a princely home. He wanted his wife herself to have a servant girl that she would treat as a child of the house. This brought embarrassment for Anna-Maria.

3 — Albert Bessieres, SJ, Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi, Mother of a Family, p. 85.