Le cardinal Marc Ouellet, préfet de la
Congrégation pour les évêques et ex-archevêque de Québec, a
demandé hier aux évêques canadiens de faire connaître sans
délai leur réaction commune à l’exhortation apostolique Amoris
laetitia sur la famille et le mariage et d’émettre des
orientations sur les applications pastorales qu’entraînent ce
texte rédigé par le pape François il y a plus d’un an.
Rendu public en avril 2016 après deux rencontres synodales sur
la famille et l’Église, le contenu d’Amoris laetitia
est toujours débattu dans plusieurs cercles catholiques,
principalement en raison de son chapitre 8 consacré à la
question des situations «irrégulières», dont celle des
divorcés-remariés et de leur accès aux sacrements.
«Plusieurs conférences épiscopales ont déjà publié des
orientations plus précises pour leur contexte, par souci de
clarté et d'inculturation», a dit le cardinal Ouellet à tous les
évêques du Canada présents à Cornwall, en Ontario, pour
l’assemblée plénière annuelle de la Conférence des évêques
catholiques du Canada (CECC).
«Un tel exercice m'apparait nécessaire et urgent au Canada où
l'on constate un écart béant entre l'enseignement officiel de
l'Église et le vécu des couples et des familles», a ajouté le
cardinal au début de sa conférence.
Il a par la suite dressé un sombre portrait de la société
canadienne, estimant que cet écart «s'est élargi progressivement
après le concile Vatican II sous l'influence d'une culture de la
contraception, du divorce et de l'avortement, à telle enseigne
que notre pays se signale mondialement par ses législations sur
l'avortement sans restriction, l'euthanasie, le pseudo-mariage
de personnes de même sexe, le suicide assisté, et que sais-je
encore, qui reflète ce que saint Jean-Paul II a déploré comme la
culture de mort».
Le cardinal, né en 1944 dans le village de La Motte, au Québec,
a déploré que les précédentes «interventions magistérielles sur
la famille (ndlr: l’encyclique Humanae vitae et
l’exhortation apostolique Familiaris consortio) ont
reçu un accueil mitigé, voire passivement dissident de la part
de théologiens et de pasteurs, ce qui n'a pas favorisé leur mise
en œuvre pastorale».
Le chapitre 8
Le cardinal Marc Ouellet s’est ensuite longuement attardé au
contenu d’Amoris laetitia, un texte qui compte 325
paragraphes et près de 400 notes de bas de page. Il reconnaît
que c’est par un chapitre, le huitième, que cette exhortation
apostolique s’est «d’abord imposée à l’attention du public,
réjouissant les uns, inquiétant les autres, mais ne laissant
Dans ce chapitre intitulé Accompagner, discerner et
intégrer la fragilité, «certains y ont vu enfin la bonne
nouvelle d’une ouverture, si minime soit-elle, vers un accès aux
sacrements pour les personnes divorcées et remariées. D’autres
ont regretté une telle ouverture qui risque, selon eux,
d’instaurer une rupture avec la doctrine et la discipline
traditionnelles de l’Église catholique.»
Mais «toute interprétation alarmiste dénonçant un bris de
continuité avec la tradition, ou bien laxiste célébrant un accès
enfin concédé aux sacrements pour les divorcés remariés, est
infidèle au texte et à l’intention du pape», a affirmé le
Le pape François propose plutôt une nouvelle méthode pastorale,
qui ne se limite pas aux familles en situation irrégulière.
Cette méthode se résume dans «les trois verbes accompagner,
Accompagner les couples et les familles, c’est «avoir confiance
en la grâce à l’œuvre dans la vie des personnes». S’il faut, dit
le cardinal «garder bien en vue l’idéal chrétien», il faut aussi
intervenir «en ayant aussi en tête le principe de la gradualité,
qui ne signifie pas la 'gradualité de la loi', mais la
gradualité de l’assimilation de ses valeurs par les sujets».
Discerner les situations irrégulières est un art qui fait
«appel à des principes qui permettent de définir les situations
et leurs causes, les circonstances atténuantes, les changements
possibles selon la conscience morale des personnes et les cas
d’exceptions compte tenu de la distance entre la norme générale
et les situations particulières». Ce discernement va jusqu’à
reconnaître «la possibilité de vivre subjectivement en grâce
dans une situation objective de péché», une notion d’Amoris
laetitia qui est fortement contestée par des théologiens
Une telle attitude pastorale «peut ouvrir à recevoir l’aide des
sacrements de pénitence et d’eucharistie dans certains cas»,
admet le cardinal. Mais cet accès aux sacrements, qu’il ne faut
ni généraliser ou banaliser, doit être «discerné soigneusement
dans une logique de miséricorde pastorale».
Il est donc erroné de voir ces exceptions comme «un changement
de la doctrine ou de la discipline sacramentelle», a dit le
cardinal. Il s'agit d'une «une application plus différenciée et
adaptée aux circonstances concrètes et au bien des personnes».
Conversion du regard
Pour l’ancien archevêque de Québec, Amoris laetitia
oblige dorénavant les pasteurs «à une conversion du regard et à
une attitude d’accueil».
Les prêtres et les évêques doivent «s’efforce[r] de valoriser le
bien déjà existant dans la vie des personnes et de les
accompagner progressivement vers une réponse plus complète au
dessein de Dieu sur leur vie».
Plutôt que de condamner les couples en situations difficiles,
ils doivent «voir les valeurs concrètement vécues dans la
diversité des situations et accompagner les personnes dans leur
recherche de vérité et leurs choix moraux correspondants».
Il revient aussi aux pasteurs «de discerner les pas à faire pour
vivre en plénitude le sacrement déjà reçu, ou pour cheminer peu
à peu vers sa réception consciente et fructueuse, ou encore pour
régulariser une situation objectivement irrégulière, mais pas
toujours moralement imputable».
Il résume ainsi cette conversion du regard. Cela «consiste à
voir non seulement la norme plus ou moins parfaitement vécue,
mais la personne concrète dans sa tension vers le bien, de
valoriser ce qu’elle vit et de l’accompagner dans le
discernement progressif des choix possibles pour une sainteté
plus grande ou une intégration plus pleine à la communauté
Peu importe leur «statut public de fidèle bien en règle, de
catéchumène en chemin, de baptisé distant, de concubin ou de
divorcé remarié», tous méritent d’être accueillis par l’Église
qui doit mener, au lendemain de la publication d’Amoris
laetitia, une «salutaire réaction d’autocritique».
Le cardinal Marc Ouellet a prononcé toute sa conférence en
français, après avoir salué, en anglais, les évêques présents à
Lisant ses notes d’un seul trait (en précisément 44 minutes),
il s’est toutefois accordé trois brèves pauses, deux fois pour
avaler une gorgée d’eau et une autre fois, à la toute fin,
lorsqu’une alarme d’incendie - un exercice, a-t-on expliqué - a
brièvement retenti dans la salle de conférences du Centre Nav.
Le cardinal prononcera une seconde conférence sur Amoris
laetitia, à huis clos cette fois, pendant la
plénière de la CECC.
Il n'a pas répondu à la demande d'entrevue de Présence.
It's worthwhile to take time to pray with and about the prayers of the Church, to learn to appreciate them anew.
At the end of my confession the other day, Father said a prayer that I don’t recall ever hearing before.
I left the confessional wondering if it was some section of the absolution that I’d never noticed. (The formula for absolution consists of the words that bring about the forgiveness — absolving — of my sins and leave my soul baptism-white again. To save time and keep the confession line moving, many priests will say those words at the same time that the penitent is making the Act of Contrition; I thought maybe I’d just never really heard them before.)
As it turns out, though, the prayer he prayed over me is one of the forms of dismissal for the Sacrament:
May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of all the saints, whatever good you do and suffering you endure, heal your sins, help you to grow in holiness, and reward you with eternal life. Go in peace.
Father paused and emphasized each of those words “suffering you endure.” And it was so comforting to hear it and to know that the trials I’m facing, even as they’re partly of my own making, can help to heal my sins.
That prayer offered us by the Church is almost a summary of how our salvation comes about.
We know Jesus is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (who takes away my sin).
The Catechism explains in paragraph 615 and following:
By his obedience unto death, Jesus accomplished the substitution of the suffering Servant, who “makes himself an offering for sin,” when “he bore the sin of many,” and who “shall make many to be accounted righteous,” for “he shall bear their iniquities.” Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father.
And we are invited to participate in all that.
The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, but because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.
That’s why Father could pray that the sufferings I’m enduring would heal my sins. And that brings hope and perspective — it helps us to see that suffering, while we can’t escape it, can be imbued with purpose and meaning.
It’s worthwhile to take time to pray with and about the prayers of the Church, and not become so accustomed to them that we’re tuned out as they are said. Here are the words of Absolution and the five options for the Dismissal:
Then the priest extends his hands over the penitent’s head (or at least extends his right hand) and says:
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
The penitent answers: Amen.
PROCLAMATION OF PRAISE OF GOD AND DISMISSAL
After the absolution, the priest continues:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. The penitent concludes: His mercy endures for ever.
Then the priest dismisses the penitent who has been reconciled, saying:
The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.
May the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of all the saints, whatever good you do and suffering you endure, heal your sins, help you to grow in holiness, and reward you with eternal life. Go in peace.
The Lord has freed you from sin. May he bring you safely to his kingdom in heaven. Glory to him for ever. W. Amen.
Blessed are those whose sins have been forgiven, whose evil deeds have been forgotten. Rejoice in the Lord, and go in peace.
Go in peace, and proclaim to the world the wonderful works of God who has brought you salvation.
Paragraphs 606-618 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church explain Christ’s offering for our sins. Read them here.
Décès du Père René Laurentin, le grand historien des apparitions de Lourdes
11 septembre 2017
Le Père René Laurentin, prêtre et historien des apparitions de Lourdes, est décédé dimanche 10 septembre 2017. Il allait avoir 100 ans en octobre. Ses obsèques seront célébrées vendredi 15 septembre, à 10h30, en la cathédrale d'Evry. Elle seront présidées par Mgr Michel Dubost, évêque d'Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes, en présence notamment de Mgr Nicolas Brouwet, évêque de Tarbes et Lourdes.
Né le 19 octobre 1917 à Tours (France), l'abbé René Laurentin était théologien, exégète et historien. Il était notamment spécialiste des apparitions mariales. Il fut longtemps chroniqueur religieux au Figaro. Ancien expert au Concile Vatican II, membre de l'Académie théologique pontificale de Rome et professeur à l'Université catholique de l'Ouest, il intervint également dans plusieurs universités d'Amérique et d'Italie. En 1996, il reçut le prix de la culture catholique.
Le Père André Cabes, recteur du Sanctuaire de Lourdes, rend hommage à l'abbé Laurentin
Voici l'hommage qu'a souhaité lui rendre le Père André Cabes, recteur du Sanctuaire de Lourdes, à l'annonce de sa disparition :
"Nous ne vous verrons pas à Lourdes le 11 février prochain. Vous nous manquerez: nous aurions voulu fêter ici vos 100 ans, que vous alliez franchir le 19 octobre prochain. Encore l'an dernier, vous nous faisiez l'honneur et la joie d'un temps de parole où vous commentiez le récit des Apparitions. Mais vous voilà parti pour contempler enfin Marie, dont vous avez suivi la trace en tant de lieux de cette terre. Pour nous, bien sûr, nous gardons avant tout mémoire du monument que nous vous devons : cette Histoire des Apparitions en 6 volumes, accompagnés de 7 volumes de documents travaillés avec le cher Dom Bernard Billet moine de Tournay.
C'est Mgr Théas, l'évêque du Centenaire, qui vous avait sollicité pour que l'on puisse disposer d'une histoire de Lourdes solidement établie : " Lourdes n'a besoin que de vérité ! ". Vous avez commencé par offrir le magnifique petit volume, Sens de Lourdes, chaleureusement salué par l'évêque : "Cher Monsieur le Professeur, j'ai le souvenir de vous avoir dit ou écrit que vous seriez le théologien de Lourdes. Après la lecture de votre essai, je constate que vous réalisez ma prédiction au-delà de mes espérances… Je veux spécialement vous remercier pour ce que vous dites sur l'ordonnance des apparitions et leur développement progressif. C'est du nouveau et c'est très suggestif… Rien n'a été écrit d'aussi beau, ni d'aussi lumineux. Vraiment, après vous avoir lu, on découvre mieux la solidité et le sérieux du pèlerinage. Vous révélez le mystère de Lourdes et sa place dans la vie de l'Eglise…"
L'abbé Laurentin a pu lire les carnets du commissaire retraçant les interrogatoires de Bernadette, et ainsi sont apparues dans leur ordre les paroles de Marie, dessinant un parcours de catéchèse priante. Après l'Histoire des Apparitions, ce fut l'étude des " paroles " de Bernadette, avec l'aide des soeurs de Nevers, et sa vie écrite pour le centenaire de sa mort, en 1979.
"Ce que nous retenons et admirons, c'est la solidité du théologien, le sérieux de l'historien, l'agilité du journaliste, capable de transmettre ce qu'il avait si profondément travaillé. Je voudrais souligner la ferveur du croyant, témoin du bonheur de l'autre monde, promis par Marie à Bernadette."
L'abbé Laurentin fut expert au Concile Vatican II, et a contribué à l'élaboration des pages écrites sur la Bienheureuse Vierge Marie dans la Mystère du Christ et de l'Eglise. C'est qu'il était un exégète, ayant fait de très beaux commentaires de l'Ecriture, notamment de l'Evangile de l'enfance selon saint Luc. Sa double thèse, en lettres et en théologie, avait porté sur Marie, l'Eglise et le sacerdoce : là aussi des propos solides et très éclairants, qui se prolongeront en de multiples ouvrages.
A partir de là, bien sûr, l'abbé Laurentin a été très sollicité en de nombreux endroits du monde entier comme spécialiste de la Vierge Marie, du phénomène des Apparitions, et de bien des manifestations du surnaturel. Ce que nous retenons et admirons, c'est la solidité du théologien, le sérieux de l'historien, l'agilité du journaliste, capable de transmettre ce qu'il avait si profondément travaillé. Je voudrais souligner la ferveur du croyant, témoin du bonheur de l'autre monde, promis par Marie à Bernadette.
Cher abbé Laurentin, nous prions à la Grotte pour que vous soyez maintenant immergés dans la lumière de l'Amour du Coeur de notre Dieu, tel que nous l'a découvert Marie, la Mère de Jésus. Priez aussi pour que nous soyons ici uniquement au service du Don de Dieu.
Père André Cabes, recteur du Sanctuaire de Lourdes
Ce que Lourdes doit à l'abbé Laurentin
Voici ce qu'avait écrit Mgr Jacques Perrier, évêque de Tarbes et Lourdes, le 11 février 2002, au sujet de l'abbé Laurentin et de son travail sur Lourdes, dans l'introduction du livre Lourdes, récit authentique des apparitions, paru en 2002 :
"Nommé évêque de Tarbes et Lourdes en 1947, Mgr Pierre-Marie Théas pensa très vite au centenaire des apparitions. Que fallait-il prévoir pour 1958 ? L'évêque lança deux chantiers gigantesques. Dans l'ordre architectural, Pierre Vago creusa la basilique Saint-Pie X qui accueille facilement ses 20 000 pèlerins. Mais avant que les pelleteuses ne commencent leur travail, Mhr Théas avait entrepris un autre travail de fouille, tout aussi gigantesque : il fallait explorer tous les documents accumulés autour des apparitions pour essayer de savoir ce qui s'était vraiment passé. Dans un cas comme dans l'autre, il s'agissait de trouver, quelque part, un sol ferme. Le chantier de l'histoire fut confié à un prêtre, jeune professeur à l'Institut catholique d'Angers, l'abbé René Laurentin. Il reçut, en cours de route, une consigne de l'évêque : "Lourdes n'a besoin que de la vérité." La démarche de Mgr Théas ressemble à celle du pape Pie XII ordonnant des recherches archéologiques sous la basilique Saint-Pierre pour vérifier si la tombe de l'apôtre s'y trouvait bien. L'abbé Laurentin travailla d'arrache-pied pendant plusieurs années. Il publia force volumes, ne laissant aucune question dans l'ombre, n'éludant aucune difficulté. L'essentiel de la tâche était achevé avant l'année du centenaire et contribua au "succès" de ces célébrations que présida le cardinal Angelo Roncalli, ancien nonce à Paris, patriarche de Venise et, quelques mois plus tard, pape sous le nom de Jean XXIII. L'enquête de l'abbé Laurentin a été, à la fois, facile et difficile : facile, parce que les documents, contemporains des faits et venant de sources opposées, ne manquaient pas; difficile, parce qu'ils surabondaient. L'abbé Laurentin a mené un travail critique méticuleux : il est toujours intéressant de se reporter à ces études."
Les livres sur Lourdes écrits par l'abbé Laurentin
Sens de Lourdes - Éd. Lethielleux (1955)
Lourdes : documents authentiques 7 volumes - Éd. Lethielleux (1957-1966) En collab. avec Dom B. Billet à partir du t. 2
Bernadette raconte les apparitions - Éd. Lethielleux (1958)
Lourdes, l'Église et la science - Éditions Albin Michel (1958)
Messages de Lourdes - Éditions Bonne Presse (1958)
Lourdes, histoire authentique des apparitions 6 vol. Éditions Lethielleux (1961-1964)
Lourdes, pèlerinage pour notre temps - Éd. du Chalet (1977)
Lourdes, récit authentique des apparitions (2002)
Quelques distinctions reçues par l'abbé Laurentin
Croix de guerre 1939-1945
Prix Wlodzimierze Pietrzak (1974)
Prix oecuménique Sapienza (1984)
Prix Magnificat pour son oeuvre théologique (1987)
Plume d'or des amitiés Franco-Yougoslaves (1988)
Prix de culture catholique (1996)
Officier de la Légion d'honneur (2002)
Le 30 avril 2009, Benoît XVI le promeut " Monseigneur René Laurentin, prélat de sa Sainteté
They said that I should
have an apostolate if I wanted my kids to grow in
faith. That I should build up the kingdom. Use my skills. Be a
salt and light to the world. They said that it wasn't enough
to love my kids...
that God made me for more.
is my apostolate. My home is my headquarters. My husband my
fundraiser. If God
calls me to do some further outreach, it will only be that
which does not leave
my family unloved, uncared for, or with only the leftovers of
who I am.
works have often been excuses... distractions... ways of
a productive Christian while avoiding the harder work. A way
of breaking up the
boredom of sacrificial work done without devotion.
have been a better woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister,
homeschooler over the last 20 years if I hadn't bought into
the idea that I
needed to become some kind of minister to the world. Some moms
have the gift of
being high energy. I am not one of them. And I have expended
myself in so many
different directions and I was convinced that my outreaches
and apostolic works
were the moral equivalent of what I was doing at home. I now
believe I was
printed out the words of Pope St. John Paul II to recall them
in my daily work.
must never be content to leave them just the crumbs of the
feast. You must take
of your substance, and not just of your abundance, in order
to help them. And
you must treat them like guests at your family table."
myself a real winner because I thought I understood his
message which was to
care for the poor of the world in a way that costs something.
I knew what it
meant to be on the receiving end of Christ-like sacrificial
love and I knew the
power of the mercy of Jesus and I wanted to be that for
problem was that I didn't see the hypocrisy of leaving the
crumbs for my own
children while I fed strangers.
see them as guests.
I didn't see them as the poor.
I didn't see them.
Not through the lens of Christ anyway, but only as a shallow
the narcissism of our age seeps into the cracks of our
approach Mother Teresa's canonization, I hear her words with a
because I realize that I never fully understood her even
though she was bold
and simple in her message. I was too busy patting myself
on the back for
became placards to console myself that I was doing just fine.
Jesus. Love all the people. I did. But... it was
shallow. It was the easy
way out. Kind of like buying pretty trinkets at the Dollar
Tree to feel good
about saving money instead of showing up for work to pay the
bills. An apparent
good that distracts from the hard work to which we are really
It is easy to love the people far
away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is
easier to give a
cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness
and pain of
someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for
this is where
our love for each other must start.
Teresa of Calcutta
all called to spread the Gospel, but you cannot tell me
that spreading the
Gospel to my children is not enough. The Church has
What she needs is a revival of sacrificial hardcore love in
church. Not just a put 'em in a good Sunday school so the
experts can do it
kind of revival but real transformation. It has always been
that way because it
is not about numbers... it is about souls.
parents, we ARE the experts designated by God and by virtue of
our vocation and
our sacramental graces. And it IS our apostolic work to raise
our children to
know the love of Jesus Christ. If we have been faithful in
that mentorship of
love, perhaps someday we will see our children go out and give
to all the world - and to the souls with whom they have
carry the fire.
They will witness through their lives.
Others will ask your family the cause of your hope and the
reason for your
And that is how true apostolic work begins.
the truth over and over again. Go home and love your
families. And yet
we are always seeking elsewhere... as if our path to holiness
be found elsewhere than in loving God and the souls He places
in our paths.
Those little hearts need us as badly as our neighbor does. And
they have been
given specifically to us. They are our poor and it is for them
that our hearts
should burn with compassion.
an either/or when it comes to loving family and
neighbor. It's a both/and.
And yet... and yet... one must take priority in the order of
is that we only need fund-raising, event-holding apostolates
shepherds have wavered, Christians have sold their
inheritance, and our
families have abdicated their roles as the domestic church
It's a truth that stings and I take responsibility for my
bless another soul, let it never again be at the expense of
the ones with whom
I have been entrusted.
I am not
saying that we should never engage in any apostolic work apart
from our home
and families. But I assure you that there are plenty of
people who have
led neighboring souls into the Church while their own families
were starved for
love. God will always work where people are seeking Him. But
those families can
tell you about the lie they bought at the price of their
children's hearts. It
is a painful lesson to learn. Let it not be said of us that
our families were
left starving while we worked for the Church... or that our
in spite of us.
If I were
asked for advice about whether a mother or father should start
work in addition to their labors at home, I would
say: Yes, do it if it is
God's will. But don't ever do it in such a way
that Mother Teresa
has to call you out on the lie. Mea culpa.
Everybody today seems to be in
such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and
greater riches and
so on, so that children have very little time for their
parents. Parents have
very little time for each other, and in the home begins the
disruption of peace
of the world.
I found this article interesting, it relates the apparitions of Laus in France where Our Lady insisted to Benoite (Benedicta) Rencurel .. practically notably about the importance of sacramental confession... these apparitions lasted for almost 54 years! Our own call to union to God as layperson, must take some time to reflect also on "Benoite, an uncultured country girl, (who) received her mission from Our Lady: For 54 years, she guided pilgrims, and called for conversion and mercy. To the poor and the small, God reveals himself. And Benoite, a laywoman, was the messenger of God. How can we not see in her the very example of the responsible layman?"
The humble shepherdess, the French prelate continued, "was a modern example of the engaged laity in the life of one's community, as called for by the Second Vatican Council. She speaks to men of our time, she guides those who search, those who dig into this interior source for true life." Laus Nestled in the southern French Alps lies the small farming village of St. Saint-Etienne d'Avancon. On September 16, 1647, Benoite (Benedicta) Rencurel was born -- the second of three girls-- to very poor parents. When Benoite was only seven years old, her father passed away leaving her family in eve... 1:52:44 PM
"Ever since I first read the Letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch in the 1950s, one passage from his Letter to the Ephesians has particularly affected me: “It is better to keep silence and be [a Christian] than to talk and not to be. Teaching is an excellent thing, provided the speaker practices what he teaches. Now, there is one Teacher who spoke and it came to pass. And even what He did silently is worthy of the Father. He who has truly made the words of Jesus his own is able also to hear His silence, so that he may be perfect: so that he may act through his speech and be known through his silence” (15, 1f.). What does that mean: to hear Jesus’s silence and to know him through his silence? We know from the Gospels that Jesus frequently spent nights alone “on the mountain” in prayer, in conversation with his Father. We know that his speech, his word, comes from silence and could mature only there. So it stands to reason that his word can be correctly understood only if we, too, enter into his silence, if we learn to hear it from his silence." Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI 9:35:40 AM
WHAT’S NEXT: CATHOLICS, AMERICA, AND A WORLD MADE NEW
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Napa Institute, 7.27.17
When you spend a couple of years writing a book like Strangers in a Strange Land, your brain ends up as a magnet. It starts collecting all sorts of data like little metal slivers that seem important, but don’t quite fit together as a whole.
Here’s an example. A third of American men will sooner or later have an anxiety disorder. So will 40 percent of women. More than 70 percent of American young people are now physically or mentally unfit for military service. At least a third of college seniors, even at our best schools and after years of elite education, can’t make a coherent argument. Nearly half of American men have genital infections caused by a sexually transmitted virus. And 16 percent of women in the Navy deployed to shipboard service come back to shore pregnant. That last item may not need a lot of explaining. Human nature is human nature.
All these facts are true. All of them come from the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press. But they don’t necessarily mean anything. We could just as easily find a bundle of good-news nuggets in exactly the same sources. So what’s my point?
It’s this. Benjamin Disraeli famously said that “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Information can be true without telling the whole truth. We live in what Peter Drucker called the world’s first knowledge economy. A Niagara of facts in a 24/7 news cycle. But knowing is not the same as understanding.
Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom, not knowledge, is the framework of a fully human life; the architecture of interior peace. Scripture is the Word of God, and Ecclesiastes tells us that “the words of the wise in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.” Wisdom is more powerful than might and better than the weapons of war (Eccles 9:16-18). Wisdom is more precious than jewels, and once we have it, then knowledge becomes pleasant to the soul (Prov 8:11; 2:10).
And that brings us to our topic this morning. My job today is to talk about what’s next; to offer some thoughts about how to live as Catholics in a world that can seem radically new. There’s good news and not so good news. The not so good news is that a “new” world doesn’t automatically mean a good one — or even a little bit better one. The good news is that we make the world. Augustine said it’s no use whining about the times, because we are the times. Our actions matter. Our choices matter. Our lives matter. It’s through us that God acts in society and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is carried forward. So we need to own that mission. And only when we do, will anything change for the better.
My remarks today will be brief. I’ll give an overview of where we are as a culture. Then I’ll share some thoughts about how to live in the world we see emerging around us. And I’ll end with some reasons why this point in our history — despite all of its challenges — is really a privileged moment for Christians.
This isn’t a time to retreat from the world. We need to engage the world and convert it. And in that work, we have every reason to trust in God and find in him our hope. If you do nothing else after this wonderful Napa conference, I want you to please read and pray over Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel.” It’s a great text, filled with energy, very easy to read, and I think the best of his pontificate so far.
Francis reminds us how vital it is to believe in Christ’s victory and to lift up our hearts. We need to see the world and its problems as they really are. Otherwise we can accomplish nothing. But we can’t let the weight of the world crush the joy that’s our birthright by our rebirth in Jesus Christ through baptism. If we cling to that joy, if we cling to God, then all things are possible.
So now let’s try to make some sense of the culture and pastoral terrain we face. Those of you who’ve read Strangers may recognize some of this. But it’s worth revisiting. I’ll boil things down to 11 simple observations.
First, people and nations change all the time. Change is natural and healthy, so long as it grows organically out of the past, and at a pace people can digest and absorb.
Second, the nature and the pace of changes in our culture today have no precedent. They’re extraordinarily fast. They’re also accelerating. And they’re also too radical for most people to integrate easily into their lives.
Third, this leads to a sense of discontinuity and confusion. The last 60 years have been a series of disruptions in what the words “America” and “being an American” mean.
Fourth, there are lots of reasons for this confusion. But among the most important are changes – and not just “changes” but transformations — in our legal philosophy; our sexual mores; our demography; educational philosophy; economy and technology.
Fifth, we can’t go back to the good old days. That’s partly because nostalgia is always misleading – the good old days had plenty of their own problems — and partly because the gulf between American culture in 1957 and 2017 is too wide and too deep to bridge. The world and the country are now drastically different places from the image we older citizens have in our memories. America is a much less biblically influenced nation than it was at its founding. And our moral vision of who we are and what our lives mean is much more fragmented.
Sixth, the birth control pill and the separation of sex from procreation have altered the fundamental meaning of sex. It’s worth noting that same-sex activism now runs on a moral passion for gay rights and social acceptance; and not just acceptance but approval. From a biblical point of view, that passion is deeply flawed. The arguments for religious liberty and erotic liberty stem from two very different ideas of who the human person is and what our sexuality means. But a moral passion, even when it’s wrong, is always powerful. Thus, concessions to nominal gay equality are no longer enough. It’s why a leader and financier of the gay-rights movement like Tim Gill now insists that he wants to “punish the wicked” – which means you and me.
Here’s a seventh point: Democracy advances equality by flattening out injustices and social inequities. But it goes much further than that. It also tends to flatten out distinctions and hierarchies of every kind. Unguided by religious faith, democracy flattens out even the human spirit because any kind of divine transcendence or human excellence also implies a kind of inequality. This is why Alexis de Tocqueville said that democracy creates not just a new and different kind of political order, but a new and different kind of humanity.
Eighth, democracy exists to ensure the freedom of the individual. That’s a good thing. But in doing so, democracy can easily become hostile to any obligations that the individual himself doesn’t freely create or choose. As Christians, we don’t invent our own stories. We’re part of a much larger sacred story that links us to the communion of saints across time and continents. And that creates a political problem. Families, communities, Churches – all these things place pre-existing duties on the individual; duties that limit and channel his liberty. Therefore, they’re suspect and can end up being attacked.
Ninth, technology, for all its advantages, also carries with it some serious problems. We use our tools, but our tools also use us. They shape the way we think, the way we act, and the way we see the world. Technological man sees the world not as a gift of God — with its own purpose and meaning, to be treasured and stewarded — but as a collection of dead material to be organized and used. And that “utility attitude” eventually spreads to the way we treat the environment, other living creatures, other people, and our own bodies and selves.
There’s a big stress in the corporate and medical worlds right now on pushing ahead with advances in artificial intelligence and gene splicing. Facebook is exploring – and this isn’t a joke – how to message your friends and update your news-feed telepathically. And China now has a national campaign to record and track all of its citizens with facial-recognition technology, the better to understand and influence their behavior.
When our headlines claim that “Smart Machines Will Free Us All” and “The Gene Editors Are Only Getting Started,” it’s time to pay attention. The Wall Street Journal published both those stories just in the last few months.
10th, Americans are especially prone to this kind of technological thinking because we’ve always been a deeply practical, pragmatic, inventive people – traits we get from our Puritan Calvinist past and the need to subdue a rough new continent. Americans solve material problems exceptionally well. That’s what we’re good at. And we instinctively judge our worth by our material success.
11th and last, reality is much bigger and richer than we can measure with our instruments and senses. But we train ourselves to disbelieve in the reality of anything beyond our instruments and senses. This means that science and technology are never truly neutral. They always begin with the unstated bias that the world they can measure and prove is the only world we can be sure of. This ends up diminishing other important types of learning and wisdom, like the humanities, as somehow less “factual” and credible. And then the human spirit begins to gradually starve.
So that’s roughly where we are. That’s our trajectory. It’s hard to hear these things. Hard challenges imply hard solutions. Giving up is always easier than fighting for what we believe and living what we know to be true. Cowardice solves the problem of conflict – at least in the short run. But it abandons the many thousands of great young Catholic lay and clergy leaders who are already part of our landscape. I know many of them. And they look to us for example and support.
So what do we do about our situation? How do we live the Gospel faithfully in such a different new culture? It’s part of our American DNA to want a well-crafted strategic plan to get the Church back in the “influence game.” But cultures aren’t corporations or math problems. They’re living organisms. There’s no quick fix for problems we behaved ourselves into, and the culture we have is a culture we helped make with our appetites, distractions and compromises.
The only way to create new life in a culture is to live our lives joyfully and fruitfully, as individuals ruled by convictions greater than ourselves and shared with people we know and love. It’s a path that’s very simple and very hard at the same time. But it’s the only way to make a revolution that matters.
When young people ask me how to change the world, I tell them to love each other, get married, stay faithful to one another, have lots of children, and raise those children to be men and women of Christian character. Faith is a seed. It doesn’t flower overnight. It takes time and love and effort. Money is important, but it’s never the most important thing. The future belongs to people with children, not with things. Things rust and break. But every child is a universe of possibility that reaches into eternity, connecting our memories and our hopes in a sign of God’s love across the generations. That’s what matters. The soul of a child is forever.
If you want to see the face of Europe in 100 years, barring a miracle, look to the faces of young Muslim immigrants. Islam has a future because Islam believes in children. Without a transcendent faith that makes life worth living, there’s no reason to bear children. And where there are no children, there’s no imagination, no reason to sacrifice, and no future. At least six of Europe’s most senior national leaders have no children at all. Their world ends with them. It’s hard to avoid a sense that much of Europe is already dead or dying without knowing it.
But here, we still have time. And here, in this room, today, what can we start to do?
Hell has been described in a lot of ways, from a soulless bureaucracy, to a furnace of fire, to a lake of ice. But I think C.S. Lewis put it best in one of his novels when he says that hell is noise. If that’s true, and I think it is, then much of the modern life we share we also make hellish, by filling it with discord, confusion and noise. Every day, every one of our choices is a brick in the structure of the heaven or hell we’re building for ourselves in the next life. And we’ll never understand that unless we turn off the noise that cocoons us in consumer anxieties and appetites.
Silence is water in the desert of modern desire. God spoke to Elijah not in the majesty of a storm but in a small voice heard only in silence. When Cardinal Robert Sarah writes about “the power of silence” – his book, The Power of Silence, is terrific by the way; buy it from Ignatius Press – he reminds us that God renews the world by first renewing each precious, immortal individual person in the quiet of his or her soul. God is not absent from the world. We just make it impossible to hear him. So the first task of the Christian life today is to unplug, carve out the silence that allows us to listen for God’s voice, and make room for the conversation we call prayer.
If we don’t pray, we can’t know and love God. C.S. Lewis reminds us that we’re embodied spirits. Our bodies are part of our prayer. We can and we should pray anytime and everywhere. But kneeling down in worship at some point in the day acknowledges that the God of Israel is the God who made the stars without number. It helps us remember God’s words to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4). Our humility in prayer is an act of justice. Fear of the Lord – the respect and worship due our Creator – is the beginning of wisdom. And wisdom, as I said earlier, is the framework of a fully human life.
So we need to create silence. We need to pray. And we need to read – above all the Word of God, but also history and biographies and great novels. If we don’t read, we condemn ourselves to chronic stupidity and a conditioning by mass media that have no sympathy for the things we believe. Television is not a channel for serious thought. It’s often just the opposite. And the internet, for all its advantages, is too often a source of isolation. The Hulu television series, The Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the Margaret Atwood feminist novel, is nominated for 13 Emmy Awards this year. It’s very well done. It’s also fiercely anti-religious in its content. The point is: If we fill our heads with poison and junk, we make ourselves angry and dumb.
Finally, we need to be skeptical about the world, while we also engage it with our faith. That means vigorously advancing our social ministries, which are vital expressions of Christian charity. It also means getting and staying involved politically. We can never build heaven on earth. But we can make this world at least a little more loving, free, merciful and just by our actions in the public square.
This is why the efforts of religious liberty groups like Becket Law and the Alliance Defending Freedom are so urgently important. The staffs of Alliance Defending Freedom and Becket are today’s real heroes in protecting our religious freedom. And I hope those of you here today who have the blessing of financial resources will support them generously in their work. If you want to do something practical and urgently needed to advance the kingdom, helping them in their efforts is a very good place to start.
I want to close with reasons for hope, and that leads me to two Scripture passages from the Easter season that struck me as meaningful as I started work on this talk for today: Acts 17:15-22 and 18:1; and John 16:12-15.
In the passage from Acts, Paul has traveled to Athens. To quote the text,
“ . . . [Paul] saw that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and devout persons, and in the market place every day with those who chanced to be there. Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him. And some said, ‘what would this babbler say?’ Others said, ‘he seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities’ – because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus saying ‘may we know what this new teaching is which you present? For you bring strange things to our ears’ . . . Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”
The verses from Acts describe a world like ours today, and the perpetual newness of the Gospel. They’re also a portrait of courage as St. Paul, Christianity’s greatest missionary, preaches the Gospel in the sophisticated heart of Athens. Jews call him heretical. Pagans mock the resurrection and call him crazy. But Paul persists. He understands that his audience has a fundamental hunger for the godly that hasn’t been fed, and he refuses to be quiet or afraid. Even though he leaves Athens as a seeming failure and heads for Corinth, the seed of faith has been planted and eventually grows into a Church with deep roots.
In the passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus – who knows that he’s heading for his crucifixion in Jerusalem – tells his Apostles,
“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all the truth . . . and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
The words of the Gospel remind us that the future is God’s, and we should trust in the Holy Spirit who leads us in a spirit of truth. We don’t need to fear the future. We don’t need know it before its time. What we do need is to have confidence in the Lord and to give our hearts to the Father who loves us. The future is in his hands.
I’ll end with a story. A friend of mine was a student in France in 1967-68 at the Catholic University of the West. And one day her class visited a chateau in the Loire Valley. The docent took them into a room with an enormous stretch of hanging fabric, many yards across from one wall to the other. And on the fabric were hundreds of ugly knots and tangles of stray thread in a chaos of confused shapes that made very little sense. And the docent said, “This is what the artist saw as he worked.”
Then she led my friend and her class around to the front of the fabric. And what they saw is the great Tapestry of the Apocalypse of St. John, the story of the Book of Revelation in 90 immense panels. Created between 1377 and 1382, it’s one of the most stunning and beautiful expressions of medieval civilization, and among the greatest artistic achievements of the European heritage.
Here’s the point. We don’t see the full effects of the good we do in this life. So much of what we do seems a tangle of frustrations and failures. We don’t see — on this side of the tapestry — the pattern of meaning that our faith weaves. But one day we’ll stand on the other side. And on that day, we’ll see the beauty that God has allowed us to add to the great story of his creation, the revelation of his love that goes from age to age no matter how good or bad the times. And this is why our lives matter.
So have faith. Trust in the Lord. And believe in his love.
Celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the saint's arrival at San Giovanni Rotondo are wrapping up.
The Jubilee Year in honor of the 100th anniversary of St. Pio’s arrival at San Giovanni Rotondo is drawing to a close.
Pope Francis sent Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, to San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, to preside over the ceremony for the closing of the Jubilee Year on July 28.
In this context, let’s take a moment to look back at the Holy Year of Mercy, when Pope Francis highlighted Padre Pio as an example of a priest and confessor, and a full-time “servant of mercy” who practiced the “apostolate of listening” and prayer, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.
Lessons from Padre Pio on how to pray well
Here, we offer some lessons from St. Padre Pio, in the words of Pope Francis during a Jubilee audience for Prayer Groups of Padre Pio in St. Peter’s Square. (February 2, 2016). The Pontiff starts by saying that prayer “is not a nice practice for finding a little peace of heart; nor is it a means of devotion for obtaining useful things from God.” If that were the case, it would be an act of “subtle selfishness.”
On the contrary, as he goes on to explain, it involves leaving our own egoism behind, and helps us keep alive true interior happiness.
Prayer is, in fact, “a spiritual work of mercy, which means bringing everything to the heart of God,” Pope Francis explained.
“St. Pio never tired of welcoming people and listening to them, expending time and energy in order to spread the perfume of the Lord’s forgiveness. He could do this because he was always connected to the source: he ceaselessly quenched his thirst with Jesus Crucified.” – Pope Francis, February 2, 2016
1. Prayer isn’t aspirin.
Prayer isn’t an aspirin you can take to feel better, or a transaction we do with God to get what we want. Pope Francis explains that Padre Pio taught, with his life, that prayer is a spiritual work of mercy, entrusting everything to God, the Father. It is a gift of faith and love.
2. Prayer is like bread.
Prayer is necessary to sustain us, “just as bread is.” Our attitude when we pray must be one of trust and confidence: “I entrust this to you Take it, You who are the Father,” so that God will take care of those things we carry in our hearts that concern us.
3. Prayer is a key that opens God’s heart.
Prayer, as Padre Pio loved to say, is “the greatest weapon we have, a key that opens the heart of God.” Pope Francis adds, “It is a simple key. The heart of God is not ‘heavily guarded’ with many security measures.”
4. Prayer is the strength of the Church.
Pope Francis explains that the heart of God is opened by prayer because He is a Father who cannot resist the voice of his children.
Thus, prayer “is the Church’s greatest strength, one which we must never let go of, for the Church bears fruit only if she does as did Our Lady and the Apostles, who ‘with one accord devoted themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14), as they awaited the Holy Spirit.”
5. Prayer is the recipe for joy
The Holy Father, remembering St. Pio, teaches that constant prayer is a part of fighting the good fight. “Otherwise, we risk looking elsewhere for support: relying on means, on money, on power.”
Lastly, prayer keeps evangelization alive, and the joy that enlightens the heart and keeps it from growing dull.
The pope then ended by declaring that the key to a joyful heart is prayer. Read more: Why pray when praying doesn’t work?
St. Pio was a Capuchin friar who dedicated his life to the salvation of souls. He was born in 1887, joined the Capuchin order at the age of 15, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1910. On July 28, 1916, he was sent to the friary at San Giovanni Rotondo, where he remained until his death.
In 1918, after celebrating Mass, he received the stigmata—wounds mirroring those of Christ, which Padre Pio bore on his hands, feet, and side, and which accompanied him for more than 50 years. This phenomenon would attract an endless procession of journalists and doctors. Above all, however, the stigmata attracted many of the faithful. Read more: Padre Pio bore the stigmata, but one secret wound was more painful than the others
On February 5, 2016, the relics of the famous Capuchin arrived at the Vatican to be presented for the veneration of the faithful for nearly a week, as part of the Jubilee of Mercy.
A sea of faithful experienced that moment with great devotion—many were moved to tears—and then they accompanied his relics, amidst a crowd full of devotion, along the Via della Conciliazione, the main road leading out from St. Peter’s Square. 11:20:23 AM
1127 On one occasion, I saw Satan hurrying about and looking for someone among the sisters, but he could find no one. I felt an interior inspiration to command him in the Name of God to confess to me what he was looking for among the sisters. And he confessed, though unwillingly, "I am looking for idle souls [cf. Si. 33:28; Pr. 12:11]." When I commanded him again in the Name of God to tell me to which souls in religious life he has the easiest access, he said, again unwillingly, "To lazy and idle souls." I took note of the fact that, at present, there were no such souls in this house. Let the toiling and tired souls rejoice. 1:03:42 PM
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled by many things.”
The words are flagged by Cardinal Sarah in his recent book, The Power of Silence , the English recension of which has finally fallen into my hands. The passage on Martha and Mary from Luke’s Gospel (10:41) is often cited today, by way of making an excuse.
“I am more like Martha,” I’ve heard too many times – often from a woman plausibly busy in the kitchen, or “multitasking” household, parental, marital, and a checklist of professional duties. She is run off her feet, in a peculiarly modern way, for the proliferation of labor-saving devices has added so much to our temporal burden, and to the requirements for speed. The little buzzers are constantly going off, and we are enslaved by everything from our kettles to our cell phones.
Sometimes I think the definition of a “soccer mom” is: a woman rolled and kicked about like a football. True, she is essential to the game, and is consistently returned to the center of it, but she is hardly appreciated in her own right. Others take the glory.
Even among women, others take the glory, and the primary achievement of feminism (it seems to me) has been to make women into inferior men, judging them by standards unmistakably masculine, then adding back functions unmistakably feminine (such as having babies) as mere pile-on.
The modern woman instinctively identifies with Martha, and has for all practical purposes been taught to do so not only by what remains of “society,” but by the contemporary Church struggling to be “relevant.” She is inclined to whine, sometimes, and when she comes upon this passage, she’s right there with Martha.
“I am more like Martha” – the saying may be droll. It may thus acknowledge a mite of self-criticism, for perhaps she has fallen behind in her “spiritual life”; and hasn’t yet made the brownies she promised to the church bake sale. (“Jesus is watching.”)
The Mary in this story is genuinely irritating, from Martha’s point of view – the life of prayer appears a life of ease – and when Our Lord takes Mary’s side, we have to accept it, yet with a flicker of resentment still. As one such Martha told me, “He is a typical male.”  Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Jan Vermeer, 1654 [National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh]
One is supposed at least to smile knowingly. Yet even the capacity to make such a joke proves the criticism valid. For His Kingdom is not of this world, and here we invert that premise, supplanting what is most “important” with what seems more urgent, and must therefore be “prioritized.”
It is typical of Cardinal Sarah that he understands Christ’s remark. In his priorities, being precedes doing, and when Christ says, “Mary has chosen the good portion,” He is not making an invidious comparison. He does not deny that household work needs doing, or depreciate it. He (Christ, the Church Fathers, all consecrated priests, and this bishop combined in persona Christi) is saying that we must be Mary before we play Martha.
This is not a hard saying, but hard to understand for the modern mind which is, after all, quite distracted, and does not pause to consider things, in the silence that is the condition for contemplation of any kind. We think, to be sure, but only on our feet, when the better part is to think first kneeling. It is what makes modern domestic life so much resemble a situation comedy:
In reality, Jesus seems to sketch the outlines of a spiritual pedagogy: we should always make sure to be Mary before becoming Martha. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming literally bogged down in activism and agitation, the unpleasant consequences of which emerge in the Gospel account: panic, fear of working without help, an inattentive interior attitude, annoyance like Martha’s towards her sister, the feeling that God is leaving us alone without intervening effectively.
As an old editor, I was distracted by my desire to hack through the translator’s clichés in the two sentences just quoted, and strip out the unnecessary words, starting with “literally.” My comment would be that they add unnecessary noise. But my own gnawing counsels of perfection must retreat before the plain substance.
For here, as in many hundred places in the Reverend Father’s book – produced with the help of a journalist, but with the clatter of his questions mostly suppressed – a real criticism is being leveled against “Martha,” writ large.
Cardinal Sarah continues the mission of Saint John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, to restore the possibility of Silence, in the face of Mystery, to what was becoming (long before Pope Francis) the Church of Martha.
We should not abandon many worldly causes – we cannot stop making lunch – but our tasks are not, finally, worldly. We must feed the poor, care for the ill, visit the prisoner, clean the environment, but these tasks are extrinsic to our sacramental core. First, we must actually be Christian, in conversation with Our Lord; and God speaks to us through silence.
Later, in some of the most poignant passages of the book, the Cardinal directly confronts the question that most vexes the modern mind. Why does God remain silent in the presence of misery and evil; why does He allow the horror and suffering that falls on the just and the unjust alike? If He is there, why doesn’t He do something?
This is, I think, the essential Martha question, expanded to become “inclusive” of the whole human condition.
To phrase the question more exactly, why must we participate in the God Man’s pain, in order to participate in His love? Phrased this way, the question begins to answer itself.
In the silence, kneeling before the Crucifix, the mystery of God’s love is articulated, through His Church, like the mystery of a mother’s love for her sick child. Though she seems to do nothing, in our agony, she is there.
David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist with the Ottawa Citizen. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: davidwarrenonline.com.
A young man's unexplained recovery may be the miracle that leads to the future saint's canonization
In 2011, Kevin Becker fell from the second floor of a house he shared with a couple of college roommates, fracturing his skull in five places and damaging every lobe of his brain. After an emergency operation he lay stable but unresponsive for nine days. The doctors thought he wouldn’t live; and if he did he would suffer from gross cognitive deficits.
Less than three weeks after his injury he was wheeled to the door of the hospital, where he stood up, slung his bag over his shoulder, and walked to the car tossing a football with his brother.
This is not the usual way.
A week after his injury, the doctors were talking of putting him into a medically induced coma, a last-ditch effort. Days later he opened his eyes, and was soon speaking, standing, and walking normally.
After Kevin left the hospital he went to physical rehab, and found that he was five steps ahead of the others there, including those who had been in recovery for six months to a year. On October 11th he took a battery of cognitive tests, and completed them in just two hours rather than the usual six. A month later, his doctor asked him how he thought he’d done. He answered, as he says he would have answered about any test he took, “I think I did OK.” The doctor told him he’d done “not just OK,” but as though he’d never been injured. He was cleared to return to college where he finished his degree; he now works making loans to small businesses.
Again, this is not the usual way.
I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin Becker speak about his experiences on October 29th of this year, at a celebration of the 800-Year Jubilee of the Dominican Order. During his coma, he remembers waking up in the house he shared with his friends, and hearing someone downstairs. That was odd; he says he’s always the first one up. He investigated, and in the living room he found a young man he didn’t know.
“Who are you?”
“I’m George, your new roommate.”
“That can’t be. I already have two roommates.”
“They aren’t around anymore.”
He then spent a long timeless day with George. An ardent soccer player who hates staying indoors, Kevin kept trying to leave the house but George wouldn’t let him go. They fought about it, as if they were brothers, but George was adamant. He encouraged him to be patient. Kevin remembers passing the time by doing schoolwork—which he says would surprise anyone who knew him before his accident—and sitting on the couch with George playing a soccer video game called “FIFA.”
Eventually he awoke in the hospital.
Later, Kevin mentioned his new roommate to his mother, calling him a “good spirit.” After he described him his mother showed him a picture of a man he immediately recognized as George. It was a picture of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that had been sent to his mother by a cousin, who suggested she ask for Frassati’s intercession. (Frassati, a Lay Dominican, died of polio in 1925 at the age of 24, after a life in which his family knew him mostly for his love of mountain climbing, and the poor of Turin knew him as their beloved friend and benefactor.) Becker’s mother did so, and placed the picture at his side. He woke the next day.
Pier Giorgio Frassati, a model of charity who annoyed his father
Kevin had never heard Pier Giorgio Frassati’s name before his accident.
They say that an encounter with a saint can change your life; it changed Kevin’s. Not only was he completely healed, he says that he’s better than he was before his injury. In school he’d always been the clown sitting in the back row making smart-aleck remarks and not paying attention to his schoolwork. From the moment he woke, his studies became important to him, and his grades improved remarkably.
The records of Kevin’s case have been sent to the Vatican; and his recovery may well be the miracle that leads to Frassati’s canonization. Kevin says he doesn’t care about that. He doesn’t know why God healed him as he did, but he’s determined that God’s work won’t be wasted. And he remains confident of George’s presence nearby, and sometimes hears his whispered voice in his ear.
Dédicace à son bien-aimé frère Gervais, frère Guigues
Le Seigneur soit notre délectation.
Ma tendresse pour toi est une dette puisque tu m'as aimé le premier, et je suis bien forcé de t'écrire, puisqu'en m'écrivant tu m'as provoqué : voici donc mes pensées sur les exercices spirituels des cloistriers. Toi que l'expérience fait plus savant que moi la science, tu en seras correcteur et juge. À toi donc l'hommage des prémices de mon labeur : ces premiers fruits d'une plante jeune te sont dus, toi qui, t'arrachant, par un louable larcin, à la servitude de Pharaon, as pris rang dans une solitude délicieuse, parmi ceux qui combattent. Le sauvageon habilement coupé, tu l'as enté, ô prudent, dans l'olivier fécond.
I Les quatre degrés des exercices spirituels
Un jour, durant le travail des mains, tandis que je songeais aux exercices de l'homme spirituel, voilà que tout à coup j'aperçois quatre degrés : lecture, méditation, prière, contemplation.
C'est l'échelle des cloistriers, qui les fait monter de la terre au ciel.
Elle a peu d'échelons : elle est très haute cependant, d'incroyable longueur. La base repose sur la terre ; le sommet dépasse les nuées et pénètre les profondeurs des cieux. De ces échelons les nom, nombre, ordre et usage sont distincts. Si avec soin on étudie leurs propriétés, fonctions et hiérarchie, bientôt cette étude attentive paraîtra courte et facile, tant elle recèle d'utilité et de douceur.
La lecture est l'étude attentive, faite par un esprit appliqué, des Saintes Écritures.
La méditation est l'investigation soigneuse à l'aide de la raison, d'une vérité cachée.
La prière est l'élévation du cœur vers Dieu pour éloigner le mal et obtenir le bien.
La contemplation est l'élévation en Dieu de l'âme ravie dans le savourement des joies éternelles.
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Ayant défini les quatre échelons, voyons l'office propre à chacun d'eux.
L'ineffable douceur de la vie bienheureuse, la lecture la recherche, la méditation la trouve, la prière la demande, la contemplation la savoure. C'est la parole même du Seigneur. Cherchez et vous trouverez. Frappez et l'on vous ouvrira. Cherchez en lisant, vous trouverez en méditant. Frappez en priant, vous entrerez en contemplant.
J'aimerais dire que la lecture porte la nourriture substantielle à la bouche, la méditation la triture et la mâche, la prière la goûte, et que la contemplation est la douceur même qui réjouit et refait. La lecture s'arrête à l'écorce, la méditation dans la moelle, la prière exprime le désir, mais la contemplation se délecte dans le savourement de la douceur obtenue.
Pour le mieux saisir, voici un exemple entre bien d'autres. Je lis l'Évangile : Bienheureux les cœurs purs, car ils verront Dieu. Courte maxime, mais pleine de sens, douce infiniment. À l'âme altérée elle s'offre comme une grappe de raisin. L'âme la considère et se prend à dire : cette parole me sera bienfaisante. Recueille-toi, mon cœur, tâche de comprendre et surtout de trouver cette pureté. Oh ! que précieuse et désirable elle doit être, puisqu'elle purifie ceux qu'elle habite et qu'elle a la promesse de la vision divine, la vie éternelle, puisque les Saintes Écritures ne cessent de la louer !
Alors le désir de mieux comprendre envahit l'âme : et elle saisit la grappe mystique, elle la dépèce, elle l'écrase, elle la met au pressoir, et elle dit à la raison : regarde et cherche ce qu'elle est, dis-moi comment on acquiert cette si précieuse et tant désirable pureté de cœur.
II La méditation
L'âme s'approche donc pour méditer le texte. Que fait alors la méditation attentive ? Il ne lui suffit pas de s'approcher : elle pénètre le texte, elle va au fond, elle en scrute les recoins cachés. Et d'abord elle remarque que le Seigneur n'a pas dit : Bienheureux ceux qui ont le corps, mais le cœur pur, car ce serait peu d'avoir les mains libres d'œuvres mauvaises si l'esprit était souillé de pensées perverses. Le Prophète déjà l'avait dit : Qui gravira la montagne du Seigneur ? Qui se tiendra dans son sanctuaire ? Celui qui aura les mains innocentes et le cœur pur. (Ps 23.3).
La méditation note encore de quel puissant désir le Prophète appelait cette pureté de cœur, puisqu'il disait dans sa prière : Seigneur, créez en moi un cœur pur, car si l'iniquité est dans mon cœur, le Seigneur ne pourra m'exaucer. Avec quel soin Job veillait sur cette intime pureté, lui qui disait : Avec mes yeux j'ai fait un pacte pour ne penser même à une vierge. (Job 31.1). Ce saint homme s'imposait de fermer ses yeux sur les choses inutiles pour ne pas voir malgré soi ce qu'ensuite il désirerait inconsciemment.
Ayant ainsi scruté la pureté de cœur, l'on poursuit sa méditation en examinant la récompense qui lui est promise. O glorieuse et délectable récompense ! Contempler la Face si désirée du Seigneur, beau d'une beauté au-dessus de toute la beauté des enfants des hommes ! Le Seigneur, non plus abject et vil en cette apparence dont le revêtit sa mère la Synagogue, mais paré de l'immortalité, couronné du diadème que lui imposa son Père au jour de sa résurrection et de sa gloire, "le jour que le Seigneur a fait". Et dans sa méditation, l'âme songe combien sera pleine cette vision, combien débordante sa joie… Je serai rassasié en contemplant votre gloire, dit le Prophète. (Ps 16.15).
Ah ! quel vin généreux, abondant coule du petit raisin ! Quel incendie s'est allumé à l'étincelle ! Comme elle s'est allongée, sur l'enclume de la méditation, la petite masse de métal, ce texte si court : Bienheureux ceux qui ont la pureté du cœur, parce qu'ils verront Dieu. Et de combien ne s'allongerait-elle pas encore si elle était travaillée par un serviteur de Dieu expérimenté ! Oui, le puits est profond, mais, pauvre novice, je n'ai su y puiser que quelques gouttelettes.
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Alors les désirs ardents enflamment l'âme. Elle a brisé l'albâtre, le parfum du baume commence à se répandre ; elle ne le goûte pas encore, mais c'est comme un pressentiment ; émue par le parfum encore lointain, elle en rêve : ô vivre cette pureté dont si suave est la seule image ! Que fera-t-elle, la pauvre âme, brûlante du désir de cette pureté qu'elle ne peut atteindre ? Plus elle la cherche, plus elle en a soif ; plus elle y pense, plus elle souffre de ne la posséder point, car la méditation excite le désir de cette innocence sans l'en abreuver. Non, ce n'est ni la lecture, ni la méditation qui font savourer sa douceur : il faut qu'elle soit donnée d'en haut. Les méchants ainsi que les bons lisent et méditent ; les philosophes païens eux-mêmes guidés par la raison, ont entrevu le souverain Bien, mais parce que connaissant Dieu, ils ne l'ont pas glorifié comme Dieu (Rm 1.21), et que fiers de leur force, ils disaient : Nous exalterons notre langue, nos biens sont à nous, qui est notre maître ? (Ps 11.5), ils ne méritent pas de trouver ce qu'ils avaient entrevu. Ils se sont évanouis dans leurs pensées (Rm 1.21) et toute leur sagesse a été dévorée (Ps 106.27), car elle venait de source humaine, et non de cet Esprit qui seul donne la vraie sagesse, laquelle est cette science savoureuse qui, s'unissant à l'âme, lui verse une inestimable douceur, joie et réconfort et dont il est écrit : La Sagesse n'entre pas dans l'âme qui veut le mal. Elle procède de Dieu seul. Le Seigneur a confié à beaucoup l'office de baptiser, à peu le pouvoir de remettre les péchés, il s'est réservé cette puissance. Comme saint Jean, par antonomase, dit de lui : Voilà celui qui baptise, on peut dire : Voici celui qui seul donne la savoureuse sagesse, qui rend l'âme capable de la goûter. Le texte est offert à beaucoup, mais peu reçoivent la sagesse. Le Seigneur l'infuse à qui il veut et comme il veut.
III La prière
L'âme a compris. Cette connaissance tant désirée, cette si douce expérience, elle ne les atteindra jamais par ses seules forces ; plus son cœur s'élance et plus Dieu lui paraît élevé. Alors elle s'humilie et se réfugie dans la prière.
Seigneur, que seuls les cœurs purs peuvent voir, j'ai cherché, par lecture et méditation, la pureté véritable afin que je devienne capable de vous connaître un tout petit peu. J'ai cherché votre visage, Seigneur, j'ai désiré voir votre face adorable (Ps 26.8). Longtemps j'ai médité en mon cœur et dans ma méditation s'est allumé un feu, le désir de vous connaître toujours plus (Ps 38.4). Quand vous me rompez le pain de l'Écriture, je vous connais déjà, mais plus je vous connais, ô mon Seigneur et plus je vous veux connaître, non plus seulement dans l'écorce de la lettre, mais dans la réalité de l'union. Et ce don, Seigneur, je l'implore, non point par mes mérites, mais par votre miséricorde. C'est vrai, je suis une indigne pécheresse, mais les petits chiens eux-mêmes ne mangent-ils pas les miettes tombées de la table du maître ? À mon âme angoissée, ô Dieu, donnez des arrhes sur l'héritage promis, au moins une goutte de céleste rosée pour étancher ma soif, car je brûle d'amour, Seigneur.
IV La contemplation
Par telles ardentes paroles, l'âme enflamme son désir et appelle l'Époux par incantation de tendresse. Et l'Époux dont le regard se repose sur les justes et dont les oreilles sont si attentives à leurs prières qu'il n'attend même pas qu'elles soient tout à fait exprimées, l'Époux tout à coup interrompt cette prière : il vient à l'âme avide, il s'écoule en elle, humide de la céleste rosée, oint de parfums précieux ; il refait l'âme fatiguée ; il la repaît, défaillante ; il l'arrose, desséchée ; il lui fait oublier la terre, et de sa présence la détachant de tout, merveilleusement il la fortifie, la vivifie et l'enivre.
Dans certains actes grossiers, l'âme est si fortement enchaînée par la concupiscence qu'elle en perd la raison et que tout l'homme devient charnel : dans cette contemplation sublime, au contraire, les instincts du corps sont tellement consumés et absorbés par l'âme que la chair ne combat plus en rien l'esprit et que l'homme devient tout spirituel.
V À quels signes on reconnaît la venue de l'esprit-saint
Seigneur, comment saurai-je l'heure de cette visite ? À quel signe reconnaîtrai-je votre venue ? Les soupirs et les larmes sont-ils les messagers et les témoins de cette joie consolante ? Nouvelle antiphrase, signification inouïe ! Quel rapport, en effet, entre la consolation et les soupirs, la joie et les larmes ? Mais peut-on dire que ce sont des pleurs ? N'est-ce pas plutôt l'intime rosée versée d'en-haut, surabondante, pour purifier l'homme intérieur et qui déborde ? Au baptême l'ablution extérieure signifie et opère la purification intérieure de l'enfant : ici, au contraire, la purification intime précède l'ablution extérieure et par elle se manifeste. O heureuses larmes, nouveau baptême de l'âme par lequel s'éteint l'incendie des péchés ! Bienheureux vous qui pleurez ainsi, vous rirez (Mt 5.5).
En ces pleurs, ô mon âme, reconnais ton Époux, unis-toi à ton désiré. À son torrent de délices enivre-toi, allaitée du lait et du miel de sa consolation. Ces soupirs et ces larmes, ce sont les cadeaux admirables de l'Époux, la boisson qu'il te mesure jour et nuit, le pain fortifiant ton cœur, plus doux en son amertume que le rayon de miel.
O Seigneur Jésus si elles sont si douces, les larmes qui coulent d'un cœur qui vous désire, que sera donc la joie d'une âme à laquelle vous vous montrez dans la claire vision éternelle ! S'il est si doux de pleurer en vous désirant, quelles délices de jouir de vous !
Mais pourquoi profaner devant tous ces intimes secrets ? Pourquoi en banales paroles essayer de traduire d'inexprimables tendresses ? Qui ne les a expérimentés, ne comprendra pas. On ne lit ces colloques mystérieux qu'au livre de l'expérience, ou n'en est instruit que par l'action divine. La page est fermée, insipide le livre à celui dont le cœur ne sait pas éclairer la lettre extérieure avec le sens de l'expérience intime.
VI L'époux se retire pour un temps
Tais-toi, mon âme, c'est trop parler.
Il faisait bon là-haut, avec Pierre et Jean, contempler la gloire de l'Époux. Oh ! longtemps demeurer avec lui, et, s'il l'avait voulu, élever non deux ou trois tentes, mais une seule où demeurer ensemble, dans sa joie !
Mais déjà l'Époux s'écrie : Laisse-moi partir, voici que monte l'aurore : tu as reçu la lumineuse grâce et la visite tant désirée. Et il te bénit, et comme autrefois l'ange à Jacob, il mortifie le nerf de ta cuisse (Gn 32.25,31), il change ton nom de Jacob en Israël, et voici qu'il paraît se retirer. L'Époux si longtemps désiré se cache bien vite, la vision de la contemplation pâlit, sa douceur s'évanouit.
Mais Lui, l'Époux, demeure présent dans ton cœur qu'il gouverne, toujours.
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Ne crains rien, ô épouse, ne désespère pas et ne te crois pas méprisée si parfois ton Époux voile son visage. Tout cela est pour ton bien ; son départ comme sa venue sont un gain. C'est pour toi qu'il vient et pour toi qu'il se retire. Il vient pour te consoler, il se retire pour te garder, de peur que, enivrée de sa douce présence, tu t'enorgueillisses. Si l'Époux était toujours sensiblement présent, ne serais-tu point tentée de mépriser tes compagnes et de croire que cette présence t'est due, alors qu'elle est un pur don accordé par l'Époux, à qui il veut et quand il veut, sur lequel tu n'as aucun droit ? Le proverbe le dit : "La familiarité engendre le mépris". Pour éviter cette irrespectueuse familiarité il se dérobe à ta vue. Absent, tu le désires plus fort ; ton désir te la fait plus ardemment chercher, et ton attente plus tendrement trouver.
Et puis, si la consolation était ici-bas sans arrêt, — bien que à côté de la gloire éternelle elle soit énigme et ombre — nous croirions peut-être que nous avons ici la cité permanente et nous chercherions moins la cité future. Oh ! non, ne prenons point l'exil pour la patrie, et les arrhes pour l'héritage.
L'Époux vient, il s'en va, consolant, désolant ; il nous laisse goûter un peu son ineffable douceur ; mais avant qu'elle vous pénètre, il se dérobe, il est parti. Or c'est pour nous enseigner à voler vers le Seigneur. Comme l'aigle, il étend largement les ailes sur nous et nous provoque à nous élever. Et il dit : Vous avez un peu goûté la suavité de ma douceur. Voulez-vous en rassasier ? Courez, volez, à mes parfums, haussez vos cœurs jusqu'en haut, là où je suis à la droite du Père, où vous me verrez, non plus en figure ou énigme, mais face à face, dans la joie pleine, totale que nul ne pourra vous ravir jamais.
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Épouse du Christ, comprends bien ceci : lorsque l'Époux se retire, il n'est pas loin de toi. Tu ne le vois plus, mais lui ne cesse de te regarder. Tu ne peux échapper à sa vue, jamais. Ses messages, les anges, épient ta vie quand il s'est caché et ils auraient tôt fait de t'accuser s'ils te voyaient légère et impure. Il est jaloux, l'Époux, et si ton âme admettait un autre amour et cherchait à plaire à quelqu'un, il te délaisserait aussitôt pour s'unir aux vierges plus fidèles. Il est délicat, noble, riche, le plus beau des enfants des hommes : aussi veut-il en son épouse toute beauté, et s'il voit en toi tache ou ride, il détournera ses regards, car il ne peut souffrir aucune impureté. Reste donc devant lui chaste, respectueuse et humble, et tu recevras sa visite, souvent.
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Emporté par mon discours, j'ai été trop long. Mais comment résister à l'entraînement d'un sujet si fertile et si doux ? Ces belles choses m'ont captivé. Mais résumons pour la clarté :
Tous les degrés de notre échelle se tiennent ensemble et ils dépendent l'un de l'autre.
La lecture est le fondement ; elle fournit la matière et vous engage à méditer.
La méditation recherche avec soin ce qu'il faut désirer, elle creuse et met au jour le trésor souhaité ; mais incapable de le saisir, elle nous excite à prier.
La prière, se dressant de toutes ses forces vers le Seigneur, demande le désirable trésor de la contemplation.
Enfin, la contemplation vient récompenser le travail de ses trois sœurs et enivrer de la douce rosée céleste l'âme altérée de Dieu.
La lecture est donc un exercice externe. C'est l'échelon des commençants.
La méditation, un acte intérieur de l'intelligence. C'est l'échelon de ceux qui progressent.
La prière, l'action d'une âme pleine de désir. C'est l'échelon de ceux qui sont à Dieu.
La contemplation dépasse tout le sentir et le savoir. C'est l'échelon des bienheureux.
VII Lecture, méditation, prière et contemplation se soutiennent l'une l'autre
Lecture, méditation, prière et contemplation sont si fortement enchaînées l'une à l'autre et se prêtent mutuellement un secours si nécessaire que les premières ne servent à rien sans les dernières et qu'on n'arrive jamais, ou par grande exception, à celles-ci qu'en passant par celles-là. À quoi bon employer son temps à lire la vie et les écrits des saints si, en les méditant et ruminant, nous n'en puisons pas le suc et si, ce suc, nous ne le faisons pas nôtre et descendre au tréfonds du cœur ? Vaines seront nos lectures, si nous ne prenons soin de comparer notre vie à celle des saints et si nous nous laissons entraîner par la curiosité de la lecture plutôt que par le désir d'imiter leurs exemples.
D'autre part, comment garder le bon chemin et éviter les erreurs ou les puérilités, comment demeurer dans les justes limites posées par nos pères sans lecture sérieuse ou docte enseignement ? Car dans le terme de lecture nous comprenons l'enseignement ; ne dit-on pas communément : le livre que j'ai lu, bien que parfois on l'ait reçu par l'enseignement d'un maître ?
De même, vaine sera la méditation sur un de nos devoirs, si elle n'est achevée et fortifiée par la prière qui obtient la grâce de remplir ce devoir, car tout don exquis, tout don parfait descend du Père des lumières (Jc 1.17), sans qui nous ne pouvons rien faire. Lui opère en nous, mais pas entièrement sans nous, car, dit l'Apôtre (I Co 3.9) nous sommes les coopérateurs de Dieu. Il daigne nous prendre comme aides de ses œuvres et, quand il frappe à la porte, il nous demande de lui ouvrir le secret de notre vouloir et de notre consentement.
À la Samaritaine le Sauveur demandait ce vouloir quand il lui disait : Appelle ton époux ; c'est-à-dire, voici ma grâce ; toi, applique ton libre arbitre. Il l'excitait à la prière en lui disant : Si tu savais le don de Dieu et celui qui te dit : donne-moi à boire, certes tu lui demanderais l'eau vive. En effet, cette femme, comme instruite par méditation, se dit dans son cœur : cette eau me serait salutaire ; et enflammée d'un désir ardent, elle se met à prier : Seigneur, donnez-moi cette eau pour que jamais plus je n'aie soif et ne vienne à ce puits. La parole divine entendue a invité son cœur à méditer, puis à prier. Comment aurait-elle été portée à prier si la méditation n'eût allumé son désir ? Et, d'autre part, de quoi lui eût servi de voir dans la méditation des biens spirituels si elle ne les eût obtenus par la prière ?
Quelle est donc la méditation fructueuse ? Celle qui s'épanouit dans la prière fervente laquelle obtient presque ordinairement la très suave contemplation.
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Ainsi donc, sans méditation aride sera la lecture ; sans lecture, pleine d'erreurs la méditation ; sans méditation, tiède la prière ; sans prière, infructueuse et vaine la méditation. Prière et dévotion unies obtiennent la contemplation ; au contraire, ce serait exception rare et même miracle d'obtenir la contemplation sans prière.
Le Seigneur dont la puissance est infinie et dont la miséricorde marque toutes ses œuvres, peut bien changer les pierres en enfants d'Abraham en forçant les cœurs durs et rebelles à vouloir le bien ; prodigue de sa grâce, il tire le taureau par les cornes, comme on dit vulgairement, quand, inattendu, il fond d'un coup rapide dans l'âme ; il est maître souverain ; et ainsi fit-il en Paul et en quelques autres rares élus. Mais il ne faut point attendre de tels prodiges et tenter Dieu. Faisons ce qui nous est demandé : lisons, méditons la loi divine, prions le Seigneur d'aider tant de faiblesse, de regarder tant de misère. Demandez et vous recevrez, nous a-t-il dit lui-même, cherchez et vous trouverez frappez et l'on vous ouvrira. Ici-bas, en effet, le royaume des cieux souffre violence et ce sont les violents qui l'emportent (Mt 7.7 ; 11.12).
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Heureux celui qui, détaché des créatures, s'exerce sans cesse à gravir ces quatre degrés ! Heureux qui vent tout ce qu'il possède pour acquérir le champ où gît le trésor si désirable de la contemplation et goûter combien le Seigneur est doux ! Appliqué au premier degré, prudent au second, fervent au troisième, ravi au dernier, de vertu en vertu il gravit en son cœur des échelons qui le mènent jusqu'à la vision du Seigneur en Sion. Heureux enfin celui qui peut s'arrêter au sommet, ne fût-ce qu'un moment, et dire : je goûte la grâce du Seigneur ; voici qu'avec Pierre et Jean sur la montagne je contemple sa gloire ; j'ai part avec Jacob aux caresses de Rachel.
Mais qu'il prenne garde, cet heureux, de ne pas choisir tristement de la céleste contemplation dans les ténèbres de l'abîme, de la vision divine dans les mondaines vanités et les impures fantaisies de la chair.
La pauvre âme humaine est faible, elle ne peut soutenir longtemps la splendeur éclatante de la Vérité : il lui faudra donc prudemment descendre d'un ou deux degrés et se reposer tranquillement en l'un ou l'autre, selon qu'elle voudra ou qu'elle aura la grâce, toujours le plus près de Dieu possible.
O triste condition de l'humaine faiblesse ! Voici que la raison et l'Écriture s'accordent pour nous dire qu'en ces quatre degrés est ramassée la perfection et que c'est à les gravir que doit s'exercer l'homme spirituel : et cependant qui suit ce chemin ? Quel est celui-là, pour qu'il soit loué ? Beaucoup ont des velléités, peu vont jusqu'au bout. Plaise à Dieu que nous soyons de ce petit nombre !
VIII De l'âme qui perd la grâce de la contemplation
Quatre obstacles nous peuvent empêcher de gravir ces degrés : la nécessité inévitable, l'utilité d'une bonne œuvre, l'humaine faiblesse, la vanité mondaine.
La première est excusable ; la deuxième, acceptable ; la troisième, pitoyable ; la quatrième, coupable. Oui, pour celui qui s'éloigne de sa sainte résolution par vanité mondaine, mieux vaudrait avoir toujours ignoré la gloire de Dieu que de la refuser après l'avoir connue. Comment excuser faute pareille ? À cette infidèle le Seigneur fait de justes reproches : Qu'aurais-je pu faire que je n'ai fait pour toi ? (Is 5.4). Néant tu étais, je t'ai donne l'être ; pécheresse et esclave du diable, je t'ai rachetée ; avec les impies tu errais à travers le monde, je t'ai reprise par choix d'amour, je t'ai donné ma grâce et t'ai établie en ma présence ; en ton cœur j'avais élu ma demeure : et toi, tu m'as méprisé ; mes invitations, mon amour, moi en fin, tu as tout projeté au loin pour courir à tes convoitises.
O Dieu bon, suave et doux, ami tendre et prudent conseiller, aide fort : qu'il est fol et téméraire, celui qui vous repousse et chasse de son cœur un hôte si humble et si compatissant ! Malheureux et damnable échange : chasser son Créateur pour hospitaliser des pensées impures et perverses ; livrer la chère retraite close de l'Esprit-Saint, encore embaumée des récentes joies célestes, aux pensées basses et au péché ; profaner par des désirs adultères les vestiges encore chauds de l'Époux. O choquante impiété ! Ces oreilles qui tout à l'heure écoutaient les colloques que l'homme ne peut redire, s'emplissent maintenant de mensonges et de calomnies ; ces yeux purifiés par de saintes larmes se plaisent aux vanités ; ces lèvres à peine cessent de chanter le divin épithalame et les brûlants cantiques d'amour qui faisaient s'unir l'époux et l'épouse introduite au cellier mystique, et les voilà qui disent vanités, fourberies et médisances. O Seigneur, préservez-nous de telles chutes !
Toutefois, si l'humaine faiblesse en ce malheur te fit choir, ne désespère point, âme fragile ; non, ne désespère jamais, mais cours au Médecin débonnaire qui relève du sol l'indigent et le pauvre de son fumier (Ps 112.7). Il ne veut point que le pécheur meure. Il te soignera et te guérira.
Je dois clore ma lettre. Je prie le Seigneur d'affaiblir aujourd'hui, d'enlever demain de notre âme tout obstacle à la contemplation. Qu'il nous mène de vertu en vertu au sommet de l'échelle mystérieuse jusqu'à la vision de la Divinité en Sion. Là, ce n'est plus goutte à goutte et par intermittences que ses élus goûteront la douceur de cette contemplation divine ; mais toujours inondés par ce torrent d'allégresse, ils posséderont à jamais la joie que nul ne peut ravir, la paix immuable, la paix en Lui ! O Gervais, mon frère, quand par la grâce du Seigneur tu seras parvenu au faîte de l'échelle mystérieuse, souviens-toi de moi, et dans ton bonheur, prie pour moi. Qu'ainsi " la courtine tire à soi la courtine ", et que celui qui entend, dise : Viens.
The Glance by Francois de Sales Pollien, 19th century Carthusian
32. Its easiness. – 33. Its object. – 34. It is the substance of self-examination. – 35. The tap.
32. Its easiness – But how am I to get at the true state of my soul? How am I to seize what I may call my heart’s expression? At any moment, if I desire to know where I am, what is the state of my soul, what tone echoes within me I merely ask: where is my heart? By this question I seek solely to know what is the dominant disposition of my heart, which inspires and directs it, and keeps it as it were in its possession. A number of impressions and yearnings and feelings throng about the heart: it is an unfathomable reservoir; but whatever the number and the nature of the dispositions, there is always one that is in an ascendancy. It is not always the same, the heart of man undergoes so many fluctuations! One feeling takes the place of another, one impression drives out another; but it is always one that holds first place, and gives direction to the heart and governs its activity. That is the one, indeed, which gives the true tone of my soul. That is the one I have to seize before all else, if I am to catch my soul’s expression.
In order to seize it, I ask myself this simple question: where is my heart? - but, at the very moment of putting this question, the answer comes within me. This question causes me to cast a rapid glance into the innermost centre of my being, and I at once see the salient point; I give ear to the tone echoed by my soul, and immediately catch the dominant note. It is an intuitive proceeding, and is quite instantaneous. There is no need for intellectual enquiries, efforts of will, and ransacking the memory; I hear and see. It is a glance, in ictu oculi. It is simple and rapid. A soul must be quite ignorant of its inner self, and quite unaccustomed to enter in to itself, if it does not experience this.
33. Its object – Sometimes I shall see that my dominant disposition is the want of approbation or praise, or the fear of reproach; sometimes, the bitterness that springs from some annoyance from some harmful project or proceeding, or else the resentment caused by some remonstrance; sometimes, the painfulness of being under suspicion, or the trouble felt through some aversion; or, it may be the slackness induced by sensualism, or the discouragement resulting from difficulties or failure; at other times, routine, the product of carelessness or frivolity, the product of idle curiosity and empty gaiety, etc. Or else, on the contrary, it may be the love of God, the desire for sacrifice, the fervour kindled by some touch of grace, full submission to God, the joy of humility, etc. Whether it be good or bad, it is the main and dominant disposition that must be ascertained; for we must look at the good as well as the evil, since it is the state of the heart that it is important to know. I must go directly to the mainspring, which sets all the wheels of the clock in motion. Sometimes it happens that this mainspring is a persistent and continuous disposition, such as bitterness or aversion. But, at other times, it is some merely momentary impression, which, however, was strong enough to impress the heart for a considerable time with some characteristic impulse; such, for instance, as the generous acceptance of a suffering; it was the affair of a moment, yet it imparted something to the heart, which will set it in motion during one or several days.
34. It is the substance of self-examination – When I have ascertained this dominant disposition, good or bad, my examination of conscience is substantially finished; I have got what is the essential thing, the core of it. In fact, the dominant disposition, by determining finally the impulses of my heart, is like a resultant of the powers of the other feelings, which are practically concentrated and summed up therein. Hence, strictly speaking, I might be satisfied with this essential glance; and by it I might strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up that which was broken, bring again that which was driven away, and seek for that which was lost. [Ezech.34:4]
And in fact, if, in the course of the day, I wish to ascertain the state of my soul, i.e., make my self-examination, I am satisfied with this single glance, diving right into the centre of my heart: where do I stand? And it is done: I see. I correct and set it straight, if necessary: I humble myself and give thanks, if all is well. And this I can do at any moment, and thousands of times; it is such a simple act! - a look at the heart, a glance!...
35. The tap – And this simple glance has deep results; since it retains or restores the resultant of the powers of the heart in the one way, and directs it to the one end. As a matter of fact, nothing escapes from it, since it grasps the centre of everything. Why need I worry about other details? I need not cut the branches off a tree, when it is down; nor need I follow the course of the streams, when I am at the source.
When the water spouts forth in profusion from the host of little holes in the rose of a watering-pot, would it not be a tedious and troublesome matter to shut up each little hole one after the other in order to cut off the flow? And if there were a tap lower down, enabling one to stop the flow by a single turn, would it not be stupid to tire oneself with trying to stop all the little holes? And that all the more, because there is the risk of their coming open again. He whose examination of conscience stops at details and outward things, is passing his time in stopping up the little holes The inward glance turns the tap To stop at details and at what is outward, is to remain at the circumference and to manoeuvre on the surface of the soul. I go straight to the centre and take possession of my whole soul, when I cast this penetrating glance at my dominant disposition.
from 'The Interior Life simplified and reduced to its fundamental principle' - Part 3, Book 2, Chapter VII
Pope Francis encourages Catholics to be “freed from the chains of evil” in the Sacrament of Confession
VATICAN CITY — Do you sometimes feel weighed down or unfree after making a mistake or falling into sin?
Today Pope Francis said the “true enemy” that prevents us from being interiorly free is “sin.” But, he stressed, we can be “freed from the chains of evil” through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Addressing the faithful and pilgrims from the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace, on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the pope reflected on how the Lord miraculously liberated the two Apostles from prison and persecution.
If we turn to the Lord in the Sacrament of Penance, the pope said, he will liberate us interiorly through the power of his grace, and lift the weight we experience from sin.
Today’s Angelus address followed a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Square, celebrated together with the five cardinals whom the pope created yesterday at an ordinary public consistory.
Read the pope’s reflection below.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. The Fathers of the Church loved to compare the holy Apostles Peter and Paul to two columns, on which the visible construction of the Church rests. Both sealed with their own blood the witness they rendered to Christ through preaching and service to the nascent Christian community. This witness is highlighted in the biblical Readings of today’s liturgy, readings which indicate the reason for their faith, confessed and proclaimed, and then crowned with the supreme proof of martyrdom.
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 12:1-11) recounts the event of Peter’s imprisonment and subsequent liberation. He had already experienced aversion to the Gospel in Jerusalem, where he had been imprisoned by King Herod “intending to bring him before the people” (v. 4). But he was miraculously saved so he could complete his evangelizing mission, first in the Holy Land and then in Rome, putting all his energy at the service of the Christian community.
Paul, too, experienced hostility from which he was liberated by the Lord. Sent by the Risen One into many cities to pagan peoples, he encountered strong resistance by those of his own religion and by the civil authorities. Writing to the disciple Timothy, he reflects on his own life and missionary journey, as well as on the persecutions he endured for the sake of the Gospel.
These “liberations” of Peter and Paul reveal the common journey of the two Apostles, who were sent by Jesus to announce the Gospel in difficult and, in certain cases, hostile environments.
Both, through their personal and ecclesial experiences, show and tell us, today, that the Lord is always by our side. He walks with us; he never abandons us. Especially in time of trial, God extends his hand to us; he comes to our aid and liberates us from the threat of our enemies.
But let us remember that our true enemy is sin, and the Evil One who urges us on to it. When we are reconciled with God, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, receiving the grace of forgiveness, we are freed from the chains of evil and alleviated from the weight of our errors. Thus we can continue along of path as joyful heralds and witnesses of the Gospel, showing that we are the first to have received mercy.
To the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, we address our prayer, which today is especially for the Church in Rome and for this city which has Peter and Paul as patrons. May they obtain for [the Church and city] spiritual and material well being. May the goodness and grace of the Lord sustain the Roman people, that they might live in fraternity and harmony, making the Christian faith shine forth with the intrepid ardor of Saints Peter and Paul. 10:25:29 AM
Blessed Peter Kibe was a martyr in 17th-century Japan, but even among these heroes of the faith, he stands out.
I wonder if there has ever been a Christian more determined than Blessed Peter Kibe, one of more than 200 Japanese martyrs who have been raised to the altar. Often there’s little that’s known about these heroes of the East, but every once in a while you hit on a real gem, a follower of Jesus Christ whose faith sets a fire in your soul. Blessed Peter Kibe is such a one, a man for the ages and a dear friend of mine.
Born of Japanese Christian parents in 1587, Peter was raised in a country already hostile to the faith. Even his family’s noble (samurai) status didn’t protect them. Despite persecutions, Peter entered a Jesuit seminary with hopes of being ordained one day. After graduating, he asked to enter the Society of Jesus but was denied; the superior was concerned that he wasn’t determined enough to persevere in his vocation. Read more: My friends Joe and Vicki protected Jews from the Nazis
Rather than accept this response, Peter made a private vow that he would continue to pursue a Jesuit vocation. He spent eight years working alongside the Jesuit missionaries; when all foreign missionaries were exiled by the anti-Christian Japanese government in 1614, Peter went with them to Portuguese Macao (China) where he was refused ordination because authorities believed the time wasn’t right for native priests.
Nothing daunted, Peter looked elsewhere. He sailed to Goa. When he found the doors closed there as well, it seemed time to set off for Rome. On foot. Peter walked all the way from India to the Holy Land along the Silk Road.
That’s about 3,700 miles.
When he arrived, Kibe became the first Japanese person ever to visit Jerusalem. He then made his way to Rome, convinced the ecclesial authorities of his qualifications, and was ordained a priest six months after arriving in Rome. Asked to make a two-year novitiate with the Jesuits before returning to Japan, Peter managed to convince his superior that there was no time to waste, that the Japanese people needed him immediately.
This being the 17th century, though, nothing was ever immediate. It took him 14 months just to get to India. When he finally made it to Macao, he was told that the government would allow no Christians to sail on their ships to Japan. Peter was then chased by pirates all the way to Siam, where he found the same difficulty. For two years, he tried to sail from Siam, then headed to Manila. Still unable to find a ship that would take him to Japan, he built one.
The boat was attacked by termites. Peter plugged the holes and set off. Eight years after leaving Portugal, Peter finally had Japan in his sights—and was overcome by a typhoon that smashed his boat to bits.
When the victims of the shipwreck pulled themselves together, they found that they were in the same spot from which St. Francis Xavier had launched his mission to Japan some 80 years earlier. With the zeal of Xavier (whose canonization he had attended in Rome), Father Kibe arrived in Japan at last. He spent 24 years trying to become a priest in Japan before he finally set foot on Japanese soil again, all the time knowing that he was headed towards torture and certain death.
Kibe managed to minister for nine years under constant threat of death. When he was betrayed by one of his flock, he was brought before Fr. Ferreira (the famous apostate priest of Silence fame). Rather than succumb to Ferreira’s entreaties that he apostatize, Fr. Kibe implored Ferreira to return to the faith. “Let us go to die together,” he begged an astonished Ferreira.
Though Ferreira fled, sending in a master torturer, Kibe wouldn’t budge. His iron will unbent by Ferreira’s arguments, Fr. Kibe was tortured beyond all reason. As he hung in the pit and other priests apostatized, Fr. Kibe encouraged those suffering with him until he himself was removed for fear he’d prevent the others from breaking. Inoue, the most infamous torturer in all of Japan, called him, “the man who would not say I give in” and ultimately killed him by disemboweling him. He was beatified with 187 companions, still only a small fraction of some 35,000 Christians killed in Japan between 1597 and 1639.
Many of us are unwilling to drive half an hour for Mass when we’re on vacation; Kibe walked 3,700 miles. We give up on God’s will when an obstacle or two present themselves; Kibe traveled halfway around the world. We run from suffering; Kibe ran toward it.
On July 1, the feast of Blessed Peter Kibe and 187 companions, let’s ask his intercession that we would live radically for Christ, refusing to give in to sin but fighting to become all God has called us to be. Blessed Peter Kibe, pray for us! 10:02:00 AM
651 O incomprehensible God, how great is Your mercy! It surpasses the combined understanding of all men and angels. All the angels and all humans have emerged from the very depths of Your tender mercy. Mercy is the flower of love. God is love, and mercy is His deed. In love it is conceived; in mercy it is revealed. Everything I look at speaks to me of God's mercy. Even God's very justice speaks to me about His fathomless mercy, because justice flows from love.
652 There is one word I heed and continually ponder; it alone is everything to me; I live by it and die by it, and it is the holy will of God. It is my daily food. My whole soul listens intently to God's wishes. I do always what God asks of me, although my nature often quakes and I feel that the magnitude of these things is beyond my strength. 1 know well what I am of myself, but I also know what the grace of God is, which supports me.
653 April 25, 1936. Walendow. On that day, the suffering in my soul was more severe than ever before. From early morning, I felt as if my body and soul had separated. I felt that God's presence had penetrated my whole being; I felt all the justice of God within me; I felt I stood alone before God. I thought: one word from my spiritual director would set me entirely at peace; but what can I do?-he is not here. However, I decided to seek light in holy confession. When I uncovered my soul to the priest,  he was afraid to continue hearing my confession, and that caused me even greater suffering. When I see that a priest is fearful, I do not obtain any inner peace. So I have decided that only to my spiritual director will I open my soul in all matters, from the greatest to the least, and that I will follow his directions strictly.
654 Now I understand that confession is only the confessing of one's sins, and spiritual guidance is a different thing altogether. But this is not what I want to speak about. I want to tell about a strange thing that happened to me for the first time. When the confessor started talking to me, I did not understand a single word. Then I saw Jesus Crucified and He said to me, It is in My Passion that you must seek light and strength. After the confession, I meditated on Jesus' terrible Passion, and I understood that what I was suffering was nothing compared to the Savior's Passion, and that even the smallest imperfection was the cause of this terrible suffering. Then my soul was filled with very great contrition, and only then I sensed that I was in the sea of the unfathomable mercy of God. Oh, how few words I have to express what I am experiencing! I feel I am like a drop of dew engulfed in the depths of the bottomless ocean of divine mercy.
659 During Holy Mass, offered by Father Andrasz, I saw the little Infant Jesus, who told me that I was to depend on him for everything; no action undertaken on your own, even though you put much effort into it, pleases Me. I understood this [need of] dependence. 10:26:28 PM
The priest celebrating Mass is speaking, in a sense, on behalf of the entire material creation.
I write these words from the Nuremore Hotel in Monaghan, Ireland, where I am conducting a retreat for the good priests of the Dublin Archdiocese. As I look out at these men, I am reminded of so many of my own relatives on both sides of my family (“Gosh, he looks like Uncle Charlie” and “That one is the spitting image of my cousin Terry”), for I am Irish all the way through. Many of the priests who are making the retreat are retired, and it is edifying to see so many who have bravely borne the heat of the day. Do say a prayer for them.
The theme that I have chosen for my talks is “Pope Francis Speaks to Priests.” I have culled a number of motifs from the pope’s numerous talks, sermons, and lectures to priests, seminarians, and bishops. Allow me, in the course of this brief article to say just a few words about each one.
The first is “encountering Christ.” Drawing from the writings of Padre Luigi Giussani and others, Pope Francis emphasizes that the single most important feature of Christianity is a personal friendship with the Lord Jesus. The Christian faith is not a philosophy or a social theory or an ideology, but rather a living relationship with Jesus. Therefore, I have told the priests of Dublin, make Christ the center of your lives and let every aspect of your life and ministry revolve around your friendship with the Lord.
The second theme is “living simply.” Nothing about Pope Francis has so captivated the popular imagination than his gestures in the direction of simplicity of life: paying his own bill at the clerical residence just after his election as pope, riding in the unpretentious Fiat rather than a limo, dining with the homeless, residing in the Santa Marta Hotel rather than the Apostolic Palace, etc. In an address to consecrated religious in 2015, the pope cited his spiritual father Ignatius of Loyola to the effect that poverty is the “wall and the mother of the consecrated life,” mother because it gives birth to greater confidence in God and wall because it keeps out worldliness.
The third motif I am exploring is preaching, which Pope Francis emphasizes time and again when he addresses priests and seminarians. The pope once remarked that everyone suffers from preaching, the priests from having to give sermons and the faithful from having to listen to them! In my presentation, I’m stressing that there should always be an element of the surprising and the novel in good Christian preaching, for the preacher is trading in Good News. Something utterly unexpected has happened—namely the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—and the preacher wants to grab his audience by the shoulders and tell them about it. If he is simply sharing bland spiritual truisms, he is not really preaching.
Fourthly, I’m urging the priests of Dublin to be what the pope calls “missionary disciples.” Vatican II was, first and foremost, a missionary council, whose purpose was to push the Church outward, bringing the lumen of Christ to the gentes. Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI all followed this impulse in stressing the centrality of the new evangelization. Pope Francis has rung the same bell in his insistence that the Church must go out to the periferia, to the margins both economic and existential. He offers a funny and wise commentary on the famous scene from the book of Revelation in which Jesus stands at the door and knocks. This represents, says Francis, not so much the Lord’s desire to enter into our hearts as his longing to get out into the world!
The fifth topic is perhaps the interpretive key to the Francis papacy, namely, mercy. The Church, he has memorably commented, is like a field hospital, where those deeply wounded by our postmodern society come to be treated. Misericordia (a suffering heart) is therefore prerequisite number one for those who would aspire to serve in that treatment center. Whatever else the Church says and does, I told the Dublin presbyterate, must return to, and be conditioned by, the attitude of mercy.
Finally, I am sharing some reflections on the pope’s encyclical letter Laudato Si. I realize that many tended to read this text as Francis’s treatise on “global warming,” and whether one celebrates or bemoans the pope’s view on that particular topic, to read the encyclical from that perspective alone is to miss a lovely forest for one tree. What Francis accomplishes in Laudato Si is the placing of the Christian life into a properly cosmic context, and this brings him close to all of the great pre-modern figures in Christian spirituality and theology. Modernity has tended to construe the human being as, in Descartes’s famous phrase, the “master of nature,” whereas the Biblical, patristic, and medieval commentators saw the human being as stewards of creation, indeed, as the one who has the privilege and responsibility of leading all of creation in an act of praise. I have shared with the priests of Dublin the ancient notion that the priest celebrating Mass is speaking, in a sense, on behalf of the entire material creation. This explains why pre-modern Churches, such as the great Gothic Cathedrals, were decorated, inside and out, with images of plants, animals, sun, moon, stars, and planets. Curiously, an excessive anthropocentrism has actually undermined our attempts to evangelize the contemporary culture.
Again, please pray for the priests of the Archdiocese of Dublin, and indeed for all priests, as we strive to fulfill our mission. 2:04:48 PM
Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you ... Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death ... When they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between my Father and the dying person, not as the Just Judge but as the Merciful Savior ... Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from my infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy ... Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will.
Jesus Said: "I remind you, My daughter, that as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world - mercy triumphed over justice. My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. I claim veneration for My mercy from every creature, but above all from you, since it is to you that I have given the most profound understanding of this mystery". (1572) 8:39:27 PM
"The heart of man, it is said, is measured by the welcoming he
gives to suffering, for it is in him the imprint of someone other
than himself ... Even when suffering comes out of ourselves to
enter with its penetrating sting into the consciousness, it is
always in spite of the spontaneous wish and the primitive impulse
of the fullness of the will. However predictable it may be, so
resigned in advance that one offers himself to her blows, so avid,
so enamored that one can be of its austere and vivifying charm, it
nevertheless remains a foreigner and an importune, it is always
different from what we expected, and under its reach, the very one
who confronts it energetically, who desires and loves it, cannot
at the same time prevent himself from trembling at its approach.
Suffering kills something from us to put back something there that
is not us. And that is why it reveals to us this scandal of our
freedom and of our reason: we are not what we want to be, and to
want all that we are, all that we must be, we must understand,
that we accept its lesson and its benefits. Thus suffering is in
us like a divine seed, like the grain of wheat that must die
before germinating, it is the basis for a fuller oeuvre (work).
Who has not suffered of a thing, neither knows it, nor loves it.
The sense of pain is to reveal to us what escapes knowledge and
selfish will, it is to be the way of effective love, because it
detracts us from ourselves and of our human tendencies, to give us
our brothers and to give us to all. For suffering does not hope in
us for its divine effect without an active and pure concurrence on
our part. It is an ordeal because it forces the secret
dispositions of the will to manifest themselves. Breaking the
equilibrium of an indifferent life, it allows us to choose between
this personal feeling which leads us to withdraw into ourselves by
violently excluding any intrusion, and this goodness which opens
up to the fertile sadness and to the seeds which the great waters
of trial carry. Support me, O Jesus. Here below, the pain never ends; when
it has bruised the body and the heart, it bruises the soul; when
it has bruised the heart, it again bruises the soul and the body.
It is the spring that raises from the earth, it makes the soul
celestial. God inclines towards it to sustain it, and the angel of
the holy hopes descends to strengthen and console it". Translated from the French - Marthe Robin : le
voyage immobile (english: the still journey), Jean-Jacques
Texte original Français
"Le coeur de l'homme, dit-on, se mesure à l'accueil qu'il fait à
la souffrance, car elle est en lui l'empreinte d'un autre que
lui... Même quand elle sort de nous pour entrer avec son aiguillon
pénétrant dans la conscience, c'est toujours malgré le souhait
spontané et l'élan primitif du plein vouloir. Quelque prévue
qu'elle soit, si résigné d'avance qu'on s'offre à ses coups, si
avide, si épris qu'on puisse être de son charme austère et
vivifiant, elle n'en demeure pas moins une étrangère et une
importune, elle est toujours autre qu'on ne l'attendait, et sous
son atteinte, celui même qui l'affronte énergiquement, qui la
désire et l'aime ne peut en même temps s'empêcher de trembler à
son approche. Elle tue quelque chose de nous pour y mettre quelque
chose qui n'est pas nous. Et voilà pourquoi elle nous révèle ce
scandale de notre liberté et de notre raison : nous ne sommes pas
ce que nous voulons, et pour vouloir tout ce que nous sommes, tout
ce que nous devons être, il faut que nous comprenions, que nous
acceptions sa leçon et ses bienfaits. Ainsi la souffrance est en
nous comme une semence divine, comme le grain de froment qui doit
mourir avant de germer, elle est la base nécessaire à une oeuvre
plus pleine. Qui n'a pas souffert d'une chose, ni ne la connaît,
ni ne l'aime. Le sens de la douleur, c'est de nous révéler ce qui
échappe à la connaissance et à la volonté égoïste, c'est d'être la
voie de l'amour effectif, parce qu'elle nous déprend de nous et de
nos tendances humaines, pour nous donner nos frères et nous donner
à tous. Car elle n'espère pas en nous son divin effet sans un
concours actif et pur de notre part. Elle est une épreuve parce
qu'elle force les secrètes dispositions de la volonté à se
manifester. Rompant l'équilibre de la vie indifférente, elle met
en mesure d'opter entre ce sentiment personnel qui nous porte à
nous replier sur nous-mêmes en excluant violemment toute
intrusion, et cette bonté qui s'ouvre à la tristesse fécondante et
aux germes qu'apportent les grandes eaux de l'épreuve.
Soutenez-moi, ô Jésus. Ici-bas, la douleur ne finit jamais ; quand
elle a meurtri le corps et le coeur, elle meurtrit l'âme ; quand
elle a meurtri le coeur, elle meurtrit de nouveau l'âme et le
corps. Elle est le ressort qui soulève de la terre, elle rend
l'âme céleste. Dieu se penche vers elle pour la soutenir, et
l'ange des saintes espérances descend pour la fortifier et la
consoler". Marthe Robin : le voyage
immobile, Jean-Jacques Antier 7:53:46 PM
Local bishop gives permission for publication of Alicja Lenczewska's conversations with Jesus.
Alicja Lenczewska received an unusual gift from Jesus — she spoke with him not in the usual way of prayer, but in mystical conversations. Now, the bishop of Szczecin, Poland, has authorised the publication of the notes from these conversations.
Such an account, and from Poland, might bring to mind the great saint of Divine Mercy, St Faustina. But Lenczewska was born only on Dec. 5, 1934, in Warsaw and died less than 15 years ago. Raised in suffering
Alicja’s father passed away in 1939 and so, along with her elder brother, Alicja was raised by her mother. When the Nazis invaded Poland and took control of Warsaw, the family moved in with relatives near the city of Rzeszów.
With the War ended in 1946, they moved to Szczecin, where Alicja completed primary and high school. Despite the hard times, her mother ensured the religious upbringing of the children, making sure they always attended Sunday Mass and prayed together daily.
When Alicja graduated from high school, she started to work as a teacher in the village of Bana. Before long, she was promoted to the position of school inspector in Gryfino. Around this time, she became a member of the Communist party. As she later admitted, at that time her life was at variance with the teaching of the Church.
Lenczewska earned an MA in Pedagogy in Gdansk and between 1966 and 1975 she worked as a high school teacher of Home Economics and Mechanics in Szczecin.
When Alicja’s mother fell ill, she became her caretaker, attending to her until her death in 1984. Losing her mother was traumatic for Alicja, but her sorrow led her, along with her brother, to become involved with the Renewal in the Holy Spirit. She began to discover Jesus and soon realized she wished to dedicate herself to Him.
A retreat in Gostyn in 1985 marked the beginning of an astonishing series of graces: During Communion, she was granted the gift of conversations and mystical meetings with Jesus. This gift continued from 1985 to 2012, until her death.
She recorded the spiritual advice received and the contents of her conversations with Jesus in two texts, Testimony [Swiadectwo] and A Word of Instruction [Slowo pouczenia].
She wrote of the “magnitude of the great, unique love” of God, which could only make one “cry over one’s ingratitude.” She spoke to Jesus about the role of a confessor in the sacrament; Jesus replied that he is: “My lips, my hands and my heart beating amongst you.”
“Everything you have and everything you are is my gift of Love,” Jesus told Alicja. He stressed the significance of the Eucharist, reminding her that He wants to be invited to every person’s life. Moreover, He warned against abusive reception of Holy Communion and its desecration.
Alicja’s relationship with Our Lord came to define her whole life. Nothing but his presence and love mattered to her any more; her money and time were spent in service. A spiritual director supported and guided her during these years.
Journal entries provide the words of Jesus asking people to pray and have trust. He taught her to work on patience and compassion, so as to react with love to others. As she wrote down in her notebook, “The greatest love is to accept part of My suffering by participating in it.”
The conversations with Jesus, as accounted for in the notes, are marked by the simplicity of the message and love.
Alicja dedicated herself completely to Jesus and to helping other people. She did voluntary work in the office of the Corpus Christi Parish and was a member of the Family of the Heart of Crucified Love, where in 2005 she took perpetual vows. Gradually, her “meetings” with Jesus became less and less frequent, and eventually ended completely. On Dec. 7, 2011, Alicja learned that she had cancer and was admitted to a hospice. She died in Szczecin on Jan. 5, 2012.
In her notes, Lenczewska continuously urges conversion. Each person is called to sanctity, she explains, in recounting Christ’s teachings, yet one needs love and trust in order to walk in holiness. “We should love Jesus in other people, as He wants to be loved there. We should not seek love in abstractions . The fullness of evil will come, as it happened to Me two millennia ago This will be followed by the miracle of the resurrection of faith and love ” 1:01:36 PM
We all know the importance of Confession, but yet so few take advantage of it. Here Elder Paisios shows us why it is so important.
A young man went to see the Elder. I arrived the moment he was ringing the bell, and waited behind him. After a while, Father Paisios opened the door and came to the fence.
- What's up, young man, what do you want? asked the Elder.
- Father, I would like to see you and get your advice on something.
- Have you gone to confession? Do you have a spiritual father?
- No, Father, I don't have a spiritual father and I haven't gone to confession.
- Well, then you better go to confession and then come to see me.
- Why can't I see you, Father?
-I will explain to you, so you can understand. Your mind is confused and troubled by the sins you have fallen into; as a result, you cannot realize the situation you are in. So, you will not be able to give me a clear picture of your problem. However, if you confess your sins, your mind will clear up and you will see things very differently. Note how he relates confession to a clearing of the mind. So often we think of it as having our names taken off the list for breaking some kind of law. Elder Paisios is lifting this sacrament to its true value, one of clearing our mind so we can more clearly see God, receive His grace, follow His commandments and understand the spiritual nature of our life.
The story continues as the young man does not take heed of the Elder's advice.
Father, maybe I am confused and troubled and unable to tell you what exactly is wrong with me, but you yourself can understand the nature of my problem and tell me what to do.
- Listen, even if I can see with a certain clarity what is wrong with you, you still have the problem inside you. Since your mind is troubled, you will neither understand, nor remember what I will say to you. If you go to confession and you are tuned in the same spiritual frequency with us, then we will be ale to communicate. So, go to a spiritual father for confession and I will wait for your visit. Without the cleansing that comes with confession, all the counseling we receive will fall on deaf ears and without the right understanding. We also need to take responsibility for our troubles and be willing to take them to our spiritual father and to offer them to God seeking forgiveness and direction about how to change our lives. Only then will we be able to listen and do something with the advice we receive. In this way the Holy Spirit works to cleanse our mind. It is only when the mind is cleared of our troubles are we able to be open to hear the wisdom of an Elder like Paisios.
Source: Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, p 120 12:01:53 PM
“If we do not cultivate this
silence, how can we find God?”
Ours is a loud age … ours is a restless age.
We know the landscape well: the raucous media circus that
blurs the line between power politics and viewing pleasure;
the teeming internet jungle of tweets about jeremiads and
jeremiads about tweets; and a digital presence that multiples
itself exponentially, without end. We even internalize it,
drawing it into ourselves in greater doses until we not only
make noise, but are noise, plugged into the agitation
and clamor of the world and unable to watch or click or share
our way out of it.
Robert Cardinal Sarah of Guinea touched on the subject in his
first interview with Nicolas Diat, God or Nothing,
where he concluded that for many of us, the “disturbing” sound
of silence just doesn’t feel like an option. “We ceaselessly
need to hear the noise of the world: today logorrhea is a sort
of imperative, and silence is considered a failure.” The
Power of Silence, another interview with Diat, unpacks
the philosophical and spiritual dimensions of silence,
including our reticence to even begin engaging it.
The interview unfolds with a numbered series of philosophical
fragments, much like the Pensées of the philosopher
Blaise Pascal (whom Sarah quotes). “What will become of our
world if it does not look for intervals of silence?” Sarah
asks. “Interior rest and harmony can flow only from silence.
Without it, life does not exist. The greatest mysteries of the
world are born and unfold in silence.” In silence, where so
many of us see an unsettling absence, Sarah challenges his
readers to discover instead the presence of the greatest
mystery there is, one which, like the gaze of a lover, the
growth of a plant, or the motion of the stars, communicates
itself in and through its own silence. “Nothing will make us
discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center
of our being,” Sarah writes. “If we do not cultivate this
silence, how can we find God?”
The postmodern world cuts itself off from God precisely to the
degree to which its cuts itself off from silence and solitude.
“Without silence,” he writes, “God disappears into the noise.”
But Sarah also makes it clear that cultivating silence is not
just a matter of quieting speech and sounds; it also means
quieting our judgments, passions, and thoughts. In fact, the
path of exterior silence can painfully reveal the depths of
interior noise into which we’ve been plunged – which is
precisely why we tend to avoid it. “With its festive
appearance, noise is a whirlwind that avoids facing itself,”
he writes. “Agitation becomes a tranquilizer, a sedative, a
morphine pump, a sort of reverie, an incoherent dream-world.
But this noise is a dangerous, deceptive medicine, a diabolic
lie that helps man avoid confronting himself in his interior
emptiness. The awakening will necessary be brutal.”
Sarah invokes various beautiful images – a temple, a melody, a
light, and a flame – to capture the glory of silence, but also
invokes more disquieting imagery to capture its power – a
burnt offering, a shadow, a wave, a violent seizure. The
necessary practice of silence means an encounter with God, and
the encounter can take us to “fearsome shores.” But Sarah
encourages us to venture on, discovering the same great peace
and fortitude that so many holy men and women have found in
It would’ve been easy for Sarah to devolve into an indictment
of political, economic, and social powers – and while Sarah is
certainly not silent on their culpability, his focus is more
on revealing and inviting us into the great sources of silence
in the Catholic tradition. He returns to the Old Testament
again and again, but finds the greatest scriptural odes to
silence in the life of the Holy Family. Joseph never utters a
single word in the Gospels; Mary’s words are few – the Gospels
of Mark and Matthew have no mention of her words either – and
her entire life is swallowed up in faithful obedience and
prayerful attentiveness. But it’s in the life of her Son that
silence takes on a whole new meaning. “The whole life of Jesus
is wrapped in silence and mystery,” Sarah writes. “If man
wants to imitate Christ, it is enough for him to observe his
silences. The silence of the crib, the silence of Nazareth,
the silence of the Cross, and the silence of the sealed tomb
are one. The silences of Jesus are silences of poverty,
humility, self-sacrifice, and abasement; it is the bottomless
abyss of his kenosis, his self-emptying.”
For Sarah, who is also the Prefect of the Congregation for
Divine Worship, the Church has to protect and foster this
silence in its prayers, in its sacraments, and in its liturgy.
The Cardinal made headlines last
year when he called for a return to “ad orientem”
celebration of Mass (in which the priest faces the same
direction as the congregation), and in The Power of
Silence, doesn’t hesitate to call once more for a
“reform of the reform” of the liturgy, adding that “the future
of the Church is at stake.” He makes a compelling case, and
it’s clear that he’s driven not by any ideological commitment,
but a burning love for the Church and sacred silence, “a small
anticipation of eternity” that can uniquely open a heart to
After a probing discussion of God’s apparent silence in the
face of evil – Diat hammers Sarah with various examples of the
horror unfolding in various parts of the world – the book
closes where it opened: at the Carthusian monastery of the
Grande Chartreuse in France, memorialized in the documentary Into Great Silence. The
Carthusians aren’t presented as a universal standard of
silence, but as exemplars of its vital importance – and Sarah
doesn’t necessarily call his readers to eliminate speech and
action, but on the contrary, to give them greater depth and
breadth by grounding them in that silence.
The Power of Silence is an eminently wise, rich, and
timely piece of writing, one that meets the mind both like a
quiet nighttime meditation and a rousing call to revolution.
Sarah’s voice has the freshness and liveliness of a springtime
of faith, and reflects the ongoing boom of Catholicism in
Africa. It’s a voice that the West desperately needs to hear.
It challenges us to return to the essentials of Christian
life, where our lifeblood isn’t the artificiality, egotism,
and endless chatter of the world, but the wordlessness,
humility, and eternal silence of God.
There we find our happiness, because there we find our
EGYPT — One the second day of his apostolic visit to the land where Christian monasticism first flourished, with spiritual giants such as St. Anthony the Great, St. Paul the Hermit, and St. Mary of Egypt, Pope Francis urged priests and religious to look to the Desert Fathers to fight 7 great temptations.
Addressing clergy, religious and seminarians during a prayer meeting at the Coptic Catholic seminary in Maadi, the Pope thanked priests and consecrated men and women for their witness among “many challenges and often few consolations.”
He encouraged them to be “a positive force” amid many “prophets of destruction and condemnation,” by not succumbing to 7 great temptations in daily life that can lead priests and religious to become “neither fish nor fowl.”
“Resisting these temptations is not easy,” the pope acknowledged, “but it is possible if we are grafted on to Jesus: ‘Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me’ (Jn 15:4).”
“The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we are alive and fruitful! Only in this way can we preserve the wonder and the passion of our first encounter with God, and experience renewed excitement and gratitude in our life with God and in our mission.”
The quality of our consecration depends on the quality of our spiritual life,” he said.
Pope Francis therefore urged priests and religious to “draw upon to the example of Saint Paul the Hermit, Saint Anthony, the holy Desert Fathers, and the countless monks and nuns who by their lives and example opened the gates of heaven to so many of our brothers and sisters.”
“We venerate the Holy Cross, the instrument and sign of our salvation. When we flee the Cross, we flee the resurrection!” he said.
Here are the 7 great temptations Pope Francis proposed:
1. The temptation to let ourselves be led, rather than to lead. The Good Shepherd has the responsibility of guiding the sheep (cf. Jn 10:3-4), of bringing them to fresh pastures and springs of flowing water (cf. Ps 23). He cannot let himself be dragged down by disappointment and pessimism: “What can I do?” He is always full of initiative and creativity, like a spring that flows even in the midst of drought. He always shares the caress of consolation even when he is broken- hearted. He is a father when his children show him gratitude, but especially when they prove ungrateful (cf. Lk 15:11-32). Our faithfulness to the Lord must never depend on human gratitude: “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:4, 6, 18).
2. The temptation to complain constantly. It is easy to always complain about others, about the shortcomings of superiors, about the state of the Church and society, about the lack of possibilities. But consecrated persons, though the Spirit’s anointing, are those who turn every obstacle into an opportunity, and not every difficulty into an excuse! The person who is always complaining is really someone who doesn’t want to work. It was for this reason that the Lord said to the pastors: “Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Heb 12:12; cf. Is 35:3).
3. The temptation to gossip and envy. It is a great danger when consecrated persons, instead of helping the little ones to grow and to rejoice in the successes of their brothers and sisters, allow themselves to be dominated by envy and to hurt others through gossip. When, instead of striving to grow, they start to destroy those who are growing; instead of following their good example, they judge them and belittle their value. Envy is a cancer that destroys the body in no time: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mk 3:24-25). In fact, “through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wis 2:24). Gossip is its means and its weapon.
4. The temptation to compare ourselves to others. Enrichment is found in the diversity and uniqueness of each one of us. Comparing ourselves with those better off often leads to grudges; comparing ourselves with those worse off often leads to pride and laziness. Those who are always comparing themselves with others end up paralyzed. May we learn from Saints Peter and Paul to experience the diversity of qualities, charisms and opinions through willingness to listen and docility to the Holy Spirit.
5. The temptation to become like Pharaoh, that is to harden our hearts and close them off to the Lord and our brothers and sisters. Here the temptation is to think that we are better than others, and to lord it over them out of pride; to presume to be served rather than to serve. It is a temptation that, from the very beginning, was present among the disciples, who – as the Gospel tells us – “on the way argued with one another who was the greatest” (Mk 9:34). The antidote to this poison is: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35).
6. The temptation to individualism. As a well-known Egyptian saying goes: “Me, and after me, the flood!” This is the temptation of selfish people: along the way, they lose sight of the goal and, rather than think of others, they are unashamed to think only of themselves, or even worse, to justify themselves. The Church is the community of the faithful, the Body of Christ, where the salvation of one member is linked to the holiness of all (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-27; Lumen Gentium, 7.) An individualist is a cause of scandal and of conflict.
7. The temptation to keep walking without direction or destination. Consecrated men and women can lose their identity and begin to be “neither fish nor fowl.” They can live with a heart between God and worldliness. They can forget their first love (cf. Rev 2:4). Indeed, when they lose clear and solid identity, consecrated men and women end up walking aimlessly; instead of leading others, they scatter them. Your identity as sons and daughters of the Church is to be Copts – rooted in your noble and ancient origins – and to be Catholics – part of the one and universal Church: like a tree that, the more deeply rooted it is in the earth, the higher it reaches to the heavens!
Pope Francis concluded his meeting with priests and religious, saying: “May the Holy Family protect and bless all of you, your country and its entire people. You are always in my heart and in my prayers. Take heart and keep moving forward with the help of the Holy Spirit! “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice in him!” And please, don’t forget to pray for me!” 8:04:02 PM
Une quinzaine de soeurs bénédictines vivent, travaillent et prient à Martigné-Briand, non loin d´Angers, dans un ancien corps de ferme magnifiquement rénové. Une confiturerie et l´hôtellerie constituent leur principal gagne-pain. Leur charisme ? L´ouverture aux autres, aspect très important pour la fondatrice de l´ordre de Ste Bathilde, auxquelles elles appartiennent, une vie intérieure forte, une vraie simplicité et un véritable esprit de liberté ...