Since mental prayer brings our intellect to the light of God, and keeps our will exposed to the flames of divien love, there is nothing which can better dispel the darkness with which ignorance and error have obscured our intelligence, nor better purify our hearts from all our depraved affections. It is the water of benediction which should serve to wash away the iniquities of our souls, to refresh our hearts consumed by the thirst of our cupidity, and to nourish the first seeds which virtue has there planted, and which are good desires.
Saint Francis de Sales
In the exercise of love, all virtues do spring up and grow.
Johannes Tauler OP (1300–1361)
Mental prayer becomes the grave of pride… [and] also that of sensuality.
Vitalis Lehodey OCR (1857–1948)
This blog has been going for five years now. Hopefully in that time I’ve learned how to write better. (Some of the first posts are dreadful in terms of style.) In that time, I’ve met many people thanks to this blog, and I’m very glad for that. It is important to “go to heaven together with others,” as we learn from the documentation for the canonization of Saint John of the Cross, and the internet is no exception to this rule.
In the past five years, I’ve also expanded my horizons considerably and learned from a lot more saints, blesseds, and men and women of God. For this present, medium-length post, I want to go back to where I began for a moment and meditate on that. There are two quotes with which I started off this blog, and I think they are still highly relevant. They inspire and set a very robust framework.
is frequently the treasure of persons hidden in the world… souls who live by it in all simplicity, without visions, without miracles, but with such a flame of love for God and neighbour that good happens all around them without noise and without agitation.
And Father Lallemant says this:
Without contemplation we will never advance far toward virtue… we will never break free of our weaknesses and our imperfections. We will always be attached to the earth, and will never raise ourselves much above the sentiments of nature. We will never be able to offer a perfect service to God. But with contemplation we will do more in a month, for ourselves and for others, than we would have been able to do without it in ten years. It produces… acts of sublime love for God such as one can hardly ever accomplish without this gift… and finally, it perfects faith and all the virtues.
Contemplation on the muddy roads of this world is something that we need, but it is also something that the world needs in order to better realize both its own internal, historical ends and its supernatural, surpahistorical ends. Without contemplation, we just grind along. Things do not roll as they should. Hearts are rent. Vocies are cracked. The caverns into which God wishes to enter do not open up. But with contemplation – I mean the contemplation that we have on the road and not only the contemplation that is had in the cloister – God’s plans are efficacious, and the world opens up, in ways that may be visible but which also may pass unnoticed except for briefs glimpses, to the evangelical light that is trying to shine into every crevice of this twisted, but detailed, world.
All the consolations which God ever gave should be gladly given up [if it comes to it], if it be to His glory. This is the harvest of the corn… on which we shall live eternally, and which make us rich in God. Thus the virtues are made perfect, and sorrow is turned to eternal wine. By such men, and by their lives and their patience, all those who know them and all their neighbours are taught and changed for the better. And so the corn of their virtues is sown and multiplied for the benefit of all good men.
Blessed Jan van Ruusbroec (1293–1381)
Today in Rome Pope Francis has canonized Elizabeth Catez, also known as Elizabeth of the Trinity, a discalced Carmelite nun who lived in Dijon almost contemporaneously with Thérèse in Lisieux. Of course, Elizabeth, who is a favourite of myself and I’m sure many others on this blog, has been a saint for a long time now. The papal action only confirms to us that which God and all the blessed already know: this young girl from Côte-d’Or, so firm and steely in her resolutions and so gradually overcome by a gentle transfiguration of her determined eyes, sees “her Three” face to face and is a model of virtue and learning. But it is nice to have the confirmation. Today Elizabeth is a saint.
But perhaps more importantly, she wants us to be, or become, saints today also. This young woman was so determined in all that she did, she wishes to bind us, too, to the determination of love which Christ and her beloved Saint Paul taught us. So I want to make a post about this.
In her Last Retreat, the new saint comments on a great passage of the apostle (Eph 4:22–24):
You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Voilà the path traced out. All that is needed is to dispossess oneself to walk thereon as God intends.
That is it. Only one thing is necessary (cf. Lk 10:42). But what a thing it is! If we are detached and dispossessed (in the will, not just materially), God will take those chasms in our will and knowledge and fill them with himself – that is, fill them with faith, hope, and charity. That is the “new and living way” (Heb 10:20), “the way” (Jn 14:6), who is Christ Jesus, the Crucified One who nonetheless saw the Father face to face.
How little we have to put in practice – but yet, also how much. In just a few words, the new saint captures the heart of the Christian religion.
Today’s is the most significant canonization for me, personally, since I became Catholic. I am so pleased and so ready to celebrate it. But at the same time, the country that I live in has entered a deep and prolonged period of mourning (due to the recent passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whom Thais regard perhaps more as a father than a king). So even when God gives, he also asks us to suffer (sometimes together, in compassion, with our neighbours). Suffering exists abundantly in this life, though it takes on new meaning in faith. It is a truth that, I think, Saint Elizabeth Catez would not mind us being reminded of.
There are times in life when a man’s whole bulwark of virtues seems to crumble, as if all the powers of the will sustaining it had given out. When this happens you will find yoruself confronted with the supreme test of love, for you will have gone so far as your possibilities will have allowed you to go, and in your soul, now stripped naked before God, there will be no alternative to opening up your weakness to lvoe of another’s making – love of the making of the heart of Jesus – and becoming but his instrument, abandoned to him at last in faith.
René Voillaume (1905–2003)