Taken from: HOLY ABANDONMENT
Rt. Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey, O.C.R.
Original Pub. 1934, Dublin
NATURE OF HOLY ABANDONMENT
EFFORTS PERMISSIBLE IN ABANDONMENT
IT would be a serious practical error to consider abandonment as a purely passive virtue, and to believe that the soul has simply to fall asleep in the arms of God Whose Providence bears her along. Such an opinion is directly opposed to the teaching of Pope Leo XIII: "There is not and cannot be a truly passive virtue." It also implies a wrong conception of the Divine good-pleasure.
When a mother takes up her little child and places it, where she wills, the child has reached its destination by merely permitting itself to be disposed of. Undoubtedly God could lift us up in this manner, raise us to whatever degree of virtue He wished, correct instantly faults heretofore incorrigible, preserve us entirely from certain temptations, etc. Sometimes, indeed, He has acted thus. These sudden elevations, these instantaneous transformations, are not beyond His power. Still, they form exceptions to the rule, because if they occurred too frequently they would interfere with His plan. The little child has to be carried, since it cannot walk. But as we have been endowed by God with the power of free choice, He will not sanctify us without our co-operation. He will so modify His action that our advancement shall be the fruit at once of His grace and our deliberate
In the events which reveal to us His good-pleasure, God's intervention limits itself ordinarily to this: He takes us in His almighty hand, and without consulting us, often against our desire and anticipation, puts us in the position He has Himself chosen for us, whether it be a state of health or of sickness, consolation or interior trial, peace or war, tranquillity or agitation, etc. Sometimes we shall have prepared for ourselves this situation, whether good or bad. But most frequently it shall be arranged quite independently of us by God, Who disposes of us at His pleasure. And once placed in it, we must discharge, with the assistance of grace, the duties appertaining thereto. Now, these duties can be very complex.
To render abandonment possible, we have first to establish ourselves in holy indifference, and then to maintain ourselves in that state by the assiduous practice of Christian mortification. This is the labour of a lifetime.
Before the occurrence of an event, the soul puts herself into the hands of God, taking up an attitude of simple and general expectation. This, however, does not exclude prudence. And what need we have of prudence! For example, in the direction of a community or in the administration of an office, so as to avoid accidents and disappointments, and in the government of our souls in order to prevent faults, temptations, aridities! All this belongs to God's signified will, and must not be neglected under the pretext of abandonment. We cannot expect God to do that which He has ordained we should do for ourselves. During the event, we must render ourselves submissive from the very first. In holy abandonment this submission takes the form of a trustful, filial, loving adhesion to the Divine good-pleasure. Perhaps we shall require to make an effort to bring ourselves to this disposition and to maintain ourselves therein. But even though our submission should be as prompt and easy as it is full and affectionate, even though our wills simply acquiesce in the will of God, it is always an act or a voluntary disposition. In holy abandonment charity is first in operation, and this puts in action all the other virtues. Hence Bossuet describes abandonment as "a cluster or assemblage of acts of faith the most perfect, of hope the most complete and confident, of love the purest and the most loyal." 1 If whilst submitting ourselves antecedently to the final decision, we think it well to ask God, as we have the right to do, to remove this chalice from us, this also is an act or a series of acts.
After the event, we may have to fear serious consequences, spiritual or temporal, for ourselves or for others, as happens in the case of public calamities, persecutions, the ruin of our fortune, calumnies, etc. If it is in our power to prevent such consequences or to lessen them, we ought to do all that depends on us without awaiting the direct interposition of Providence. For God usually prefers to act through secondary causes; and perhaps it is precisely upon us He is counting in the present circumstances. Anyhow, in such emergencies we shall often find duties to discharge.
Moreover, after the event, we have to draw from such manifestations of the Divine good-pleasure the fruit which God Himself expects from them, unto His greater glory and our spiritual good: acts of thanksgiving, confidence and love, if the event has been a happy one; penitence, patience, abnegation, humility, etc., if it has been a trial; and whatever its nature, growth in the life of grace, and consequently an increase of eternal glory.
But in the practice of abandonment the signified will of God loses none of its rights. Apart from exceptions and lawful dispensations, we must continue to observe it. The duties it imposes constitute the tissue of our lives, the foundation which abandonment adorns with the wealth and variety of its embroidered work. Besides, this loving and filial conformity does not even prevent us from taking the initiative in the practice of virtue. Our rules and Divine Providence furnish a thousand daily occasions for such practice. And why should we not ourselves make a thousand more, above all in our intimate occupations with God? We are not so rich in virtue as that we can afford to disdain this powerful means of mounting higher and higher. The remuneration we receive for the work enjoined, generous as it is, must not make us indifferent to the additional and magnificent rewards to be won by works of supererogation.
We are now very far from that purely passive state in which God is supposed to do everything, and the soul has only to receive. Further on it will be shown that this passivity is really found, in varying degrees, in the mystical states, where it is necessary to second the Divine action and to put no obstacles in its way. But even in such states pure passivity is only a rare exception. Anyone who has the slightest comprehension of the economy of the Divine plan, and even the most limited experience of souls, will have to admit that holy abandonment is not a state of inactive expectancy, or a forgetfulness of prudence, or slothful indolence. The soul retains in it all her activity with regard to what concerns the signified will of God; and as for the events coming from the Divine good-pleasure, she foresees them so far as she can and does everything that depends upon her. But in the pains she takes she conforms herself to the will of God, she accommodates herself to the movements of grace, and acts in full dependence and submission with regard to Providence. It being for God, as Sovereign Master, to grant or refuse success to her undertakings, she lovingly accepts beforehand whatsoever He may decide, and thus she remains joyous and peaceful before and after the event. Away, then, with the indolent passivity of the Quietists, which disdains methodical efforts, cramps the spirit of initiative, and relaxes the holy energy of the soul!
The Quietists claim to find support for their tenets in the teaching of St. Francis de Sales. But entirely without reason. For that, it would be necessary to pick out words and phrases here and there in the writings of the holy Bishop, to isolate them from the context, and to alter their sense. We cannot cite all the passages where he teaches the opposite doctrine. But in one place he compares us to the Blessed Virgin going to the Temple, now in the arms of her parents, now with her own little steps. "It is thus the Divine Goodness wills to conduct us on our way, but wills also that we should make our own little steps, that is, that we should do what we can with the assistance of grace." 2 As a child walks when its mother places it on the ground, and allows itself to be taken up again into her arms when she wishes, "in just the same way the soul that loves the Divine good-pleasure permits herself to be carried and yet walks, too, by fulfilling with great solicitude all that appertains to God's signified will." 3 This saintly Bishop, so experienced in holy abandonment, wrote to one not less so, viz., St. Jane de Chantal: "Our Lady loves only places rendered deep by humility, contemptible by simplicity, widened by charity. She likes to be near the crib or at the foot of the Cross. . . . Let us make our way by these low valleys of humble and little virtues. There we shall behold the charity which shines amongst the affections, the lilies of purity, the violets of mortification. I entertain a very particular love for these three little virtues, namely, gentleness of heart, poverty of spirit, and simplicity of life. . . . Our sole business in this world is to receive and carry our sweet Jesus, on our tongues by preaching Him, on our arms by the accomplishment of good works, on our shoulders by bearing His yoke, that is to say, the spiritual aridities and sterilities He sends us." 4 Is this language applicable to slothful passivity? Does it not rather describe spiritual activity of a high degree? "As for me," said St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, "I should like to have a lift whereby I could elevate myself to Jesus, because I am too little to climb up the rough ladder of perfection. Thy arms, O Jesus, are the lift that must bear me up into Heaven." The Quietists should not regard this citation as favouring their views. It is simply an expression of love, of confidence, above all of humility. For the Saint does not by any means intend to remain in a state of indolent passivity until Our Lord comes to take her up in His arms and transport her to Paradise. On the contrary, she exerts herself with great activity. "To attain perfection," she added, "I have no need to grow; on the contrary, I must remain little and become more and more little day by day." And, in fact, she acquired with the help of grace a humility which kept concealed from her the possession of all kinds of gifts, the obedience of a child, wonderful abandonment in the midst of great trials, the charity of an angel of peace, and above all an incomparable love of God, but a love which knew how to derive profit from everything, which, believing in its humility that it could do nothing great, "desired to turn to account every little sacrifice, every look, every word, to benefit by the least actions and to perform them from a motive of love, to suffer from love, and even at last to die of love." 5 Is it necessary to add that all genuinely holy souls, far from waiting for God to carry them in His arms and to accomplish their duties in their behalf, rather show themselves ingenious in employing the means to increase their spiritual activity and to profit by every occurrence? The truth of this shines forth with particular evidence in the life of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity.
1. Êtats d'or, I, x, 18.
2. I Serm. Present., 2.
3. Entret., ii.
4. Histoire, viii et ix; Art. pour béatif., 27.
5. Histoire, d'une me âme, viii et ix; Art. pour béatif., 27.
Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, now Blessed, was a Carmelite nun in Dijon, France. She lived from 1880-1906 and was obedient to her mother, remaining at home until the age of twenty-two. Who does she remind you of. before entering the Carmel? Does she not look like St. Thérèse of Lizieux?
Bl. Elizabeth began each day praying before daybreak. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Rosary, and the Way of the Cross were her special prayers. She did penance, even wore a hairshirt, and constantly mortified her will. Having asked to suffer the Crown of Thorns, she began to have terrible headaches. She suffered these for two years. They disappeared at the command of her spiritual director. She lived the following: "In order to have peace one must forget about oneself."
Elizabeth had a cheerful personality. She attended family gatherings and played the piano for the guests. Yet, during these distractions and even in the midst of conversation, she tells us that she remained recollected in prayer, saying, "I cannot be distracted from God." With her mother, Elizabeth visited Lourdes and was thrilled to receive Holy Communion at the Grotto. She loved the Grotto and said she could not tear herself away.
One day, Father Valee, a Dominican, had a two-hour conversation with Elizabeth. He explained to her that the Blessed Trinity dwelt in her soul. She was immediately inspired to live a life of praise and homage to God dwelling in her. Already, she began to live "in Heaven" by remaining recollected in the "Heaven of her soul." Noise reached only the surface. She desired to lose herself in the Blessed Trinity dwelling within her soul.
At last this "mystical child" entered the Carmelite Convent. There she was completely home. As a Carmelite she received the name of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity. She understood that a Carmelite lives a life of prayer and penance offered for souls. Elizabeth desired to suffer in order to save souls and offer reparation to God. During her novitiate she passed through the "dark night of the soul." She suffered from spiritual dryness and in this "night" her virtues were perfected like gold in a furnace. When se made her profession on the Feast of Epiphany, 1902, peace one again reigned in her soul.
From reading St. Paul, Sister Elizabeth discovered her vocation or mission. She would be a "Praise of Glory" or "Laudem Gloria" praising God dwelling within her offering a ceaseless "Sanctus". She simply could not understand how a person could carelessly leave God Who dwells within the soul in order to turn to the world and earthly things. "God dwells within you, do not leave Him so often", she advised. Even as she worked the sisters noticed her recollected attitude. She once wrote, "It is wonderful to recall that, except for the vision of seeing God, we possess God as all the Saints in Heaven do. We can surely be with Him always and no one can take us away from Him. He dwells in our souls!" Sister Elizabeth devoutly referred to the Blessed Trinity as "my Three."Sister Elizabeth accepted suffering. She desired to suffer in order to save souls. She taught that suffering is so special that the Saints in Heaven must envy those still on earth who can suffer in order to save a great many souls. She offered her life as a "victim soul" and cheerfully endured her last illness that seems to have been Addison’s Disease. She taught others the value of suffering. She wrote, "there is nothing like the wood of the Cross for kindling in the soul the fire of love."
Early in 1906 it was noticed that Sister Elizabeth had become very weak. She made a retreat to prepare for the "Eternal Retreat." On August 31, 1906, Sister Elizabeth received an extraordinary grace. The Blessed Trinity was made manifest to her within her soul.
Sick as Sister Elizabeth was, she never omitted prayer. Sitting in a chair by her bed she recited prayers until one week before she died. One night she was "tempted" to go back to bed so she immediately knelt down and continued to pray! As Father Philipon, O.P. said, "She belonged to the school of Saints who seek rest and strength in sacrifice and suffering."
During the last week of her
life, Sister Elizabeth’s stomach was very ulcerated, and yet she made
frequent and lengthy visits to the Blessed Sacrament. On October 31,
she received the last rites. On November 1st, she made her confession
and received Holy Communion for the last time. On November 9th, Sister
Elizabeth died. She desired to lose her sufferings in those of Our
Blessed Lord. Her last words were the same as those of St Therese of
Lisieux: "Oh, I love Him!"
"O my God, Trinity Whom I adore, help me to become utterly forgetful of self, that I may establish myself in Thee, as changeless and as calm as though my soul were already in eternity. May nothing disturb my peace nor draw me forth from Thee, O my immutable Lord, may I penetrate more deeply every moment into the depths of Thy Mystery. Give peace to my soul: make it Thy heaven, Thy cherished dwelling place, Thy home of rest. Let me never leave Thee there alone, but keep me there all absorbed in Thee in living faith, adoring Thee, wholly yielded up to Thy creative action.
"O my Christ Whom I love, crucified by love, would that I might be the bride of Thy Heart; would that I might cover Thee with glory, and love Thee-----until I die of very love! Yet I realize my weakness, and beg Thee to help me. Immerse me in Thyself: possess me wholly: substitute Thyself for me, that my life may be but a radiance of Thy life. Enter my soul as Restorer and as Savior. O Eternal Word, Utterance of my God, I long to pass my life listening to Thee, to become docile, that I may learn all from Thee. Through all darkness, all privations, all powerlessness, I yearn to keep my eyes ever fixed on Thee and to dwell beneath Thy great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I can no longer withdraw from Thy radiance.
"O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, come down upon me, and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to Him another humanity in which He renews all His Mystery. And Thou, O Father, bend toward Thy poor little creature, cover her with Thy shadow, behold in her none other than the ‘Well beloved in Whom Thou art well pleased.'
O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I yield myself to Thee as Thy child. Immerse Thyself in me, that I may be immersed in Thee until I depart to contemplate in Thy light the abyss of Thy greatness. Amen."