Humility

The one cure for repeated unfaithfulness is to lament it, to be peacefully humble over it, and to turn again to God as soon as may be.  Until we die life’s difficulties and humiliations will be with us because of our besetting ingratitude and unfaithfulness. Yet provided that this is the result of our weakness of nature without affection of the heart, all is well. For God recognizes our weakness; he is aware of our wretchedness and our powerlessness to shun all unfaithfulness.  He perceives, further, that it is for our good to be reduced to that pitiful state since, failing it, we should be unable to resist the assaults of presumptuous pride and of secret trust in ourselves. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 198 (emphasis mine)

Hopefully these words give us great peace. When we realize that we are powerless “to shun all unfaithfulness” toward God, the burden to rely on ourselves is lifted, and what we are left with is humility.

Father de Caussade continues and explains that we will always have our imperfect natures unto death, but by embracing our shortcomings, Jesus cannot refuse us:

O God! How insidious is self-love!  Go in dread of this accursed self-love, remembering that, despite every effort of yours, it will die finally and irretrievably only in that last moment of your life. Offer no resistance, therefore, but allow the self to be abased, humiliated and destroyed.  there is nothing more calculated to purify the soul, nor can you bring to Holy communion a frame of mind more harmonious with that state of obliteration to which Jesus Christ is reduced in that mystery.  He will be unable to repulse you when you come into his presence with abysmal wretchedness and in humility verging on self-annihilation. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 199 (emphasis mine)

Quest for Perfection

Uphold yourself in this blessed longing [to be rid of your sin]; offer up your prayers; be patient in your petitions; above all humiliate yourself before God: he it is who will complete the work he has begun in you; there is none other able to perform it.  -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 198 [Fr. de Caussade is writing to a nun] (emphasis mine)

The nun to whom Fr. de Caussade was writing, Sister Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil, may have lamented her weakness and sin, which he responded by saying that only God can work out our perfection, and only God can satisfy all of our desires. While it is a pious practice to remind ourselves of our wretchedness, if we are not at peace waiting on God’s perfect timing to heal us, it can serve our self-love or pride.

Just as our deplorable self-love feeds on praise, it also feeds on fault-finding. If we bemoan our sin and weakness without being in a peaceful state, it only fuels our depraved pride and keeps the focus on ourselves instead of on God. This is what Fr. de Caussade is advising when he offers to Sr. de Vioménil to “offer up…prayers”, “be patient in…petitions”, and “humiliate [herself] before God”.

It is not easy for prideful persons, or human beings, to be in a peaceful state when thinking about our faults. But when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and know that he is with us always, God will offer the grace that we need to wait patiently on him, who is sole healer of all.

Unreserved Self-Abandonment

If God at times takes tranquillity away, let it go with all the rest.  For ever God remains, and it is enough to love him with the greater purity in that he alone remains.  At such times, therefore, by those interior deprivations which nature so abominates as its final death, its ultimate annihilation and its final loss. Let us be patient. Fiat! Fiat! Only by the ways of loss, self-abnegation, unreserved self-abandonment, do we make steady progress towards perfection. –from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 414

Unreserved self-abandonment implies that abandonment alone is not enough. With haste we must throw caution to the wind and look only to our Lord Jesus. Not saintly thoughts, not good deeds, but Jesus Christ alone must be our guide, our light, our center.

Jesus, who loves us without fail.

Jesus who never goes away.

Jesus, who already knows all the sin in us — past, present, and future — adores us in an intimate way.  There is no act, thought, idea or even prayer that surpasses him.

On the same page, Father de Caussade continues [he is writing to one of the sisters]:

It is precisely the lively consciousness you have of your extreme frailty which must have been one of the things which helped you most, since, in making you realize that you are liable to fall at any moment, it instills in you a thorough distrust of yourself, and enables you to put into practice a blind trust in God. It is in this sense that the Apostle said: “For when I feel most weak, then am I more powerful, because the acute sense of my weakness clothes me, through a more complete trust, with all the strength of Jesus Christ.” (emphasis mine)

It is only when we recognize and firmly acknowledge our weakness and inability to do anything apart from God that we stop relying on ourselves and develop this “blind trust in God” of which Fr. de Caussade speaks. Of course, God can work however he chooses, however, this distrust of ourselves and trust in God will more than likely be a gradual change.

Again, it is important to remember that the recognition of our sinfulness and frailty is a grace given to us by God, and by extension, the trust in God that comes about because of it is also from him.

Faith

“Let it be our custom to see everything from the great standpoint of faith. Then all that happens in this world, whether it inspires fear or desire, will scarcely affect us…In future, then, do not forget this: a simple fiat said of your present troubles and of those which you fear, whether for yourself or for others, will be enough to secure you a rich treasure of peace, calm and tranquility upon this earth. Though this practice does not give you perfect peace at once, at least it will fill you with joy, and will bring you lasting comfort in all your troubles and in all your fears.” -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg 301-302 (emphasis mine)

What does Father de Caussade mean when he talks about faith here? Faith that God is with us. Faith that God will take care of us. Faith that God is allowing this or that for love of us. We must have faith to say, “Yes, Lord, yes. I accept all that you offer and all that you ask of me. You are my King; I am your creature.”

When we firmly believe in our hearts (not just in our heads) that God is acting in our best interest in every moment, in every circumstance, we can have this faith of which Father de Caussade speaks. 

How does this heart knowledge come to us? Only through God’s grace. We can and should pray for it if we struggle to trust in God in this way. 

Where Can We Find God?

Summarized in his book Consoling the Heart of Jesus, Father Michael Gaitley, MIC writes the following three-part definition of St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer of recollection, “(1) a particularly effective form of prayer that always lies within our power to practice (2) by which we keep the Lord interiorly present (3) by gazing on him or speaking with him there.”

How can we keep God present in our life apart from our prayer times? Often, we may find that we compartmentalize God because, frankly, it’s difficult to recollect upon God when we are immersed in our day-to-day duties and leisure’s of life. And yet, St. Teresa calls the prayer of recollection, “One of the best ways to develop a deeper life of prayer…”

The way that we can reconcile this seeming paradox is by the following from Father de Caussade: 

“There is no moment at which God does not present himself under the guise of some suffering, some consolation or some duty.  All that occurs within us, around us and by our means covers and hides his divine action. His action is there, most really and certainly present, but in an invisible manner, the result of which is that we are always being taken by surprise and that we only recognize his operation after it has passed. Could we pierce the veil and were we vigilant and attentive, God would reveal himself continuously to us and we should rejoice in his action in everything that happens to us.”  -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 18-19. (emphasis mine)

Divine action is God. And everything, save for sin, is Divine action. When we think about the interior recollection of God as St. Teresa talked about, we need only look to the present moment to see where God is and how God is offering Himself to us. Suffering. Consolation. Duty. 

Why Blog About a Book Written in the 18th Century?

Father de Caussade wrote about abandoning ourselves to God through a treatise he wrote and letters written to sisters for whom he was a spiritual director. What does it mean to “abandon ourselves to God?” In short, it means finding peace in all that happens to us and in all that we are — up to and including our sinful natures — because God is working through us in ways that we can’t possibly understand. This is not to condone sin, but to know that God allows and uses sin to draw us ever nearer to Himself.

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 

I’m not going to lie to you. This book is nearly 450 pages and the author basically says the same thing over and over and over again. Despite this, however, I have dog-eared many pages, underlined hundreds of lines of text, sectioned off several paragraphs with stars and asterisks, and written my own notes in plenty of margins. 

The author has an uncanny knack for writing the same message but in subtlety different ways, such that one chapter can move you while another chapter won’t make sense to you for many months later, if at all.

Why should I read it if it’s not going to make sense? Good question. If the quotes found on this blog or in the book itself don’t make sense to you, then maybe God is not calling you to read it right now. If that’s the case, maybe pick it up at a later time in your life. That is what happened to me. This book sat on my bookshelf mostly unread because I didn’t understand it for probably ten years.   But since I picked it up again, I haven’t put it back down.

If you feel called, I encourage you to read Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence. It’s a beautiful commentary on how God uniquely works in each of our lives and gives us a mere glimpse of His great and unending love for us.