Posted November 6, 2003
A Closer Look At The Spiritual Writer
Jean-Pierre de Caussade
Jean Pierre de Caussade
"Etre Dans le Rien"
"...often indeed God places certain souls in this state, which is called emptiness of the spirit or of the intelligence; it is also called: being in nothingness (etre dans le rien).
This annihilation of our own spirit disposes us wonderfully to receive that of Jesus Christ. This mystical death of the operations of our own activity renders our soul apt for the reception of divine operations." -- from a letter to Sister Mary-Antoinette de Mahuet - 1731
Little is known about the life of this Jesuit priest beyond the bare facts of his career. He lived during the last quarter of the seventeenth century and into the first half of the eighteenth.
Born in Toulouse, Jean-pierre de Caussade joined the Jesuit novitiate there when he was eighteen, and was ordained priest and took his final vows in 1708. For a time he taught grammar, physics and logic in the Jesuit College in Toulouse, after which he devoted himself to preaching. In 1731 he was appointed spiritual director in charge of the Jesuit retreat house in Nancy. It was here, between 1731 and1740, that he undertook the spiritual direction of the Nuns of the Visitation. In 1740 he was back in Toulouse, and for the next three years was appointed Rector in various Jesuit colleges. His letters at the time describe his dislike of his duties there, which consisted in administration and dealing with important officials and so on, and his attempts to resign himself to them and to his duty to surrender to the will of God. In 1746 he returned to the house of the Professed at Toulouse, where he died in 1751 at the age of 76.
Notes of his talks circulated hand to hand and because of fears of accusations of heresy, it was not until 1860, over a 100 years after his death, that the text was first published under the title of l'Abandon a la Providence Divine".
He had a habit of always looking at the good side and favorable aspect of everything.
"This fortunate habit keeps me out of danger and, in a certain way, prevents me thinking, judging or speaking evil of anyone".
Recurring Themes in his Teaching
These profound thoughts are not to be read only, but meditated on repeatedly!
Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence
Let us acknowledge that we are incapable of becoming holy by our own effort and put our trust in God.
We must use only what God gives us to do and suffer.
We must put all speculation aside and, with childlike willingness accept all that God presents to us. What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.
God alone knows what is right for (the soul) and that if it relied on human guidance it would inevitably lose its way.
You give bread to feed me, soap to cleanse me, fire to purify me and a chisel to shape my human form into one worthy of heaven. You give me everything I need. What I seek elsewhere seeks me out and offers itself to me through all creation.
Any soul which has once and for all completely submitted itself to God should always interpret everything favorably.
The Sacrament of the Present Moment
Uninterruptedly your life will flow through the unfathomed abyss where you have nothing to do but love and cherish what each moment brings, considering it as the best possible thing for you.
When God lives in us we have nothing to help us beyond what he gives us moment by moment. Nothing else is provided and no road is marked out.
The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your love and faith.
Surrender to God's Will
There is absolutely nothing that gives more peace or does more to make us holy than obeying the Will of God.
Now if we see the Will of God in the most trifling affairs, in every misfortune, and in every disaster, we shall accept them all with an equal joy, delight and respect.
We must completely forget ourselves so that we regard ourselves as an object which has been sold and over which we no longer have any right. Once we have this foundation all we need to do is spend our lives rejoicing that God is God and being so wholly abandoned to his Will that we are quite indifferent as to what we do and equally indifferent as to what use he makes of our activities.
Thus we have two duties to fulfil: we must actively seek to carry out God's Will into effect and passively accept all that his Will sends us.
The Promptings of the Holy Spirit as opposed to the promptings of self-love
For divine action secretly informs the heart of its purpose through the instincts rather than through the mind, indicating that either by chance happenings making the heart respond at random, or through necessity, in which case there is no choice, or through impulses to which there is an instinctive response.
God works through these promptings by unexpected and hidden impulses. This is why we must always remain simple and pliant and responsive to the slightest impulses.
Such a soul realizes that it can do nothing better than deal with whatever crops up without the careful thought it formerly used to need. It must act at random following the promptings of grace, which cannot lead it astray.
Limitations of the Mind and Senses
The mind must be relegated to the lowest, as if it were a dangerous slave. A slave from which a really good man could benefit greatly if he knew how to handle it, but one which could also harm him seriously, if it were not kept under tight control.
This work in our souls cannot be accomplished by cleverness, intelligence or any subtlety of mind, but only by completely abandoning ourselves to divine action, becoming like metal poured into a mould, or a canvas waiting for a brush of marble under the sculptor's hands.
Full of joy and confidence, we must ignore the deception of appearances.
Never mind weariness, illness, lack of feeling, irritability, exhaustion, the snares of the devil and of men. With all that they create of distrust, jealousy, prejudice, and evil imagings. Let us soar like an eagle above these clouds with our eyes fixed on the sun and its rays.
There is nothing safer and less likely to lead us astray than the darkness of faith.
So God hides himself in order to raise souls up to that perfect faith which will discover him under every kind of disguise.
For we are judging by our senses and our reason that which can only be measured by faith.
To discover God just as clearly in very minor or ordinary things as in the big things of life, is to have a far from normal faith.
Faith which sees good in all things and knows that all is for the best remains full of a confident courage.
The more the senses distrust, rebel, despair, the more faith tells them: "It is God's Will, all is well." There is nothing that faith cannot overcome; it triumphs over everything and however dark the clouds may be it breaks through to truth, holds fast to it and never lets it go.
Wonderful mystery of Love! To deprive a heart of God, that only longs for him! For by this means alone can perfect faith be established in souls
How fortunate we are if we understand God's loving strictness and eagerly co-operate with it. We rise above all that passes away and repose in the unchanging and infinite and no longer put our trust in created things but have dealings with them only when God wills it.
It is really useless to become agitated, for all that happens to us is like a dream. Shadowy images come and go and dreams passing through our sleeping mind give us both pain and pleasure. Our soul is the plaything of these phantoms, but when we awaken we know at once that they have not really affected it.
Let us live in that sublime region where God and his Will govern an eternity which remains unvarying changeless. For in this entirely spiritual existence, the transcendental, the inexpressible, keep souls infinitely remote from everything connected with earthly shadows and tangible creation and all the anxiety and agitation and constant change of mood experienced by the senses where everything happens inconsequentially and in a perpetual state of flux.