Feast of Jean-Pierre de Caussade (March 1)   Leave a comment

Above:  Nancy, France, August 24, 1914

Image Creator = Bain News Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-16805

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JEAN-PIERRE DE CAUSSADE (MARCH 7, 1675-MARCH 6, 1751)

French Roman Catholic Priest and Spiritual Director

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The Holy Spirit writes no more Gospels except in our hearts.  All we do from moment to moment is live this new gospel of the Holy Spirit.  We, if we are holy, are the paper, our sufferings and our actions are the ink.  The workings of the Holy Spirit are his pen, and with it he writes a living gospel.

–Jean-Pierre de Caussade, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 104

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Little documentation of the life of Jean-Pierre de Caussade has survived.  His now-classic work, translated into English as The Abandonment to Divine Providence or as The Sacrament of the Present Moment, was a book he wrote for the Sisters of the Visitation at Nancy, France, whom he served as their spiritual director from 1733-1740.  Father de Caussade also wrote to the Sisters after he ceased to be their spiritual director.  His book remained unpublished until 1861.

For the record, I know that at least one scholar has questioned de Caussade’s authorship of this work.  However, the assumption in this post is that our saint wrote it.

We can be certain of some biographical dates.  De Caussade, born in Cahors, France, on March 7, 1675, died in Toulouse, France, on March 6, 1751, one day prior to what would have been his seventy-sixth birthday.

Theological controversy surrounded The Abandonment to Divine Providence.  Although de Caussade was not a Quietist, some ecclesiastical officials misinterpreted his book as being a Quietist text.  Quietism, which influenced some varieties of Protestantism, was a form of mysticism that minimized the role of the Church and its sacraments.  According to Quietism, if one were sufficiently quiet, blocking out distractions both internal and external, one could hear just one voice.  The assumption of Quietism was that this voice was that of the Holy Spirit.

De Caussade was an orthodox Roman Catholic and a mystic; his counsel fit in neatly with Roman Catholic monastic spirituality and mysticism.  He wrote that God was present in the ordinary details of daily life.  Our saint wrote of the “sacrament of the present moment” and encouraged the Sisters to progress spiritually until their lives became living sacred texts, contemporary gospels the Holy Spirit was writing.

De Caussade influenced certain notable saints, including St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) and Dorothy Day (1897-1980).

De Caussade’s counsel is consistent with advice from St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).  The bumper sticker-length reduction of a portion of one of the sermons of the Bishop of Hippo Regius is,

Love God and do what you will.

The full germane text is longer, of course.  The core of the issue is:

Once for all, then, a short precept is given to you: Love, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.

In other words, if one is “in the zone” of divine love, one can do whatever one wants and honor God, for one will act out of love for God, by grace.  If one’s life has become a gospel the Holy Spirit is writing, one can love God and do what one will, by grace.  “If” is a crucial word in this scenario.

May you, O reader, live in such a manner as to be aware of the “sacrament of the present moment” in your daily life.  And may your life be another contemporary gospel the Holy Spirit is writing.  If your life is such a gospel, may it continue to be one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Jean-Pierre de Caussade

and all those who with words have filled us with desire and longing for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 728

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