SOUL FOOD Talk 5: ABANDONMENT TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE
[1.] This classic, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J. is a Catholic treasure of the first order. I prefer the translation by John Beevers. Father de Caussade was born in France on Mar. 6, 1675. According to Beevers: “Caussade is certainly among the ten most significant spiritual guides of the last few centuries.” Although a Jesuit, de Caussade owes much to Carmelite spirituality and St. Francis de Sales .
Near the beginning of his book, Father de Caussade comments: “O you who are appalled by the terrible ideas of perfection that you have formed for yourselves; it is for your consolation that God has willed me to write this. “ How wise he was! We do appall ourselves by what we imagine God wants of us!
[2.] “Abandonment” does not mean here anything negative, but is rather the ideal response to God: to yield completely, to surrender and to relinquish. What do we surrender? Our entire will, mind, soul, heart, body. To what/whom do we surrender? Divine Providence. We have all heard the words, “God provides.” Providence means the same here, but in a much fuller, all-encompassing way. Not that this was any new idea. For example between 1206-1280 AD, St. Albert the Great urged all Christians: “Commit every particle of your being in all things, down to the smallest details of your life, eagerly and with perfect trust to the unfailing and most sure providence of God.” [p. 17]
[3.] St. Theresa the Little Flower was born in 1873 and de Caussade’s book was first published in 1861, with many editions following. It seems quite likely that Theresa and her family were quite familiar with this well-loved spiritual book. Certainly, her little way of spiritual childhood, doing little things with great love is a clear reflection of the spiritual way outlined in Abandonment. Beevers tells us: “St. Theresa always insisted that it was not the splendor or the greatness of our deeds that matters. The smallest, most trivial task we accomplish is supremely important if it is done in obedience to God’s will and for love of him.”
More than two centuries earlier de Caussade had explained: “To achieve the height of holiness, people must realize that all they count as trivial and worthless is what can make them holy…consider your life and you will see it consists of countless trifling actions. Yet God is satisfied with them, for doing them as they should be done is the part we have to play in our striving for perfection.” [p. 15]
[4.] Beevers sums up the teaching of de Caussade in this way: “…most of us are very ordinary creatures with humdrum lives, work to be done, and with every day filled with a multiplicity of trivial decisions and tasks. Our lives are made up of a stream of petty affairs, some pleasant, many boring, and a lot unpleasant and often tragic….everything in life is to be welcomed as the expression of the will of God, so we must ‘accept what we very often cannot avoid, and endure with love and resignation things which could cause us weariness and disgust.’” [p. 20]
[5.] POINTS TO PONDER:
“Embrace the present moment as an ever-flowing source of holiness.” [p. 36]
“God speaks to every individual through what happens to them moment by moment.” [ p. 20]
“If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.” [p. 20]
[6.] From where does holiness come? He explains that the mysterious growth of Christ in our souls is the fruit of his grace and his holy will, and that this fruit is produced, grows and is fed by the stream of duties put before us by God.  Actually, His Will is this stream of duties given us one moment at a time. “What makes us holy is the Blessed Trinity in the depths of our hearts when we give them up to God’s Will.” [p. 30]
For most people, our ordinary duties are His will for us. If He wants more of us, he will give us an attraction to something greater, a true inspiration to do it. To do His will, follow these God-given inspirations. First, fulfill your ordinary duties in life. Next, if you feel called to something more, if you are attracted to it and it is not sinful, then follow the inspiration. This is the correct way to discern God’s will for yourself. He warns us, “We must make quite sure that all spiritual promptings we receive are from God. We shall know they are not divinely inspired if they withdraw us from the duties of our state of life. For these duties are the clearest indication of God’s will, and nothing should supersede them.” [p. 32]
[7.] In God’s will is all that we can possibly desire. “The more you love the more you will want and the more you will get. Every moment the will of God is stretched out before us like a vast ocean which the desires of our hearts can never empty.” He explains that even great things like mountains are but tiny grains compared to the vast desires of our hearts and the fullness of God’s will. [p. 41]
[8.] THE WORD OF GOD
One line of de Caussade which thrilled me was this one: “The written word of God is full of mysteries, and equally so is his word expressed in world events….the events of history are the incomprehensible words of this same hidden and unknown God. They are dark drops from an ocean of darkness and shadows. Every drop of water and every little stream carry traces of their source.” [p. 42] We tend to find fault with everything, but “when God speaks to us at every moment, not with words of ink on paper, but by what we suffer and do from moment to moment, should we not give equal attention to Him?” He adds that “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.” [p. 43]
“Everything is part of that completeness which is Jesus Christ, and all that happens, every event, is a stone toward the building of that heavenly Jerusalem where one day we may dwell.” p. 38
[9.] POINTS TO PONDER:
“The love of God comes to us through all creatures but hidden as it is in the Blessed Sacrament. So every moment of our lives can be a kind of communion with his love.” [p. 48] If we can begin to think of each moment as “the sacrament of the moment” we will not waste one precious moment of time.
“The present moment is an ever-flowing source of holiness.” [p. 49]
“The present moment always reveals the presence and the power of God. Our only satisfaction must be to live in the present moment as if there were nothing to expect beyond it.” [p. 50]
[10.] “If we carefully fulfill the duties imposed on us by our state of life, if we quietly follow any impulse coming from God, if we peacefully submit to the influence of grace, we are making an act of total abandonment.” [p. 66]
“God troubles about nothing but our good will. He is quite unconcerned about any other of our qualities or lack of them. All he wants from us is an honest, straightforward, simple, submissive and loyal heart.” [p. 113]
[11.] HOW EASY IT IS TO BE HOLY
“What is the secret of finding this treasure? There isn’t one. This treasure is everywhere. It is offered to us all the time and wherever we are. All creatures, friends or foes, pour it out in abundance, and it flows through every fiber of our body and soul until it reaches the very core of our being. If we open our mouths they will be filled…. [This treasure] is the ready acceptance of all that comes to us at each moment of our lives.” [p. 25]
[12.] Let me repeat here what I gave in THE YEAR OF FAITH: Father Jean-Pierre De Caussade in his classic ABANDONMENT TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE tells us: “Faith sees that Jesus Christ lives in everything and works through all history to the end of time, that every fraction of a second, every atom of matter, contains a fragment of His hidden life and His secret activity….Everything is part of that completeness which is Jesus Christ, and all that happens, every event, is a stone toward the building of that heavenly Jerusalem….”
[13.] His teaching of the “sacrament of the moment” or abandonment to the Divine Will each moment, is the perfect offering to the Father and can accomplish everything that Jesus asks of us. Every atom, every microsecond containing a fragment of His hidden life and His secret activity IN ME as I accept and adore God’s Will is a tiny stone building the heavenly Jerusalem. I have only to trust perfectly in this tiny moment. Only one moment at a time. de Caussade also says: “To be satisfied with the present moment is to relish and adore the divine will moving through all we have to do and suffer as events crowd in upon us.”
[14.] SOURCES FOR CONTEMPLATION:
St. Alphonsus de Liguori: UNIFORMITY WITH GOD’S WILL
Find both de Caussade’s ABANDONMENT TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE and St. Alphonsus’ work here, along with others: http://www.catholictreasury.info/library.php
Many many Catholic and Christian classics can be read here online.
HELIOTROPIUM [the sunflower which turns to the sun] : CONFORMITY TO GOD’S WILL : http://www.catholictradition.org/Classics/heliotropium.htm
I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me
to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.
By Dr. Benjamin E. Mays