A Mystic of the Rosary
I return, from time to time, to a couple of recent publications on a saintly Dominican, a true mystic of the Rosary, whom I have long admired: Father Marie–Étienne Vayssière, O.P. (1864-1940). The first is a little volume — only 61 pages — by Father Marie–Ollivier Guillou, O.P., entitled La puissance de la faiblesse (Éditions Le livre ouvert, 2012). The second is a short biography, Marie–Étienne Vayssière, Ermite et provincial 1864–1940 (Le Cerf, 2012). The biography is followed by a text of Father Vayssière on devotion to Saint Dominic.
I have been blessed with many Dominican friends — you know who you are — in heaven and on earth. Among them all, Father Vayssière seems to have been given a gift for drawing souls marked by infirmities of all sorts closer to the Mother of God. All of this seems to me very fitting during this month of October.
Father Vayssière, has long occupied a place of honour in my gallery of friends in heaven. Little by little, he is being recognized as a man worthy of a place among the greatest spiritual masters of the Church’s history. I regret that he is so little known in the English-speaking world.
A Dominican solitary at La Sainte Baume in France, and guardian of the grotto of Saint Mary Magdalene for thirty-two years, Father Vayssière was a mystic of the Rosary. His life was marked by illness and, at the same time, by ceaseless prayer. Father Vayssière’s particular charism was to guide souls to the heights of contemplation by means of the Rosary. I have translated a few excerpts from his letters explaining the benefits of the Rosary in one’s life with God.
Union With Christ
The soul that lives by the Rosary makes her way quickly towards a life of union with Christ. And what are, in fact, the mysteries of the Rosary? They are the very mysteries of Jesus, the mysteries of His life, the mysteries of His grace, the mysteries of His love. The Rosary is the soul truly plunged into Jesus Himself. The Rosary is Jesus filling our spirit, our intelligence, our memory, our imagination, our vision. At each instant and in all the mysteries it is always His Person that comes to the fore, but the reality is always unique, always the same: it is Jesus.
The Flame of Love
The Rosary is not only Jesus filling the spirit; it is also Jesus penetrating and taking over the heart to warm it and set it afire. Can one remain in front of a hearth, of a blazing fire, without being penetrated, in turn, by its warmth? And what comes forth from all the mysteries of the Rosary if not warmth, and the flame of love? How can we not love the One who lavishes such love on us? The One who gives Himself without reserve?
At the Wellspring of a True Holiness
The Rosary is an hour of intimacy with Jesus and Mary, during which all the rest is forgotten. It transports us into what is most intimate to the Christian life to penetrate us with its grace and to rekindle it ceaselessly within us. One who practices the Rosary in this way is at the wellspring of a true holiness.
The Perfume of the Mysteries
One must not only say one’s Rosary, but also establish oneself in the atmosphere of the Rosary and in the thought of its mysteries and, there, breathe habitually the divine perfume that emanates from them. One does this by distributing the different mysteries of the Rosary throughout the exercises of the day. The memory of Jesus, of Mary, and of Saint Dominic, impressing itself upon the soul, saves it from the material preoccupations of the day, and allows the soul to live supernatural realities here below. And so, in this way, the Rosary is not merely recited; it is lived.
The Communion of the Evening
In Father Vayssière’s time, Holy Mass was always celebrated in the morning. This explains why he loved to call the Rosary “the communion of the evening”.
The Rosary is a communion that lasts all the day long, and the communion of the evening that brings into light and into a fruitful resolution the communion of the morning. It is not not merely a series of Ave Marias recited piously; it is Jesus reliving in the soul through the maternal action of Mary.
From Mary to the Trinity
The Rosary is a biblical and trinitarian prayer. It is a kind of lectio divina made in the open book of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. The Rosary is a Eucharistic and doxological prayer. Father Vayssière called it, “an enchainment of love from Mary to the Trinity.”