CHAPTER XX. Of Reverence at Prayer
25 Feb. 27 June. 27 Oct.
If, when we wish to make any request to men in power, we presume not to do so except with humility and reverence; how much more ought we with all lowliness and purity of devotion to offer our supplications to the Lord God of all things? And let us remember that not for our much speaking, but for our purity of heart and tears of compunction shall we be heard. Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure, except it be perchance prolonged by the inspiration of Divine Grace. But let prayer made in common always be short: and at the signal given by the Superior, let all rise together.
Among the chapters of the Holy Rule that most shaped the soul of Mother Mectilde and left its imprint on her prayer is this one. In this chapter— one that each brother ought to copy out and learn well—Saint Benedict treats of of a monk’s secret exchanges with God in the silence of adoration. Saint Benedict sets forth four characteristics of the prayer that he would see us practice. These are humility, reverence, lowliness, and purity of devotion. These four characteristics of Benedictine prayer are the very ones that Mother Mectilde practiced and taught. She writes:
The principal thing in our application to prayer must be to hold ourselves before the grandeur and the supreme majesty of God in the Most Holy Sacrament with the profoundest respect, with a total confidence and abandonment, with submission and with a simple acceptance of all the dispositions of Divine Providence, each one according to his degree of grace, either by making some act or in another way.
Do you not recognise in this passage the four characteristics of Benedictine prayer: humility and reverence, lowliness and purity of devotion? In another place, Mother Mectilde writes:
Be faithful to remain in the presence of God without getting worked up because you can do nothing. Jesus Christ is the one who lives in us; we have only to cleave to Him in humility and simplicity of heart and of spirit . . . . Let it not upset you to remain inactive in the presence of God. Should He want nothing from you other than silence and ennothingment, you will always be doing much if you abandon yourself with reserve to His power. Be faithful on this point. Don’t become all troubled by distractions. Let them pass, and remain humbly at the feet of Jesus, counting yourself unworthy of His graces. (Letter n° 1746 to M. Marie de Jésus Chopinel, May 1649)
There is one practical consideration that can be very useful: it is to begin and end one’s time of adoration punctually and peacefully.
Given that the religious souls of this house are completely dedicated and immolated to the glory of the Most Holy Sacrament, it is necessary that they make a real effort to be most punctual in offering tirelessly their respects and their adorations, taking care to carry out worthily what they owe this divine Majesty, so utterly humbled, without omitting or neglecting anything.
Finally, Mother Mectilde encourages us mightily:
Secret prayer is not so burdensome as you think. You have only to go to it with the intention of abandoning yourself completely to Jesus and of submitting yourself to His most holy will, accepting all that it may please Him to send you: darkness, incapacities, restlessness, and temptations. Humble yourself and learn to be content with God’s good pleasure. (N° 2248 to the Countess of Châteauvieux)
Mother Mectilde shares to an eminent degree in the special graces that are characteristic of so many of her contemporaries: Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (1575—1629); Charles de Condren (1588–1641); Jean–Jacques Olier (1608–1657); Saint Jean Eudes (1601–1680); the Ursuline of Tours and of Québec, Saint Marie de l’Incarnation (1599–1672) and her son, Dom Claude Martin (1619–1696) of the Congregation of Saint Maur; Saint Vincent de Paul (1581–1660); Saint Louise de Marillac (1591–1660); Saint Louis–Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673–1716), and a host of others. In the first quarter of the 20th century, Blessed Columba Marmion achieved what Mother Mectilde had begun in the 17th century: a luminous synthesis of the Rule of Saint Benedict with the contributions of the so–called French School. What are the attributes of the French School? I have identified twelve of them:
1. A personal experience of God, nourished from the sacred liturgy, Holy Scripture, and the writings of the Fathers.
2. A penetrating awareness of the grandeur of the Divine Majesty and a corresponding sense of man’s vocation to adore God with profound reverence and humility.
3. An attraction to the mysteries of Christ and a desire to participate in all of the states of Christ in His mysteries.
5. Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
6. Devotion to the Holy Ghost and inward attention to His movements and direction.
7. An intense and all–encompassing devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, expressed in acts of consecration and filial servitude.
8. A sense of the horror of sin and of the need for reparation.
9. A positive anthropology that sees man as capax Dei, “capacity for God”; the desire for holiness in every level of society and in all walks of life.
10. Zeal for souls and for the expansion of the Church among all nations.
11. The reform and renewal of monastic houses and of religious life in all its forms, often fired by mystical graces and and the bestowal of a profusion of charisms.
12. A lofty conception of the dignity of the priesthood and ardour for the sanctification of the clergy.
Mother Mectilde exemplifies all the attributes of the French School, not by copying an abstract ideal but by submitting to the operations of divine grace in her soul and by entering obediently into the varying circumstances by which Divine Providence directed the course of her life.