Neither divine consolation nor human

Christ souffrant“The bother and troubles that your charge give you are the bother and troubles of obedience. If you bear them with a little bit of fidelity, they will produce in your soul a great interior prayer; God will give you this when it pleases Him to do so. Let Him have His way.(Jean de Bernières to Mectilde de Bar)

On 28 August 1650, Mother Mectilde arrived at Rambervillers, the monastery of her profession as a Benedictine, having been elected prioress by the community. Mother Mectilde finds Rambervillers in dire straits. It is not the harbour of silence and peace that one would expect a Benedictine cloister to be. On 7 January 1651, Mother Mectilde writes to her faithful friend and counselor Jean de Bernières:

You will know that we are in [the midst of] wars, alarms, and apprehensions. Here all one talks about is sword, and fire, and famine. The few people who remain in this [part of the] country are nearly in despair, so extreme are their woes. Our house is always full of people who fling themselves into it to avoid the rifle shots of the soldiers who fire on those whom they meet. Alas! You used to say to me sometimes that I needed to be at Rambervillers in order to die a solitary. It is a strange solitude here.

Jean de Bernières replies to Mother Mectilde:

The sufferings, necessities, and extremities in which you find yourselves would cause me to grieve did I not know the designs that God has upon you, which is to reduce you to nothingness so that you might live entirely for Him. All the same, my dear sister, make use of the means that Providence makes available to you to get out of the place where you are, because of the extremity to which the war has reduced you. It is better that you should withdraw to Paris, to subsist there and to get subsistence for your refuge to help your sisters in Lorraine, than to have a convent where you might live in solitude, or to take over an abbey. Since Divine Providence has attached you where you are, you must die the death of obedience and of the Cross there. The bother and troubles that your charge give you are the bother and troubles of obedience. If you bear them with a little bit of fidelity, they will produce in your soul a great interior prayer; God will give you this when it pleases Him to do so. Let Him have His way. Don’t torment yourself over your interior prayer: do it as you can, and as God allows you to do it, and that’s enough. Those loving unions, those mystic reposes, that you envisage, haven’t the value of the pure suffering that is yours, since you have neither divine consolation nor human.

Personally, I find great wisdom in Bernières counsel to Mectilde de Bar. When one finds oneself in distressing circumstances, one is bound to make use of “the means Providence makes available” to get oneself out of the situation. God asks no one to remain inactive in the face of suffering, be it one’s own suffering or that of others. Once, however, one has done all that is humanly possible to change one’s circumstances, if nothing avails, the best thing is to abandon oneself to the Will of God, and to go forward humbly, trusting in God’s Providence and saying, with the holy prophet Job and with Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, “Even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15), and again, with the psalmist, “In te, Domine, speravi; non confundar in aeternum — In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me not forever be put to shame” (Psalm 30:2).

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