Your Life is Hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
The Annonciades, having been obliged to flee their monastery in Bruyères, found a compassionate welcome among the Benedictines of Rambervillers. Profoundly edified, and touched to the quick by the grace of Benedictine life as it was being lived there, Mother Saint John (Catherine de Bar) requested authorisation to leave the Order of the Annonciade for the Order of Saint Benedict.
In this text, dating from Catherine de Bar’s Benedictine noviciate (1639–1640) in the monastery of Rambervillers, she reveals the depth of her Marian spirituality, already marked by the exquisite theological sensibility of the École française. Catherine de Bar follows a pious literary convention by referring to herself as “a person.” Certain characteristic Mectildian themes emerge in this text: hiddenness, Jesus Christ inwardly produced in the soul, the value of little devotions faithfully carried out, and utter nothingness in God. I know that my dear old friend, Monsignor A.B.C. will savour this text; he kept coming to mind as I translated it. Here, then, is the first part of the text; the second will follow as soon as possible.
Mary Hidden in Her Son
To the glory and praise of the august and all immaculate Mother of God. A person having confidence in the most holy Mother of God from the beginning of her religious life begged her to teach her how to pray and meditate on the sacred mysteries of Our Lord. One day, being at prayer, in the morning as usual, and wanting to occupy herself inwardly, this person addressed her amiable Mother of goodness as she was accustomed to do. This august Mother of love seemed to disappear. This person, wanted still to see her and to have her as the object reflection; this amiable Mother presented Our Lord Jesus Christ to her, and held herself standing, as it were, behind her divine Son. She made her understand that she was hidden in her Son, and that it was in her power, by her gentle kindness, to produce Him in souls and to make Him known, and that in producing Him in this way, she was even more intimately present to the soul. This grace was the fruit of little devotions and practices carried out in her honour, and the effect of her confidence. This soul was then illumined with regard to the following truths:
What is Given to Mary Goes to God
Firstly, all the duties of love, of tenderness, of confidence, of respect and of fidelity in her service redound unto God in a manner advantageous to the soul. Given that this august Mother of goodness is divinely cast into the very depths of God, all that is done in her honour returns to this, its adorable source. She herself is utterly humbled in God in a manner incomprehensible to our spirits. I daresay and I can give assurance that sincere devotion to the most pure and most immaculate Mother of God is the gateway of salvation and of the interior life.
Tenderness for Mary Leads to Union with Christ
The second truth is that although it really seems that the soul is more attached by tenderness to the most holy Virgin than to God, if the soul is faithful, she will become very learned in the ways of grace, and this tenderness, if it be holy as it ought to be, will never fail to carry the soul to a most intimate union with Our Lord Jesus Christ, and I daresay in a most singular way, because the most holy Mother of God, having no regard for herself cannot hold onto any soul for herself. This is why, of necessity, she casts them all again deeply into Jesus Christ.
Mary Cannot Be Loved Too Much
Might it please God that the whole world know this truth; one would never have a scruple about loving too much the glorious [Lady] sovereign of heaven and of earth. According to my own little experience and the manner by which I learned this, one must begin with the Mother. Then will she lead us to her divine Son. Who has more power to make Him known and to produce Him in us if not she who conceived Him by the operation o the Holy Spirit?