April 6th is the anniversary of the death, or transitus, in 1698 of the great 17th century French Benedictine who, through her writings and her intercession, has become for many souls a mystagogue of the Sacred Host: Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament, Catherine de Bar. In the hour of her death, Mother Mectilde prayed: J’adore et je me soumets. I adore and I submit. A mystagogue, in the Christian sense, is one who accompanies another in the experience of the sacraments, and who, by unfolding the splendour of the sacraments, relates them to holiness of life. The great mystagogues of the patristic age are Saint Ambrose of Milan, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. Mother Mectilde, alongside of Pierre de Bérulle, Charles de Condren, Jean-Jacques Olier, Saint John Eudes, Saint Vincent de Paul, Jean de Bernières, and Saint Mary of the Incarnation, represents the mystagogy of the 17th century school of French piety, a theological piety, marked by the primacy of adoration, wherein Christ is seen as the Adorer of the Father: the Priest and Victim, by whose sacrificial immolation, the Father is perfectly adored in spirit and in truth. Mother Mectilde’s mystagogy derives from her experience of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in Holy Communion and in her identification, through adoration, with the self–emptying love of Christ in the Sacred Host.
On this 320th anniversary of her death, the monks of Silverstream pray that as she becomes better known in the English–speaking world, Catherine–Mectilde de Bar, the Teresa of the Benedictine Order,— will continue to initiate souls into the mysteries of “the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world” (Apocalypse 13:8), the very Lamb who appeared in glory at Knock in Ireland, and who abides, silent, humble, and hidden, in the Sacrament of His Love.
Seven years ago, in 2011, when I began translating texts of Mother Mectilde for the readers of Vultus Christi, I offered a little florilegium picked from among her writings. It will be seen that Saint John of the Cross has nothing on Mother Mectilde: their doctrines are strikingly similar, except that Mother Mectilde’s is rooted in the Rule of Saint Benedict with a marked emphasis on the adorable mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, on the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on the feasts and mysteries of the Liturgical Year.
You must make in yourself a great emptiness of all that is not God, and apply yourself seriously to exclude anything that might be an obstacle to the descent of the divine Paraclete in your hearts.
The Nothing and the All
Let us labour energetically to make Jesus reign in our hearts, and to this end let us annihilate ourselves; it is the only way to make Him the possessor of our hearts.
The interior life is not what one thinks or imagines. It consists not in having beautiful thoughts, nor in saying beautiful words, nor in remaining in a passive kind of prayer without applying one’s mind, as if one were in lofty heights. All of this is, more often than not, no more than fantasy.The interior life is found in the solid practice of mortification, in the love of littleness and in total detachment from oneself and from creatures.
Death to Self in Little Things
If you are entering religious life to belong more to God, enter disposed at every moment to sacrifice. Providence will offer you very frequent occasions for this, without taking into account the things that will happen with the express purpose of putting you to the test. You will not be mortified in big things; the little things are more often the cause of our pain. At times a word will be harder for you to bear, not much is needed to make you suffer.
Expect Unexpected Things
Consider that God alone is, and that what He wants from a victim is that she should abandon herself to Him even to the the complete loss of herself. When we consecrate ourselves to God as victims, I assure you that we don’t know what we are doing: if it pleases the Lord to accept our sacrifice, something which will not fail to happen when the soul does this in His Spirit, the soul must resolve to accept unexpected things.
All the nerve of the interior life is in this pure abandonment, which is neither seen, nor intuited, nor felt: it really is a state of death, in which one must resist in spite of nature and the cry of self-love.
Recourse to Mary Most Holy
One day, finding myself in great suffering and having no one to whom I could open my heart, I turned to the Holy Mother of God in these terms: “O Most Holy Virgin, have you brought me here to let me die? Would it not have been better to leave me in the world, given that here I do not find here the means to serve God with more holiness and purity? You see that I do not know to whom I ought to have recourse to teach me my duties, I have no one, and I know neither how to pray nor how to make mental prayer. Be for me, I pray you, a mother and a teacher. Teach me all that I must know.”
A Really Bad Monastic Day
Everything tires me, everything bothers me. The most inoffensive words irritate me, and I am finding it hard even to put up with myself. How can I do always the same thing, always at the same hour, in the same way, what enslavement!
Filled Full with Holiness and Love of Christ
Let me know You, O divine Jesus. Lift the veil of our shadows: let the torch of faith make me penetrate the holiness and the love contained in Your holy mysteries, and let my soul be penetrated by these to the point that no creature may be able to occupy it.
It is necessary to lose all, this I see well, but my interior nature seeks to rest at least the tips of my feet so as to catch a breath. Oh, how rare it is, this total death! It is necessary to die and to be buried in Him who triumphs and is glorified in the death of His creatures. It is necessary that I die even to helpful things, to the light and to all that would be to me even the slightest support.
They speak to me often of prayer, but I never hear anyone speak of the Most Holy Sacrament. Is there perhaps another mean to attain to God other than the Holy Eucharist? Is not the Holy Eucharist God Himself?
Pride is the source of all our faults and also of all our misfortunes.