If one wants to know God . . . (XLIX)

CHAPTER XLIX. Of the Observance of Lent
Wednesday and Thursday of the First Week of Lent
In these days, then, let us add some thing to our wonted service; as private prayers, and abstinence from food and drink, so that every one of his own will may offer to God, with joy of the Holy Spirit, something beyond the measure appointed him.

I continue today my translation of some of the teachings on prayer of Père Jérôme of Sept-Fons. I am translating from the book, Père Jérôme, Écrits monastiques.

From a letter of 4 November 1959

What you write with regard to [your] prayer is good. However, it seems to me that, while you read a text, it would be better that you not interrupt your reading after every two sentences in order to make an invocation. It is better to read for ten or twenty minutes and, then, calmly say a few prayers with some moments of silence in between them. You must never become upset over distractions, even hounding ones; simply read more.

“To be silent in order to let God speak?” Yes, I know, Dom Bélorgey uses this expression, and he cannot be reproached for doing so, because it is classic. But it is a clumsy expression. God does not speak, or if he does, it is exceptionally and in circumstances that are altogether evident and special! He will not speak to you, ever, ever, ever. No, if you must be silent in your prayer, it is because it is good that we not talk continually; but this warning applies only to those who talk to God discursively, that is, by making up a little conference that they recite mentally before God. But when we hold ourselves before God in a manner that is not discursive, by repeating simple short prayers, the advice to be silent from time time no longer applies, because this repetition of invocations is not contrary to silence, which can exist in the soul at the same time.

From a letter of 5 December 1961

Be faithful to prayer. Help yourself with a liturgical text or a scriptural text as often you please. Act very freely. But do not give up completely what I have said to you nor the texts that indicate the manner in which one behaves in the presence of God. These texts are always necessary . . . Here, as with you at the seminary, the liturgical innovations are going to cause problems. What will we gain from them? I am not opposed to changes, nor am I fanatical about changes. Everything depends on what is really at stake under superficial modifications.

When we see each other again, we shall, of course, speak of these things. You know that I will listen to with the utmost sympathy and discretion. All that I have tried to teach you, concerning the life of prayer, must also help you, little by little, to get over these difficulties. Take heart! Try to see things as they are in order to be able to judge them objectively.

From a letter of 10 May 1968

I am very pleased that your notebooks of extracts are helping you with prayer. Be faithful in adding to them one new text of value after another, being more and more discriminating as you add new pieces. If certain people today contest prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, the Divine Office, and the Mass, too bad for them! One must not speak of these great duties save with those who are sympathetic to them; otherwise one risks becoming disheartened. No one knows God any more; one puts one’s hope in man alone. But those who want to resist [this current] and to act against these things must above all cling precisely to the realities that others are giving up. When comes the evening of our days we will not regret that we have been faithful and we will have been useful to many. The Church needs men of faith and of prayer who know how to carry out the duties of faith and of prayer.

If one wants to know God, one must spend time with him. This is the most elementary law of friendship. To receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord; to proclaim his praises and intercede for our brethren in humanity in the chant of the psalms; to abide in his presence during times of personal prayer; to engage in the details of our fraternal life; and this day after day, according to our possibilities. Of course, these are the axes of of our existence without which there is neither Christian life nor monastic life.