Saturday, April 2, 2011


If I were to choose one book [beside the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a GPS and a cell phone and survival food and water to sustain me until rescued!] --one book to calm my frustration and panic from being isolated on a desert island--it would be the classic from the 17th century: ABANDONMENT TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. He uses the word "abandonment" as we might use "surrender" and "Divine Providence" to identify our Triune God.

This short and intense book, a masterpiece of spirituality, is highly charged with love and passion both for God and for the reader. It has been endlessly reprinted and translated, circling the globe and deepening and changing the lives of Christians generation after generation. I have chosen to re-read it for Lent to stretch my spirit higher toward God as I press on toward holiness with Saint Paul in Philippians 3:12-14. *

Below in a paraphrased nutshell is his idea centered around what he calls "the sacrament of the present moment."

Most of us are very ordinary people with humdrum lives, work to be done, with every day filled with responsibilities and a multiplicity of trivial decisions and tasks. Our lives are made up of a stream of petty affairs, some wonderfully pleasant, many boring, a lot unpleasant and often tragic, together with much that is tedious and irritating. Caussade says that everything in life is to be welcomed as the expression of the will of God. This is well-supported in the Scriptures.

"Everything helps us to God so we must accept what we very often cannot avoid, and endure with love and resignation things which could cause us weariness and disgust. This is what being holy means."

"For most people the best way to achieve perfection toward which God would lead us is to submit to all that He wills for our particular way of life. God speaks to every individual through what happens to him moment by moment. The events of each moment are stamped with the will of God...We find all that is necessary in the present moment. We may be bored with the small happenings around us, yet it is these very trivialities, as we consider them, which would do marvels for us if only we did not look down upon them. If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment."

Caussade insists, over and over again, that we must live from minute to minute. The past is past, the future is yet to be. There is nothing we can do about either, but we can deal with what is happening in the present moment. We must realize that nothing at all happens unless willed by God, therefore, our all-important duty is to cooperate with His will. Every act, every thought of every second, is significant. He does not mean that we must approach God before every snap decision; that would be absurd and impossible. But we should have so completely surrendered ourselves to God that we are fully aware of what hangs upon every moment and that we react, as best we can, in the way God wishes.

Caussade combines intense practicality with profound mysticism. He was obsessed by one thought: the necessity of loving God and surrendering ourselves to Him completely. We need do no extraordinary works, show no unique devotion, behave in no uncommon manner. The smallest incident must be seen as willed by God and must be dealt with as such. This will bring us as close to God as is possible during our life on earth and ensure that we shall enjoy complete union in the eternal life that awaits us.

* May this spiritual selection whet your appetite for MORE. Run, don't walk, or preferably phone or e-mail your Christian bookstore or "let your fingers do the walking" on your computer keyboard to to order a copy of this classic. You may find that used, dog-eared copies of earlier editions are best, since, in my estimation, newer reprints don't seem to have the same flavor and even format as the older ones. (Mine is copyright 1975 translated from the original French by John Beevers.)

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