Mectilde de Bar: September 2011 Archives

Wait upon Him for everything

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In this letter, written to a religious of Rambervillers in 1643 or 1644, Mother Mectilde-du-Saint-Sacrement speaks of abandonment to God in times of suffering. She wants her correspondent to understand that life's troubles are spiritually advantageous. Suffering prepares the soul for union with God.

We are in the hands of His omnipotence, without reserve. I have a certain consolation in seeing that your troubles continue. I draw out of them consequences that are very advantageous for your soul, even if they make you suffer much. It is necessary to pass through the crucible of suffering in order to be worthy of the divine union.

Mother Mectilde wants her correspondent to say "Yes" to everything that God wills or permits. She returns to her constant teaching on being brought to nothing. This does not mean the annihilation of the soul created in the image and likeness of God; when she speaks of the annihilation of the soul, she is referring to the loss of one's false self, that ugly self, distorted by sin, that pridefully rears its head in the presence of God, pretending to be something. This is the self that must be put to death. If God Himself is the executioner, so much the better. The job will be done swiftly and thoroughly.

Entrust yourself to God and abandon yourself to His holy action. Consent to all the designs that He has to bring you, by means of these troubles and sufferings, to nothingness. You must be more passive than active in your state. Even if the violence [of these troubles and sufferings] sometimes sweeps you away, the powerful hand of God will one day calm this tempest. Wait upon Him for everything, and lose yourself in the infinite goodness of His that bears with you in the rebellions of nature.

Here is a discourse not often held by modern spiritual directors: "Abandon yourself to Him to be entirely destroyed." Mother Mectilde is speaking here of the passive purification of the soul; that is when God Himself begins to act directly upon the soul to remove the vestiges of pride and impurity that even the noblest human efforts cannot begin to touch. She calls this "the operation of His merciful justice." It is the purification of the soul by the eternal love that, for Saint John of the Cross, is "the living flame of love."

Abandon yourself to Him to be entirely destroyed; even more, I exhort you to contribute to this action by abandoning yourself to every sort of desolation, humbling yourself before His majesty so as to receive the operation of His merciful justice, that purifies you with His eternal love.

Make your way towards ennothingment

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From Mother Mectilde de Bar's Letter 92, my translation:

To receive Holy Communion well, not much is needed in the way of ceremony. It is enough to have purity of heart and humility. If you have this, don't worry about the rest. Of this I can assure you.
All your trouble is that you want to be what God does not want [for you]. If you were faithful, you would, a long time ago already, have become more detached from yourself and more ennothinged* in Jesus Christ.
I will see you, to persuade you that I am telling you the truth, and that you must make your way towards ennothingment. Otherwise, you will always be unhappy.

When I was about sixteen years old, precociously pious, and seeking how best I might follow Our Lord, a wise Vietnamese Trappist monk who, at the time seemed very old to me, used to say in his inimitable accent, "You be humble, brother Mark, and you be happiest man in town."

Now, all these many years later, I hear Mother Mectilde saying the same thing" "You must make your way towards ennothingment. Otherwise you will always be unhappy." Put positively, one might say, "Enter into your own nothingness, and you will find happiness." The psalmist says, "My happiness lies in Thee alone" (Psalm 15:2). This is where adoration begins: in the humble awareness of one's absolute nothingness, and in the offering of all that one is back to God, who is the uncreated Source of all being, and who is all Love, without beginning or end, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Out of love Thou didst create me
and from Thee alone have I received the gift of being,
and it is to Thee alone
that I desire to give myself back
as a victim, an offering of pure adoration.
Without Thee, I am not,
and I am
only because at every moment
Thou lovest me and keepest me in being
so that I might freely love Thee in return
with all my heart, and all my mind, and all my strength.
I am Thy creature, receiving all from Thee,
and Thou art God without beginning or end,
receiving nothing from Thy creatures
apart from that which they have first received from Thee.

Anything that makes one aware of one's nothingness, anything that demonstrates that one is nothing and that God is all is precious to a soul. This is why Saint Benedict says that the novice is to love humiliations. What is a humiliation if not anything that brings one closer to the realization of one's nothingness in the sight of God?

* And yes, I made up the words "To ennothing oneself" and "ennothingment" to express Mother Mectilde's frequently used s'anéantir and anéantissement -- annientarsi and annientamento in Italian. The English, "to annihilate" and "annihilation" do not give quite the same meaning.

Your wounds are my wounds

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I was so struck by this letter of Mother Mectilde de Bar to a religious of the monastery of Rouen that, after reading it, I had to translate it. Mother Mectilde wrote the letter in 1679.

Guard yourself well, my daughter, from making a tragedy of things. I foresaw that you would have struggles and be attacked harshly, but Our Lord has control of everything and, with His grace, I will help you and I will not abandon you, if you want to be faithful. Don't be afraid of telling me everything that you want; I swear to you and promise you an inviolable secret, I will not disappoint you.
Come to me with simplicity and confidence. Your wounds are my wounds; your sins are my sins; I will suffer from them for both you and me. You know well that I am your mother and that you are my dear little child; believe that I love you tenderly and that I am your sincere friend.
I will hide you in my heart; I will have prayers to God made on your behalf. Your eternal interests will be my interests, and I will tell the Lord that I don't want to go into paradise without you.
Know for certain that, with His grace, I will not abandon you. Hope in His mercy and in the merits of His death and of His Blood. It is of faith that, as soon as a sinner repents with all his heart of having offended God, He welcomes him in His mercy and pardons him all his sins. Take heart, then, suffer your anxieties and your troubles as a penance, but open your heart and have full confidence in me because, in Jesus, I am all yours.
Today I will try to see you. Don't upset yourself: it is enough that you recognize that you are a sinner, and that you would willingly suffer all the pains of hell rather than ever offend so good a God, who is all powerful to pardon you and to forget your sins for ever. He wants to consume them in His blood; in a word, He wants to save you. You must make your way back to God, as to your Good Shepherd; He waits for you, to consume you in His love.

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Today I conclude my translation of Mother Mectilde's introduction to her Constitutions on the Rule of Saint Benedict adding again, something in the way of a commentary. I will continue translating other writings of Mother Mectilde, as time permits.

Happy the soul who will be found worthy of making such reparation to the Most Holy Sacrament; happier still if that soul fulfills as she ought the great obligation that makes her guilty of all the profanations of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and consequently, subject to suffer the chastisements and all the pains merited by those who have profaned this Most Holy Sacrament and who will profane it until the end of the ages.
This second obligation requires a state and dispositions that are altogether contrary to the preceding one. If the first [obligation] obliges a "host" to look upon herself as consecrated to the glory of the Most Holy Sacrament, the second obliges her to consider herself as sacrificed for all the profanations of this adorable Mystery. If the first obligation requires that a true reparator give, and do everything, to render to the Most Holy Sacrament the honour which It merits, the second requires that the true reparator lose everything, and suffer all, to expiate the outrages and the indignities that It receives.

Identification With Christ

The Mectildian-Benedictine adorer enters into a two-fold identification with Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is, in a certain sense, an ascending aspect to reparation: the adorer offers himself to Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, in thanksgiving for the divine and life-giving Mysteries of His Body and Blood present in the tabernacles of the world, and in compensation for the love, adoration, praise that never rise, even from the hearts of those in whose midst He dwells sacramentally.

Mystical Substitution

There is also a descending aspect to reparation: the adorer chooses, out of love, to be identified with souls consumed with hatred for the things of God, those who despise the adorable Mystery of Our Lord's Body and Blood, treating it irreverently, profaning it by sacrilegious acts, and offending Our Lord's Eucharistic Heart with cruel mockery. Mother Mectilde would have her Benedictines so enter into the Christ's redemptive love for such sinners that the adorer accepts sufferings, trials, and darkness in their stead, trusting that by this mystical substitution undertaken out of love, at least some of those who despise the Most Holy Sacrament will be converted to Eucharistic love.

If then, a religious of the Holy Sacrament wants to understand the spirit of her vocation, let her hold herself always in a state of victimhood in Our Lord's holy Presence, and if she wants to live in a state of true victimhood, let her, at times, see herself as an object of love and of good pleasure before her Divine Lord, who willingly receives the reparation she makes to His glory and, at other times, see herself as an object of horror and of wrath before her Sovereign Judge, who demands in justice the expiation due Him for so many profanations. Let her, on the one hand, believe herself called to all that is most holy and divine in the spiritual life; and on the other hand, believe herself called to what is most mortifying, most crucifying, and most annihilating in the life of penitence. Finally, let her remain in a state of indifference with regard to the effects of Mercy and Divine Justice, which she is bound her honour equally in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar by virtue of her profession.
Let there be no cross, disdain, suffering, death, or annihilation that she will not embrace with joy out of zeal for Divine Justice, for the expiation of all the sins of profanators of the Most Holy Sacrament; just as there are no virtues, graces, merits, perfections, holiness, blessings, praises, adorations, prayers, and good works, that love and piety would not cause her to seek with ardour for the reparation of the honour and infinite glory, the grandeurs, and the excellences, of the same Holy Sacrament.

Mother Mectilde de Bar's presentation of the vocation of a Benedictine adorer-reparator will shock certain sensibilities, just as the doctrine of Saint Paul, and the hard words of the Gospel once shocked -- and continue to shock -- those to whom they are addressed. They key to the Mectildian-Benedictine vocation is Love. In this, she is closer to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face than a superficial reading might lead one to believe.

In December 1666, Mother Mectilde wrote to the Benedictine nuns of Rambervilers:

You, very dear mothers, are reparatrices of love, and your reparations must be made in love, because you must make up for sinners and for the wicked, who are without love.

It is only within the optic of love that the Mectildian-Benedictine vocation to adoration and reparation begins to come into focus.

Sayings of Mother Mectilde

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The possession of God for all eternity
is well worth what one must suffer whilst on the way.

One needs perseverance
so as not to be frightened by difficulties.

One must not forget
that one of the greatest secrets of the spiritual life
is that the Holy Spirit is guiding us,
not only with illuminations, consolations, and sweetness,
but also in darkness and interior suffering.
Even more, I say that this way of crucifixion
is the best and the most secure.

Mother Mectilde de Bar (1614-1698)

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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