“In the Hands of the Living God” – fragments of chapter 4 of the book entitled “In the silence of Mary- the life of Mother Mary of Jesus Carmelite Prioress and Foundress 1851-1942”. In this chapter we shall follow Sister’s Mary of Jesus spiritual development and growing intimacy with God – described mostly in her own words.
It was a doctor who told Prioress that she ought to be left to pray all day, for nothing else would cure her, and added, borrowing from St Teresa’s own metaphor: “A lovely butterfly will come out of that cocoon!” (Interior Castle: 5th Mansion, Ch.ii). One after another, all those in authority gave the same reassurance. It was God: she must let Him do as He pleased. This was not until a year, or perhaps even eighteen months, had gone by. It is sometime in 1875 that she writes: ‘Impossible to tell all the humiliations and sufferings I had to go through before reaching the point of living absolutely alone under the glance of God.”Our Mother has authorized me once and for all not to strain my head – to do nothing but God’s will when it is impossible to work. One thing reassures me: that since I am forbidden to force my head, I am in obedience. M. le Superieur has told me I must not even want to work when God does not wish it. I must not persist, as I have so often done, in acting feverishly and obstinately when I felt I ought no to’. A little later, he forbade her even to ask permission to go back to ordinary life. Yet still she worried: ‘They tell me I risk nothing, that I ought to surrender to God. But they do not understand how unfaithful I can be’. Another note, seemingly to her confessor, accuses herself of infidelity. ‘Although you have decided that I ought not to struggle against the power that prevents me from working, I still try too much, and sometimes I continue longer than God wants; not very long, but long enough to wound His love’. Side by side with this suffering went that of an intense interior purification, and equally strange and new development in her prayer itself. ‘Sometimes’ she writes, ‘He invades my whole being like a consuming fire, with a vehemenece that makes me tremble to the roots of my being. He wants to destroy and consume in me everything that could wound the eyes of His love or impede His action’. ‘It seems to me that an interior fire, and intense sorrow falls on me, pressing and destroying the passions, and I never feel myself more dead, more detached from everything than after these different operations of God that I can neither understand nor explain, but which come from Him, I hope’. One rather pathetic note reads thus: ‘Ask Him to destroy this terrible “me” ‘, while another asks if it is possible that God could bestow His favours on a soul in a state of sin. ‘After the suffering that comes from God, comes that of the devil. When he surrounds me, wakens pride and self-love, I suffer, and there is an operation in my soul that I cannot define. it seems as if I burn, as if a mighty power and suffering coming from God is breaking me, and without thinking, struggling, speaking, I think I resist the devil, and escape by surrendering unlimitedly to this suffering. Calm returns, but sometimes a feeling of fear makes itself felt when my soul can submit nothing’. This last note is echoed over and over again: perhaps of all her suffering, the lack of detailed direction and advice was the heaviest. ‘Sometimes I tremble, alone in the unknown’. ‘I have no other security than fidelity and a feeling deep within me which says: “This is God”. Ought I, can I let myself be led entirely by this interior guide?’ ‘The greater my powerlessness, the greater my need of being guarded and guided’. ‘I suffer more than ever from not being able to submit anything’.