(Below is taken from the blog, “Carmelite Spirituality and the Practice of Mental Prayer”).
“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. Part 3.
(ii) 1873 – 1876
Two months after her Profession, the elections came round and brought the fulfilment of the second part of the prediction made to her as a postulant. The community wished to leave Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity free to prepare for the long-projected English Foundation, and elected in her stead Mother Mary of the Presentation. A humble, capable Religious, she had already held office some years previously , and was beloved of the whole house; all who knew her concurred in describing her as holy. It seems that she had not been one of the few in favour of Sister Mary of Jesus during the preceding year, for the latter writes: ‘God, ever present, ever the same under the veils, now resided for me in a Mother whose cross i was before being her daughter.’ Mother Mary of the Presentation was led by ordinary paths, and seems to have has a real dread of having to deal with a soul who was led otherwise. Before long, to her undisguised distress, she found herself called upon to guide Sister Mary of Jesus in very extraordinary ways. The whole relationship of these two souls became a lovely study in the true supernatural spirit of faith. The young Sister, on her side, realized that she was a burden and an anxiety, humanly speaking, to her Prioress. Nevertheless, she went to her as to God’s appointed representative, and put her soul into her hands as readily and openly s if the Prioress had had full comprehension of her state. The latter was no less supernatural; she made no attempt to guide Sister Mary of Jesus in detail or by her own light, but kept herself absolutely free for God to use her or not, as He pleased. It was she who told young Sister, just before the English Foundation left Paris, what had often happened. ‘I would like you to know’ she said, ‘what power there is in the spirit of faith as you practised it when I was your Prioress I sometimes found myself obliged to give you advice that I neither understood nor practised myself.’ When she did not thus feel God’s impulse, she gave as sole and formal obedience the injunction to surrender utterly to God, to do nothing and to desire nothing save what He seemed to wish, and to be guided by Him. Thus, by her selfness, she became what Sister Mary of Jesus gratefully called her ‘the most wonderful assistent of God during these years of suffering and of grace’.
Some three months after Profession, that is, round about December 1873, Sister Mary of Jesus’ health began to give way….she gives no details…except to mention that it did not prevent her from working or from following community life. It seems to have lasted well into 1875, for a note written in that year runs: ‘This difficulty (of being able to do nothing but pray) has greatly increased recently since my health improved’. The purely physical malady was a simple enough matter to deal with, and a letter from Mother of the Blessed Trinity after the latter had gone to St Denis, mentions that she is doing everything in her power to rebuild Sister Mary of Jesus’ strength. There were, however, other developments which followed close upon this physical trial. This is how she herself described what happened. ‘As soon as I begin to act and to want act, an indefinable pain seizes on my head and compels me to give whether I will or no, after a longer or shorter period of struggle. Sometimes I can persist and offer some slight resistance, but I feel that I am struggling with God, and cannot do so for long. The more I resist, the worse the pain in my head grows, until I reach a point where I can no longer see, and I have an overwhelming sensation that I am resisting (or trying to resist, for my persistence is useless) the will of God’.
In the words of Mother Mary of Jesus: ‘Like Mary, we have to be mothers of souls. Where will we learn this maternity, the love which it asks, the mission which it constitutes, the life of sacrifice the true prayer of union with God, which it imposes? In Mary – in her silence.’