“Abandonment to Divine Providence”
by Jean-Pierre de Caussade
translated by John Beevers
NY: Doubleday Image Books, 1975
Jean-Pierre de Caussade was born March 6, 1675 in the south of France. In 1693 he became a Jesuit and in 1704 was ordained a priest. He eventually earned a Doctorate in theology and taught until 1720. After this, he worked as a preacher and confessor. In 1729, he became the director of the Visitation Nuns in Nancy. This appointment would last five years, but those five years have given us “Abandonment to Divine Providence.” This is a book that de Caussade was not aware he had written. Rather, it comes from preserved letters and notes from conferences that he gave to the Visitation sisters. Fr. Henri Ramiere edited them into a small volume which was first published in 1861. Today, it is recognized as a spiritual classic.
The message of “Abandonment to Divine Providence” is that God's will is all that matters. Our way to holiness consists of doing that will, whatever it may take us and no matter the cost. De Caussade describes both active and passive loyalty to God's will. “Active loyalty means obeying the laws of God and the Church and fulfilling all the duties imposed on us by our way of life. Passive loyalty means that we lovingly accept all that God sends us at each moment of the day.” Our happiness and holiness depend on following God's plan for us. De Caussade makes an emphatic point, “If you are not satisfied with what God chooses for you, what else can please you? . . .Are you wiser than God? Why do you seek anything different from what he desires?”
Sometimes it can be difficult to see God's hand in our lives, especially when life is hard, when we are sick or experience heartache. De Caussade compares us to a stone being shaped by a sculptor. “I welcome each blow of his chisel as the best thing that could happen to me, although, if I'm to be truthful, I feel that every one of these blows is ruining me, destroying me and disfiguring me.” It is at these times that we need faith to believe in God's wisdom, to trust that God has our best eternal interests at heart.
“Abandonment to Divine Providence” is a brief book. If one made an effort, it could be read in one day. However, it is one of those books meant to be used as an on-going source of spiritual nourishment. Open a random page and read a few paragraphs. Take a quote and put it where you will see it everyday. Receive a gentle reminder of what matters in life.