Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Abandonment to Divine Providence

“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.


mloustalot said...

Dear Patrice -- I am currently reading this book aloud to my 13yo daughter. It is a topic I struggle with, having been over-confident in past years in setting my own goals and not giving my God-given duties or the will of God a second thought.

I am now attempting to set goals for my life according to His will for me and my state in life -- is this contradictory? Can I set goals and remain in God's will?

In explaining goal-setting to my daughter, how can I make these ideas mesh?

Melinda in SE Texas

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur said...

Dear Melinda,

Thanks so much for writing. I think that it is wonderful that you are trying to instill in your daughter the importance of discovering God's will for her life. I think that what you are doing in your own life is on track. You are trying to plan your life in keeping with what God wants for you. I think that it is only natural to make plans for our lives. For example, your daughter is reaching an age in which she needs to discern her vocation and career. Obviously she is going to need to plan to do that. The important thing is to pray to God before making those big life decisions. Sometimes it means praying a long time! But the way does become clear and God helps to align our will with his. He shows us how to best use our gifts to serve him.

I think it is also important to note that we can make plans, but we need to be open to the possibility that God might change our plans through a change of circumstances, change of heart, etc.

I hope that this offers some help. If I can be of further assistance, please don't hesitate to write.

Best wishes,

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