Finding “your center” and knowing how to forget yourself
- June 2021 – Letter 50
The first time that Léonie knocked on the door of the Monastery of the Visitation in Caen, on July 16, 1887, her cousin Marie Guérin said these words full of perspicacity: “I am happy to finally see Léonie in her center.”
How are we to understand these words if not that there are in life certain circumstances and places which allow those who seek to find their interior unity – their “center “ – and little by little to flourish there until they come to know the serenity and peace that exists despite everything.
We know that for Leonie her path to the Monastery of the Visitation was not an immediate one and she had to attempt it three times. Her last attempt succeeded. Despite all the trials and obstacles that stood in her way – physical (amongst them, eczema), spiritual (doubts about her faith) and relational (Superiors too demanding with her) – Léonie persevered until finally benevolence prevailed and she joined this order and settled there… having found a vocation which was suited to her.
In his time, St. Francis de Sales had said that of the Visitation, we practice “virtues specific to our littleness: patience, support for neighbor, service, humility, gentleness, affability, tolerance of our imperfections …” And he added: “It is not by the greatness of our actions that we please God, but by the love with which we do them.”
Isn’t it this tolerance that we often lack that risks turning us into torturers of ourselves and of others?
In our own time, Paul Baudiquey understood this. In his magnificent commentary on Rembrandt’s work The Return of the Prodigal Son, he writes: “To accept to be loved … to accept to love yourself. We know it is awfully easy to hate yourself; grace is to forget oneself. The grace of graces would be to humbly love yourself, like any suffering member of Jesus Christ.”
Well accompanied by Saints Francis de Sales and Thérèse to the point of bearing their names, this is what Léonie (who became Sister Françoise-Thérèse) gradually came to realize. Having found her center, she then became able to shift her focus to others. We can say it another way: less busy with herself, and by giving of herself, she found peace.
Let us listen to the Word of God
“1 Out of the depths I call to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, keep account of sins, Lord, who can stand? »
Paths for our meditation and prayer, personal or with others:
- In her act of offering to merciful Love, Thérèse knows that she cannot count on her works “which all have blemishes in her eyes” and that she will appear before the Lord empty-handed. However, she intends to take every opportunity to make her life an act of perfect love: « I want to work for your love alone, with the sole aim of making you happy and saving souls who will love you eternally. »
- And how do we ourselves answer the call to count on the grace of the Lord and at the same time recognize the importance of our actions? “What calling do you have? Maybe it is at a home for the elderly, a reception center for refugees, or for an ecological regeneration project. Or maybe there are people in your home who need you.“ Pope Francis, A Time for Change, Editions de Noyelles, page 202.
As we come out of quarantine, let us pray to concretely implement the call to conversion that the Lord addresses to each of us.
With Pope Francis’ “prayer for our earth” which concludes ‘Laudato Si’ (2015) :
‘Almighty God, Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world, and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.’
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory