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The Rev. Jean Pierre de Caussade was one of the most remarkable spiritual writers of the Society of Jesus in France in the 18th Century. His death took place at Toulouse in 1751. His works have gone through many editions and have been republished, and translated into several foreign languages.
The present book gives an English translation of the tenth French Edition of Fr. de Caussade’s “Abandon à la Providence Divine,” edited, to the great benefit of many souls, by Fr. H. Ramière, S. J.
A portion of this remarkable work in English has already appeared in America, but many readers, to whom this precious little book has become a favourite, will welcome a complete translation, especially as what has already appeared in the English version may be considered as merely the theoretical part, whilst the “Letters of Direction” which form the greater portion of the present work give the practical part. They answer objections, solve difficulties, and give practical advice. The book thus gains considerably in value and utility.
It is divided into two unequal parts, the first containing a treatise on total abandonment to Divine Providence, and the second, letters of direction for persons leading a spiritual life.
The “Treatise” comprises two different aspects of Abandonment to Divine Providence; one as a virtue, common and necessary to all Christians, the other as a state, proper to souls who have made a special practice of abandonment to the holy will of God.
The “Letters of Direction,” now for the first time translated into English, were addressed to Nuns of the Visitation at Nancy. Fr. de Caussade had been stationed in this town for some time, and when later he was called away, his letters to the Nuns carried on the powerful influence he had exercised over them. They were treasured and preserved with religious care, and thus have come down to our own days. Fr. de Ramière, S. J., collected these letters, and edited them with painstaking labour.ii
These “Spiritual Letters” are completely suited to the present time; Catholic spiritual life being ever the same, there is nothing in them which might require alteration or revision. Directors of souls will find them an answer to the daily and constantly recurring difficulties and trials of the interior life, from the initial difficulties of beginners to the hidden trials of souls of great sanctity. Whilst the “Letters,” from the fact that they were originally written for the direction of Nuns, are chiefly intended for Religious, yet earnest people living in the world will derive from their perusal a most efficacious means for the attainment of resignation and peace in the midst of the worries and anxieties of life.
The leading idea in the letters of Fr. de Caussade is abandonment, complete and absolute, to Divine Providence. This was the mainspring of his own spiritual life, and the key-note of his direction of souls. He promises peace and holiness to every soul, however simple, that follows his counsel, if it has an upright intention, and a good will.
The following extract is from Fr. H. Ramière’s preface to the Letters:
“That which renders Dr. de Caussade’s letters especially valuable, and makes them useful in an eminently practical manner, is the circumstance that they are, for the most part, addressed to persons suffering under different kinds of darkness, desolation and trials; in a word, to those whom God designs for a high degree of sanctity. To all the doubts submitted to him, and to all the sufferings exposed to him by his correspondents, the holy Director applied but one and the same solution and remedy—abandonment; but, with perfect tact he adapts this practice to the particular nature of the trial, and proportions its exercise to the degree of perfection to which each soul has attained. The same method of direction he applies in a hundred different ways, and therefore this correspondence can be justly compared to a ladder by which the soul ascends by successive degrees from a still very imperfect state, to one of the most intimate union with God, and to the most heroic abandonment. To whatever degree a soul has attained we can safely promise that it will find in these letters suitable advice and a solution of the difficulties by which it is beset. Even those who look upon the spiritual life as an inextricable labyrinth will receive from the hands of Fr. de Caussade the clue which will enable them to escape from the darkness that envelopes them, and to enjoy peace in the midst of their uneasiness. May it prove this to all those poor souls who are troubled, and who ‘tremble for fear where there is nothing to fear.’ (Ps. 13). May this book realise the message of the Angels, and bring peace to souls of a good will.”iii
The “Abandonment to Divine Providence” of Fr. de Caussade is as far removed from the false inactivity of the Quietists, as true Christian resignation is distinct from the fatalism of Mohammedans. It is a trusting, childlike, peaceful abandonment to the guidance of grace, and of the Holy Spirit: an unquestioning and undoubting submission to the holy will of God in all things that may befall us, be they due to the action of man, or to the direct permission of God. To Fr. de Caussade, abandonment to God, the “Ita Pater” of our Divine Lord, the “Fiat” of our Blessed Lady, is the shortest, surest, and easiest way to holiness and peace. Fr. de Caussade’s work must be read with a certain amount of discretion, as naturally every advice he gives does not apply to all readers indiscriminately. Some of his counsels may be appropriate for beginners; others for souls of a more advanced degree of spirituality. No one, however, can fail to recognise in his writings the sure tone of a “Master,” who has united practical to theoretical knowledge of his subject.
Every page is redolent with the unction of the Spirit of God, and readers will find in his doctrine a heavenly manna, a food of unfailing strength for their souls. The present work has been carefully translated into readable English, and more regard has been paid to the meaning than to the literal exactness of the sentences. The elevated, noble style of the author has been preserved throughout. It is a real contribution to the spiritual literature of England.
I am aware that our English word “Abandonment” does not adequately render the meaning of the French word “Abandon,” but we have no better expression. The translation has been undertaken solely for the purpose of helping souls to follow the hidden paths of the spiritual life, and to surrender themselves entirely to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Dom Arnold, O.S.B.,
(Feast of All Saints, 1921.)
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