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MOUNT CARMEL MAGAZINE
 

A QUARTERLY REVIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
by
The Teresian Carmelites of the Anglo-Irish Province
AIMS
To help people in every aspect of their lives by sharing and exploring
with them the rich sources of Carmelite teaching on prayer
within the broad perspective of Christian spirituality and life experience.

EDITOR
James McCaffrey, OCD

Assistant Editors
Joanne Mosley

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Mary of St Philip, OCD Craig Morrison, O.Carm.
Peter Tyler, PhD. Martin Wray, MA

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MOUNT CARMEL MAGAZINE

VOL 65. NO.2 APRIL - JUNE 2017

This issue is devoted to
Blessed Marie-Eugène of the Child Jesus
Carmelite friar and Founder of the Secular Institute Notre-Dame de Vie
to mark his Beatification on November 19, 2016
and the 50th anniversary of his death on March 27, 1967

 

IN THIS ISSUE

FOCUS
James McCaffrey

Fr Marie-Eugène, Apostle of Prayer: The Beatification Homily
Cardinal Angelo Amato

Carmel's Most Recent Blessed: Fr Marie-Eugène of the Child Jesus
Bishop Philip Boyce

Blessed Marie-Eugène de l'Enfant-Jésus, OCD: An Inspiring Life
Nicholas Madden

Fr Marie-Eugène, Founder of the Institute Notre-Dame de Vie:
A Member of the Institute Remembers

Monique Varenne

The Beatification of Fr Marie-Eugène: A Carmelite Friar's Perspective
Matthew Blake

Springs of Living Water

The Heroic Virtues of Fr Marie-Eugène: The Official Decree
Cardinal Angelo Amato

'Action and contemplation well united': The Spirituality of Blessed Marie-Eugène of the Child Jesus
Eduardo José E Calasanz

A Visit to Notre-Dame de Vie: Initiative of Love in the Fire of the Spirit
Chantal Roxane Haigh

Blessed Marie-Eugène of the Child Jesus: Silent Prayer and Family Life
Lindsey Warwick-Godfrey

A Novena: In the spirit of Fr Marie-Eugène
Étienne Michelin and team

Food for the Journey - Books

 

 

******

 

 

FOCUS

 

James McCaffrey

 

It is hard, well nigh impossible, to distil into a single issue of Mount Carmel magazine a fitting tribute to the life and achievements of a truly great Carmelite like Blessed Marie-Eugène, who was not only eminently holy but also a great spiritual teacher and founder. The two volumes of his masterpiece - I Want to See God and I am a Daughter of the Church - are a superb and precise in-depth synthesis of the Carmelite spirit. More important still, he was not just an outstanding spiritual writer but embodied in his own life the spirituality of Teresa and her Carmelite school of prayer, and has left a marvellous legacy to the Church in the Carmelite Secular Institute which he founded and which now has houses throughout the world.

It is surely significant that Fr Marie-Eugène dedicated both volumes of his greatest work to Mary - under her titles of Mary Immaculate Queen, Mother of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mount Carmel - and that the religious family he founded also bears the name of Mary: Notre-Dame de Vie, 'Our Lady of Life'. It is hardly surprising that some of his last recorded words were a reflection of Mary's fiat when he said, in this phrase so dear to him, 'I am surrendered to the grace of God.' He was clearly a Carmelite after the heart of Mary: a man led by the Spirit at all times, as she was; and, like her, totally surrendered to the action of the Holy Spirit. The memory of Marie-Eugène invites us to ponder and reflect on the thoughts of Mary's heart as expressed in the Gospels: her innermost and prayerful dispositions that inspired his life and work.

The Scriptures speak to us about 'the thoughts of the heart', and we recall the words of Pascal: 'The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing'. Mary's heart is a maternal heart. 'You will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus,' the angel informs her. And later in the Gospel, 'a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nourished you!"' Yes, it was a great thing to be the physical mother of God. But there was something greater still. Jesus replied to the woman: 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!' Mary's heart is a mother's heart - listening, kind and full of compassion, always reaching out to us with a mother's tender care. She knows us well, all our weakness and our wounds.

We meet Mary for the first time at the Annunciation. She listens carefully, attentively, to the word of God. It opens up for her an undreamt-of mystery: that the infinite and transcendent God of her people - omnipotent, almighty and incomprehensible - is to take flesh in her Son! This is the greatest moment of change and renewal in God's loving plan of salvation. It is realised as Mary opens her heart, in faith, to the mystery. Her whole way of thinking is challenged and utterly transformed; her world is turned upside down. Her Son is to be the promised Messiah-King! Mary now puts on the mind and heart of God. She believes. But hers is not a blind faith. It is a questioning faith: 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' she asks. She submits - humbly, meekly - risking everything on the truth of God's word. 'Be it done unto me according to your word,' Mary replies. God's action is primary, not Mary's. She surrenders in faith. As her cousin will say of her, so rightly: 'Blessed is she who has believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.'

Mary 'arose and went with haste', we are told, to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was herself also expecting a son. Mary's first thought was to share with her their common joy, as well as to help someone in need. Later, we again see her responding to others' needs, when she sees embarrassment at the marriage feast of Cana. It was Mary who noticed: 'They have no wine.' Her heart is a sensitive heart; her concern is for others. At Elizabeth's house, Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaims her magnificat: 'The Almighty has done great things for me… his mercy is from age to age on those who fear him…' Mary's heart is brimming with joy and praise and thanksgiving: 'My spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour… He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly…' She herself is one of the 'lowly', the poor of the Lord; she is his 'handmaid', she says.

Mary relives the exodus experience of her people. 'An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream,' we are told, 'and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you."' This would take place to fulfil the words of the prophet Hosea: 'Out of Egypt have I called my son.' What words were echoing in Mary's heart? We can only surmise. These, perhaps: 'Remember the way the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and to know your inmost heart.' Mary's heart was tested, radically.

In the Temple, when Mary hears the prophecy of Simeon, she is plunged into the pain of the paschal mystery: her Son is 'set for the fall and rising of many in Israel… a sign of contradiction… and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.' On Calvary, Mary's heart will be lanced in pain like the heart of her Son when one of the soldiers takes a spear and opens the side of Jesus for the blood and water of salvation to flow from his sacred heart.

When Jesus was twelve years old, we see Mary tested again in the Temple, when she did not understand the words that Jesus spoke to her. She knew the pain of inner change in a growing relationship with her Son: 'Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?' he asks her. She was to experience that testing again at Cana: 'Woman, what is that to you and to me?' In no way is this a rebuff to Mary! Jesus is intimating the birth of a new, spiritual and deeper relationship between himself and his mother, which already points her forward to Calvary when the hour of her Son will finally come. In the Temple, Mary's heart also experiences the absence of God: 'Your father and I have been searching for you anxiously,' she says to Jesus. Her heart is a searching heart; she knew the pain of all believers searching for a God - apparently absent - in the night of faith.

Mary stands powerless on Calvary in union with her powerless Son. Two hearts that beat as one. At the Cross, she is plunged into the deepest prayer of eloquent silence, an abiding witness to the value of the quiet prayer of faith. She is now called, in a radical way, still to believe fully in the words that were spoken to her at the Annunciation: 'He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.' How can this be? Her heart is in anguish because her hour has now come. She is tested in her faith, her hope and her love. In this moment of bleakest darkness, she becomes our spiritual mother: 'Woman, this is your son!' Jesus says to her of the Beloved Disciple. There is a place in Mary's heart for all believers; and the Beloved Disciple, representing all of us, invites us to find a home for Mary in our hearts as he did: 'The disciple took her to his own home.'

In the upper room, after the Ascension, the anguish of Mary's heart is turned to joy. We catch a final glimpse of her at one with the praying church, waiting with the disciples for the gift of the Spirit: 'All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.' Mary's heart is always open to receive a greater outpouring of the Spirit and to beat in prayerful harmony with the Holy Spirit, at the heart of the church.

Mary is not just the mother of her Son: she is also the disciple of her Son, God's perfect model of what Jesus wants every disciple to be. And she is not just a woman of prayer: she is the woman of prayer, who treasured and pondered everything in her Immaculate Heart - this woman led always by the Spirit of her Son.

 

CARMEL'S MOST RECENT BLESSED:
FR MARIE-EUGÈNE OF THE CHILD JESUS

The author, a Discalced Carmelite friar, is Bishop of Raphoe in the north-west of Ireland. In this article, he evokes the spiritual greatness of Fr Marie-Eugène, and draws links with the teachings of the Carmelite saints which are echoed in the life and doctrine of our most recent Carmelite to be beatified.

BISHOP PHILIP BOYCE

A prayerful spirit
The great charisms in the Church continue to give rise to new shoots of sanctity. Blessed Marie-Eugène is the most recent one in the Carmelite family. His beatification took place, appropriately, on November 19, 2016, the feast of another holy Carmelite friar, St Raphael Kalinowski. There were days of rejoicing and thanksgiving in Southern France on that and subsequent days.

The beatification took place at the Parc des Expositions (the Exhibition Centre) in Avignon. Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, performed the ceremony. Over nine thousand people, among them nearly five hundred priests with forty bishops and numerous Carmelite fathers, were present. It was the crowning of a life of faithful, and at times heroic, service to Christ and to the Church.

The whole event was organised to perfection by members of the Secular Institute, Notre-Dame de Vie (Our Lady of Life) which was founded by Fr Marie-Eugène. One could easily perceive the devotion and happiness of those belonging to or associated with the Institute, who came in large numbers not only from France but also from other countries such as the Philippines, Mexico, Germany and Italy. The prayerful spirit, which was a characteristic feature of Fr Marie-Eugène and of all his disciples, permeated the various celebrations.

A new form of consecrated life
The origins of the Institute of Notre-Dame de Vie go back to 1929 when some educated women came to Fr Marie-Eugène for spiritual guidance and formation in prayer. The group was given official recognition by the Bishop of Avignon and the Superior General of the Discalced Carmelite Order on June 24, 1937. Ten years later, when Pope Pius XII promulgated the Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia (February 2, 1947), defining a new form of consecrated life in the Church, namely Secular Institutes, it became clear that this was the canonical form destined for Fr Marie-Eugène's group. They would unify contemplative prayer and active apostolate in the different callings and professions they had in society, becoming consecrated people of prayer, bearing witness to Christ and his Gospel by their lives.

A number of diocesan priests began to come to Fr Marie-Eugène as from 1959, and the priestly branch received an initial ecclesiastical approval in 1961. Three years later, they took their first vows as members of the Institute. There were also groups of lay men who followed the same spirituality. Notre-Dame de Vie was officially recognised by Papal approval in 1973 as a single Institute with three branches: that of lay women, priests and lay men. They live their consecrated life in the midst of the secular. At present there are about five hundred lay members and over a hundred priests. While living their ordinary life in the secular sphere, they are totally consecrated to the Lord in a deep spirit of daily prayer.

Hope and new life
They now venerate their founder, Fr Marie-Eugène Grialou, among the blessed in heaven. Here on earth, he searched for Christ in the depths of the soul: in 'the centre, the room or palace occupied by the King', according to St Teresa of Jesus. He now adores Christ in the glory of all the saints in heaven.

Saints are given to us as pointers to heaven. They remind us of eternal truths and of our final destination. They live in a heroic and exemplary manner. They bring many souls with them to a life of conversion and holiness. If it were not for the presence and working of these saintly men and women, society would have fallen much deeper into despair and discord, into falsehood and sin. Saints give hope and new life to the Church and to the world.

An authentic model of holiness
Blessed Marie-Eugène is now one of those luminous figures. He is now invoked, with the authority of the Church, not simply as 'Fr Marie-Eugène', but as 'Blessed Marie-Eugène'. We can celebrate his memory in the official liturgy of the Church, pray to him, ask his intercession and imitate him as an authentic model of holiness.

The influence of his holy life, of his charism and of his writings has helped and inspired many people: first of all, the members of the Institute of Notre-Dame de Vie and those associated with it; then, his Carmelite brothers and sisters have been encouraged and heartened to see one of their own make progress on the way of perfection, live out in daily life the Carmelite ideal and give us a masterful exposition of Carmelite spirituality. Many thousands of other people know Blessed Marie-Eugène from his spiritual writings, especially from his masterpiece in two volumes: I Want to See God and I am a Daughter of the Church. These people, too, will rejoice on this occasion and turn again to his writings for spiritual nourishment. His struggles and his fidelity show us that sanctity is not an exalted aim far beyond our reach, but is the outcome of a good life that is lived with fidelity and perseverance in an ongoing conversion of heart and mind to the living God.

'Tried as in a furnace'
Blessed Marie-Eugène was not a ready-made saint. If he were, if he had not had to struggle, he would not be an example for us. He had to control his impetuous nature, his impatience when things were not going smoothly, and learn persevering endurance in the dark hours of faith and contemplation. Holy men and women, whom the Church puts forward as models of holiness, are able to help us because they too had to struggle against imperfection. As Blessed John Henry Newman once said, when speaking on this subject: a saint has 'the same temptations as another; perhaps greater, because he is to be tried as in a furnace, because he is to become rich in merits, because there is a bright crown reserved for him in Heaven; still temptation he has, and he differs from others, not in being shielded from it, but in being armed against it.'

In this sense he was not unlike another Carmelite, St Elizabeth of the Trinity, who was canonised last October. When she entered the silence and peace of Carmel, she found that she had to battle against hypersensitivity, scruples and dryness of spirit. She needed the 'determined determination' of which St Teresa speaks in The Way of Perfection (WP 21:2).

Similarly with St Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Blessed Marie-Eugène had a profound knowledge of her spirituality. He incorporated the essentials of her 'Little Way' of Spiritual Childhood into the demanding asceticism of the passive Dark Nights. Most people remain at the simple and undemanding appearances of her 'Little Way'; but beneath their seeming simplicity, they hide a wealth of profound doctrine and exacting self-forgetfulness.

From John to Thérèse
Blessed Marie-Eugène showed how Thérèse's way of Spiritual Childhood is a modern application of the doctrine of St John of the Cross with its rigorous demands of theological hope and spiritual poverty, purifying and detaching the heart from all created things. Thérèse understood that the very fact of being little and helpless before God opens up the treasures of the fatherly Heart of our God: our misery attracts his divine mercy, our weakness brings his justice into action, our littleness increases the outpourings of his love. However, we have to remain little and humble, with blind confidence in his goodness. She once wrote: 'what pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy… That is my only treasure' (LT 197). Blessed Marie Eugène comments on this theme:

The secret of Thérèse is no different from that of Saint John of the Cross. The Theresian love of littleness and of poverty united to blind trust in divine mercy, is it not the same as the [Sanjuanistic] hope that is detached from everything and that God immediately fills? For both Saints these two complementary dispositions that purify and perfect one another are not only the foundations of sanctity but also create it by attracting irresistibly the outpourings of divine Love that transform and consume. But while Saint John of the Cross is incomparable and displays his grace as mystical doctor when he establishes and justifies these principles, it belongs more especially to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus to show us their application in the details of daily life.

On fire with the love of the Holy Spirit
Blessed Marie-Eugène was not a cold intellectual, content to expound the theory, albeit in a superb fashion. He lived in daily life the doctrine he illustrated in his books and articles. People experienced how he was on fire with the love that comes from the Holy Spirit. His zeal was contagious. Priests to whom he spoke or whom he guided were made more deeply aware of the anointing they had received and of the possibility and spiritual wealth of contemplative prayer and union with God. Lay people were encouraged to seek God in daily personal prayer and to make progress on the road to holiness. One of his disciples, who was present at the last retreat he preached at Venasque, has left us her impressions and given witness to the zeal that consumed him, to his passion for souls and to his longing to lead them to divine intimacy:

Fr Marie-Eugène used to say that our life here below was given to us to live with the Holy Trinity, to the point that it became 'everything in our life', despite our poverty, or rather, because of our poverty. Is this an ideal reserved for an élite, a select few? Is it a summit inaccessible for the ordinary run of Christians? Fr Marie-Eugène did not think so: 'We often halt before false obstacles, before things that, rather than obstacles, are means. We stop short before our weakness, our poverty, our wretchedness, our lack of intelligence, our lack of sanctity - as we perceive it. But no! All such things are means to purify our faith. The wretched state in which we find ourselves, the wounds we bear, the weakness that forms and shapes us, the absence of virtue, the lack of a penetrating intelligence - I say that all this is a means. Faith should in some way use all this poverty as a springboard. If this poverty did not exist one would have…to create it, so as to be able to lean on it as an aid to reaching upwards to penetrate into God.'

A true father of souls
Blessed Marie-Eugène appears to us now as a consummate spiritual writer, a competent spiritual guide along the demanding road of silent contemplative prayer, a priest who lived what he taught, a man led and formed by the Spirit of love. He had a deep personal experience of the action of the Holy Spirit in the depths of his soul, leading him to the heights of prayer. He often spoke and wrote about it, urging his disciples to turn to the Spirit within them and ask for an increase of love. His words are convincing and practical. He draws any sincere reader along with him, and rouses the desire to put into practice the ideal he describes and lives.

He was a true father of souls. He was aware that he was a spiritual father of all the members of the Institute Notre-Dame de Vie. He repeated it often, even on the evening of his last Easter Sunday, the day before he was to die: 'My children, come nearer, I am your Father, you are my children.' We all have him now as a spiritual father, an intercessor in heaven, and look forward to the day when he will, we firmly hope, be canonised.

 

SPRINGS OF LIVING WATER

[Fr Marie-Eugène was a] man of God, attentive to the spiritual and material needs of his neighbour… May his example and his intercession sustain us on our journey of faith.

Pope Francis, Angelus address, November 20, 2016

In Teresa of Avila, [Fr Marie-Eugène] recognised the mother of those who wish to live the spiritual life and, perceiving, in the laity in particular, a spiritual thirst that finds an adequate response in the teaching of Carmel, he understood that his mission was to 'lead souls to God', showing them the path of silent prayer and of life in the Spirit.

Fr Romano Gambalunga, OCD, Postulator General

MARY, BATHED IN LIGHT AND LOVE
Mary is full of grace. She is not only a vase which contains the divine life, she is immersed in the ocean which flows over her. Ave gratia plena. In the measure that this soul dilates under the influence of charity, this plenitude increases. It is the living God whom she experiences from the beginning. She is taken, nothing in her resists, no stain, no shadow at all, not one little pocket of resistance in her faculties; everything is bathed in light and love. And her response is quite simple, it is the response of a gift that is complete, the response of a love that is equal to the love she receives.

Fr Marie-Eugène, Conference, July 26, 1938

On reading the Gospel, one easily takes note that Mary is with Jesus during His hidden life, and that she remains hidden at the time of His manifestation to Israel. When hatred makes its appearance, the Virgin too manifests herself. On Calvary, when hatred triumphs and seems to have destroyed everything of the person, the work, and the reputation of Christ Jesus, Mary is standing at the foot of the Cross. By her presence there and her attitude she affirms her strength, her mission, and the triumph of her maternity. Nothing is lost, since the fruitfulness of the Mother is in no way touched but is, on the contrary, proclaimed and exalted. Through it, mercy is to be spread far…

Fr Marie-Eugène, I am a Daughter of the Church,
Second Part, ch. V, B. 2. a.

On Calvary, after the disaster, Our Lord is placed in the tomb, the Apostles are dispersed, the Holy Women are in despair. It is the evening not just of a battle that has been lost but of a kingdom that has been destroyed… And amid this disaster the Blessed Virgin stands erect. 'Stabat Mater'. Yes, everything is destroyed, abandoned. She alone is standing, like our only hope.

Fr Marie-Eugène, Conference, August 19, 1933

Those who, in faith, entrust themselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit come to realise how God is present and at work in every moment of our lives and history, patiently bringing to pass a history of salvation. Hope is the thread with which this sacred history is woven, and its weaver is none other than the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Hope is the humblest of virtues, for it remains hidden in the recesses of life; yet it is like the yeast that leavens all the dough. We nurture it by reading ever anew the Gospel, 'reprinted' in so many editions in the lives of the saints who became icons of God's love in this world. Today, too, the Spirit continues to sow in us a desire for the Kingdom, thanks to all those who, drawing inspiration from the Good News amid the dramatic events of our time, shine like beacons in the darkness of this world, shedding light along the way and opening up ever new paths of confidence and hope.

Pope Francis, Message for the
51st World Communications Day, January 24, 2017

THE HOLY SPIRIT, OUR FRIEND
In these times, the holy Church - and how our souls ought to be in unison with her - is waiting lovingly for someone she loves. She is not waiting only for the light and consolation that this person will, effectively, bring her; she is waiting for someone, she is truly awaiting a person, a person she loves. Who is this person? We know who it is: it is the Holy Spirit…

Fr Marie-Eugène, Homily, May 14, 1961

The Holy Spirit is a great personage who takes care of all the little ones, of each one of us… You can say to yourself: the Holy Spirit has been following me ever since I came into existence; from the very beginning, He has always wanted me to love Him.

Fr Marie-Eugène, Conference, May 14, 1959

With all the power of my fatherhood, with all its rights, I want to ask for the Holy Spirit for you. This is the testament that I leave you: the grace that the Holy Spirit may descend upon you, that as soon as possible all of you may say that the Holy Spirit is your friend, that the Holy Spirit is your light, that the Holy Spirit is your master… This is what I wish for you, this is the prayer that I am going to continue on earth for as long as the Good Lord leaves me here and that I shall certainly continue for you for all eternity.

Fr Marie-Eugène, 'Spiritual Testament'
addressed to Notre-Dame de Vie, February 21, 1965

 

MOUNT CARMEL VOL 65. NO.2
APRIL - JUNE 2017