BY Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC.
A RETREAT FOR APOSTLES
Especially Dedicated to the Friends and Apostles of the Sacred Heart
“Lord, what will Thou have me do?” (Acts ix, 6.)
“Give Me a free hand.”
(Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary)
THE retreat which you are beginning this evening must not be just one of many ordinary retreats, but a veritable retreat for apostles. Hence I do not intend to talk to you about your last end, as creatures, nor about Eternity or Hell. Under the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, you have met here with a view to making yourselves fit to be forerunners of Our Lord, to preparing the ways for Him and training yourselves for your work as apostles of the Sacred Heart. Like the Baptist, you have to make straight the way for the King of Love, and to do this it is necessary that you first learn how to become little and disappear, that He may increase. (John iii, 30.) If you do this, you will become fountains of living water. It will then be your mission to fertilize the souls of others, raising them to life everlasting. (John iv, 14.)
The very first thing to be done is to empty your minds of all the thousand petty interests which absorb your thoughts, and to get rid of your all too human manner of judging and valuing things. There is no need to fear the difficulties of this task, for grace will accomplish the work for you, in cooperation, of course, with your own good will.
In our desire to sanctify ourselves we are only too apt to cling to some comfortable system of our own devising. We want to be saints, but in our own way, and by our own beaten track. Let us resolutely choose the divine Way, Jesus Christ, Who is also the Truth and Life Incarnate. (John xiv, 6.) We have thought at times to attain perfection through our own moods or fancies, which we imagine spiritual, and, of course, we failed. What is to be done? “Leave Me a free hand,” Jesus replied to St. Margaret Mary, and to St. Teresa of Avila He said: “Thou shalt be holy in My way, not according to thy fancy.” Examine your conscience, therefore, to see of what you must empty and dispossess yourselves, in order to fill your soul with that Jesus Whom you wish to make known and loved.
But make this examination simply, without that exaggerated fear which often comes from self-love, without any uneasy feelings. Humility in self-knowledge yields as its fruit much peace, which in its turn gives us a better knowledge of ourselves, a greater light.
Say to Jesus, quite simply, as a little child would to its mother: “Jesus, look! here is a stain, and here is another, and another still. Thou knowest all my shortcomings better than I, and Thou canst best correct them.” This loving King will at once reply to you as He did to St. Margaret Mary, when her Superior bade her ask for a cure as a proof of the mission He was entrusting to her: “Now thou art confided to My care, it is My will to return thee perfectly cured to her who committed thee into My hands.” This is exactly what will happen to you during the retreat. You are now entirely committed to His care. You have come here ailing, but fear not, He will heal you, “if you give Him a free hand.” Do not forget this indispensable condition. He will perform the divine work, not you, and He only asks of you docility. Let Him empty and amend you, and afterwards fill the chalice of your hearts to the brim, that you, in your turn, may give of your abundance. Since an apostle must necessarily be a teacher, you must acquire a great wisdom, that of God and His Saints. And if, in His mercy, the Lord has enriched you with intellectual gifts and talents, praise Him for this, and use these gifts to His glory. But place not your trust in that human culture. Seek first and above everything the divine wisdom, that science to which St. Paul referred when he said: “I judged not myself to know anything … but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. ii, 2.) This is the only true and profitable knowledge: To know Jesus Christ.
Seek Him fervently during these days, seek Him in the Tabernacle. Here, you are but a step from the Master; fix your eyes on Him Who is the Light: bring your hearts close to His Divine Heart, ask Him to grant you the inestimable grace of knowing Him.
From this knowledge will blossom the spirit of faith and the spirit of love; not of a sentimental love, which so many seek, but of that “love strong as death,” (Cant. viii, 6.) which leads necessarily to self immolation, and brings forth the spirit of sacrifice, whether in matters touching our own personal sanctification, or our apostolate.
Love Jesus firmly, unswervingly, conforming yourselves in all things to His Holy Will. Love Jesus generously and then in your turn you will make others love Him as they ought to do. Love Him trustfully, that is without looking back, without those misgivings and fears which destroy love and confidence in His mercy.
Confide yourselves to a God Who is all Charity. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your weakness. Believe in Him, trust in Him, with blind and absolute confidence because He is Jesus. Believe that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is life! and sanctity is nothing but that same Jesus intimately living in you. Live with Him, unite yourselves to Him; such is your purpose in making this retreat.
He Himself said to St. Margaret Mary: “I wish thee to be a docile instrument to draw hearts to My love.” “My divine Heart is so impassioned with love for man and for thee in particular that, being unable to contain within Itself the flames of Its ardent charity, It must needs spread them abroad by thy means. … I have chosen thee in spite of thy unworthiness and ignorance, for the accomplishment of this great design, so that all may be done by Me. Thou shalt never lack help until My Heart lacks power. … Thou shalt always be the beloved disciple of My Divine Heart.”
You apostles who read this, you who are continuing the mission of the great Saint of Paray-le-Monial, apply these delightful inspiring words to yourselves!
But that you may be like Margaret Mary, “docile instruments,” you must live close to the Master, so that His Heart and yours form but one: cor unum. And as this is very difficult and indeed altogether impossible, given our fallen state, ask Him to do with you what He did with His servant: to take your heart and place in its stead His own adorable one. With courageous love say to Him that, since His Divine Heart and your proud, susceptible, sensual nature cannot fraternize, He must burn it up, reduce it to ashes, so that you may say with the great Apostle, St. Paul: “To me, to live is Christ.” (Phil. i, 21.)
A generosity, proof against every trial, must be the necessary preamble to this transformation. Give yourselves unsparingly and Our Lord will sanctify you and make you sowers of life and sanctity.
And here I may make an observation well adapted to the spirit of Love which I preach to you: Serve the King of Glory with joy and gladness of spirit, casting aside and forgetting all that troubles and worries you. Meditate on the wonderful revelation of the Heart of Jesus. Dwell upon the burning words, the yearnings of that adorable heart, His petitions, His promises, but peacefully and joyously. The life of St. Margaret Mary attentively read and meditated will be of great help to you. That of the Little Flower, too, affords deep and entrancing spiritual reading. With the skill of a doctor and the language of a child she tells stupendous things, shows depths still unexplored and gives us a second revelation of the Heart of Jesus. During these days of prayer and recollection, I also recommend to you the works of St. Gertrude who is called the theologian of the Heart of Jesus. Above all, penetrate your minds with the Gospel which breathes forth God’s Infinite Love and Mercy. Let Jesus Himself be your Book, your Gospel. How often the fruit of a retreat is lost, at least, in part, because too great an attention is given to a thousand details of minor importance and not to the living substance, which is the meditation and knowledge of Jesus.
I need hardly tell you to offer up constant, simple and trusting prayer. Pray lovingly, like children, with an earnest desire to love much and make loved the Love that is not loved.
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