have rivaled the zealous monastic life of Joseph Columba Marmion
(1858-1923). Marmion was born in Dublin of an Irish Father and
a French mother. Joseph, his secondary studies finished was received
at the seminary of Clonliffe. He completed his preparation for
the priesthood in Rome and was ordained there in 1881. Appointed
professor of philosophy at Clonliffe Seminary, he was struck by
a visit to Maredsous Abbey on returning from Italy, which marked
his entry to the Benedictines as a novice in Belgium and after
fourteen years as Abbot, he died at Maredsous.
was phenomenally apostolic. Besides guiding the monastery, he
preached retreats, kept up an immense correspondence, and wrote
books that promise to remain standards of Catholic spirituality
for generations to come.
he wrote about is very simple. In his own words, all he wanted
to do was "to fix the eyes and the hearts of my readers on
Jesus Christ and on His word. He is the Alpha and the Omega of
all sanctity and His word is the divine seed from which all sanctity
books are Christ, the Life of the Soul, Christ
in His Mysteries, and Union with God.
in Marmion's teachings is the conviction that what people most
need is to hear the words of Christ, directly as recorded in the
Gospels, and see Him as described by the Evangelists. Marmion
believed that such an overlay of speculation and interpretation
obscures the New Testament that for too many, even sincere believers,
there is a barrier between them and the Master. However, the
greatest obstacle to following Christ is people's own preconception
and self-will. He describes such people in Christ, the Life
of the Soul:
make holiness consist in such or such a conception formed by their
own intelligence; attached to those purely human ideas they have
formed, they go astray; if they make great strides, it is outside
the true way marked out by God; they are victims of those illusions
against which St. Paul warned the first Christians.
In so grave
a matter, in so vital a questions, we must look at and weigh things
as God looks and weighs them. God judges all things in the light,
and His judgment is the test of all truth. "We must not
judge according to our own liking," says St. Francis de Sales,
"but according to God's will."
is infinitely above human wisdom; God's thoughts contain possibilities
of fruitfulness such as no created thought possesses. That is
why God's plan is o wise that it cannot fail to reach its end
because of any intrinsic insufficiency, but only through our own
fault. If we leave the Divine idea full freedom to operate in
us, if we adapt ourselves t it with Love and fidelity, it becomes
extremely fruitful and may lead us to the most sublime sanctity."
tires of repeating that Christ's plan for our sanctification is
simplicity personified. The results of ignoring this fact can
be disastrous. Ingenious and complicated "souls that have
not understood the mystery of Christ lose themselves in a multiplicity
of details and often weary themselves in a joyless labour. Why
is this? Because all that our human ingenuity is able to create
for our inner life serves for nothing if we do not base our edifice
on Christ." With this end in view he has constant recourse
to the Holy Scriptures or rather it is the Bible itself
which is the source whence springs the harmonious development
and fruitful applications of his teachings.
on taking Christ and His teaching literally is the secret of the
remarkable influence of Marmion's books. Basic, however, to following
Christ literally is the faith conviction that the one we are following
is God Himself in human form. He is at once the Author of our
Redemption and the infinite Treasury of grace, the Model of our
perfection and the Goal of our destiny - but only because He is
the all-perfect God Who became man to die for our salvation and
to teach us how we are to reach heaven.
the Life of the Soul
in His Mysteries.
from Christ in His Mysteries
we study attentively the Epistles of St. Paul, it is evident that
for him all is summed up in the practical knowledge of the mystery
to the Ephesians: "According to revelation, the mystery has
been made known to me, as I have written above in a few words;
as you are reading you may understand my knowledge in the mystery
of Christ ... to me the least of all the saints, is given this
grace, to preach among the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of
Christ, and to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the
dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity
the fallen world, St. Paul brings only one means: - Christ, and
Christ crucified. It is true that this mystery is a stumbling
block for the Jews and foolishness for the Grecian sages, but
it contains the virtue of the Divine Spirit, Who alone can renew
the face of the earth."
alone can be found all the "wisdom, and justice, and sanctification,
and redemption" of which souls have need in all ages. And
this is why St. Paul makes the whole formation of the inward man
consist in the practical knowledge of the mystery of Jesus.
at once say that we do not see God: Deum nemo vidit unquam.
That is true. We shall know God perfectly only when we see
Him face to face in eternal beatitude.
below, God manifests Himself to our faith through His Son Jesus.
Christ, the Incarnate Word, is the great revelation of God to
the world: Ipse illuxit in cordibus nostris ... in facie Christi
Jesu. Christ is God appearing amongst men, in order that
man may know how they ought to live so as to be pleasing to God.
It is, then,
upon Christ that all our gaze ought to be concentrated. Open
the Gospel: you will there see that three times only does the
Eternal Father cause His Voice to be heard by the world. And
what does this Divine Voice say to us? Each time the Eternal
Father tells us to contemplate His Son, to listen to Him, that
He way be thereby glorified: "This is my beloved Son in Whom
I am well pleased. Hear ye Him": Hic est Filius meus
delictus ... Ipsum audite. All that the Father asks of us
is to contemplate Jesus, His Son, to listen to Him, so as to love
and imitate Him, because Jesus, Being His Son, is equally God.
did God take care to prepare for the coming of His Son so long
in advance? Why did Christ leave us so many divine teachings?
Why did the Holy Ghost inspire the sacred writers to note so many
details of seeming insignificance? Why did the Apostles write
such long and urgent epistles to their churches?
Was it in
order that these teachings should remain buried, like a dead letter,
in the depths of the Holy Scriptures? Certainly not, but so that
we should search out, as St. Paul desires, the mystery of Christ;
that we should contemplate His Person, and study His actions;
His actions reveal to us His virtues and His will. we ought to
contemplate Him, not by means of a merely intellectual study -
such study is often dry and sterile - but in omni sapientia
et intellectu spirituali, in a spirit full of heavenly wisdom,
which will cause us to seek in the Divine Gift for the truth that
will enlighten our lives. We ought to contemplate Him so as to
conform our lives to this Model Who renders God accessible to
us, to draw divine life from Him in order that our thirst may
be fully quenched: Haec est autem vita aeterna.