Quote of the day, 2 June: Père Jacques de Jésus

Did Christ possess the virtue of hope?

As formally defined in the Act of Hope, the answer is no. Christ did not hope for grace in this life and glory in the life to come, since he already possessed both. However, he did possess a certain type of hope—his surrender to God’s providential plan. The totality of his human nature, his body and soul, his mind and will, his tenderness, and emotions surrender to God with tranquil trust.

In his immediate vision, Christ contemplates God in his immense power, his infinite wisdom, and his limitless love. This discovery stirs up in his heart a total, confident surrender to God. Thus, Christ places his complete self in the hands of God, whom he knows is his Father.

Only rarely do we meet someone who admits offenses against hope. The priest in confession often encounters doubts against faith, lapses of charity, theft, impurity, spite, anger, gluttony, and all the other sins. However, he rarely encounters offenses against hope, in general, and against surrender to Divine Providence, in particular. Nonetheless, such sins are possibly the most painful to God, because they strike at his heart.

Please, excuse me for using human language in speaking of God. Yet, we much make such use of our language, despite its limitations, in reference to God. God is the fullness of love, as Christ said over and over again. We ourselves say “le bon Dieu” (the good God).

Yes, God is good and lack of trust in God is a direct denial of his goodness. It is like saying to God: “You have no heart!” Here on earth, when we say: “You have no heart,” the other person is deeply hurt, precisely because one of the loftiest human qualities is to “have heart,” which makes us good.

The human person is presumably good. If that is not the case, we call the person a beast or a brute. The more fully a person approximates the highest level of human development, the more expansive is the reach of that person’s charity.

In this sense, the saints and preeminently the Blessed Virgin Mary were singularly good. We spontaneously appeal to the saints because they are good. We can be sure that they will never rebuff us and will always help us. People flock to Saint Thérèse, the Little Flower because they know how true are her words: “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.”

To paraphrase Saint Thomas, saints are those who have taken on the ways of God. They have been transformed into God’s image by allowing God so to fashion them. A saint is a person who is full of love. When we sin against hope, we effectively say to God: “I reject you. You are wicked and heartless. I have no confidence whatsoever in your goodness.”

Such a sin, while perhaps less visibly flagrant than certain sins against chastity, is still grievous because it occurs in a realm of only minimal mitigating circumstances. Such a sin assumes its gravity from its direct reference to God. Most sins derive from human weakness; however, sins against hope strike directly against God’s goodness and wisdom. Where does a person who sins against hope stand in relationship to God’s love?

We must aim to live with confidence in God. Through abandonment to Divine Providence, we live a life of hope, which refreshes our souls and unites us with God at every moment until this spiritual communion becomes our eternal state.

Finally, I want to leave with you this profound prayer, to be recited time and again:

“O God, I wish to be fully what I am.” #PèreJacquesDeJésus

There is no prayer more beautiful, more pleasing, or more powerful in God’s eye than this simple prayer. It is the fiat of the Father. In a special way, it supplements the “Our Father,” which Christ taught.

“O God, I wish to be just what I am for as long as you so will; I am aware of an evil strain deep within me. That strain spawns egotism, infidelity, and hostility, leading to moodiness, laziness, and self-indulgence. I wish to be fully what I am. For, I know that you are all-powerful and could change me in an instant. Yet, at the same time, you are infinitely loving and offer me whatever is for my best. I have total trust in you. You are all-powerful and you love me!”

Amen.

Servant of God Père Jacques de Jésus

Hope and Abandonment (excerpts)
Retreat, Carmel of Pontoise, Conference 11  
Saturday morning, 11 September 1943 


The Servant of God Jacques de Jésus, O.C.D., who was a professed friar of the Province of Paris-Avon, an ordained priest, and the headmaster of the Discalced Carmelite friars’ boys’ preparatory school at Avon, the Petit Collège Sainte-Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésusdied on this date, 2 June 1945 in St. Elizabeth Hospital in Linz, Austria following 70 weeks in Nazi prison camps.

Père Jacques was weakened by a year of hard labor and harsh conditions at Mauthausen and Gusen concentration camps in Austria; when the Allied Forces liberated the camps on 5 May 1945, he summoned the strength to help restore order and organize relief efforts. But 15 days later the Allied camp commanders transferred him to St. Elizabeth Hospital so that he could be close to the community of the Discalced Carmelite friars at Linz. It was there that he succumbed to illness and exhaustion at 45 years of age.

The diocesan process of his cause of beatification was opened in 1990. The English-language website for his cause includes the Prayer for Beatification and the address where you can send reports of favors received.

The World Holocaust Remembrance Center Yad Vashem has a featured story dedicated to Père Jacques. It includes a description of his heroic acts to shelter Jewish students at the preparatory school, for which he was arrested. It also quotes the testimony of witnesses to his arrest and imprisonment and provides links to read full accounts of witnesses’ testimonies. On 17 January 1985 Yad Vashem recognized Père Jacques as Righteous Among the Nations. You can find an entire page devoted to Père Jacques (Lucien Bunel), which includes his featured story, testimonies, and photos.

Listen to the Silence – A Retreat with Père Jacques, is available for purchase from the publisher, ICS Publications.

Jacques, P 2005, Listen to the silence: a retreat with Père Jacques, translated from the French and edited by Murphy F, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

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