Principles of the Spiritual Life According to venerable Marist Father John Claude Colin
'My greatest desire is that you become saints”
And it was not in vain that Venerable Father Colin desired sanctity for his sons. Founder of a Society given to active apostolate, he knew that to be a saint is to possess God, and to be an apostle is to give Him to others. The measure of our sanctity depends on the strength of our interior life, on the intimacy of our union with God. Hence the norm of our apostolate, of our giving God to others, will be in proportion to our possession of Him.
Union with God will be made quite easy, if we allow ourselves to be deeply penetrated with the truth, the essential truth, that God really lives in a pure soul. It was the holy Founder's wish that his children be conscious, at every moment of the day, of this life of God within them, that their every thought, word and deed spring from this consciousness, that God be the centre of their lives, their all.
' Let us not neglect to acquire the habit of the presence of God. Unless we are careful to watch over the movements of the soul, to keep them united to God, we shall have but a semblance of virtue, our actions will be performed naturally and will, therefore, be without merit in God's sight.'
'One must learn to taste God .... To taste God is to feel one's heart wounded. . . . '
Marists are to foster this habit of the presence of God from the very beginning of their religious lives. Father Colin, himself, did his utmost to train novices along these lines:
'I sought only to unite them to God, to draw them to a spirit of prayer. Once union with God was established, the rest would be quite easy. For when God is in a heart He does wonders with it.
Without Him all that we do is useless .... Once a novice bas tasted God, he will return to Him constantly as to a treasure which he possesses within his own soul. . . . ''
As aids to union with God, Venerable Father Colin lays much stress on a spirit of faith, prayer, especially mental prayer, and purity of intention:
'' What I recommend to you especially and with the utmost care is to cling firmly to the spirit of faith, to prayer, to supernatural views. Let these motives impregnate our thoughts, words and actions. Guided by motives of faith, and instilling these motives into others, wll enable you to advance all the more readily along the path of perfection. Whereas if you act in a human fashion, the slightest breeze will scatter what you have done. . . . '
' I want to tell you something very dear to me: pray, pray . ... Let us be men of prayer. Let us pray constantly. Let us pray much for each other. To do good, we must pray. He who loves God, the real priest, must include the whole universe in his zeal. Hence we have all the more reason to pray. He who prays only for himself has a narrow heart, and he will receive grace only in proportion to the narrowness of his heart. It is prayer which converts. Let us, therefore, pray much for the Oceanian missions. The souls converted there will be the fruit of our prayers. Prayer is the means of doing good while remaining hidden and unknown. The Blessed Virgin did not make a noise, but she prayed much.'
' Prayer is the sap which nourishes the tree and makes it bear fruit. It is the oil which keeps light in the lamp. He who does not pray resembles a dead tree or at least one that is dying.
He will not have lost the life of grace. But he will not survive long.
'You know well that unless the Lord is with us, unless He works and builds with us, all our efforts are in vain: ' Unless the Lord shall have built the house, they who build it have laboured in vain.' Without help from above, all our united efforts are but a fresh proof of our powerlessness and utter incapacity.'
'Let us, therefore, raise suppliant hands towards God. Let us confidently beg light from the Lord: 'Let us, therefore, approach the throne of grace with the hope that we shall obtain mercy and shall find grace at the opportune moment.' By the vehemence of our supplication, let us knock repeatedly at the door of the Sacred Heart of our Divine Saviour. In that Heart there are powerful graces, special graces for the Society and for each of its members. But they must be solicited by the fervour of constant prayer: ' Ask and you shall receive : knock and it shall be opened unto you.' '
'For us, prayer is the key to Our Lord's treasure. It is the only condition which He puts to His favours. It is the order of His Providence. It is even the order of His justice which requires that we continually feel our- dependence and need of His help.'
'By state and by duty we are vowed to follow Christ and His divine Mother. May all our thoughts, all the motions of our hearts, all our steps, be worthy of our august models. Let us live their lives. Let us think as they thought. Let us judge as they did. May our union with them by prayer be such that we never lose sight of them. And may the world with its deceitful glory be what it was for the great apostle, St. Paul: 'The world is crucified to me and I unto the world.' ''
'We must pray. And we must do so with courage. We must know how to ask. Someone said to God: ‘O, my God, what would it cost You to give me such or such a thing?' To which she received the interior reply: 'What would it cost you to ask it? ' Let us often say to God:
'Lord, what would it cost You to do such or such a thing? To grant me such or such a favour?
' The Heart of Jesus burns in its desire to give itself. He asks but to lavish His graces. Let us, therefore, fervently and confidently, ask Him for what we need. Let us not cease to pray.'
'I insist strongly on meditation. I could not insist too strongly. I feel forced to do so. For on that one point depends the success of all our undertakings. If, therefore, the Society is not based on a spirit of prayer, its foundations are not solid. It is lost. It will not go far .... '
'By a spirit of prayer, by constant prayer, I do not mean that we must have our rosaries in our hands all day, or that we must meditate all the time. Regularity at our spiritual exercises is certainly important so as to stir up piety within us. For piety, like an ordinary fire, dies out ii not fed from time to time. By a spirit of prayer I mean constant dependence on the Will of God. We must be children near our father. It suffices for a child to know that it is near its father. We should have nothing but God's will in view .... Consider Our Lord passing through the various states of infancy, adolescence and early manhood, yet remaining at manual work in the house of Nazareth. One might have said to Him : ' Why do you not preach ? '
Christ's concern was to accomplish His Father's will. And so He would remain at Nazareth as long as it pleased His Father that He should. Let us act thus. Let us desire nothing but what God wants. Happy is he who acts thus. What joy, what peace is his! Attachment to God's will is heaven on earth.'
'It is possible to pray in many ways. He who acts according to God's will, prays. Do all your actions well, so that God's will for you may be accomplished. In addition, be faithful to your ordinary prayers, and all will go well. Study, preach, confess, teach .. .. Everything is a prayer when one knows how to direct all one's actions towards God, and to perform them in union with His Divine Will.'
'' Only by the habit of a supernatural intention, by pious soarings of the heart towards God, shall we fulfil the merciful designs of Providence in our regard. Then we shall see the Society of Mary strike deep root and, like a tree planted on the river-side, spread abroad its humble and fertile branches laden with all sorts of blessings : ' And he shall be like a tree planted beside flowing waters, which will bring forth fruit in season; its leaves shall not fall, and all things he shall do will prosper.''
'' God promises us these prodigies of blessings if we place our trust in Him alone, if we are men of prayer and meditation. What He has done for us so far, despite our many imperfections and the aridity of our hearts in His Presence, shows us all that He will still do, if we unite ourselves with Him
in the fervour of constant prayer. Those blessings will also be ours if, stripped of the spirit of the world, of all human consideration, we seek only His pure glory and the honour of the Queen of Heaven, and open our hearts wide to the effusion of His divine Heart.'
' Every Marist who sincerely desires to advance in perfection and to please God must, first thing in the morning and at the beginning of his most important duties, direct a,nd purify his intention. He must offer all his works to Our Lord Jesus Christ by the hands of the Blessed Virgin. Let him ask that good Mother to give him the grace necessary to perform his actions in union with Our Blessed Saviour. Furthermore, let him be ever ready to accept with gentleness, calm and submission the pains, humiliations and mortifications which the fatherly hand of God may deign to mete out to him.''
'That purity of intention which consists in doing everything for love of God and in union with Jesus Christ and His most holy Mother is a most essential practice in order to retain the merit of one's actions. Each one will, therefore, endeavour to apply it to everything, even to such very ordinary actions as eating and drinking, resting and recreating .... Seek in all things God's will alone. Never seek anything but the glory of God and the happiness of the heavenly Father.'
So sure was Father Colin that in God alone is the life and centre of the soul that, in the midst of his heavy burdens all generously accepted for the glory of God and the love of Mary, he craved for recollection:
'I realize what one becomes in action. I realize this in my own case fust and foremost. I have always felt very much drawn to retirement. And I have come to realize now much, in activity, rust is mixed with the good which we may do. How, unconsciously, the heart gets cold and the soul becomes quite dissipated.'
'It seems to me that I would be overjoyed to have but one year of rest in God. When one is in the midst of active work, one fails to see the reason for such rest. How many unexpected things are muddled up with.in those souls of ours! Alas, for twenty-one years I have desired and sought twelve months in which to recollect myself, to rid myself of externals so as to speak with God alone. 0, how happy one is alone with God! We are fools if we believe that we can do anything without the spirit of prayer.'
'To think during a whole year of nothing but God and one's relations towards Him ... what a blessing that would be for the soul I ''
'Love of God is not spoken of enough. Yet it is the foundation of sanctity.'
How good it is to hear these burning words fall from the lips of Venerable Father Collin ! Love is the foundation of sanctity. And it is by love that Marists, according to their father's wish, will be shining lights to those with whom they come in contact. According to Father Colin, to love is 'to be constantly dependent upon the Will of God '
'to want nothing but the Divine Will.' Thus, following in Mary's footsteps, and like her, the soul remains sweetly serene no matter what the circumstances. Experience alone can show the amount of persevering energy and constant death to self which this implies. Therefore, far be it from Marists to look upon love as a more or less romantic, soft and sterile ecstasy. ' Love is as strong as death. '
'' I must renew devotion to the Sacred Heart in the Society,' said Venerable Father Colin. And is not devotion to the Sacred Heart essentially the devotion to Love?
' 0, my children, I place you all in the Heart of Mary, your Mother. And I ask her to cast you into the burning furnace, that is to say, into the Sacred Heart of Jesus.'
' No grace comes to us from the Heart of Jesus save by prayer. We have either prayed ourselves, or others have done so for us.'
'I would like to draw the conversion of souls from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I would like to draw everything from there, to yield myself to the folly of the Cross.'
To those of his children who, for some reason or other, are cut off from active apostolate, Venerable Father Colin addresses these comforting words:
'God needs only our love .... Not our service”
Do we give Him that love? Or do we deprive Him
of some or of most of it by our attachment to creatures? When we shall have understood what real love is, we shall have understood -the form and exact .intensity of love to give to a creature-in and for God. Love properly understood does not mutilate the souJ. On the contrary, it dilates it by bringing order and balance into it:
'We have learnt to recognize the love God has in our regard, to recognize it, and to make it our belief. God is love; he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. '