My Discovery of Little Sister Magdeleine

Jesus the Master of the impossible

And yet, although I found in her all the humility and openness with regard to her human limitations of one who wanted to stress the love and omnipotence of a God who had made use of an imperfect instrument, of one who wanted also to demonstrate that 'what to human eyes is madness is often divine wisdom', I did not find any real personal revelations. She never really explained in 'Du Sahara au monde entier' how, despite her own limitations and despite a multitude of obstacles, she had managed to maintain her exceptional courage and her unlimited confidence in the omnipotence of the Jesus to whom she so frequently referred as 'the master of the impossible'.

Even the precise nature of her initial vocation was not very clear. She described it in a manner which I began to recognise as characteristic, namely in relation to concrete and ordinary circumstances: she mentioned a love for Africa and of the most forsaken, inspired by this 'master of the impossible'. After the people of Central Africa, it was the Arabs of North Africa and, among them, the nomads whose life she wanted to share. Bohemians, people who took to the road in caravans, had next touched her heart. Later it was prisoners who attracted her to be 'a prisoner with them'. Then she had wanted to live amongst lepers. It would have taken several lives, she wrote, to fulfil so many dreams.
I had doubtless anticipated coming up against what I may perhaps be permitted to call 'the personal reticence of the religious life', but I did not even find what I would have expected to find in the writings of the foundress of a religious congregation: the verbal and more defined expression of the profound inner life with God which veiled allusions made it possible to sense.
The places which Little Sister Magdeleine described in her book did not as yet have much reality for one who had never been to Algeria. What I was looking for was the spiritual life of Little Sister Magdeleine and I could scarcely find it, other than through the avowed fidelity to Charles de Foucauld of which she obviously spoke very readily. Nor did I find what Brother Roger's reaction had led me to anticipate: the woman who corresponded with his somewhat mystical vision.
Instead the author of  'Du Sahara au monde entier' expressed, in the context of her relations with Marthe Robin for example, or of her visit to the tomb of a Maronite saint, a mistrust of what she called 'extraordinary ways' and of the potential trickery of the imagination. Her concept of holiness was apparently deeply rooted in the concrete, in humanity. Traipsing 8 kilometres all alone on foot, after one of her innumerable talks, the thought had come to her that if ever one day she were to write down all that was in her heart, she would like to bequeath to her Little Sisters her great ideal of a human holiness. She wanted them to fix their eyes and hearts on the simple life of Jesus, to remove from them forever any taste for the extraordinary except for the extraordinarily simple, in which there could be no self-interest and nothing to capture the imagination.
I realised that for her, holiness was not a polar opposite of humanity, that there must be for her and even in her a kind of unity which unified not only the spiritual with the material life, but also all the other apparently disparate elements, such as the love of life which was 'so beautiful' with the desire for death and Paradise; or the world of 'dreams' and expansive intuitions with that of everyday details. I did not, however, understand as yet the nature of that unity and the inner life of Little Sister Magdeleine remained hidden behind her veiled allusions and in particular behind her frequent references to the infant Jesus.
Why did she mention the infant Jesus so frequently and so rarely refer to Christ? At first I tried to explain this fact simply in terms of her particular identification with two aspects of God made man - the simple humanity and the vulnerability of the Jesus who was at the same time the omnipotent master of the impossible.