The Secret Work of Love

Returning from the wellReturning from the well

Notes from a three-week retreat preached in the desert, near the well of Benoud, in March, 1936.

Little brother! Your life is like a gold coin bearing the image of Christ's love. It is for God, for him alone. But is it real? Isn't it fake? Is it an alloy, or is it really made of pure gold, which alone has value in his sight... A counterfeit coin looks so much like a real one! The general outline of your life, your steadiness, your prayers, can all be satisfactory to you; it can seem pure to you, faultless. Yes, to you... But is it for him? Aren't you actually controlled by pride?

You are a little brother of Jesus. Your life's goal is to be a travelling companion, a companion in suffering and in love, a companion in painful abandonment for the Heart of Jesus, the infinite Word. You must be surrendered to the love of Christ. It matters little whether or not your life is pleasing to you, as long as Jesus finds something useful in it. He has to be able to find in your soul an object of love, a world where he can pour out all his love and find his pleasure.

What does it matter if your life seems well-ordered to you, or useful, or sublime? You willingly accept everyone looking at you with scorn, criticizing you, judging your life to be a loss, humanly speaking, to be useless, empty. You accept, saying to yourself that your vocation is too lofty to be understood by the common run of Christians. But did it occur to you that you would have to give up your very self? That is, that you would have to accomplish the work of love, or rather, allow it to be accomplished within you? There is here a mystery which must be worked out within you.

Raymond  near El AbiodhRaymond near El Abiodh

As long as you feel sure about, and a little satisfied at, the usefulness of your vocation—in a human way, rather than by pure faith—it is very likely that it is your pride that is motivating your life. Let Jesus do in you what his love wills. He has to melt down the gold coin of your life in order to reach the pure gold which gives joy to his heart. But he has to make it melt; there's got to be some fire. Don't be afraid, just believe. The coin must lose its shape, lose the very imprint of Jesus' love, the image that gave you joy and, perhaps, made you a little smug. Perhaps you were striving for an ideal which seemed sublime and attractive to you. Let Love do its thing. If your vocation is so lofty that it's incomprehensible to mere humans here below, it follows that it will be incomprehensible to whatever remains of the merely human in you.

Be at peace, don't hurry the moment of this purification, don't worry when it finally comes, but understand that it has to get done one way or another. Ask it of the one who alone can work in your soul a transformation that nature by itself can't accomplish. If Love appears, let it penetrate to your depths. It must enter. Let it. Too often you keep it at the door of your soul. It wants to come in and you block the door, because you can't bring yourself to let him come in alone. You yourself can't penetrate to the depths of your own soul, so he has to go in, he alone. And that scares you. You have to stay alone by the door; you will not be able to talk to him like before, you won't hear him answering you any more. It will seem to you that you are completely alone. No, just open the door for him in silence, let him come in. Let him do as he wishes. Yes, you will be alone, and the door will be closed. You can't see the secret place where he must pour out his love. Let him enter. Accept just being there in silence. You're not used to it. It wounds your pride to remain in apparent inactivity and silence. Far from people, and far from him-—does it seem hard? But don't say 'far from him,' since you'll have let him in to the core of your soul. There he alone will act. Trust him. He'll work alone, completely alone. You won't be there to help him, and maybe that's what hurts you. How stupid we are! Do you think it would get done better if we helped him? We can't do what he does. We have to wait by the door. Open the door, let him come in, and trust him. There are so few Christians who go that far: trusting in God's Word and in uncreated Love, so he can pour out his love in the depths of their souls. We don't really trust that much.

You'll stay outside, but by faith you'll be with him all the same, since you'll know he's there, and that he's working miracles of love. Believe. Believe that much. You have to, if you want your life's work to be his. Love will be so happy! It will be so free! You won't be getting in its way any more with your prattling and your foolish conceits.

Love must smile so often, for it is infinitely gentle and patient, so much more so than you! Love must smile at your conceits! You would have liked your life to have gone in some particular way—I mean your inner life, your spirituality. But doesn't he know better how to set your soul on fire and make it a living holocaust? His ways will disconcert you, you won't understand any more. And it is your pride, then, that will be burned on the altar of your inmost self. Only love can do this. Oh, let love enter your soul! Don't leave the door closed! Don't hold him back with your prattling, which surely looks important to you but which simply gets in the way of infinite Love.

Your vocation can't be mediocre. You are not the one who can make it a reality. If it's true that it intersects with infinity, since it belongs totally to Jesus and is for him alone, then let the hands of the Infinite One realize it within you. You can't do it. And if you think you can, you haven't finished the holocaust yet.

Your vocation may be oriented toward the infinite, but when it shines out, human beings have to be able to understand it. You are a human being too, and it's in the eyes of your pride that living your vocation means disappearing and seeming foolish.

Don't be afraid. God has put a light and a strength in you which will sustain you—that is, faith, hope and charity. It's just that what you thought was an act of faith might not quite yet have been. Saint Paul said faith could only be about what is not seen. Hope too. Without that, there is no hope. It's not a matter of physical sight, but rather of your mind, your feelings, your pride. Let Jesus do as he wills. Just believe and hope.

Way of the Cross by Br CharlesWay of the Cross by Br Charles

Your life's goal is to be the companion in love of the Heart of Christ. It is inevitable, then, that your heart will receive the same treatment as his. Do you think you are more enlightened or strong than he is? His human understanding, judgment, and feelings were crushed in Gethsemane and on the Cross. At thirty years old, everything came to an end in agony, and humanly speaking he had accomplished nothing. Lift up your soul in the light of grace—which leads to the light of glory—lift up other people's souls with yours, to be the first of the full number-of the elect who will live in intimacy with God, who will complete the ranks of the angels, who will be forever the radiance of divine glory.

This is not a job for human beings. That is obvious, but our pride deprives us of our common sense. Because it is in fact hard for us to admit that this work which touches infinity but which is to be realized in us by Christ, may sometimes exceed or completely smash our limited range of vision. If it be true that Christ's execution remains foolishness in our sight as creatures, it must be true that the realization of the fullness of his Kingdom, the reign of the Infinite, of Love, within you, must take place in a manner that is painful, dark, and incomprehensible to us as well. You are too small. Let infinite Love enter the depth of your soul. You know by faith that you have to leave the door open and let him work in you. Surrender to him, really surrender, without trying to hold on to your own way of imagining your life, your desire to see your vocation come to fruition in you so you can enjoy it. Accept feeling that your life is empty, accept the smashing of your own conception of what you call your interior life. It has to be for him alone, if you truly want to be his, and to be a holocaust with him.    Let him come in, don't leave him standing at the door of your soul.

Chapel at Béni-AbbésChapel at Béni-Abbés

By your vocation as a little brother, you must be a mediator with Jesus. That is, you must allow the mystery of divine and human love which the Sacred Heart bears for all people to live in you.

It is a work of love and of mercy, not of justice. The greatest obstacle that you could meet in yourself is always pride. You can do great things, and practice great austerities, and live a life of prayer where pride is at the root of everything.

You will not be able to lead souls to Jesus if you don't posses true, pure love, because it's not you who can do such a thing, but only him. The treasures of his Heart will only be at your disposition if your soul belongs entirely to him through a love that is real and pure.

The Heart of Jesus is an unfathomable mystery. He was the receptacle of uncreated Love, creator, ultimate goal of all creation, of all glory, of all justice. Everything returns to this Love. Himself, his Heart, was also of our own flesh and blood, of our race, more sensitive than the purest among us; he loved his brothers and sisters, the persons of his own race. He would have liked to save them all. His heart knew the suffering of surrender, mercy, love which wishes to give and which runs up against human free will and sin.

It's for him that you must burn with the desire to save souls, not for yourself. Don't believe so easily that all your desires to save souls are pure. Offer them to him, ask him to purify them. Yes, you must believe that by your vocation you are a saviour of souls—not just of one or of a few, but of a multitude. You have to believe it if you have love, the love of the incarnate Word, in you. You must believe it, all the more the littler you are. It's not you who saves, it's him. [...] It's because there's a bond of love between you and the Sacred Heart that you will be on fire with desire to make his Love known. And it's because of this bond of love and friendship that Jesus will not be able to resist. Oh, how pure, deep, serious, and divine must that bond of love between him and us be! Your vocation to be a mediator is an inescapable consequence of a great love, of an infinite love.

Seek love, seek pure love, and you will be a saviour of a multitude, because then you will just have to implore once to receive everything from Love. [...]

Being a mediator with Jesus supposes the purification of a love that is total, a love which Jesus will have placed within you. Then, an immense desire will rise within you. And that will be your life as saviour. It will not be able to resist crying out within you, since it will be born of love; it will follow the laws of love, it will be crazy, without limits. And this desire will be heard. It will be sure of being heard, because it is yet another law of love that you don't doubt the one you love.

Don't believe you'll reach this point without suffering. It's the goal to which Jesus leads all faithful souls who have died to themselves. Be humble, and wish for this love which God alone can give you, and which he will give you in the measure in which you desire it.

Then, keep from being proud in your preoccupation with saving your brothers and sisters. Don't look to see the fruit of your desire. This desire for the salvation of your brothers and sisters must make you suffer. It will be a fire to purify you. If your desire is impatient, and disturbs you, it doesn't come from pure Love. Learn to know the mystery of Jesus' Heart. Along with his enormous human suffering, which your human heart will also experience, for the people of your blood and race, there was the infinite Peace of the unchanging Trinity, of the Creator Word. [... ]

You must love in Him, that is to say, He must love in you. The conversion of a few souls will not be enough for you; you will want conversion for everyone, for the whole world...

All this is beyond your strength, but Jesus will give it to you if you desire it, and if you get rid of pride within you each day. Seek to love in all things, especially in the littlest things, more than to do great things for love: for it is better to get rid of pride. Don't be afraid of seeing the depth of your poverty and accepting it. Don't make excuses, don't get upset. Don't you believe that he sees it better than you? It doesn't matter. On the contrary! He can be merciful. Because of that, believe that he loves you...