Prayer

St. Jane at Prayer

St. Jane at Prayer

Throughout most of her religious life, Jane was tormented by temptations against the faith. Her prayer was frequently filled with dryness and rarely did she experience warm feelings of closeness to God. In spite of the fact that she hardly ever felt consolation in prayer. The good Lord seems to have guided Jane into the ways of a prayer of great simplicity. Perhaps it was her sufferings that enabled her to turn away from herself and cling to God in more simple ways. Today we call this “Centering Prayer.” Let us hear Jane speak for herself:

Those who are led by this path, she wrote, are obligated to a great purity of heart, humility, submission, and total dependence on God. They must simplify their spirit in every way, by bypassing reflections on the past, the present and the future. Instead of looking to what they are doing or will do. they must look to God, forgetting themselves as much as possible in all things in favor of this continual remembrance, uniting their spirits in his goodness in everything that happens to them.

The essence of prayer is not found in always being on our knees, but in keeping our wills closely united to God’s in all events. The soul which holds itself ready and open to yield itself obediently on any occasion, and which receives these occasions lovingly as sent from God, can do this even while sweeping the floor.

Reflection Questions:

1. Compare and/or contrast “Centering Prayer” with Jane’s prayer, so replete with dryness and the seeming absence of God.

2. What does Jane mean by the need to simplify one’s spirit in order to look to God in prayer?

3. How does keeping our will united to God in all events qualify as prayer?

APPLICATION

Scripture

Go and if he calls, you shall say, “Speak Lord for Thy servant is listening.” (Sam 1,3:9)

Truly God has listened, he has given heed to the words of my prayer. (Psalm 66:19)

Whenever you pray, go into your room, shut the door and pray to your Father in secret. (Matt: 6:6)

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Phil 4:6)

Jane’s Words

Three Methods of Prayer

The first consists in making use of our imagination, by representing the Divine Jesus in his cradle, in the arms of his Holy Mother and of the great Saint Joseph. We must represent the mystery very simply to ourselves.

The second way is to use considerations by representing to ourselves the virtues our Lord practiced, his humility, his patience, his meekness, and his charity towards his enemies. In these considerations, we will feel our will wholly moved in God and will produce strong affections from which we draw resolutions for the day.

The third way is to keep ourselves simply in God’s presence by looking at him with the eyes of faith in each mystery, conversing with him by words full of confidence. Then remain quietly in his presence, neither troubling nor disturbing yourself for any dryness which may befall you.

The Presence of God

This is a chapter in the booklet, Sharing Prayerful Moments with St. Jane de Chantal, published by the Visitation Sisters in the United States.

St. Jane de Chantal

Both Jane and Francis had a desire for a life of quiet contemplation.

Both Jane and Francis had strong desires for a life of quiet contemplation and yet their positions of responsibility thrust them into the midst of intense activity. During her lifetime Jane founded or assisted in founding over eighty monasteries in France. She frequently had to leave the monastery to care for the temporal needs of her children. In addition, her reputation for sanctity led many to the convent parlor to seek spiritual direction from her, and she carried on a voluminous correspondence with the Visitation sisters as well as with many lay persons.

Jane’s advice to the sisters shows us how she managed to keep her soul in peace before the presence of God, despite the many interruptions of her business affairs: ” Since our Divine Savior dwells continually with us, as in his temple, let us faithfully abide with him and never leave him save to execute his commands and having done so, come back straightway to this holy and simple attention before him. I strongly recommend this practice to you because it is an admirable way of perfecting all our actions.”

Reflections questions:

1. How can we put this ideal of living in the present moment into practice?

2. How does the practice of performing our actions purely for the love of God make us attentive to his presence, even if we are not conscious of it?

APPLICATION

Scripture

Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence singing for joy. (Psalm 100:2)

Be silent in the presence of the Lord.(Zephania 1:2)

Now to God our Savior who enables you to stand in the presence of his glory with rejoicing,through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, authority before all time now and forever. (Jude 24)

St. Jane’s Words

To feel God’s presence so intimately and powerfully, so that you are no longer aware of yourself is to have that little drop of water, self, dissolved in the ocean of divinity.

We must keep our hearts open and wait for the heavenly dew to fall, because the graces of prayer are not like water welling up from the earth, but more like water coming down from the heavens.

Let us keep our hearts and spirits centered in God! We will experience the union with God which the Divine Savior begged from his Father. Before his passion, Jesus prayed that the apostles and all those who believed in him would be one with him. Just as the Father was in him and he in the Father, so all would be united lovingly together in him.

 

Introduction to the life of St. Jane

This is the introduction to the booklet, Sharing Prayerful Moments with St. Jane de Chantal, published by the Visitation Sisters in the United States.

Castle of Bourbilly

Castle of Bourbilly, where St. Jane lived her married life

Jane Frances Frémyot de Chantal was born in 1572 in Dijon, France, the second child of a noble family. Her mother died when she was eighteen months old and she was reared by her father who gave her an extraordinary education for a young girl of her time. She was intelligent, strong-willed and full of faith in God.

In 1592, she married the Baron Christophe de Rabutin-Chantal. Jane loved her husband deeply and theirs was a happy marriage, despite Christophe’s occasional infidelities. He was very much involved in court life, loved hunting and had not the slightest interest in managing his household and estates. This task he gave into Jane’s capable hands. She proved to be a skillful administrator, and by establishing certain economic principles, she was able to pay off Christophe’s debts and make the place a profitable venture.

Jane and Christophe had four children: three daughters, Marie-Aimee, Françoise, and Charlotte, and one son, Celse-Benigne. She also reared and educated Christophe’s illegitimate daughter, Claudine de Chantal. In 1601, tragedy struck. Christophe was accidentally shot and killed while hunting with a friend. Jane was devastated; her grief knew no bounds, and it was a long time before she could bring herself to forgive the person responsible for his death.

Following Christophe’s death, Jane’s father-in-law demanded that she make her home with him and take over the supervision of his estate. He threatened to disinherit her children unless she complied with his wishes. Once again, she set to work to bring order out of chaos and she was very successful.

No only did she manage the property, but she reared her father-in-law’s illegitimate children, suffered much from their mother, the titled housekeeper of the home. She also saw to the spiritual and physical needs of the poor of the area, and even set up a soup kitchen which she operated out of the castle.

In 1604, Jane was invited by her brother, the Archbishop of Bourges, to attend a series of Lenten sermons being given by the learned and charismatic new Bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales. Jane and Francis were introduced to one another and immediately established a bond of friendship that was to produce a Gospel-based spirituality that would be a treasure to the Church for all ages.

Francis confided to Jane his desire to found a religious order that would be welcoming to women seeking a deep relationship with God, but who for one reason or another could not live with the physical rigors of traditional religious life. In 1610, they officially established the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. Like Francis, Jane was a good spiritual guide. She advised the nuns on their prayer life as well as the practicalities of living in community. After Francis’ death in 1622, Jane continued the work, founding eighty-six houses of the Visitation by the time of her death in 1641. She was beatified in 1751 and canonized in 1767. The Church in the United States celebrates her feast  on August 12.