Saint Claude la Colombiére is a 17th century Jesuit saint. It is unfortunate that there are not more of his writings in English translation, yet. However, of what we have, a small book of excerpts, there is a great deal of spiritual wisdom and depth to be found. In this post, I would like to highlight and briefly examine a few of the beautiful passages of such a reverent and intelligent servant.
In an excerpt of some retreat notes, the Saint writes on the power and beauty of prayer:
[Prayer] is the only means of purifying us, of uniting us to God, and of allowing God to unite himself to us and be glorified in us. We must pray to obtain the apostolic virtues; pray that we may use them to help others, and pray also that we may not lose them while serving others.
Without a doubt, Saint Claude’s spirituality of prayer is intense. It is a means, and what he identifies as the only means, of purification and unification with God. This understanding of prayer is mystical, that prayer is a certain transportation of the soul into the arms of God. Saint Catherine of Siena, for-instance, explains that through prayer, the soul tastes truth and goodness, and “unites [itself] with God”. This mystical theology of prayer is also how the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prayer—using the words of St. John Damascene: “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God” (CCC 2559). If prayer is about the transportation of the soul above, then the object of prayer is not just God, but more specifically, it is the presence of God. Prayer cultivates the Most High present within one’s own existential make-up. Prayer enhances the life of God within us by bringing us closer to Him: prayer awakens man.
The Saint continues, considering the counsel of Saint Paul to pray without ceasing: “[This] seems sweet to me and in no way impossible. It includes the practice of the presence of God…We always have need of God, therefore we must always pray”. Likewise and furthermore, the greatest charity is the giving of Jesus Christ to others. Not only, then, do we pray in order to be with God, but we pray to overflow with God: prayer, thence, becomes a way of being gift: “How can we help our neighbor? By prayer and good works. Preaching is useless without grace, and grace is only obtained by prayer. If conversions are few, it is because few pray.”
One cannot consider prayer without its component and fullness within the Holy Mass. Saint Claude goes so far as to write that “God is more honored by a single Mass than he could be by all actions of angels and men together”. He continues that it is in the Mass, in this “adorable Sacrifice”, that man can “find all things: graces, riches spiritual and temporal, favors for body and mind for life and eternity”. With such an understanding of the Eucharist, is it any wonder that the Saint also writes about the necessity of the Sacrament?
My daily Mass and Communion is my only hope and resource. Jesus Christ can do very little if he cannot uphold me from day to day. He will not fail to reproach me if I begin to relax; each day he will counsel me and give me new strength; he will instruct, console, and encourage me and give me all the graces for which I pray. [Emphasis added.]
These words ought to inspire the Christian of today. In the Holy Mass, the participating individual is able to encounter the authenticity of a hope that transforms and renews, to receive and be received into the communion of Jesus Christ and therefore eat the greatest nutrient of the human person: the bread of life (cf. Jn 6). To encounter Jesus Christ is a central component of the Liturgical life. By encountering Him, our souls are lifted and renewed, and our senses are opened and strengthened by the powers of faith, hope, and love. By encountering Jesus Christ we enter into the communion of creation that longs for the closeness of the Creator, in whom man’s true source of happiness rests. The Holy Mass is that place where the personality of the human person reaches its fullest expression in the adoration and reception of her God.
I was greatly touched in considering the thoughts that Jesus Christ has of me when I hold him in my hands: the dispositions of his Heart, his desires and plans for my soul. What sweetness and grace a pure and detached soul receives in this Sacrament.
I would now like to end with a brief passage the Saint wrote on charity and service to others:
God is in the midst of us, and it seems that we do not recognize him. He is in our neighbor and desires to be served, loved, and honored in him, and he will reward us more than if we served him in person…Let each one see Jesus Christ in his neighbor.
Religion has always been about the other, that is, some sort of divinity. However, in Christianity, the whole structure of the other is transcended and illuminated. Christianity is, in the first place, about being close with the Most High, the God of Love. In that communion with the Creator, however, man is received into the communion of creation; thus, because Christianity is about the Ultimate Other, who is the God of Jesus Christ, it always concentrates on the other. Christianity is therefore a religion of excess, of being radically and extensively pro-life. For true life is one of excess and fullness. Only from God can such spring forth into the human heart.
May these words on service inspire us to dive deeper into relationship with others, and to look into their eyes and see not a reflection of oneself, but, aided by light of faith, adore the eyes and presence of Christ.
Saint Claude la Colombiére, pray for us!
 The Dialogue, Trans. Algar Thorold (Charlotte: Saint Benedict Press, 2008), 27