Children's Catechesis: Contemplation for Each of Us

Authored by Sophie Galloy in Issue #6.2 of The Catechetical Review

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Can a businessperson aspire to contemplation? A parent? A teenager? A young child? Don’t we usually see it as a privilege reserved for monks and cloistered nuns? Father Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus would say that each of us is capable of genuine contact with God, including the young child.

Blessed Marie-Eugene was a French Carmelite priest born in 1894. He discovered in Carmel the treasure of intimacy with God—not only through a daily two hours of silent prayer but throughout the day—thanks to St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of the Child, and Jesus's experiences and teaching. God is always ready to pour out his goodness, his lLove. Marie-Eugene's dream was to help everyone realize that this treasure is within reach. Anyone can live close to God, as God's close friend. Everyone is called to live an intimate friendship with God! 

Led by his “best friend” the Holy Spirit, and by the Virgin Mary in whom he trusted completely, this wholehearted priest founded the Notre Dame de Vie (Our Lady of Life) Institute, where priests and lay men and women are called to live this intimacy with God in an unconditional consecration, being active through contemplation and contemplative through action, whatever their jobs may be. Today, there are five hundred members all over the world.

In the Notre Dame de Vie schools, children can discover this treasure of contemplation as well. Silent prayer is made available to them in theour schools in order that they might live with God the whole day long.

Father Marie-Eugene once asked one of them: 
- “What do you do in your prayer?
- I don't know...
- Do you speak to God?
- No...
- Does God speak to you?
- No he doesn't
- Then... if neither of you say anything... don't you get bored?
- Oh, no, there are two of us! We are together!”[1]

“Contemplation does not consist in extraordinary graces, ecstasies, and experiences of God. It is the gaze itself”[2]

Do we believe that our vocation is for all of us to have a close relationship with God?

It has been the Companions of the Child Jesus's experience for 60 years. The Companions of the Child Jesus group arose sixty years ago from an obvious fact: children too can receive contemplation from God. Their purity makes it even easier for them![3] Silent prayer progressively becomes "the sun and center of all the day’s occupations,"[4], as Father Marie Eugene experienced for himself.

Companion Camps

The group was originally intended for children from 8 to 10 years old, but progressively, children have asked to continue as teens and afterwards as university students. Camps are even organized, at their request. As a Companion animator, I have done dozens of Companion camps bringing together all the Companions of my group from 10- to 18 -years old. These 2-day- or 5-day camps are treasures of God's grace. Giving to the Companions and sometimes to their friends (baptized or not) this opportunity of living in a beautiful atmosphere of simple life (cooking for ourselves, walking in the countryside, playing together, singing, laughing... far from television and an easy life) is a pure miracle of God. These days together in a beautiful outdoor setting are important to create a relationship with God and relationships among ourselves. Of course, we pray together and have talks on silent prayer.

Such groups are now spreading around the world. Each group gathers their members once a week to discover a bit more about the science of contemplation and, most important, to practice it.

In a school setting, a talk on prayer is given for the children by a member of Notre Dame de Vie, or someone close to the Carmelite spirit, during recess. Their choice to be a Companion of the Child Jesus is naturally put to the test: the child will have to skip thirty minutes of playing soccer or other outside games. For a child this is not a minor detail[CR1] . As a member of Notre Dame de Vie and Companion animator, I have always admired their courage. Progressively, the majority of the class usually ends up coming to the meetings, which always bewildered me. Children easily have an affinity for God if we just dare put them in contact with him. And this love is not fleeting, as many are now adults and keep praying regularly. The experience of God's love received in silence, deeply changes a human being. Once a soul has been touched by the Spirit, the consequences are indelible.

A Companion may commit to just a single minute of silent encounter with God each day, and he joyfully discovers that he is transformed by this divine contact. How could it be otherwise?

Fr. Marie Eugene tells us, “God is Love, communicating Himself eternally. Just as one cannot plunge his bare hands into water without getting them wet, or into a fire without burning them, likewise one cannot have contact with God by faith without receiving from His infinite riches.”[5]

Although the Companion doesn't usually feel anything during prayer, he discovers the impact it has on his life: a desire for the sSacraments, a thirst for purity in his relationships, fidelity to God.

Everyday Encounter

During silent prayer, we simply communicate with God as we would with another person. God's love penetrates us as tea is diffused in boiling water. All we have to do is believe. Faith has such a powerful effect on God! It is like a pipe. The greater it is, the more liquid pours out of it. God is willing to give his love and healing through faith. Think about the sick woman who touched the fringe of Jesus's cloak believing she would be healed... she touched Jesus who thrilled at her touch of faith. Instantly she drew out of him the healing she desired... "Each contact with God has the same efficacy" wrote Marie-Eugene.[6]

The Companion knows it, and he is aware that he has to exercise his faith. Faith is the most precious thing we can find in the world. The more you believe, the more you are transformed. You just have to "have faith in your faith" Marie-Eugene said.[7]

The Companion is free to choose the time and place for his "every day encounter" with God. It may be in the silence of his room, in a chapel, in nature...; the best place and the best method to pray will be the one that helps him the most to create this contact with God.

Fidelity matters more than a long period of prayer that only happens once in awhile. Why so? Because this personal rendezvous with God is not based on my "liking it or not" but on faith, obscure but certain. Whatever state I am in, joyful... sad..., or even indifferent..., it's of no importance for faith. It is not based on feelings...so unstable they are! Rather, it is based on the certainty of God's presence and action. 

I end this article with the beautiful experience of Marie Pila, the first spiritual child of Marie-Eugene, co-foundress of Notre Dame de Vie: “Faith enlivens our relationship with God. Without faith, He lives within us as a stranger. Our act of faith makes it possible for us to speak with Him and love Him as our closest friend.”[8]

Member of Notre Dame de Vie community for 25 years, Sophie Galloy is a school teacher in the south of France.

Notes


[1] Cf. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, “The Child’s Potential for Contact with God,” trans. Teresa Hawes, The Sower 35:3 (July 2014), 32-33 (found at Review.Catechetics.com)..

[2] Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, Where the Spirit Breathes: Prayer and Action, trans. Sr. Mary Thomas Noble, OP, (NY: Alba House, 1998), 118.

[3] Cf. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, “The Child’s Potential for Contact with God,” p. 32.

[4] Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, May 6, 1922 letter during his novitiate in the Discalced Carmelite Order, in

Pere d’une Multitude, Lettres Autobiographiques (Fayard, Le Sarment, 1988), 47.

[5] Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, I Want to See God: A Practical Synthesis of Carmelite Spirituality, trans. Sr. M. Verda Clare, CSC (Chicago: The Fides Publishers Assoc.), 59.

[6] Ibid., 59-60.

[7] Cf., the chapter “Have Faith in Your Faith,” in Roselyne Deglaire and Joelle Guichard, Fifteen Days of Prayer with Father Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus (NY: Alba House, 2009), 31-37.

[8] Marie Pila, translation of unpublished notes taken during a January 1962 talk.

 


This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting editor@catechetics.com

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