Lessons from the letters of spiritual direction of Blessed Columba Marmion
The love of God bears within it the love of neighbor. The first commandment is to love God with our whole soul, with our whole mind, with our whole heart and with our whole strength. The second commandment is similar to the first: “You are to love your neighbor as yourself.” Therefore, the life of union with God implies , as a necessary consequence, love toward our neighbor.
In Dom Marmion’s correspondence, few pages are to be found relating to fraternal charity, but these deserve to be borne in mind; we come across more than one characterized by that by that fine psychology full of truth and of that luminous clearness which are part of the charms of his teaching:
“The Lord,” he writes to a soul under his direction, “is giving you the great grace of a strong and sincere desire for perfection. With this grace you ought to go far; what hold you back is that you do not give yourself up enough to God in His members. You would go to God all alone (in occupying yourself only with your individual perfection), but God presents Himself to us united to His Son, and in Him to the whole Church. If you could get out of this isolation, you would make great progress.”
See how he beautifully develops these lofty thoughts:
“The more one gives oneself to Jesus Christ, the more He gives Himself to us, and when He gives Himself to us perfectly, it is the plentitude of His life in us, holiness and perfect union with Him. Now to give oneself to Jesus Christ is first of all to abandon oneself to Him completely, leaving to His wisdom and His love the care of disposing of everything for His glory and our good. The more perfect and complete this abandon is, the more Jesus Christ takes it upon Himself to rule all the details of our life. Moreover, to give oneself to Jesus Christ is to give oneself to Him in the person of our neighbor. He has said: ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, as long as you did anything to the least of those who believe in me, you did it to me.'
"There are so few people who understand this truth, which is why there are so few saints. Never forget this, my daughter: Our Lord never gives Himself except to those who give themselves to Him in the person of their neighbor. And to give you a reason for this: as God Incarnate in the Holy Humanity of Jesus Christ, He is in some manner Incarnate in our neighbor, and as we can only go to God through this Sacred Humanity, therefore we can only be united to Christ by accepting Him united to our neighbor. Carefully meditate upon this teaching, it is very fruitful.”
There was one point of fraternal charity on which Dom Marmion always strongly insisted, namely, concerning the manner of judging others. We find echoes in his correspondence of his firm and grave teaching.
“Watch over yourself especially as regards charity, and be sure that every time you are hard on your neighbor in thoughts and words, your heart is not inspired by the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Who is an ocean of compassion for our miseries and particularly loves those who never allow themselves to judge their neighbor harshly. St Catherine of Siena never allowed herself to judge her neighbor even when it concerned actions which were openly wrong and Our Lord manifested to her how pleasing this was to Him. I know by my own experience how difficult this perfection is, but we should always try to reach what is the most perfect to give pleasure to Jesus.”
We again find the same doctrine thirty years later:
“Try as far as possible not to concern yourself with the imperfections of others as long as they do not come under your charge. It is a snare of the devil who aims at lessening your merit and grace. Christ wills that we should not judge our neighbor unless duty obliges us to do so. ‘Nolite iudicare’ (Judge not). ‘ You will be judged by the Lord – He tells us – with the same rigour that you have used towards others.’ Nothing disarms God’s justice more with regard to us as the mercy we have for others.”
On these occasions Dom Marmion particularly recommends prayer, which baffles the wiles of the devil.
“Often what hinders us from living in recollection is that we occupy ourselves too much with others. Do not stay to judge others, and do not think that you ought to tell Superiors what you see that seems to you to be wrong in your Sisters, unless it is a duty with which you have been charged. It is the devil who is seeking in this way to prevent you from being united to Our Lord. The good God permits these temptations because they provide matter for an excellent purification. Say a prayer for the person on whom your judgment bears, and if the devil sees that each thought of this kind which he presents to you is the occasion of a good prayer, he will give up these tactics.”
From De Vita Contemplativa - Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Italy [Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]