Saturday, September 15, 2012

Un Petrifie Vivant: Pierre Nicolet ( a living dead Pierre Nicolet)

Un Petrifie Vivant: Pierre Nicolet ( A living dead: Pierre Nicolet) The word “petrified” refers to the fact that Pierre Nicolet was paralyzed for most of his life and unable to move at all. He looked like a statue of stone and could hardly speak because of his clenched jaws. The book is almost unbearable to read. How is it possible to celebrate a life spent in a bed while completely paralyzed? In the background there is the presence of Jeanne, Pierre’s sister who sacrificed herself to become a caregiver to her handicapped brother. She gave up her dreams of starting a family. The purpose of this book was to share how much a very sick man can give to the world. You might believe that because of his illness he is totally impotent. It is not true. A sick person is an intermediary between the living and God. He is a priest. His sufferings allow him to rise to God. As Pierre Nicolet told Madeleine: “I have started my eternity with God” Pierre suffered for 28 long years. He has been surrounded and sustained by a lot of friends but the stress on Jeanne was extraordinary. At one point Jeanne was caring for both her brother and her sick mother. Jeanne had to work to make a living. At 12pm every day she ran back home to prepare lunch then ran back to work. In the evening she had to take care of both and until late at night continued to care for the family. When the mother died, people who witnessed the scene said it was the most terrible event they had ever witnessed, the dead mother in her bed and in the nearby bed, Pierre paralyzed, sick and crying softly. Madeleine asked Pierre: do you find this too long? No he said I have many things to do, I pray for all, blessed be God. The room of this sick man became a refuge for many people, a sanctuary. People would come to pay their respects but at the end they would ask for his spiritual help and they would leave having received much: The roles had been reversed. At the school of suffering, an extraordinary ability to understand people can be acquired. Madeleine said” you are happy! And he answered: “Yes, I have started my eternity” “I cannot move, I am outside the world. I breathe God to give God.” There is in the book an incredible dialogue between Madeleine and Pierre when they both realize that Christ is in each of us. Crucified Christ was Pierre Nicolet and he says;” Christ is in us, in me”. And Madeleine answers: “Christ is in each sick person” Madeleine had come to help him, at the end she realized, he was the one who strengthened her. And she noticed what a strength a sick person has when he/she lives in Christ. As it was said earlier, the sick person is a priest, “separated”, a mediator like Moses with his arms in a cross. In Numbers 16.48, Moses tells Aaron to stand between the living and the dead. Pierre told Madeleine of the moment when he realized he was a “living dead”. He said that first he cursed like Job and Jonas and felt he had been buried alive in a sepulcher. One day the sepulcher opened and Pierre told Madeleine: “God rose me up” and he understood he was going to live, yes he would be living. “Then I rose up from the abyss, it took time for me to spread my wings and contemplate God” He explained to Madeleine how he started to fly away from his suffering bed and the world to contemplate God. Peace took over Pierre’s soul and brought security to his shaky faith and “my heart suddenly instead of collapsing on itself, opened itself to the world of suffering. I looked at God,at my brothers and did not look any more at myself. I was saved from myself (he repeated this twice to Madeleine). I became like an aviator flying above the clouds. Spiritual flying is difficult because you are afraid to think of the past.” He said that at this height he looked at the world and he was at peace. A sick person is outside the world. Madeleine wrote that Pierre had acquired a 6th sense. Pierre was hoping for a cure that never came. Pierre explained to Madeleine the meaning of prayer, that it is an adoration, to adore without words, and open one’s heart. Pierre told Madeleine that a prayer is “love for the entire world”. Madeleine writes that sick people should be seen as a source of strength for our crumbling world. The book on Pierre’s martyrdom was written after Pierre passed away in 1949. In the last 10 years of his life, he had suffered many ills in addition to paralysis, Madeleine saw him before the war and when she met him again in 1946, she could not recognize him. He had become blind, his head had grown enormously, he was in constant pain. He knew of the sufferings inflicted on the world during the war, the bombing of cities, the holocaust, and he said that his sufferings were nothing compared to what so many people had endured. “Don’t have any pity for me, I participated in Europe’s agony” Pierre told her that to be sick is indeed a job. Illness is an art, it is like a seed to be grown. “Illness is like patience of patience!” Pierre tried to incarnate the characters of from the Bible (not only Jesus), in order to live the Bible more fully and understand its meaning. It means if you are sick you incarnate one of the biblical heroes like Job, and you become part of the bible's architecture. God can write in your heart the life of a patriarch. When Pierre lost his eyesight, he thought about the blind person in the gospel story. Pierre told Madeleine: “Let us identify ourselves with one of the heroes of the old law” His message seemed to be: Don’t do anything for yourself, do it for the others. For instance he would receive readers but he would ask them to read something they were interested in. The key was to receive guests for themselves not for himself. Pierre had a fountainhead within himself. He had a lot of ideas about the world's situation and Madeleine was astonished how much he knew of the political situation in spite of his illness. Pierre told her that he felt independent because of his complete acceptance of his dependence. She mentioned to him what she had discovered about St John Chrisostom: You got to give up trying to understand. Pierre: ”I tried to understand God’s actions and to adhere to them. To know God’s plan and respond.” And “We cannot judge the divine will. The overall outline of the world is beyond us. The overall outline of a life is beyond us” Pierre had been a happy child when he grew up in the countryside in Switzerland and he had dreams for himself to become a lawyer. Instead he spent most of his life “nailed” to a bed of suffering. Madeleine believes that he found a measure of happiness and peace. Pierre has left us a message that whatever suffering we might endure in our life there is a way to free ourselves by giving ourself to God. That Madeleine happened to meet Pierre and collect his thoughts is a great blessing. How Pierre found God and spread God around him, how many lives he touched and continues to touch.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Patience For Our Time (Le temps de la patience, notre temps)

Madeleine Chasles wrote this book at the end of WWII. It is a meditation on the virtue of patience. This virtue was put to good use during the war because people had to learn to be patient, to wait for the liberation of France. We learn some details on the life of Madeleine during the war as she retreated to the countryside and left her house at Loges-en-Josas. She became a goat girl, a shepherdess what we call in French a “chevriere” and she rediscovered the beauty of the countryside. Of course it doesn’t mean that she forgot about the sufferings of her countrymen. Her reason to write this book is that this virtue of patience which the French had to learn for the purpose of surviving the occupation should not be forgotten now that it is more than ever needed in our new world, a world which has experienced the use of the atomic bomb and is more violent and anti- God as ever. The first part of the book is about defining what patience means: Madeleine lived in the countryside for many years and naturally sees patience as a cardinal virtue which farmers and shepherds display almost intuitively. She quotes Virgil’s Georgics at length and reminisces (from her book “War and the Bible”) that the factory prepares for war but the plough for peace. So there are still important virtues to learn from the agricultural world especially now that we are accelerating the armament’s race. In working the earth, we learn the “earthly patience”. The earth teaches us patience. The second part is an investigation on Patience as exhibited in the bible by characters such as the Patriarchs, Moses, David and the prophets: Patience of the patriarchs, as their life unfolds without them allowed to understanding God’s plan and the divine scheme of history. But they trust God. Noah took more than 100 years to build his ark. Abraham walked across a continent to settle in Canaan. Abraham did not live to see the promises of God and died before they would be accomplished. Later Joseph as governor of Egypt could have gone back to Canaan to see his father. He remained in Egypt and waited for God act. First conclusion of Madeleine: our lives are woven like rays with some obscure some half lighted and we pursue our path without understanding God’s goals. Then Madeleine turns to the figure of Job. Job was patient in his sufferings. Instead of cursing God, he praised God. His soul was focused on God’s love. This gives us how patience can help us if we are sick and suffering: Continue to praise God, do not complain, thank him for his love. Nothing predestined Moses to become a leader of men , he was a shepherd for 40 years and complained that he could not speak to a crowd. Why does God choose the weakest? Moses abandoned himself in God’s hands. He became a leader, an arbitrator, an intercessor and a mediator. Prophets submitted to the will of God patiently and did not dare arguing with God. They knew they were being required to write or express the prophetic wisdom but did not get any information on the timing of their action. What does it mean to be patient: passive in God’s hands. Jeremiah was timid and weak. He accepted the mission entrusted by God despite the humiliations he was subjected to. As the apostle James writes: “happy are those who suffer patiently”. God has a plan which unfortunately has been delayed by mankind’s sinful activities. May be, David was supposed to be Christ but it was too early and time had to pass before the circumstances could allow this to happen. However beware, God is patient, his plan could not be fulfilled in David’s time, Christ had to come and the world of the New Testament unfold, but this time of patience will pass and there will be a time for judgment and the perpetrators will be punished. Then we come to the patience of Christ. Everything in the NT talks about patience: this is Mary awaiting the birth of Jesus whom she knows will have a unique destiny but is unaware of all the details yet submits patiently to God’s rule. Look at the patience of Christ at every step of Jesus’ passion. Now Madeleine turns to our daily life and how patience can help us go through the difficulties. We need patience because we are not the masters of time. Man is a well of worries. Contradiction: we would like time to accelerate as we want to reach our many goals as soon as possible however when we become old, we find life has been too short and we don’t want to die. Madeleine proposed that we keep always the figure of Christ in the center of our life. But the world we live in, has excluded God from all decisions all men make. Faith can elevate us to the position of “Son of God”. Madeleine looks at the patience of the saints, of the sick, of the handicapped. How to master one self and get rid of wrong habits. The ultimate recourse is God who can free us from all addictions. Quoting Psalm 25: “I turn my eyes towards God. God will free me from the net”. Let us be patient with weak people, with children, with handicapped, also with animals which we must respect and not allow to suffer for no reason. Let us be courteous. Such virtue is so eminently French! Have we forgotten it? Patience in illness: Madeleine mentions her old friend (the subject of another book) who has been paralyzed and confined to a bed for 25 years without any hope of a cure. As she meets him, she says to him:” you look happy”. And he answers: “Yes I am perfectly happy, I have accepted. I have understood I have started my eternity with God. Sometimes, there is a cloud but like an aviator, I fly above the clouds to look at God and not at myself” This is the message of this book, that patience is a divine virtue that allows us to come closer to God, and reach God in spite of all difficulties and sufferings we may experience this world.

Friday, August 17, 2012

La joie par la Bible (Joy through the Bible)

It is difficult to find a correct translation. What Madeleine is saying is that we should find joy, true joy by experiencing the Bible, reading and rereading the psalms and especially the Gospels. Discover what real joy means, not the false and cheap joys that the world offers us. Therefore understanding what true joy means. Madeleine borrows many examples from the Old and New Testament to help us understand how true joy enters our heart. The psalms and the Gospels are replete with expressions of joy. Remember Jesus saying: "Do not cry" Madeleine asks us to fully embrace the present time and not take refuge in the past or dreaming of the future, yes be anchored in the present. However the first step is to recognize that we are not pure spirits, we do have a body and we need to take good care of it. A spiritual mind needs a healthy body in order to blossom, eat well, exercise properly will help us attain a higher spiritual level. The second step is to recognize that there are many obstacles to experience true joy: Have a double heart, have two faces, serve two gods, God and the other gods (money, ambition, power...)Only the pure heart can experience true joy. Another obstacle is the impossibility to choose. Procrastinate, unable to choose, accept the compromise. It is time for a clean break. Do not choose the powers of this world, falsity, money... The joy they provide is artificial and ephemeral, rather choose the narrow road.. Look at the nature of the world and our lives. There is a lot of suffering and no life is exempt. The great mystery of suffering: it opens the door to an intense spiritual joy, that is the joy of the presence of God through the cross. At this stage in her book, Madeleine who is always very shy of personal anecdotes, confesses that once she experienced sadness and tears that were metamorphosed in joy. She looked in the other direction (not the one her sufferings pointed at): She followed Christ. It is important to keep in mind the historical context in which her books were written, the rise of Hitler and Mussolini and in the east soviet communism. The dark clouds of war were rising above the horizon. This book has attained a universal quality. 70 years later our world is still embroiled in several conflicts, and a large proportion of the world population is experiencing hunger. Once we have cleansed our heart, we have a pure heart like a child we are able to understand the message of Jesus. And we should nor forget that the mysteries of the Gospel have been hidden to the educated and the scholars but revealed to the children, the poor and the ignorant. The mystery of suffering is that joy is possible despite suffering, joy actually has its roots in the suffering one experiences. Again Madeleine reveals that on a certain Holy Friday an inner voice prevented her from succumbing to sadness and tears and instead led her to experience joy. She became joyful because she became overwhelmed with Love. The psalms are truly a tool to learn true joy. Just reading the psalter teaches us the basics of true joy. But the true joy is Christ himself. Let us recall the joy of Simeon who waited a lifetime to meet the Messiah and finally sees him. Madeleine tells us that as Simeon pressed Jesus against his heart and found true joy, we should press the scriptures against our heart and find also our measure of true joy. We got a great help from the Holy Spirit who was sent to us to give us the intelligence of the scriptures and open our heart to love and joy. The empty tomb is a sign for joyful celebrations because it means resurrection for the christians When Madeleine needed to refresh her mind, she would look at Fra Angelico frescoes and the beautiful landscapes of heaven. Her mind would wander there and refresh itself. Jesus says"Do not cry" several times in the gospels. If God leaves us in the night of our faith, and in the midst of our sufferings, we are able to react with joy. Joy is therefore our shield and weapon against persecution. It is love for everyone, for the entire creation. The key to experience true joy is to follow Christ, become like him whose heart encompassed the entire humanity. Saints have been like projectors of lights among humanity. Prophets have been persecuted because they wanted to draw their countrymen away from their mistakes. The final message of Madeleine: Let us wish to help the wounded souls of our fellow humans.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pour lire l'Evangile (How to read the Gospels)

77 pages for a short introduction to the Gospels. Written in 1949, this book summarizes Madeleine's beliefs in the power of the Gospels as well as the importance of the bible. "Pour lire l'Evangile" means how to read and why read the Gospels. We should approach the Gospels not as philosophers or scientists but rather with the mind and heart of children. Jesus simply wants to chat with us. Before starting our reading, it is important to suspend all disbelief. You should have faith, perhaps force yourself gently to believe in the Gospels because the gospel writers also believed in what they were writing. Faith will be strengthened by reading the Gospels. Faith will act as a lever for action. Again and again, Jesus cures the soul before the body. A strong faith moves mountains. The corollary of faith is trust. In our modern age, do we understand what trusting God means? Reading the Gospels teaches us how to pray and also how to meditate: Read slowly and when a word or a sentence "catches" you, memorize it and during the day, think about it. "Nothing great and lasting can be done without prayer". Jesus spent a "long night" in prayer before choosing his disciples. Madeleine also describes the background of the Gospels, the geography of Palestine, the peoples living there and their customs. It is important to put everything in its historical context. She introduces the gospel writers and how they shaped their messages. Recalling that Jesus refers very often to the Old Testament, Madeleine insists that one cannot truly appreciate the Gospels without a good knowledge of the bible. The third part of the book is devoted to the "Mystery of Christ". Why is he man and God? What is the Plan of God? What essential part does Jesus play in history? And when will he come back?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Why is the work of Madeleine Chasles so important to us

The thirties are a time of extreme stress (on the social and international scene) that led to WWII. The rise of communism and fascism and the social disturbances in the western countries, also the lasting impact of the great depression, the multiple wars abroad that preceded the world war and also colonialism, this is a picture of a violent world, no catholic thinker could remain indifferent. Let us look at our world today, the economic crisis, the sufferings of the developing countries, the stress between developed countries, are we getting close to another deflagration, the questions tackled by Madeleine Chasles are permanent, and they come not from a scholar but from a person like you and me, we are tired of scholars, they speak a difficult language, we should not be afraid of dealing with those issue by ourselves, we have the intellectual tools. And our main instrument is the Bible. But reading the bible, attending the daily mass, reciting all the prayers, all this will be for nought if we do not show love to our brothers and sisters, love and charity, the foundation of Christian faith. Obviously the reading of the bible is important. Why the bible talks to each of us, and will talk differently to each of us because we are all different. Therefore read without preconception, let God talk to you through the reading of the bible.

Anecdotes on Madeleine Chasles

Her father’s two sisters became nuns of the sacred heart
Memories of Madeleine accompanying her father in mountain hikes. Father was silent. Both walking one behind the other. Madeleine enjoying the hikes and praying.
Madeleine had previously studied to be a nurse and therefore volunteers to work as a nurse in the military hospital of the Val-de -Grace. Among her duties (as described briefly in “Le reigne de la Terreur”) she comforted severely wounded soldiers. One who had lost all limbs and the eyesight displayed extraordinary courage as Madeleine was helping him smoke a cigarette.
At the end of 1915, physical and perhaps mental exhaustion forced her to give up her duties.
She turns to Art History attending courses at the Sorbonne, the Ecole des Chartres and the Ecole du Louvre and also attends religious courses Rue de Varenne
Since 1917 Madeleine organized study groups (Cercle d’Etudes) and lib raries for the benefit of the young women catholic workers of the railway maintenance personel and the Postal workers, starts in 1918 eight study groups. Madeleine includes studies of the Old and New Testament, in very clear and simple terms putting both texts in parallel and accompanies the presentations with examples of various religious art. After three years, she got sick and had to stop.
In the early twenties meets Pierre Nicolet, one of her faithful readers who happens to be completely paralysed with only the ability to speak, his sister Jeanne is his caregiver. She writes a book about his faith.
In 1928, trip to Palestine, must have been in a group at one point are in a convoy of more than twenty cars. Visits all of Palestine. Both Raymond and her are supporters of Israel as a nation, well before the start of the war and the news of the holocaust which she refers to in latter books

De la bĂȘte a Dieu, from animal to God, written with Raymond Chasles

De la bĂȘte a Dieu, from animal to God, written with Raymond Chasles
Animals are “beggars of love”, united to mankind through shared suffering, in the bible used as sacrifices, as an offering to God, instead of human sacrifices, as scapegoats to shoulder the burden of human sins, shared in the original sin, shared history of suffering,
According to Madeleine Chasles precursor, announcer of Jesus Christ.
Animals as intermediaries between God and mankind
Mystery of animal suffering
Suffering inflicted on animals
Gratuitous suffering for sport or cosmetic reasons- this is a sin.
Madeleine Chasles denounces the sufferings inflicted to animals.
Also on farms how animals are mistreated.
While we need to kill for our sustenance we should not inflict gratuitous suffering on animals
Showing love to our animals brings us closer to the Kingdom of God
Showing love to all creation enables us to spread the peace and love of God.
Animals love to be talked to. M.C. documented how rabbits and chicken love being talked to. Animals are eager to contact humans.
Animals have souls
Animals have a third sense, anticipate earthquakes
Animals will share in the resurrection
Also Madeleine Chasles reads the bible literally when she notes that in several instances the bible talks about an ideal age where the lamb will graze with the wolf and the lion share the pastures with the gazelle, there will be peace among all animal species.
M.C. forces us to think of the economy of the creation, why animals were created, the role they play in the Christian vision of History.
Be kind to animals. Such kindness will hasten the day of the Parousie
A general conclusion of the book that is also present in other books: There is a way to force God’s hand in accelerating history, by spreading Love among the creation, specifically between mankind and animals.