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Monday, June 8, 2009

Letters of Spiritual Direction

St. Madeleine Sophie recognized and openly admitted her gift for directing others in the spiritual life. When she had not heard from someone for a long time, she would take the initiative and write to find out how that person was progressing. She encouraged her "daughters" to give an account of their spiritual life. She insisted on absolute openness; in return, she was completely honest and open with her religious. She gave feedback she had received from others as well as her own opinions, and she did not spare the truth. She was also quick to forgive and forget failings that had been humbly acknowledged.

Sophie love deeply, tenderly, faithfully, and she was not afraid to show her affection. She kept the ideal "God alone" before herself and others, and she could be ruthless when she felt someone had too much affective dependence. Despising pettiness in every form, she looked for generosity and the complete gift of self.
She wrote to her daughters to form them to be "spouses worthy of the Heart of Jesus". Most of her direction is concerned with the means to union and conformity with the Heart of Jesus. Thus, she stressed prayer, the interior life, detachment, purity of heart, humility, obedience and zeal; she also insisted on dependence on the Holy Spirit.

In her letters, spiritual and temporal advice would often be mixed in the same paragraph. Mother Barat did not isolate the spiritual life. She realized the influence the physical state had on the spiritual life and so she was concerned about both body and soul. Total consecration to the Heart of Jesus demanded forgetfulness of self, but moderation in all things was characteristic of her direction.

I will continue to reflect on Sophie's spiritual guidance through her letters. I hope my readers are beginning to see something of the personality of this great woman who was wise, holy, and fully human.

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