PURE ABANDONMENT : Discovering and remaining faithful to the "hand of Our Lord" in all events
Mgr Hermann Giguère
Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences Laval University Québec
"For a long time God has granted me the grace of seeing everything that happens to me in this life as the effect of his providence." This willingness to accept events, in which François de Laval sought to read God's intentions, was apparent on several different occasions and, as an attitude of the soul, was constantly present in his spiritual experience, revealing some of his "inner" life. François de Laval's "innermost soul" radiates from this sentence, one of the most revealing of his spiritual experience. It is contained in a letter written to Father de La Chaise, the King’s confessor, in 1687 when, after resigning from his position as Bishop of Quebec, François de Laval was seeking the King's permission to return to Canada.
The inner quest to identify God's wishes in all kinds of adversity led François de Laval to live a life of trust and complete abandon. He immediately sought the spiritual significance of all the key events in his life, either for his pastoral work or for his personal spiritual journey, leading him towards "pure abandonment" to God's wishes and desires.
In 1677 he wrote to his close friend Henri-Marie Boudon "Everything done by the hand of God is admirably useful to us, though we may not see its effects immediately. For many years now, Providence has guided this Church, and us with it, along spiritual and temporal paths that are both hard and crucifying. Provided that His holy will be done, this is of no import ".
This ongoing process of pastoral and spiritual discernment was anchored in real-life situations. Examples include the difficulties caused by François de Laval's successor, the two fires at the Quebec Seminary (in 1701 and 1705), the infirmities with which he was afflicted during the last twenty years of his life, and especially the years that followed his resignation.
Faced with the growing tension between the Seminary and the new bishop, Msgr de Saint-Vallier, the former bishop confided in the fall of 1689 to his friend Abbé Milon at the Paris Foreign Missions Seminary that "God's providence, which inspires you to take such a kindly interest in our struggles and interests, requires us to abandon ourselves entirely to His amiable guidance and to place all our trust in Him".
And he continued: "You will agree, my dear Sir, that if there has ever been a bitter cross for me to bear, it is this one, because it is the place where I am the most sensitive, meaning the upsetting of the Seminary, which I have always considered, and which in fact is, the sole support for the Church and all the good it has done […]. However, in the midst of our troubles we must not lose heart; if men have the power to strike down, the hand of Our Lord has infinitely more power to raise up. We must simply retain our faith in Him and leave Him to do His work."
After the first fire at the Quebec Seminary, the Superior of the Paris Seminary pointed to the constancy shown by "our Gentlemen in Canada" and "especially the Old Monsignor, who saw forty years' work destroyed in a few hours, while praising God without a tear or a sigh, even though he is eighty years old."
After resigning as Bishop of Quebec, and hearing through unofficial channels that the King would not yet allow him to return to Canada, François de Laval wrote on June 9, 1687 to the priests at the Seminary: "Let us give thanks for God's guidance of us and for all His works, my dear friends. I hoped and trusted that He would grant me the consolation of being reunited with you in body as I am in heart and in spirit; but His amiable Providence has decided otherwise and as He pleases, which must become our happiness and our peace for now and for all eternity".
As François de Laval got older, the fruits of his loving acceptance of God's will in all circumstances became apparent in his growing constancy, patience and abandonment. To discover the "hand of Our Lord [with] power to raise up" and to remain faithful to it—this was one of the dominant themes in François de Laval's spiritual experience.
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