Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 12

Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 2, Chapter 12

CHAPTER XII. On Spiritual Retirement.

THIS is a matter, dear daughter, to which I am very anxious to win your
attention, for in it lies one of the surest means of spiritual
progress. Strive as often as possible through the day to place yourself
in God’s Presence by some one of the methods already suggested.
Consider what God does, and what you are doing;–you will see His Eyes
ever fixed upon you in Love incomparable. “O my God,” you will cry out,
“why cannot I always be looking upon Thee, even as Thou lookest on me?
why do I think so little about Thee? O my soul, thy only resting-place
is God, and yet how often dost thou wander?” The birds have nests in
lofty trees, and the stag his refuge in the thick coverts, where he can
shelter from the sun’s burning heat; and just so, my daughter, our
hearts ought daily to choose some resting-place, either Mount Calvary,
or the Sacred Wounds, or some other spot close to Christ, where they
can retire at will to seek rest and refreshment amid toil, and to be as
in a fortress, protected from temptation. Blessed indeed is the soul
which can truly say, “Thou, Lord, art my Refuge, my Castle, my Stay, my
Shelter in the storm and in the heat of the day.”

Be sure then, my child, that while externally occupied with business
and social duties, you frequently retire within the solitude of your
own heart. That solitude need not be in any way hindered by the crowds
which surround you–they surround your body, not your soul, and your
heart remains alone in the Sole Presence of God. This is what David
sought after amid his manifold labours;–the Psalms are full of such
expressions as “Lord, I am ever with Thee. The Lord is always at my
right hand. I lift up mine eyes to Thee, O Thou Who dwellest in the
heavens. Mine eyes look unto God.”

There are few social duties of sufficient importance to prevent an
occasional retirement of the heart into this sacred solitude. When S.
Catherine of Sienna was deprived by her parents of any place or time
for prayer and meditation, Our Lord inspired her with the thought of
making a little interior oratory in her mind, into which she could
retire in heart, and so enjoy a holy solitude amid her outward duties.
And henceforward, when the world assaulted her, she was able to be
indifferent, because, so she said, she could retire within her secret
oratory, and find comfort with her Heavenly Bridegroom. So she
counselled her spiritual daughters to make a retirement within their
heart, in which to dwell. Do you in like manner let your heart withdraw
to such an inward retirement, where, apart from all men, you can lay it
bare, and treat face to face with God, even as David says that he
watched like a “pelican in the wilderness, or an owl in the desert, or
a sparrow sitting alone upon the housetop.” [34] These words have a
sense beyond their literal meaning, or King David’s habit of retirement
for contemplation;–and we may find in them three excellent kinds of
retreats in which to seek solitude after the Saviour’s Example, Who is
symbolised as He hung upon Mount Calvary by the pelican of the
wilderness, feeding her young ones with her blood. [35] So again His
Nativity in a lonely stable might find a foreshadowing in the owl of
the desert, bemoaning and lamenting: and in His Ascension He was like
the sparrow rising high above the dwellings of men. Thus in each of
these ways we can make a retreat amid the daily cares of life and its

When the blessed Elzear, Count of Arian-enProvence, had been long
separated from his pious and beloved wife Delphine, she sent a
messenger to inquire after him, and he returned answer, “I am well,
dear wife, and if you would see me, seek me in the Wounded Side of our
Dear Lord Jesus; that is my sure dwelling-place, and elsewhere you will
seek me in vain.” Surely he was a true Christian knight who spoke thus.

[34] Ps. cii. 6, 7.

[35] The Egyptians used the pelican as a symbol of parental devotion;
and among the early Christians, as may be seen in the Catacombs, it was
employed to shadow forth the deep mysteries of Christ’s love. On many a
monumental brass, church window, or chalice of old time, occurs this
device, with the motto, “Sic Christus dilexit nos.” “Thus hath Christ
loved us.” And so Saint Thomas in his Eucharistic Hymn “Adoro Te
devote,”–“Pie Pelicane, Jesu Domine, Me immundum munda, Tuo