ABANDONMENT TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE. With Letters of Fr. De Caussade on the Practice of Self-Abandonment. By Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, S.J. (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, Calif. 2011), 453 pp. PB $ 17.95.
Fr. de Caussade’s treatise on abandonment to divine providence is a classic on the spiritual life from the 18th century that has been reprinted many times. The actual text is not very long, but in this edition it is complemented by the edition of many letters written by the priest to nuns and others to whom he was giving spiritual guidance and counsel. In fact, the letters run to 300 pages while the text itself is only half of that.
By abandonment to divine providence, the author means finding God in all things, and trying to do that will in all things, both big and small. It is important to remember that the author is a Jesuit, and that he was formed in the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, especially as it is contained in his Spiritual Exercises. In a certain sense, the book is a popularization of Ignatian spirituality, since one of Ignatius’ main ideas is to find God in all things. That is a theme that runs all through this little book.
De Caussade was influenced by the great St. Francis de Sales with his emphasis on the love of God, and his insistence that all Christians, not just priests and nuns, are called by God to Christian holiness. He was also influenced by St. John of the Cross, with his emphasis on self-denial, penance and perseverance in “the dark night of the soul,” when one experiences the absence of God in his life.
Good spiritual doctrine is one thing, but putting it into practice in daily life is something else. The great value of this edition of de Caussade’s classic is the addition of his many letters that contain precious spiritual advice to nuns and others who are trying to give themselves completely to God. Here, we see in a concrete way how Fr. de Caussade applied his spiritual insights to the practical problems of everyday life. The reader will find them enlightening, and are recommended for priests and others who direct souls in the way of Christian perfection.
The book is highly recommended and should be included in the library of convents, monasteries and retreat houses.
Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., HPR Editor Emeritus