Charles de Foucauld composed this prayer as he meditated on the death of Jesus on the Cross:
This was the last prayer of our Master, our Beloved. May it also be ours. And may it be not only that of our last moment, but also of our every moment:
I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what You will. Whatever You may do, I thank You: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only Your will be done in me, and in all Your creatures— I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into Your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to You with all the love of my heart, for I love You Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into Your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for You are my Father.
Our founder, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling, made this prayer central to our spirituality:
The first prayer we say every day is the Abandonment Prayer of Brother Charles, which is a very beautiful prayer in which we give ourselves totally to God.
Abandonment simply means that you give yourself completely to God in such a way that you trust Him with everything that He has in mind for you, and that each morning you just give yourself to Him completely, and you’re at ease and at rest because you know that He is going to take care of you. Maybe He’s not going to do it your way, but He’s going to do it His way, which is a lot better.
Sometimes you’re a little afraid of what is He going to want to do. You don’t always feel like you’re ready for it, but that’s what takes faith. It just takes faith. We like to make our own plans….
I can assure you there were many times when I thought that I could not go on with some of the things that I had to bear. It’s just trust. And if you can trust, God will certainly take care of this matter, but give yourself to Him. That’s what we mean by abandonment. It’s when you don’t believe, believe anyhow.
The following was written by Rene Voillaume on Good Friday, 1948. It is part of his meditations on the “Way of the Cross.”
With the Cross, Christ Jesus, You have taken into Your charge the whole of mankind, with all the weight of its weaknesses and woes and sins and death. Such is Your love for us; such is Your obedience to Your Father.
To have accepted this suffering and this death was alone a mysterious and terrible agony, so great was the contradiction of it with the wholeness and purity of Your nature.
For us, it should be different. But, in the name of Your courage and in the name of Your love, we can only beg for the light by which to discern and face our cross, the cross prepared for us by You, the cross You have fitted to each one’s very being, woven into the fabric and movement of each of our lives.
Teach us to see it as an instrument of redemption, and show us how to take hold of it.
Rene Voillaume (1905-2003) was one of the first disciples of Charles de Foucauld. In 1933, with four companions he founded the Little Brothers of Jesus.
The picture shows Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the traditional path that Jesus walked on the way to His crucifixion. Sister and members of her community made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1985.
Msgr. Thomas Craven, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was known to some of us at the Joseph House. When he died in 2004, he was buried in a handmade wooden casket. As per his wishes, a Latin phrased was inscribed on the casket lid: Ave Crux Spes Unica. In translation, “Hail the Cross, our only hope.”
How can we begin to make sense of this phrase?
Charles de Foucauld meditated frequently on the cross. In a letter to his sister, he wrote:
“Through the cross we are united to Him, who was nailed on it, our heavenly spouse. Every instant of our lives must be accepted as a favor, with all that it brings of happiness and suffering. But we must accept the cross with more gratitude than anything else. Our crosses detach us from earth and therefore draw us closer to God.”
The cross has meaning only in its relationship to Jesus. It is a mystery of faith, but to share in the cross is to share in the love of Jesus, who is our hope — for this life and the one to come.
Holy Week is a special time to consider the cross, the one that Jesus carried and the one fashioned for each one of us.