Posted by: Thomas Richard | August 10, 2017

The Cross: Wisdom from Fr. Lallemant, S.J.

The Spiritual Doctrine – a book – is a beautiful record of the wisdom of the teachings of Fr. Louis Lallemant, S.J., (1588-1633). He was born six years after the death of St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila), and three years before the death of St. John of the Cross. He lived, in other words, in a time of profound spiritual blessings and grace in the Catholic Church. He is much quoted, and clearly he is respected greatly, by (among others) Fr. R. Garrigou-Lagrange, who himself is notable for his outstanding writings on Catholic spirituality, in particular The Three Ages of the Interior Life.

I’d like to pass on just a few paragraphs of Fr. Lallemant’s wisdom on the matter of the cross. Jesus taught that all who follow Him will carry a cross, as He Himself would carry and die on the Cross for our sakes – for our salvation. And He wanted to emphasize that He did not come to save us from suffering for love and for truth, but rather to gather us, with Him and in Him, into His holy Self-giving on the Cross for love and for truth, each in our own personal way. Jesus taught:

Mt 16:24  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Mt 16:25  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

The paragraphs quoted below, on which I will comment briefly, are from The Spiritual Doctrine; 2nd Principle, Ch. 3, art. IV: “Of the love of crosses.”

2. As our Lord wrought the redemption of the world only by His cross, by His death, and the shedding of His blood, not by His miracles or preachings, so likewise the evangelical laborers apply the grace of redemption only by their crosses, and by the persecutions they suffer. So much so, that no great fruits can be expected from their ministry, if it be not accompanied by contradictions, calumnies, injuries, and sufferings.

How many men and women labor, in the Church, to spread His Gospel, but not in the way of the cross? Certainly it is “reasonable” – in the reasonings of the world, with natural prudence and human understandings – to gravitate to ways of working for Christ that also advance our own personal reputation and comforts, career plans and goals, with vacations and retirements, and the praise and respect of men? How much work, in the Church, is devoted to being “inclusive” to the world and its values, seeking acceptance by the world, hoping – or assuming – that God will not be offended? We run to the world in darkness, our backs to the Cross and His pain; we embrace their values, we laugh at their jokes, we assure them that our ways are like their ways, that God’s love and mercy are free for all. Come! As you are! God requires nothing of you – He loves you! It’s free! Eternal life! Free for all!

3.Some think they do wonders because they preach powerful discourses, well-composed, well prepared, and delivered with grace; because they are the fashion, and are welcomed everywhere. They deceive themselves; the means on which they rely are not those which God makes use of to do great things. Crosses are needed to effect the salvation of the world. It is by the way of the cross that God leads those whom He employs to save souls, apostles and apostolic men, a St. Francis Xavier, a St. Ignatius, a St. Vincent Ferrer, a St. Dominic.

Yes, crosses are needed. The way of Jesus is the way of the Cross. Salvation is won by crosses, by suffering. In the mysterious, supernatural wisdom of God, freedom is not free but rather it costs: it costs everything. Eternal, divine and holy love – in which is our life, our peace, our happiness – is a free and eternal and personal out-pouring for the good of another. This was His Cross, and this is our cross: Give, for the good of others. Give not counting the cost, but only counting the good, for the other. Give out of an eternal and never-extinguished font of love, and every ounce out-poured is immediately replenished, to overflowing.

Crosses are to be embraced: “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters!”

4. We must not look upon our crosses and afflictions in the light of evils which are the cause to us of suffering, or as mortifications which lower us in the eyes of the world; but we must look at them, after the example of our Lord, in the eternal counsels of God, in the decrees of His providence, and in the designs of His love towards us, in the Heart of Jesus Christ, who has chosen them for us, and presents them to us as the material of those crowns which He is preparing for us, and as a trial of our courage and fidelity in His service.

He has chosen them for us, very particularly, personally, especially. He has created, designed and built us to a purpose, and the crosses He presents to us are doorways into His perfect and glorious will. “Come, Peter, walk on the water” – walk in peace, in the midst of this storm! Look not at the wind and waves, look through them, they are transparent, they are translucent, hidden in their darkness is the eternal light of God.

5. In the beginning of the spiritual life, we must not ask sufferings of God; we must think rather of purging our conscience, devoting ourselves to acquire purity of heart, the knowledge of our own interior, and recollection. From thence we rise to peace of soul, thence to communion with God, next to infused virtues, and finally to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Then it is that God inspires us according to His designs and will; leading some by labors, as St. Francis Xavier; others by sufferings, as St. Ludwine; others by contradictions and persecutions, as St. Ignatius: but of our selves we must not make any particular choice, otherwise we shall always be in trouble; not possessing as yet sufficient virtue to endure crosses, it would be to undertake to carry a giant’s load without the strength to do it. When, however, at the call of God, we enter into states of toil, suffering, and humiliation, then neither will labors overwhelm us, nor persecutions disturb us, and often even great austerities will not destroy our health.

God does not ask of us anything that He does not enable in us. In the beginning, we were just beginning! He knew we were just beginners. But He calls us to grow:

Eph 4:11  And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
Eph 4:12  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Eph 4:13  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;
Eph 4:14  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.
Eph 4:15  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
Eph 4:16  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.


  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks so much for sharing Father Lallemant’s wisdom. Like the works of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, written in ages past, Father Lallemant’s words echo Scripture and so become “timeless”. Truth is Truth.

    Mary, Mother and Model for the Church, pray for us.
    Jesus, we trust in You!

  2. Beautiful, Thomas, as always. I received much comfort from reading this. The cross that I carry now is a heavy one.I feel like I can’t breathe, yet I think of Jesus suffering on the cross. I love him even more today knowing that he loves me enough to give me a cross to bare. My prayers tonight are for the Church, the priests, deacons, and lay people. God help us to be a holy church. Susan

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