Reflections from the writings of Nicolas Barré

Nicolas Barré was a prolific spiritual writer and correspondent. His "Oeuvres complètes" (in French) containing the founding documents of the Institute, other important texts and numerous letters to people for whom he was a spiritual director, is available online.  You can find any text or any word found in these texts by using the comprehensive index.  Use the links below to explore  some brief extracts from his writings for reflection and prayer, beginning with  "Who am I? Why do I exist?"

Who am I? Why do I exist?

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The beauty of the world consists of many different kinds of beauty. If a tree wanted to glow with a brilliance of gold and if gold took on the green of the leaves, the flowers or the fruits of the tree, the whole of nature would be in disorder.  So it is with the spiritual life; you must not try to follow the path that is right for another or lay claim to the same graces.  This would lead to the ruination of everything, including oneself.  It can truly be said of every saint: ‘There truly has been no other person like this one’

N. Barré: Maxims for all People 113

Where is God to be found?

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Divine Being, in possession of my soul,
Holy Spirit, hidden in my inmost being,
Sacred flame, consuming from within my bones,
Spirit of the Spirit of my flesh,
No longer need we search for you abroad, 
since you surround us on all sides, 
and are present in the very depths of our being.
We imagine you as dwelling in the highest heaven.
Yet you are to be found here among us 
In the lowliest places.
N. Barré: Spiritual Canticle 1

Like a feather in the wind

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Have you ever watched a feather drifting in the wind?
Imagine if you were being carried by the wind like that feather!

Be faithful in allowing yourself be led by God. 
Like a feather drifting in the wind,
be receptive to the inspiration of the Spirit and obedient to what draws you.

N. Barré: Letter 9

They belong to God, and God belongs to them,
the Spirit carries them where it wills,
acts in them, possesses them, moves them,
like faithful servants,
No feather borne hither and thither upon the wind
moves with such grace and freedom,
as do they who allow themselves 
to be carried by God
without resisting. 
N. Barré: Spiritual Canticle 37

What is your heart's desire?

Imagine how you might express this prayer today rather than in the language of Nicolas Barré in the seventeenth century!  He prays in a very intimate way….

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Prayer of Abandonment

LORD, I want nothing more,  
I desire nothing more 
only to be ready to desire what you desire 
and as you desire it.
It is enough for me that you hold me 
in your presence, 
that you take care of everything, 
that you watch over all my concerns, 
all that happens to me 
and that nothing escapes your adorable 
guidance of my life.
O Jesus!  O Love!

You are my God and my All, 
centre and unfathomable depth of goodness and greatness!
May Jesus live and his will be done!
There is nothing left for me to desire.
Choose Lord, what you want of me.
Order all things, plan and arrange all things 
in the way that pleases you, 
and I will try and make my desires and actions yours, 
to follow you in everything and everywhere, without reserve or limit.
Finally, Lord I want to belong totally to you, 
no more measuring or portioning out, 
neither in life nor in death, 
in sorrow or in joy, on earth or in heaven.
My beloved is all mine and I am his forever.
O Jesus!  O Love!
N. Barré: Letter 12

Prayer

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On waking, turn your thoughts to God,
be thankful for the grace of a new day in which to work selflessly 
for God’s glory, your neighbour’s salvation and your own sanctification. 
Above all else ask for the special guidance
to do God’s will in all things,
and live your vocation to the full.

N. Barré: Statutes and Rules 3:1

Be yourself

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Different species of trees produce different kinds of fruit. 
We must not look for cherries on a plum tree. 
So it is with people.
Each one has to bear fruit according to its kind 
which is the combined result of grace and a person’s special gifts.

N. Barré: Maxims for Spiritual Direction 41

Response to God's Personal Love

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Dear Child of God, let your life be characterised by 
wonder, adoration, silence, nothingness, obedience, humility and love.

First of all, dwell on the wonder, allowing yourself to be taken over by a sense of awe at the sight of God reaching out to you, as though you were the only one that mattered.  Reflect on the mystery and wonder of being chosen to be God’s dwelling place.

Bow down in adoration before God whose greatness exceeds all that we could ever imagine.  May this sense of greatness so permeate you that it will be reflected in all that you do and say.

Pay attention to inner silence which means trying to quieten the thoughts, emotions or impulses which lead to anxiety.  Too much inner activity, and even multiplying acts of devotion, prevent us from hearing the gentle voice of God in the depths of our being.

Enter into your own nothingness before the immense greatness of God.  Recognise your total dependence and be ready to let go to God’s desires.  Ask for nothing more and desire nothing more.

It is not enough to reach this stage in thought and desire; it calls for a response in obedience to God’s will as it makes itself known.  With humility, gentleness and discernment, be alert to the ways in which God reaches out to you through the people with whom you live and work.

Seek to live your life in a true spirit of humility.  Pray for the grace to be able to say thanks when you are not offered the first place or recognised for what you have done.  Jesus has gone this road before you.

Above all, reflect on the immensity of God’s unique and personal LOVE for you.  Listen to the invitation: 
“Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.”
The real mystery is in God’s love for us rather than in our love for God.
“My beloved is mine and I belong to the beloved.”
Taken fron N. Barré: Letter 36

When the going gets tough

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Hoping against hope,
and when everything seems to be without hope,
we must go forward all the more in hope.”

N. Barré:  Fundamental Maxims 13

All I have is Yours

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Lord, I want nothing more
I desire nothing more 
only to be ready to desire 
what you desire 
and as you desire it.

Lord, you hold me in your presence
you watch over everything
all my concerns all that happens to me.
Nothing escapes your adorable
guidance of my life –
this is enough for me.

O Jesus, O Love 
You are my God, my All 
centre and infinity 
of goodness and greatness.

May Jesus come to be in us
May he find his delight in us
And so there will be
nothing left for us to desire.

Choose, Lord, what you want of me
Do with me what you will 
Act and plan everything
in the way that pleases you
and I will try to desire, to act 
and follow you in everything 
and everywhere without reserve or limit.