Fr Réginald-Ferdinand Poswick, OSB
Abbey of Maredsous. Vice-postulator of the Cause of the Blessed
Blessed Dom Columba Marmion
The Benedictine community of Maredsous had the privilege of having among its members its 3rd abbot (1909-1923), recognised as ‘Blessed’ by the universal Church at the time of the great Jubilee in 2000.
Joseph Marmion, an Irishman born in Dublin in 1858, was first of all a priest of the Dublin diocese, after brilliant theological studies in Rome. Attracted to Maredsous by a Belgian companion of his studies he was enchanted by this monastery which formed a figurehead of the Catholic renewal at the end of the 19th century. He entered Maredsous in 1886.
From 1899 he was sent to reinforce the team of founders at the abbey of Mont-César in Louvain/Leuwen. There he developed his gifts as a preacher and spiritual director, notably becoming the confessor, confidant and friend of the future Primate of Belgium, Cardinal Mercier. As abbot of Maredsous (elected in September 1909) he handled all the problems of a great monastery in full process of expansion with delicacy. From 1917 a written version of his spiritual conferences was published under the title (in English) of Christ the Life of the Soul. This was followed by two others, Christ in his Mysteries and Christ the Ideal of the Monk. These writings were to have a considerable influence in the spiritual formation of seminarists, clergy, religious and devoted laity, thanks to a presentation of the Christian faith centred on the person of Jesus Christ and well anchored in the holy Scriptures. The heart of his message was to take seriously the truth that the baptised Christian can become immediately and genuinely the child of God in Christ Jesus.
After the war of 1914-1918 he created, with the abbey of Mont-César (Louvain) and the abbey of Saint-André (Bruges) the Belgian Benedictine Congregation of the Annunciation, distinct from the German Congregation of Beuron, which had founded Maredsous (1920-1922). Dom Marmion presided at the celebrations of the half-centenary of the foundation of Maredsous on the 15th October 1922, but he died in the flu epidemic on 30th January 1923.
His process of beatification was opened in the diocese of Namur in 1957. His body was transferred from the monastery cemetery to a side chapel of the abbatial basilica in 1963. It was at the time of a visit to this tomb in 1965 that an American woman received the miraculous favour of a cure of cancer. The beatification of Dom Columba Marmion by Pope John Paul II took place in Rome on the 3rd September 2000. The liturgical celebration of his feast was fixed by Rome for the 3rd October.
More and more pilgrims come to invoke him at his tomb or pray through him anywhere on the planet. An annual publication (Le Courrier du Bienheureux dom Columba Marmion) keeps those who so desire abreast of information, publications and events concerning this personality who has been proposed for public veneration by the Church.
Extracts from Christ, the Life of the Soul:
‘I will send you the Holy Spirit’, promised Jesus to us, ‘he will recall everything I have said to you’ (Jn 14.26). The Spirit of Truth ‘recalls’ the words of Jesus. What does this mean? When we contemplate the actions of Jesus Christ, his mysteries, one day what we have so often read and re-read without being particularly struck suddenly takes on a supernatural relief that we have never yet known. The divine word, the Holy Spirit, which the liturgy calls ‘the finger of God’, bores into our soul to become a light and a principle of action. If the soul is humble and attentive, this divine word does its work, silent but fruitful.
The Source of Interior Peace
I long that you should be able to acquire calm and peace. The best way of acquiring this calm is an absolute resignation to the holy Will of God; that is where peace lies. Try to desire nothing, to attach your heart to nothing without presenting it beforehand to God and placing it in the Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to want it in him and with him.
One of the main reasons by which we lose peace of soul is that we want something and we attach our heart to some object without knowing whether God wants it or not. And then, when some obstacle to our desire presents itself, we are troubled and leave conformity to the holy Will and lose our peace.
When we are faithful in consecrating each day by a significant period of time, according to our aptitude and duties, to spending time with the heavenly Father, to receive his inspirations and listen to the ‘calls’ of the Spirit, the word of Christ, the Verba Verbi (the words of the Word) as St Augustine calls them, flooding the soul with divine light, opening the soul to it to drink at the sources of Life. Thus the promise of Jesus Christ is realised, ‘if anyone is thirsty he should come to me and drink. He who believes in me, from his breast will flow springs of Living Water.’ And, adds St John, ‘He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believe in him were to receive’ (Jn 7.37-38).