May 22, 2017
 
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DR#: 10 The Spirituality of the Heart of Christ In the Sermons of Father André Coindre

Introduction

Father André Coindre was born in 1787 in Lyon, France, one of four children.  His childhood occurred during the tumultuous times of the French revolution.  No religious instruction or religious objects were permitted nor was religious worship. Tradition describes André and his siblings learning their faith from their mother.  In 1802, with the signing of a concordat between France and the Holy See, once again the Catholics of France were allowed to practice their religion openly.  In 1804, Coindre entered the minor seminary of L’Argentière and later, St. Irenaeus Major Seminary where he was ordained in 1812.  Coindre would in fact stay six months longer than his peers to complete further studies in sacred oratory.

Throughout France, there was a great resurgence of faith and religious worship as well as a need to form that Church, so lacking in instruction and direction for so many years.  “Hellfire and brimstone” was a classic form of preaching used by many to draw the faithful back to the practice of their faith.  In Coindre’s sermons and other writings, a theology emerges which is built on an understanding of the infinite love of God for each of us.  Praise and worship in this model are not driven by duty or fear but by a desire to respond to the infinite love with which we have already been gifted. Unlike the prevalent devotional image of the Sacred Heart developing from the revelations of St. Margaret Mary during this period, Coindre’s approach was less mystical, more practical, and more focused on God’s love as an immanent, everyday reality.

This idea finds its expression in the Rule of Life:

“I have come to bring fire to the earth, and
         how I wish it were blazing already.” (Lk 12:49)

This ardent desire of Jesus can only
        enkindle our hearts and excite our zeal.
The love for our brothers
        and for the young people entrusted to us, 
        then, radiates from Jesus’ love for us.
Our dedication to others, 
        marked by respect, pardon, 
        and unconditional love, 
        will be a sign to them 
        of the compassion of Christ.

- Rule #118

 

Through reflecting on this document and its meaning for us today, the participant will:

  • gain a better understanding of the spirituality of the Sacred Heart in the writings of Father Coindre;
  • more closely identify with Coindre’s vision of a loving God; and
  • deepen his/her own understanding of that vision in his/her life today.
Readings
  • “The Lesson of the Cross”, André Coindre Workbook 1, pp. 92-93
  • Sermon “On the Love of God,” by Father André Coindre
Options for Additional Readings

André Coindre Workbook 1,  Sermon notes pp 83+

Suggestions for Journal Reflection

“In this is love: not that we have loved God but that he has loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins….Beloved, if God so loved us, we must love one another” (1 John 4:10-11).  We are called to be people of compassion, of love, because the love of God has already been poured out into our lives.  In what ways, where, do you encounter this love?  

Father Coindre’s words bring with them a particular perspective, a way of looking lovingly at even the most negative of people because of God’s love for us.  How, as leaders in the charism, do we bring this perspective to life in the lives of those who constitute our school communities?

One can only imagine the responses of those who heard this sermon for the first time in one of the churches of Lyon.  History records tears, outpourings of repentance, long hours of the sacrament of reconciliation, and the re-establishment of the Church in the local towns and throughout the countryside around Lyon and beyond.  What is your response?  Do these words have something to say to us in our ministry today?

Prayer

Illuminate our eyes, O Lord.

In the rush of this day, and every day,
we can miss the indications of your love.
We become caught up in the drama of our lives 
and forget we need do nothing 
to earn love, to be loved, or to experience love.  
You have loved us first, always and forever.  
We simply need to leave space for you.

Gift us with vision,
the vision of André Coindre,
where your love is so evident in the simplest things of life.
For it is from that abundance that we learn to reach out,
to love without response, to hope against the odds,
to be patient with a child or parent,
to be challenging with those who can do so much more,
to share the life we have received
filled with thanks, with hope and with love.

Gift us with your Spirit.
May that Spirit of love enlighten us, inflame us,
so that we may be filled with the desire,
that in all we do, 
we might be instruments of your love,
echoes of your faithfulness to each of us.

In whatever we face, whatever we might encounter,
grant us the vision, the desire
to be signs of your compassion in our wounded world.

Amen.

Readings

André Coindre Workbook 1
“The Lesson of the Cross”
pp. 92-93

Saint Augustine tells us that the Cross is a school where Jesus teaches, a pulpit where He announces all the truths of salvation.  Crux illa schola, lignum pendentis factum est cathedra docentis.

The dead figure of Christ hangs on the Cross.  Yet he speaks to us.  Defunctus adhuc loquitur.  When I am lifted up, I will draw all things to myself.  His lifeless  eyes are more eloquent than if they were open.  His pallid and bruised features are more convincing than if they were radiant with glory.  His silent and sealed lips speak more loudly than if they uttered sounds.  An idea expressed in words is limited.  But the language of this torn and bloodied body is without limit.  Defunctus adhuc loquitur.

Yes, this Cross will preach to you instead of us.  And what will it say?  All the great truths which have been revealed to you and which can never be told.  This Cross will preach to you instead of us and tell you about one God in three Persons. The Father required such a victim.  The Son offered himself on this altar.  The Holy Spirit formed this body which was sacrificed.  

This Cross, this new missionary, will preach instead of us.  And what will it say?  It will speak the language of the love of God for men, because He has loved the world to the point of giving us the Heart of his only Son.  Sic Deus dilexit mundum (Jn. 3:16).  He has loved us to the point of giving us not the heart of a mortal creature, but the Heart of the Eternal, the God who thrones above the seraphim and the cherubim, the Heart and Person of He who is infinitely greater than all the angels and the entire universe.  Sic Deus.  He has loved us to the point of dying out of love for us.

His eyes are lifeless, but it is the love of his Heart for you which closed them.  His features are pallid and bruised, but it is the love of his Heart which has concealed their radiance so as to soften your hearts.  His lips are silent and sealed, but it is the love of his Heart which has made them thus so as to speak to us infinitely more eloquently in the death of God.  Defunctus adhuc loquitur.

This Cross will preach to you instead of us and will reveal to you the price of your souls, the value of your salvation.  It will remind you that salvation is your only and necessary treasure, because it is not with gold or silver or precious stones that you have been redeemed but by the blood of God shed for you.  A lance pierced this Heart and this wound was desired so as to touch your own hearts with mutual love for him.

From the Preaching Notes of Father André Coindre

On the love of God from a sermon by Father André Coindre

Yes, in creating you, God loved you as a father,
So you could enjoy the sensation of living,
So you could surge forth from the nothingness of eternal silence,
Out of murky vagueness and into light.

In deciding to create you, God loved you as a father,
No, I say he loved you as more than a father,
Because the love of a father begins only at the instant of birth.
God’s love began eternally before that
Without the slightest interruption,
Without a moment of indifference.

God has loved you constantly in the mystery of eternity.
You began in his mind’s eye a century of centuries before you were born.
You began in his heart of hearts before there was time. 
It was his dream to place you among his chosen ones, 
in his holy nation.

Before the world was born, faithfully, eagerly,
God had in mind to give you the grace of holiness, of wholeness,
So you would walk in his presence alive with his love.

In deciding to create you, God loved you as a father.
No, I say again as more than a father,
Because the love of a father is mixed with self-interest and duty.
God’s is free, gratuitous.  He loves you tenderly, purely and simply.

In deciding to create you, God loved you as a father…
As more than a father,
Because as tender as a father’s love is,
He does not choose his children.
But God loved you with the love of choice, with preferential love.
He preferred you.  He wanted you in particular.

I am not talking about all the ways he spoiled you and favored you,
Sparing you from harsh climates and disasters, which so many endure,
Saving you from persecution, suffering and death.

I am talking about the grace of God’s choice
To create you in preference to millions of others
He could have created,
To desire you instead of the hundreds, even thousands
Of worlds and beings which could have fired his love,
And which could have responded more generously than you,
But which, compared to you, will forever remain
Uncreated, in eternal neglect.

Have you ever realized that your heart
Was created in the place of so many hearts
Which might have been holier,
Much more ardent in returning God’s love?

And yet your heart, as simple and as small, 
as narrow as you might feel it to be;
God prefers it to all those others.

Never, ever doubt the love in the heart of God for you.
Could he have put into the heart of your father
Or into the heart of your friends who love you dearly
A feeling that he did not first have in his own heart?

Could the tender heart of your mother have showered on you
Such love and caring all day and all night
During your infancy without God first giving her
The energy of his restless love?

Admit it and proclaim it then:  God is more than your father.
He is a father deeply in love with you.
Compared to him all fathers and mothers are only a reflection,
A shadow.

He is a father whose heart is a roaring hearth, an intense fire.
He is a father whose love makes the most loving and dedicated persons you might know or imagine 
seem like nothing more than the faintest spark.

Admit his love, proclaim it.  And pray with me:

My God, despite my pettiness, my sinfulness, you love me.  The goodness, the gentleness of your love is too good to be believed too easily.  How is it that you love such inconstant, such small creatures as us?  Are you forgetting that only goodness and beauty are worthy of such love?  At least that’s how we are!  We love only what is good, or at least only what seems good in our limited and sinful affections.  We reject what is ugly and unpleasant.  But you who see everything, whose gaze penetrates into our darkest selves, into the hardest parts of our hearts, you love us.  You love us with our refusals and selfishness, with our vices and addictions.  You love us while we are sinners!  My God, how sublime and mysterious!  I have come to take your love for granted.  I have come to count on your love.  I have come to expect you to love me even in my most outrageous moments of insult and vengeance.

O incomprehensible lover, how can I keep speaking about your love unless you pour into my heart great tongues of fire?  How can I speak another word unless you gather up and fill me with the love in the hearts of all mothers and fathers who ever existed, of all saints who have ever loved, of all the angels who adore you.  Give me the grace to love in return, to respond worthily to your heart forever open and forever full.

Amen.

 

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