Arnaud Dumouch, 2005, http://eschatologie.free.fr
Translation: Alain Quenneville December. 2007
“Since it has been said that all souls are tempted by the devil at the time of death, it will be necessary to suffer through this. Well maybe not, I am too small. With the children, he cannot…”Saint Theresa of the Jesus Child, history of a soul, August 18th, 1896
And his incredible fervour, the very image of a zeal for God.
Upon attaining legal age, Zephyrus became a seminarist in Dakar. He soon makes himself noticed for his seriousness as well as his attitude toward responsibility. Through hard work, he graduated with a degree in philosophy and theology. He furthers his studies in Rome, ordained to the priesthood and subsequently named professor at the seminary.
Struck by the seminarist’s’ lack of fervour he very quickly, tried to inculcate them with a stricter rule of life. He certainly achieved his goal as it pertains to prayers and study. However professors point out to him that a monastic lifestyle shouldn’t be imposed on them. Ill at ease in his role, always in anguish between his aspirations for them and the possibilities, Zephyrus finally understood that his vocation might be monastic.
He therefore leaves his ministerial duties and enters a Benedictine monastery. He remain there but a year: The life didn’t appear strict enough for him and the congregation, who, installed in their daily rhythm of seven liturgical offices and work, appear to him to be satisfied with mediocrity. So, after trying with the Trappists monks, he entered the Grande Chartreuse, in France. There he remained for seven years, and for the first time finding an answer to his aspirations for God. There he found a form of hermitic life, where contacts with congregation members are reduced to a strict minimum on Sunday. He celebrates mass as a recluse and it’s at this time he undertakes the practice his great asceticism. He became aware of the crucial role of suffering as an offering and exhorts his brothers with fiery words:
“And what does Jesus asks? He asks amongst other things, to suffer in a very small way with him, to take a very small measure of his incommensurable sufferings upon us and, in our own way, to be Christ like who suffered the insults of sinners and their sins.
And thus, we truly give him sustenance, the souls of sinner’s.
Here is the true and singular sense to anguish, the great suffering. For this reason, in the Faith, to be afraid of suffering, or to refuse suffering (“my God, that this chalice moves away from me”), is understandable, but must be faced and fought up close and personal with courage, perseverance, confidence and patience: it is what our Lord Jesus-Christ indicated to us, taught on the Cross, from the time of his arrest on Holy Thursday, to His resurrection on Easter Sunday.”
Father Zephyrus then starts to sleep sitting in a chair. During the week he nourishes himself with bread, he bakes himself. The young brothers are fascinated by his enthusiasm and sometimes come to see him.
However, the abbot, a wise old man accustomed to hearts, rebukes him gently by telling him: “My brother, you should be wary of the excessive cult of suffering. The only true suffering which purifies and is redemptive is one that unites us to Jesus-Christ and carries with it the fruit of humility.”
But Father Zephyrus is too principled a man to listen. Thus he gradually enters, in open conflict with his abbot. One day, during a particularly tenuous exchange, the abbot tells him:
“Dear father Zephyrus, I may as well tell you clearly. I believe that everyone here understands this so listen: you are reliving with us, and I am formal here, this scene from the Gospel where Saint-Peter said to Jesus,” Lord, where goes thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow me afterwards.” Peter says to him: “Why can't I follow you now? I would give my life for you.” Jesus answers: “You would give your life for me? Verily. Verily, I say unto you, the cock will not have crowed three times that you will have disavowed me. Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. ” (John 13,36).
You seem to me, to be in the exact same frame of mind as Peter was at that time: this zeal, that everyone sees in you. And lets face it, I am telling you: you are confused as to what holiness is as demonstrated by Jesus. Holiness is HUMILITY AND CHARITY. The cross is of no importance unless it produces humility and love. But at least, with you, Jesus will be able to educate you. Because there is love to mould! ”
Flabbergasted, father Zephyrus responded:
“So you’re telling me that one day I will disavow Jesus? What is this kind of Christianity you’re preaching? You are wallowing in tepidity and you flee the cross you embraced as a vocation.”
- But father, don’t take it so hard. Its in his triple denial, it is in that cross, Saint Peter was born, a Saint Peter who became weak and poor of heart. You understand, its this cross, the one he hadn’t wanted, that formed him…”
Father Zephyrus wasn’t listening any more. He slammed the door to the Chartreuse and found refuge at Montmorin, in the Alps; a community of hermits led by father Emmanuel de Sollis’, a former superintendent at the Abbey of En-Calcat. Zephyrus initially met him under a cloud of suspicion. This father was “a good old fellow”, very simple, and his paunchiness was certainly not an indicator as to the quality of his piousness. Zephyrus explained his conflict with his former superior and father Emmanuel answered him:
“Bah! Come on in. This is a court of miracles and all are welcome. Some day I’ll introduce you to sister Elvira. She was sent back from her Benedictine monastery because of her moody temperament. She threw a cup of coffee at her mother abbess… And yet she’s a saint. God has lots of time with us, you know.”
So father Zephyrus father was left to his own devices. He was installed in a country cottage of mountain, without water or electricity and he started to live according to his rule. Father Emmanuel didn’t reproach him in anyway:
“Its God’s domain. No one will be able to redirect him from the excesses of his ways if not God.”
One day, a group of young friars from a nearby abbey were accepted for a two months training stage at the hermitage. One of them from afar saw this great saint in perpetual prayer and asceticism and was particularly attracted to him. He asked father Emmanuel for permission to meet him who said to him:
“Go ahead and try! But I warn you… he’s a bit wild.”
The young friar approached father Zephyrus cottage. Shaking and trembling to his core, knocked on his door but was summarily, sent packing without an explanation:
“I don’t receive anyone!”
Shocked and saddened, he came back to father Emmanuel who reassured him:
“It is better this way. You know, he subjects himself to ever-increasing degrees of ascetics and hardens himself more and more. Even his love seems to be shrivelling through heroism. He’s a great saint in his own way. Now do you know why I became hermit? It was to flee the errors of my Abbot! Yes, yes. Don’t have any illusions about me. But God blesses his loved ones when they sleep. Well isn’t this lesson worth a cheese? ”
And Emmanuel father treated him to a good snack. The young brother retained this lesson all his life. He worked more toward developing his love and his humility rather than his visible perfection.
Father Emmanuel died in an astonishing way. One year prior to his demise, he had announced to his monks the exact date of his death, on the day of the feast of Saint Joseph. They kidded him on his forecasting, and organized to his joy a great meal for him; on the day he had reckoned on dying. And yet, the evening even, he did die. Then there were perfumes, odours of holiness around the tomb of this old and simple man who had often said:
“I believe all the same that I betrayed God’s gifts.”
Some, among those who had taken him for a lightweight because he publicly confessed his shortcomings, were starting to wonder whether in fact he was a saint.
10 years later father Zephyrus felt death coming to his door and thought once more time of the abbot at the Grande Chartreuse and declared himself, satisfied:
“I never disavowed my loving and merciful Jesus.”
And in fact, his death was peaceful, and a great example for his brothers hermits.
From the time when his heart had stopped, an angel of magnificent light and incredible whiteness received him. Faced with this beauty he fell in ecstasy in front of its perfection and its dignity. He saw in his glance an immense moral rectitude. And bowing down to the ground he said:
“Lord, I will follow you everywhere. My life belongs to you, you’ve always known it.”
The angel raised him and said:
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You showed yourself irrevocably faithful. Enter the world that I have prepared for you (Matthew 25,21)”
He then saw an imposing mountain, at its crest, the most beautiful hermitage he could have dreamed of. And… for some reason, Father Zephyrus, began to doubt.
“And what of the beatific vision? Will I have the vision of God? I only became a hermit so I could one day see God.”
Then Christ appeared in front of Father Zephyrus and Lucifer - because that was the angel of light’s name withdrew. Confused, father Zephyrus immediately recognized Jesus. One could not be mistaken. He could see the heart sill bearing the stigmata from his passion, the soul of a man worn out, in ruins, but filled with sincere compassion. The father prostrated himself to the ground stammering: “Huh!!! I was mistaken. I prostrated myself in front of Lucifer. It was but an error in judgment.”
“Don’t worry about it. I know him and his big trick is to disguise himself as angel of light. You’ll need to face him again before coming with me. Are you ready?”
- Yes Zephyrus answered. This time I am ready.”
Then Jesus left.
Lucifer returned, this time without bothering to hide his identity, and took him along to a high mountain to show him the life he was proposing:
“You will continue your free life. You will live according to self-imposed rules, without having to depend on a superior. Your wish for silence will be respected. You will live without any weaknesses in the seriousness of your love for God. Look at me: I love God. I too want to see Him. And I know that one day He will open to you and me, the vision of his infinite Essence. Because He knows that our struggle is for His love and dignity.”
However father Zephyrus felt like he was in perfect tune with Lucifer. The very core of his fibres was being channelled towards Lucifer’s proposal. Unable to withstand it anymore Zephyrus felt obliged to recognize the true zeal of this angel for God. So he said:
“Alright! You can count on me. And it is for the love for God that I follow you. I recognize it. You are a defamed angel. ”
Fortunately Jesus Christ appeared in the nick of time and, caught Father Zephyrus by the sleeve just as he was going to be plunged in hell and, Zephyrus awoke immediately. Lucifer had again disappeared. Then Zephyrus prostrated again in front of Jesus and said:
“I was set up. I’m not used to this type of confrontation to face it.
- Don’t be afraid, answered Jesus. I bear no ill will. He is very tempting and can always find some peccadilloes of our being that correspond to him. He only likes his own perfection and he can’t stand humility. Just be wary of your own disposition because you have a similar complicity in the manner of your love for me. But you should still face him. Will you hold this time?”
- Yes, Lord. I am ready this time… “
Once again Christ removed himself. Lucifer returned, but this time, with an attitude of precision and total intellectual rigor. He took Zephyrus along in an introspective voyage, and projected the film of his life for him. He showed him, stage upon stages, and scene after scenes, of what was the key to his behaviour in life. He relived his life through the eyes of his brothers, as well as the motive for his decisions. The changes he made were the same everywhere: a taste for his perfection and an immoderate love of his own judgment. He read the true thoughts of Father Emmanuel and the impotence he felt to deal with his lack of moderation. He saw Father Emmanuel praying that he may be tested to induce in him in a change of heart. And Lucifer commented on:
“All your asceticism, all your sufferings were used for nothing, at least for the world of God. He believes only in the hearts small and repenting. These are these sufferings that he likes. You will see, all your heroics, all your sacrifices, it will not want any. If you are it, you will have all to start again. But you which ace be only one egoist all your life, you all the same will change now and will not give up all that you built…”
Father Zephyrus was paralysed by an intense fear. He was seized by a great despair, as if everything around him collapsed. By the charges of Lucifer levelled at him. And he couldn’t see any means to counter them. Each time he protested he did it pitiably and pathetically: “NO! My purpose was the love of god”, Lucifer unearthed another hidden intention, and one he had hidden from himself: His own perfection. Disgusted with himself father Zephyrus decided that it was all too much and too true. So, this time he decided, without looking back to follow Lucifer and to throw himself in hell and far from God. This was the third time, today; father Zephyrus had given his life to Lucifer…
He was just standing there caught up in his thoughts when he saw a rooster approach…. What is a rooster doing here on the day of my death? A broken soul faced with the discovery of his life’s total failure. However nourished he had been with Scriptures and the Gospel, Zephyrus never made the connection… And yet, like Peter 2000 years earlier, he cried bitterly.
A hand touched him. It was Jesus. Zephyrus thanked him but gently pushed him back.
“Lord, three times I denied you. The abbot at the Grande Chartreuse had foretold it to me. And what did I want? I wanted to make a liar out of him while being faithful to you. I don’t have anything else to offer. 40 years of monastic life and all my efforts end up like this. Leave me be. I am unworthy to be your Servant. ”
Jesus spoke and says to him:
“Zephyrus, tell me before throwing yourself in hell, do you love me above all?”
He answered him:
“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him:
“Then come with me.”
Then for a second time Jesus said to him:
“Zephyrus, do you love me?
- Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Then for a second time Jesus said to him:
“Then come with me.”
Then for a third time Jesus said to him:
“Zephyrus, do you love me?”
Zephyrus was pained of for being asked a third time: “Do you love me?” however he answered again: “Lord, you know all, you know very well that I love you.”
Jesus says to him:
“Then come with me.”
“Lord, if I must face Lucifer again, you know that I will follow him. He will tell me: “If you follow me, you must be as you always were: searching for your perfection, the offering of your sufferings was, all the same, something legitimate.” And I will listen to it…
- Of course you will listen to him. Do you understand now that, without me, you can do nothing? And today is the day you are born again. I know your heart. I know, even in your stubbornness and disobediences, your intention was pure. And see here, because today you became humble and obedient, I bless all sacrifices you offered me, I receive them and I return them to earth. ”
And father Zephyrus saw a rain of graces to fall to earth. A baker from Cahors converted this day without knowing from where this grace came to him. A lady from Marseilles failed in her suicide attempt and had a near death experience meeting with Christ. A young childless couple conceived a child promised to paradise. It’s only when the procession of the communion of saints takes place at the final judgment that the origin of those graces will be revealed to them, when
As for father Zephyrus, he very quickly entered heaven. His triple disavowal had so thoroughly disappointed him that, without flashback, he understood his unworthiness. Like Deuteronomy 28,65 says: “The LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind:”