John of St. Samson
The Venerable John of St. Samson (1571–1636), also known as Jean du Moulin or Jean de Saint-Samson, was a French Carmelite and mystic of the Catholic Church. A leader of the Touraine Reform of the Carmelite Order, which stressed prayer, silence and solitude, John was blind from the age of three after contracting smallpox and receiving poor medical treatment for the disease. He insisted very strongly on the mystical devotion of the Carmelites. He has been referred to as the "French John of the Cross" by students of Christian mysticism.
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- "I beg everyone from the highest to the lowest to forgive me; I have given them all much very bad example."
- Among his last words, after receiving the final Sacraments
- Make use of this very simple aspiration: you and I, my love, you and I, you and I, and never another nor more! To which you could add some burning words like: "since you are entirely good and all goodness itself; since you are entirely glorious and all glory itself; since you are entirely holy and all holiness itself!
- As quoted in Traditions of Spiritual Guidance (1987) by Michael Brundell.
- This is what the Son of God desires of you: that he might be able to embellish, perfect and gain you lustre with the fullness of his gifts. Since he is so taken by your Beauty, which flows and gushes from him to you, as I have said, what he desires of you is that he might have the supreme pleasure of an eternity enjoying you and his gifts. Thus, everyone who proceeds to live in a way that is contrary to his own self, lives in God; his whole being is God-orientated; he sees nothing but God and himself.
- From, A Letter to a Religious
- My exercise consists in a total elevation of the spite above all created and sense-objects. By this exercise I am securely concentrated within myself and gaze steadily at God who in a simple manner draws me to the state of simple unity and nakedness of spirit, which is called “simple idleness.” In this state of simplicity of rest I am passively possessed and held above every sense-image. This rest remains mine, whether I am by myself doing nothing or whether I am engaged in activity that is exterior or interior and mental. This is what I can tell you about my interior life: my condition is simple, naked, darkened and without knowledge even of God, in nakedness and darkness of spirit. I am lifted above every kind of illumination existing below this level; in this state I cannot bring into play my interior faculties. They are all without exception drawn and held under the influence of this unique and simple “image.” This image, in fact, holds them in a state of naked simplicity above vision and essence at the highest level of spirit, beyond spirit. It is there that I find myself in the nakedness and darkness of the all-incomprehensible depths, incomprehensible because of their darkness, where everything of the senses, everything specific and created melts down and blend into the unity of spirit, or rather into the simplicity of essence or spirit.
- From The Exercise of Elevation of the Spirit to God
- Love does not always choose the same dwelling place, it makes many exploits in men here below; It has its night, its day, and its many levels: only the one who has overall happiness is content. It moves, it suffers in God, its first cause and the unique happiness of the celestial Spirits; It is there that it is always equally enraptured, by the Seraphic love which is above all things.
- From The Holy Sepulchre Canticle
- I have three homes here below, each very appealing: The Cross, Love, and the Sepulchre; all of them are to me as One, and raise me above nature, and above its wearisome hold.
- From The Holy Sepulchre Canticle
From The Epithalamium
Quotes from The Epithalamium: of the divine and incarnate Bridegroom and of the divine bride in conjugal union with her Spouse, trans. by Br. Neil B. Conlisk, O.Carm. (Washington D.C. 2017)
- Tell me, my Life and my Spouse, this whole ineffable mystery, is it not rather for the admiration of the Seraphim, than for the expression of one like me, your spouse, who doesn’t know what to do about this, except to babble.
- In a word, frankly, I am in love with the love in my Spouse.
- I don’t want anything more than to be one of your spouses employed by you to announce that they languish for your love.
- Sing boldly, O spouses of a Bridegroom such as mine! you, I say, whom are my companions in this fate and enjoyment so happy as ours! Sing at my happy insistence as I will sing by yours, a new song containing endless praises of the infinitely excessive grandeur and love of our Bridegroom, coming to so admirably espouse us, to deiformly deify us of him and in him, and to make us oneself of oneself.
- What is all this? Let him conceive it if he can, express it if he knows how, if he desires to; if one can it is licit, but it is better to shut up as one should; because it is here that our intuitive joy, respectively and mutually in us both, speaks, not of this nor anything like it, but something infinitely other than this, by its profundity, and perpetual and ineffable silence.
- Of what sort is this truth in its accomplishment in us both, your spouses cannot lay their eyes on me without seeing that I am your cherished and unique bride, by the evident and manifest signs of your radiant and exuberant love, which manifestly flow from me to you, whether I perceive them or not, yet all my desire is to be perpetually within, hidden and known only to you who are my Bridegroom, my Life and my All.
From The Goad, the Flames, the Arrows and the Mirror of the love of God
- Quotes of John of St. Samson from The Carmelite Tradition by Stephen Payne (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2011), "The Goad, the Flames, the Arrows and the Mirror of the love of God: designed to impassion the soul with the love of God within himself." trans. by Maurice Cummings, O.Carm.
- Aspiring then is an expression of love: a love so purely and radically expressed that it transcends all loves that are comprehensible by the senses, the reason or the intellect. By the impetuosity and force of the Spirit of God, it arrives at union with God, not by chance but by a sudden transformation of the spirit in God.
- Aspiration, practiced as a familiar, respectful and loving conversation with God, is such an excellent method, that, by means of it, one soon arrives at the summit of all perfection, and falls in love with Love.
- The way to attain love is to love. A less excellent love leads to a greater love, and a greater love in turn leads to the highest love, as well as to the most excellent and ultimate fruits of active love. Each of these degrees has its own theory and practice. All of them, especially the last degrees, possess a simple, exalted, and singular contemplation of the divine Object, which constantly exerts a powerful influence on the soul and ravishes it with delight.
- This love is so overpowering that the will alone enters the amorous bosom of love, where it savors an unutterable love beyond all understanding and expression. All the while, the dumbfounded intellect remains paralyzed at the gate.
- Such is the effect of love's flood rushing into its lovers. It sweeps them away, ravishes them, and swamps them in its waves. These people become love itself — its spirit, its divinity — insofar as it is possible for any creature in this life.
- The sight of the intuitive and ravishing Beauty of God holds her as if asleep in its delectable bosom...This state surpasses all human definition and comparison.
- This path is so delightful and delectable that anyone who knows it will lovingly travel it at his own cost and expense. Such happiness is beyond words.
From, Light on Carmel: An Anthology from the Works of Brother John of Saint Samson, O.Carm.
Based on the French Edition of Father Sernin de St. Andre, O.C.D., Translated by Frater Joachim Smet, O.Carm., (The Sword, Oct. 1941, Carmelite Press
- The worst of all human miseries is not to know God, not to feel Him, not to desire Him, not to taste Him.
- Whoever refuses to follow Christ in His poverty will never possess Him in the abundance of His graces and virtues in this life, nor in His glory in the next. To possess nothing and to be nothing is to be full of God.
- We cannot imagine what a great love the angels have for those who are truly chaste. They take such special care of them that the devils can harm them only with difficulty and from a distance.
- The obedience of those, purified in soul and body in the furnace of humiliation, is of infinite worth to God.
- Every soul, touched by God, feels and believes in the depths of its being that it is more sinful than all men together.
- The corruption of the world and of the worldliness is a consequence of the fact that men have no eye whatever for the majesty of God in and around themselves; therefore has God delivered them to the natural and brutal motions of their heart.
- The forgetting of all things and of one's self, combined with contemplation, makes a man divine
- Love which is not humble is a devil.
- Desire, abide, suffer and die unknown for all time; this is true sanctity!
- The heavenly Bridegroom allows small failings and common weaknesses in order to deliver his loved ones from pride.
- True solitude is in the soul. The soul has as its desert and homeland God Himself, the father and teacher of all souls
- The more a person strives after God, the more earnest he will become--the les he will converse with men.
- Modesty enables physical deformity.
- No one can be a true mystic who is not thoroughly versed in the ways of nature. The more nature is attracted by spiritual favors, the more it is inclined to make itself the master of them. Nature always mingles its own spirit with the spirit of God. unless we keep a close watch over it, it will always remain so. Natures most subtle snare is to lead us to confuse what is licit with what is expedient. When we doubt the inspiration of an impulse, whether from grace or nature, we should picture a similar object which is without doubt acceptable to nature. If this representation pleases us, it is a sign that the first inclination also comes from nature and is consequently to be rejected.
- Whether great attraction and strong interior occupations are of nature or of grace can be known by the fact that they are accompanied by perfect rest or subtle disquiet.
- It is much more trying to be continually tormented by evil men than by devils.
- God takes such great pleasure in the sanctity of His saints that in the interests of a few, He often allows the whole Church to suffer great loss.
- Perfect contemplatives hear without astonishment all that the learned propound since they excel in a science transcending all understanding.
- Simplicity is the loving inclination of the soul elevated by God, Who efficaciously drawn it into His own heart. There He reduces all its faculties to unity of spirit, that it may live there, in a n abstract, simple and essential condition, without sensible desire to reason or think of order or disorder. It is continually lost in the eternity of God.
- Nothing ever astonishes the really simple person.
- Those who apply themselves more ardently to the practice of love, by that very face bring more devils upon their heads.
- If the visitations the soul receives are from God, it first feels fear, then gladness accompanied by a hunger and thirst for virtue. If they are from the devil, the soul at first feels gladness and thereafter remains in confusion and darkness. Whether the visitations be from God or from the devil, we should always despise and humiliate ourselves; God is exceedingly glad to visit the humble, but the devil cannot stomach them.
From Prayer, Aspiration, and Contemplation
From the Writings of John of St. Samson, O.Carm., Mystic and Charismatic, Translated and Edited by Vernard Poslusnet, O.Carm. (Alba House, New York 1975)
- The soul’s pleasure is to enter and to go forth: to enter into the profound abyss of God where it is irretrievably lost in the sight of his infinite grandeur and beauty which it contemplates continually with the eye of its understanding; and to go forth from there to the ravishing sight of our Savior, the God-Man, whom it is inspired to follow by a lively imitation both interiorly and exteriorly. p. 59
- Aspiration practiced as a familiar, loving respectful conversation with God, is such an excellent method, that, by means of it, one soon arrives at the summit of all perfection and falls in love with love. p. 74
- When the soul has been deeply touched, it is by love alone that it desires to be intimately joined to God. This is why we advocate reducing ardent aspiration to a few words, even to the mere word ‘love’. This love sends forth ardent and fiery flames with all its strength. As a result. A blazing divine fire is enkindled in the soul. It is in this way that God stirs up the soul and draws it strongly inward. p. 86
- When you have acquired this excellent habit of love you will feel completely absorbed by it as it penetrates deeply into the center of your being. There you will be conscious of enjoying a taste and a gaze of such height, breadth, length, depth and simplicity that you will attain this state quite easily, without any effort on your part. p. 120
- We have been created in order to return to God through love, through his own love. In us it must be ardent, pure and unceasingly active, so that we expend all our energies and are consumed by it. Actually, we shall never be able to do or give anything that can sufficiently recompense him who is infinite Love. Before him every creature is deceitful, and in comparison with him, man is nothing. p. 140
- The method for practicing this ardent love is short and easy. Its subject is constant and loving aspiration. But to be perfect, aspiration must be practice so eagerly and continually that it becomes as easy as breathing. It has a number of degrees, all of which can be reduced to four. The first consists in offering oneself and all created things to God. As far as possible, this should be done in an abstract manner. The second degree consists in making requests of the divine Spouse, asking him for his gifts in him and for his own sake. The third degree consists in being resigned and completely conformed to him. This conformity is very lofty and perfect, and is characterized by a great love. Moreover, the soul also desires it for creatures who are capable of such exalted love. The fourth degree is that of unitive love which unites the soul to God. Here the souls yearns for him and pursues him with acts of love until he opens his loving and super essential bosom to it. Here it feast upon his immense beauty in great abundance and intoxication, eating and drinking at the table of the Blessed. But since this does not last very long, the soul soon returns to itself to feed upon its former spiritual fare. From this it derives renewed strength, until God again receives it into his bosom with the same effect.
- You are within, my Love, and I too am there with you and will be there constantly. No, I will never look for you outside, for you are not there. Rather will I retire into the deepest center of my being, where I shall possess you in a singular repose and delight. IN this simple union, we shall take the greatest delight in each other. And I shall rejoice only in this: that you are my God. With this I am happy, completely satisfied that you are such, and that you will never be understood by any created being. p. 183
- It is a wonder that any religious at all preserves a love for the true spirit of religious life in the midst of all these adversaries, and remains resolved to be really spiritual in spite of them and even of hell itself. Although their number is small, it does not matter. These few sparks will help to keep the religious state alive to God's honor and glory. p. 188
Quotes about John of St Samson
- “God destined him to be the brightest flame in our little company as regards spiritual things. It is no exaggeration to say that in this respect he was the St. John of the Cross of the new reform.”
- Fr. Donatien of St. Nicholas, Disciple, Editor and Biographer
- John of Saint Samson insists very strongly on the mystical vocation of Carmelites. The active life should not have first place. Recalling that the rule demands a life of prayer; he chooses this prayer — "to be lost in the object of contemplation, God and the things of God." No doubt it is necessary to preach, study and work, but because of the dangers which exterior activity brings, it is necessary for young scholastics to exercise themselves intensely in the principal object of their vocation and establish themselves solidly in the practice of meditation and contemplation. Contemplation is still a pure gift of God; but it is important that we for our part remove all the obstacles and practice the virtues so that we may be found disposed in the way which God demands before giving his mystical favors. In this doctrine, human activity enjoys a considerable part; in its higher degrees, contemplation remains an absolutely gratuitous gift. Thus equilibrium is maintained between the school of acquired contemplation and that of infused contemplation. John is careful to note that perfection does not consist in ecstatic phenomena but in union with God who lives in us. This fire, which burns in us, sets us aflame, and the flame of our love is united to Divine Love which en flames our heart. It is necessary that Carmelites understand this vocation and prepare for it. As a means of arriving at the dispositions required by God, John counsels a form of prayer which the Francis can Henry Herp especially honored, namely, aspiration. It has four degrees: inhaling God, exhaling God, living in God, living by God. Entirely filled with God, we must hunger and thirst for God without ceasing and open our mouth to breathe God. We should start by offering ourselves and every creature to God.
- Blessed Titus Brandsma in lectures of 1936, as quoted in "The Spirituality of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance".