Rome Newsroom, September 23, 2022 / 05:29 am (CNA).
In a new letter, Benedict XVI praised the story of a woman who lived “the interior drama of being a Christian” and dedicated her life to a spiritual encounter with Christ in Eucharistic adoration and other practices.
The pope emeritus wrote that his own personal experience was similar to that of Mother Julia Verhaeghe in a letter to the author of a new biography.
The writer, Father Hermann Geissler, is a former official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a member of the Spiritual Family “The Work” that Mother Julia founded and Pope John Paul II designated as a family of consecrated life in 2001. .
In his letter to Geissler, made available to CNA, Benedict made no secret of the fact that he had “a fear that his life might be of little interest as a whole because it lacks any external drama.”
Benedict praised the author for making “visible the inner drama of being a Christian, writing a genuinely fascinating biography. The outer path of this life, leading from Belgium through Austria and Hungary to Rome, with a focal point in Austria, becomes a reflection of the inner path this woman was led on.”
“In this way the true drama of life becomes visible, which is found above all in the encounter with Paul and, through him, with Christ himself, allowing himself to be traveled by others,” added Benedict XVI.
“All the external and internal drama of faith is present in his life. The tension described here is particularly compelling because it is similar to what I have experienced since the 1940s.”
The biography, entitled “She served the Church: Mother Julia Verhaeghe and the development of the Spiritual Family The Work”, explores the period from 1950 to 2001, from the second post-war period until the recognition of the Family, four years after her death. of the founder. in 1997.
The book is divided into four parts and includes testimonies, excerpts from Mother Julia’s letters, and other archival documents. In addition, the book contextualizes the life and choices of Mother Julia, connecting them with the situations of the time, of which Mother Julia was a careful observer.
In the introduction, Father Thomas Felder and Sister Margarete Binder wrote that “the following pages speak of a woman who had no particular culture, no good health, and no financial means.” However, they added, “a fire burned in her heart.”
This fire is the basis of the meetings that formed his life: first, that of Saint Paul; then that of Pope Pius XII, who appeared to him in a dream and predicted the Second Vatican Council; finally, the meeting with Cardinal John Henry Newman, with whom “The Work” has a particular relationship.
These encounters and relationships are part of a spiritual journey to find Christ. Geissler’s book narrates these encounters delicately, without sensationalism, showing that prophecy comes only when one is open to listen.
From the meeting with Pius XII a great intuition was born: the human and humanizing element of the Second Vatican Council will try to take over, going beyond what should be the center of the Church, that is, the sacred.
In the face of growing secularization, the Spiritual Family “La Obra”, led by Mother Julia, emphasized Eucharistic adoration. It is a daily habit in each house of “La Obra”.
The book also describes how Mother Julia felt the same enthusiasm and concern for a unified Europe, just as Brussels was preparing to host the 1958 Expo. Her point of view was always one of spiritual renewal, back to Christ.
Perhaps there was no external drama, but the restlessness of Mother Julia’s soul to which Benedict refers is good, open to reflecting on the problems of the time.
In Geissler’s book, one perceives the constant amazement at the mystery of Christ, which leads her, already an old woman, to visit the Holy Land and to experience the desert.
The life of Mother Julia told in this book is that of a woman who knew how to look at her time with the concreteness that only contact with God gives.
Benedict XVI, who turned 95 in April, often spoke of the need for contact with God and said that the encounter with Jesus was the answer to the world’s challenges.
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