In his recent book, which has this conviction at its heart, Father Jeffrey Kirby walks readers through a six-day home-retreat based on the spiritual insights of the Jesuit master, Father Jean Pierre De Caussade.
Father Kirby is the Pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Indian Land, SC. He holds a doctorate in moral theology from the Holy Cross University and is an Adjunct Professor of Theology at Belmont Abbey College.
Here is his interview with ZENIT:
ZENIT: Father Kirby, you just completed a new book, Be Not Troubled: A 6-Day Personal Retreat with Fr. Jean-Pierre De Caussade. You’ve now written several books. How is this new book different from your others?
Fr. Kirby: Yes, I’ve been very fortunate to “dirty some paper with a pen” as Flannery O’Connor used to say, but this new book is different from my other books for a couple of reasons. First, the book is actually a guide for a six-day retreat. It’s meant to be a direct resource for prayer and reflection. Secondly, the book takes the spiritual wisdom of Jean Pierre De Caussade, one of the spiritual masters in the Christian tradition, and breaks it down for easy digestion. And so, the wisdom and thoughts in the book are more De Caussade than my own. I’ve only reinterpreted them and sought to apply them in some practical ways that can help us all pray better.
ZENIT: And so, why Father Jean Pierre De Caussade? Were other spiritual masters considered for the book?
Fr. Kirby: I admit, Jean Pierre De Cussade might not be one of the more popular names in the trenches of our spiritual tradition, but his writings are some of the great ones. The priest’s writings, which are now over 200 years old, have significantly impacted our modern (and post-modern) understanding of God’s presence and providence. De Caussade’s writings addressed how we can understand, and even accept, bad things when they happen. He was on the cutting edge in many of his views, such as the primacy of a person’s vocation, the use of everyday tasks to grow in holiness, and the goodness of life in all its forms.
Some other spiritual masters were considered for the book. But, because of these views held by De Caussade, it was my conviction that he is the spiritual master that we most need to make accessible in our contemporary times. This belief has been confirmed time and time again in my pastoral ministry as I see the real spiritual needs of believers today.
ZENIT: Tell us more about “the use of everyday tasks to grow in holiness.”
Fr. Kirby: Yes, for Father De Caussade, every moment was a dispensation of grace. He held this view so strongly that he coined the term “the sacrament of the present moment.” De Caussade stressed that God is the eternal present, the great I AM, and so he does not dwell in the past or future but only here in the present moment. And so, we most meet God in the present moment. In this time – right here and right now – God dwells and seeks to be with us, give us his grace, and allow us to be a part of his divine plan. And so, whether we’re making a huge business deal, doing the dishes, dying of cancer, taking a walk outside, or listening to an annoying neighbor, each of these present moments are moments of grace. If we use them well, and unite them with Jesus Christ, then they become a means of holiness for us.
ZENIT: How can people use this book? You mention it’s intended to be a retreat guide.
Fr. Kirby: Yes, the book is meant to be a resource and impetus to pray. While certainly someone can simply read through it, the book is meant to be so much more. The book is best used as a help for spiritual growth. It can be used for six consecutive days, maybe starting on a Monday and finishing on a Saturday (with Sunday worship to conclude the experience). Or it can used on a two-day retreat with three prayer times each day. Or, as I’ve already heard it’s being done in some places, the book can be used by groups once a week for six weeks. This seems to be a popular option with prayer groups. But these are just a few options. The main point is that the book is intended to help us understand God’s providence, draw closer to him in prayer, and seek to see his presence in our daily lives.
Father Jeff Kirby, STD, is the Pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Indian Land, South Carolina, USA, and an Adjunct Professor of Theology at Belmont Abbey College. He is the author of the recent book,