Jeanne Francoise Fremyot, known as Sainte Chantal, was not closely concerned with contemporary events. It is her personal development rather than her connection with any public affairs which has value and interest for a later generation. Her history is a supreme assertion of the supernatural element in ordinary life. She was a traveller who, starting on her journey with a clearly-marked and time-worn route before her, found herself checked by the Touch that is not human and turned to a way, very difficult and hard to find, that led to a destination which she had not desired. There are certain traditions regarding her which do more to stifle interest than to inspire it. To some she appears as the type of devotee who will sacrifice natural love and duty to a selfchosen avocation; to others she is merely the shadow and echo of Francois de Sales, one of the many saintly women presented in the literature of piety whose individuality is impossible to separate from that of the saints who gave them guidance and inspiration. Reference to actual fact is sufficient to confute either of these impressions, but there is another, less widespread but far more damaging, which demands cloeer consideration. The life that had an ordinary beginning in the surroundings of a provincial town and developed amid the deeper responsibilities of a wife and mother and the dignities of high position, progressed by gradual ascent to a plane that is above the range of normal experience. The place of Ste. Chantal is among the mystics, but she has suffered more than ordinarily from the vagueness of thought that characterises much which is said and written regarding mysticism. Again and again her name has been coupled with that of Mme. Guyon, and the fact that she never wrote for publication has left her memory defenceless before a suggestion that misrepresents her utterly. Mme. Guyon was exceptionally prolific as a writer, and her popularity among some of the Protestant sects in England has brought her work within reach of the ordinary reader; but whatever may be the view of the individual regarding her character and doctrine, there is no justification for confounding them with those of Jeanne de Chantal. The positions of these two women are in fact diametrically opposed, although to both the practice of prayer was the ruling object of existence. The one regarded herself as highly privileged, as exalted to a plane beyond the ken of ordinary humanity, and endowed with a capacity for union with the Divine Will which emancipated her from the laws by which human society is governed; the other ranked herself as the least in spiritual order among her associates, she had no glowing moments of achievement, and those deep experiences which marked her in the eyes of others as chosen by God to be tried and tested by the Divine Fire, increased her self-abasement. I do not heed the suffering my fear is that I am offending." That was her protest. As we follow Ste. Chantal to the end of her earthly pilgrimage, we shall find that the farther she penetrated into the mysteries of prayer the more habitual became her attitude of humble supplication and the wider the distance that divided her from the security of Mme. Guyon. There was nothing in the teaching that emanated from Annecy that could have alarmed even the timorous orthodoxy of Mme. de Main tenon, for the Foundress of the Visitation was as suspicious of exotic devotionalism as any of the critics of the Quietism of Saint-Cyr. "These wonderful things that are so exalted and so spiritual are as a rule of doubtful origin," she wrote, " and in particular, unless they are grounded on humility, you may be sure they are unreal," Experience is the only root from which can spring sound judgment on the things that concern the spiritual life, and only the experienced accord due reverence to the possibilities of that aspiration of the soul towards God which we call prayer.
E K Sanders, Brother Hermenegild TOSF, Paperback, ISBN 10: 1482755777, ISBN 13: 9781482755770