The account of a lady who experienced “the inner drama of being a Christian” and devoted her life to the spiritual encounter with Christ through eucharistic adoration and other disciplines was lauded by Benedict XVI in a recent letter.
In a letter to the author of a new biography, the pope emeritus said that his own life’s journey was comparable to that of Mother Julia Verhaeghe.
Father Hermann Geissler, the author, is a former employee of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a member of the Spiritual Family “The Work,” which was established by Mother Julia and recognised as a family of consecrated life by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
Benedict could not conceal his concern that “her life may be of little appeal as a whole since it lacks any outward drama” in his letter to Geissler, which was made accessible to CNA.
Benedict lauded the author for creating a “really intriguing history” and for making “the inner drama of being a Christian evident.” The outward route of her life, which passes via Austria and Hungary before ending in Rome with Austria as its focal point, becomes a mirror of the internal route taken by this lady.
The meeting with Paul and, through him, with Christ himself, Benedict said, “is where the actual drama of life is discovered, which is found above all in the interaction enabling others to retrace it.
“Her life is filled with all the exterior and psychological drama of religion. Due to the fact that the tension depicted here is akin to that which I have felt since the 1940s, it is extremely compelling.
The biography, “She Served the Church: Mother Julia Verhaeghe and the Development of The Spiritual Family The Work,” examines the years 1950 to 2001, from the second postwar era to the Family’s official recognition, which occurred four years after the founder’s death in 1997.
The book is broken up into four sections and contains testimony, letters from Mother Julia, and other historical records. The book also places Mother Julia’s life and decisions in their historical perspective by relating them to the circumstances of the time, which Mother Julia was a keen observer of.
The following pages “speak of a lady who had neither a special culture, nor excellent health, nor any economic resources,” Father Thomas Felder and Sister Margarete Binder wrote in the introduction. However, “a fire raged in her heart,” they continued.
The encounters that changed her life all stemmed from this fire: first, the encounter with St. Paul; next, the encounter with Pope Pius XII, who appeared to her in a dream and predicted the Second Vatican Council; and finally, the encounter with Cardinal John Henry Newman, who has a special connection to “The Work.”
These encounters and connections are a part of the spiritual journey toward meeting Christ. Geissler’s book delicately and without sensationalism describes these meetings, showing that prophecy only occurs to those who are receptive to hearing it.
The encounter with Pius XII gave rise to a profound insight: the Second Vatican Council’s human and humanising components would attempt to seize control by straying from the holy, which is the proper locus of the Church.
The Spiritual Family “The Work,” led by Mother Julia, placed a strong emphasis on eucharistic adoration in response to the rising secularisation. It is a daily routine in all of “The Work’s” homes.
The book also discusses Mother Julia’s passion and concern for a united Europe at the same time that Brussels was getting ready to host the 1958 World’s Fair. She has always advocated for a return to Christ and a spiritual rejuvenation.
Although there may not have been any outward drama, Benedict adds that Mother Julia’s spirit was restless and receptive to considering the challenges of the day.
One may read about Geissler’s ongoing awe at the mystery of Christ in her book, which prompts the old woman to go to the Holy Land and experience the desert.
The life of Mother Julia described in this book is one of a person who was able to see her circumstances with the specificity that can only come through communion with God.
The 95-year-old Benedict XVI often discussed the necessity for communication with God and said that seeing Jesus was the solution to the problems of the world.