One of Mother Teresa’s favorite books, Union with God is a collection of letters written by Blessed Columba Marmion to the many persons who sought his spiritual counsel — with questions about prayer, faith, temptation, suffering, and the struggles of daily life.
Marmion excelled in the art of letter-writing — his advice was always simple and direct, yet profound. In his letters we see him bringing to bear his great depth of theological knowledge in a practical and human way.
Union with God offers warm, practical counsel from a spiritual master whom Popes and Bishops looked to for inspiration.
“God’s mercy is infinite like God Himself. If we lay open our soul to Him with all its infirmities and sins, His Divine gaze penetrates this abyss of which we cannot see the bottom. His gaze goes into the most hidden recesses and brings us strength and light.”
— Blessed Columba Marmion, writing in Union with God
Foreword to Union with God
by Rev. David L. Toups, S.T.D. Union with God was first compiled ten years after Abbot Columba Marmion’s death in 1923, and then, as now, it brilliantly captures his insights into the spiritual life. This work is a collection of letters of spiritual direction which only can be described as being very simple yet very deep, encouraging childlike confidence in God as our loving Father. Blessed Columba’s letters simplify the complexities of life and helped his spiritual directees stay focused on what Jesus was asking of them in the present moment. His letters are effective, because he himself strove to live in attentiveness of God’s love and presence in his own daily life. Marmion is referred to as the “Doctor of Divine Adoption.” He emphasized that Christians are truly adopted children of God through baptism and are thus to abandon themselves into the loving hands of the Father at all times. To entrust oneself to the Father and model oneself on the life of Christ was everything to Dom Marmion.
Abbot Marmion’s writings were a staple of spirituality in the twentieth century for the generation preceding the Second Vatican Council. Recently, a resurgence of interest has been occurring, which recognizes that this master of spirituality has something profound to offer Christians today in the twenty-first century. He was dedicated to writing to his spiritual children and encouraging them in their struggles to keep moving forward on their journey of faith. He helped countless men and women draw ever closer to Christ.
It is well documented by classmates of Karol Woytyla, the future Pope John Paul II, that he was an avid reader of Marmion’s writings. Columba Marmion was beatified during the Jubilee Year 2000. In the homily at the beatification, Pope John Paul II stated: “May a widespread rediscovery of the spiritual writings of Blessed Columba Marmion help priests, religious and laity to grow in union with Christ and bear faithful witness to him through ardent love of God and generous service of their brothers and sisters.” This recognition by the Church Universal reveals not only Marmion’s personal sanctity, but also the profundity of his writings.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta considered Union with God to be her favorite work from which she drew great solace. It should be no surprise that Marmion’s teaching of childlike trust in Divine Providence and abandonment to the will of the Father would find in Mother Teresa such a devotee. The entire order of the Missionaries of Charity continues to draw inspiration from Marmion’s works. Mother Teresa would quote from him extensively, even citing him in her original hand-written copy of the Constitutions of the Missionaries of Charity. In an early letter to her sisters dated 1961, she paraphrases Marmion: “Fidelity to the rule is the most precious and delicate flower of love we religious can offer to Almighty God.” In 1967 she wrote: “In reading Dom Marmion I find in him so much of what our Society expects of us, Holiness!” Marmion’s theme of joyfully persevering in the midst of struggles was Mother Teresa’s attitude for the order which she founded and to which she herself subscribed.
Marmion’s uncomplicated yet insightful wisdom, as found in the pages of this book, should be a gift for many in today’s seemingly complicated world. His very readable presentation of the gospel truths for everyday life is as relevant now as when it was first written. This work will edify all readers to be more faithful to Christ, to His Church, and to their vocation in life. There is encouragement in these pages to live as children of our loving Father and to be ever more faithful to Him in both the simple and the profound moments of life. The whole of the Christian life is to be one of union with God. The key for Dom Marmion was abandonment to the will of the Father in all things, doing all for the love of God.
Praise for Union with God
“Here you’ll find wise advice about prayer and spiritual growth, virtues and perfection, temptation and trials, detachment and devotion. No wonder this was a favorite book of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.”
—Paul Thigpen, The Catholic Answer
“If you are looking for a good spiritual director, choose Blessed Columba Marmion... From his place in heaven he remains attentive to souls and ready at every moment to direct them to Christ.”
—Fr. Mark Daniel Kirby, Vultus Christi weblog
“Blessed Columba Marmion delivers a deep but simple message in letters written to the wide variety of people to whom he gave spiritual direction. The letters have been sagaciously arranged around the central theme of union with God, and each is prefaced by a few lines of helpful commentary. The letter format makes the book reader friendly, especially for those of us who have limited time for spiritual reading.
What is remarkable about Blessed Marmion is that he always goes to the heart of the matter with a warmth that inspires one to listen attentively to his counsel. Consider a few examples:
‘Examine thoroughly the intention with which you act. The love with which you act is a thousand times more important than the material exactitude of your actions’ (18).
‘Your thoughts about Jesus are too narrow. He isn’t a bit like what you imagine. His Heart is as large as the ocean, a real human heart. He wept real salt tears when Lazarus died. “See how much He loved him.” He does not expect you to be a specter or ghost. No, He wants you to be a thorough woman wanting love and giving it, and when you leave those you love, He wants you to feel it deeply’ (125). Union with God is indeed a treasure for anyone who is desirous of getting closer to God. Zaccheus Press is to be thanked for the aesthetically pleasing edition they have made available to us.”
—Marie I. George, Professor of Philosophy, St. John’s University, Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly (Winter 2007)
“Superb!!! I’ve read spiritual books for 35 years. This is the greatest of them all! It makes me feel united to Jesus!”
—L.J.K. (Flint, Michigan)
“This is an exceptional book. Dom Marmion’s insight, wisdom, compassion and simplicity are deeply moving.”
—R.K.R. (Long Island, New York)
“Union with God was recommended to me by a dear Irish Benedictine monk. I had other works of Bl. Columba Marmion but this one is so easy to digest and understand. I ordered 4 more to give as gifts! One went to a Mother Superior, one to a priest and 2 will go to holy friends.”
—Sr. JMM (Grand Junction, Colorado)
“Great book and wonderful presentation. Marmion’s letters should inspire all readers.”
—D.L.T. (St. Petersburg, Florida)
“Dom Columba Marmion’s book... is a magnificent companion to and continuation of Jean Pierre de Caussade’s Abandonment to Divine Providence. In saying that, I don’t wish to diminish its unique qualities—they are many—the gentleness of the voice of Dom Columba, his erudition, and his careful tailoring of his teaching to the individual student, while never compromising the truth. Truly, this is an inspiring, hope-giving work. For those of us in the trenches, who seem like we never move forward, Dom Columba raises the battle cry that will jolt us out of complacency and send us forward.”
—Steven Riddle, Flos Carmeli weblog
“Wonderful book! Please publish Christ in His Mysteries by Abbot Marmion.”
“One word: Outstanding. The spiritual advice he gives is applicable to all people, like that of St. Francis de Sales’ writings.”
“Timeless inspirational remedies for lives, no matter ones station.”
“In corresponding with his spiritual sons and daughters, Dom Marmion shows profound sensitivity, and a father’s zeal and eagerness to help his children achieve the goal he himself enjoyed -- union with God. I am confident that this small book, so rich in all the spiritual experiences of Dom Marmion’s (too brief) life, will help its readers to achieve that goal also.”
—P.M.C. (Rhode Island)
“This book is pure gold. I started highlighting parts of the book when I came upon profound spiritual passages, but soon determined I would save time by simply dying the pages of the book yellow. So much of the book truly resounded with me and stayed with me throughout the day as I used this book as spiritual reading in the morning. Marmion is able to put things so well that they really broke through to me even when I was pretty much aware of the basic idea of what he was saying before. As always there is a great distance from head knowledge and truly understanding something with your heart.
Regardless of where somebody was in the spiritual life Marmion was able to provide direction. His advice was always soaked with scripture and the obvious experience of a contemplative who knew the deep things of God. Marmion would advise and sometimes chastise those he corresponded with and even when he had to tell them he thought they were on the wrong path - the way he wrote it is doubtful if anybody could become angry from the loving way he wrote them.
Included in the book is a letter he wrote to the Pope in 1911 to add to the request for the cause of Servant of God for Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, now of course St. Therese. He obviously immediately recognized the greatness of the Little Way that was the basis for her becoming a Doctor of the Church. Another of his letters of spiritual direction was one written to a young man under his charge as abbot of Maredsous Abbey. The person was considering leaving the Benedictines to join the Carthusians. In it you are certain that if Blessed Marmion had thought that this person had a vocation to the Carthusians he would have blessed him on his way, though in this case he thought it was a temptation that must be rejected and he forthrightly told him so, but with much love.
Even though the advice in this book was largely aimed at priests and religious the usefulness of his advice is suited to everybody regardless of their state of life. I could not recommend this book more highly.”
–Jeff Miller, The Curt Jester weblog
“It is so awesome to have Blessed Marmion’s writings back in circulation! Thank you for publishing these writings so important to the Catholic Church. May we all continually grow deeper in our ‘Union with God’.”
—V.T.S. (St. Paul, MN)
“Eagerly awaiting Christ in His Mysteries. Zaccheus’s choice of books is superior, and service is courteous, fast, & efficient.”
—M.B. (Tulsa, OK)
“Invaluable spiritual reading for souls, especially priestly souls, engaged in today’s real spiritual fight for Christ. It is refreshing to find a true Catholic book from a Catholic press. Your work certainly helps ‘to restore all things in Christ’ -St. Pius X.”
—M.F. (Rochester, MN)
“I really like it very much. Please send me a catalogue for further readings.”
—S.L. (Reston, VA)
“I’ve enjoyed it so far -- good overall presentation of his thought. Zaccheus Press follows the example of Jesus, inviting us to know God’s love and mercy, as He did with Zaccheus.”
—G.M. (Southern Connecticut)
“Thank you for making Union with God available again. I have been trying for years to find an early printing and have never succeeded.”
—T.M. (Albany, NY)
“A gem of a book.”
—A.F. (Boston, MA)
“Marmion is a remarkable spiritual writer. And as for Zaccheus Press, all of your books are exceptional as to their content and the quality of their easy to read print.”
—J.J.S. (Queens, NY)
“One of the most beautiful books you can read, and reread many times!!!! I just ordered one dozen Union with God to share this great gift with as many people as I can.”
—Valdemar Welz, D.M.D. (Boston, MA)
“Excellent book; get more Marmion texts in print. Making classic spiritual texts available is a very important investment in pushing ahead with the new evangelization.”
“This book is like having your own Spiritual Director with you. As a Secular Order of Discalced Carmelite, I recommend this book for anyone wishing for spiritual direction.”
—A.J. (New Orleans)
“It is a very deep inspiration for my spiritual life and needs. As good as the best!”
—M.J.K. (Palmyra, VA)
“Excellent introduction to the spirituality of Dom Marmion, esp. as a spiritual director. Zaccheus Press publishes books that are durable and usable, and that promote greater clarity. Gems of the Catholic faith.”
—D.T. (Middlesex, MA)