The center, purpose, and meaning of spiritual life is our union with God. It is true that God lives in every single one of his creatures, sustaining its life and guiding its growth. Nevertheless, to enjoy it fully, and to live truly united with God, we need to make some effort. It doesn’t happen automatically. It doesn’t happen from one day to another. It’s a life’s journey. So let’s begin!

Francisco Palau had quite a peculiar vision of how our prayer should look like. Of course, the focal point is always God. And we, Christians, have it even easier because we have Jesus Christ who is the image of the invisible God. Therefore, the first step in prayer means to enter into a relationship of friendship with him, up to the point that we will feel it like something natural. We feel at ease, we don’t need to force our thought, feelings, or emotions. The time of prayer becomes a time of pleasure, of enjoyment. The best time of the day. It’s time to face someone who only knows to love, and do the same to him: only love him. Friendship, and love, are basic for prayer, for this “treatment between friends” in the words of St. Teresa of Jesus. God loves me, I love God, and we will live happily ever after.

But slowly, this relationship between friends becomes a relationship among friends. Not anymore only two of us. Now we become many. Because it results that this God whom we love, has a body. Every time we look at him hanging on the Cross, we contemplate and adore his body, wounded, bleeding, in pain. And we realize that this body is the Church. This way, because of the love of his physical body, we slowly learn to love his mystical body: our neighbors. It’s in prayer that this love gets strengthened, fortified, and matured. Whole Church, the whole world becomes the object of our love and mission. But never losing sight of the reason for our love and mission: God dying on the cross and loving us unconditionally.

The challenge is to remain in this union in spite of all exterior events. It happens in the calmness and silence of our hearts, and we know how difficult it is to be calm and, serene, at peace, when everything around us spins with the speed of light. That’s why we need to collaborate, we need to make an effort, we need to find against ourselves, against thoughts and emotions that cross our hearts making us hesitate, and doubt God’s love and even the possibility of this union. Nevertheless, God himself comes to our aid with his gift of faith, hope, and love. The only condition is that we may value this union, understand its importance, and “love God excessively”. If not… what would we be fighting for?

To Juana Gratias: Gramat (France) Es Cubells (Ibiza) Day of Our Lady of Carmel July 16, 1857 J.M.J. Long live Jesus My dear sister in Jesus Christ: We are celebrating the octave of our most holy Mother, Virgin of Carmel, and I intend to put in order all my things, as if they are the last days of my life. Let us come to your affair. I am waiting for your letter so that I could spend time for your exterior life, meanwhile, let us go to the direction of the interior. The great work of God in man takes place in the interior. The order that appears and is manifested outside is the work and effect of the interior order. The three virtues faith, hope and charity, aided by the most lofty and sublime gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as understanding, wisdom, knowledge and counsel, unite the creature with the Creator, the spirit of man with his God, the soul with the Word of God. And this sacred union is that which has to be searched for, held and possessed, because here lies the spiritual life, salvation and strength, and from it springs forth the other innumerable virtues. Let us set aside the theories, and go to what is practically convenient for you and you can handle. The soul looks at God under two aspects or ways. First, as the object of all your affections, or as an infinitely good and amiable being, and this image robs your heart; and insofar as he is good, infinitely lovely, infinitely perfect, in this respect he captures and robs your intellectual vision, your thoughts and meditations. In this regard, God and the soul becomes one single thing through the theological virtues and its gifts, love and purity of thoughts. And while this divine union takes place primarily and principally in the soul, the rest of the virtues are like auxiliaries, helpers and armies that guard, serve and defend this work. This is the love of God for the soul and the love of the soul for God. Besides, while the said union works and directs, it bastes and begins other union; this is what I told you many times: the soul unites with God first as its lover; as the centre of its affections and visions, and then as a king and lord and master of the whole universe. The first union makes the soul a goddess that is, deifies, sanctifies and makes it a spouse of God. In the second, it elevates the soul to the dignity of queen, co-redeemer of the world, lady and princess. The first is the love of God, and the second is the love of neighbours, and since the love of God and neigbbours completes the work of God in the heart of men, this is the work that has to begin, to continue and to be completed in us, and the fulfillment of the whole law, no one could enter the kingdom of God without this work put in order and completed in the degree of perfection that God alone knows. In the same manner, we have here the life, salvation and the strength! How disgusted are all who do not agree with this! Although I am far behind, nevertheless, it pleased me to preach, to talk and write and to meditate on this great work; and to its contemplation the spirit is nourished, animated and vivified. These two unions are worked out in prayer and in meditation, and in the silence and in interior recollection. If you have ardently searched for solitude, seclusion, detachment from creatures, and if you have not dreamt other than the deserts, believe me, your vocation originated and originates from the fact that your poor soul knows, understands and touches the need to live in union with God, not in any manner, but according to the manner that God requires and wants. The soul knows the value of this union, understands clearly that it will find life and resurrection, its nourishment and its virtues in it. And for this it has searched for it. And where? And by what means? Let us love God excessively, his designs and providence and respect them. Learn from the lessons of life in order to correct the errors and preoccupations. Dear sister, where are we going to find this union and by what means? We will talk on this matter of great interests in my letters. And truly everything else is of little value. Let us come to the point. It is clear and necessary that I direct the movement of your spirit in prayer and outside of it, because it is here where this holy union is worked out. And this direction is what you have precisely searched for. In this matter you need instructions and counsels, because this will facilitate the way. If I overlook it remind me always because this is most important for you. In prayer you will find faith, hope and love. And since you have sufficient instruction and experience in order to judge these virtues; since you have already smitten the major preoccupations and errors that you have; the acts of union for you will be easy, sweet, and satisfying; and from here without recognizing and seeing the union, you could feel it, you will find pleasure with God, you will deal amicably and easily with him, and you will later become friends. Well, now I have nothing more to tell you on this matter except that you persevere and make the best of this easiness with God, ask for graces, collaborate, fortify your moral virtues and take courage in your interior castle; scuffle your moodiness and its causes, uproot your unfounded sorrows and prepare yourself for all the terrible combats that the three enemies will wage war against this divine union. Live united with God and take care that nothing, be it hunger or thirst, or sword, or adversity, or success, nothing whatsoever will disturb your heart. Live united with God and all the rest will vanish like smoke and shadow. When you examine your conscience, (be careful with what I will tell you now) do not go too far; look at it as you look at the seashore from the summit of the Alps or Pyrenean, lightly without going in details. If you do not see it clearly, certainly and evidently wrong, go ahead and remain at peace with your God. Mind this, I repeat, and tell me how you are doing it because the devil could trick you with false instructions and insinuations that could cause you grave harm. This union springs forth peace of heart and mind; search then for peace. Let nothing disturb you, be it good or adverse; pass it around; loss everything except the peace of your heart and mind. When you feel restless, sad, sorrowful, embittered, search for the cause, and if it is not worth the trouble, and does not offend God, get rid of your restlessness; and if you do not see reasons for your sorrows, yet you feel restless and discontented, then endure it, be patient, let those hour of spiritual fever pass and your inner peace will return. This union, my sister, demands and asks a heart that is at peace, calm, serene, unchangeable like a place in heaven; we could acquire this peace, this calm, this serenity; we are obliged to search for it, fight with our strength and vigour whatever threatens it from outside ourselves. This union, my dear sister, even if it is within you, needs to be worked out, consolidated and strengthened; to this effect, I will not fail to instruct you, to give you instructions, precepts and counsels, and you will explain to me because I want you to be opened. Let us now go to the other union. The first, look at God as the infinitely loveable, beautiful and perfect, and its object is the contemplation of its attributes and perfections. And the second, look at him as a creator, conserver, master, redeemer and glorifier and vivifier of the whole world. In certain moments, the spirit of the Lord moves you and leads you towards this second union and you have to cooperate. He will be presented to you as lord, king, master of the universe, as lord God of hosts, and convey you to objects analogous to this presence. Since the first union is not strengthened or perfected or completed except in the second, it is precisely here to start the work. The Struggle of the soul with God, this small book will give you instruction. You have only to change the object. Instead of Spain you have to put the universal Church. Whoever struggles for the defense of the city, struggles for its own cause. You have to begin meditating on Jesus crucified and looking at his physical body, you see the mystical and moral body of the whole Church; and since he is your friend and lover, you have to begin to work together in you the love of neighbours, using the prayer indicated in the book Struggle of the soul with God. But be cautious that you will not be occupied in this prayer in a way that you will forget the first union. The first thing you have to examine in prayer is your union with God. Enough. My time is over. Biel and Ramón are calling me for Vespers. In another letter I will write extensively on this important matter, and when you write, do not fail to answer me, giving me an account of what you are doing in this regard and of your doubts and moods. Goodbye. Your solicitous father. Francisco