When Gabrielle Bossis was 62 years old, aboard a ship midway between Europe and Canada, she began to hear the voice of God. From that moment until her death in 1950, she kept a near-daily record of what she heard, transcribing her conversations with him word-for-word. She eventually shared these intimate moments of prayer in a book entitled He and I which quickly became a classic of spirituality. A successful playwright and extensive traveler, Bossis was an unconventional mystic, embodying the elusive “in the world but not of it” (1 John 2:17) attitude that all Christians aspire to.
For Catholics specifically, prayer and conversation with God can be a paradoxical experience – Our Lord is truly present in the Eucharist, but we can feel a distance between ourselves and God, even in His presence. Jesus addresses this distance in the Gospel in His encounter with Thomas after the resurrection – “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29). In this light, Bossis seems like the exception rather than the rule; she seems like one of the special people that Jesus speaks to directly.
However, Bossis emphasized that the reason she shared her most intimate conversations with God was to show that Jesus calls everyone to a relationship with Him. Jesus does not call in an abstract or contractual sense but, as Bossis shows, God's voice is personal, intimate, and Jesus wants to speak with us daily. One entry from June 26, 1937, sums up Jesus’ invitation to all of us: “Do you think I remain silent with those who want to talk with Me? Talk with Me . . .”.
It’s also interesting to note that while He and I is a compilation of conversations, Bossis usually listens rather than speaks. Her contemplative silence is a key to prayer, and Our Lord often encourages this silence suggesting that silence is a place of God’s presence and not God's absence. “This week, be one with Me in My silences,” He tells her in March of 1937. Again, in 1945, He reassures her “even if you no longer listened for My voice in the silence, I should still make it possible for you to hear Me.” And finally, an entry of April 1948 is the most extended meditation on silence:
“But with others, get to love silence. I mean by that a silence of goodness. You will find Me there. I shall hear all the words that you don’t say. You will keep them for Me, for My sake. You will ask Me for the strength, and these silences will be like cut flowers. I’ll offer them to Myself in a bouquet. Right now would you like to begin this silence with others, this silence that will speak so eloquently to My love?”
In listening, and sharing what she hears, Bossis shows the way for ordinary Catholics to enter into an extraordinary relationship. In order to speak with God, listening is the first step.