Abandonment to Divine Providence

Letter XI – On Fears About Confession

I can only repeat to-day, my dear Sister, what I have so often told you before. God wishes to make you do penance and to sanctify you by the endurance of personal offences that wound you, by interior crosses, and more especially by troubles of conscience. I only ask you in all these trials for a little submission and resignation such as you practice in the different circumstances of life, such as losses, illnesses, infirmities, etc. I forbid you to dwell voluntarily on the uneasiness that torments you with regard to your confessions. Be at peace. Blind obedience can never deceive you. As for contrition which is the only thing that you might have some reason to fear about; if you mention in each confession a sin of your past life without going into details you will have absolutely nothing to fear. The best sign of having true contrition is to fall no more into grave sins, and to do your best to get rid of those that are lighter. Therefore remain in peace on this point, enduring patiently the different returns of these troubles. As you are infirm these troubles will do instead of fasting or taking the discipline, or wearing a hair shirt, but with this difference, that whereas in these latter penitential exercises self-love can be met with again and satisfied, in the former penances sent by our heavenly Father to men and women for whose salvation He has a special desire, there is only the pure will of God.

Letter XII – Rules to Free Oneself from these Fears

It depends on yourself, my dear Sister, to free yourself once and for all from the fears which torment you on the subject of your confessions. It only requires a grain of faith and of docility in following the perfectly safe rules that I will outline for you.

1st. Never ask to be freed from this trouble, because God has made it perfectly clear to you why He permits it. It is because He wishes to be your only support, your sole consolation, and to have your complete confidence so that no other sensible motive may interfere to spoil the singleness of your love. Finding that you had not the courage to attain to this purity of love by making heroic sacrifices like the saints, He leads you gradually to it by less painful means. Return thanks to Him for so much condescension, and compel yourself to submit to His merciful designs.

2nd. Prepare for your confessions in the following manner. After a quarter of an hour at the very utmost for the examen, and without taking too much trouble but doing it as you best can, you will say to yourself, “By the mercy of God I live in a state of habitual contrition since I would not commit a mortal sin for anything this world could give me. I even feel a horror of venial sin, although, unhappily, I have not yet left off committing it; therefore I only have to make an act of contrition as best I can, and as He has put it into my heart by His grace.” That will not take long, a few minutes will suffice, and the best way to make acts of contrition is to pray that God will Himself produce them in you.

3rd. “But what if it should be impossible to remember any distinct fault?” This is what you must say: “Father, I have not light enough to see my ordinary faults but I accuse myself in general of all the sins of my past life, and particularly of such and such a sin of which I ask pardon of God from the bottom of my heart.” After that accept tranquilly the penance that your confessor gives you, and do not have any doubt whatever that the absolution he pronounces confers on you all the graces attached to this sacrament.

What on earth, I ask you, could be easier or more consoling? If you adopt this method you will be delivered from all the anxieties that have so much harassed you up to now. I should like this little rule to be known and practised by most of the members of your community who experience the same difficulty as yourself, and who, like you, could so easily be set right.

Letter XIII – On Fears About Contrition

To Sister Marie-Therese de Viomenil.

You desire the impossible, my dear Sister, you want to feel what is not perceptible by the senses, and to enjoy a certainty that we cannot possess during this life. True contrition which remits sin is, of its nature, entirely spiritual and consequently above the senses. It is true that with certain persons and on certain occasions it becomes sometimes sensible, and then it is much more consoling to self-love, but is not on that account either more efficacious, or more meritorious. This tenderness of feeling does not in any way depend upon us, neither is it by any means essential for obtaining the remission of our sins. A great number of souls truly devoted to God hardly ever experience this tenderness, and the fear inspired in them by this deprivation is the best proof that they are not responsible for it. The coldness they feel, far from depriving them of true repentance is, on the contrary, one of the best penances they could offer to God. What I now say on the subject of contrition in general, I say in particular about the sovereignty of this sorrow, a quality that is usually the one least felt. It must be asked of God and you must wait till He produces it Himself in your heart by His grace. To persist in tormenting yourself after this would be to allow yourself to fall into the devil’s trap. Nothing should astonish us less than to be sometimes touched and affected, and at others to find ourselves callous and insensible to everything. This is one of the inevitable vicissitudes of the spiritual life. Fiat! fiat! resignation is the only remedy. It is certain that God always gives what is necessary to those souls who fear Him. The gifts He bestows on them are not always the most apparent to the senses, nor the most agreeable, nor the most sought after, but the most necessary and solid; all the more so, usually, in being less felt and more mortifying to self-love; for that which helps us most powerfully to live to God is what best enables us to die to self.

Letter XIV – On General Confession

To Sister Marie-Antoinette de Mahuet. On general confession.

My dear Sister,

Your fears have no reasonable foundation, and you ought to reject them as dangerous temptations. When, in the course of one’s life one has made a general confession in good faith; all the ideas and anxieties that follow are so many idle scruples which the enemy makes use of to trouble the peace of the soul, to make one lose time, and to weaken and diminish one’s confidence in God. Do not let us foolishly fall into this trap; let us abandon all the past to the infinite mercy of God, all the future to His fatherly Providence, and think only of profiting by the present. The “fiat” formed in the mind by repeated acts and gradually reduced to an habitual disposition, leads to all that perfection which ignorant and mistaken people seek far and wide in all sorts of ways. For the rest, do not imagine that you tire me by speaking of your miseries. By dint of seeing nothing but poverty and misery in oneself, one is not surprised at finding the same in others. But if, in peace and humility they annihilate themselves before God and ask for grace, working with His assistance to diminish their faults and to overcome themselves, they may be considered, in a way, not to have these faults. This is what Fenelon thought. May it sink deeply into your heart as well as this sentence which I find in the same author, and which I copy for you because I think it is exactly what will console and encourage you. “We are obliged to live and to die in the deepest uncertainty, not only as to the judgments of God about us, but also as to our own dispositions.” “We must,” says St. Augustine, “have nothing of our own to present to God but our own miseries, but then we have His very great mercy which is our only title to His love, through the merits of Jesus Christ.” Often reflect on these beautiful sayings in which you will find peace for your mind, abandonment, confidence, and the greatest certainty in the very midst of doubt.

Letter XV – Different Fears

To Sister Marie-Therese de Viomenil. On the same subject–Different fears.

My dear Sister,

As neither my advice nor my efforts can deliver you from your fears about your confessions I can see nothing for you but to resign yourself to them. Regard these troubles as a penance sent you by your heavenly Father, but never stop to think about them voluntarily because I am convinced that in your general confession you mentioned everything; or, at any rate, you had a sincere desire to say everything; that is enough. I do not hesitate to assure you, before God, that in this confession no omission of any importance could have been made, therefore remain in peace about it.

You are still distressed that certain sublime states that you admire in others, you can neither dare to ask for, nor even to desire for yourself. Here are two remedies to alleviate your trouble and to make you derive advantages from your weakness. Firstly, to humble yourself, and to lament interiorly, but without vexation, at beholding yourself so far from such holy dispositions. Secondly to desire interiorly to have the wish for them. This desire to desire is the first degree from which one passes gradually to a real desire, and this in its turn by dint of being renewed and of dwelling in the heart gets stronger and finally takes root. Try to recall often to your mind this great rule: God has placed me in this world only to know, love and serve Him, and could not have created me for any other purpose, therefore I will attain this end to the best of my power. For the rest He may do with me what best pleases Him, I abandon myself entirely to His holy will which can only will my salvation and eternal happiness in the life to come. It is for this only that He makes me endure so many interior and exterior afflictions. May he be blessed for ever!

Letter XVI – Hatred of Sin

On the same subject. Different fears.

My dear Sister,

In all that forms the subject of your letter I see no reason for alarm. You are not pleased, you say, about your want of submission and of patience during suffering. Provided that this discontent does not turn to vexation, trouble, or discouragement, it will inspire you with a sincere interior humility, a profound self-contempt which will please God better and enable you to make more progress than a patience and submission that you felt that you possessed, which would perhaps have only served to feed self-love by almost imperceptible satisfactions. You cannot yet, you say, make known to me anything else but miseries. I can well believe it, since as long as we are in this life we cannot find anything in ourselves but what is imperfect and miserable. Do you want a remedy for all these miseries? It is this: While detesting the sins that are the cause of them, love, or at least accept their consequences which are the feeling of abjection and a contempt for yourself; but do so without trouble, vexation, uneasiness or discouragement. Remember that God, without willing sin, has made of it a very useful instrument for keeping us always in a state of abjection and self-contempt. Without this bitter remedy we should succumb to the enticements of self-love. Believe me, you must always keep cheerful, steadfast and tranquil in the midst of your miseries, making at the same time efforts to diminish them; as you advance further you will constantly discover fresh ones. It was this clear knowledge of their own weakness and nothingness, which, becoming ever more distinct, increased the humility of the saints; but this humility by God’s grace is always joyful and peaceful. It goes so far as to make them love spiritual poverty which in this way becomes a real treasure. Learn that under this heap of refuse God hides the gifts He bestows on us to conceal them from the satisfactions of self-love and foolish esteem. I do not blame your tears but I wish that while you are shedding them over your pains you would do so before God and for His sake. In this way instead of feeling their bitterness you would discover in them a hidden sweetness which would tend to increase interior peace by producing an entire submission to the divine will.

As for the supposed want of contrition which distresses you, you need see in it only a trap laid for you by the devil to destroy your peace. Do you not know that an apparently bitter contrition accompanied by torrents of tears is not the best, and that God by no means exacts such from you? With all these beautiful signs true contrition may be wanting; and, on the contrary, without any feelings of the sort one can have the contrition that justifies. This consists in the will to hate and to avoid sin, and resides in the superior faculties of the soul and consequently is not to be felt as it is purely spiritual. Remain then in peace and do not attend to your self-love which wants to feel and to enjoy this contrition so as to be certain of possessing it. God does not desire this for several reasons, but above all to keep us always in holy humility, and in a certain fear which helps towards our salvation. Enter into His designs, and when you feel no regret for your sins humble yourself profoundly. Offer to God in a spirit of penance this keen dread of not possessing the requisite sorrow; make a sacrifice of this trouble of mind to God, and abandon yourself entirely to His mercy; He intends to lead you by the way of obscurity and fear, to Heaven. The greatest saints themselves have no exemption from this law but, more faithful than we, they abandoned themselves entirely to God and, by placing their whole confidence in Him kept themselves always in peace. As for the review of conscience that souls careful of their state are in the habit of making at least every year, one must remember that it is not a matter of obligation but a work of devotion and humility. Each person gives to this examination as long a time as he desires, with the advice of the confessor, and one can always be certain of saying more than is necessary. At the hour of death there is no necessity to make a general confession. One can accuse oneself of the graver sins in a general way out of compunction, or in a spirit of penance, but without too much introspection. It is much better to occupy the time in making more meritorious acts of religion, of faith, hope, contrition and love of God, of resignation, abandonment, and confidence in the merits of Jesus Christ, and of union with Him. Finally the most solid preparation for death is that which we make every day, by a regular life, a spirit of recollection, of annihilation, of abnegation, patience, charity, and union with our Lord.

I do not like to find you attaching so much importance to the little comforts that are given you in your illnesses, such as getting up a little later, having your bed warmed, eating a little more at the collation. Follow in all this, with the greatest simplicity, discretion and obedience and without thinking too much about yourself, what you feel and judge to be necessary. Provided also that the interior passions are thoroughly overcome, and that you are not wanting in patience, submission and a total abandonment to God, in gentleness and humble forbearance with your neighbour, for these are the most essential virtues and more sanctifying than any exterior mortifications. People who are rather pious are not wanting in outward practices; usually, their great mistake is to make their whole sanctity consist in external works, leaving the enemy, namely, self-love and the passions, alone. They make a great to-do about having eaten a few mouthfuls extra on a feast-day but will not attend to these essential things. Such piety is like that of the Jews who had a scruple about entering Pilate’s house because he was a pagan, yet thought nothing of putting Jesus to death. Would to God that these deplorable illusions were never found among Religious. At any rate do you, my dear Sister, avoid them, and without neglecting what is external, give your principal attention to the interior.

Letter XVII – Remorse and Rebellion

To Sister Marie-Anne-Therese de Rosen. On remorse of conscience and the rebellion of the passions.

Do all you can to calm your soul on the subject about which you have consulted me, first because the motives which you believe you have to make you uneasy have no foundation in fact. The only danger lies in the uneasiness itself.

When the reproaches of your conscience, however well merited they may be, throw you into a state of trouble and depression; when they discourage and upset you, it is certain that they come from the devil who only fishes in troubled waters, says St. Francis of Sales. The first care of a soul experiencing these troubles ought to be to prevent them, to stifle them, or better still to despise them. Let it say with St. Teresa, “What my weakness finds impossible, will become easy with the help of the grace of God, and this He will give me in His own good time. For the rest, I desire neither perfection, nor to lead a spiritual life, except as far as it should please God to give them to me and at the time He has appointed to do so.” You must try to acquire a habit of making these two acts by a constant repetition of them in your heart. The second will contribute marvellously to reproduce entire abandonment, which is the special attraction of souls desiring to belong unreservedly to God.

2nd. The rebellion of the passions, and that excessive sensitiveness which causes one to be put out beyond measure on the slightest provocation ought not to disquiet, nor to discourage anyone suffering from them, nor to make her think that her desire of sanctification is not sincere. This mistake and the discouragement it occasions are more harmful than all the other temptations. To get rid of them, or to overcome them we must be well persuaded that these rebellions, and this extreme sensitiveness are sent to us by God to be the ground of our combats and victories; and that these little falls are permitted to help us to practise humility. Looked upon in this light our falls will be incomparably more useful to us than victories spoilt by vain self-complacency. This is a very certain and a very encouraging truth. We must be convinced, thoroughly convinced that our miseries are the cause of all the weakness we experience, and that God, in His mercy, allows them for our good. Without them we should never be cured of a secret presumption and a proud confidence in ourselves. Never should we be able to rightly understand that all that is bad is ours, and that all that is good is from God alone. To acquire a habit of thinking thus it is necessary to pass through a great number of personal experiences, and there is a greater necessity for this the more deeply rooted these vices are, and the greater the hold they have on the soul.

3rd. You must never feel surprised at finding that a day of great recollection is followed by one full of dissipation; this is the usual condition in this present life. These changes are necessary, even in spiritual things, to keep us in humility, and a state of dependence on God. The saints themselves have passed through these alternations, and others still more troublesome. Only try not to give rise to them yourself; but should this, unfortunately, happen, then humble yourself peacefully and without vexation, which would be a worse evil than the original one; then endeavour to regain self-control, and to return to God; doing so quietly without over-eagerness, and by means of a total holy abandonment to God’s ways.

4th. Your present method of prayer is good; continue to practise it. The humble feelings of the heart, the submissive attitude of the soul before God are worth more than a multitude of formal acts constantly reiterated; they are acts straight from the heart, stronger and more efficacious with God although not always so sensibly felt, nor as clearly perceived, nor as consoling as the former. God takes from us this multiplicity to give us instead something better, more simple and better calculated to unite us to Him.

5th. The person of whom you speak is not wanting in the love of God. She has as much as is necessary, but God has deprived her of the knowledge of it for fear that she should pride herself on it, and in order to prevent her preferring the sensible pleasure of it, to Him who ought to be its sole object. Let her be consoled about this, while at the same time she should always desire to love Him more without wishing to know it, or to be able to be certain of it.

6th. The opposition and perpetual contradiction between your thoughts and feelings is nothing else than that inner strife spoken of by the Apostle when he says, “the spirit wars against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit.” None of the saints have been exempt from this rule. It is true that this interior war is more violent with some people, and about some things more than others, and also at a certain age, or time or occasion, but whether more or less violent, no harm is done to a soul that fights with a determination never to be beaten nor discouraged. On the other hand, the greater the violence of the attacks the more serious are the combats, and consequently, the more glorious the victories. The greater the merit, the higher the sanctity, and the grander the recompense. These happy results are all the more certain the less they are felt, and especially if a more profound humiliation is experienced.

Oh! if only this interior abjection were accepted, loved and valued, no one would consent to be without it, because it brings the soul nearer to God. This great God has, in fact, declared that He draws near to those who humble themselves and who love to be humiliated. If it is good for us to be humbled in the sight of others it is no less useful to be annihilated in our own eyes, in our pride and self-love which are put an end to in this way. It is thus, in fact, that they are gradually extinguished in us, and for this purpose does God permit so many different subjects for interior humiliation. It only remains to know how to profit by them, by following the advice of St. Francis of Sales, and practising acts of true humility, gently and peacefully; and this will drive out false humility which is always in a state of vexation and spite. Vexation and spite under humiliation are so many acts of pride, just as worry and irritation during suffering are so many acts of impatience. Let us not forget this, and let us take good care not to look upon the want of feeling we experience for the things of God as callousness; it is simply dryness, and a trial as inevitable and ordinary as distractions. If it is constant it is a still better sign, because it is in this way that God prepares the soul to proceed by pure faith, the most sure and meritorious way.

One should repeat continually to anyone in this state, “Peace, peace, remain in peace, and keep retired within your soul.” Preserve a constant desire of the interior life. This single attraction ought to suffice to make you live within yourself, and in constant communication with God. The results will follow in their own time. Guard above all against anything likely to withdraw you from this good disposition; avoid all occasions of losing it; humble yourself when you have failed about it, but do not ever worry yourself, nor distress yourself about anything whatever, nothing could harm you more than that.

Letter XVIII – God Alone can Remove These Trials

To Sister Marie-Therese de Viomenil. God alone can remove these trials.

1st. To alleviate your troubles and regrets, my dear Sister, I have only two things to say to you. Everything comes from God, and, on our part, all merit consists in acquiescing in the will of God. Whether willingly or by compulsion it will always be accomplished; let us unite ourselves to it with all the strength of our own will, and thus we shall have nothing to fear. Anguish of the heart, and involuntary rebellion only augment the merit of submission. If you fear lest you do not possess this virtue, ask God to grant it to you, saying to Him interiorly, “Lord, I desire and will to have this entire submission and I offer you the anguish by which I am tormented in union with the agony of Jesus Christ Your beloved Son in the garden.”

2nd. Try to avoid all useless reflexions which only embitter the heart. When, in spite of yourself, you feel irritated, bear this trouble patiently, and when you feel impatient, then is the time to make greater efforts to have patience in enduring this impatience itself, and to resign yourself to the want of resignation.

3rd. Read in the book of the “Holy Ways of the Cross,” the chapters which bear upon your present state. You will find therein all the instruction, support, and consolation which you can possibly require, but do not expect to find in them what no one on earth can possibly give you. God alone can remove this trial from you, wait His time with patience. You have always counted too much on human help; God has taken it away from you to compel you no longer to depend on anyone but Him alone, by abandoning yourself entirely to His paternal care. The more painful and violent your trial is, the more certain do I become about your salvation and perfection. You will be able to understand this later just as I do.

4th. As Jesus Christ crucified is our only model, and as He wishes to save us by making us like to Himself, He strews crosses in the path of each one of us in order to keep us in the way of salvation. If we are faithful the reverses that cross our lives will form our riches. And see how great is the mercy of our loving Saviour; after having passed through the most severe trials, and accomplished the most painful sacrifices, what is left seems hardly to count, and the heaviest crosses begin to seem quite light. Oh! happy experience, as sweet in its effects as, at first, is appeared difficult to nature.

Letter XIX – On Relapses

To the same Sister. On the same subject and on relapses.

My dear Sister,

The recital you have given me of your troubles, and, above all of your faults and interior revolts, has inspired me with the most lively compassion; but, as to a remedy I really know of no other than that which I have so often pointed out to you; each time you have a fresh proof of your misery to humble yourself, to offer all to God, and to have patience. If you fall again do not be any the more disquieted or troubled the second time than the first, but humble yourself yet more profoundly and do not fail to offer especially to God the interior suffering and confusion caused by the revolts and faults to which your weakness has given rise. Even if fresh occasions occur, return each time to God with an equal confidence, and endure as patiently as possible the renewed remorse of conscience and these interior trials and rebellions, and continue to act in this way. If you always do so you must understand that you will hardly lose anything, there will be much even gained in these involuntary interior rebellions from which you are suffering. Whatever faults occur, provided you endeavour always to return to God and also to yourself in the manner I have just explained, it is impossible that you should not make great progress. Oh! how little are solid virtue and true interior abnegation known! If once for all you would learn to humble yourself sincerely for your least faults, and would rise directly by confidence in God with peace and sweetness, that would prove to you a good and certain remedy for the past, and a powerful help, and efficacious protection for the future.

I greatly approve of your keeping away from discussions and arguments, and of your dislike of them. There certainly is, as a rule, a great amount of petty illusions and self-love about such things, for this wretched self-love, says St. Francis of Sales, mixes with everything, intrudes everywhere, spoils everything. This is the effect of human misery to which we are all more or less subject. When we recognise it in others there are two things we have to do; first we must find excuses for those whom we notice to have been led away by it, and secondly to fear for ourselves and watch over our own conduct so that we may not in our turn be subjects of scandal to our neighbour.

Letter XX – Depression under Trials

To the same Sister (1738). On depression during trials, distractions and resentment.

1st. You would be mistaken, my dear Sister, to reproach yourself too much for your want of resignation, because I do not consider it at all voluntary. Great afflictions are inevitably followed by a certain depression; but those souls that are faithful to God rise again quietly by their confidence and filial abandonment to divine Providence. It seems, sometimes, as if it were impossible to do this, or at any rate to do it properly, but one must not be discouraged on this account. Better indeed to make of this weakness itself a subject for renewed acts of resignation to the divine goodness and to remain peacefully and patiently in one’s own nothingness. Thus we shall fulfil the designs of God who permits us to fall into this state of depression and weakness to make us better understand and feel our misery. He wills that there should not be in us the least atom of confidence in ourselves, but that we should rely solely on His all-powerful grace.

2nd. I ought to tell you that for a long time past I have remarked in you a great grace to which you pay no attention. You seem to me to become ever more deeply convinced of your miseries and imperfections. Now that happens only in proportion to our nearness to God, and to the light in which we live and walk, without any consideration of our own. This divine light as it shines more brightly makes us see better and feel more keenly the abyss of misery and corruption within us, and this knowledge is one of the surest signs of progress in the ways of God and of the spiritual life. You ought to think rather more of this, not to pride yourself on it, but to be grateful for it. Nothing more is necessary at present but to strive to love holy abjection, poverty, and horror of yourself which begins in this deep knowledge experienced by you. When you have attained this you will have taken a fresh step still more decided towards your spiritual advancement. See then how great is the goodness of God! He makes use of the sight that you have of your poverty to enrich you. This poverty becomes a treasure to those who understand, accept, and love it, because it is the will of God. This joyful acquiescence in our misery does not exclude, however, the desire of finding a remedy for it, because, if we ought to love the abjection which is the result of our defects, we ought at the same time to hate the defects themselves, and to make use of the most energetic means of getting rid of them.

3rd. Urgent occupations and the interruptions of worldly business are, in the sight of divine Providence who wills and permits them, of equal value as quiet recollection and silence. Instead of the prayer of quiet you then make a prayer of patience, of suffering and of resignation. “But one sometimes loses patience”; well, this is the distraction of this prayer, and you must try to regain it, and to get calm with the thought that God wills or permits what upsets you, and causes you pain; but above all take great care not to lose your temper at feeling impatient, or to get worried at being upset. By humbling yourself quietly you will gain more than you have lost.

4th. I need not enter into minute details as regards the keen pain you describe. I understand all the different distressing thoughts that fill your mind and all the heart-ache they cause, but here again, my dear daughter, is an excellent prayer more sanctifying than any ecstasies, if you know how to make use of it. How can you do so? In this way. (1) Often pray for the person who is the cause of your trouble. (2) Keep perfectly silent, do not speak about it to anyone to relieve your pain. (3) Do not voluntarily think about it but turn your thoughts to other subjects that are holy and useful. (4) Watch over your heart that you may not give way in the very least bit to bitterness, spite, complaints, or voluntary rebellion. (5) Try to speak well of the person, cost what it may, to regard her favourably, to act about her as if nothing had happened. I realise, however, that you will find it difficult in future to treat her with the same confidence without being a saint, which you are not yet. (6) But at least do not fail to render her a service when occasion arises and to wish her all possible good.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

Letter XXI – On Humble Silence and Patience During Trials

Take courage, my dear Sister, and do not imagine that you are far from God; on the contrary you have never been so near Him. Recall to your mind the agony of our Lord in the Garden of Olives, and you will understand that bitterness of feeling and violent anguish are not incompatible with perfect submission. They are the groanings of suffering nature and signs of the hardness of the sacrifice. To do nothing at such a time contrary to the order of God, to utter no word of complaint or of distress, is indeed perfect submission which proceeds from love, and love of the purest description. Oh! if you only knew how in these circumstances to do nothing, to say nothing, to remain in humble silence full of respect, of faith, of adoration, of submission, abandonment and sacrifice, you would have discovered the great secret of sanctifying all your sufferings, and even of lessening them considerably. You must practise this and acquire the habit of it quietly, taking great care not to give way to trouble and discouragement should you fail, but at once return to complete silence with a peaceful and tranquil humility. For the rest, depend with unshaken confidence on the help of grace, which will not be refused to you. When God sends us great crosses and finds that we sincerely desire to bear them well for the love of Him, He never fails to support us invisibly, and in such a way that according to the greatness of the cross will be the amount of resignation and interior peace, sometimes indeed even greater, so immense is the bounty of Jesus Christ, our Master, and of the spiritual graces He has merited for us. Let us conclude with this–that nearly everything consists in having a good will; and to make our spiritual progress assured God will mercifully do the rest. Knowing the full extent of our weakness, misery, and incapacity for doing anything good, He sustains and fortifies us, working this good in us Himself by His divine Spirit. The practice of accepting at each moment the present state in which God places us, can keep us in peace of mind and cause us to make great progress without undue eagerness. Besides this it is a very simple practice. We should adhere to it strongly but nevertheless with an entire resignation to whatever God requires about it.

A great sign that we are not deceived about our love of God is: Firstly, when we desire all that pleases Him, and secondly when we have a great horror of sin, even the least, and strive never to commit any deliberately. Since God has given you the grace to take my favourite maxims to heart concerning submission, abandonment and sacrifice, be assured that He will enable you to practise them, however imperfectly. But as you are so impetuous about everything, you want to attain at one bound to the highest perfection in these virtues. That cannot be, you must attain to them gradually and even while committing many small faults which will serve to humble you, and to make you realise your great weakness before God. Interior rebellion in these circumstances does not prevent submission in the higher part of the soul. Read often the 57th letter in the third book by St. Francis of Sales. This letter has always charmed me. It will make clear to you the distinction between the two wills in the soul, the exact knowledge of which is an essential point in the spiritual life.

Letter XXII – To Bear With Oneself

To Sister Marie-Therese de Viomenil. On the realisation of her misery and on exterior difficulties.

I might say to you, my dear Sister, what our Lord said to Martha! Why so much solicitude and trouble? How can you still confound, as you do, the care that God commands you to take about your salvation, with the uneasiness that He reproves? As you try to abandon your temporal affairs to divine Providence while taking care at the same time not to tempt God; do the same for your spiritual progress, and, without neglecting the care of it, leave the success to God, hoping for nothing except from Him. But do not ever dwell on such diabolical thoughts as: I am always the same, always as little recollected, as dissipated, as impatient, as imperfect. All this afflicts the soul, overwhelms the heart and casts you into sadness, distrust and discouragement. This is what the devil desires; by this pretended humility and regret for your faults he is delighted to deprive you of the strength of which you have need for the purpose of avoiding them in future, and of repairing the harm they have done you. Bitterness spoils everything and on the contrary gentleness and sweetness can cure everything. Bear with yourself therefore patiently, return quietly to God, repent tranquilly, without either exterior or interior impetuosity but with great peace. If you act thus you will gradually become calm, and this practice will cause you to make more progress in the ways of God than all your agitations could possibly effect. When one feels a little peace and sweetness interiorly it is a pleasure to enter into oneself and one does so willingly, constantly, without any trouble, almost without reflexion.

Believe me, my dear Sister, and place your whole confidence in God through Jesus Christ; abandon yourself more and more entirely to Him, in all, and for all, and you will find by your own experience that He will always come to your assistance when you require His help. He will become your Master, your Guide, your Support, your Protector, your invincible Upholder. Then nothing will be wanting to you because, possessing God you possess all, and to possess Him you have but to apply to Him with the greatest confidence, to have recourse to Him for everything great and small without any reserve, and to speak to Him with the greatest simplicity in this way: “Lord, what shall I do on such an occasion? What shall I say? Speak, Lord, I am listening; I abandon myself entirely to You; enlighten me, lead me, uphold me, take possession of me.”

I am sorry for the difficulties and worries of which you tell me, but recollect that patience and submission to God in the midst of annoyances that are permitted by His providence will enable you to make more progress than the quietest and most recollected life. The latter always tends to flatter self-love; the former, on the contrary, afflicts and crucifies it, and thus makes us attain true peace of mind by union with God. When you find yourself in such utter dejection that you cannot make a single act of any virtue whatever, beware of tormenting yourself by violent efforts but keep simply in the presence of God in a great silence of utter misery, but with respect, humility and submission like a criminal before his judge who sentences him to a chastisement he has well merited: and understand that the interior silence of respect, humility and submission are worth more and purify better than all the acts that you, uselessly, force yourself to make, and which only serve to increase the trouble of the soul. The character of the person to whom you allude is very good, I own; but while praising God for all the good gifts He has bestowed upon her you ought not to despise the share He has given to you. On the contrary, by your submission to, and respect for the designs of God you must wish to be such as He wishes you to be, without, however, neglecting to correct yourself. The greatest improvement I desire to see in you is, that your mind may never get embittered for any reason whatever, and that you always treat yourself gently. Is it not true that you behave thus towards your neighbours? You are not always reproaching them bitterly and continually about their characters, but you try gently to induce them to reform. Do the same to yourself, and if gradually this spirit of gentleness should take root in your heart you would soon make progress in the spiritual life and without so much trouble. But if the heart is continually filled with feelings of harshness and bitterness, nothing much can be achieved and everything costs great effort. I insist greatly in this matter because it is an essential one for you, and in your place I should apply myself seriously to acquire a great interior and exterior gentleness in all things just as if there were no other virtue to practise; for this will, in your case, bring all the others in its train. I appeal to your own experience about it. After having worked at it for some time very quietly, without the interruption of those impetuosities and hurries which drive away all sweetness and prevent you gaining the victory, you should be able to recognise the fact, that in this way much more is gained without half the fatigue.

Letter XXIII – On Past Sins

To the same Sister. Alby, July the 23rd, 1733.

My dear Sister, and very dear daughter in our Lord.

May the peace of Jesus Christ be always with you!

1st. I have never said anything with the meaning that you impute to me, but have only written as to a poor beginner whom God is afflicting in His mercy, in order to purify her and to prepare her for union with Him. The terrible ideas you have about your past disorders are at present what you are called to and you must bear with them as long as God pleases, just as one keeps to attractions that are full of sweetness. This keen realisation of your poverty and darkness gives me pleasure, because I know it is a sure sign that divine light is increasing in you without your knowledge and is forming a sure foundation of true humility. The time will come when the sight of these miseries which now cause you horror, will overwhelm you with joy, and fill you with a profound and delightful peace. It is not till we have reached the bottom of the abyss of our nothingness, and are firmly established there that we can, as Holy Scripture says, “walk before God in justice and truth.” Just as pride, which is founded on a lie, prevents God from bestowing favours on a soul that is otherwise rich in merit, so this happy condition of humiliation willingly accepted, and of annihilation truly appreciated, draws down divine graces on even the most wretched of souls. Therefore do not desire any other condition either during life or at the hour of death. It is in this state of voluntary annihilation that you should have taken refuge, to escape the fears that assailed you during your recent illness. Do not fail to do so if Satan ever tries to catch you in the same trap. Self-love desires to have, at the last hours, some sensible support in the recollection of past good works; let us, however, desire no other support than that given us by pure faith in the mercy of God and in the merits of Jesus Christ. From the moment that we wish to belong entirely to God this support will be enough for us, all the rest is nothing but vanity.

2nd. I approve, for the rest, of your interior and exterior conduct during your illness. I perceive that God, in His wisdom, hid what little good He enabled you to gain from it because unless He had done so, a thousand vain thoughts of self-complacency would have spoilt all. I know better than you all that took place and I bless God for it. He supported you well in your weakness; you have only to thank Him for doing so without reflecting so much as to whether everything has really been supernatural. Leave that to God; only try to forget yourself and to think only of Him.

3rd. What business have you to find so many excuses for your melancholy disposition? Let everyone think what he likes about it, you have only to please God and whatever He permits others to think or to say about you is of no moment to you; therefore do not indulge in reflexions on the subject. All that sort of thing only serves to increase self-love and vanity.

4th. I am charmed that you find peace where you would least expect it; it is a sign that God wills you to enjoy peace only in the accomplishment of His holy will, which is a very great grace. If I have not been able to pity you in your illness it is because I do not look upon the sufferings of the body as real evils since they procure so many blessings for the soul.

5th. You are convinced that you do nothing, that you merit nothing; and thus you are sunk in your nothingness. Oh! how well off you are! because from the moment you are convinced of your own nothingness you become united to God Who is all in all. Oh! what a treasure you have found in your nothingness! It is a state you must necessarily pass through before God can fill your soul; for our souls must be emptied of all created things before they can be filled with the Holy Spirit of God; so that what troubles you and makes you uneasy is the very thing that ought to pacify you and fill you with a holy joy in God.

6th. Accepting everything without reserve, both present and future, is one of the most perfect sacrifices we could offer to God. This habitual act alone is worth all else that you could possibly do, therefore your best and only practice must be to adhere constantly to all the imaginable arrangements of Providence, whether exterior, or interior. Do nothing but this, and God will, gradually, operate all the rest in your soul. This is a most simple practice, and exactly in accordance with your attraction.

7th. I am not much affected about the reserved manners of your companion. You must also make this sacrifice to God. She was not so much to blame as you in what put you out so much; God has permitted this to humble you by making you understand what you really are when He leaves you to your own devices. Humble yourself without vexation or worry. You know what St. Francis of Sales says about such circumstances.

8th. God requires of us the fulfilment of our duties, but He does not require us to find out if there has been any merit in this or not. You think too much about yourself, and under the pious pretext of advancing in the ways of God you are too much occupied about yourself. Forget yourself to think only of Him and abandon yourself to the commands of divine Providence, and then He will Himself lead you on, purify you and safely raise you, when and as it pleases Him, to the degree of sanctity He wills for you. What have we to do except to please Him, and to desire in all things and everywhere what He wills? We search far and wide after perfection, and yet it is almost within our grasp. It is to unite our will in all things to the will of God and never to follow our own inclinations. But to arrive at this we must renounce ourselves and sacrifice, if needs be, our dearest interests. This is what we have no wish to do; we want God to sanctify and make us perfect according to our own ideas and tastes. What folly! What pitiable blindness!

Letter XXIV – Results of Imprudence

To the same Sister. On the vexatious results of imprudence.

I have already told you very often, my dear Sister, that nothing should trouble you, not even your faults, and certainly far less should you allow yourself to be cast down by those trying consequences of acts which are not sins, although they imply some imprudence on your part. There is hardly any trial more mortifying to self-love, and consequently hardly any more sanctifying than this. It does not cost nearly so much to accept humiliations that come to us from without and that we have not had any hand in drawing upon ourselves. One can resign oneself much more easily to the confusion caused by faults very much graver in themselves provided they do not appear outside. But one simple imprudence that entails annoying results that everyone can see; this is decidedly of all humiliations the very worst; and therefore, as a natural consequence, an excellent occasion for the mortification of self-love. Then it is that we can say over and over again the “fiat” of perfect abandonment; we must even go further and make an act of thanksgiving, adding for this purpose “Gloria Patri” to our “fiat.”

One single trial, accepted thus, causes a soul to make more progress than any number of acts of virtue. I hope I have made this clear to you and that you will no longer distress yourself about the consequences that are likely to follow the mistake of which you have been the innocent cause. Remain in peace with the intention of taking what steps are necessary at a convenient time to bring about peace, and a union of hearts; then abandon to God all the success, whatever it may be. It is well to get accustomed to act in this way in all the troublesome events of this miserable life; thus we shall enjoy peace, and shall have made merit in the sight of divine Providence. Without this submission and total abandonment we can expect no rest during the course of our sad pilgrimage. Think only of pleasing God, of satisfying God, of sacrificing all to God. Let all the rest go, and keep nothing back. Provided that God dwells within you, you will never lose anything. Take good courage and all will go well; do not be so uneasy, nor so surprised at these rebellions of your nature: I assure you that they will be no impediment to the submission of your higher faculties, and that God only hides this submission for your own good. In the most violent attacks try just to say these few words, “It is but just that a creature should be submissive to her Creator, therefore I desire and pray to become so.” Read the chapter on “Progress” in the “Interior Life” by Fr. Guillore; it is an inspired chapter, and I hope you will derive great benefit from it.

For God’s sake do not sadden yourself, and try to preserve peace during even the most terrible tempests. If you do this all will go well. In fact I see nothing but good in everything that you have confided to me, but a good that would cease to be so if you saw it as plainly as I do.

When a number of different thoughts enter my head which makes the least thing assume monstrous proportions, I recall to mind the advice I have given to others in similar circumstances. I abandon myself to divine Providence in all things and about all things. When the worst comes to the worst, I defy it like St. Paul, to separate me from the charity of Jesus Christ. I know that without the grace of this divine Saviour I could do nothing; but I know also that with His grace I can do all things; I beg Him therefore to keep me in all my temptations from all sin, from all that could displease Him; but as for the bitterness of soul, the interior crucifixion, the holy abjection and even the confusion before others, I accept them with all their consequences for as long as it pleases His sovereign Majesty. I desire the accomplishment of His holy will, and not my own in all things, and I implore Him not to allow me either to say or to do anything that might place any obstacle to the least thing that He wills. And if, through weakness, error, or malice I should undertake anything of the kind, I implore Him not to allow it to succeed.

I recognise the fact that His holy will is, in all things, not only holy and adorable, but infinitely salutary and beneficent towards those who are humbly submissive; and that mine, on the contrary, is always either blind or ill-regulated. Therefore I subscribe to all that the eternal Father decrees, and would do so a hundred times no matter at what cost to myself. This dear and good Father has commanded it, that is enough, and what have I to fear? From this, two conclusions can be drawn, firstly that during these tempests and storms often raised by trifles I retain such a profound peace that I am surprised at it myself. Secondly that I consider myself very fortunate to have to endure these interior tortures, temptations and trials. Then I say to myself, this is worth more than all my own miserable arrangements. I feel my soul becoming stronger by this abandonment to divine Providence, so much so, that all my personal desires and attachment to my own will are consumed and annihilated.

Letter XXV – Interior Suffering

To Sister Marie-Anne Therese de Rosen. Rules to follow during trials.

You know as well as I do, my dear Sister, that in order to raise souls to a state of perfection God is wont to make them bear all kinds of crosses and interior pains to prove their fidelity, to purify them, and to detach them from all created things. The most grievous of these crosses are those in which we may have been to blame ourselves, and where the poor soul severely reprimanded by others, and even more severely by itself, does not hear either outwardly or inwardly anything but a sentence of death. The person of whom you speak is in this state, therefore there is nothing to fear about her; all that you tell me proves on the contrary that God has particular designs with regard to her. When you write to her speak of nothing but patience, submission to God, and total abandonment to divine Providence, as one does to people in the world who are afflicted with temporal necessities. Above all make her try, by means of the most filial confidence in God, to repulse energetically all trouble and voluntary uneasiness. I repeat, voluntarily, because the poor souls to whom God sends this trial cannot master the troubles and anxieties by which they are obsessed. This is the subject of their greatest pain, and the most afflicting part of that state of humiliation in which for a certain time God retains them. Therefore they have nothing else to do but to submit to God about these paroxysms of interior suffering as well as about all the rest. Say to this poor soul that her best prayer will be to remain always in silence at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, repeating like Him, and with Him, “Fiat.” “Oh heavenly Father, may Your will, not mine, be done in all things. It is You who arrange all our afflictions for the good of our souls. You would not act thus unless it were for my greater good and eternal salvation. Do with me what You will; I adore and submit.” I think that your friend does quite right not to examine her thoughts; an examination of that kind would only confuse her mind still more. She must leave all to God and despise these thoughts and the pretended cries of her conscience, and go forward without taking any notice of them, directly there is nothing absolutely bad in the act she wishes to perform. These vain scruples are a device of the devil to deprive her of peace, and thus to prevent her making progress in virtue; for trouble is to the soul a most dangerous malady which makes it too languid for the practice of virtue, as a sick person who is weak and languid is incapable of bodily exertion.

If she succeeds in preserving peace of mind she will gradually recover, just as an infirm and languid person recovers health by taking rest and good nourishment. I will give three methods by which to hasten her recovery.

1st. To repulse quietly from her mind all that troubles her and makes her anxious, looking upon this sort of thought as coming from the devil; because all that comes from God is peaceful and sweet, and helps to establish confidence in Him. It is in peace that He dwells and that He infuses those different virtues that bring souls to perfection.

2nd. Frequently to raise the mind and heart to God, with acts of submission, abandonment, and confidence in His paternal goodness, which only afflicts her at present to sanctify her.

3rd. To choose for her reading those books most likely to contribute to calming her mind and to inspiring her with confidence in God; such as “The Treaty,” by Mgr. Languet, the book on “Christian Hope,” the “Letters” of St. Francis of Sales. For the rest let her go on as usual without making any change in her conduct, making her confessions and communions as she is accustomed to, because the devil, to deceive her, and to weaken her still more, will very likely use every artifice to inspire her with dislike and an excessive fear of confession, of communion, and of all other spiritual exercises. She ought not to lend an ear to these evil inspirations but always to follow the light of faith and the holy practices of the Christian religion like a true and good daughter of holy Church. Amen.

Letter XXVI – On Different States of Resignation

To Sister Marie-Therese de Viomenil. On the same subject. Alby, 1733.

My very dear Sister,

1st. I cannot do otherwise than congratulate you on the efforts you are making to keep always in a state of perfect resignation and of entire abandonment to the will of God. In this, for you, consists all perfection. But on this point as on all others you must learn how to distinguish between the appearance and the reality, the feeling of consent and the working of the will. There are two kinds of resignation; one that can be felt and that is accompanied by sensible pleasure and a quiet repose; the other unfelt, dry, without pleasure, even accompanied by feelings of repugnance, and by interior revolt. It is this latter that I understand you to possess. The first is good, very agreeable to nature, and for this reason rather dangerous, because it is natural to become strongly attached to that which one enjoys. The second, which to self-love seems absolutely painful and unpleasant, is more perfect, more meritorious, and less dangerous since there is no pleasure to be found in it except through bare faith and perfect love. Compel yourself to act with these solid motives. When you have succeeded in doing so your union with God will be proof against every vicissitude, but if you accustom yourself only to act according to sensible attractions you will do nothing when these come to an end. Besides, we cannot prevent them from often failing us, while the motives of faith never fail. It is only in order to induce us to act, gradually, from these spiritual motives that God so often takes away sensible devotion and pleasure. If He were not to act thus we should always remain in a state of spiritual infancy. You should not therefore be surprised at the weariness and the revolts of which you speak; God permits them for your good. Nevertheless, if you fear that human motives are mixed with the mortifications you inflict on yourself say these two things to yourself (1) “I am not at present in a fit state to judge but will reflect about it when I feel peaceful and calm. (2) If there is still some human element in it, God allows it that He may help my weakness. When it shall have pleased Him to render me less imperfect I shall be able to act in a more perfect manner.” On this matter be calm, and do not indulge in the least voluntary trouble.

2nd. I can easily understand how your dislike of your duty should materially add to your trials; but consider how the martyrs won their crowns by enduring much worse tribulations than yours.

3rd. In this state it is usual to feel an inclination for a solitary life, but a life of obedience is of greater value, it is a continual sacrifice, and even if there is more cause for being bored, there are also many subjects for meriting. Continue as you are with great fortitude and even scruple to utter a word against your state, or that could detach you from the cross of Jesus Christ.

4th. The best way of bearing these disagreeables is to look upon them as crosses sent by God, just as you do illness and other misfortunes of life. If God were to send you exterior afflictions that you could feel, you would bear them patiently; bear then with equal patience your interior trials.

5th. Look upon all these miseries of our earthly existence as so much treasure for the spiritual life, since they afford you such powerful means of acquiring humility and self-contempt. With this aim in view love every humiliation, and its consequent abjection, as St. Francis of Sales counsels. You ask me if it would not be better to hide your miseries for fear of causing disedification. With all my heart. Try simply and very quietly to manage so that these feelings may not appear externally, but if they should appear and you are not greatly to blame for it, try to accept this little humiliation pleasantly. Even should it occur by your own fault, then embrace the abjection which it brings you. In this way you will mortify your self-love very meritoriously, for this seeks to avoid outward faults, not because they are an offence against God, but on account of the humiliation they entail. Do not dwell on the pain that the difficulty you experience in concentrating your thoughts causes you. Remind yourself that the habitual desire of recollection alone will serve equally well, and that all that is necessary is to desire unceasingly to think of God, to please God, to obey God, in order to please and to obey Him in reality.

6th. You say that the more you desire to learn to pray the less you know how to do so. This may very possibly be because your desire is not accompanied by a sufficient submission and purity of intention. Always have the intention of pleasing God when you pray, and not of enjoying sensible devotion. Pray in a spirit of sacrifice and accept all that God pleases to send you during your prayer; and I must tell you that the prayer of recollection is one of those things, that leaves you if you are eager to retain it, and remains if you learn how to keep yourself in a state of indifference about it; this is the doctrine of St. Francis of Sales.

7th. Often recall to mind this great rule, that spiritual poverty recognised, felt, and loved on account of its abjection, is one of the greatest treasures that a soul can possess here below; because this feeling keeps it in a state of profound humility; but to imagine yourself lost because you do not find in yourself lively enough feelings of faith and charity, and to be distressed, uneasy, or discouraged about it, is a dangerous illusion of self-love which always wants to see things plainly, and to take pleasure in itself. When you experience this temptation you must say to yourself, “I have been, I am, and I shall be whatever God pleases, but according to my reason and the higher faculties of my soul I desire to belong to Him and to serve Him no matter what happens to me in this world and the next.”

8th. You cannot describe to me what you are suffering; but I will tell you what it is; it is for one thing all kinds of rebellions, pains, and temptations in the inferior part of your nature, and a perpetual confusion of feelings excited by the devil and your own self-love. On the other hand, in the superior part, a little ray of light and of faith that is almost imperceptible on account of the tumultous emotions in the inferior part. And with only this slender support you are immovable, because the finest thread in the hands of God is as strong as a cable, and a mere hair is stronger than an iron chain.

9th. It is a temptation and a false humility to keep away from the sacraments. What others do ought never to affect you who know nothing about their ideas nor motives, nor the cause of their keeping away.

10th. You say that God often deprives you of the feeling of being in a state of grace. To whom among His dearest friends has He given continually this sensible support? Do you aspire by any chance to be so highly privileged than so many saints whom He has deprived of it for a much longer time than you? What had they to depend upon then save only the light of faith, and of a faith the same as ours which seems like darkness? And amidst the darkness of their temptations and the tumult of their passions they knew no more than we do whether God was satisfied with them. Faith teaches us that, unless by particular revelation, the saints themselves were not able to be perfectly certain about it; and you complain because you do not possess this certainty. See how far this unhappy self-love goes. To satisfy it God would have to work miracles. Of all the miseries that humble you so much this is certainly the greatest, and the best calculated to humiliate you.

11th. To wish to be occupied with God and not with yourself, and then to fall back continually on yourself is, I must own, a temptation as troublesome as the flies in autumn; but then you must drive away this temptation as you have continually to drive away the flies, without ever leaving off this work; quietly however, without distress or annoyance, humbling yourself before God as you do in other miseries. It is we, ourselves, who compel God to overwhelm us with miseries to make us humble and to increase our self-contempt. If, in spite of this, we have so little humility and so much self-esteem, what would it be if we found ourselves free from these trials? Believe me, you have appeared to be for some time past so penetrated with the knowledge of your miseries that I believe this feeling alone is one of the greatest graces that God could bestow upon you. Love then everything that helps to preserve it.

I remain yours in our Lord.

I feel very tired of so much writing and before reading to the end of your letter I had the same idea as you, to divide my answers. I do not, however, regret having now placed you in a condition to understand at a single glance the general drift of the direction you ought to follow in order to gather all the fruit of the trial to which God is subjecting you.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

Letter I – Temptation to Despair

To Sister Charlotte-Elizabeth Bourcier de Monthureux. On spiritual nakedness. Annihilation. Temptations to despair. Alby, 1732.

My very dear daughter in our Lord. The peace of Jesus Christ be always with you.

Of all your letters the last is the one that has given me most consolation before God. You understand nothing about how you are circumstanced. I, however, by the grace of God, see it as clearly as daylight.

1st. The state of stupidity and dullness that you depict, the chaotic mass of misery and weakness, what else can this be but the gift of God, and this is what has gradually produced in your soul different spiritual operations of grace. It would be in vain to attempt to explain them to you, because God would not enable you to understand them in the state to which He has brought you, and the knowledge you might gain from reading my letter would vanish at once. But I can, at least, give you an assurance which ought to satisfy you.

I acknowledge that, at first, I was somewhat astonished that God should treat you like one advanced in the spiritual life, because this state is usually the fruit of long years of combat and effort. The soul finds itself entering it when God, satisfied with the diligence with which it has laboured to die to all things, sets His own hand to the work to make it pass through that death to which the total privation of all things created leads. He strips it thus of all pleasure, even to that which is spiritual, of all inclination, of all light, to the end that, thus, it may become freed from the senses, dull, and as though annihilated. When God bestows this grace on a soul, it has hardly anything else to do than endure in peace this harsh operation, and to bear this gift of God in the profound interior silence of respect, adoration and submission. This is your task; in one sense a very easy one, since it means nothing more than to act as a sick person confined to his bed, and in the hands of his doctor and surgeon. He will suffer quite patiently in the expectation of a complete cure. You are in the same kind of position, in the hands of the great and charitable Physician of our souls, and with a better founded certainty of a cure.

2nd. The violent and almost continual assault of all your passions is the result of the same mortifying and vivifying operation. On the one hand, it causes all these movements to give occasion to repel them and to acquire the opposite virtues; and, on the other hand, by means of these same attacks it lays a solid foundation of perfection which comprises the most profound humility, contempt, and hatred of self.

3rd. Temptations to discouragement and despair are another consequence of the same state, and possess still greater power of purifying us. I know that there is never any consent because I see that all your voluntary intentions are the exact contrary to those of a soul that would offend God. No, my dear Sister, you do not offend Him at these painful times; your soul, on the contrary, is then like gold that boils in the crucible; it is purified, and shines with an added lustre. Never are you upheld in a more fatherly way by the hand of God, and if you were able to see your state as it really is, far from being afflicted about it, you would return thanks to the God of mercy for His ineffable gift.

4th. Your method of prayer is good and will always be so as long as you continue it peacefully in an entire abandonment, and, as St. Francis of Sales expresses it, in a simple peaceful waiting quite resigned to the will of God.

5th. As each ought to follow his attraction in prayer and at other times, do not be afraid to keep yourself always in this great destitution which you find within your soul. Remain therein without any formed thought, quite dull and insensible to all things. Love this state, because with regard to you it is the gift of God, and the beginning of all good. I have never come across any chosen souls whom God has not made to pass through these dry deserts before arriving at the promised land which is the terrestrial paradise of perfection.

6th. Interior reproaches about the slightest faults are an evident sign of the especial care taken by the Holy Spirit for your advancement. With certain souls He allows nothing to escape notice, and about them He has a most fastidious jealousy; and it is a sure truth that souls which are the objects of this jealousy, cannot, without infidelity, allow themselves to do what other persons can do without imperfection. The fastidiousness and jealousy of divine love are more or less great according to the degree of its predilection. Consider if you have any occasion to pity yourself about the merciful rigour it uses towards you.

7th. You are right to have no particular desire to make a Retreat; you are no longer in a position to desire, but rather in that of having to abandon yourself unreservedly to all that the Holy Spirit wishes to effect in you. It is for Him to determine the time, the duration, the manner, and the results of His operations, and for you to endure with submission, love and gratitude. Some of these results are extremely severe; but the most humiliating, the most bitter, are always the most sanctifying. Keep yourself, therefore, very quiet, and allow this good physician who has undertaken your cure to act as seems best to Him.

8th. You can apply to yourself all that I wrote last year to Sister Marie-Antoinette de Mahuet, and derive profit for your own needs; but you must not be surprised that while you are suffering from this spiritual upsetting neither my letters nor any books will be of any use. God wills it otherwise; at present He extinguishes all light, all feeling, to operate alone in the depths of your soul whatever He pleases. Now I ask you, is not what God does of infinitely more value than all you could effect by your own industry? Beg Him to treat you like a beast of burden that allows itself to be led without resistance; or like a stone which receives the blows of the hammer, and takes what form the architect desires.

9th. The loss of hope causes you more grief than any other trial. I can well understand this, for, as during your life you find yourself deprived of everything that could give you the least help, so you imagine that at the hour of your death you will be in a state of fearful destitution. Ah! this is indeed a misery, and for this I pity you far more than for your other sufferings. Allow me, with the help of God’s grace, to endeavour to set this trouble in its true light and so to cure you. What you want, my dear Sister, is to find support and comfort in yourself and your good works. Well, this is precisely what God does not wish, and what He cannot endure in souls aspiring after perfection. What! lean upon yourself? count on your works? Could self-love, pride, and perversity have a more miserable fruit? It is to deliver them from this that God makes all chosen souls pass through a fearful time of poverty, misery and nothingness. He desires to destroy in them gradually all the help and confidence they derive from themselves, to take away every expedient so that He may be their sole support, their confidence, their hope, their only resource. Oh! what an accursed hope it is, that without reflexion you seek in yourself. How pleased I am that God destroys, confounds and annihilates this accursed hope by means of this state of poverty and misery. Oh! happy poverty! blessed despoilment! which formed the delight of all the saints and especially of St. Francis of Sales! Let us love it as they loved it, and when by virtue of this love all confidence and hope, all earthly and created support has been removed, we shall find neither hope nor support in anything but God, and this is the holy hope and confidence of the saints which is founded solely on the mercy of God and the merits of Jesus Christ. But you will only attain to this hope when God shall have completely destroyed your self-confidence, root and branch; and this cannot be effected without retaining you for some time in the utmost spiritual poverty.

10th. “But,” you will argue, “of what use are our good works if they may not be for us some ground for confidence?” They are useful in attaining for us the grace of a complete distrust of ourselves and of a greater confidence in God. This is all the use that the saints made of them. What, in fact, are our good works? They are frequently so spoilt and corrupted by our self-love that if God judged us rigorously we should deserve chastisements for them rather than rewards. Think no more, then, of your good works as of something to tranquillize you at the hour of death, do not reflect on anything but the mercy of God, the merits of Jesus Christ, the intercession of the saints, and the prayers of holy souls, but on nothing, absolutely nothing that might give occasion to reliance on yourself, nor to placing the least degree of confidence in your works.

11th. That which you say to others, or rather what God gives you to say for their consolation while you yourself are in a state of extreme dryness, does not, in the least, surprise me. God acts thus, often enough, when He wishes to console others, and at the same time to keep oneself in a state of desolation and abandonment. You then say what God inspires you to say without any feeling yourself, but with much sympathy for others; I do not see any sign of hypocrisy in this.

12th. To avoid relaxation during the fulfilment of the duties you have undertaken through obedience, it is only necessary to do everything quietly, without either anxiety or eagerness, and to do them in this way you have but to do them for the love of God and to obey Him, as St. Francis advises. “Therefore,” continues the same saint, “as this love is gentle and sweet, all that it inspires shares the same spirit.” But when self-love interferes with the wish to succeed and to be satisfied, which always accompanies it, it first introduces natural activities and excitements and their anxieties and troubles. “Whatever these duties are,” you tell me, “I feel sure that they prevent me making any progress.” My dear Sister, when one loves God, one does not wish to make greater progress than God wills, and one abandons one’s spiritual progress to divine Providence, just as wealthy people in the world abandon to Him all the success of their temporal affairs. But the great misfortune is that self-love thrusts itself everywhere, meddles with everything and spoils all. It is because of this that even our desire of advancing is food for self-love, a source of trouble, and consequently an obstacle to our prayers.

13th. Another foolish terror! “You fear,” you say, “that your want of feeling is the principle of your peace.” Yes, certainly this is true, and it is for this reason that I look upon it as a gift of God. I hope that the operations of the Holy Spirit will lead to a still greater insensibility so as to render you with regard to all created things like a block of wood, or the trunk of a tree. This is what I have already told you, and you ridiculed the idea. We are getting to it, by degrees, God be praised! Without this kind of insensibility we should have neither the strength, nor the courage necessary in many circumstances to keep peaceful. We should require the virtue of blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque of whom it was related with admiration that in the midst of all her tenderness she was always mistress of herself. As for your taste for solitude among all your occupations, I will say to you what St. Ignatius said to Fr. Laynez in similar circumstances: “Father, if at court where obedience retains you, you feel this great desire for solitude, it shows that you are in safety; if this desire should vanish and you should come even to love your distracting duties it would be a bad sign.” Preserve, therefore, this love and desire of solitude, but as long as God keeps you in the midst of the cares and distractions of your occupations, try to love them for the sake of obedience.

Letter II – Good Symptoms

To the same Sister. Alby, 1732.

My dear Sister and very dear daughter in our Lord.

The peace of Jesus Christ be always with you. Your letter reminded me of a saying of Fenelon: “One does not begin to know and to feel one’s spiritual miseries until they begin to be cured.” It is, therefore, a very good symptom to feel overwhelmed with miseries, provided that this feeling be exempt from voluntary uneasiness, and joined to a complete interior resignation.

1st. During this state of obscurity, dryness, coldness, and spiritual destitution, retain in your soul a firm and sincere will to be all for God; this is all that you can do under such circumstances. Then be comforted and remain in peace in the higher part of your soul.

2nd. It is true that this state of which I spoke to you in my last letter is a great gift of God, and that usually it is kept for chosen souls who have been tried for a long time in the inferior degrees of the spiritual life; but it is also occasionally accorded, out of pure goodness, to imperfect souls, because God is in no way subject to laws. He bestows such graces as He pleases and to whomsoever He pleases. This is your case I can assure you. You only have, therefore, on your side, to keep yourself continually submissive to the interior dispositions that you experience at each moment, only willing what God wills, and for as long as He wills it. If you are faithful in bearing this trial to the end, you will see in time what will be the result. I rejoice beforehand at the good fruit of which I guarantee you before God.

You are suffering and without merit, without real fidelity. You believe this and it is good for you to think so since God permits it. Remain as long as you like in this belief, but let it be subject to the will of God, and I will answer for you.

3rd. You can see nothing in your present state and still less since you received my last letter than you did before. All the better! I hope that your darkness will increase day by day, for, by the grace of God I see clearly through this darkness, and that ought to be enough for you. Go on therefore through this dark night by the light of blind obedience. This is a safe guide which has never led anyone astray and which conducts with more certainty and more quickly than even acts of the most perfect abandonment.

4th. These acts, however, are excellent, but it may sometimes happen that you find it impossible to make them, and then you will be able to put yourself into a still more perfect condition, which consists in keeping an interior silence of respect, adoration and submission, about which I have so often spoken. This silence says more to God than all your formal acts, and that without reverting to self-complacency without sensible consolation. This is the true mystical death which ought necessarily to precede the supernatural life of grace. You would never arrive at that entirely spiritual and interior life to which you aspire with so much ardour, if God did not find in you this second death; death to spiritual consolations. These consolations are, in fact, so delightful, that if God did not detach us from them by severe trials we should become more attached to them than to any worldly pleasures, and that would be an insurmountable obstacle to perfect union.

5th. In this state God knows about what you are occupied, and I know also; let that be sufficient for you. It is good for you to believe yourself reduced to complete destitution. Apparently you will never arrive at the happy state of one servant of God who could no longer hold any intercourse with men as he had forgotten the common language. Learn for your support in this trial that what forms your great pain and martyrdom to-day will one day become your greatest delight. When will this happy time arrive? Only God knows! it will be when He pleases.

6th. The slight distraction and diminution of peace that you experienced directly you left this state of stupidity for a short time ought to have shown you what occupied you without your knowledge in your apparent want of occupation, and what it is that fills this fearful void.

7th. Do not expect to be able to explain this matter to yourself more clearly. With God’s grace I see it as plainly as mid-day. You, yourself, feel at certain moments the fortunate effects of this kind of stupidity. No! No! it is neither melancholia, nor eccentricity, it is the operation of the Holy Spirit.

8th. There are times when everything irritates and wearies you; so they should. Saint Teresa even said that at these times she did not feel that she had strength enough to crush an ant for the love of God. Never could anyone attain to an entire distrust of self and to a perfect confidence in God unless he had passed through these different states of complete insensibility, and absolute powerlessness. Happy state which produces such marvellous effects.

9th. That which you experienced in Retreat was a slight increase of your ordinary state, resembling the paroxysms of a fever. This increase of trouble cannot but have been very salutary for you from the moment you accepted it, as you say you did. Keep quiet; God leads you, His grace works in you, although in a severe and crucifying manner, as is experienced in all violent remedies. Your spiritual maladies had need of remedies such as these; let your good Physician act as He best knows how; He will proportion the strength of the remedy to the power of the malady. Oh! how ill you were formerly without being aware of it! It was then that you ought to have taken the alarm, and not now that your convalescence is secured.

10th. What you experience at prayer is a very good thing although very bitter. Do nothing more, however, than keep firmly an entire resignation in the higher faculties of your soul, as St. Francis of Sales advises.

11th. In the way you made your retreat formerly there was infinitely more sensible devotion, and consequently, more satisfaction for self-love; but your present want of feeling is of incomparably more value, and you will have felt this already by its effects; for you are very different now to what you used to be after those delightful retreats. If you do not recognise this fact I do so instead of you. If you were able to reflect a little you would, yourself, notice how little foundation there is for your fears. How can you explain without a particular operation of grace, that although you passed the whole time of retreat so sadly, yet, nevertheless, the time passed very rapidly and without weariness? Ought you not to find in this a manifest proof that you were very well occupied, while it lasted, without knowing it?

12th. The terror caused by your past sins is the most hurtful and dangerous of your temptations, therefore I command you to dismiss all these diabolical artifices, in the same way as you would drive away temptations to blasphemy, or impurity. Think only of the present time in order to conform your thoughts to the holy will of God alone. Leave all the rest to His providence and mercy. No! your stupidity and want of feeling are, by no means, a punishment for some hidden sin, as the devil would like to make you imagine, to disturb the peace of your soul. They are real graces; bitter, it is true, but which have had and will continue to have very good effects. Who tells you this? It is I who assure you of it by the authority of God.

13th. I should have been very sorry to have had the foolish satisfaction of hearing your general confession; it would have been to allow you to be caught in the devil’s trap. What ought you to do then to free yourself from these fears? To obey simply and blindly him who speaks to you on the part of God who sent him; and think no more, voluntarily, about it.

14th. Your callousness and indifference towards everything that hitherto gave you the greatest pleasure, is, in truth, one of the greatest graces that God could bestow upon you. But how can this be? By this frightful void, by this lasting state of stupidity and callousness which seems so bitter to you. Yes, indeed, this remedy is painful, but what fortunate effects are produced by it when you accept it lovingly from the hand of the kind Physician of your soul. Here in a few words is an abridgment of the whole of this letter. Your only spiritual practice will be to continue, as now, in the hands of God like a rough stone to be shaped, cut, and polished, with heavy blows of the hammer and chisel, waiting patiently until the sovereign Architect arranges in what part of the building you are to be placed after you have been cut and shaped by His hand.

Yours always in the Lord.

P.S.–That which you relate to me about the Duke of Hamilton is really wonderful, but does not surprise me at all. We are accustomed to see similar effects of the power and mercy of God. That little conversation was a grace for you. Never forget it.

Letter III – Interior Oppression

To Sister Marie-Therese de Viomenil.

My dear Sister,

For the crushing and overwhelming weight which remains ever on your spirit, I have but one remedy; a simple acquiescence, a humble “fiat,” which you will perhaps say without feeling it, but which God will hear distinctly, and which will be sufficient to sanctify you and to make of you a martyr of Providence. Besides this, you would never be able to believe how many excellent acts are comprised in the feeling of oppression that this heaviness of heart occasions. It is a much greater grace for you than you can imagine. You will find it a most efficacious means of acquiring a true spirit of penance; that compunction so much valued by all the saints, and of which God has frequently made you feel the need. Take up your cross, then, and with submission and gratitude, repeat often to God that even in your most holy desires, and those that are most salutary, you wish to take His adorable will for rule and measure, desiring only that degree of virtue and eternal happiness which He intends you to have. Communicate as frequently as you are permitted, and endure with peace and submission all the trials that the reception of this Sacrament will occasion you. Your humility and interior abasement will supply for all the dispositions that you lack; and the privation of all sensible fruit will be amply compensated for by the courage and abandonment with which you bear yourself in the ways by which God leads you. Your illness and the rule of life it compels you to follow are the best penance you could have. You are afraid of pleasing yourself in this state of suffering by not fasting? Foolish fear! rather be afraid of being wanting in interior abnegation while following your own ideas. Obey your doctor blindly: God requires this of you, whereas He certainly does not ask you to fast. Offer Him, as often as you are able, your illness, its consequences, and your fears; but only in your heart, quietly; recollecting that you must will all that God wills. Just a thought of, a look at our Lord will be enough.

Letter IV – Purification of the Heart

From the bottom of my heart I bless God, my dear Sister, for carrying on His work in you. The crushing weight that you feel on your heart is one of the most salutary operations of that crucifying love which does in your heart what fire does to green wood. Before the flame can make its way the wood crackles, smokes, and gives out all the damp with which it is saturated; but when it is perfectly dry it burns quietly, diffusing all round it a brilliant light. This will be the case with you after your heart has been purified by many crosses, and particularly by these crucifying spiritual operations. You must therefore endure these operations with courage, with sweetness, avoiding as much as possible worrying, or distressing yourself interiorly. This is the good and sufficient penance that God requires of you. It is of more value than any corporal austerities, although everyone ought to practice the latter according to his strength and health. In what you add I see an evident sign of the good effect produced by your present trial. It seems to you, you say, that you are always waiting for something that is wanting to you. This is because your heart, tired of creatures; and unable to exist without joy and love, feels more keenly than ever a longing for that sovereign good which can alone satisfy it. The greater the void left in the heart by its withdrawal from all earthly affections, the greater is the ardour with which it sighs after the enjoyment of God, and of His holy love. This it is for which you are waiting; and it is precisely by this waiting and these secret sighs that at last you will obtain this divine love. The waters of life are given to those who thirst for them. Ardent desires are the money with which to buy this sublime and exquisite enjoyment of God; that heavenly food which alone can appease the hunger and thirst of the soul; whereas the love for, and even the possession of all created goods does nothing but inflame and irritate, without ever satisfying them.

Letter V – On Emptiness of Heart

On Emptiness of heart.

I greatly approve, my dear Sister, of the patience with which you endure the great emptiness you experience in your soul. By this you will make more progress in one month than you would in several years of sweetness and consolation. About this I can only exhort you to go on in the same way. It is necessary to traverse this desert to reach during this life the promised land. I am not at all surprised that this great emptiness seems like a support to you. This is what, in fact, it is, because God is present therein, but in an almost imperceptible manner, just as He was in your trials. Look upon this distaste for all things, and apparent want of feeling towards all that is not God, as a great grace to be carefully guarded and preserved. God will come at the time fixed by His grace to fill the void which He has made in your heart, and the ineffable sweetness of His presence will create a fresh distaste for the miserable pleasures of this world. From this time, therefore, bid a general and final farewell to all creatures; and rejoice when they forsake you of their own accord; God permits this as a help to your weakness. As for me, I am delighted at what has happened, and that you have been treated with so little consideration. This conduct has certainly been as salutary for you as it was humiliating. Oh! if you could gradually become accustomed to love this abjection what progress would you not make!

Letter VI – Fresh Suffering

To Sister Marie-Therese de Viomenil. On the same subject and the renewal of pain.

My dear Sister,

Since you find my letters consoling and useful, I promise you that, wherever I may be, to the last moment of my life, I will continue to reply to yours faithfully.

1st. The imperfections and even the faults we may commit contrary to entire submission to the will of God, do not prevent that submission from dwelling in the heart, and do not destroy the merit of it. To make up for the harm these faults occasion us, it is sufficient to humble ourselves about them, and to return as quickly as possible to a filial abandonment into the hands of God.

2nd. I understand better than you imagine your anguish of heart and the weight that seems to crush it. For several years I was in the same state and about something, in itself very insignificant, that hurt my pride. I committed many faults, but I tried at once to recover the ground I had lost. Some time elapsed before I recognised the advantages I had derived from this trial. They appeared, eventually, so great and so numerous that I continue to thank God daily for having thus struck me in His mercy by making me pass through this spiritual cleansing. I feel convinced that in due time God will grant you very nearly the same ideas, and that then you will never tire of returning thanks to Him for that which so much afflicts you at present. I have also had similar experiences on innumerable occasions of the increase of trouble about which you speak; exactly like the paroxysms of a fever.

3rd. At such times, as in severe illness, you can only try to remain as much as possible in silence and peace; because, as regards express acts, and especially such as are sensible and consoling, one is not then in a fit state to make them. However, God sees the submission that has its foundation in the heart, and that is enough for gaining merit. In this state the less the consolation you enjoy so much the more the spiritual profit you will derive from it.

4th. It is not forbidden to ask God to take away these troubles, especially if they violently afflict the heart. Jesus Christ acted thus in the Garden of Olives; but you must add as He did and in union with Him, “Nevertheless not my will but Thine be done,” and although you may feel very great repugnance to adding these words and do so with much interior rebellion, it does not matter. It is the lower nature that resists and is afflicted. This resistance does not, however, destroy the resignation of the superior part; on the contrary, it does but increase the merit and hasten the progress of the soul in the paths of solid virtue.

5th. They are doing quite right in making you frequent the sacraments; you would commit a serious fault if you were to stay away, and nothing could be more dangerous for you. Neither depression, nor discouragement, nor trouble, nor confusion, nor any interior difficulty should ever prevent you going to Holy Communion. Such painful conditions, endured and accepted for God, are worth more than fervour and sensible consolation. The latter often only serve to feed and encourage spiritual self-love, the most subtle and evasive of all the forms of self-love, while the other dispositions tend to its gradual extinction. It is in this destruction of self-love that all true piety and all spiritual progress consist, while for want of real abnegation most devout people have only the appearance of piety. In the unsettled state of your health you should find only another subject for daily sacrifice that is very meritorious. You must submit to all the remedies and even resign yourself to give up fasting, even for a single day. Your worries and scruples about this matter have no foundation. You must make a sacrifice, for the sake of obedience, of these troubles and disinclinations however spiritual they seem to be. If you do otherwise it will be a real illusion which your own good sense should lead you to avoid, but to which I have seen many people, even Religious, give in.

Letter VII – Supernatural Fears

To Sister de Lesen of the Annunciation. Supernatural fears and pain. (1736)

In spite of the great natural compassion, and the great affection in our Lord that I feel towards the afflicted person of whom you speak, I cannot feel either alarmed at her state, or even pity her very much about it. I have frequently told her that, after the signal favours she has received from God, I was astonished at one thing only, which was, that having received a high degree of the gift of simple recollection she has not been sooner submitted to the usual trials of that state. It will suffice to inform you that when I became aware of the beginning of this trial I could feel neither surprise nor annoyance. Now that I perceive a fresh access of suffering I can but repeat what she already knows, and what God has given her grace to put in practice, in fact, what you yourself have told her. This you know as well as I do. As long as God keeps her in this suffering state an angel from Heaven could not draw her out of it, nor impart to her the slightest consolation. Nevertheless I will, for your satisfaction, willingly explain a few little details.

1st. That which enables me to judge that the state of this dear soul is, at one and the same time, a trial and an effect of her progress in the supernatural life is, first, that this sad condition is the outcome of a sense of faith, of a lively fear of the judgments of God, of death, of eternity, etc. Secondly, that she has been much consoled for a long time by abandoning herself into the hands of God, and uniting herself to Jesus crucified. Thirdly, that this painful access of suffering has come upon her now without any sensible or apparent cause, and without being preceded by any reflexion. Fourthly, even if her natural temperament, character, disposition, and other causes have contributed to produce it, as sometimes happens, the pain, in the end, is none the less supernatural; because it is beyond nature to produce such an effect without sensible or apparent cause. Therefore have no fears on her account for she is certainly in the state that mystical authors call “suffering the crucifying gift of God.” As for the fear she has of losing her reason, she is not the only one who has been tormented by such fears. I have known numbers of people who have been impelled to make this great and last sacrifice with an entire abandonment, and full confidence. She will have the whole merit of it without its realisation, I hope, being required of her by God. These are the ways of God with souls. He only asks in innumerable similar cases, the sacrifice of the heart without its completion, as He acted formerly with regard to Abraham. Therefore let her hope against all hope. Every trial, borne well, will turn out for her very advantageous; be consoled and in peace about her. As for the Retreat, I am inclined to think it would be well to defer it. But if, however, she wishes to continue it she has only to do what you have advised her; her only meditation to be on confidence in God; her only reading such as will nourish her soul with the essence of pure recollection, almost without thought or reasoning, at any rate none that requires effort.

2nd. She should reflect as little as possible about her suffering and interior distress. Such reflections while detracting from the merit only tend to embitter and increase the evil. Let her try to forget herself and to think only of God, but gently and simply without any violent effort. She should not speak of her afflictions any more, not even to God in prayer. Let her intercourse with Him be on quite different subjects as much as possible.

3rd. If solitude has the effect of plunging her more deeply into anguish in spite of herself, then I advise her to converse about holy things with you, or any of the other Sisters. The Rev. Mother is right to cut off the annual confession. I forbid it on the part of God, and prohibit the mere thought of it.

4th. As you, very rightly, remark, it is certain that this state of suffering has already produced very good results in this soul. Nothing ever has, nor ever could do her so much good. Even when the extreme pain should have altogether ceased, I foretell that there will remain for a long time a certain impression of interior humiliation which will continue to produce marvellous after-effects. The fear that this miserable state will return will make her depend on God with a profound and continual confidence, which will prove for her a very great blessing.

5th. For the rest, if these supernatural troubles find no human remedy, nothing is more easy than to point out a way to derive great profit from them, and to soften them considerably. Submission, abandonment, peace, patience, confidence in God, and to allow God to act without interruption by too frequent interior acts; in a word, there should only be a humble and simple interior disposition produced in the soul by the grace of Jesus Christ, with which it co-operates somehow, but more passively than actively, or to speak correctly, by making its activity submissive to the action of God. Amen.

Letter VIII – Violent Temptations

To Sister de Lesen. (1736)

1st. My dear Sister. Each ought to make her prayer, her spiritual exercises, and consequently, her Retreat, according to her attraction, and her needs. Take therefore a spiritual book which suits the attraction which grace gives you at the moment; and in all your interior occupations let your soul tend above all to a total abandonment to God. Rest an unlimited confidence in the divine mercy, and be strengthened in this feeling with the more energy the more subjects for fear you believe yourself to have. What most delights the heart of God is that you should hope against all hope; that is to say, against the apparent impossibility of seeing what you hope for realised.

2nd. As to the horrible temptation you have spoken about in your letter to me, I declare that it would be difficult to imagine any more fearful, whether in itself, or in its circumstances. Be very careful not to allow yourself to be overcome by it. To begin with you must know that these trials, which are more grievous than any others, are those which God usually makes those souls whom He most loves undergo. At this time I have under my direction some who, in this respect, are in an indescribable state, the mere account of which would horrify you. The entire interior nature is encompassed with darkness, and buried in mud. God retains and upholds the free will, that higher faculty of the soul, without affording it the slightest feeling of support. He enlightens it with the entirely spiritual light of pure faith in which the senses have no part; and the poor soul, abandoned, as it appears, to its misery, delivered over as a prey to the malice of devils, is reduced to a most frightful desolation, and endures a real martyrdom. On this subject read that Chapter in Guillore where he speaks of very great temptations. It is true that we should always fear, but without being anxious or depressed, and always with a tendency to confidence. Never forget that the Almighty who has His plans in these hidden matters, takes possession in the depths of the soul, and sustains it divinely, without allowing it any perception of His presence. In this state God bestows on you a grace that He often refuses to many others; that of feeling, or at least of knowing and discerning, that you would prefer to be torn in pieces rather than give the least consent.

3rd. Do not be embarrassed as to the way you ought to confess the thoughts and suggestions of the enemy. You must never mention them at all. As to the manner of resisting them, the best, the easiest, and the most efficacious for persons following your way, is that which you have adopted already; I mean a simple look of the soul at its God; an interior movement by which without agitation or anxiety, it turns away from creatures and from itself to turn to its Creator. It is a true conversion of the soul to God. Make use of it always and for everything, whenever in His goodness He gives you this grace. However, you can occasionally form a deliberate act of resistance, but without feeling yourself obliged to do so, and without violent effort. “My God preserve me from all voluntary consent; may I rather die than consent freely to offend You in any way whatever. Yes, death rather than sin, Oh my God! But as for the pain, anguish of heart, spiritual desolation, humiliation, and abjection, I accept them for as long a time as You please.”

4th. The terrifying idea of the justice of God, the anguish and interior bitterness which ensue are evidently another trial sent you by God. It is not less evident that the peace and tranquillity which accompany these dreadful feelings arise from the submission that God establishes in the depths of your soul. This peace, with the interior conviction that everything you do is useless for gaining Heaven, is not so difficult to understand as you imagine; not, at any rate, to directors who have had some experience. The peace comes from God, it dwells in the recesses of the soul, or according to St. Francis of Sales in the highest point of the mind. This alarming conviction is nothing else than a vivid impression which the devil is allowed to produce in the lower nature, or, as it were, in the exterior and sensitive part of your soul. It is this diabolical impression which makes a martyr of your soul, and it is the submission which God gives it that produces the peace which is above all feeling. This is certain, I assure you. If you could see it as plainly as I do it would no longer be a trial to you. Be satisfied therefore with the almost imperceptible sight of it which God allows you, and with what I must call some sort of confused feeling which keeps you in peace. For the rest, even if this feeling is lacking obedience ought to suffice you; obedience and abandonment. Repeat without ceasing by a firm, actual disposition of your will: “May God do with me whatever He pleases, but, meanwhile, I wish to love and to serve Him to the best of my power, and to hope in Him. I should continue to hope in Him even if I found myself at the gates of hell.” It is of faith that God never abandons anyone who gives himself to Him, and who places all his confidence in Him. Say then, “He is the God of my salvation, never could my salvation be more assured than when placed in His hands, and when confided entirely to His infinite goodness. If left to myself I could do nothing but spoil everything and lose my soul.”

5th. The torment of the lower nature during these attacks would not be able to destroy your peace of mind if your submission to God were perfect. This is called having a solid and not an imaginary peace. With regard to troublesome thoughts, foolish imaginations, and other temptations you must first, as soon as possible, let them fall like a stone in the water. Secondly, if you cannot succeed in doing this, as frequently happens in times of trial, you must allow yourself to suffer as God pleases the maladies of the soul, just as you would those of the body; in patience, peace, submission, confidence, and a total abandonment, willing only to do the will of God in union with Jesus Christ.

6th. Your “fiat,” with regard to things of which you disapprove, taking care not to show what you feel, out of charity, is all that God asks of you. Oh! my dear Sister, how happy would be many souls that I know, if God were to give them all the consoling advantages He bestows upon you.

7th. A profound desire for recollection is a very real recollection in itself, although unaccompanied by pleasure. If less consoling than sensible recollection, it is all the more disinterested, and consequently more meritorious. In such a state one appropriates nothing to oneself because one seems to possess nothing at all.

8th. The impatience caused by the feeling of your own nothingness, is only a slight vexation of pride and self-love, and would be a serious imperfection if consented to, because we ought to deplore our misery with a tranquil humility. “Learn,” says St. Francis of Sales, “to bear your own miseries as you ought to bear those of your neighbour.”

9th. I am not surprised at the increase of your trials and temptations since your Retreat. If you understood, as I do, the good effects they ought to produce in purifying the most secret recesses of your heart, you would bless God for them without ceasing; for this is a great grace, and one that God reserves for those souls whom He wishes to lead to pure love, by detachment from all created things, and especially from themselves.

10th. It is a good thing to do some exterior penance, provided it be done with discretion, but you must not do too much. As long as your present trial lasts you should first of all make your renunciation consist in accepting it with perfect submission. You still have a great deal to do to reach this perfect abandonment, and I should be sorry if you were to lose sight of this kind of mortification to practice others much less necessary. Your spiritual troubles will only subside when you abandon yourself to all that God wills for you without reserve, without limit, and for ever. God be praised for all and in all. Amen.

Letter IX – Death of Self-Love

To Sister Marie-Anne-Therese de Rosen. Annihilation and spiritual agony.

My dear Sister,

1st. Such a lively impression of your nothingness in the sight of God is one of the most salutary operations of the grace of the Holy Spirit. I know how much suffering this operation entails. The poor soul feels as if it would become utterly annihilated, but for all that, it is only nearer the true life. In fact the more we realise our nothingness the nearer we are to truth, since we were made from nothing, and drawn out of it by the pure goodness of our Lord. We ought therefore to remember this continually, in order to render by our voluntary annihilation a continual homage to the greatness and infinity of our Creator. Nothing is more pleasing to God than this homage, nothing could make us more certain of His friendship, while at the same time nothing so much wounds our self-love. It is a holocaust in which it is completely consumed by the fire of divine love. You must not then be surprised at the violent resistance it offers, especially when the soul experiences mortal anguish in receiving the death-blow to this self-love. The suffering one feels then is like that of a person in agony, and it is only through this painful agony and by the spiritual death which follows it that one can arrive at the fulness of divine life and an intimate union with God. What else can be done when this painful but blessed hour arrives, but imitate Jesus Christ on the Cross; commend one’s soul to God, abandoning oneself more and more utterly to all that this sovereign Master pleases to do to His poor creature, and to endure this agony for as long as He pleases.

2nd. For the time that these crucifying operations continue, the understanding, the memory and the will are in a fearful void, in nothingness. Love this immense void since God deigns to fill it; love this nothingness since the infinitude of God is there. Take good courage, my dear daughter, and agree to everything with that holy abasement of spirit of Jesus crucified. It is from Him that we should look for all our strength. When these agonies begin, accustom yourself to repeat, “Yes, Lord, I desire to do Your holy will in all things, in union with Jesus Christ.” What is there to fear in such company? In the midst of the strongest temptations, cast yourself simply at the feet of your Saviour-God, and your troubles will cease; He will render you victorious, and aided by His strength your weakness will triumph over all the artifices of the tempter.

3rd. The revolt of the passions without any occasion being given them by you, the interior excitement and involuntary trouble this and a hundred other miseries cause in you, are permitted for two reasons. First, to humble you in an extraordinary degree, to make you realise what a heap of misery, what an abyss of corruption is yours, in allowing you to see what would become of you without the great mercy of God. Secondly, in order that by the interior supervention of fresh operations all these germs of death, hitherto hidden in your own soul, can be uprooted like noxious weeds, which only appear above ground that they may be more easily taken up by the skilled hand of the gardener. It is only after having completely cleared the ground that he can cultivate wholesome plants, sweet smelling flowers, and choice fruits. Let Him do this, give up to Him entirely the task of cultivating this rough ground, which left to itself could bring forth nothing but thistles and thorns. Do not be anxious. Be content to feel yourself greatly humbled and much confounded, remain profoundly abased in this heap of mire, like Job on his dung-hill; it is your right place; wait for God to draw you out of it, and meanwhile allow yourself to be purified by Him. What does it signify so long as you are pleasing to Him? Sometimes princes take pleasure in splashing their favourites with water, then the favourite is happy to be thus treated since it gives his prince pleasure.

4th. When you feel pusillanimous and filled with fears, humble yourself, and say to yourself, “My weakness is so extreme that left to myself I could do nothing, but with the grace of Jesus Christ everything becomes possible and easy. In him alone will I hope, He will give me all that is good for me.”

5th. But what is most trying, but most in conformity with the rules by which privileged souls are guided, is the piercing thought that God rejects you, that He abandons you as for ever unworthy of His favours. Oh! my dear Sister, you would be only too happy now if you could understand as I do what is even in this, the kind conduct of God in your regard. All that I can say to you about it, and I say it without knowing whether in your state of trial, it will please God to make you understand it, is that never have you loved God so purely as now, and that never have you been so much loved by Him. But this love is so hidden away in the midst of your torments and apparent miseries that your director has need of a certain amount of experience to be able to recognise it. But have patience, this fearful darkness will be succeeded by a clear light, the brilliance of which will delight you. Yes, my dear Sister, you can believe me, even though at present you may not be able to understand, because I do not tell you anything of which God has not given me a certitude. The bitterest part of your trials, those ideas of being separated from God, which plunges you into a kind of hell, is the most divine of all the operations of divine love in you; but the operation is completely hidden beneath altogether contrary appearances. It is the fire which seems to destroy the soul while purifying it of all self-love, as gold is refined in the crucible. Oh! how happy you are, without knowing it! how dear you are without understanding it, what great things God effects in your soul in a manner so much the more certain the more it is hidden and unrecognized. It is our weakness, oh my God, it is our wretched self-love, it is our pride that prevent You giving us great graces without hiding them from us, or, in other words, without our knowledge, for fear that we should corrupt Your gifts by appropriating them to ourselves in foolish, secret, and imperceptible self-satisfaction. This, my dear Sister, is the whole mystery of the obscure dealings of God in your regard. In brief, my dear Sister, fear nothing, keep firm, take courage; God is with you and in you, you have nothing to fear even if you were in hell in the midst of unchained devils. Nothing can happen to you save by the permission of God, and He will permit nothing that will not turn to your advantage; therefore you are perfectly safe as long as you confide in the goodness of so faithful a friend, so tender a Father, so powerful a protector, so passionate a lover and spouse. For these tender and loving titles are those which He deigns to give Himself in Holy Scripture, and the significance of which He so perfectly fulfils in your regard.

Letter X – On Mystical Death

To Sister Charlotte-Elizabeth Bourcier de Monthureux. Luneville, 1733. On mystical death. Its use.

My very dear daughter,

I well understand that the state in which it pleases God to place you is very painful to nature, but am rather surprised that you should not yet comprehend that in this way God desires to effect in you a death that will make you live henceforth a life wholly supernatural and divine. You have asked Him a hundred times for this mystical death, and now that He has answered you, the more your apparent misery increases, the more certain you may be that God is effecting that nudity and poverty of spirit of which mystics speak. I recommend to you the works of Guillore in which you will find your present state very well explained. But you are going to ask me what you should do. Nothing, nothing, my daughter, but to let God act, and to be careful not to obstruct by an inopportune activity the operation of God; to abstain even from sensible acts of resignation, except when you feel that God requires them of you. Remain then like a block of wood, and you will see later the marvels that God will have worked during that silent night of inaction. Self-love, however, cannot endure to behold itself thus completely despoiled, and reduced to nothing. Read and read again what Guillore says about this nothing, and you will bless God for putting you in possession of treasure. As for me, I also bless Him for it, and consider yours an enviable lot, for you must know that there are very few whom God gives the grace of passing through a state of such great deprivation. The fear of aridity, of which you tell me, is the ordinary consequence of this extreme nudity. God upholds you insensibly as you experience yourself; and it is proved that this state is from God because of the peace that you possess in it apart from the senses, and because you would be vexed to be deprived of it. You only require patience, resignation, and abandonment, but these dispositions should not be felt. Remember that God sees in the depths of your heart all your most secret desires. This assurance should be sufficient for you; a cry hidden is of the same value as a cry uttered, says the Bishop of Meaux. Leave off these reflexions and continual self-examinations about what you do, or leave undone; you have abandoned yourself entirely to God, and given yourself to Him over and over again; you must not take back your offering. Leave the care of everything to Him. The comparison you make is very just; God ties your hands and feet to be able to carry on His work without interference; and you do nothing but struggle, and make every effort, but in vain, to break these sacred bonds, and to work yourself according to your own inclination. What infidelity! God requires no other work of you but to remain peacefully in your chains and weakness. As for your duties, do outwardly as well as you can, and I will answer for the interior, for God is there in an imperceptible manner to draw you from all that can be perceived by the senses. Just the feeling of your own misery and corruption demonstrates the presence of God, but of God hiding Himself to remain more truly present, and withdrawing Himself to give Himself more completely. About this read Guillore again. God has permitted your preliminary imprudence to allow you, without your thinking of it, a necessary consolation, and at the same time to mortify and humiliate your self-love. Oh! happy imprudence! God, no doubt, permitted the second to take you from your occupation. Since you neither spoke, nor acted with this intention, have no scruple about it, and think of it no more, but allow divine Providence to act. Is it not on His side a truly fatherly care which has arranged for you to escape from a false position, with the result that you have been at one and the same time consoled and humiliated, and left to the satisfaction of the thought that you have not contributed in any way to your relief?

Allow your terror of death and of judgment to increase as much as God pleases; do nothing positively either to encourage, or to deliver yourself from it; in a word put yourself in God’s hands as if you were a dead body that can be handled, turned, and moved as He pleases.

Finally I see nothing more simple, nor more easy than what you should do at present, since it consists in letting God do everything, and remaining passive yourself. It must be owned, however, that this state of inaction is the most cruel torment for our accursed nature which, living only for itself, fears the loss of its activities as much as death and annihilation.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

Letter XI – For the Time of Retreat

To the same Sister. Before the Retreat. Nancy, 1734.

The way in which you should make your Retreat is most simple, but cannot fail to be painful on account of the interior state in which God is pleased to keep your soul at present.

1st. Do not forget, my dear Sister, that after having passed through the first degrees of the spiritual life our further progress is affected entirely by the way of losses, destruction, and annihilation. To arrive at a spiritual life it is necessary, by the grace of God, to die to all created things, to all things sensible and human. Consequently you must expect during this Retreat not to enjoy either sensible lights, or spiritual pleasures, or an increased desire for God, and for divine things; but, on the contrary, to fall into a state of greater darkness, an increased distaste, and a more complete apathy. Do not then occupy yourself in any other duty than that of receiving whatever your sovereign Lord and Master chooses to give you; since, after having abandoned yourself entirely to Him, you should regard your soul as ground that no longer belongs to you but to Him alone in which to sow whatever seed He pleases; light or darkness, pleasure or disgust, in a word, all that He pleases; or nothing at all if such should be His will. Oh! how terrible to self-love is this nothing! but how good and profitable for the soul is this grace, and the life of faith. God does not complete His work in us perfectly, unless we become firmly established, by our will, in the conviction of our own nothingness, because the measure of our resistance, and the impediments we place to the divine operations, is the measure also of the acquiescence of our will in this state.

2nd. In this state of despoilment you should never force your inclination by means, or about subjects that do not suit you. Simply meditate, as far as you are able, on the life and mysteries of Jesus Christ. Read the works of St. Francis of Sales, and a few of St. Jane de Chantal’s letters; those which treat of states of suffering and privation. Read especially some of the lives of saints of both sexes that are to the point, or an account of the virtues of your holy Rev. Mother or Sisters. You will derive instruction and consolation from such reading.

3rd. During the day keep yourself spiritually united to God, receiving and accepting from His fatherly Providence all the different circumstances that occur with an entire abandonment and total surrender of yourself. In this way you will practise true recollection in which there is no fear of slothfulness.

When you feel more attraction or facility in forming acts or colloquies with God or our Lord, quietly follow these impressions of grace, but without effort or eagerness. Follow the advice of St. Francis of Sales, who desires that these acts should flow, or be as though distilled by the higher faculties of the soul. The moment it becomes necessary to make some effort to continue these acts leave them off at once and humbly resume your former state.

Keep yourself in repose in the depths of your heart, detached from all thoughts of exterior things, as Fenelon advises; I mean voluntary thoughts; as for those that pass through the mind, take no notice of them; however, if you find that you are obsessed by them in spite of yourself, then have patience, be at peace, and abandon yourself.

Unquestionably you must be very faithful and particular in accomplishing the exercises marked out for the time of Retreat.

If you observe these rules you need not fear wasting your time; fear only that miserable terror which is the outcome solely of self-love. Do not allow yourself to be distracted from simple recollection by this trouble, but guard and preserve it as a precious treasure however slight, dry, and barren it may be. For with regard to you nothing could be more important than this recollection in God, without which it would be impossible for Him to accomplish in you His divine work. If you keep yourself united to Him you may be assured that He will act in you, although it may be in an imperceptible manner, and the result of His action should be, at this time, to impoverish and despoil you more and more, rather than to enrich and replenish you. When you become, by grace, insupportable to yourself, and find not the least satisfaction in your good works, nothing remains but to put up with yourself and to use towards yourself the same kindness and charity that you employ towards your neighbour; it is St. Francis of Sales who gives us this advice. Happy is he who by dint of having destroyed self-love, which is the false love of oneself, no longer retains any estimation of himself, nor any love except that of pure charity, the same that he has for his neighbour, or even his enemies, in spite of a sort of contempt and horror that he feels towards himself. Many more trials will be necessary before arriving at that degree of perfection in which self-love ceases to exist, and is replaced by the real love of pure charity. I pray God with all my heart to give you this grace.

Letter XII–After the Retreat

To the same Sister. After the Retreat. November 4th, 1734.

1st. I must begin by telling you frankly that, although naturally compassionate, I cannot pity you, but even rejoiced interiorly in God while perusing your letter. What I had the temerity to predict when you began your Retreat has come to pass.

2nd. You know what I think about a keen feeling of your weakness and powerlessness. Fenelon says that this is a grace to make us despair of ourselves in order that we may hope only in God. It is then, he adds, that God begins to work marvels in a soul. But usually He performs His work in a hidden manner and without the soul’s knowledge, to preserve it from the snares of self-love.

3rd. The way in which God made you pass the feast of All Saints was very hard to nature, but by grace very wholesome. Blind that we are! we must let God act. If He allowed us to follow our own desires and ideas, even those that are, apparently, very holy, instead of making progress we only go back.

4th. You feel as if you had neither faith, hope, nor charity; this is because God has deprived you of all perception of these virtues, and retained them in the highest part of the soul. He thus affords you an opportunity of making a complete sacrifice of all satisfaction, and this is better than anything. Of what then do you complain? It is disconsolate nature which grieves because it feels nothing but troubles, dryness, and spiritual anguish. These are its death, a necessary death in order to receive the new life of grace, a life altogether holy and divine. I am acquainted with some whose souls frequently pass through the most terrible agonies, so that it seems to them, as to you, as if every moment would be their last; just as a criminal on the rack expects the finishing stroke which, while depriving him of the miserable remnant of his life, will put an end to his torments. Courage, patience, abandonment, and confidence in God; these are the virtues you must practice. He accords you a great grace, a signal favour, in allowing you from time to time some slight perception of His help. The different shocks this good Master allows you to experience, the vivid recollection of your sins and miseries, are divine operations, very crucifying, and intended to purify you like gold in the crucible. Why then should I pity you? I have far more reason to congratulate you, as the holy martyrs in ancient times were congratulated, who considered themselves happy in the midst of their torments and cruel tortures.

5th. The regret that you are tempted to feel as regards the consolations you enjoyed in previous Retreats is only an illusion which you must carefully guard against. Never have you, with God’s grace, made such a useful Retreat. This He has made you feel by giving you strength sufficient to enable you to sacrifice sensible pleasure and consolation. “But,” you add, “God has rejected this sacrifice.” Here again is temptation and illusion. God permits it in order to try you in every way. Fiat! Fiat! If God takes away your peace of mind, very well, let it go with the rest; God remains always, and when nothing else is left to you, you will be able to love Him with greater purity. He alone it is, then, who works in a divine way at our perfection through these spiritual deprivations which are so abhorrent to nature, for they are its death, its annihilation, and final destruction. Have patience. Fiat! Fiat! You cannot follow the path of perfection in reality except through losses, abnegation, despoilment, death to all things, complete annihilation, and unreserved abandonment. We need not be astonished when we experience afflictions, when even our reason totters, that poor reason so blind in the ways of faith; for it is a strange blindness which leads us to aspire after perfection by the way of illumination, of spiritual joy and consolation, the infallible result of which would be to revive ever more and more our self-love and to enable it to spoil everything.

6th. Just the keen feeling of your own frailty has been one of your greatest helps, because by making you realise that you are exposed to the danger of falling at every step it inspires you with an absolute self-distrust, and makes you practise a blind confidence in God; in this sense the Apostle says, “When I feel myself weakest, then it is that I am strongest, because the keen feeling of my weakness invests me, through a more perfect confidence, with all the power of Jesus Christ.”

7th. There is nothing more simple than the conduct you ought to follow in order to derive great profit from your painful and crucifying state; an habitual consent from your heart, a humble “fiat,” a complete abandonment, and perfect confidence, that is all. From morning to night you have nothing else to do. It will appear to you that you are doing nothing, but all will be done; and so much the better, the more profound the humility with which you remain without the help of those miserable satisfactions which do not satisfy God, but your self-love, as our very dear father, St. Francis of Sales, repeats.

Letter XIII – The Fear of Reprobation

On the purification of the soul.

My dear Sister,

While reading your letter I had no sooner arrived at the part where you depicted your suffering state than an involuntary impulse led me to cast myself interiorly at the feet of Jesus Christ to thank Him for it. A thousand experiences convince me more thoroughly every day that interior trials purify a soul, in its very essence, and penetrate to its most hidden recesses, and sanctify it more efficaciously than any exterior crosses, mortifications, or penances. I can but bless God, therefore, for the great goodness He shows you, and encourage you to correspond faithfully thereto. For this purpose you have only to observe the following points.

1st. Neither in the present circumstances, nor during the whole time that your trial lasts must you expect to receive any other consolation than it pleases God to give you; for not even an angel from Heaven could draw a soul out of the crucible in which God keeps it, to purify it more and more.

2nd. Moreover, it is certain that the interior crucifixion is so much the greater the greater the degree of love and union with him to which God intends to raise the soul.

3rd. The fear of being lost does not seem to me at all extraordinary, in fact it is common enough with those good souls whom God designs to raise to a state of perfection.

4th. In this matter God seems to me to give in to your weakness by giving you an abandonment and confidence in Him which He even renders perceptible to you occasionally. How many souls in this state are deprived of such a consolation!

5th. In this matter, as in all others, God teaches you by the spiritual impressions of His grace, that He brings you to practise, exactly, and continually, all that He requires of you, so that I can content myself with saying just two things; first, your present state seems to me the best that you have ever been in during your whole life, and the greatest grace that you have hitherto received. Secondly, God teaches you all that is necessary about it; go on, and be at peace.

However, let us see if, in re-reading your letter God will enable me to clear up, by some explanation, the already perfectly sufficient direction that I am giving you in His name. First, all those thoughts by which God is represented as having ceased to extend to you that infinite mercy which is His attribute, are but the groundwork of your trial. They are the distinctive features of that deep fear of reprobation that God wills you to endure. This suffering is your martyrdom, and these different suggestions of the enemy are the different arrows that he lets fly by the divine permission. Instead of wounding your body they pierce your heart and your soul, and are none the less meritorious on that account. Secondly, that idea and conviction that the measure of your sins is filled up is decidedly inspired by the father of lies, and not by the Holy Spirit; however, although God is not the author, He nevertheless permits you to be tormented by it, and permits it for your good. Besides this trial being very humiliating, the suffering it causes is like a fire, which cannot fail to purify you the more completely the more intense are its flames, and the more frequently your soul is plunged into the crucible. Thirdly, your supposed lukewarmness, your dryness, and want of feeling, are the results and effects of this unhappy persuasion impressed on your mind; these are the flames which are intended–not to consume, but to purify the victim in order to render it more capable of being consumed by the fire of divine love. Fourthly, I say the same of those efforts of your heart to rush towards God; those efforts to which God seems to make no other reply than to repulse you. These are, in some souls, so violent and painful that they produce what Bossuet calls despairing love–or the despair of love. This movement which is only despairing in appearance is, in reality, the most vehement form of love. This, says this great Bishop, is the way that grace sometimes imitates the effect of the profane love of creatures on those who are carried away by it. Fifthly, it is an additional grace to be able to make the heroic act of St. Francis of Sales, and to say, “If I must be separated from my God for all eternity, at any rate while I live I will love Him and serve Him.” This is a help of which many souls are deprived; make use of it then, but do not depend upon it, because God may take it away from you, or prevent you being aware of it.

6th. It is very wise to multiply your communions in a state in which this support is most necessary. You ought to consider yourself very fortunate in being able to avail yourself of this help.

7th. Faith, abandonment, confidence, hope, against hope; these are the most powerful aids you can have. However if God should deprive you of the consolation of feeling these virtues, nothing remains but to abandon yourself entirely, without limitation, and even without any help that you can feel or perceive. Then will God sustain you in the depths of your soul in an incomprehensible manner; but the poor soul, being unable to feel any kind of support, and imagining itself completely forsaken, experiences a kind of grief that makes this state a kind of hell. You, however, are, as yet, only in purgatory, but this Purgatory is so purifying, and so filled with treasures of grace, that I pray God not to take you out of it until He has enriched you with treasures for eternity, and rendered you as pure and right in His sight as so many saintly souls have become by virtue of these same trials.

8th. The peace that you enjoy in suffering is the true peace of God, without fear of any admixture of illusion. Instead of fidelity, courage, strength, and fervour in prayer, you find in yourself nothing but infidelity, weakness, tepidity, and indevotion. This must be. It is what will effect your annihilation before God. Oh! happy state of annihilation! A holy person told me some days ago that she would be afraid to be taken out of a certain fearful state. “Why so?” I asked her, “Because, Father,” she replied, “I am afraid that I might lose my state of nothingness before God, which is, to me, more delightful than those other sensible, sweet and consoling graces.” Here are a few words for your dear Sister, for I notice that with regard to both of you God leaves little for the director to do; from which I conclude, by the way, that neither of you requires to consult him often. To do so would be a sort of infidelity to the great spiritual Master who wishes to lead you both entirely Himself. To return to the point.

1st. It seems to me that God has, hitherto, made the most of the weakness of this dear Sister. Darkness and aridity are trials in a less painful sense, and yet they are very fruitful because the soul, being unable to perceive anything, has no power to spoil anything, and consequently is led to a more perfect abandonment. Hers increases, she says, in an astonishing manner. This is the acme of grace, because all perfection is to be found in the most perfect abandonment in which our will is lost in the will of God. Love practised like this is the most pure, and is sheltered from all illusion and from all vain recourse to self-love.

2nd. The ineffable consolations experienced by this good Sister before she fell into this state of obscurity and dryness, was only a merciful kindness of grace, intended to gain the foundation and centre of the soul in which God wished to establish His dwelling and from thence to work insensibly. These consolations were a great grace, but the present want of feeling is a much greater one.

3rd. The good Sister should therefore remain as well as she can, in this state of simple surrender, or simple waiting, and not leave it except under the impulse of a movement of interior grace, and only so far as this movement allows: for one must never either forestall attractions, or go beyond them.

Letter XIV – Explanations and Direction

To Sister Charlotte-Elizabeth Bourcier de Monthureux. Explanation of certain trials. Direction. Nancy, 1734.

My dear Sister,

As long as you continue abandoning yourself to God as you are doing at present, I assure you in His name that He will never abandon you. The experiences of the past and the present are your guarantee for the future. I acknowledge that the path by which our Lord conducts you is very hard to nature; but, besides the fact that He is the Master, He allows you to reflect from time to time on the advantages and security of this way, also to consider its necessity. It is the usual way by which God conducts His chosen spouses to the perfection He destines them to attain; and I have known very few whom He has not judged it necessary to guide along this path when they give themselves up entirely to Him. Why then are there such painful states? Why this heaviness of heart which takes the pleasure out of everything? and this depression which makes life insupportable? Why? It is to destroy, in those souls destined to a perfect union with God, a certain base of hidden presumption; to attack pride in its last retreat; to overwhelm with bitterness that cursed self-love which is only content with what gives it pleasure; until at last, not knowing where to turn, it dies for want of food and attention, as a fire goes out for want of fuel to feed it. This death, however, is not the work of a moment; a great quantity of water is required to extinguish a great conflagration.

Self-love is like a many-headed hydra, and its heads have to be cut off successively. It has many lives that have to be destroyed one after the other if one wishes to be completely delivered. You have, doubtless, obtained a great advantage by making it die to nature and the senses; but do not dream that you are entirely set free from its obsessions. It recovers from this first defeat and renews its attacks on another ground. More subtle in future, it begins again on that which is sensible in devotion; and it is to be feared that this second attempt, apparently much less crude, and more justifiable than its predecessor, is also much more powerful. Nevertheless, pure love cannot put up with the one any more than with the other. God cannot suffer sensible consolations to share a heart that belongs to Him. What then will happen? If less privileged souls are in question, for whom God has not such a jealous love, He allows them a peaceful enjoyment of these holy pleasures, and contents Himself with the sacrifice they have made of the pleasures of sense. This is, in fact, the ordinary course with devout persons, whose piety is somewhat mixed with a certain amount of self-seeking. Assuredly God does not approve of their defects; but, as they have received fewer graces, He is less exacting in the matter of perfection. These are the ordinary spouses of an inferior rank, whose beauty needs not to be so irreproachable, for they have not the power to wound His divine heart so keenly; but He has far other requirements, as He has quite other designs with regard to His chosen spouses. The jealousy of His love equals its tenderness. Desiring to give Himself entirely to them, He wishes also to possess their whole heart without division. Therefore He would not be satisfied with the exterior crosses and pains which detach from creatures but desires to detach them from themselves, and to destroy in them to the last fibre that self-love which is rooted in feelings of devotion, is supported and nourished by them, and finds its satisfaction in them. To effect this second death He withdraws all consolation, all pleasure, all interior help, insomuch that the poor soul finds itself as though suspended between Heaven and earth, without the consolations of the one, nor the comforts of the other. For a human being who cannot exist without pleasure and without love, this seems a sort of annihilation. Nothing then remains for him but to attach himself–not with the heart which no longer feels anything, but with the essence of the soul–to God alone, whom he knows and perceives by bare faith in an obscure manner. Oh! it is then that the soul, perfectly purified by this two-fold death, enters into a spiritual alliance with God, and possesses Him in the pure delights of purified love; which never could have been the case if its spiritual taste had not been doubly purified.

But this carries me too far. Let us return to your letter.

What a number of false steps! you say. But do you not know the remedy? To humble yourself gently, rise again, and to take courage. “But,” you add, “I do this with so much repugnance, trouble, weariness, and sadness.” This is precisely what increases the merit, and makes you acquire solid virtue, because it is only by gaining it at the point of the sword that it is so, says St. Francis of Sales. “Our surroundings are very depressing.” I understand that perfectly, and it is precisely on this account that God attacks your heart in its weakest point. “Indeed, my daughter,” said St. Francis of Sales, “this is to gain it all for Himself, this poor heart.” Well then, give it to Him, at first, perhaps, against your inclination, but later more amiably, when that grace that He has taken away, which was so sweet and alluring, returns again but without being felt. “But I am not sure that I do love, all that I know is that I try to love.” Well, that is all that God requires of you. It is a received axiom in theology that God never refuses grace to him who does all that is in his power to acquire it. Try then to love Him, and if these efforts are not the fruit of love, they will obtain for you the grace of charity. God already gives you a great favour in inspiring you with the desire to love Him. Some day, I hope, He will lead you further, and satisfy this desire. Say to yourself, “I should be consoled, even overwhelmed with consolation if I felt towards God what I try to feel, but at present God wishes to take from me all interior consolation, to make me die the second death which should precede that completely supernatural and divine life of His Holy Spirit, of His grace and pure love.”

Now I come to a beautiful part of your letter which rejoices my heart before God. You say; “I should like, very humbly, to remonstrate, but instead I will remain on my cross through obedience even if I have to die there.” Here indeed the good God gives and inspires you with a great courage. He holds you, therefore, always in His hand; what have you to fear? No, you will not die of it, my dear daughter, except only by a spiritual death more precious than any earthly life. “Yes,” you add, “but all the same I should be very glad and much relieved if God would take me out of this state, or these circumstances.” The saints in a thousand similar cases would say the same, but the more one would like to be relieved of a position or duty, the more merit there is in being willing to remain in it if such is the will of God. Be consoled, therefore, put your mind at rest and remain in peace. God is with you and a God all goodness, who bears with the weakness, miseries, and frailties of His good friends with a tender compassion even to the extent of forbidding them to distress themselves; and why? Because He wishes all whom He loves to enjoy an unalterable peace. Frequent acts of the love of God, or even of a holy desire to love Him, are an excellent remedy for the fear of divine judgments, and for the terrors about predestination. I am not at all surprised at the happy results of this remedy. I much approve, also, of the reply you made to the person who told you that she did not love God with sufficient disinterestedness. This is a visible illusion of the devil, who, under pretext of I know not what self-love, wants to keep this soul back, and to retard itself progress. Tell her that self-love (I allude to spiritual self-love which, although not sinful, tarnishes the perfect purity of divine love) is only found in those souls who make of the gifts of God, or of His rewards, a motive to love Him for their sakes. To love God for Himself, and because He is God, and inasmuch as He is our own God, our great reward, our sovereign good, infinitely good to us, is the pure and practical love of the saints; for to love one’s supreme happiness, which is God Himself, is to love God alone. These two terms express the same thing, and it is impossible to love God otherwise than as He is in Himself. Besides, in Himself He is our supreme good, our last end, and our eternal happiness. But, some will say, supposing that God were not our eternal happiness, ought we not to love Him just the same, for Himself? Oh! what a strange and pitiable supposition! It is as much as to say: If God were not God. Do not let us split hairs so much, but go on in a direct and simple manner, broadmindedly, as St. Francis of Sales advises. Let us love God with simplicity and as well as we can, and He will raise and purify our love ever more and more according to His own good pleasure. As for you, keep to the spiritual condition in which God has been pleased to place you. The fear of death and terrors about the judgments of God and about eternity, were endured by St. Jerome for a longer time and much more severely than by you. Let us be willing to retain these strong impressions for as long as God pleases. Our own will should be ready to die, to be extinguished, and happily lost in that of God, which is always equally loving, perfect and adorable.

Letter XV – Perfect Detachment

To Sister Marie-Antoinette de Mahuet. Nancy, 1735.

My dear Sister,

In sending you what is necessary to prosecute the work of charity which I recommended to you, the thought occurred to me to lay before you some of the certain and very consoling truths concerning souls who give themselves up to an interior life.

First Principle. Union with God, the source of all purity, can only be attained according to the degree in which the soul is detached from all things created, which are the source of continual corruption and impurity.

Second Principle. This detachment, which, when it has attained perfection, is called mystical death, has two objects; the exterior, that is to say, creatures other than ourselves; and interior, that is to say, our own ideas, satisfactions, and interests–in one word–ourselves. The proof and sign of the death of all that is external is a sort of indifference, or rather of insensibility with regard to exterior goods, pleasures, reputation, relations, friends, etc. This insensibility becomes, by the help of grace, so complete and so profound that one is tempted to imagine it purely natural; and God permits this to prevent the artifices of self-complacency, and to make us in all things, walk in the obscurity of faith, and in a great abandonment.

Third Principle: Interior privation, or death to self, is the most difficult renunciation of all; it is as though we were torn away from ourselves, or were flayed alive. The excruciating pain experienced by self-love, and the cries it utters, are an index to the power of the links which attach us to the creature, and to the necessity of this renunciation; for, the deeper the knife of the surgeon penetrates to the quick, the keener is the pain; and the greater the vitality one has, the stronger is the resistance to this death. The soul, therefore, cannot arrive at this happy death and perfect detachment except by way of privations and interior renunciation. It requires a proved and heroic virtue to acquire a stripping of the heart in the midst of abundance; and renunciation in the midst of pleasures. It is therefore, on the part of God, a favour and mercy to strip us of all sensible gifts and favours; just as it is an effect of His mercy to despoil worldly people of temporal goods to detach their hearts from them. What is to be done then while God is effecting this denuding? This–to allow oneself to be deprived of everything without any resistance, as if one were a statue. But what about interior rebellion? It must be put up with and no attention paid to it. But if one feels that one is not bearing this state of deprivation properly? This additional trial must be endured like that of despoilment, peacefully without voluntary trouble. But what if you are not certain that this deprivation comes from God? As it is now a question of cutting off self-love, which for its own consolation seeks impossible certitude in everything, this is the answer that should be given.

Fourth Principle. 1st, It is certain that without a special revelation God does not let us have any assurance about that which concerns our eternal salvation. Why so? To make us walk in darkness, and thus to render our faith more meritorious on account of the obscurity in which it leaves the reason. 2nd, To keep us always in a state of the deepest humiliation as a counter-poise to the natural and strong inclination to pride. 3rd, To exercise over us His sovereign dominion, and to keep us in the most absolute dependence and the most complete abandonment to His will, not only with regard to our temporal existence, but also as regards our eternal destiny. This is what makes religion apparently most terrible, but it has another aspect that is sweet and consoling: no sooner do we submit, while trembling, to the sovereign dominion of God, and to His incomprehensible judgments, than we experience the greatest consolation. This is because in His mercy He gives us, instead of certainty, a firm hope which is of equal value, without depriving us of the merit of abandonment, so glorious to God, and for us deserving of so great a reward. On what then is this firm hope founded? On the treasures of the infinite mercy and infinite and merits of Jesus Christ; on all the graces that have hitherto been heaped upon us; on the judgment of the directors whose office it is to judge of our state and disposition; on the clear light of faith which cannot deceive, and which we follow in our conduct; at any rate, in what is essential, such as overcoming sin, and practising virtue. We see, in fact, that by the grace of God we habitually practise these virtues, and that if we do so very imperfectly we at least desire to practise them better. But in spite of all this there is always some fear remaining. If it is that fear which is called chaste, peaceful, and free from anxiety, then it is the true fear of God which must always be retained. Where there is no fear, there will assuredly be an illusion of the devil; but should this fear be uneasy and wild, it must then be caused by self-love, and for this we must lament and humble ourselves.

But when one has accomplished this total destitution, what then?

Remain in simplicity and in peace, like Job on his dung-hill, often repeating “Blessed are the poor in spirit, he who has nothing, in possessing God possesses all things.” “Leave all, strip yourself of all,” said the celebrated Gerson, and you will find all in God. God, felt, enjoyed, and giving pleasure, is truly God; but He bestows gifts for which the soul flatters itself; but God in darkness, in privations, in destitution, in unconsciousness, is God alone, and as it were, naked. This, however, is a little hard on self-love, that enemy of God, of our own souls, and of all good; and it is by the force of these blows that it is finally put to death in us. Shall we fear a death that produces within us the life of grace, that divine life? But it is very hard to have to pass one’s life in this way! What does it matter? A little more or less of sweetness during the short moments of life? It is indeed a small matter for one who has before his eyes an eternal kingdom. But I suffer all this destitution so imperfectly, so feebly! Another unfelt grace; God preserve you from suffering with great courage, and a strength that can be realised. What an amount of secret complacency, of idle reflexions about yourself, would result to spoil the work of God! An invisible hand supports you enough to render you victorious, and the keen sense of your weakness makes you humble even in victory. Oh! how advantageous it is to endure feebly and patiently rather than to suffer grandly, powerfully, and courageously. We are humiliated and feel our weakness and littleness in these sort of victories, while in the other kind we feel that we ate behaving grandly, strongly, and courageously, and without perceiving it we become inflated with vanity, presumption, and self-satisfaction. Let us admire the wisdom and the goodness of God, who so well knows how to mix and proportion all things for our profit and advantage; whereas if He arranged matters to our liking all would be spoiled, corrupted and, possibly, lost.

Letter XVI–Explanation of Apparent Despair
To Mother Louise-Franc,oise de Rosen (1735). Explanation of apparent despair.

My dear Sister,

One must never take the extreme expressions made use of by orthodox writers quite rigidly, but enter into the meaning and thought of the authors. One ought, without doubt, to prevent good souls from making use of expressions, coolly and with premeditation, which seem to savour of despair; but it would be unjust to condemn those who, driven almost out of their senses by the violence of their trials, speak and act as if they had no hope of eternal happiness. It does not do to feel scandalised at their language, nor to imagine it actuated by a real despair. It is really rather a feeling of confidence hidden in the depths of the soul which makes them speak thus; just as criminals have been sometimes known to present themselves before their sovereign with a rope round their neck saying that they gave themselves up to all the severity of his justice. Do you imagine that it was despair that made them speak in this way? or was it not rather an excess of confidence in the prince’s goodness? And, as a rule, they obtain their pardon by the excess of their sorrow, repentance, and confidence. Will God then be less good with regard to souls who abandon themselves to Him for time and for eternity? Will He take literally expressions which, in the main, only signify transports of abandonment and confidence? It is for want of a just appreciation of these ideas that you thought it necessary to erase similar expressions in the book “Interior Christian.” For my part when I find such expressions in good authors’ books, far from being scandalised, I feel much edified. I admire the strength of abandonment and discover an excess of confidence, so much the more meritorious as it is less perceptible, in a soul which utters these sentiments in a moment of excitement. These extraordinary states are, in the order of grace, what miracles are in the order of nature. They raise the soul above ordinary laws, but without destroying them. Far from appearing to me contrary to the wisdom of God, they make me admire His power.

Letter XVII – Abandonment in Trials

To Sister Charlotte-Elizabeth Bourcier de Monthureux. On the practice of abandonment in the midst of trials. Nancy, 1734.

My dear Sister,

I must thank you for the charming letter of which you have been so good as to send me a copy. I have read and re-read it frequently with great edification. My experience regarding yourself is something that has hardly ever occurred to me before; it is, that after having read your letter several times and implored the help of God, I cannot remember either what you have said, or what I have written to you in reply. About this, three considerations have presented themselves to me. Firstly, if God wishes to withdraw from a soul all sensible support, He does not permit it to find any, even in its director, unless in a very passing way. Thus He reduces it to find help in this thought alone; my state is a good one, since the guide appointed for me by God finds it so. Secondly, what does God find it necessary for me to say after the letter which I judged before God to suit you perfectly, and to fully suffice? Thirdly, in spite of your darkness, want of feeling, and stupidity, your faith does not lack an immovable, although unfelt, support; since, following the example of Jesus Christ, you have a great desire to abandon yourself to the very One by whom you believe yourself to be abandoned and forsaken. This is an evident sign that in the midst of your supposed destitution and apparent abandonment, you recognise by pure faith interiorly that you have never been, in the main, less forsaken, nor less friendless than now. Does not the spiritual affliction which the fear of not being able to abandon yourself in all things, nor as well as you desire, occasions you, prove the deep and hidden intention which is rooted in your heart, of practising this total abandonment and abnegation that are so meritorious? Does not God behold these desires, so deep and so hidden, and do they not speak for you to God more powerfully than any words you could utter? Yes, certainly, these desires are acts, and better acts than any others, for if you were allowed to practise abandonment in a manner that you could feel, you would find consolation, but would lose, at least somewhat, the salutary feeling of your misery, and would be again exposed to the imperceptible snares of self-love, and to its fatal satisfactions. Remain therefore in peace and wait for our Lord. This peaceful and humble expectation ought to keep you recollected, serve as subject for meditation, and occupy you quietly during your exercises of piety.

Letter XVIII–Fruit of Death to Self
To Mother Marie-Anne-Sophie de Rottenbourg. On the fruit of complete death to self. 1739.

May God be praised, Reverend Mother, for the signal graces He has been pleased to bestow upon you! Henceforth your principal care should be to guard with a vigilant humility these precious gifts.

1st. Your rest in God during prayer comes, without any doubt, from the Holy Spirit. Be careful not to forsake, by any inopportune multiplicity of acts, this simplicity, which is the more fruitful the more closely it resembles the infinite simplicity of God. This way of uniting yourself to Him by a total seif-abnegation is based on the great principle that God, who is Almighty and goodness itself, gives to His children on all occasions and always what He knows will be best for them; and that all perfection consists in a constant adhesion of the heart to His adorable will. By this simple and humble behaviour all our desires are gradually absorbed by the will of God into which it becomes completely transformed. When we have reached this point we shall have attained perfection.

2nd. If God does not permit you to derive any other fruit from your illness than the recognition of the continual loss of grace sustained by a soul which pays but scant attention to its interior movements, I should still cry, “Oh! happy, thrice happy illness!”

3rd. Speak then to your dear daughters without ceasing of the great duties imposed upon them by the divine love, and of the priceless advantages of the spiritual life. Oh! how few there are who understand this, and fewer still who practise it. Nowadays hardly any exercises are understood and valued but those that are exterior, yet God is a pure spirit whom we must adore, as Jesus Christ teaches, in spirit and in truth. Where then, Oh my God, are to be found those who fulfil this precept?

4th. To feel no surprise at one’s miseries is a good beginning for a humility founded on self-knowledge; but to feel no trouble at the keen and habitual recollection of them is a very great grace, and the source of a complete distrust of self, and of a true and perfect confidence in God.

5th. Your devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, and the practices you have adopted with regard to it, are a real spiritual treasure which will serve to enrich yourself, and your dear daughters. The more you draw on this treasure the more there is left for your enrichment, for it is inexhaustible.

6th. What you have learnt from the venerable Fr. de Condran about the spirit of sacrifice is indeed a most excellent practice; but it cannot be continual, nor constant, except in the spiritual life, which alone enables us to attend to, and to be faithful in everything.

7th. The humbling of the heart and soul concerning all faults, known and unknown, appeases God, and draws down fresh light and renewed strength, so that the whole subject resolves itself into knowing how, thoroughly, to humble oneself, that is to say, how to remain before God always in a state of spiritual humiliation, with a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. Then it is that we walk before God in truth and justice, according to the holy Scriptures. In any other state we should be in error and falsehood, and, consequently, far from God who is the sovereign truth.

8th. It is a beautiful gift of heaven to be able to govern in a spirit of meekness and moderation; this will prove more efficacious and salutary both for yourself and others, and make you avoid those faults into which a bitter, indiscreet, and too active zeal would make you fall. When you have to direct the aged, your conduct ought to be full of wisdom and humble charity; and with young Religious of good will, but still rather weak and not sufficiently courageous, you should be doubly gentle and condescending, and act with moderation and prudence.

I end where I began, by blessing God for the graces He has bestowed upon you, and by begging Him to continue them to you. On no account, Reverend Mother, leave off this total self-forgetfulness to which I have so often exhorted you, and which the divine goodness has effected in you. In fact, why should one be so much engrossed in oneself? The true self is God, since He is more completely the life of the soul than the soul is the life of the body. God created us for Himself alone; let us think then of Him, and He will think of us, and provide for us much better than we can for ourselves. When we fall, let us humble ourselves, and rise again, and go on our way in peace, and think always of our true self which is God, in whom we should lose ourselves and be engulfed, in the way in which we shall find ourselves absorbed and engulfed in Heaven during the infinite duration of the great day of eternity. Amen! Amen!
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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