On the Esteem for, and Love of, This Virtue, by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Letter I – Happiness and Peace of Abandonment

To Sister Elizabeth Bourcier de Monthureux.

The happiness and peace of a soul entirely abandoned to God. – Perpignan, 1732.

Madame and very dear Sister. You do well to give yourself up entirely and almost solely to the excellent practice of an absolute abandonment to the will of God. In this lies for you all perfection, this is the straight path leading most quickly and surely to a profound and unchangeable peace; it is also a secure safeguard to preserve this peace in the depths of the soul even in the midst of the most violent storms. Far from doing it harm, these storms will serve infallibly, not only to increase its merits, but also to strengthen more and more this union of the created will, with the divine will, and it is this which renders the peace of the soul unchangeable. Oh, what happiness! what grace! what a certainty as to the life to come, and what unalterable peace does she possess who belongs to God alone, who has no being out of God; who has no other support, no other help, no other hope but God alone.

What a beautiful letter one of your Sisters has written to me on this subject! She says that for a whole month this one thought consoled, sustained and encouraged her so strongly that instead of reluctance to practise this virtue, she felt it a source of peace, and of an inexplicable joy. It seemed to her that God took the place of director, of friend, and will to be all things to her Himself. The more we become accustomed to these thoughts, the more settled will be our peace; and the fixed determination to seek God only, and to unite our will to His, is, in the best sense of the word, that “goodwill” to which peace has been promised.

How can created things trouble a soul which neither desires nor fears them? Let us endeavour to arrive at this state and then our peace will be firmly established. Let us imitate the holy Archbishop of Cambray who said of himself, “I endure all until the worst comes to the worst, and then, finally, I find peace in complete self-renunciation.”

Letter II – A Short Way to Perfection

This abandonment is the shortest way to arrive at perfect love and perfection.

Your letter, my dear Sister, put me in mind of the Gospel, where we see a young man approaching our Lord to ask Him the way to eternal life. Our good Master replied that he should keep the commandments, and when the young man answered that he had kept them faithfully from his youth, our Lord said, “If you would be perfect, go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.” Your request is exactly the same as that of the young man. You want me to show you the shortest and surest way to attain perfection which is the fullness of life eternal.

If I did not know you as I do I should answer that the first thing to do is to keep your rule, because the rule is to every Religious the only sure road to perfection. But I am aware that you have kept it with scrupulous fidelity for a long time: therefore, what you wish to learn at present is by what particular practice a Religious who faithfully fulfils all her duties can arrive at a high degree of sanctity. To this question, my dear Sister, my reply will be exactly similiar to that of our good Master. If you would be perfect, divest yourself of your own views, of all high notions of yourself, of studied elegance, of all reflexion of your own conduct; in fine, of all that you can call your own, and give yourself up without reserve and for ever to the guidance and good pleasure of God. Abandonment, yes, entire, blind, absolute abandonment; this, for souls circumstanced as you are is the height and the whole of perfection, because perfection consists in perfect love, and because for you the practice of abandonment is another word for the practice of pure love.

It is true that love, even the purest, does not exclude in the soul the desire of its own salvation and perfection; but it is equally incontestable that the nearer the soul approaches the perfect purity of divine love the more its thoughts and reflexions are turned away from itself and fixed on the infinite goodness of God. This divine goodness does not compel us to repudiate the happiness it destines for us, but it has every right, doubtless, to be loved for itself alone without any reflexion on our own interests. This love which includes the love of ourselves but is independent of it, is what theologians call pure love, and all agree in recognising that the soul is so much the more perfect according to the measure in which it habitually acts under the influence of this love, and the extent to which it divests itself of all self-seeking, at any rate unless its own interests are subordinated to the interests of God. Therefore total renunciation without reserve or limit has no thought of self-interest – it thinks but of God, of His good pleasure, of His wishes, of His glory; it neither knows, nor desires to know aught else. Far from making its own interests a reason for its love, the soul, truly detached, generously accepts and embraces all that tends to annihilate them; darkness, uncertainty, weakness, humiliations! all these things give it pleasure directly it perceives that it so pleases the Beloved, because the pleasure and satisfaction of its Beloved form all its own pleasure and satisfaction. It neither has a will, nor a desire, nor a life of its own but is completely lost, engulfed, and, as it were, annihilated in the depth of the dark abyss of the will of Him whom it loves.

I could tell you of souls known to me, which, having crossed this terrible pass of total abandonment, and thrown themselves into the deep abyss of the incomprehensible will of God, could not refrain from crying out in a transport of joy and holy confidence, “Oh! will of my God! how infinitely holy, just, and adorable it is, and still more lovable and beneficent. If it be entirely accomplished in me, I shall infallibly find true satisfaction in this life and eternal happiness in the next. Infinite mercy could not permit anything which did not tend to the greater good of His poor creatures. These only can be lost by the perversion of their own will, and by preventing the accomplishment of those designs which are always holy and most merciful. Give me then, oh my God, the grace to destroy by complete detachment this foolish resistance, and henceforth be assured that Your holy will shall be done in me; while I shall be equally assured of salvation and perfection.”

Letter III – Peace in Turmoil

To Sister Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil.

To be applied to herself. Profound peace can be enjoyed in this abandonment even amidst the bustle of business matters. – Perpignan, 1740.

What I have always feared has come to pass. I have no power to refuse a charge that is contrary to all my predilections and for which I do not believe myself to have any aptitude. In vain have I groaned, prayed, implored, and offered to remain all my life in the vicariate of Toulouse: I have been compelled to make the sacrifice – one of the greatest of my whole life. But now I see plainly the hand of Providence. The sacrifice having been made and reiterated a hundred times God has taken from me all my former repugnance, so that I left the mother-house, which you know how much I loved, with a peace and liberty of spirit which astonished even myself. More still! When I arrived at Perpignan I found a large amount of business to attend to, none of which I understood; and many people to see, and to deal with; the Bishop, the steward, the king’s lieutenant, the Parliament, the garrison staff. You know what horror I have always entertained for visits of any sort, and above all for those of grand people. Well! none of these have given me any alarm; in God I hope to find a remedy for everything, and I feel a confidence in divine Providence which enables me to surmount all difficulties. Besides this I enjoy peace and tranquillity in the midst of a thousand cares and anxieties, such as I should have imagined ought naturally to overwhelm me. It is true that what most contributes to produce this great peace is, that God has rendered my soul impervious to fear, and I desire nothing for this short and miserable life. Therefore, when I have done all in my power or that I felt before God that I ought to do, I leave the rest to Him, abandoning everything entirely and with my whole heart to divine Providence, blessing Him beforehand for all things and wishing in all, and above all, that His holy will may be done because I am convinced by faith and by numerous personal experiences that all comes from God, and that He is so powerful and such a good father, that He will cause everything to prosper for the advantage of His dear children. Has He not proved that He loves us more than life itself since He has sacrificed His life for love of us? Therefore, as He has done so much for love of us, are we not convinced that He will not forget us? I entreat you, then, not to worry about me and my affairs. Do the same that I have constrained myself to do. Directly I have taken measures before God and according to His will I leave all the rest to Him, and look to Him for success. I wait for this success with confidence, but also in peace; and whatever takes place I accept, not for the satisfaction of my impatient desires, but keeping pace with divine Providence, who rules and arranges all for our greater good, although generally we do not understand any of His ways. And how can we dare to judge Him, poor ignorant creatures as we are, and blind as the moles that burrow underground.

Let us accept all from the hand of our good Father and He will keep us in peace in the midst of the greatest disasters of this world, which pass away like shadows. In proportion to our abandonment and confidence in God will our lives be holy and tranquil. Also where this abandonment is neglected there can be no virtue, nor any perfect rest.

You were wrong in being surprised that I was not so at the views and plans of N., for, besides that nothing surprises me in this life, you ought to know my ways of always looking at the best side of things, and setting everything in a favourable light as Saint Francis of Sales advises. This fortunate habit protects me from danger, and somehow makes it impossible for me to think badly, to judge harshly, or to speak uncharitably of anyone, whoever he may be.

I strongly advise you to adopt it; it will greatly contribute to the preservation of the peace of your soul, and the purity of your conscience. Believe me, and sacrifice all human feelings, consoling yourself for all by abnegation and confidence in God alone, Who alone can fill the place of all else.

Letter IV – Liberty of Spirit

My dear Sister;

I am touched at your wish to share in my trials, but I am happy in being able to reassure you. It is true that, at first, I felt a keen pain at finding myself loaded with a multitude of business affairs and other cares quite contrary to my attraction for silence and solitude; but notice how divine Providence has managed about it. God has given me the grace not to attach myself to any of these affairs, therefore my spirit is always at liberty. I recommend the success of them to His fatherly care, and this is why nothing distresses me. Things often go perfectly, and then I return thanks to God for it, but sometimes everything goes wrong and I bless Him for that equally and offer it to Him as a sacrifice. Once this sacrifice is made God puts everything right. Already this good Master has, more than once, given me these pleasant surprises. As regards having time to myself, I have more here than elsewhere. Visits are rare now, because I only go where duty obliges me, or necessity calls me. The Fathers themselves knowing my tastes, soon left me alone, and as they are aware that I do not act in this way out of pride or misanthropy, they do not take exception to my conduct, and indeed many are edified by it. Nevertheless I am not quite so dead as you seem to think, but God has given me grace not to care how discontented people are with me for following my own bent. It is He alone whom we ought to have any great interest in pleasing; as long as He is satisfied that is enough for us all, other things are a mere nothing. In a short time we shall appear before this great and sovereign Master, this infinite Being. Alas! of what avail will it be to us then for eternity to have done anything except for Him and inspired by His grace, and His holy Spirit? If one became more familiarised with those simple truths, what repose would not our hearts and souls enjoy during this present life? From how many idle fears, foolish desires and useless anxieties should we not be delivered; not only concerning this life, but also the next. I assure you that since my return to France I begin to look forward more than ever with great peace and tranquillity to the end of this sad life. How could I experience aught but joy at seeing the end of my exile approaching?

Letter V – Recourse to Providence

To the same Sister. – Perpignan, 1741.

I am constantly experiencing here the action of divine Providence, for no sooner do I make a sacrifice of everything to Him than He rectifies and makes it all turn out for the best. When I find myself at the last resource I place all my needs in the hands of that good Providence from whom I hope all things. I have recourse to Him always. I thank Him without ceasing for all, accepting all from His divine hand. Never does He fail those who put their whole trust in His protection. But how do people usually act? They substitute themselves, blind and powerless as they are, for that divine Providence infinitely wise and infinitely good. They build on their own efforts and thus withdrawing themselves from the ruling of divine love they deprive themselves of the helps they would have received had they kept within its shelter. What folly! How can we doubt that God understands our requirements better than we do ourselves, and that His arrangements in our regard are most advantageous to us although we do not comprehend them? We might make use of the small amount of sense we possess to decide that we will allow ourselves to be guided by that sweet Providence even though we cannot fathom the secret activities it employs, nor the particular ends it desires to attain. Should you remark that if it is sufficient for us passively to submit to be led then what about the proverb, “God helps those who help themselves”? I did not say that you were to do nothing – without doubt it is necessary to help ourselves; to wait with folded arms for everything to drop from Heaven is according to natural inclination, but would be an absurd and culpable quietism applied to supernatural graces. Therefore while co-operating with God, and leaning on Him, you must never leave off working yourself. To act in this way is to act with certainty and consequently with calmness. When, in all our actions we look upon ourselves as instruments in the hands of God to work out His hallowed designs, we shall act quietly, without anxiety, without hurry, without uneasiness about the future, without troubling about the past, giving ourselves up to the fatherly providence of God and relying more on Him than on all possible human means. In this way we shall always be at peace, and God will infallibly turn everything to our good, whether temporal or eternal.

Letter VI – Alone with God

To the same Sister. Abandonment ameliorates the wearisomeness of solitude.

My dear Sister,

You are giving yourself unnecessary trouble about me. You have persuaded yourself that I look upon the isolation in which I live as a misfortune, whereas this is far from being the case. Every day I bless God for this happy stroke of His providence. I learn by it to die to all things in order to live to God alone. I was not so shut away at – – . There, many events both within and without kept me up, and made me feel alive; now, there is nothing of that kind. I am in a veritable desert alone with God. Oh! how delightful it is! Great interior desolation is joined to this exterior solitude. However painful to nature such a state may be, I bless God for it because I have no doubt that it is good for me. It is a universal death to all feeling even about spiritual matters, a sort of annihilation through which I must pass in order to rise again with Jesus Christ to a new life, a life all in God, a life stripped of everything, even of consolation, because in that the senses take part. God wishes to leave me destitute of all outward things, and dead to all to live only to Him. May His holy will be done in all things, and for ever! This is the strong pillar to which we must remain firmly fastened, this is the solid immovable foundation of all our perfection. You see, my good Sister, how little I require your compassion, since the subject on which you pity me most is precisely the subject of my joy. I must own, however, that the extreme solitude in which I found myself here so suddenly did not at first appear at all pleasant to me except in the superior part of my soul, but very soon my whole soul participated in it. Once more have I learnt by experience that we cannot do better than to follow step by step the course appointed by divine Providence. That is my great attraction, and more than ever am I resolved to devote myself to it blindly, without reservations and in all things, such as places, employments, seasons, in fine for everything. For a long time I have contented myself with asking God for one single grace, which is that I may have no other desire than to please Him, and no other fear than to offend Him. If He gives me this grace I shall be rich indeed both for time and eternity. I wish for you as for myself, only this. What can one fear who abandons oneself entirely to God? Besides the peace of mind it brings we shall find our perfection therein. If greater merit is gained in sacrifice what can be more meritorious than the entire sacrifice of our own will even in those things that seem to be most reasonable and holy, to the fulfilment of the will of God alone? Let us then have no other employment, no other ambition but that of uniting our will to the most merciful will of God, and let us be well assured that this will be our salvation even when we imagine that all is lost.

Letter VII – A Holy Community

The happiness experienced by a Community of Poor Clares in practising abandonment to God.

My dear Sister,

I have made a discovery here that has given me more satisfaction than anything else could have done. In this town of Albi there is a convent of Poor Clares of the Great Reform, entirely separated from the world, who take no dowry and live on daily alms. The Superior is the most saintly person I have ever encountered in my life. I felt beforehand a great interior drawing to have a share in their holy intercourse, and nearly all of them have told me that they felt the same about me. I believe that God intends to bestow some great graces on me through their holy prayers. They lead a very interior life and practice abandonment to God with a remarkable perfection. When I assured them that on every occasion that presented itself I would try to procure alms for them, they seemed to be quite scandalised and begged me to think only of their spiritual needs and to make them more detached and more holy by my instructions and prayers. You cannot imagine anything more wonderful than their union, candour, and simplicity. Impressed by their great austerities I asked them one day if such a hard life did not affect their health and shorten their lives. They replied that there were hardly ever any invalids amongst them, and that very few died young, most of them living to be over eighty. They added that fasting and mortification contributed to improve their health and to prolong life, which good cheer usually tended to shorten. I have never beheld such gaiety and holy joy anywhere else as among these good nuns. To please them I had to talk continually on spiritual subjects as they could not tolerate gossip and worldly news, but said “of what use is all that to us”? I assure you, you would be edified and very glad on my account of this fortunate discovery, for, although I have often visited this place before, I knew the Community only by name, and looked on the nuns as dead to all; buried and quite out of sight.

What a favour and consolation for me! I might add it is fitting also to praise and magnify God for the wonders He has worked in these souls.

Letter VIII – Our Dependence on God

To Sister Marie-Anne-Thérèse de Rosen (1724).

Concerning motives for abandonment on account of the goodness and greatness of the divine Majesty.

My dear Sister,

Do not ask me for new ways of acquiring the friendship of God, and of making rapid progress in virtue. I know only one way which I have more than once explained to you, and of which my daily experience demonstrates more and more clearly the infallible efficacy. This secret is, abandonment to divine Providence. Bear with me for calling your attention to it once again, and do not grow weary, either, of learning what I do not weary of teaching you. I should like to cry out everywhere, “Abandonment! abandonment!” and again “Abandonment!” unbounded and unreserved; and for two good reasons.

1st. Because the greatness of God and His sovereign dominion over all, require that all creatures should bow before Him, that all should be cast down, and as it were annihilated before His supreme Majesty. There is no comparison between His infinite greatness and our nothingness. It is above all things, comprehends all things, absorbs all things in its immensity. Or, rather, it is all things since all things that have a separate existence from the Divinity have received their being from Him in creation and still continue to receive it in their preservation which is creation renewed unceasingly. Thus the existence we have received from God remains, as it were, in the bosom of the Divinity and never leaves its service, but remains plunged and engulfed therein. God, then, is the author of all being, nothing is, nor lives, nor subsists, nor moves, but by Him, and in Him, He is Who is, by Whom and in Whom all exists, and Who is in all things.

Things, compared with nothingness, seem to have an existence, but, compared with God, they seem nothing; they only possess being and substance by the gift of God; while He alone exists of Himself, and owes nothing to any other than Himself. Therefore as everything belongs to Him, necessarily everything will return to Him that His supreme dominion may be glorified by all His creatures. Those creatures that have not the gift of reason glorify Him according to their state in following with complete exactness and perfect obedience the laws of their nature; but He has a right to expect from His reasonable creatures a glory far more worthy of Him; which results from their voluntary abandonment. And what more just and noble use could any reasonable creature make of its liberty than in rendering to God all it has received from Him, and in offering Him in advance all that may be added to it in the future? Understand me thoroughly; the homage that God expects from us He alone can give us power to render Him in giving us the thought, the desire, and the will. Also if He gives us this grace, and if we profit by it, far from taking the credit to ourselves we ought to thank Him for it as the crown of all His other benefits. The impulsion which prompts us to offer up this last thanksgiving is yet another grace, as well as the thought that projected the act. Thus, each of our moments, each of our actions, in increasing our debt, forms new ties and makes us depend more entirely on the divine goodness. At this thought, our spirit, our heart, our soul remain as though engulfed, lost, annihilated in the profound abyss of this sovereign dominion.

Our merits, regarded in this light, far from inspiring us with pride will pierce us with the idea of our own utter dependence, which, as we see more clearly we shall understand better; and we shall finish by arriving at the complete annihilation of our entire being before God. Thus alone shall we be true, and shall be before God in our proper state – that of nothingness. Thus, also, shall we practise perfect abandonment. To keep oneself always in this interior disposition is what Holy Scripture calls “walking in justice – in truth,” outside this state there is nothing but falsehood and injustice towards God. Injustice because we deprive Him of the gory that belongs to Him; falsehood because we flatter ourselves in appropriating what can never belong to us.

2nd. The second motive to induce us to abandon ourselves without reserve is, that, unless God receives from His creatures the homage due to His infinite Majesty He cannot give free vent to His infinite goodness. All that His creatures bring to Him by a total renunciation He wills to return to them by a gratuitous gift of His mercy; or rather, He repays infinitely more than they have given Him, because in return for the gift of their limited being He bestows on them His infinite riches. Therefore at the bottom of this abyss of renunciation where we should expect to find nothingness we find infinitude. What an exchange of the divine liberality! What ingenuity of divine wisdom! What a contrivance and surprise of the divine goodness!

Letter IX – The Goodness of God

To Sister Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil.

Another fresh motive for abandoning ourselves to God. His fatherly providence.

I do not understand your uneasiness, my dear Sister, nor why you take pleasure in tormenting yourself as you do about the future, when your faith teaches you that the future is in the hands of an infinitely good Father Who loves you more than you love yourself, and who understands what is necessary for you much better than you. Have you forgotten that everything that happens is ordained by divine Providence? And if we recognise this truth how is it that we are not humbly submissive in every event both great and small to all that God wills or permits? Oh! how blind we are when we desire anything other than what God wills! He alone knows the dangers that threaten us in the future, and the helps we shall require. I am strongly persuaded that we should all be lost if God were to grant us all that we asked for, and this is why, says Saint Augustine, God out of compassion for our blindness, does not always hear our prayers, and often gives us the exact contrary to what we asked Him, as being in truth better for us. Truly it seems to me that in this world nearly all of us are like people who in madness, or delirium, ask for exactly what will cause their death, and to whom it is refused out of charity, or in pity. Oh my God! if this truth were but understood, with what blind abandonment would we not submit to all the decrees of Your divine Providence! What peace and tranquillity of heart should we enjoy about all things and in all things, not only as to outward events but also about the interior state of our souls. Even if the painful vicissitudes through which God makes us pass should be in punishment for our unfaithfulness, we ought to say to ourselves, “God wills it by permitting it,” and humbly submit. We must then detest the offence and accept the painful and humiliating consequences, as Saint Francis of Sales so often recommends. Would that this principle, thoroughly grasped, could put an end to the troubles and anxieties that are so useless and so destructive of our peace of mind and spiritual progress. Shall I never be able even with the help of grace to introduce into your soul this great principle of faith, so sweet, so consoling, so tranquillising? “Oh my God!” we ought to repeat, “may Your will be accomplished in me and never my own. May Yours be accomplished because it is infinitely just and also infinitely advantageous to me. I acknowledge that You can will nothing that is not for the greatest benefit to Your creatures as long as they are submissive to Your commands. May my wishes never be granted if they do not agree perfectly with Yours, because in that case they would be disastrous to me. And if ever, my God, it happens that either through ignorance or passion I should persist in desiring things contrary to Your will, may I always be refused or punished, as the effect, not of Your justice, but of Your compassion and great mercy.”

“Whatever happens,” said Saint Francis of Sales, “I shall always side with divine Providence, even if human wisdom tears her hair out with spite.” If you were more enlightened you would judge very differently from the ordinary run of human beings; then, too, what a source of peace and strength this way of looking at things would prove to you. How happy are saints! and how peacefully they live! and how blind and stupid we are in not accustoming ourselves to think and act as they do, but to prefer living shut up in thick darkness which makes us wretched as well as blind and guilty. Let us then make it our study, aim, and purpose to conform ourselves in all things to the holy will of God, in spite of interior rebellion. Even about this rebellion we must acquiesce in the will of God, for it compels us to remain always before Him in a state of sacrifice as to all things; in an interior silence of respect, adoration, self-effacement, submission, love, and an entire abandonment full of confidence to His divine will.

Letter X – Continued Troubles

To the same Sister.

My dear Sister,

I am sorry that your troubles continue, but I should be much more sorry if you refused to profit by them, at least in the way of making a virtue of necessity. Remember our great principles:

1st. That there is nothing so small, or so apparently indifferent which God does not ordain or permit, even to the fall of a leaf.

2nd. That God is sufficiently wise, and good and powerful and merciful to turn even the most, apparently, disastrous events to the advantage and profit of those who humbly adore and accept His will in all that He permits. Is there anything more consoling in religion than these two principles? When we know too that our natural dislikes and rebellions, far from preventing the merit of submission, do but increase it as long as this submission is sincere in the higher part of the soul; when we know further that these fits of impatience and vexation which are only half voluntary, are the effect of frailty, and do not destroy our submission, but only slightly diminish its merit.

These imperfections are often useful to us by rendering us more humble, and preventing us from losing all our merit through a vain self-complacency. Do you recollect this wise saying of Fénélon? “It is a great grace of God to be willing to suffer, not in a grand and heroic way, but quite humbly, and in small things because in this way we gain patience and become little and humble at the same time.”

As for the grievous trials of which you speak, add them to your cross as an extra weight that divine Providence allows you to carry, and instead of one “Fiat,” say two, then remain in peace in the superior part of your soul whatever storms and tempests rage in the inferior part. The latter resembles the base of a high mountain where bad weather is usually encountered, however fine and clear the sky is at the summit. Try then to keep yourself always on the summit in those serene heights above the thunderstorms and every disaster.

It seems to me that your thoughts dwell too much on creatures. As for me, thank God I see only Him in all things. Everything helps me to Him. Since it is He that has placed us where we are, dependent on those who afflict us, it is, therefore, on Him alone that we must depend. It is He alone, I am certain, who inspires or allows the actions of men. I will accept nothing that does not come to me from Him, will owe no obligation to any one but Him, will thank no one but Him alone. If you call to mind how little men contribute to the existing state of things you will see that it is divine Providence who manages everything in a manner singularly adapted for the welfare of those who submit to Him, and who disposes everything for their best advantage. God can produce occurrences, and arrange necessary circumstances as seems good to Him, may He be blessed for all, in all, and for ever.

I am aware that my direction is considered rather too simple, but what does that matter? This holy simplicity hated by the world is, to me, so delightful that I never dream of correcting it. Everyone to his taste. I respect those who are wise and prudent, but content myself with remaining one of those poor, simple and little people of whom Jesus Christ speaks, and after His example Saint Francis of Sales. Let us be sure that God arranges all for the best. Our fears, our activities, our urgencies make us imagine inconveniences where in reality they do not exist. Let us follow step by step the ways of divine Providence, and when we realize what is required of us let us desire that and nothing else. God knows much better than we do ourselves what is most suitable for us, His poor creatures. Our misfortunes and sufferings often result from the accomplishment of our own desires. Let us leave all to God and then all will go well. Abandon to Him everything in general: that is the best way, indeed the only way of providing infallibly and surely for all our real interests. I say “real” because there are false interests that lead to our ruin. The abandonment to divine Providence which I practise and counsel others to adopt is not so heroic nor so difficult as you seem to imagine. It is the centre of a solid peace, and in it I find an unchangeable repose, proof against the most trying events. Oh! how well repaid we are for the small and miserable sacrifices we make for God! And then, once made, there are no more to make, because we no longer have any other desires. We cannot entertain even a wish for ourselves apart from the will of our sovereign Master, nor without His permission. What a happy state both for this life and the next!

Letter XI – Good Wishes

To the Sisters of the Visitation at Nancy (1732).

Mutual good wishes between souls who seek nothing but God alone.

My very dear Sisters,

Your good wishes for me are quite heavenly; they are evidently dictated by the heart, but what a heart! One that is entirely spiritual and interior, which sets no value on anything but what is divine, and has no interests but those for eternity.

Profiting by such an example I return you a thousand good wishes of the same sort, and in the same spirit as yours, and particularly that God will be pleased to preserve and increase more and more; 1st. The love of solitude and silence which forms the spirit of recollection so necessary for the interior life; 2nd. The spirit of peace and charity, of union, and of detachment and interior abnegation which preserves that sweet and tranquil peace in the soul, which is the true happiness of this present life and the foundation of the interior life; 3rd. An attraction for the practice of the presence of God, and for heartfelt prayer, for these are the mainsprings of the spiritual life; 4th. The sincere will to be all for God which incessantly renews the spirit of fervour; 5th. An entire and perfect union of our wills with the will of God, which will make us contented with our spiritual poverty because God wills it. Thus we sacrifice our self-love however deep-rooted and hidden it may be.

These rules are indispensably necessary for certain souls who, although indifferent to all other things, yet afflict themselves about their interior miseries. In the practice of them they will find peace. In this way all that is wanting to us will be supplied, all our miseries will be remedied, and our poverty enriched. For there can be no greater treasure in our souls than conformity to the will of God, submitting our own wills to His, even if it should be at the expense of those interests which are most dear to us and which we regard as most desirable. Since we ought to desire virtues only to please God, will it not be to wish to have them all in wishing to conform to the divine good pleasure, and with so generous and so perfect a conformity extending to all things with the sole exception of an offence against God?

I congratulate you with all my heart on the joy you feel in celebrating the anniversary of the foundation of your house, but most of all on the fact that your house was founded in the poverty of the Crib and in confidence in divine Providence. The virtues of your saintly first Sisters were built on this rich foundation and have helped to construct the edifice. Your virtues will, I hope, maintain it and bring it to perfection for the honour and glory of its divine Master who is its sole proprietor.