The Last Trials, Agony and Mystical Death, and The Fruit Thereof, by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade

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 Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint Ignatius said to Father 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 Fénélon: “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 today 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 Saint 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-Thérèse de Vioménil.

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-Thérèse de Vioménil. 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 Guilloré 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 Saint 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 Saint 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-Thérèse 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. Lunéville, 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 Guilloré 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 Guilloré 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 Guilloré 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.

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 Saint Francis of Sales, and a few of Saint 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 Saint 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 Fénélon 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 Saint 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. Fénélon 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, Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint 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 Saint 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-Françoise 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 Father 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!