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SECTION I.—Unwise Interference.
The first trial: the obloquy and unreasonable exactions of persons with a reputation for wisdom and piety.
There is no way more secure than that of abandonment, and none more easy, sweet, clear, and less subject to illusion and error. In it God is loved and all Christian duties fulfilled; the Sacraments are frequented, and all the exterior acts of religion which are binding to all are performed. Superiors are obeyed, and the duties of the state of life are discharged; temptations of the flesh, the world, and the devil are continually resisted; for none are more on guard, or more vigilant in acquitting themselves of all their obligations, than those who follow this way.
If this is the case, why is it that they should be subject to so many contradictions? The most usual of these is, that when they, like other Christians, have accomplished all that the most strict theologian could exact, they are expected also to be bound to inconvenient practices to which the Church by no means obliges them; and if they do not comply they are charged with labouring under illusion. But I ask, can a Christian who confines himself to the observance of God’s commandments, and those of the Church, and who, besides, without practising meditation, contemplation, or spiritual reading, and without being attached to any particular form of devotion, yet attends to worldly business, and to other affairs of private life—can he be wrong? One cannot presume to accuse, or even to suspect him of error. One must admit this to oneself, and while leaving the Christian of whom I am speaking in peace, it is but justice not to trouble a soul that not only fulfils the precepts at least as well as one does oneself, but whom in addition, practises exterior acts of piety that are even unknown to others, or, if known, are treated with indifference. Prejudice goes so far as to affirm that this soul deceives itself, and deludes itself because, after having submitted to all that the Church prescribes, it holds itself free to be in the condition to give itself without hindrance to the interior operations of God, and to attend to the impressions of His grace at times when no other duty intervenes to expressly compel them. In a word they are condemned because they employ that time 63which others give to amusements and temporal affairs, in loving God. Is not this a crying injustice? This cannot be too strongly insisted upon. If anyone keeps the ordinary course, goes to confession once a year, nothing is said about it, he is left in peace with an occasional injunction, not pressed with too much importunity, nor making it an obligation, to do a little more. If he should change his ways and try to improve them, then he is overwhelmed with counsels for his conduct, and with different methods; and if he does not follow these pious rules diligently, then he is done for, he is a subject of suspicion, and nothing is too bad to predict of him.
Are they not aware that these practices, however good and holy they may be, are, after all, only a way leading to divine union? Is it necessary, then, to be always on the road when one has already arrived at the goal.
Nevertheless, it is this that is exacted of a soul which is supposed to be labouring under illusion. This soul has made its way, like others, at the beginning; like them it knew what to do, and did it faithfully; it would be vain now, to attempt to keep it bound to the same practices. Since God, moved by the efforts it has made to advance with these helps, has taken it on Himself to lead it to this happy union, from the time it arrived at the state of abandonment, and by love possessed God; in fine, from the time that the God of all goodness, relieving it of all its trouble and industry, made Himself the principle of its operations, these first methods lost all their value and were but the road it had traversed. To insist upon these methods being resumed and constantly followed, would be to make the soul forsake the end at which it had arrived to re-enter the way which led to it. But, if this soul has any experience, their time and trouble will be thrown away. In vain will they pursue it with noisy clamours; turning a deaf ear it will remain untroubled and unmoved in that intimate peace in which it so advantageously exercises its love. This is the centre in which it reposes, or, if you prefer it, it is the straight line traced by the hand of God. It will continue to walk therein, for all its duties are plainly marked out in it and by following this line it fulfils them without confusion or haste as they present themselves. For all else it holds itself in perfect liberty, always ready to obey every movement of grace directly it perceives it, and to abandon itself to the care of Providence. God makes known to this soul that He intends to be its Master, and to direct it by His grace; and makes it understand that it cannot, without attacking the sovereign rights of its Creator, allow its own liberty to be fettered. It feels that, if it tied itself down, to the rules of those who live by their own efforts and industry, instead of 64acting according to the attraction of grace, it would be deprived of many things necessary in order to be able to fulfil future duties. But, as no one knows this, it is judged and condemned for its simplicity, and, though it does not find fault with others but approves of every state, and well knows how to discern every degree of progress, it is despised by pretended wiseacres who cannot appreciate this sweet and hearty submission to divine Providence.
Worldly wisdom cannot understand the perpetual wanderings of the Apostles, who did not settle anywhere. Ordinary spirituality also cannot endure that souls should depend for their action on divine Providence. There are but few in this state who approve of them, but God, who instructs men by means of their fellow creatures, never fails to make such souls encounter those who abandon themselves to Him with simplicity and fidelity. Besides, these latter require less direction than others in consequence of having attained to this state with the help of very good directors. If they find that they are occasionally left to themselves, it is because divine Providence removes by death, or banishes by some event, the guides who have led them in this way. Even then, they are always willing to be guided, and only wait in peace the moment arranged by Providence. During the time of privation also, they meet from time to time persons in whom they feel they can repose a confidence inspired by God, although they know nothing about them. This is a sign that He makes use of them to communicate certain lights, even if these are only temporary. These souls ask advice, therefore, and when it is given they follow it with the greatest docility. In default of such assistance however, they have recourse to the maxims supplied to them by their first directors. Thus they are always very well directed, either by the old principles formerly received, or by the advice of those directors they encounter, and they make use of all until God sends them persons in whom they can confide, and who will show them His Will.
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