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II.—Counsel for Outward Behaviour.

Counsel for the outward behaviour of one called to the life of abandonment. Addressed to Sister Charlotte Elizabeth Bourcier de Monthureux.


When you wake raise your soul to God, realising His divine presence; adore the Blessed Trinity, imitating the great St. Francis Xavier, “I adore You, God the Father, who created me, I adore You, God the Son, who redeemed me, I adore You, God the Holy Ghost who have sanctified me, and continue to carry on the work of my sanctification. I consecrate this day entirely to Your love and to Your greater glory. I know not what this day will bring me either pleasant or troublesome, whether I shall be happy or sorrowful, shall enjoy consolation or undergo pain and grief, it shall be as You please; I give myself into Your hands and submit myself to whatever You will.”

Fix your attention on what strikes you at the beginning of the day and on that with which grace inspires you more particularly in the interior of your soul, keeping it before you quietly. Begin your prayer with it, then give yourself up completely to the Spirit of God and remain thus for as long as He pleases. Imitate the good woman who exclaimed, “My God, if You will not give me bread, at any rate give me patience.”

Those who practise ordinary prayer in which the intellect is exercised should remember the subject of meditation prepared overnight, because if the mind is allowed to wander to all sorts of subjects, then the whole day will be out of order as a clock not set correctly at first will go wrong all day.

For the toilet, do all that is necessary, then think no more about it.

96

The way to hear holy Mass worthily is to represent to yourself the mystery of the Cross. Ascend Mount Calvary in spirit, and contemplate what takes place there as though you actually saw it. Admire first the justice of God who punishes His only Son for the sins of men of which He took on Himself the semblance and for which He had offered Himself as the atonement. Secondly, the greatness of God to whom such a reparation was due. Thirdly, the value of our souls reclaimed at such a price; fourthly the eternal happiness that Jesus Christ has merited for us and the eternal torments from which He has delivered us. Reflexions on these divine subjects should fill our souls with faith, hope, humility, compunction, gratitude and love. Those who cannot keep their minds steadfastly fixed on such high subjects should address themselves to the Blessed Virgin, who was present at this mystery, or to St. John, St. Mary Magdalen and the good Thief, and finally to our Lord Himself in token of their piety, and to give Him the honour due to Him on account of the excess of His immense and incomprehensible charity and mercy.

I have only two things to say on the subject of prayer. Make it with absolute compliance with the will of God, no matter whether it be successful, or you are troubled with dryness, distractions, or other obstacles. If it is easy and full of consolations, return thanks to God without dwelling on the pleasure it has caused you; if it has not succeeded submit to God, humbling yourself and go away contented and in peace even if it should have failed through your own fault; redoubling your confidence and resignation to His holy will. Persevere in this way and sooner or later God will give you grace to pray properly; but whatever trials you may have to endure never allow yourself to be discouraged. As to the Office, there are three ways of saying it, equally easy and solid. The first is to keep yourself in the presence of God and to say the Office with great recollection in union with Him, occasionally raising your mind and heart to Him. Those who can say it thus need not trouble to alter their method. The second way is to attend to the words in union with the mind of the Church, praying as she prays, sighing when she sighs, and deriving all the instruction from it; praising, adoring, thanking, according to the different meanings of the verses we are pronouncing. The third way is to reflect humbly that you are actually united to holy souls in praising God and in desiring to share their holy dispositions. You should prostrate yourself in spirit at their feet, believing that they are much more full of piety and fervour than yourself. These feelings are very pleasing to His divine Majesty, and we cannot be too deeply impressed with them. With regard to confession, be firmly convinced 97that you need not trouble about it, either on account of your miseries or of your sins. St. Francis of Sales says that after sorrow for sin there should be peace. This then is what you ought to aim at, and above all you should be full of great confidence in the infinite goodness of God, remembering that His mercy is greater than any of His works, that He glories in forgiving us, but cannot prove His generosity if we are wanting in confidence. He loves simplicity, candour, and uprightness, go to Him therefore with perfect confidence, in spite of all your weakness, misery and unfaithfulness. That will win His heart, and He will forgive everything to those who trust in His goodness and love.

Do not spend more than half-an-hour over your preparation. More than that would be waste of time, and would give the devil an opportunity to create trouble in your soul. This must be avoided more than anything, for peace of mind is a tree of life, the true root of the interior spirit, and the best preparation for the prayer of recollection and interior silence. The first quarter of an hour at the most can be occupied with the remembrance of your faults, all those that you forget after this examen will be as if non-existent, and you will be forgiven. The last quarter of an hour should be employed in exciting yourself to contrition, begging this grace from God, and endeavouring to obtain it quietly and without any effort of the mind, by the thought of the goodness of God and the great mercy He has shown you in withdrawing you from the world, where you would have been lost, and calling you to the religious life in which you can so easily save your soul; or, by preserving you from dying in a state of sin; or, by reclaiming you from a tepid, feeble and imperfect life, in which you ran the risk of being lost, even in the religious state.

After reflecting for some moments in this way you should think that contrition being purely spiritual is, by nature, not sensibly felt, and that sensible sorrow is so misleading that certain sinners, in spite of every sign, are refused absolution, because it is possible that a habit of sin—even of mortal sin to which the will consents, may subsist with it. The surest sign of true sorrow for which the greatest sinner will receive absolution is, to resolve by the grace of God never to commit these great sins again. Then say from the bottom of your heart: “Lord! I hope You have given me the necessary contrition. I hereby ask Your pardon for all the sins I have committed; I detest them with all my heart because of the hatred You bear them. You see, my God, that I am truly sorry, not only for having committed them, but also because I am unable to feel all the sorrow I wish to have. You conceal this sorrow from me even in giving it, so that I may 98never be certain of having been pardoned, nor of being in a state of grace. It pleases You to keep me in this humble dependence in order to give occasion for faith and holy hope, the way by which You would conduct me. I am compelled to be satisfied with the remembrance of Your great mercy, and in it I will lose myself, and to it I will blindly abandon myself, fully and without reserve; and I will do so, Oh my God! with all my heart. Yes, Lord, I will rest willingly on You alone, accepting this state of uncertainty that is so terrible and in which all are kept, even the greatest saints and the souls most dear to You.”

As regards the declaration of your sins; tell those that you recollect simply and in as few words as possible, leaving the rest to the unbounded mercy of God without troubling about what you do not remember, or do not know. You can conclude by mentioning some greater sin of your past life. After that you may feel morally certain that you have received the grace of the Sacrament. The following is an easy way of practising frequent confession. To prevent more certainly all anxiety about the past and as a help for the future here is a counsel in a few words. Leave the past to the infinite mercy of God—the future to His sweet providence, and the present give up entirely to the love of God by our fidelity with the assistance of His grace, which will never fail you, except by your own fault.

While receiving absolution let this thought preoccupy you and, throwing yourself in spirit at the foot of the Cross, kiss the wounds in our Lord’s sacred feet saying “Oh I my God! I ask but for one drop of that most precious and adorable Blood that You shed for my salvation. In Your goodness let it fall upon my sinful soul to cleanse it more and more from all its stains, and above all, from the grievous sins of my past life for which I very humbly ask pardon. I have a sure hope of obtaining it from that very great mercy You have so often shown to this miserable and vile creature.” This done, I forbid you in the name of God, to think, voluntarily, any more either of the confession you have just made, of your sins, or of contrition in order to find out if you have been forgiven and are restored to grace.

This is a mystery known only to God, and one which He keeps to Himself; and the devil makes use of it to disturb and trouble souls in order to make them waste time, and to deprive them of that sweet interior peace, which is the best disposition for communion, and without which they can derive little fruit from that heavenly feast. In such a state of anxiety and distress it is difficult to have any desire for this divine food; it is even distasteful to us through our own fault, because, instead of rejecting and despising these foolish anxieties into which the 99evil one has thrown our souls we permit ourselves to be harassed and afflicted by them. Let them fall as a stone falls into the sea.

For Holy Communion these two points will suffice: before Communion let us act like Martha, and after like Mary,—that is to say we should prepare ourselves by fervent acts of virtue and of the good works adapted to our state, without uneasiness and without over-eagerness, and then reflect on Jesus Christ, on His infinite merits and love and remain united to Him in an ineffable peace, transcending all feeling.

Nature seeks self in everything, even in exercises of piety and virtue as well as in those actions prescribed by the necessities of this life. It was on this account that the saints sighed continually and were ceaselessly on their guard, looking upon themselves as their own greatest enemies. We should be particularly careful as regards those things for which we have an attachment and be ready to sacrifice anything that gives us pleasure to comply with the lawful demands of our neighbour, especially where the matter is one of obedience. The will of God should always prevail over our own desires however holy they seem to us.

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