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V.—Temptations and Trials.
On temptations and interior trials. Addressed to Sister Anne Marie-Thérèse de Rosen, confidante of the inmost thoughts of Madame de Lesen, through whom the latter communicated with Fr. de Caussade.
1st Principle. In the eyes of God violent temptations are great graces for those souls which by them suffer an interior martyrdom; they are the great battles in which great victories have made great saints.
2nd Principle. The keen pain and cruel torment endured by a soul attacked by temptations is a sure sign that it has not consented, at any rate, not with that full entire consent, that advertence and deliberation which constitute a mortal sin.
3rd Principle. During the darkness of these violent temptations the soul, fatigued and troubled as it must needs be, will commit many minor faults through weakness or negligence, surprise or thoughtlessness; but I maintain that in spite of these faults it merits more and is more pleasing to God and is truly better fitted for the reception of the Sacraments than ordinary persons, who, favoured with sensible devotion, have hardly any struggles to endure, nor any violence to do to themselves. The virtues of the former are much more solid having passed, and still passing through such severe trials.
4th Principle. Whatever sins people who are tempted may have committed in the past, if for some years they have been firm and have given no voluntary consent, they will make the more progress in the ways of God the more humble they are rendered by these temptations, because humility is the foundation of all good.
5th Principle. Most people, not much advanced in the ways of God and of the interior life, set no value on any operations but those that are sweet and evident to the senses. It is certain, however, that those operations that are most humiliating, afflicting, and crucifying, are most calculated to purify the soul and to unite it intimately with God. Also, all masters in the spiritual life are agreed in recognising that more progress is made in patient endurance than in action.103
6th Principle. As God converts, proves, and sanctifies seculars by temporal afflictions and adversities, so He usually converts, proves, purifies and sanctifies religious by spiritual trials and interior sufferings a thousand times more grievous; such as dryness, weariness, loathing, sinkings of the heart, spiritual despondency, humiliating temptations, violent and continual, excessive fears of being in mortal sin, terrors about His judgments and fear of reprobation. If, as spiritual books, preachers, directors of souls and good Christians aver, incessant afflictions are necessary for people in the world, and that without them many would be lost; why not say the same on interior crosses without which a multitude of Religious would never arrive at the perfection of their state? Experience shows daily that the most ordinary way by which God conducts the religious whom He most loves is that of greater interior trials; whereas, in regard to seculars who are dear to God, it is by the way of temporal adversity. Therefore we who preach patience, submission and a loving resignation in their troubles to seculars, ought in our own trials to apply the same rule to ourselves that we know so well how to give others. Do not interior crosses come also from God? Are they less mortifying, and, therefore, less salutary? Does God demand less submission from us, and is our patience less pleasing to Him?
7th Principle. By the effect of His merciful wisdom, and to keep His elect in a state of dependence on His grace, in a more complete abandonment to His mercy, and in a state of greater humiliation, God hides from them nearly all the interior operation of His divine Spirit, the holy dispositions He accords them, the good desires He inspires, and the infused virtues with which He has enriched them. And for this purpose what are the means He employs? Let us pause to admire His wisdom and goodness. He makes use of the continuance and violence of temptations, of the trouble they cause in the soul, and the fear of having yielded to them. He hides the great virtues these souls acquire and the great victories they gain by allowing them to suffer slight defeats; and the ardent desire they have to make worthy communions by the fear of having made bad ones, their fervent love of God by their fear of being wanting in love for Him. Whereas they feel the greatest horror at the smallest faults He allows them to be saddened by the continual imperfections they imagine themselves to commit. He permits them to think all their good works badly done, and that they always give way to the first stirrings of all their passions, while, all the time they are gaining the victory.
Nevertheless, as God, in keeping them in this state of humiliation and abandonment, does not wish to deprive them of all 104consolation and confidence during their trials, He makes known their state to enlightened directors, and if these souls are simple and obedient they may be assured of never being deceived. From the foregoing principles we can easily derive light in the doubts which occasionally assail us as regards communion and the fulfilment of other duties.
First Rule. The fear of communicating should never deter us, especially if our confessor enjoins it. God does not usually allow him to be deceived. Even if that should happen the penitent cannot be deceived in submitting, nor commit sacrilege, because blind obedience given in good faith to a director can never lead us astray in the sight of God. Should these sufferings and temptations become redoubled after communion, instead of preventing the fruit of it, if endured peacefully and with humble resignation united to an abhorrence of evil, it does but increase it. This abhorrence is made sufficiently apparent by the pain and martyrdom these temptations cause, which those who really give way never experience. Books that treat of the effects of communion addressed to the generality of the faithful only speak of the ordinary effects, but there are many particular cases where quite contrary effects are experienced. Then communion produces a much more precious fruit, for, while the vehemence of the temptation increases with a lively sense of weakness, it serves to augment our merit and to develop in our hearts feelings of the most profound humility.
Second Rule. Violent efforts to prepare for Communion are only pleasing to God in principle, but the result is disappointing because the soul becomes troubled and harassed. The intensity of these efforts must be moderated; everything that has to do with God, or the things of God should be done sweetly, tranquilly, and without effort. The best preparation for Holy Communion in this sad state is to endure patiently and with resignation this interior martyrdom. Preserve at any cost the peace in which God dwells and in which He is pleased to work. It is not grace but self-love that makes you keep away from Communion in order to escape the tortures and agonies that the soul endures by God’s permission, to destroy in it this same miserable self-love. Go then without fear and even with a kind of joy to bear these interior operations that are so purifying and so sanctifying. The most wonderful good effects will be experienced eventually; effects that God hides from the soul at the time for its good. Therefore bear yourself as a criminal in His presence, and as a victim of His merciful Justice. This is the best attitude for a soul in this state, adopting any other it would never find peace. This apparent destitution and abandonment has but one aim, which is to increase self-distrust and to compel 105the soul to cast itself with greater confidence into the arms of God. It sees no other help and even that it cannot see. Faith and faith alone must suffice without any other support. The sensitive part of the soul can do nothing to affect the will, and God expects nothing from it but the free choice of the will which has complete mastery over its acts. The best disavowal of the temptation is the extreme horror of its attacks. No good can be attained by making a multitude of acts, these would only serve to trouble and fatigue the soul. It had best keep to the following act which comprises all that is required of it. “Lord, You are all-powerful and goodness itself, it is for You to defend me and to preserve me from all evil, that is beyond my power. I accept this suffering for love of You, only keep me from all sin.” Afterwards let it remain in peace in the midst of the storm. It will find itself strengthened without knowing how by the hidden hand of God.
Third Rule. The fact of being incapable of sustained thought, or of producing acts in prayer need not sadden the soul; for the best part of prayer and the essential part is the wish to make it well. The intention is everything in God’s sight either for good or evil; now this desire it has to the extreme of anxiety—therefore it is only too keen, and has to be moderated. The soul must be kept peaceful during prayer and end prayer in peace. Instead of making so many resolutions let it be content to say: “My God make me perform such and such a good action, avoid such and such a bad one, because I am unable of myself to do anything. I feel my weakness too much, and my past experience teaches me that without You I can do nothing, and that if You do not act in me by the power of Your grace nothing will be effected.” For directing the intention the soul abandoned to God need not make many acts, neither is it obliged to express them in words. The best thing for it is to be content to feel and to know that it is acting for God in the simplicity of its heart. This is making good interior acts; they are made simply by the impulsion of the heart without any outward expression, almost without thinking; just as worldly people without avowing it have but one end in everything—which is the satisfaction of their sensuality, their avarice, or their pride; God seeing their intention which is hidden in their own hearts will punish them for it. The chief principle of the spiritual life is to do everything, interior as well as exterior, peacefully, gently, sweetly, as St. Francis of Sales so often recommends. The moment we desire to form an act, it is already formed and held as accomplished, because God sees all our desires, even the first movement of the heart. Our desires, says Bossuet, are, with regard to God, what the voice is with regard to men, and a cry 106from the depths of the heart, even unuttered, is of the same value as a cry sent up to Heaven. For the rest, all the acts made in a state of the greatest aridity are usually better and more meritorious than those that are accompanied by sensible devotion. Forebodings about the future should not be indulged in except with due submission and resignation to the holy will of God, and this practice ought to have for aim, not so much the making of formal acts as the keeping of our hearts in a certain habitual state of readiness by which it seems to say to God every moment and in every circumstance, “Fiat, fiat! Yes, I desire and accept all, only preserve me from all sin. Yes, my heavenly Father, always, yes.” This “Yes,” uttered with all the heart contains the greatest acts, and expresses the greatest sacrifices.
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