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Letter IX.—Danger of Delusion Explained.

To Sister Marie-Anne-Thérèse de Rosen (1731), on the same subject. The danger of delusion in the prayer of recollection.


My dear Sister,

Always listen to that great interior Director, who alone can give light and strength to us in our necessities. Do not use books when He speaks interiorly. Let your main point be a holy repose in the divine presence; never leave it, do not break the sacred silence unless God gives you an attraction for some holy and useful colloquy, after which re-enter your fort and sanctuary which is no other than recollection and interior silence in the presence and the sight of your Beloved. In Him alone, and in this simple and sweet repose in God will you find all light, courage, strength, sweetness, patience, humility, resignation, peace and rest for your soul. I wish you all this to the highest perfection. Do not be afraid of darkness and dryness in prayer; when one knows how to unite one’s will to the holy will of God, accepting all that He wills, one is safe and has everything. This is, according to St. Teresa, the most perfect prayer and the most perfect love. You did very wisely in explaining to the Rev. Fr. ——— the subject about which you write to me. I have so much respect for his views that I should consider myself mistaken, if mine were opposed to his. I have always thought, with him, that no one ought to meddle with the prayer of recollection unless he be called to it, and also that this grace cannot be merited by good works, nor can anyone succeed in it by any effort of his own. I have only added, with Fr. Surin and other authors, that one can, indirectly and beforehand, dispose oneself to receive this great gift of heaven by removing obstacles, first by a great purity of conscience, secondly by purity of heart, thirdly of spirit, and fourthly of intention which will carry a 135soul very far on the road to it; and that having so far disposed oneself, one ought by short and frequent pauses, as if waiting to listen, give free course to the interior spirit.

Will you read this to the Rev. Fr., or send him this little paper if you are not able soon to see him to speak to? Tell him when you see him, I beg of you, that I consider him bound in conscience to disabuse in my name all those persons whom he considers to have been misled, and that I depend upon him in this matter as I do not know whom it concerns.

But in order to proceed with all due discretion and the prudence necessary, I beg him first to be good enough to consider these two points.

1st, That he ought to certify himself of the fact by gaining some knowledge of the interior state of the persons in question, because only to hear about it at second hand does not throw much light on a secret and altogether interior subject. But it may be said that these persons are known to be very imperfect and have been seen to commit many faults at which others have taken scandal. My reply to this is the second point. Experience in direction teaches us that beneath very imperfect appearances God often hides great interior virtues known only to Himself. Therefore I do not believe that these persons can be accused of being misled and mistaken in their manner of prayer, especially as it often happens that their faults and imperfections are grossly exaggerated by a want of charity or by still worse motives. I remember now that St. Teresa said, speaking of herself that this method of prayer was a subject of suspicion in her; and that what made it seem a mistake and delusion of the devil was that the most enlightened persons whom she consulted could not reconcile in their minds such a gift of prayer with her conduct at that time; that is to say, with her eagerness to go to the parlour, to know, to see, and to be seen, to chatter with relations and worldly acquaintance, thus losing a great deal of time and neglecting her soul; for she herself tells us that this was, then, her state: “And this,” she adds, “is why all who knew me considered my prayer to be nothing but delusion.” With regard to this I have come across directors who have had experience about it, and they said that God sometimes gives this prayer. 1st, To great sinners at the beginning of their conversion, in order that this work of their conversion should be more speedily and completely effected.

2nd, To very imperfect souls to enable them to correct their failings more easily and promptly. But what is added, and what I believe to be very true and correct is, that it is extremely rare to find this gift retained at the same time as faults, and considerable imperfections, especially if these be habitual, 136frequent, and recognised, without any efforts being made to correct them.

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