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Letter XXI.—Different Attractions of Grace.

To Mother Thérèse Françoise de Rosen. On the different attractions of grace.


My dear Sister,

The tendencies, on the subject of which you consult me, are not rare among souls who, like you, have been called by God to unite themselves with Him by a loving abandonment. Sometimes, you say, you feel yourself drawn to adore the divine Majesty with humility mixed with love, and by very distinct acts which arise of their own accord apparently, and are very delightful, filling the soul with a great contentment. At other times you are inclined to remain in complete repose with a clear apprehension of the presence of God, and without the power of forming distinct acts, unless with violent efforts, even during holy Mass, and then you feel obliged to take a book, and to do violence to yourself to escape from this apparent inaction which occasions your uneasiness: this is as near as possible to the two states, the principal traits of which you have depicted in your letter, and on the subject of which you desire my counsel. This is what I think about it. In the first place it is certain that each of these two states is a gift of God, but the second seems to be the best; first because it is more simple, more profound, more spiritual, and further removed from the senses, consequently more worthy of God Who is a pure spirit, and Whom we must worship in spirit and in truth; secondly, because it is an exercise of pure faith, which is less satisfying to the soul, less reassuring, and consequently, in which there is more of sacrifice and of perfect abandonment to God. Thirdly, because in this state it is the Holy Spirit that acts with the approval and consent of the soul, while in the first state, it is the soul that acts with the grace of God and this is more like ordinary effective prayer. Well! you must understand that those operations in which God has the greatest share, and the creature the least must be the most perfect. From this it follows that in this second state there is no serious danger of wasting time nor consequently any reason to fear that you do not fulfil the precept to hear Mass. You may adhere to this decision without the slightest scruple. And if, further, you wish to have 160my advice as to how to behave with regard to these two states when you experience them, I will give it to you. First, whenever the second attraction is strongly experienced, and absorbs you, in some measure, in spite of yourself, you ought to allow yourself to be gently drawn on, otherwise you would be resisting the inspiration and secret operations of the Holy Spirit within you, and thus would be acting according to your own ideas, out of self-love and in order to become satisfied and reassured. Now you must seek, in all things, not your own satisfaction however spiritual it may be, but the perfect satisfaction of God.

If this attraction should not be very strong nor very urgent, you ought, nevertheless, to second it by keeping yourself in a profound silence to give more opportunity for the inmost operations of the Holy Spirit. This, at any rate, is the advice I give you for long hours of prayer; because, when you have only a short time for prayer, as in short visits to the Blessed Sacrament morning and evening, it would be more useful to cultivate the first attraction you mentioned. You could then make formal acts of adoration and love of God. But I will remind you of the counsel St. Francis of Sales gave to a person who followed the same method: I should wish these particular acts to be made without much feeling or effort, so that they may flow and be distilled from the highest point of the mind, as the same saint expresses it; because it is a received opinion that the more simple and above the senses these operations are, so much the more profoundly spiritual, and, consequently, perfect do they become. To pray according to your first method is to pray by formal, successive and perceptible acts; to pray according to the second method is to pray by implicit acts, experienced, but in no way expressed nor perceptible except confusedly. Or, in other words it is to pray by a simple but actual inclination of the heart; now this simple and real inclination of the heart contains all, and says all to God without, however, express words. The different names that are given to this method of prayer will make you understand it perfectly; it is called a loving waiting on God, a simple looking, or pure faith and simplicity tending to God; the prayer of surrender and abandonment to God, arising from the love of God, and producing an ever increasing love of God. By these examples you will see that this method is of more value than the other; you must, therefore, make it your principal exercise, without, however, neglecting the first at certain times as I told you above. Yours in our Lord.

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