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Letter II.—The Defects of Beginners.

On the defects of beginners.


I am not surprised at the calmness of the person of whom you speak; it is the fruit of the humility she practised in opening her heart, in spite of her repugnance to doing so; and also the effect of the words that God never fails to inspire, in such a case, to those who are acting in His place. Make her thoroughly understand that God has begun to try her like this to punish her, and to cure her of a subtle hidden pride which she has been nursing without noticing it. The greater has been the trouble, the more it has shown the greatness of the vanity which it has disconcerted, and which rebels at the least humiliation, even that which is interior. This person, therefore, must try to divest herself gradually of that self-complacency which is hidden in the most secret recesses of the heart; whether it be about natural qualities, or about those virtues that she may have, or flatters herself that she possesses. For, without being careful about it, there may be some foolish self-satisfaction in all that; and without allowing it to herself she thinks herself superior to others in many ways. A subtle self-love feeds on these vanities of the spirit, in the way that worldly pride is satisfied with the beauties of the body; and, as the latter finds pleasure in thinking continually of its beauty and in looking in the mirror; so, in the same way the former takes interior delight in all the natural and supernatural gifts which it flatters itself to have received from heaven. The remedy for this diabolical evil (diabolical, because it is the crime of the proud angel) is—

1st. To imitate modest women who never contemplate themselves in the mirror, or who drive from their minds all vain thoughts about their appearance, or exterior accomplishments.

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2nd. To force this self-love often to look at its defects, miseries, and weakness, to enjoy abjection, and to feed on contempt.

3rd. To consider what we have been, what we are, and what we should become, if God removed His hand from us. When we neglect to apply ourselves to these humiliating reflexions, God, in His fatherly goodness, feels obliged to take other means to destroy the secret vanity of souls whom He desires to lead to a high state of perfection; He allows temptation, or even falls that throw them into the deepest confusion to cure them of this inflation of the mind and heart. When God makes use of this bitter but salutary remedy, we must be on our guard to prevent our hearts rebelling against it, but submit humbly without vexation, and without voluntary agitation.

4th. We ought not to imagine that by dint of reflexions we shall be able to lessen our troubles, but should remain as if motionless in the bosom of the mercy of God, and let the storm pass without struggling against it, and without interior disturbance which would aggravate the evil instead of lessening it.

5th. We should never ask to be delivered from our afflictions since they have been brought about by the favourable action of Providence, but we must pray for patience with ourselves and others, and for an entire resignation.

6th. Instead of becoming strong-minded, we must become like children by a great simplicity, candour, ingenuousness, and openness of heart towards those who have the task of guiding us.

Note.—This letter was addressed in 1731 to Sister Marie-Anne Thérèse de Rosen by Fr. de Caussade, and was about a person who was making a Retreat. There is every reason to believe that it concerned either Madame or Mademoiselle de Lesen whom God had brought back to Himself by the trial of the loss of her property, and who had vowed to become a Religious, but who was obliged to remain in the world for a long time leading a devout life. She made a retreat in 1731 and another in 1732 in the Convent of the Visitation at Nancy, and had Sister Marie-Anne Thérèse de Rosen for her directress. Shortly after she entered the Order of the Annunciation at St. Mihiel in 1733.

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