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Letter IX.—Passive Recollection.
To Mother Louise-Françoise de Rosen. On distractions, weariness, and impulses.
My dear Sister. To all the anxieties you express in your letter to me, and to all the doubts you lay before me, I have but one answer. I will say to you in the words of our good Master: “Peace be with you, fear not.” What troubles you, ought, on the contrary, to be a subject of joy. Where you believe you see symptoms of laxness I see undoubted signs of solid progress.
1st. This inattention, almost perpetual, this weariness and distaste that you experience at prayer, at the Office, at Confession and Communion, etc., are nothing else but the natural effect of the apparent absence of God. The divine Spouse of your soul, in order to put it to the test and to purify it, withdraws His sensible presence, and then the poor soul suffers acute grief which sometimes affects the bodily health. In this way it is a martyr of grace, and of the Holy Spirit; for, now that there are no longer any tyrants to make the blood of the martyrs flow in testimony of their faith, the Holy Spirit knows how to make martyrs of divine love by the suffering caused by His apparent absences, and by many kinds of crucifying operations. Those who submit to this spiritual torture do so by practising resignation, blind abandonment, and the same unwearied patience that the martyrs of old practised in the midst of their torments. The same Holy Spirit who filled the souls of the martyrs with divine peace and joy, while their bodies were suffering the most frightful torments, will in the same way preserve the peace of your soul in spite of all the agitation of your mind and senses. But you must, faithfully, co-operate with His action by giving no voluntary consent to the anxieties which assail you. To regain recollection when you think you have, to some extent, lost it, make no violent efforts. Resign yourself with a good grace to being deprived of sensible and active recollection, and be content with passive recollection which subsists at the bottom of your heart, even when the mind seems all astray, for this is the inalienable right of souls that are free from all inordinate love for the things of this world. It is true that in this state God is not always the distinct object of our thoughts, but He is the principle of our life, and the rule of our actions. There is a kind of abstraction during which it seems to us that we do not think of anything, because, on the one hand visible objects do 236not occupy us, and on the other we have such a general idea of God, a notion so dim and obscure, that the mind cannot grasp it, and loses itself, seeming to have no consciousness, and to escape control. In this state all that has to be done, being suggested by the Spirit of God gently, is carried out in peace, without eagerness or uneasiness. But, directly the activity of self-love begins to meddle, the Holy Spirit, jealously desirous of being the only guide of the soul He has raised to this state, puts a limit to its action, and then there is nothing to be done but to drop this activity, and to resume and re-enter the state of passive recollection. This recollection, you must know, is nothing else but the fruit and the extension of the prayer of quiet and of silence, which consists in holding one’s peace interiorly, and in leaving off all thoughts rather than in combating those that come, or in seeking for those that do not present themselves.
2nd. The occasional outbursts to which you give vent, sometimes lasting for a lengthy period are trials that should prove equally fruitful. While causing you interior suffering they bring you infinite riches, purifying, humiliating and diminishing you so much in your own eyes that you will gradually become like those little children whom Jesus Christ desires us to resemble if we wish to enter into His kingdom. You are quite right in saying that we have a great need of patience and gentleness in bearing with ourselves; perhaps more than in putting up with others, following out the thought of St. Francis of Sales.
3rd. The continual vicissitudes that take place in the soul are a good sign. By them the Holy Spirit renders us pliant to all His movements; for, by dint of these constant changes nothing of self remains, and we are prepared to take any shape that is pleasing to this divine Spirit who breathes where He will and as He pleases. It is, as Fénélon says, like a continual melting and recasting of the soul, which, in this process, becomes liquid like water having neither form nor shape but taking any form or shape according to that of the vessel into which it is poured.
4th. It will be quite easy for you to guide yourself in these different situations. You have but one thing to do, and that is quite simple, it is to notice in what direction the deepest bias of your heart inclines you, without consulting the mental attitude which would spoil all. Always act with the same simplicity, in good faith and uprightness of heart, without looking back or about you, but straight in front at the present time and moment, and I will answer for everything. Do you not see that such a way of acting is to die to self perpetually by the most complete abnegation, and a true sacrifice of abandonment to God in the darkness of faith.237
5th. You say that you do not experience any interior reproach, nor any feeling either for good or evil, and that this silence seems to you terrible. It is part of your state. All feeling ought to be taken from you: it is so in the state of pure faith. Again, fear nothing, go on in peace, in simplicity, in total abandonment, without self-examination or particular reflexions: when any should be made God will give them to you, or supply the want of them by an interior feeling or a hidden attraction which will guide you in everything more surely than your own miserable reflexions. Are these, then, so precious that you need regret their loss and the deprivation of them? Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Love this spiritual poverty which strips us interiorly of self, as exterior poverty strips us of goods. It is thus that the kingdom of God is formed within us.
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