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Letter XIII.—The Use of Trials continued.
To Sister Anne-Marguérite Boudet de la Bellière (1734). The use of trials continued.
My dear Sister,
1st. Your present state of obscurity is a real grace from God, Who desires to accustom you to walk in the darkness of pure faith which is the most meritorious way, and the most certain road to sanctity.
2nd. Dryness and powerlessness are graces equally precious, and make you participate very meritoriously in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. “But,” say you, “this powerlessness prevents me asking God for necessary helps.” At any rate, it does not prevent you wishing to ask for them, and you ought to know that with God, our desires are real prayers, according to St. Augustine. This made Bossuet say that a cry pent up in the depths of the heart was of the same value as a cry that reached the skies, because God sees our most secret desires, and even the first simple movement of the heart. Apply these principles to your own case, whether at prayer, or before and after Communion. Nothing more is required to make our intercourse with God safe, easy and efficacious in spite of aridity, involuntary distractions and powerlessness, because none of these things prevent the desire to pray well, or to sigh and lament before God. His all-seeing eye detects the pure intention and preparation of heart, with all those acts that we should wish to have made; as He sees the fruits of the trees before the buds of springtime have formed on the branches; this is the beautiful comparison made by the Bishop of Meaux.
In God’s name, my dear Sister, try to enter into this maxim and to make it your own; it will console and sustain you on a thousand occasions when you feel that you are doing nothing, are incapable of making any effort. The good will is always there, and that is everything in the sight of God even when you imagine it to be absolutely idle.
3rd. Acquiescence in and submission to the will of God and the union of our will with His are so essential to perfection that it may be said to consist entirely in adhering firmly to them in all things, everywhere, and for everything. To do this is to do all, and without this, prayers, austerities, and works of even the most heroic nature, and all our sufferings, are nothing in the sight of God, because the only way in which we can please Him is by conforming our wills to His. The more involuntary opposition to this complete resignation we feel in ourselves, the more merit shall we gain on account of the greater effort required, and of the more complete sacrifice exacted.246
4th. The knowledge and fear of the traps that are laid for us in all quarters both outside and within our own souls is exactly the grace that will enable us to avoid them, especially if, with this humble fear a great confidence in God is united; then we can rely on being always victorious, except perhaps in matters of minor importance where God permits us to fall for our greater good. These lesser falls are very salutary for us, in keeping us always lowly and humbled in the presence of God, distrustful of our own powers, and as it were, nothing in our own eyes.
5th. You must accustom yourself to seek, and to find the peace of your soul in the higher part, that which is furthest removed from the senses; and disregard the troubles, revolts, and uneasiness of the lower and animal part which should be accounted of no importance because God pays no attention to what takes place there. St. Teresa says that it is like the courtyard of the castle of the soul. Take advantage of this teaching which is that of the saints, and behave as a person who, finding the courtyard of her castle full of unclean animals and hideous reptiles does not stop there a moment, but mounts at once to the upper rooms which are well furnished and filled with an honourable company. Do you also mount into the sanctuary of the soul, and endeavour always to remain there, because it is there that God makes His permanent dwelling.
6th. Yes, you were right to abandon yourself to God in all things, and to cease disturbing your mind voluntarily with the recollection of the frequent experiences you have had of your misery and weakness; in this way the foundation of true humility and a complete self-distrust is laid and consolidated. These valuable dispositions draw down upon us all the graces of God and bring them to us clothed with His power; especially if He finds us convinced of our own powerlessness to do any good. This it was that made St. Paul exclaim, “When I am weak, then am I powerful.”
7th. I assure you on the part of God, that usually, indeed nearly always, when you think you are praying your worst, that is the very time when you are praying best. Why? Because on the one hand the will, and the firm desire to pray is a real prayer of the heart; and because, on the other hand, you pray then without any self-complacency, without any of those vain reflexions which spoil everything; you pray by your patience, your silence, your self-effacement, your submission and abandonment to God; and you leave off praying greatly humiliated and cast down, and without any of those sensible feelings of satisfaction to your self-love that made St. Francis of Sales say that our own miserable satisfactions were not those of God. 247You may judge by this with what contempt you ought to repulse the fears by which the enemy tries to disgust, and to weary you, or at least to throw you into a state of anxiety.
8th. The great and sincere desire you have to be all for God without reserve, and whatever it may cost, St. Francis of Sales calls the firm pillar of spiritual spiritual edifice. This pillar ought to sustain the whole weight. Fear nothing as long as it remains, and it will remain, by the grace of God, in the superior part of the soul; as for the inferior or sensitive part, think nothing about it.
9th. It is quite true that we can conquer self-love, but not without great trouble, and remember that this is far more the work of God than our own. Take advantage of little occasions for combats and victories, and be well assured that when God sees that, in good earnest, you are doing the little that is in your power with the help of ordinary graces, He will at last set His own hand to the task, and finish and perfect the work you could not accomplish. It is on this account that I advise you always to beg of God without ceasing the gift of His divine Spirit with all His holy operations, without which it is possible to spend a life-time in great defects and considerable imperfections from which there is great risk of never rising, but rather of falling ever lower, and even of being lost.
10th. Holy Communion is the true daily bread of our souls. In it alone can we find subsistence, power, remedy, and support. What a difference there is between those who communicate frequently, and those who do so but rarely! Oh! how little do the latter realise the riches, and the treasures of grace of which they deprive themselves!
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