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Letter XVIII.—Sacrifice and Fidelity.

To Madame de Lesen after she had become a Religious in the Order of the Annunciation. Sacrifice and fidelity are the death of self-love.


My dear Sister,

You ask me several questions, but what can I say in answer that holy books, meditations, preachers, directors, and above all the interior spirit have not told you hundreds and hundreds of times?

1st. Do you not know that it is only very gradually that self-love dies, and that we learn to live only in God and for God? This is effected by a constant fidelity in carrying out those sacrifices demanded by the interior spirit; sacrifices of the mind, of the will, of every passion and caprice, of every feeling and affection, in fine and above all, the sacrifice of an entire submission in every trial, in the perpetual vicissitudes of the soul, and in those sometimes very painful states through which we have to pass in order to be entirely united to God.

2nd. Do you know that the state of pure faith excludes all that can be sensibly felt? In this state of deprivation progress is made without assistance from anything created, but the bare light of faith remains always in the highest point of the soul, and by this light we can not only see what we ought to do, and what to avoid, but we know also that, by the grace of God, we live in horror of evil and fly from it, and in the love and practice of virtue. Therefore it is well to say, “I am living in perfect confidence, and am not risking my eternity.” “But suppose I am mistaken, and deceiving others without knowing it?” If you do not know it, then you are in good faith, and this will excuse you in the sight of God Who is as merciful as He is just. “But in spite of all this I still feel very much alarmed.” Yes, that cannot be helped; our condition in this life is one of fear, because no one can be perfectly sure. God wills that we should glorify Him by an abandonment full of love and confidence. This is the tribute He most particularly exacts, and as He gives us the means of offering it with greater merit, why should we be alarmed? We should have more reason to be afraid if we had ceased to fear. There is no state that is more suspect than 260that which is devoid of fear, even if it should be accompanied by love and confidence. When, on the contrary the fear of offending God is the prevailing sentiment, the considerations I have explained ought to be sufficient reassurance. They are perfectly solid, because they rest on the immutable principles of faith. In default of sensible devotion we should attach ourselves to this bare faith preserved by God always in the centre of the soul, or the higher point of the spirit.

3rd. Do you not know that the sensible presence of God is often by its sweetness an occasion of satisfying our self-love, and that in order to prevent it being dangerous to us God deprives us of it leaving us only bare faith devoid of sweetness, or any kind of mental images, figures, or representations? “But,” you say, “I do not know if I have this faith.” Well! at any rate you know that you aspire to it continually. This desire is, in fact, perhaps too vehement in you, since you are so prone to get excited and vexed when you are disappointed. Therefore you have, at least, the continual and habitual desire of this divine presence. This desire is known to God Who sees the slightest movement of the heart. That ought to be enough for you. Remain then in peace, confidence, submission, and abandonment, and in grateful love.

4th. Do you not know that the best preparation for Holy Communion is that operated in the soul by God Himself? Approach then with confidence, with complete abandonment to the state of poverty and deprivation in which it has pleased God to place you. Remain in it as though sacrificed, annihilated and unseen like Jesus Christ in His Sacrament, because He is there in a kind of annihilation. Unite yours to His. Where there is nothing left that is created, or human, there is God. The more destitute of all things, and divested of self you become, the more will you be possessed by God. Make for yourself a spiritual treasure of this very poverty by a continual adherence to the will of God. From the time you begin this practice you will become richer than any of those who possess the greatest gifts of joy and consolation. You will possess the riches of the holy will of God without fear of self-complacency, since this holy will is bitter to nature and humiliating to pride. Sweet and salutary bitterness which serves as an antidote to the poison of self-love and the sting of the serpent of pride!

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