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Letter XV.—The Use of Afflictions.
On the usefulness of those afflictions.
My dear Sister,
When I consider the infinite value of your present trials I dare not wish them to cease; what I do wish is that you should keep yourself in a perpetual state of sacrifice and abandonment, or at least to tend that way, and to desire and implore it incessantly of God. With this disposition, and by making good use of crosses and afflictions, you will advance your eternal interests much more rapidly than you would by consolations and success. In a short time everything will have an end for us, and we shall 284have a boundless eternity in which to rejoice and to return thanks. This thought should completely console us for all our pains both interior and exterior, for these will procure us the joys of paradise. Let us remember that we have but little time to attain to this infinite happiness! and let us try to render ourselves worthy of it, at no matter what cost.
To continue, my dear Sister, I have already pointed out the fruit obtained by your soul in the great trial through which God has made you pass. In spite of the violent tempests it raised in your soul, I have no doubt that it greatly contributed to your spiritual progress. You learnt by it how to remain interiorly crucified, to be wearied of everything earthly, to make many painful and frequent sacrifices to God, to overcome yourself in many ways, to be patient and submissive and to abandon yourself to God. “But how,” you will ask, “has all this been done?” It has been done by means of troubles, reverses, and feelings of utter repugnance; by the higher faculties of the soul, and often without your knowledge, and without your being able to understand how you had this submission which you possessed without being aware of it. At other times you were persuaded that you did not possess it, and hardly desired to have it, while all the time there it was at the bottom of your heart! Oh! how admirable are the ways of God! If you had known as I did, the depths of your soul, you might, perchance, have spoilt all by secret reflexions and vain self-complacency. Let God do His work. It is through our ignorance, blindness, and obscurity that He can act as He pleases, without having His work spoilt by us. We acknowledge this, even by our humiliation when we believe that all is going wrong, that all is lost! but it ought to suffice for you to know that I see clearly enough the progress you have made to re-assure you, to answer for you, and to encourage you! Oh! how I wish that you would have more confidence in God, more complete abandonment to His all-wise and divine Providence which arranges even the smallest events of our lives! He turns them all to the advantage of those who confide themselves to Him, and who abandon themselves unreservedly to His fatherly care. What peace does not this confidence and entire abandonment produce in the soul! and from what uneasy and vexatious cares without end does it not deliver us? But as we cannot attain to this all at once, but gradually and by imperceptible degrees, we must aspire after it without ceasing, ask it of God and make frequent act of it. Occasions for doing so will not be wanting; let us avail ourselves of them, and repeat constantly, “Yes, my God, since it is Your will and You permit it thus to be, I also will it for love of You, help and strengthen me.” All this quietly, without 285effort, with the higher powers of your soul, and in spite of interior repugnance of which you need take no notice, except to bear it patiently and so make a sacrifice of it. Let us even wish to make these acts in the midst of these repugnances and revolts, since God wills or permits it thus to happen. If we should fail in this respect, let us act as we should after any other fault, try to regain what we have lost by interior humility, but a humility that is sweet and tranquil, without self-contempt, or annoyance with ourselves or others. I repeat, without despondency or voluntary vexation, for the first involuntary movements do not depend upon ourselves, and provided that we do not give our consent to them, they will make us exercise more meritoriously the virtues of patience, meekness and humility. In this miserable exile we find everywhere continual and unavoidable dangers and there is no other way of safe-guarding oneself, than to take quietly, and without over-eagerness, those precautions that prudence suggests, and then to trust everything to divine Providence. Throw yourself into the arms of God and remain there peacefully and without care, like a little child in the arms of a good and loving mother. Whoever knows how to make use of this practice will find in it a treasure of peace and of merit. Try to act thus about everything and at all times, and to adopt somewhat of this interior spirit. Nothing could be more calculated to pacify and to moderate impulsiveness and natural impetuosity; nothing could better prevent or soften a thousand bitter annoyances, and a thousand uneasy forebodings. The state of P.F. is to be lamented. God wills to sanctify her indeed, since He afflicts her so grievously at the end of her life. At that time it is doubly hard to nature to be neglected, but what a consolation to be able to suffer so much for God before going to appear before Him. Consolations are in truth a great blessing, but not to be compared to sufferings and trials. God preserve me from that sort of blessing. I have no doubt I should like it and find comfort in it. A middling virtue could make good use of the first grace, but it would require heroic virtue to practise, with God’s help, the second. I remain yours in our Lord until death and even after, if God will do me this favour. I sincerely hope that He will.286
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