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Letter XX.—Depression under Trials.

To the same Sister (1738). On depression during trials, distractions and resentment.


1st. You would be mistaken, my dear Sister, to reproach yourself too much for your want of resignation, because I do not consider it at all voluntary. Great afflictions are inevitably followed by a certain depression; but those souls that are faithful to God rise again quietly by their confidence and filial abandonment to divine Providence. It seems, sometimes, as if it were impossible to do this, or at any rate to do it properly, but one must not be discouraged on this account. Better indeed to make of this weakness itself a subject for renewed acts of resignation to the divine goodness and to remain peacefully and patiently in one’s own nothingness. Thus we shall fulfil the designs of God who permits us to fall into this state of depression and weakness to make us better understand and feel our misery. He wills that there should not be in us the least atom of confidence in ourselves, but that we should rely solely on His all-powerful grace.

2nd. I ought to tell you that for a long time past I have remarked in you a great grace to which you pay no attention. You seem to me to become ever more deeply convinced of your miseries and imperfections. Now that happens only in proportion to our nearness to God, and to the light in which we live and walk, without any consideration of our own. This divine light as it shines more brightly makes us see better and feel more keenly the abyss of misery and corruption within us, and this knowledge is one of the surest signs of progress in the ways of God and of the spiritual life. You ought to think rather more of this, not to pride yourself on it, but to be grateful for it. Nothing more is necessary at present but to strive to love holy abjection, poverty, and horror of yourself which begins in this deep knowledge experienced by you. When you have attained this you will have taken a fresh step still more decided towards your spiritual advancement. See then how great is the goodness of God! He makes use of the sight that you have of your poverty to enrich you. This poverty becomes a treasure to those who understand, accept, and love it, because it is the will of God. This joyful acquiescence in our misery does not exclude, however, the desire of finding a remedy for it, because, if we ought to love the abjection which is the result of our defects, we ought at the same time to hate the defects themselves, and to make use of the most energetic means of getting rid of them.

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3rd. Urgent occupations and the interruptions of worldly business are, in the sight of divine Providence who wills and permits them, of equal value as quiet recollection and silence. Instead of the prayer of quiet you then make a prayer of patience, of suffering and of resignation. “But one sometimes loses patience”; well, this is the distraction of this prayer, and you must try to regain it, and to get calm with the thought that God wills or permits what upsets you, and causes you pain; but above all take great care not to lose your temper at feeling impatient, or to get worried at being upset. By humbling yourself quietly you will gain more than you have lost.

4th. I need not enter into minute details as regards the keen pain you describe. I understand all the different distressing thoughts that fill your mind and all the heart-ache they cause, but here again, my dear daughter, is an excellent prayer more sanctifying than any ecstasies, if you know how to make use of it. How can you do so? In this way. (1) Often pray for the person who is the cause of your trouble. (2) Keep perfectly silent, do not speak about it to anyone to relieve your pain. (3) Do not voluntarily think about it but turn your thoughts to other subjects that are holy and useful. (4) Watch over your heart that you may not give way in the very least bit to bitterness, spite, complaints, or voluntary rebellion. (5) Try to speak well of the person, cost what it may, to regard her favourably, to act about her as if nothing had happened. I realise, however, that you will find it difficult in future to treat her with the same confidence without being a saint, which you are not yet. (6) But at least do not fail to render her a service when occasion arises and to wish her all possible good.

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