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Letter XXIII.—On Past Sins.
To the same Sister. Alby, July the 23rd, 1733.
My dear Sister, and very dear daughter in our Lord.
May the peace of Jesus Christ be always with you!
1st. I have never said anything with the meaning that you impute to me, but have only written as to a poor beginner whom God is afflicting in His mercy, in order to purify her and to prepare her for union with Him. The terrible ideas you have about your past disorders are at present what you are called to and you must bear with them as long as God pleases, just as one keeps to attractions that are full of sweetness. This keen realisation of your poverty and darkness gives me pleasure, because I know it is a sure sign that divine light is increasing in you without your knowledge and is forming a sure foundation of true humility. The time will come when the sight of these miseries which now cause you horror, will overwhelm you with joy, and fill you with a profound and delightful peace. It is not till we have reached the bottom of the abyss of our nothingness, and are firmly established there that we can, as Holy Scripture says, “walk before God in justice and truth.” Just as pride, which is founded on a lie, prevents God from bestowing favours on a soul that is otherwise rich in merit, so this happy condition of humiliation willingly accepted, and of annihilation truly appreciated, draws down divine graces on even the most wretched of souls. Therefore do not desire any other condition either during life or at the hour of death. It is in this state of voluntary annihilation that you should have taken refuge, to escape the fears that assailed you during your recent illness. Do not fail to do so if Satan ever tries to catch you in the same trap. Self-love desires to have, at the last hours, some sensible support in the recollection of past good works; let us, however, desire no other support than that given us by pure faith in the mercy of God and in the merits of Jesus Christ. From the moment that we wish to belong entirely to God this support will be enough for us, all the rest is nothing but vanity.
2nd. I approve, for the rest, of your interior and exterior conduct during your illness. I perceive that God, in His wisdom, hid what little good He enabled you to gain from it because unless He had done so, a thousand vain thoughts of self-complacency would have spoilt all. I know better than you all that took place and I bless God for it. He supported you well in your weakness; you have only to thank Him for doing so without 330reflecting so much as to whether everything has really been supernatural. Leave that to God; only try to forget yourself and to think only of Him.
3rd. What business have you to find so many excuses for your melancholy disposition? Let everyone think what he likes about it, you have only to please God and whatever He permits others to think or to say about you is of no moment to you; therefore do not indulge in reflexions on the subject. All that sort of thing only serves to increase self-love and vanity.
4th. I am charmed that you find peace where you would least expect it; it is a sign that God wills you to enjoy peace only in the accomplishment of His holy will, which is a very great grace. If I have not been able to pity you in your illness it is because I do not look upon the sufferings of the body as real evils since they procure so many blessings for the soul.
5th. You are convinced that you do nothing, that you merit nothing; and thus you are sunk in your nothingness. Oh! how well off you are! because from the moment you are convinced of your own nothingness you become united to God Who is all in all. Oh! what a treasure you have found in your nothingness! It is a state you must necessarily pass through before God can fill your soul; for our souls must be emptied of all created things before they can be filled with the Holy Spirit of God; so that what troubles you and makes you uneasy is the very thing that ought to pacify you and fill you with a holy joy in God.
6th. Accepting everything without reserve, both present and future, is one of the most perfect sacrifices we could offer to God. This habitual act alone is worth all else that you could possibly do, therefore your best and only practice must be to adhere constantly to all the imaginable arrangements of Providence, whether exterior, or interior. Do nothing but this, and God will, gradually, operate all the rest in your soul. This is a most simple practice, and exactly in accordance with your attraction.
7th. I am not much affected about the reserved manners of your companion. You must also make this sacrifice to God. She was not so much to blame as you in what put you out so much; God has permitted this to humble you by making you understand what you really are when He leaves you to your own devices. Humble yourself without vexation or worry. You know what St. Francis of Sales says about such circumstances.
8th. God requires of us the fulfilment of our duties, but He does not require us to find out if there has been any merit in this or not. You think too much about yourself, and under the pious pretext of advancing in the ways of God you are too much occupied about yourself. Forget yourself to think only of Him 331and abandon yourself to the commands of divine Providence, and then He will Himself lead you on, purify you and safely raise you, when and as it pleases Him, to the degree of sanctity He wills for you. What have we to do except to please Him, and to desire in all things and everywhere what He wills? We search far and wide after perfection, and yet it is almost within our grasp. It is to unite our will in all things to the will of God and never to follow our own inclinations. But to arrive at this we must renounce ourselves and sacrifice, if needs be, our dearest interests. This is what we have no wish to do; we want God to sanctify and make us perfect according to our own ideas and tastes. What folly! What pitiable blindness!
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