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Letter XII.—After the Retreat.
To the same Sister. After the Retreat. November 4th, 1734.
1st. I must begin by telling you frankly that, although naturally compassionate, I cannot pity you, but even rejoiced interiorly in God while perusing your letter. What I had the temerity to predict when you began your Retreat has come to pass.
2nd. You know what I think about a keen feeling of your weakness and powerlessness. Fénélon says that this is a grace to make us despair of ourselves in order that we may hope only in God. It is then, he adds, that God begins to work marvels in a soul. But usually He performs His work in a hidden manner and without the soul’s knowledge, to preserve it from the snares of self-love.
3rd. The way in which God made you pass the feast of All Saints was very hard to nature, but by grace very wholesome. Blind that we are! we must let God act. If He allowed us to follow our own desires and ideas, even those that are, apparently, very holy, instead of making progress we only go back.
4th. You feel as if you had neither faith, hope, nor charity; this is because God has deprived you of all perception of these virtues, and retained them in the highest part of the soul. He 363thus affords you an opportunity of making a complete sacrifice of all satisfaction, and this is better than anything. Of what then do you complain? It is disconsolate nature which grieves because it feels nothing but troubles, dryness, and spiritual anguish. These are its death, a necessary death in order to receive the new life of grace, a life altogether holy and divine. I am acquainted with some whose souls frequently pass through the most terrible agonies, so that it seems to them, as to you, as if every moment would be their last; just as a criminal on the rack expects the finishing stroke which, while depriving him of the miserable remnant of his life, will put an end to his torments. Courage, patience, abandonment, and confidence in God; these are the virtues you must practice. He accords you a great grace, a signal favour, in allowing you from time to time some slight perception of His help. The different shocks this good Master allows you to experience, the vivid recollection of your sins and miseries, are divine operations, very crucifying, and intended to purify you like gold in the crucible. Why then should I pity you? I have far more reason to congratulate you, as the holy martyrs in ancient times were congratulated, who considered themselves happy in the midst of their torments and cruel tortures.
5th. The regret that you are tempted to feel as regards the consolations you enjoyed in previous Retreats is only an illusion which you must carefully guard against. Never have you, with God’s grace, made such a useful Retreat. This He has made you feel by giving you strength sufficient to enable you to sacrifice sensible pleasure and consolation. “But,” you add, “God has rejected this sacrifice.” Here again is temptation and illusion. God permits it in order to try you in every way. Fiat! Fiat! If God takes away your peace of mind, very well, let it go with the rest; God remains always, and when nothing else is left to you, you will be able to love Him with greater purity. He alone it is, then, who works in a divine way at our perfection through these spiritual deprivations which are so abhorrent to nature, for they are its death, its annihilation, and final destruction. Have patience. Fiat! Fiat! You cannot follow the path of perfection in reality except through losses, abnegation, despoilment, death to all things, complete annihilation, and unreserved abandonment. We need not be astonished when we experience afflictions, when even our reason totters, that poor reason so blind in the ways of faith; for it is a strange blindness which leads us to aspire after perfection by the way of illumination, of spiritual joy and consolation, the infallible result of which would be to revive ever more and more our self-love and to enable it to spoil everything.364
6th. Just the keen feeling of your own frailty has been one of your greatest helps, because by making you realise that you are exposed to the danger of falling at every step it inspires you with an absolute self-distrust, and makes you practise a blind confidence in God; in this sense the Apostle says, “When I feel myself weakest, then it is that I am strongest, because the keen feeling of my weakness invests me, through a more perfect confidence, with all the power of Jesus Christ.”
7th. There is nothing more simple than the conduct you ought to follow in order to derive great profit from your painful and crucifying state; an habitual consent from your heart, a humble “fiat,” a complete abandonment, and perfect confidence, that is all. From morning to night you have nothing else to do. It will appear to you that you are doing nothing, but all will be done; and so much the better, the more profound the humility with which you remain without the help of those miserable satisfactions which do not satisfy God, but your self-love, as our very dear father, St. Francis of Sales, repeats.
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