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Letter XVIII.—Fruit of Death to Self.

To Mother Marie-Anne-Sophie de Rottenbourg. On the fruit of complete death to self. 1739.


May God be praised, Reverend Mother, for the signal graces He has been pleased to bestow upon you! Henceforth your principal care should be to guard with a vigilant humility these precious gifts.

1st. Your rest in God during prayer comes, without any doubt, from the Holy Spirit. Be careful not to forsake, by any inopportune multiplicity of acts, this simplicity, which is the more fruitful the more closely it resembles the infinite simplicity of God. This way of uniting yourself to Him by a total seif-abnegation is based on the great principle that God, who is Almighty and goodness itself, gives to His children on all 376occasions and always what He knows will be best for them; and that all perfection consists in a constant adhesion of the heart to His adorable will. By this simple and humble behaviour all our desires are gradually absorbed by the will of God into which it becomes completely transformed. When we have reached this point we shall have attained perfection.

2nd. If God does not permit you to derive any other fruit from your illness than the recognition of the continual loss of grace sustained by a soul which pays but scant attention to its interior movements, I should still cry, “Oh! happy, thrice happy illness!”

3rd. Speak then to your dear daughters without ceasing of the great duties imposed upon them by the divine love, and of the priceless advantages of the spiritual life. Oh! how few there are who understand this, and fewer still who practise it. Nowadays hardly any exercises are understood and valued but those that are exterior, yet God is a pure spirit whom we must adore, as Jesus Christ teaches, in spirit and in truth. Where then, Oh my God, are to be found those who fulfil this precept?

4th. To feel no surprise at one’s miseries is a good beginning for a humility founded on self-knowledge; but to feel no trouble at the keen and habitual recollection of them is a very great grace, and the source of a complete distrust of self, and of a true and perfect confidence in God.

5th. Your devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, and the practices you have adopted with regard to it, are a real spiritual treasure which will serve to enrich yourself, and your dear daughters. The more you draw on this treasure the more there is left for your enrichment, for it is inexhaustible.

6th. What you have learnt from the venerable Fr. de Condran about the spirit of sacrifice is indeed a most excellent practice; but it cannot be continual, nor constant, except in the spiritual life, which alone enables us to attend to, and to be faithful in everything.

7th. The humbling of the heart and soul concerning all faults, known and unknown, appeases God, and draws down fresh light and renewed strength, so that the whole subject resolves itself into knowing how, thoroughly, to humble oneself, that is to say, how to remain before God always in a state of spiritual humiliation, with a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. Then it is that we walk before God in truth and justice, according to the holy Scriptures. In any other state we should be in error and falsehood, and, consequently, far from God who is the sovereign truth.

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8th. It is a beautiful gift of heaven to be able to govern in a spirit of meekness and moderation; this will prove more efficacious and salutary both for yourself and others, and make you avoid those faults into which a bitter, indiscreet, and too active zeal would make you fall. When you have to direct the aged, your conduct ought to be full of wisdom and humble charity; and with young Religious of good will, but still rather weak and not sufficiently courageous, you should be doubly gentle and condescending, and act with moderation and prudence.

I end where I began, by blessing God for the graces He has bestowed upon you, and by begging Him to continue them to you. On no account, Reverend Mother, leave off this total self-forgetfulness to which I have so often exhorted you, and which the divine goodness has effected in you. In fact, why should one be so much engrossed in oneself? The true self is God, since He is more completely the life of the soul than the soul is the life of the body. God created us for Himself alone; let us think then of Him, and He will think of us, and provide for us much better than we can for ourselves. When we fall, let us humble ourselves, and rise again, and go on our way in peace, and think always of our true self which is God, in whom we should lose ourselves and be engulfed, in the way in which we shall find ourselves absorbed and engulfed in Heaven during the infinite duration of the great day of eternity. Amen! Amen!

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