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The Vow of Obedience to Father Gratian Which the Saint Made in 1575.
1. In the year 1575, in the month of April, when I was founding the monastery of Veas, Fra Jerome of the Mother of God Gratian happened to come thither.679679 See Foundations, ch. xxii. I began to go to confession to him from time to time, though not looking upon him as filling the place of the other confessors I had, so as to be wholly directed by him. One day, when I was taking food, but without any interior recollection whatever, my soul began to be recollected in such a way that I thought I must fall into a trance; and I had a vision, that passed away with the usual swiftness, like a meteor. I seemed to see close beside me Jesus Christ our Lord, in the form wherein His Majesty is wont to reveal Himself, with F. Gratian on His right. Our Lord took his right hand and mine, and, joining them together, said to me that He would have me accept him in His place for my whole life, and that we were both to have one mind in all things, for so it was fitting. I was profoundly convinced that this was the work of God, though I remembered with regret two of my confessors whom I frequented in turn for a long time, and to whom I owed much; that one for whom I have a great affection especially caused a terrible resistance. Nevertheless, not being able to persuade myself that the vision was a delusion, because it had a great power 442 and influence over me, and also because it was said to me on two other occasions that I was not to be afraid, that He wished this,—the words were different,—I made up my mind at last to act upon them, understanding it to be our Lord's will, and to follow that counsel so long as I should live. I had never before so acted with any one, though I had consulted many persons of great learning and holiness, and who watched over my soul with great care,—but neither had I received any such direction as that I should make no change; for as to my confessors, of some I understood that they would be profitable to me, and so also of these.
2. When I had resolved on this, I found myself in peace and comfort so great that I was amazed, and assured of our Lord's will; for I do not think that Satan could fill the soul with peace and comfort such as this: and so, whenever I think of it, I praise our Lord, and remember the words, "posuit fines tuos pacem,"680680 Psalm cxlvii. 14: "He hath made thy borders peace." and I wish I could wear myself out in the praises of God.
3. It must have been about a month after this my resolve was made, on the second day after Pentecost, when I was going to found the monastery in Seville, that we heard Mass in a hermitage in Ecija, and rested there during the hottest part of the day. Those who were with me remained in the hermitage while I was by myself in the sacristy belonging to it. I began to think of one great grace which I received of the Holy Ghost, on one of the vigils of His feast,681681 Perhaps the Saint refers to what she has written in her Life, ch. xxxviii. §§ 11, 12. and a great desire arose within me of doing Him some most special service, and I found nothing that was not already done,—at least, resolved upon,—for all I do must be faulty; and I remembered that, though I had already made a vow of obedience, it might be made in greater 443 perfection, and I had an impression it would be pleasing unto Him if I promised that which I was already resolved upon, to live under obedience to the Father-Master, Fr. Jerome. On the other hand, I seemed to be doing nothing, because I was already bent on doing it; on the other hand, it would be a very serious thing, considering that our interior state is not made known to the superiors who receive our vows, and that they change, and that, if one is not doing his work well, another comes in his place; and I believed I should have none of my liberty all my life long, either outwardly or inwardly, and this constrained me greatly to abstain from making the vow. This repugnance of the will made me ashamed, and I saw that, now I had something I could do for God, I was not doing it; it was a sad thing for my resolution to serve Him. The fact is, that the objection so pressed me, that I do not think I ever did anything in my life that was so hard—not even my profession—unless it be that of my leaving my father's house to become a nun.682682 Life, ch. iv. § 1. The reason of this was that I had forgotten my affection for him, and his gifts for directing me; yea, rather, I was looking on it then as a strange thing, which has surprised me; feeling nothing but a great fear whether the vow would be for the service of God or not: and my natural self—which is fond of liberty—must have been doing its work, though for years now I have no pleasure in it. But it seemed to me a far other matter to give up that liberty by a vow, as in truth it is. After a protracted struggle, our Lord gave me great confidence; and I saw it was the better course, the more I felt about it: if I made this promise in honour of the Holy Ghost, He would be bound to give him light for the direction of my soul; and I remembered at the same time that our Lord had given him to me as my guide. Thereupon I fell upon my knees, and, to render this tribute 444 of service to the Holy Ghost, made a promise to do whatever he should bid me do while I lived, provided nothing were required of me contrary to the law of God and the commands of superiors whom I am more bound to obey. I adverted to this, that the obligation did not extend to things of little importance,—as if I were to be importunate with him about anything, and he bade me cease, and I neglected his advice and repeated my request,—nor to things relating to my convenience. In a word, his commands were not to be about trifles, done without reflection; and I was not knowingly to conceal from him my faults and sins, or my interior state; and this, too, is more than we allow to superiors. In a word, I promised to regard him as in the place of God, outwardly and inwardly. I know not if it be so, but I seemed to have done a great thing in honour of the Holy Ghost—at least, it was all I could do, and very little it was in comparison with what I owe Him.
4. I give God thanks, who has created one capable of this work: I have the greatest confidence that His Majesty will bestow on him great graces; and I myself am so happy and joyous, that I seem to be in every way free from myself; and though I thought that my obedience would be a burden, I have attained to the greatest freedom. May our Lord be praised for ever!
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