Spiritual Retreats

Authored By: Bl. Claude La Colombiere

First Spiritual Retreat

Blessed Claude La Colombiere

(Taken from "Faithful Servant" published by B. Herder Book Co., 1960.)

HAVE BEGUN, I THINK, with a firm determination, by God's grace, to follow all the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and without any attachment which might cause me to be afraid of belonging to God without reserve. Resolved to suffer for God all the dryness and all the interior desolation which may come upon me and which I have only too well deserved by the abuse I have made of the lights and consolations I have received in the past, I have determined on the following:

1. To make the Exercises as though for the last time and as though I were to die immediately after.

2. To be very faithful and sincere in them, and to overcome on this point the pride which causes me such repugnance in laying open my heart.

3. To make no account of myself or my own efforts.

This is why I have made it a rule to read no writing or spiritual book that deals with the extraordinary, even though I have a great longing for some that treat of the spiritual life on a higher level, such as the works of St. Teresa, the Interior Christian and others. I think that God will help me to find in the points given to me by my spiritual father and in the books which he will furnish me, all that He wishes me to find and understand in this retreat. I am quite at ease about this unconcern, and I thank God for having inspired me to make this sacrifice, which was the greatest I could have made on this occasion.

I am deeply confused over the fact that I have spent so great a part of my life not only without loving God but even in offending Him, after He did me the honor of destining me to love Him. I have admired, with a feeling of great sweetness, the infinite patience and mercy of the same God. He saw the contempt in which I held so glorious an end, the consequence being that I was not any good for Him in the world, but on the contrary harmful to His interests. Yet He never ceased to allow me to remain in it and to wait until I should be willing to think better of why I was here, and even to remind me of it from time to time. I have felt no difficulty in promising Him to live in the future only to serve and glorify Him.

Any work, any place, any condition that may befall me physically: health, sickness, imprisonment, life, death, are all by God's grace, most indifferent to me. I even feel that I am envious of those whom blindness or some other habitual handicap prevents from having any dealings with the world, obliging them to live as though they were already dead. I am not sure that it is the thought of the struggle I foresee I shall have to undertake for the rest of my life that makes me find an attraction in such conditions, when I could live perhaps in a greater respose and a detachment which would be mine at a much smaller cost. When a man wants to live with God at any cost, it is easy to understand how he desires the strangest means, when they appear to him to be the surest. In the ardent desire that God gives me never to love anything but Him, and to keep my heart free of all attachment to creatures, life imprisonment, to which a calumny had condemned me, would seem an incomparable stroke of good fortune. I do not think that with heaven's help I would ever grow tired of it.

When I reflected on the second of our rules, I did not discover a very strong zeal to work for the salvation of the neighbor I think that I had more earlier. I may be mistaken, but I feel that what chills me on this point is only the fear that in these works that are productive of zeal, I am seeking myself. For there doesn't seem to be anything in which nature does not count on her own, especially when one succeeds, as one should wish to do for God's glory. There is need of a great grace and of great strength to resist the satisfaction we find in working a change in hearts and in the confidence placed in us by persons whom we have moved.

Sin must be something most horrible since it has obliged God to condemn creatures as perfect and as lovable as the angels. But what then must your mercy be, dear God, to bear with me after so many crimes, with me who am no more than a handful of mire, and to recall me to You without any wish to destroy me! How great must Your love be to outweigh, to overcome this dreadful aversion which You naturally have for sin! Really, this consideration pierces my heart, and fills me, I think, with a very tender love for God.

After the sight of my disorders, a sweet thought has succeeded the confusion which I felt as a result of them. It concerned the greatness of the matter on which God's mercy could be exercised, and a most firm hope that He would be glorified in forgiving me. "This hope is laid up in my bosom" (John 19:29). This hope is so firmly fixed in my heart that with God's grace I would yield up my life before surrendering it.

Then I cast myself into the arms of the Blessed Virgin. She received me, I thought, with a readiness and a sweetness that were wonderful. And what touches me most about this is that I am conscious of being at fault in having up to now served her ill. But I have come here[1] with a great purpose of overlooking nothing this year which would help me to conceive a great love of her, and to draw up a plan of devotion towards her which I shall try to keep all my life. I am much consoled by the thought that I will have the leisure to work at this and that with the help of the same Blessed Virgin I will succeed. Our Lady having received me so readily, presented me, I thought, to her Son who out of consideration for her, looked fixedly at me and opened His arms to me as though I had been the most innocent of men.[2]

Before making the "Meditation on Death," I had a conversation which threw me into some uneasiness, brought about on the one hand by the fear I had of satisfying my vanity in it, and on the other by the dread lest what I had said would be a source of confusion to me. Going to the chapel full of these emotions, it took me a half-hour to fight against them and recover the peace of soul of which they had robbed me. But at last turning suddenly on the one hand to God's mercy for the fault I had committed, and on the other, having accepted all the mortification it could bring upon me, I determined to anticipate it and go in search of it. In an instant so great a peace ensued in my heart that I felt that I had found God whom I was seeking. This gave me for a moment the sweetest joy I have known in my life. From that time on, I felt that I was very much strengthened against human respect and the judgments of men, and capable of mastering the repugnance I felt to make known my weaknesses.

Next, reflecting on the condition to which death reduces us with regard to all created things, I felt that it would cause me but little pain, since I was not attached to anything at all I put this question to myself: because it would cause me no pain to die at this moment, and consequently be deprived forever of all that could give me any pleasure or honor in this life, why should I not resolve henceforth to live as though I were actually dead? I answered that I would have no trouble in actually separating myself from all things, in the sense that I could pass the rest of my days in a tomb or prison, with every possible discomfort. But I foresee that I shall have to engage in many other combats if I wish to live in a perfect detachment of affection in the midst of the world where our employments will keep us occupied. I have resolved, however, to do so with God's grace, for He alone can bring about this miracle in me.

Finally, turning my thought to what makes death difficult, that is, past sins and pains to come, a course was at once presented to my mind which I accepted with all my heart and with great consolation of soul. It was that at this last moment, I would make a mass of all the sins of which I was conscious, known and unknown, and cast it at the feet of our Savior, there to be consumed by the fire of His mercy. The greater. their number, the more enormous they appeared, the more readily would I offer them to be consumed, because what I was asking would be all the more worthy of that mercy. I felt that I could do nothing more reasonable, nor anything more glorious to God. And in the idea I had conceived of His goodness, I would have no more difficulty in deciding to do that, because I felt my whole self carried on to it. As to purgatory, when I thought that I would be wronging God's mercy to have the least fear of hell, since I had deserved it more than all the demons, I had no fear of purgatory at all. I could well wish not to have deserved it, since that cannot be done without displeasing God. But since it is a reality, I was elated at the thought of going there to satisfy His justice in the most rigorous manner imaginable, and that to the day of judgment. I know that its torments are fearful. But I also know that they honor God and can do no harm to souls; that there one is certain of never opposing God's will; that one will never be able to find fault with His severity; that one will even love His severity; that one will patiently wait until all 1S fully satisfied. So, I have most willingly given all my satisfactions to the souls in purgatory, and surrendered to others even all the suffrages that will be offered for me after my death, so that God will be glorified in heaven by souls which shall have merited to be raised there to a higher glory than mine.[3] In this First Week I have also been firmly convinced that men are not able to satisfy God's justice for the slightest fault This has given me joy, first, because it frees me from the everlasting uneasiness that would be mine as to whether I had done enough for my sins; for, I should always be saying to myself: No, you have not done enough. For the fault, it is not in your power, there is need of God's blood to wipe it out. for the penalty, there is need of an eternity, or the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Now this blood and these sufferings are in our own hands. Secondly, we must never cease expiating by penance the disorders of our lives, and that without uneasiness, because the worst that can happen if one has good will and is under obedience, IS to be a long time in purgatory, and one can say, I think in a good sense, that that is not a very great misfortune. Moreover, I would rather owe my grace to God's mercy than to my own efforts, because that would be more glorious to God and make Him much more lovable to me.

I am very glad for having had to regulate my penances. That saves me either from vanity or indiscretion, or the uneasiness which the fear that I was indulging myself would have caused me. Unmistakably I should have fallen into one or another of these snares, and perhaps into all three of them.

At the judgment it will be a great confusion for vain persons who have placed all their happiness in being esteemed by men and who have sought in everything to make themselves noticed to find themselves mingling with the commonest of crowds and the object of the most incredible contempt on the part of those who have most esteemed them in life. On the contrary, what a joy it will be for those humble souls who for God's love have chosen a common and obscure life, to see themselves drawn out of and separated from the crowd, to be set apart in the greatest light that ever was, without there being any more reason to fear for their virtue.

I find that the best of all times for meriting is that of spiritual dryness and desolation. A soul that is seeking God bears this plight bravely, and easily raises itself above all that goes on in its imagination and its lower faculties, where the greater part of consolations is found. Such a soul never ceases to love God, to humble itself, to accept this condition even perpetually. Nothing is so suspect as these sweetnesses, and nothing so dangerous. Sometimes we grow attached to them, and frequently, after they have passed, we do not feel any more fervor for good, but quite the contrary. Rather, for me it is a solid consolation to think in the midst of aridities and temptations, to think, I say, that I have a heart that is free, and that it is only through this heart that I can merit or demerit, and that I neither please nor displease God by things that are not in my power, such as sensible relish and the importunate thoughts that are present in the mind in spite of myself. Hence, in such a condition, I say to God: "Dear God, let the world or the demon himself have for himself what I cannot take away from him, that of which I am not the master. But they will never share in that part of my heart which You have wished to place in my own hands. You know that, You see that. For the rest, You can take it; it belongs only to You, You will do so when it pleases You." The man to whom God gives a true desire to serve Him should never be troubled about anything. "Peace to men of good will" (Luke 2:14). Again, this gives me hope, with God's grace, to make acts of true contrition, because I can almost perceive the selfish motives which can bring us to sorrow for our sins. With all my will and with full deliberation I renounce all these motives. I am convinced that God is infinitely lovable, that He alone deserves to be considered, that it is just for us to sacrifice to Him all our interests to think only of His glory. This is possible or it is not. If it were impossible God would never counsel me or command me to do it. If it is possible, with His grace I am doing it, for I am doing and I wish sincerely to do all that I can.

I don't think that I have ever had such consolation as in the "Meditation on the Blessed Sacrament," which was the last of the First Week. From the first moment I was in the chapel and gave a good look at this mystery, I felt penetrated with gentle movements of wonder and gratitude for the goodness God has shown us in this sacrament. Truly, I have received great graces, and I have felt so sensibly the effect of this Bread of Angels that I cannot think of it without being at once moved by a feeling of great gratitude. I have never felt so great a confidence of persevering In good and in the desire I have of belonging to God notwithstanding the fearful difficulties which I fancy will beset me in life. I will say Mass every day. This will be my sole resource. Jesus Christ will do enough if He sustains me from one day to another. He will not fail to reproach me for my cowardice just as soon as I begin to abandon myself to Him. Every day He will give me fresh advice, new strength. He will instruct me, encourage me, and will grant that I obtain through His sacrifice all the graces I ask of Him.

If I do not see that He is present, I sense it. I feel that I am like those blind men who cast themselves at His feet, and did not doubt that He would touch them although they did not see Him. I feel that this meditation has greatly increased my faith in this mystery.

I was deeply moved both in considering the thoughts Jesus Christ could have of me while I held Him in my hands, and in considering those He has, that is, the disposition of His heart, His desire, His plans, and so forth. What delights, what graces a soul that is well prepared, purified and detached, would receive in this sacrament!

In the morning of the seventh day, I felt myself attacked by thoughts of discouragement with regard to the plan of life I had made for the future. I saw great difficulties in it. Every other form of life seemed to be easy to live holily, and the more austere, solitary, hidden, separated from all intercourse, the sweeter It seemed. For everything which is ordinarily fear-inspiring to nature, like imprisonment, chronic illness, death itself,--all this seemed pleasant in comparison with this eternal war against self this watchfulness against being taken off-guard by the world. When I think of that, it appears that life is frightfully long, and that death will never come soon enough. I understood the words of St. Augustine: "The man who lives patiently, dies gladly" Again I understood that the life chosen by Jesus Christ is surely the most perfect and that it is impossible to give a loftier idea of sanctity than that of a perfect Jesuit. That had a good effect on me, which fully convinces me that if up to the present I had practiced some detachment, even very imperfectly, I was far from doing it by myself, and that in the future it is God who must put His hand to the work if He wishes to accomplish some good through me. I am well aware how impossible it is for me to do anything without His grace.

I observe that there is many a step to take before reaching holiness, and that at each step we take we think that that is all there is to do. After we have taken it we find out that it is nothing, and that we have not yet begun. A man who is going to leave the world thinks that after he has done so there will be nothing more to do. But when he finds himself in religion, with all his passions, and that he has simply changed their object while he is wordily outside the world, he learns that he is far out in his reckoning. There is then another step to take, which is to detach himself from objects from which his state has not yet entirely detached him, and to seek only God in God Himself; and not to seek any temporal interest in holiness. This would be a gross imperfection, and we must not even seek our own spiritual interests in this detachment, but rather should seek in it only the pure interests of God. To come to that, dear God, You Yourself must labor strenuously, for how could a creature by itself reach such a degree of purity? "Who can make him clean that is conceived of unclean seed? Is it not Thou who only art?" (Job 14:4.)

One thought which consoles me much and can, I think, with God's grace, partly calm my troubles is to know whether one is attached humanly to things in which obedience has engaged us --whether we displease God, for example, in making use of the necessities of life, or in the enjoyment of a good reputation, of the renown which follows on our labors, of the pleasure there is in conversing even in a holy manner, and so forth. To know, I say, whether something human doesn't slip into all these things, we must not judge them by our feelings, because it is usually as impossible not to feel the pleasure that such things bring with them as not to feel the fire when it is applied to our sensitive members. But I must examine, first, whether I have in any way sought the pleasure I enjoy; secondly, whether it would cause me some pain to give it up; thirdly, whether God's glory being equal, and we being free to choose, we should rather prefer things that are disagreeable and hidden. It seems to me that when we are in this disposition, we should labor with great liberty and great courage at the work of God, and despise all the doubt and all the scruples which could either stop us or worry us.

SECOND WEEK

In the first meditation I was disturbed by a few thoughts about a weakness into which I had fallen the day before. But when I discovered, I think, the reason why God permitted the fault which I committed--which was to cure me of a vain esteem which I had begun to conceive of myself--this thought produced a peace and a joy that were very sensible. I have learned with a pleasure that surely is not natural that I was not what I thought I was, and I do not recall ever having discovered any truth with so much satisfaction as accompanied the discovery of my wretchedness in this experience.

. I find here only self-abasement and humility. The angel humbles himself before a young girl; Mary assumes the quality of a servant; the Word becomes a slave, and Jesus Christ, conceived in the womb of His Mother, humbles Himself before God in the most sincere and profound manner imaginable. Dear God, the beautiful sight for You to behold such excellent persons humble themselves in Your eyes in so perfect a manner and at a time when You honor them with the rarest favors! What a pleasure it was to consider the interior thoughts of these divine Persons, but above all the profound humiliation by which Jesus Christ began to glorify His Father and to repair all the wrong which the pride of men had committed against His majesty! I could not humiliate myself at this sight, for wherever I turned there I found Jesus Christ reduced to nothingness. Here indeed is something to humble my pride-- the Son of God reduced to nothing before His Father! I never understood until this moment the word of St. Bernard: "What insolence for a worm to swell with pride where the only Son of the Father humbles and abases Himself!"

. I realized that the life of an apostle requires great mortification. Without it God does not communicate Himself, and we do not edify the neighbor. A man who curtails his pleasures and who ceaselessly works to repress his passions speaks with much more authority and makes a much better impression. As I have a natural leaning to the love of pleasure, I have resolved to keep watch over this evil inclination.

seems quite hard and quite unreasonable, if we consult merely human prudence. What were they to do among an unknown and idolatrous people? But as it is God who wishes it, it must be expedient. To reason about obedience, however extravagant a command may appear, is to mistrust God's prudence. It is to think that with all His wisdom there are commands which He cannot bring into line with His glory and our profit. When there is question of a command which human reason does not in the least understand, a man of faith should be glad in the thought that it is God alone who is acting and that He is preparing for us all the more blessings which He has to send by secret ways--blessings which we cannot foresee. I have no difficulty with that, God be thanked since I have learned from experience.

. What an offering! And how well it was made, both on the part of Jesus and the part of Mary! What an honor was given to God in this meeting! I make the same offering at Mass, if I make it with the same sentiments, the same desire of pleasing God. I take pleasure in considering, in Simeon's canticle, the clear and distinct prophecy of the conversion of the pagans: "Thy salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all the peoples, a light to the revelation of the Gentiles" (Luke 2:30-32). The holy man was indeed enlightened. He must have had great holiness to merit so signal a favor. There are few genuine saints; but there are some, nevertheless, as there have been at all times.

I omitted the , in which I recall that I asked God with great fervor throughout nearly a half- hour for the perfect detachment of which Jesus gives us an example. I asked it through the intercession of St. Joseph, of the Blessed Virgin, and through Jesus Christ Himself. Among my devotions to the Blessed Virgin, I have resolved never to ask God anything in any prayer in which I do not have recourse to the intercession of Mary.

"Why did you seek me?" (Luke 2:49.) In this meditation I was deeply moved by the sorrow which the Blessed Virgin felt throughout the three days during which she was deprived of the presence of her Son; but more still by her peace of heart which was undisturbed on this occasion. In seeking Jesus she exercised acts of resignation which were more submissive and heroic than any ever exercised. "About My Father's business" (Luke 2:51). In these words I found great lessons for myself. Even if the whole earth should rebel against me, scoff at me, complain and condemn me, I should do all that God commands me, all that He inspires me to do for His greater glory. I have made this promise and I hope with the help of His grace to keep it. This will require great watchfulness without which one might allow oneself to be easily surprised by human respect, especially one who is as weak as I am.

"And He was subject to them" (Luke 2:51). "He grew in age and wisdom" (Luke 2:52). I reflected that instead of growing in virtue as we advance in age, we frequently enough diminish, especially in fervor, regarding outward humiliations and dependence in our spiritual guidance. I was struck when I recognized that our love and gratitude grew weak in proportion as God's blessings increased. Why do we drop the virtues of novices? I confess that they do not suffice and that we should add others. But there is quite a difference between acquiring new virtues and dropping the old. We should strengthen the first rather than give them up.

In the second place, this love of solitude seemed to me to be quite in conformity with the spirit of God. It is the spirit of the world which puts us in such a hurry, which makes us seek to make our way and persuades us that we shall never get there soon enough. The spirit of God moves us in the opposite direction; thirty years unknown, despite all the specious pretexts which God's glory might have furnished to a zeal that was less enlightened! I will remain in solitude as long as obedience permits me. No visits of mere courtesy, especially to women; no special relationships with anyone in the world--at least I will not seek any--and I will do nothing to encourage them, unless it is perfectly plain that the interests of God's glory require that I act otherwise. This is one of my resolutions.

In the third place, this interior life of Jesus Christ which sets forth the lowliness of His action has led me to discover, I think, the true way to holiness. In the kind of life I have embraced, that is the only way of distinguishing oneself before God, because everything that is outward is common. I also feel myself strongly drawn to it, to apply myself henceforth to do the smallest things with a great intention, to practice frequently in the secret of my heart acts of the most perfect virtue of abasement before God, of desire to procure His glory, of confidence, of love, of resignation, of perfect sacrifice. These can be done anywhere, even when one has nothing to do.

Everything we do to procure God's glory is little enough, and although this external glory we give Him is a very slight benefit in His eyes, it is, however, not so slight that the Eternal Word has not wished to become incarnate for it. What is wonderful is that, being able by Himself to convert the whole world, He has preferred to do it through His disciples. He took all His life to train them. It seems that of all the things necessary for the conversion of the world, He has chosen for Himself only the thorns, like death, and left to men the glory. What love He must have had for some men to wish to make use of them in sanctifying others, although He could have done it easily without them!

I thought that a man who is called to the conversion of men has need of great virtues, especially of great humility and of a wonderful obedience. There are occasions when we can imitate this example, and we must not allow them to escape; to give matters such a turn that we seem to be following the advice we give, and to be only the instrument when we are really the worker. This facilitates the doing of things and is a help to humility. I have no trouble in attributing everything to God. How could I by myself do anything for the sanctification of others, seeing that I am conscious of such inability to cure the least of my imperfections, although I recognize, although I have, so to say, within my grasp a thousand weapons with which to fight them? I have resolved to be all my life as obedient as a child, especially with regard to matters that have to do with the advancement of God's service; because, without it, there is danger of my seeking only myself. What an illusion it is to think that one is serving and glorifying God either more or otherwise than He wishes! If you were the greatest man in the world, what a difficulty it would be to obey a man in everything. Yet, he is the man of God. You do well to obey a bell!

In addition, I will honor those who work for the salvation of souls. I will support their ministry as far as I can; I will maintain a great union with them and rejoice at their success. Behavior contrary to this is most ridiculous, most imperfect, most vain, the farthest removed from the spirit of God that a man who is employed in the salvation of souls could possibly adopt.

. It seems that thirty years of preparation would have been enough. But no. Jesus Christ no sooner has the mission from His Father than the Holy Spirit leads Him to the desert, there to practice the mortification and other virtues necessary to the calling of an apostle. I have proposed to flee every kind of delicacy in food, in clothes, never to ask for more in the way of food when preaching and never to complain about anything. "Not in bread alone does man live" (Luke 4:4). Secondly, never to have anything special in the way of clothing, even in the country, and to do all my traveling, as far as possible, on foot. It is easy to do this without much inconvenience; and that besides other good effects, humbles the spirit.

I have again resolved to make my spiritual exercises and all my retreats with an inviolable fidelity, and with all possible fervor; to mediate much on the life of Jesus Christ who is the model of our own life.

I understood the saying of Berchmans, "The common life is my greatest mortification." It mortifies the body and the mind. All the rest is often no more than an effect of vanity which seeks to distinguish itself. In any event, before doing anything extraordinary I will do all the ordinary things, and do them in all the circumstances which the rules require. That goes a long way, and leads to a wonderful holiness. Reading our rules I felt a great desire to keep them all with God's grace. This requires a great fidelity, as I understand it, great courage, great simplicity, great recollection, great strength and great constancy, and above all great grace from God.

Jesus Christ chose for apostles, first of all, men who were poor, ignorant men; and, to judge humanly, men little suited to His plans. Not that it is necessary to be of obscure birth and without education to work for the salvation of souls; but, to make all those who are called to this work understand how little necessary are their talents, natural or acquired, and that they are not the cause of any success that may attend the use of them. Again, He chose sinners, to show us that there is no work here for the dainty, that one must meet with a thousand fatigues and be prepared for the roughest kind of work. I felt ready, thanks be to God. No work causes me any fear. I would gladly die at such work. But I feel so unworthy of this grace that I do not know that God would even wish to use me for anything at all.

(Matt. 3:5 f.). It seems to me that there is some connection between these three beatitudes, and one cannot exist without the other. I well understand that they are truly blessed who are detached from all things, and who have torn all vicious inclinations from their hearts. But I am certainly far removed from that state. I felt towards the end of this Second Week that the inclination to vainglory is still in my heart almost as alive as ever, although it does not have the same effects, and with grace I repress its movements. I don't think I have ever known myself so well, but I know that I am so wretched that I am ashamed of myself. This sight causes me from time to time such an attack of sadness that I would be carried to despair if God did not sustain me. In this condition nothing gives me so much consolation as the reflection I make that this very sadness is itself an effect of great vanity; that this knowledge and this appreciation of my misery are a great grace from God who will not permit me to be lost provided I hope in Him and am faithful to Him in opposing nature. I submit to His will in everything, and I am ready, if He so wishes, to spend my life in this stubborn conflict, provided that He will by His grace keep me from succumbing to it. I think, however, that I can stifle this appetite for vainglory by repressing its movements. One stifles at last the remorse of conscience, although in such movements one has had to battle against nature and grace and education.

. Besides feeling with much sweetness, confidence and fear that God is calling me to the Third Degree, which consists in even repressing evil inclinations and loving all that the world hates; besides seeing that I would be the most wretched of men if I allowed myself to be satisfied with anything less, I was persuaded by a thousand reasons that I should try for it with all my strength. First, God has loved me too much for me to bargain with Him any more. The very thought fills me with horror. What! Not belong entirely to God after all the mercy He has shown me? Keep something back after all I have received from Him? Never will my heart consent to take such a stand. Secondly, when I see how small I am, and the little I am able to do for God's glory, even if I work solely in His service, I blush at the very thought of withholding something from Him. Thirdly, it will not be safe for me to take a middle course. I know myself. I should soon come to a bad end. Fourthly, only those who belong unreservedly to God should expect to die happily. Fifthly, it is only they who can expect to lead a quiet and peaceful life. Sixthly, to do a great deal for God one must belong entirely to Him. The less you deny yourself the less fit you become to do great things for the neighbor. Seventhly, it is in this state that we preserve a living faith and a firm hope and ask confidently of God and infallibly obtain what we ask.

. I have resolved, I think, with sufficient good faith, thanks be to God, to be of those who wish to be cured at any price. As I know well that my predominant passion is vainglory, I have made a firm resolution to avoid no humiliation of all those which I can secure without violation of rule, in never fleeing those that present themselves. I have observed that this continual attention to humiliation and mortification in all things produces at times a natural sadness which makes me slothful and less disposed to serve God. It is a temptation I can overcome, I fancy, by thinking that God asks it of me out of friendship; that we can grow attached to this exercise just as a good friend tries at every meeting to please his friend, or a good son to serve and gladden his good father, without any need of a strained effort, while he preserves a certain liberty of soul in the midst of the most pressing and trifling cares. This liberty is one of the most perceptible signs of true love. We do with pleasure what we think is acceptable to the person we really love.

. I began at once with a fairly lively feeling, with the thought, I should say, of the pride which a fully deliberate sin contains, and the blindness of men who enter on the deliberation as to whether they should limit themselves to the avoidance of mortal sin, and so on, as though a greater good should not be preferred without weighing it against a smaller good. These two movements were arrested, as it were, by a thought of vain complacence which came upon me and which I had to resist. I cannot say how much that humiliated me. I passed all the rest of the prayer in the continual sight of my nothingness and of my unworthiness regarding every kind of grace and consolation. I have accepted with complete submission the privation of this kind of blessing for the whole of my life, and to be until I die the target and plaything of devils and the object of every kind of temptation. I think that I have recognized, with the feelings of the Canaanite woman, that I should have no share in the bread of the children All I have asked of God is what is exactly necessary to keep me from offending Him. I do not give up hope, however, of arriving at that degree of holiness which my vocation demands. But that is something which I foresee will take a long time. Well then, I am determined, thanks be to God, to a long period of constancy. Holiness is something so great and so precious that no price is too high to pay for it.

It is at this juncture that, urged to carry out a plan of life which I have been thinking of for about three or four years, and with the approval of my director, I have given myself for good to You, O my God. How great are Your mercies to me, God of majesty! Alas, who am I that You should deign to accept the sacrifice of my heart! It will then be entirely Yours! Creatures will have no part in it. They are not worth troubling about. Be You then, loving Jesus, my father, my friend, my master, my all, since You are willing to be satisfied with my heart, would it not be unreasonable of it not to be satisfied with Yours?[4] Henceforth I wish to live only for You, and to live a long time if it is Your good pleasure, in order to suffer more. I do not ask for death, which would shorten my miseries. It is not Your will that I die at the same age as You died. Be You blessed for that! At least I see some justice in beginning to live for You and through You at the age at which You died for all men and for me in particular, for me who have so often made myself unworthy of so great a grace. Accept, therefore, loving Savior of men, this sacrifice which the most thankless of all men makes You to repair the wrong which up to this hour I have not ceased to do You in offending you.[5]

IDEA OF A vow

"I have sworn and am determined to keep the judgments of thy justice" (Ps. 118:106). I feel myself moved to vow to God the keeping of our , our , the , and the , in the following manner.

I. To labor all my life at my personal perfection by the observance of the rules, and for the sanctification of the neighbor by profiting from every occasion which obedience and Providence will give me to exercise my zeal without violence to the rules of discretion and Christian prudence.

II. To go indifferently, without exception or excuse, wherever obedience sends me.

III. To consult with superiors about external penances, and without necessity not to omit those that I have found beneficial; to make the general confession every year, the examen twice a day, to have a fixed confessor and to lay my conscience fully open to him.

IV. To love my relatives only in Jesus Christ. I think that by God's grace I am already in this disposition, and so this point will cause me no trouble.

V. To accept reprehensions in good part, and to have my superiors informed of my faults, and to inform them of the faults of my brethren in case I judge that I am obliged to do so by rule.

VI. To desire abuse, to be overwhelmed with calumnies and wrongs, to be considered as a fool, without however giving any occasion for it and provided God be not offended thereby. I think that all I have to do is to ask God, through His infinite mercy, to preserve the sentiments He had already given me.

VII. With regard to greater self-abnegation and continual mortification, I think that with our Lord's grace I can vow:

1st. Never to have any efficacious will regarding life and death, health, prosperity, adversity, employment, place of residence, except as this will is conformed to His.

2nd. To desire, as far as I can, all that will be contrary to my natural inclinations, supposing that this is not contrary to His greater glory. I think that He has almost placed me in this disposition.

3rd. Never to seek what flatters the senses, such as shows, concerts, sweet odors, things agreeable to the taste, or what can satisfy vanity. Never to seek it, I mean, in my talk or in my actions; and to be satisfied with what is given me in the way of furniture and clothing, unless obedience or the rule concerning health should oblige me to act otherwise.

4th. Never to avoid any mortification that presents itself, unless I judge before God that for some sound reason I should act otherwise.

5th. Never to relish any pleasure in those actions which are necessary, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, or those which can hardly be avoided in the Society without some affectation or singularity, such as recreations, extraordinary dishes, and so forth. Never to take them from the pleasure that nature finds in them, but to renounce them in my heart, and actually to mortify myself as often as God inspires me and I can do so without drawing too much attention to myself.

VIII. The four[6] following rules are included in all the others. For the seventeenth which deals with purity of intention, I think I can vow:

1st. Without our Lord's help, never to do anything except for God's glory, at least upon reflection.

2nd. Never to do or omit anything through human respect. This last point especially pleases me, and I think will establish in me a great interior peace.

IX. This present vow includes, if I mistake not, the observance of the nineteenth (rule).

X. For the twenty-first I can vow:

1st. Never to fail to make my meditation, and to observe, both in the preparation and the meditation itself, the of St. Ignatius, unless for some reason either of necessity or of charity, or some other equally good, I feel I am justified in dispensing myself from some of these points.

2nd. With regard to the Mass and the Divine Office, I will keep the .

XI. As to poverty, I have already made a vow to observe all the rules that St. Ignatius has given us regarding it.

XII. As to chastity, never to look at an object that can suggest thoughts contrary to this virtue, at least of deliberate purpose, or without an indispensable need. Neither to read nor to listen to anything that is not chaste, unless charity or the requirements of my employment oblige me to; to keep the Rules of the Priests regarding the hearing of confessions and visits to women.

XIII. Always to eat with temperance, modesty, and good manners; to say grace before and after meals with respect and devotion.

XIV. As to obedience, I have already vowed to practice it according to our rules.

XV. To observe whatever superiors wish to be observed with regard to incoming or outgoing letters.

XVI. To give an account of conscience according to the formula contained in the .

XVII. Never to keep anything hidden from my confessor, at least anything he should know for my guidance.

XVIII. What regards union and fraternal charity, matters that are purely secular, the care of health, present no difficulty for me, nor does the manner of acting we should follow when we are ill.

Every day to make the Examen of Conscience twice together with the Particular Examen, and to mark down progress according to the instruction given by St. Ignatius. To make spiritual reading when I can. When I am at home, not to absent myself from sermons without leave. To confess only to my ordinary confessor. To observe Friday abstinence. Not to preach without the approval of superiors. The next three rules deal with poverty; all the others seem to be without difficulty. I should think one could take a vow never to dispense with them without permission.

On arriving at a house one should remember to ask these permissions from superiors:

1. To have books.

2. To see the sick frequently, unless it is the custom to ask permission each time one goes to see them.

3. To enter momentarily the rooms of certain persons on certain occasions, such as to get a light or return a book, and so on.

4. To speak at home with externs and to call them, if there be need.

5. To do little errands for those outside the house to those within, and for those within to those outside, when I am asked, and I judge that there is nothing extraordinary involved.

6. To write letters (it being understood, of course, that they will be shown to him who is appointed to see them), unless it is customary to ask permission each time one wishes to write.

The are so drawn up as to cause me no trouble.

do not, I think, contain anything which might cause me any trouble. That which recommends the instruction of children imposes no greater obligation, as I see it, than that which is contained in the vow taken by the professed.

I could vow the rules of particular offices to the extent that I will be employed in them.

MOTIVES FOR THIS VOW

1. To impose on myself an indispensable necessity of fulfilling, as far as possible, the duties of our state of life, and of being faithful to God even in the smallest things.

2. To break at a single stroke the chains of self-love, and to remove forever the hope of satisfying it on any occasion, a hope which seems to me to be always alive in whatever stage of mortification one may possibly be.

3. To acquire at one stroke the merit of a very long life, in the extreme uncertainty we are of living for only a day, and to put me in a state of never fearing that death will come to sweep away the means of glorifying God longer. For this desire we have of doing so forever can never fail to be taken as accomplished, since it obliges us so strictly to accomplish it.

4. To repair past irregularities by the necessity I am under of being regular for as long a time as God is pleased to give me life. This motive interests me considerably and has more weight with me than all the others.

5. To recognize in some way the infinite mercies that God has shown me by engaging myself to carry out His slightest commands.

6. Out of reverence for God's will which should be fulfilled under pain of eternal damnation, although God in His infinite goodness does not always bind us under such heavy penalties.

7. To do on my part what I can to belong to God without reserve; to detach my heart from all creatures, and to love Him with all my strength, at least with an effective love.

SOME CONSIDERATIONS WHICH INDUCE ME TO TAKE THIS VOW

1. I do not find it harder to observe all that the vow includes than a man who is naturally drawn to pleasure should find it difficult to observe chastity, which requires of him so many conflicts and so much vigilance.

2. God, who inspired St. Ignatius with our rules, intended that they be observed. Therefore, it is not impossible to do so, not even morally impossible. Now the vow, far from making the observance more difficult, makes it on the contrary easier, not only because it removes temptations owing to the fear of committing a serious sin, but still more because it moves God to give greater help when occasion demands it.

3. Berchmans spent five years in the Society without his conscience reproaching him with the infraction of a single rule. Why, with God's grace, could I not do so at an age when a man is stronger and less exposed to human respect, which is the most dangerous enemy he will have to face?

4. I have no fear that it will rob me of peace of soul and be a stone of scandal for me: "Much peace have they that love thy law; and to them there is no stumbling block" (Ps. 118:165). It is an article of faith, and consequently the more a man loves the law the more peaceful he is. "And I walked at large; because I have sought after thy commandments" (Ps. 118:45). This exact carefulness of obeying the least observance sets the spirit free instead of causing it constraint.

5. I think that for some time now I have been living as I shall have to live after I have taken this vow. It is rather from the desire of engaging myself to persevere than of doing something new and extraordinary that I have got this idea.[7]

6. I feel that the mere thought of taking this vow detaches me from everything in the world, almost as if I felt death approaching.

7. I rely not on my own resoluteness, nor my own strength, but on the goodness of God which is infinite, and on His grace which He will never fail to communicate in abundant measure, and that all the more the more I try to do in His service. "And none of them that trust in Him shall offend" (Ps. 33:23).

8. I think that this engages me only to a little more diligence than I have had, for at this moment I do not think that I should wish deliberately to break any of these rules.

9. To anticipate scruples, I cannot engage myself in anything that is doubtful.

10. I can engage myself under this condition, that if after some time this vow causes me worry, the obligation will cease; otherwise it will end with my life.

11. When one has permission, one does not break the rule, at least in matters of external rule. For one would have to be quite unfortunate to prefer to break a rule and displease God than to speak a word to the superior, even when there is no obligation binding under mortal sin.

12. I do not intend to oblige myself to anything on those occasions when another could dispense with the rule without acting against his perfection.

13. The thought of this obligation, far from frightening me, gladdens me. I feel that far from becoming a slave, I am going to enter the kingdom of liberty and peace. Self-love will not dare to pester me any longer when the danger in following its movements will be so great. I feel that I have reached happiness when I have finally found the treasure for which I should give all.

14. This is not a passing fit of fervor. I have been thinking of this plan for a long time, but I was always waiting for this opportunity to examine it thoroughly, and the nearer the time approaches for carrying it out, the easier I find it to be.

15. Notwithstanding all this, I will await the decision of Your Reverence before going further. That is why I beg of you to consider this paper a moment, and give some thought especially to the last considerations, in which you will find perhaps the signs of the spirit of God. If you do not, all you need do is to tell me that you do not think it opportune for me to carry out this project, and I will have the same deference for your opinion as I owe to the word of God.

*. I am beginning, I think, to understand my vocation and the spirit of the Society. And by God's grace I think I am also beginning to perceive that this spirit is born and strengthened in me either because of a peculiar affection and deep esteem I feel for all the rules, or because my zeal is apparently growing and purifying itself.

Concerning the word which comprises the sending of the apostles, "Teach all men" (Matt. 28:19), I understood that we are sent to all persons, and that wherever a Jesuit is, in whatever company he may be, he is as it were sent by God in the interest of the salvation of those with whom he meets. If he doesn't speak of this mission, if he doesn't improve every occasion to advance it, he betrays his ministry and makes himself unworthy of the name he bears. I have determined, therefore, to remember that, and to study the means of turning the conversation to subjects that will be spiritually profitable to anyone I meet, so that no one will ever leave me without a better knowledge of God than he had when he came, and a greater desire if possible for his own salvation.

. Here the disinterestedness and the indifference which he (the apostle) ought to have, keeps me occupied all the time. I thank God that I do not find in myself any repugnance to spend my time in the instruction of children and the poor. On the contrary, I think that I should welcome these employments with pleasure. They are not exposed to vanity, and they are, for the most part, more fruitful. After all, the soul of a poor man is as dear to Jesus Christ as the soul of a king, and it makes little difference who they are who fill heaven. Among the proofs that Jesus Christ gave of His mission this was one of the first: "The poor have the Gospel preached to them" (Matt. 10:5). It was by this sign that one could recognize that it was the spirit of God who founded the Society, for the teaching of catechism and the care of the poor are its first cares. The Constitution recommend nothing so much as these. I think that we have reason to hope that we are sent by God, and that it is He whom we seek, when we have this indifference. This is why I have made up my mind, whether by hearing confessions or by preaching, to love the service of the poor, and, when I am given a choice, to prefer them even to the rich. The rich will never lack people to look after them.

. I have resolved all my life to find an honor and a pleasure in this virtue, and to have the consolation of always being able to say, "I have nothing," where the world and self-love find so much satisfaction in having and in counting their possessions. Especially no books. That will oblige me to read much and well those books that I judge to be necessary. I shall have no trouble in passing up all the rest.

. I realized that an apostle is not called to a soft life, nor to one of repose. He will have to sweat and tire himself, to fear neither heat nor cold, nor fasts nor loss of sleep. He must use up his strength in this work. The worst that can happen is to die while serving God and the neighbor. I do not see that that should cause anyone to fear. For me health and life are something at least of little concern. But sickness or death, when they come after I have worked for the salvation of souls, will be pleasant and precious.

This very day after dinner, having read in the story of Berchmans the death of this holy young man, I was deeply touched by what he then said, namely, that it was a great consolation to him never to have broken any rule. And thinking about the answer I should have to make on this point if I had to give an account to God, I felt suddenly so great a sorrow for having observed my rules so ill, that I burst into a flood of tears. I then made my meditation, in which I took a firm resolution to be a better Jesuit than I had been up to this. I confidently invoked this blessed young man, and I begged of him through the Blessed Virgin whom he loved so much and the Society to which he had been so faithful, to obtain for me the grace to live until death, as he had lived during five years. All the rest of the day I was penetrated with grief, keeping before my eyes the rules I had so often set at nought and broken. Three or four times I wept, and I thought that with God's grace it would be no longer easy for me to break them. But I remained inconsolable over the past. I had never understood the wrong I had done. I thought that if someone wanted to tempt Berchmans to break a rule at the hour of his death, there would be no consideration which would bring him to commit such a fault, since he had spent his life without once having failed in their observance. Now, we have just as many reasons for resisting all temptations of this nature. In breaking silence today, I did not less displease God; I disregarded a command with which the Holy

Spirit inspired our holy founder. It isn't my fault that regularity is not utterly destroyed, and this rule is not so slight a thing but the good of the whole body depends on it.

To obtain contempt of the world, I think that the practice of the presence of God is quite effective. It is a thought from St. Basil that a man who has a king and a lackey as witnesses of what he is doing, does not think only of the lackey, but only to have the approval of the sovereign. It is a strange and quite unhappy servitude for a man to seek to please other men. When will I be able to say: "The world is crucified to me, and I to the world"? (Gal. 6:14.) I earnestly begged this disposition of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin.

. It is true, and I understand that humility ought to be great in an apostolic man, and the fear of not having enough of it will keep me, I think, in great dread. Nevertheless, I feel that all I need is to be on my guard and avoid thoughtlessness. For, whoever gives a thought to what he is, or what he has been, or what he can do by himself, is in a bad way if he attributes anything to himself. To burst pride open all one has to do is to remember that the first mark of virtue is to have no esteem at all for oneself. Secondly, he should sincerely fix his gaze on Jesus Christ humbled, who admits before God that He is nothing, and that all that gives Him glory is owing only to His Father.

But people praise me. They are mistaken. It's an injustice done against God. It is as though an actor were praised for the verses he recites which someone else wrote. Besides, people don't think as much of us as we suppose. They know all our faults, even those that escape our notice. At least, they do not think of us. But we wish to do great things, or, to put it better, we wish that God do great things through us. He is indeed worthy of admiration and of praise to make good use of such worthless tools. But I am none the better for that, and it is possible for God to damn me after having saved many by means of me, just as it happens that a painter throws a coal into the fire after he has used it to draw a beautiful design and some very excellent features. The way of the Blessed Virgin is admirable. She sincerely confesses that God has done great things in her, and that this will draw upon her the praises of all the ages. But instead of being raised on high " . . . my soul cloth magnify the Lord."

. After I recognized and confessed that before God I am nothing, and that by myself I have done nothing, I understood how just it is that God alone be glorified, and I thought that a man who happens to be praised for some virtue and some good action should be as ashamed as would be a man of honor who was taken for another and praised for something he had not done. But if we are so vain as to be puffed up because of those qualities, whether they are natural or supernatural, which do not belong to us, what meanness, what confusion, when on the Day of Judgment God will bring forth this man, let all the world see all that he has received and all that he has of himself, and then ask him while reproaching his vanity: "What have you that you have not received, and if you have received why do you glory?" (I Cor. 4:6.) I thought I saw a rogue who, having passed himself off for some time as an honest man under the protection of a cloak he had stolen, was unmasked in good company and fell into horrible confusion. But it will be much worse, dear God, when You make me see that not only have I had nothing about which to boast, but that I will have nothing about which to boast when You lay open my hypocrisy, the abuse I have made of Your graces, my interior miseries, and, so on. On this occasion God made me see myself so deformed, so wretched, so wanting in all merit, in all virtue, that truly I have never been so disgusted with myself. I thought that I heard Him in the depth of my heart, going over all the virtues and making me see clearly that I did not have any of them. I begged Him earnestly ever to keep me in this light. I confess that I found that this self-knowledge, which daily grows in me, weakens or at least moderates a certain steady confidence which I have had for a long time in God's mercy. I do not any more dare raise my eyes to heaven; I find myself so unworthy of His graces that I hardly know whether I have not closed all access to them. This feeling comes upon me especially from the comparison I make between my life, my offenses, and my pride, with the innocence and humility of our saints.

. After the preceding meditation I found nothing so easy as this. When we know what it is to save a soul, and what we ourselves are, we are soon persuaded that we can do nothing. What folly it is to think that with a few passing words we can do what has cost Jesus Christ so dearly! You talk, and a soul is converted. It's like a puppet show. The attendant bids the doll to dance, and the operator moves it by pulling the strings. The command accomplished nothing at all. "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). The beautiful thought in a soul in whom or by means of whom God accomplishes something out of the ordinary!

. As, by God's mercy, I feel a sufficient drawing to prayer, I asked God with great confidence, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, to grant me the grace of loving this holy exercise ever more until death. It is the only means of purifying us, of uniting us to God and of having God unite Himself with us to do something for His glory. We must pray to obtain the apostolic virtues; we must pray to make them profitable for the neighbor; we must pray so as not to lose them in the service of the neighbor. This counsel, or this command, "Pray always," seems to me to be most sweet and by no means impossible. It includes the practice of the presence of God. I wish, with our Lord's help, to try to follow it. We have always need of God; we should therefore, pray always. The more we pray, the more we please Him, the more we obtain. I do not ask for those sweetnesses in prayer which God grants to certain souls. I am not worthy of them. I have not enough strength to bear them. Extraordinary graces are not good for me. To give them to me would be to build upon the sand. It would be to pour a costly liqueur into a leaking cask which could hold nothing. I ask of God a prayer that is solid, simple, that will glorify Him and not puff me up. Dryness and desolation, accompanied with God's grace, are very good for me, I think. I then make with pleasure acts of the most excellent virtues. I work against an evil disposition, and I try to be faithful to God, and so on.

. From the beginning of prayer, I feel myself borne on to make acts of prayer. I make them without effort, because in fact by God's grace I do not feel the effort in any state. I think that with the same grace I would accept the most annoying happenings that Providence could permit to befall me. At least, I feel sufficiently determined to, if God does not abandon me. I am especially resigned to sanctify myself by the way that is pleasing to God, by the withdrawing of all sensible sweetnesses, if He so wishes, by interior pains, by continual struggle against my passions. This is what is most rugged for me in life. I submit, however, with all my heart, and all the more willingly that I understand that this way is the surest, the least subject to illusions, the shortest for acquiring perfect purity of heart, a very great love of God and very great

THIRD WEEK

IN THE FIRST MEDITATION of the Third Week, which is a , at the thought of the ardent desire Jesus Christ has to suffer, my soul was at once seized with the desire the saints have had of dying. This thought gives death an inexplicable charm in their eyes. It is the effect, I think, of an inviolable fidelity in responding to all of God's graces and in doing all the good they can for Him through many years. This thought has enkindled in my heart a great desire not to lose a moment of time, to do all the good I can as soon as I can, with the purpose of being in a condition to desire death and to welcome it with joy. I went on then to think that a man who honestly desires to suffer much for Jesus Christ is like a person suffering from extreme hunger or thirst, who while waiting to be presented with something from which he can have his fill, seizes in the meantime on any scrap of food or drink that is at hand. I feel so great a desire to suffer for God that I do not see any kind of pain I would not welcome--so I think--with great joy. But I judge that this is a grace which God gives only to His friends, and I find myself so unworthy that I do not think that God would ever grant me such a favor.

. Two things have moved me deeply and have occupied my mind throughout the whole time. The first is the disposition with which Jesus Christ advanced to meet those who came in search of Him, with the same steadfastness, courage and demeanor as though His soul were in perfect peace. His heart is plunged in a terrible bitterness, all the passions are unchained within Him, and nature is baffled; yet behind all these disorders, all these temptations, the heart goes straight to God, without taking one false step; it does not hesitate to take the side which virtue, the highest virtue, suggests. This is a miracle which only the Spirit of God is capable of working in a heart. War and peace, disturbance and calm, are brought to agreement. There results a certain manly fervor which nature, the demons, and even God Himself, who may seem to be armed against us, or at least to abandon us, cannot cause to waver.

The second thing is the disposition of this same Heart towards Judas who betrayed Him, towards the apostles who shamefully abandoned Him, towards the priests and others who were responsible for the persecution He was suffering. It is certain that none of these evils could arouse in Him the slightest feeling of resentment or hatred or indignation. In no way did these lessen the love He had for His disciples and for His persecutors. He was extremely and sincerely afflicted at the harm they were doing themselves, and His sufferings, far from disturbing Him, alleviated in some way His pain, because He saw that His pains could be a remedy for the ills of His enemies. I represented to myself, therefore, this Heart without rancor, without bitterness, full of genuine tenderness for His enemies, which no treachery, no ill-treatment could move to hatred. Then, turning to Mary to ask of her the grace to place my heart in the same disposition, I noticed that her heart was in that disposition perfectly, that it was overwhelmed with grief without doing anything that was unbecoming; that she remained in full possession of her judgment in such terrible circumstances; that she wished no evil to the tormentors of her Son; that, on the contrary, she loved them and offered Him for them. I confess that this spectacle filled me with joy, and that it gave me an incredible love for virtue and produced in me the greatest pleasure I was capable of feeling.

O Hearts truly worthy of possessing all hearts, of reigning over all hearts of angels and of men! Henceforth, you shall be my rule, and on like occasions I will try to make your sentiments my own. I desire that henceforth my heart be only in the hearts of Jesus and Mary, or that the hearts of Jesus and Mary be in mine, so that they will communicate their movements to it, so that it will not act, will not be stirred, except in conformity with the impression it receives from these hearts.

. "Friend!" It is true that Jesus loved him. He would not have called him His friend if he were not. Jesus Christ really had the desire to convert Judas. He had chosen His arrow well, and the heart of Judas was pierced with it. But with him it was as with those desperate invalids to whom the strongest remedies are given. They produce their effect, but the sick man has not strength enough to survive the operation and gives up his life in giving up his mortal fluids. Everything is wonderful. Jesus Christ dragged along, Jesus Christ before the Judge, in the witness stand, accused and keeping silent! I think that if with the grace of God I were to suffer, to be calumniated and treated as a criminal, I would find there the complete undoing of self-love. I think that on a like occasion I would thank God with all my heart, and that I would eagerly ask to be allowed to die in that condition. But it is a waste of time to think about it. I know that that is not a favor for me. One must be a saint for something like that. I must try to profit from the occasions that I find, and to be careful that while I am entertaining these entirely vain desires I do not meanwhile run after the vainglory of the world and let slip these little occasions that present themselves.

Meditating on the , I realized with surprise and dread how weak we are. It made me tremble. I have within myself the sources and the seeds of all the vices. There is not one that I am not capable of committing. Between myself and the abyss of all disorders there is only God's grace which prevents me from falling. How humiliating! This thought should give even the saintliest souls a certain confusion! That is why St. Paul said, "In fear and trembling. . ." (Phil. 2:12). Jesus Christ passed that whole night bound, the sport of the insolent soldiers. What a beautiful subject for meditation are the thoughts of Jesus through all that night! What could be more astounding than to see wisdom incarnate, Jesus Christ, treated as a fool by Herod and all his court? The world has not yet changed its opinion with regard to the Son of God. With it He still passes for a fool! What courage in Jesus Christ for having despised all the glory, all the honor He could so easily have drawn from this whole court! But to have been so willing to leave the prince and all his officers with the conviction that He was without common sense! What a sacrifice to offer His Father! That indeed is glorious. And what cowards are we, we who make so much of the opinion of men, and who make ourselves slaves to their thoughts! When will we shake off this shameful yoke? When will we raise ourselves above the world? How worthy it is of a Christian soul to suffer a humiliation which could have been avoided, and to be satisfied to have God alone as a witness to a truth that is to our credit! Dear God, I wish to make myself holy between You and me, and to hold in contempt every humiliation that would not lessen the esteem that You might have for me. The sight of these generous acts, which are so far above nature, raises my soul, I feel, above itself and all created things.

What a sight it is to behold Jesus Christ led back to Pilate, across Jerusalem, clothed in the garments of a fool! Pilate condemns Him to be scourged. What an injustice! Jesus Christ does not complain, although He sees the cause of it in the jealousy of the priests and the evasive compliance of the judge; even though he foresees the cruelty of this suffering. I compared this procedure with our own conduct when we do wrong in something. How can we complain when we look upon this example? I was deeply confused at the remembrance of the past. Dear God, the fine opportunities I have frittered away! They shall never return. I am not worthy of them. I am convinced that however I am treated it will never be unjustly.

Nothing stirs me more than the scourging and the contempt there shown for Jesus Christ. The most criminal of all men meets with compassion when he is condemned to torture. The executioner is stoned if he makes the thief or the murderer suffer too much. And here is Jesus given up to the caprice of the soldiers, who tear Him, who add pain to pain, who treat Him as they please with impunity, as though he were not a man! He makes no complaint; He places Himself still lower in the presence of His Father, He accepts all these pains from His hand; He is glad to be able to render Him a supreme service by this frightful abasement. They place a crown of thorns upon His head. This is to expiate that horrible passion of those who wish to play the king, to excel, to surpass all others in everything.

Pilate brought Him forth: "Behold the Man!" He must have been in a pitiable condition. It was for those who love the great theaters, the cheering throngs. They prefer Barabbas to Him. This is what is strange: we complain of the advantages given to others, but Jesus Christ has no complaint to make. He even placed Himself lower than they have placed Him by this unjust comparison. At the same time He said in His heart to His Father: "I am a worm and no man" (Ps. 21:7). They cried out: "Crucify Him!" (John 19:6); and He consented with a full heart. Are there in the world Christians after this example, this model? If every time we broke a rule through human respect we thought that we preferred a man to God, I believe that it would not be done so often. This thought has moved me, and I think that for the future I will be inflexible on this point. Men have seemed to me to be so small a thing that I cannot understand why we take such pains to please some of them, God being the witness of our actions. But, alas, dear God! Will not all these fine feelings vanish on the first occasion?

I am not too much surprised at the injustice of Pilate who condemned Christ. But I am deeply moved to see Jesus Christ who submits to this unjust judgment, who takes the burden of His cross with a humility, a meekness, a resignation that are admirable; who, having arrived at the top of the hill, permits Himself to be stripped, stretches Himself upon the cross, extends His hands and His feet and offers Himself to His Father with sentiments which only He is capable of forming. It is true that this sight makes the cross so lovable to me that I think I could never be happy without it. I look with respect on those whom God visits with humiliations, adversities of any nature whatsoever. Without doubt they are His favorites. To humble me I have only to compare myself with them as long as I am enjoying prosperity. Thinking of Jesus dying upon the cross, I have found that the old man is still very much alive in me, and that if God did not support me with great grace, I would be after thirty days of retreat and meditation as weak as before. God must work a great miracle in me to make me die entirely to myself: "The old man is still alive in me; he is not perfectly dead; he stirs up interior wars and will not allow the kingdom of the soul to be at peace." I have noticed that every time God has given me this lively feeling of my miseries, and I began prayer after some fault or some weakness which gave me a better knowledge of my imperfections, I have been consoled towards the end of the prayer, and came from it much stronger; "Thou wert angry and took pity on me" (Ps. 59:3); "Your anger has ceased and you have consoled me" (Isa. 12:1). This happens even outside of prayer, after I have with God's grace overcome the temptation. It happened even in this. I left it with an entirely new resolution never to give quarter to my self-love and to be on my guard against being surprised by it. I asked this grace of God with strong feeling, laying before Him my miseries and my weaknesses, which I discover to be greater every day.

. Seeing how far I was from being in the condition to which Jesus Christ was reduced to honor His Father and to save me, I said with great feeling: "Dear God, is it possible that so much pain, so profound a humiliation, so cruel and shameful a death, that all that, I say, had to be endured to turn Your anger away from me, and to draw down upon me Your graces and blessings, and that nevertheless I am still so imperfect! Eternal Father, has not enough been done to make me a saint? How is it that I do not feel in me a change much more closely proportioned to such great efforts? Yes, it is a great sum, but permit me to say to You that I think that You have not yet given me the graces that answer to this price. I am awaiting great effects from the zeal of Your Son, but I do not yet feel that they are such as I think I have reason to expect. Perhaps it is because I do not wish to experience them. But, dear God, do I not offer You the death of Your Son and the sacrifice of the Mass to feel the effects of them? One does not use means so powerful as these when one does not desire to obtain something. I must live as though I were already dead and buried. "I am forgotten as one dead from the heart" (Ps. 30:13). A man of whom one no longer thinks, who is no longer anything in the world, who is nothing, this is the condition in which I must be in the future, as far as possible, and in which, as a matter of fact, I desire to be altogether.

FOURTH WEEK

WHAT JOY FOR THOSE who had suffered with Jesus Christ and who had been truly moved by His pains, as Mary, St. John, Magdalen, and the others. There were others, however, who took as little share in this feast as they had taken in the sorrowful mysteries which preceded it. With what pleasure, and with what abundance, does God recompense them for the pains and ignominy of His Son! In heaven He is greatly glorified; but on earth for one Judas who sold Him, how many millions of men strip themselves of everything to possess Him! For one thankless and sacrilegious city which disowned Him as its king, how many kingdoms and empires have submitted to His power! He beheld Himself denied by St. Peter. How many millions of martyrs suffered death rather than deny Him! How many altars have replaced the prisoner's dock! For that purple cloak and white robe, with what wealth do we not clothe His temples and His altars!

While meditating on the impassability of Jesus Christ, I examined, I looked into something that can still move me. I have felt an extreme repugnance to obey in certain circumstances. By God's grace I overcame it and am ready for anything. I reflected that it is dangerous to make plans, even in matters of slight importance, unless one be quite resolved to drop everything in order to obey or practice charity. Every occupation which one leaves with difficulty and which one would rather keep than do anything else, or even to do nothing, if God should so wish, offers the danger of human attachment. I have really resolved to be on my guard on this point. I must have this consolation, with God's grace, of yielding nothing to nature. With God's help I must, before coming to a decision on anything at all, on any proposal that is made to me, I must, I say, consult God, and accustom myself to anticipate the movement which things produce in my soul, by elevating my mind to God, and seeing what thought I ought to have about it according to the gospel. Unless I am careful about this, it is impossible to preserve peace of heart and to keep from falling into many faults, because everything that happens appears either agreeable or disagreeable to nature, and it is not from this angle that we must take our view. To keep from doing so there is no means other than this manner of raising my mind to Him to whom everything I observe should be referred.

St. Ignatius' method of making an examen or a recollection at the beginning of each action, and especially of those where there is more danger of committing a fault, this method, I say, is beyond compare. I have resolved to make use of it. In time it cannot fail to produce a very great purity and to maintain great tranquillity in my conscience. With God's grace this isn't going to be too difficult, no more than the examen which should follow the same action. When we have a great interest in our perfection we strive for it quite naturally and as it were without thinking of it.

The fine expression, "I have finished the work which You gave me to do," Jesus and Mary could use at this moment and at the moment of death. I have noticed that when I made up my mind to imitate Jesus Christ in this matter, I felt that nature underwent some surprise at the prospect, and that right now I feel stronger to do it, and to resolve, for example, to spend this month, this year, in doing all I can to make my actions more acceptable to God and as perfect as possible. For that I will need great vigilance and the practice of the Rules of Election and frequent examens together with prayer, to obtain a larger number of graces.

. I noticed that Jesus Christ after having suffered, having died and risen, left Jerusalem, went to the top of the mountain, and after so many trials entirely detached from the world and the earth, ascended without effort into heaven. What prevents us from following Him is that we are still living a natural life, either buried in sin, or taken up with the business of the world, or attached to the earth where we still find our happiness. St. Paul said: "Our conversation is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). Happy they who can say the same thing! As for myself, I ask of God, to be able to live between heaven and earth, without enjoying any of the pleasures of here below, or those of heaven, in a universal detachment, being bound to Him alone whom we find everywhere. It is ours to withdraw from all the pleasures of earth, at least not to seek any of them out of a motive of pleasure, but to detach the heart from them if we cannot actually renounce them; to go to some trouble because of the ardent desire we have of doing without them for the love of God. As to those of heaven, we must leave God to act who knows our strength and who has His own plans, and live in great unconcern, quite willing to do without them.

. I have been deeply moved at the sight of the blessings I have received from God from the first moment of my life down to the present. What goodness! What care! What patience! What sweetness! Surely, I have not gone to the trouble of giving myself entirely to Him, or at least to desire with all my heart to belong to Him, for I do not yet dare flatter myself that I have quite made the sacrifice. Experience alone can reassure me on this point. The truth is that I would think myself the most ungrateful, the most unhappy of all men if I kept back anything at all for myself. I see that I must belong to Him absolutely, and that I could never consent to any division. But I must see whether in my practice I should have the strength and the constancy to keep up this beautiful thought. I am indeed weak. I am quite unable to do it by myself. I am close to the truth there. If I am faithful, dear God, You will have all the glory. But I do not know how it will happen without my giving myself some credit. I must forget all about myself.

. God, I think, has made me penetrate this truth and see it clearly: first, that He is in all creatures; secondly, that He is all there is of good in them; thirdly, that He gives us all the good that we receive from them. I thought I saw this King of glory and of majesty at work, warming us in our clothes, refreshing us in the air, nourishing us in our food, making us glad in pleasant sounds and objects, producing in us all the movements necessary to life and action. How marvelous! Who am I, O my God, to be so served by You at all times, and with so much attention and love! He works in the same way in all other creatures. But all of that is for me. He is like a zealous and watchful attendant who sees that work for his king goes on in all parts of the kingdom. What is more wonderful is that God does this for all men, although no one thinks of it, unless some chosen, holy soul. I should at least think about it and be thankful. I imagine that as God has His glory as the last end of all His actions, He does all these things principally for love of those who think of it and admire His goodness in it; are grateful to Him and seize the occasion to love Him. Others receive the same blessings, but as it were by chance and good luck, almost as, when at a feast a serenade is given to someone, a thousand people enjoy the pleasure because they happen to be in the house with the person for whom it is done. To this we can refer what God said to St. Teresa, that if He had not made the world, He would create it for love of her.

On the third repetition I reflected that all these services which God pays His creatures ought to keep us in great confusion and great recollection. When a valet serves us we frequently receive the service while engaged in something else. We chat with someone, or we doze. But if a person of some consequence lowers himself to be willing to do us a favor, certainly that should keep us wide awake: "Lord, do You wash my feet?;' (John 13:6.) That is astonishing to one who understands a little who God is and what we are.

God ceaselessly refers to us the being, the life, the activity of every created thing in the universe. That is His occupation in nature. Ours should be endlessly to receive what He sends us from all parts, and send it back to Him by thanking Him, by praising Him and recognizing in Him the author of all things. I have promised God to do as much of this as I can. It is a wonderfully useful exercise like that of the presence of God. But we can say that it is a very singular gift of God to continue it with that sweetness without which it would become harmful. Now, I ask of God only His grace and His love, and a love that has more of solidity than of sweetness and show. What I have promised to do, with His grace, is never to begin an action without recalling that He is my witness, and that it is He who does it with me and who gives me the means of doing it: and never to finish an action without taking the same thought, offering Him this action as though it were His, and in the course of the action every time that the thought presents itself to pause a moment and renew the desire of pleasing Him.

At the words, "Give me Thy love alone,"[8] I find myself ready for the rest of my life to do without consolation, even spiritual. I am satisfied to serve God with great fidelity in aridity or in the midst of temptations.

To accept as I should what I see nature fears, I must recall that if it comes to pass, I have asked God for it. It is a clear sign that He loves me, and I have great reason to hope for everything from His goodness. It is a sequel which will confirm me in the sweet thought that what has taken place up to now has taken place by a very special providence. I am making a vow to accept it as I would the most agreeable thing in the world, without giving a sign to anyone at all of my natural inclinations.

"Far be it from me to glory or rejoice, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:4).

"But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by any man's day; . . .but he that judgeth me is the Lord" (I Cor. 4: 3)

To live from day to day ....

To hope that I will die doing what I have in my hands to do.

Truly humble persons are never scandalized, because their weakness is perfectly known to them. They see themselves so close to the precipice, and they fear so much to fall over, that they are not surprised when others fall over.

"What honor is there in preaching if God is not pleased to have me do so?" asked Father Balthasar Alvarez. How can there be anything low and contemptible if only I please God by undertaking such employments?

God must be satisfied at any price![9]

It is strange how many enemies we have to encounter the moment we take the resolution of becoming a saint.[10] Everything it seems is unloosed against us; the demon with his temptations, nature by the resistance which she sets up against our good desires; the praises of the good; the scoffing of the wicked, the feast of the Apostle. entreaties of the tepid. If God visits you, there is vanity to fear. If He withdraws, timidity and despair may follow close upon the greatest fervor. Our friends are a source of temptation because of the desire we habitually have to please them; mere acquaintances, by our fear of displeasing them. Indiscretion is to be feared if we are moderate, and self-love always. What, then, is to be done? "There is no one to battle for us except you, our God." "Not knowing what we should do, this alone is left to us, to turn our eyes to you." Above all, holiness does not consist in being faithful for a day, or a year, but in persevering and growing until death. God must be our shield, but a shield that surrounds us, because we are being attacked from all sides. "He shall compass thee with a shield" (Ps. 90:5). God must do all. All the better for us. We must not fear that He will fail in anything. All we have to do is to recognize our impotence, and to be fervent and constant in asking for help through the intercession of Mary, to whom He refuses nothing. But we cannot do even that without a great grace, or rather many great graces from God.

I think I feel a little stronger, through the infinite mercy of our Lord, against the temptations of vainglory. The same objects are present, but with much less strength; they no longer make such an impression. They begin to bore me and appear less charming. Reasons which help me to see their vanity are indeed stronger than they have been hitherto. This is especially so since I made a sincere resolve to renounce them altogether by a way that is extremely efficacious and unfailing. The resolution was quite formed in my mind, and it wasn't my fault, with God's grace, if I did not carry it out the very next day; but, as I had foreseen, I was given to understand that I should not think about it.[11]

"When will one be well off without Him, or badly off with Him?" When we feel a certain restlessness in prayer which causes us to find the time long, or to be in a hurry to pass on to some other occupation, we can say to ourselves with profit:

"Well, my soul, are you tired of being with your God? Are you not satisfied with Him? You possess Him, and you look for something else? Or could you be better off than in His company? Or could you do something more profitable?" I have made trial of this and find that it soothes the spirit and unites it with God.

As perfection consists in seeking to please God, and only God, in all things, I have become more than ordinarily convinced that we should not waver on those occasions when we can please God at the expense of displeasing men, and acquire some esteem in His eyes while we lose some of that which men have for us. That is why I have resolved never to waver on those occasions that present themselves of humiliating myself and of letting myself be known to men for what I am and have been. This will give me no trouble if God gives me the grace to remember that the less one is esteemed by men the more one will be esteemed by God, and that it is He alone whom I wish to please. If I were to be taken as a criminal, and that reputation would not increase my merits, I should look upon it as something indifferent, seeing that it is not among men that I want to make my way. But if it were to advance me in the presence of God, I should consider it a great blessing. I have once more understood that it is a great happiness to belong altogether to God, seeing that His greatness is infinite. God indeed honors us in calling us to holiness. I have understood this from the comparison of a king who chose one of his subjects to be solely his, and who would not allow him to give any service to anyone other than to his own person, as he wished his friendship entire, especially if the prince is of great merit.

One loves the king, even though one has never seen him; one should always love him, even though he does not love us, even though he is unaware of our feelings, and does not know us, and even if he should make no account of us. And God, whom we have never seen and whom in truth we shall see forever, who sees us, who loves us, who does us good, who is witness of all our thoughts--we cannot love Him! The king is our master-- and God, is He not even much more so, our Creator, our Father. . . ?

If God reigns in us everything will obey Him, everything will fulfill the least of His commandments, nothing will be done but what He commands. More, we shall try to please Him in everything, we shall study His inclinations, we shall anticipate His desires, we shall do always and in all things what we think will please Him most. For these are the two things we have with regard to kings, a blind submission and an extreme desire to please. We must therefore do what pleases God and what pleases Him most.

God's grace is a seed which we must not smother, but which we must neither leave open to too much exposure. It must be nourished in the heart and not made to appear too much in the eyes of men. There are two kinds of graces, small in appearance, but from which nevertheless our perfection and our salvation may depend. First, there is the light which unveils a truth to us. We must tend it carefully and be on our guard lest it go out through our own fault. We must use it as a rule in all our actions, to see to what it leads us, and so on. Secondly, it is a movement which carries us on to some act of virtue on certain occasions. We must be faithful to these movements, because this fidelity is sometimes the key to our happiness. A mortification which God inspires us to practice in certain circumstances, if we listen to His voice, will perhaps produce great fruits of holiness in us. Whereas, the contempt we may have for this little grace can have very fatal consequences, as has happened when favorites fell into disgrace for having failed in compliance in very small things.

Having suffered with annoyance a small mortification which I was not expecting, I was greatly confused because of it, recognizing thereby the little love I had for the cross. The result was that I had reason to believe that all the desires I had felt on different occasions to suffer pain and humiliation were only apparent, or at least I had imagined in these setbacks something else than God and the cross of Jesus Christ. As our Lord continued in His infinite mercy to take occasion of my own ingratitude to give me fresh graces, He saw to it that a light came in the wake of this confusion which made me understand that the love of the cross is the first step we must take to be pleasing to Him, and that I had yet to begin, since I am so far removed from the feelings of the saints who rejoiced over the occasions which God sent them to suffer. What cowardice! To grumble in the presence of our Lord when receiving a tiny mortification which He sends us. All these thoughts produced in me a kind of strength I had never felt before, even to go in search of what did not present itself. I thought that that had cured me of some timidity, of a certain delicacy which made me fear, among other things, the rigors of the season and being fond of certain comforts which without great danger I could dispense with. May the infinite goodness of God be forever praised who, far from punishing me for my faults as I deserved, made me find in them such great treasures of grace!

,[12] ![13] I was touched at seeing this saint suddenly prostrate at the sight of the cross, not able to contain his joy, letting it burst forth in such impassioned speech. --useful, honorable, agreeable. It is all his good. It is the only good that moves him. "Long desired," not only did he desire it, but he desired it ardently. Hence was it that the time lagged for him. "Long the object of a love full of solicitude"; love cannot exist without care. The saint sought the cross with the eagerness and the fear of a man who is afraid of not finding it, and who cannot find it soon enough. You would thus say that he had found a treasure. The moment he finds it, the transport he displays is that of an impassioned lover who has come to possess a great love. "Sought without intermission." Behold our Rule. And it was by that means he deserved to find it. "And found at last," this phrase denotes a great desire. He must have loved Jesus Christ well to have found so much pleasure in the cross. Sometimes men are loved because of the fortunes they possess; but to love their misfortunes for love of them is something unheard of. It is a wonder if they are not hated because of their misfortunes. "Greater love no man hath than that he lay down his life for his friends." But there are degrees in this sacrifice, for to die with this joy, with this eagerness, is a love without compare. What faith!

. The saint spoke of God to every one he met and to all sorts of persons. His first thought, wherever he was, was what service can I render my neighbor? There are a hundred occasions of bringing men to God, and frequently one succeeds better here than by preaching. No one ever had anything to do with Berchmans without being all inflamed. At least let us have this zeal for one another. What shall we talk about with seculars? In our recreations do we talk as Jesuits? I speak little of You, my God. Is it because I think little of You, is it because I have no love for You?

We can do so by example as Berchmans, Blessed Aloysius Gonzaga, Brother Alphonsus Rodriguez; by our modesty with outsiders, with those of the community; by our regularity and our practice of all the virtues. Am I not on the contrary a stone of scandal? If my example were followed, would there be any regularity, any mortification in the house? It isn't my fault that the Society is not a collection of very free and sensual men.

We can do so by our prayers and good works. Without grace preaching is useless, and grace is obtained only by prayer. St. Xavier always began with it. Witness the whole Lent which he passed in such fearful austerities that he was sick for a month, to obtain the conversion of three soldiers who were leading disorderly lives. Without it, would he in fact have gathered so much fruit? So many preachers have come after him who have not preached less, but who have gathered less fruit. If there are so few conversions among Christians it is because there are so few who pray, although there are many of them who preach. How acceptable are these prayers to God! It is like praying a mother to forgive her son.

The obedience of St. Francis Xavier seems well worthy of our admiration. They speak to him about making a voyage of six thousand leagues; he is ready as soon as they speak to him. St. Ignatius told him simply, "You are to go." He doesn't resist a moment. He has to leave his friends, his relatives, the comforts of home, to go by himself to another world. There is no need of speeches to win his consent. He leaves without traveling expenses, without baggage, without books, and so forth. Is my obedience like that? Am I ready to act so, even when I am commanded to do things that are difficult? I have taken a vow and still it isn't done. Is it not in God's name that they speak to me?

St. Francis does it joyfully. He throws himself at the feet of St. Ignatius. He thinks himself fortunate that the choice falls on him, and thanks him for it. It is an opportunity for great merit. He believes that God speaks to him through his lips. We murmur if we are bidden things that are difficult or opposed to our inclinations. We grumble when we do them. We think that the superior bears a grudge against us, and we take it ill. However, we should look upon it as a grace. We obey only when we are commanded what we like, and not because we are commanded.

A true religious submits his judgment. What likelihood is there of recalling to Europe the Apostle of the Indies, the support of religion in half of the world, and at the very moment that he is on the point of getting into China? There is no reason for exposing a life so precious. And so, he does not expect it. When we are in a place where we are comfortable, or think that we are doing good, at a task at which we are succeeding, in a house where we are useful, what would we say about the orders that called us elsewhere? It is then that we must obey. It is God who is acting against all human reason, for reasons unknown to us, but very profitable. The trouble is that we do not trust Him. But that climate, that superior, that job! Go, in God's name, "Casting all your care upon Him, for He hath care of you" (I Peter 5:7).

St. Xavier thought it unworthy to obtain anything from God by himself. He made use of the merits of St. Ignatius, the prayers of his brethren, those of little children. He looked upon himself as a great sinner, and attributed to his sins the obstacles that were in the way of the propagation of the faith. This was from a feeling of humility. What a miracle of humility in so great a man! But is not pride in us a still greater miracle? What have we done that can be compared to what this great man has done? What a difference in the manner of doing the same things! What confusion to see ourselves so different! But if notwithstanding this difference we are vain, we have only another reason for being more confused.

He thought well of others, St. Ignatius, those who wrote him from Europe, other ecclesiastics. He esteemed everybody, spoke to them with wonderful kindness and goodness, served them, performing for them even the meanest offices. We have no reason to despise anyone. A humble man sees only his own faults. It is a sign of little virtue to notice the imperfections of others. The man who is imperfect today, may, recognizing himself, rise to high holiness in a few days. Moreover, our rule obliges us to look upon all others as our superiors: "From this are born esteem, respect, and an eager willingness to serve each and all."

When we recognize that we are quite wretched, we do not take it ill that we are little thought of, because we see that it is just. That is why St. Francis accepted with patience, and even with a very great joy, the contempt and the insults of the bonzes, never growing angry with them, but answering them gently. A poor beggar is not put out at seeing himself refused, or if he is not greeted, or if he is given rubbish. A humble man believes that he is justly treated whatever ill treatment he gets. Men do not look up to him; they are right. In this they agree with God and His angels. A man who deserves hell thinks that contempt is really his due portion.

"God is wonderful in His saints" (Ps. 67:36). "O Lord . . . thou art glorious in holiness" (Exod. 67:11). It is not St. Xavier whom I admire, it is God, who can accomplish such great things with a man, that is, raise him to so high a virtue, give him so great a gift of contemplation, such great conversions, and such great miracles. I think this has given me a great idea of God, and has made me understand that it is a great glory to serve Him. It is strange that we are careless about the service of so great a Master, that so few wish to give themselves entirely to His service. What a marvel that conversions which should have been so difficult were made in so short a time, by an ill-clad stranger, traveling on foot, by himself, unacquainted with the languages of the nations to whom he is preaching! This man brought about a change in morals and religion in kings, learned men, and the people in one-half of the world, in ten years; in people who were separated by distances so astounding that it seems unbelievable that he could hurry from one to the other in so short a time. I felt a great desire for the conversion of these abandoned peoples. I prayed God that if it should be His will I should go to bring them the light of the gospel, that He would have the goodness to open the way for me. If not, that He would train workers who would be worthy of so great an honor of which I saw myself to be altogether unworthy.

I felt a strong desire to make God known and loved on every occasion and by all the means possible to my weakness, sustained by God's grace, strengthened by the example of this great saint and his powerful intercession before God. For I said to him, if you had so much zeal for an unknown barbarian as to go to the end of the world in search of him, would you reject one of your own brothers, would you overlook his salvation? Help me, great apostle, to save myself, and I will never forget to help in the salvation of others. Suddenly a great light shone in my soul. I thought I saw myself loaded with irons and chains and dragged to prison, accused and condemned because I had preached Jesus Christ crucified and dishonored by sinners. At the same time I conceived a great desire for the salvation of the poor souls who are living in error. I thought that I would be willing to give the last drop of my blood to draw a single soul from hell! What an honor for me, if at the hour of my death I could say to Jesus Christ: "You have shed Your blood for the salvation of sinners, and I have prevented this one or that one from rendering it useless." But what shall I say myself if, dreaming of the conversion of others, I do not convert myself? Shall I labor to people heaven and go myself to people hell? No, dear God, You are too good. You will help me to save myself, You will strengthen me in the labors by means of which I desire to merit heaven. Must I die by the hand of an executioner? Must I be dishonored by some calumny? At this all my body trembled, and I felt as though I were gripped by terror. Will God judge me worthy of suffering something sensational for His honor and for His glory? I saw no likelihood of that. But if God does me this honor, I will welcome it whatever it be, prison, calumny, insults, contempt, sickness. All that will be to my taste; and it is only our sufferings that please Him. I feel, and perhaps I am deceived, but I think that God is preparing some hardship for me to endure. Send me these hardships, my lovable Savior! Obtain them for me, great apostle, and I will everlastingly thank God for them and praise you. "Blessed are you when men hate and persecute you" (Matt. 5:11). Send them to me, Lord, and I will undergo them gladly.

. I am resolved so to abandon myself to God who is always in me and in whom I am and live, that I will in no wise be anxious about my behavior, inwardly or outwardly, reposing softly in His arms without fear of temptation or illusion, or prosperity, or adversity, or my evil inclinations, or even my faults, hoping that He will guide all by His goodness and infinite wisdom, with the result that all will redound to His glory. I shall not wish either to be loved or sustained by anyone, desiring to have in Him both my father and my mother, my brothers and friends, and all who could have any feeling of tenderness for me. I think that one is quite at one's ease in so safe and so sweet an asylum, and that there I will have no fear of men or demons or myself or of life or death. If only God bears with me I am only too happy. I think that here I have found the secret of a contented life and that henceforth all that I fear in the spiritual life should not cause me fear any more.

Why was there such great purity in Mary? Because her womb was to be the abode of the Son of God. If she had not been purer than the angels, the Word could not have come to her with propriety. He would not have come with pleasure. He would not have brought those precious gifts with which He filled her at the moment she conceived Him. In the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar we receive the same Jesus Christ whom Mary carried nine months in her bosom. What is our purity? What care do we take to prepare our soul? What rubbish? We commit faults on the eve, on the day, in the very action itself. And yet He comes! What goodness! We go to Him. What rashness! "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8). But does this God of goodness come with pleasure? Let us examine what our thought ought to be. Is He not repelled by the sight of such corruption? And we go boldly, impudently to Him, without confusion, without contrition, without penance! I want to try to prepare my heart so that You will take pleasure in it, so that You will find Your delight in it, O my God, so as not to oppose the immense graces I would receive, if I took the trouble to purify myself, if I knew what I was losing. But, dear God, my ignorance is little excuse for my negligence! Am I ignorant of what propriety demands of me when I have to deal with men? Besides what I have been taught and, so to say, made to suck with my mother's milk, how much time has been wasted in instructing me! And all that to please one who a moment later will make fun of me. And perhaps I have never even thought of what I should avoid in order not to displease You. What is it, I ask, never really to have thought about what is my duty towards You? And have I only given it a thought? What do I expect, ingrate and disloyal man that I am? That You think of me? And when did You ever cease to do so? Shall I wait until my waywardness obliges You to think no more of me? Ah, my kind Savior, do not hold me to account. I have given you so many reasons for forgetting me, for holding me in contempt, for not remembering me, except to hurl me into hell! You have not done so, dear God. I thank You for that, and earnestly wish for the future to pay You reverence. By the trouble I take to purify myself, I will place myself in a condition to profit from Your visits and to induce You to come to me with pleasure. Come to me, dear God, and with Your holy grace You will find my heart purer and cleaner. But if only once it should please You, great God, carry it away, for fear that creatures will steal it from You. I will never consent to that, because I wish to belong only to You. I fear myself more than my most redoubtable enemies. I entrust myself solely to You. "I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13).

Yesterday evening after my prayer, reflecting on what had almost shattered my resolutions, I realized that I had not yet smothered this vain fear of men. I mean human respect, and although, by a great effort of Your infinite mercy, my God, I have come off successful in a number of encounters, with the aid of Your all- powerful grace, I recognize, however, my misery, and I feel that it is You alone who have done every good in me. I should be offending You at every moment, and that grievously, if You did not extend Your hand to draw me out of the mire into which my inclinations were carrying me, and in which my too compliant nature would involve me, if You did not use in my regard that sovereign domain which You have over all creatures. But, dear God, what thanks shall I give You for all the blessings You have given me? However unworthy and however unthankful I have been for them, I will praise You, my Savior, and I will proclaim everywhere that You alone are worthy of being loved, served, and praised. In order to establish me in this truth You have given me to know that human respect brings us to commit the fault of being afraid of not pleasing men and that it is responsible for our doing good in order to please them. As a matter of fact, I notice that out of a fear of not pleasing men we give without permission, we break silence, we listen to slander and complaints, and do not inform superiors when it is our duty to do so. Strange thing, that we should prefer to draw down upon us the indignation of God to run the risk of vexing a man! "To whom have you likened me?" (Isa. 40:18.) Confusion and sorrow in the sight of God, notwithstanding His promises and threats! What do I expect from this man? Isn't it true that in religion it is impossible not to have good desires frequently? But what is strange is that frequently we fail to carry them into effect for fear of men. What will men say if I wish to lead an exact, a devout, a mortified life? I have taken up a certain way of life. If I had to begin over again I would do otherwise. But I would be taken for a bigot. I would do this and this, if I dared: "He who is ashamed of me before men . . ." (Luke 9:26), and St. Frontine, "He so feared God that he was feared by men." Would I have less strength, less knowledge, and less resoluteness than Brother Ximenes who, on his way to become a Jesuit, took this vow: "My God, I promise Thee that I will never do anything but for love of Thee. For I do not know where to go to serve anyone but Thee who art my God and my Lord." If we are not careful we shall waste nearly all our lives in the desire to please men. What obligations have we to them, what return do we expect from them? In this we are more unfortunate and more miserable than those who labor to earn money. But what is my mistake? These men whom I foolishly fear in religion expect to see me practice all the virtue which I am afraid to do before them. And when I fail they treat me as a fool and a senseless man. They know that it is to be virtuous and devout and mortified that I have retired from the world, and they see that I am not. "Here," they say, "is a foolish person who withdraws from his end. If he wished to live like that why didn't he stay in the world, where he could be without blame what he now is in religion at the risk of being lost." This is the judgment of me which they will have whose judgment I fear. Am I not wretched, dear God, to displease You without pleasing men? If I did as much for You, You would judge me favorably, and men would not have the contempt they now have for my behavior. For, when all is said, every sensible man has an esteem for virtue even though he does not practice it.

When I consider my inconstancy,[14] I tremble and fear to be among the number of the reprobate. Dear God, what disorder, what complete changes of front! Now gay, now sad. Today everybody's friend, tomorrow like a porcupine, which one cannot touch without being pricked. It is a sign of little virtue that nature still reigns in us, that our passions are in no wise mortified. A truly virtuous man is always the same. If I do something good, it is rather out of inclination than virtue. A man who finds his support in God, who is motionless, cannot be perturbed, said Father Caraffa. He is content no matter what happens that may be annoying, because he has no other will than God's. O happy state! O peace! O calm! But to reach it one must struggle.

I recognize it, dear God, and experience teaches me the same only too well. One day one is good, and bad another, and he slackens unconsciously. How does it happen that I am no longer what I was in the novitiate? Is it because I think we have paid enough for God and paradise? Let us compare our merits with those of the saints. We have received new graces and must therefore increase our thanksgiving. We are nearer death, we are more reasonable, more enlightened. What, then, has brought about this change? Reason should make me return. The slightest occasion makes me forget my good resolutions. How am I to provide for them? How am I to behave, and so on?

.[15] Although innocent, St. John spent his life in continual penance. That is the spirit of Christianity. Because we have sinned we should never give up the practice of this virtue. When we have practiced it but once, we do not know whether God has pardoned us. And even if we knew it, St. Peter and St. Magdalen wept until they died. I have deserved hell. I have crucified my God. That should keep me humble and nourish in my heart a holy hatred against myself. I sin daily. I hardly perform an action, even a holy one, in which there is not something which deserves purgatory. This is why the frequent use of confession is necessary and very profitable. St. Ignatius made an examen after every action. I commit more faults than he, and I hardly ever think of doing so. What blindness!

I am still capable of sinning! Wretched condition of life! This danger makes life bitter for me and for all those who love God and know the value of grace. But penance and mortification will make it pleasant to them, for they are such efficacious means of preventing this misfortune. Penance holds the flesh in check, weakens nature, removes occasions, takes many objects away, and so on. Holy penance! Sweet penance!

The thought of the virtues of our brethren ought to inspire those who have true charity with sentiments of joy because they have these virtues, because God is glorified in them, "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth" (I Cor. 13:6). Are we not cast down by them? We should praise God for them, thank Him for them, beg of Him their perseverance and perfection. They are a means of having a share in the good they do, in confessions, mortifications, sermons, missions, and so on, and sometimes even a greater share than they themselves because of the abuses of selfish interest. St. Augustine said: "Are you jealous because your brother is more mortified than you? Rejoice rather in his mortification and from then on it is yours." No, dear God, I am not jealous of the virtues of my brothers: "She is our sister; may she grow!"[16] On the contrary, I humble myself and am confused when I compare myself with them. There are few of them in whom I do not find something excellent which I have not. Possibly, they have their faults, but they are for the most part involuntary, and a sinner like me should hardly notice them, but excuse them, and keep my eyes fixed on my own. Their virtues are for the most part true virtues. It is for us to maintain ourselves in humility, respect, charity. Am I doing so? No; a sign of pride. Instead of this jealousy, enkindle in me, dear God, a holy desire to imitate them and to profit from their example. They will condemn me at the judgment. Today they ought to arouse me and encourage me. This is the sensible advice which God gives me: "And cannot you do what they do?" The example of the ancient saints should have less influence on me than that of our brothers whom we have daily before our eyes. I behold them exercising a great reserve though their temperaments are ardent, and practicing the most repulsive humiliations though their birth is distinguished. I behold them austere and mortified although their constitutions are delicate. What a shame it is for me to have examples of such great humility in men of quality, of such rugged mortification in bodies that have been brought up so delicately! And I draw no profit from them to become better!

God is in our midst, and it seems that we do not recognize Him. He is in our brethren, and He wishes to be served and loved and honored in them, and He will give us a greater reward for that than if we served Him in person. How do I behave? Do I love, do I honor all my brethren? If I except a single one, it is not Jesus Christ whom I see in them. It seems that I do not know Him in them. If I love them, it is for their sakes, to be loved, considered by them, because their character is like mine. Each one should consider our Lord Jesus Christ in his brother.

He is in our midst in the Blessed Sacrament. What a consolation to live in the same house with Jesus Christ! But won't one say that we do not know our happiness? Do we visit Him often? Do we go to Him in our needs? Do we consult Him in our plans? Do we bring Him our little disappointments, instead of seeking advice from friends, of complaining, of murmuring, and so forth? "But there hath stood one in the midst of you whom you knew not" (John 1:26).

God is in the midst of us, or rather we are in the midst of Him. Wherever we are He sees us, He touches us; in prayer, at work, at table, in conversation. We do not think of that; for how would we perform our actions, with what fervor, with what devotion! If when I am busy with my study, my prayer, or any other work, I thought that a superior was looking at me from some place where he was hidden. . . ! Let us make frequent acts of faith. Let us say frequently, God sees me, He is here present. Never do anything alone which I would not wish to do in the sight of all mankind.

(Here begins a series of remarkable contemplations on God. They delight those who read them attentively and show to what heights of contemplation the Sacred Heart had raised the fervent apostle of His devotion after having revealed his mission to him. )

. I have considered with a most delightful relish and a very clear view the excellence of the acts which the Blessed Virgin practiced at the birth of her Son. I admired the purity of heart and the love with which she burned for her divine Infant; for nothing natural had spoiled her purity, and yet she surpassed in warmth and tenderness all the natural loves of all the mothers of the world. I thought I saw the movements of her heart, and I was enraptured by the sight.

Since Christmas Eve I have been busy with a very consoling thought, which has led me to practice the following acts frequently and with much sweetness:

Of joy, on thinking that throughout all the Christian world the majority of the faithful are thinking of honoring God and of sanctifying themselves, especially holy persons, fervent religious, many chosen seculars who live in a very perfect manner, and who spend especially the eve and the day of Christmas in most holy exercises. I thought that the air was fragrant with their devotion, and that all the virtues joined together made something like a wonderful perfume which rose to heaven and made it infinitely glad.

Of thanksgiving for the favors which God has bestowed on holy souls and on all Christians.

Of petition, that God be pleased to purify and inflame their sacrifice. You come, dear God, to bring this holy fire, and what do You desire but that it be enkindled, and that all the world be set ablaze by it? All Your faithful servants toil fervently and constantly to merit some spark of it, and You reward their holy toils. For myself, God of mercy, I do not ask any reward; in fact, what have I done thus far to merit any reward? All I ask of You, God almighty and I reduced to nothing, is that You do not treat me severely. Pardon my infidelities because of all the good my brethren do who serve You so religiously. Or, if my weakness and my waywardness have irritated You against me, punish me in this world. I have a body which is good only to suffer. Let it feel the weight of Your justice, I will not complain. But at the highest point of illness or of false accusation, in prison and in disgrace, I will praise and bless You with the three youths of Babylon, confident that if You have the goodness to punish me in this world, You will spare me in the next.

I felt in myself a great desire to imitate the fervor of holy religious by spending these days in continual communication with this God, humbled and reduced to nothing; of offering to God some heroic mortifications, of remaining united with God become an infant, and I felt myself so drawn to it that I could not without difficulty busy myself with other thoughts. I turned even to distractions, so carried away was I with this thought. Cease, my sovereign and lovable Master, to fill me with Your favors. I realize how unworthy I am of them. You will make me accustomed to serve You for selfish motives, or You will involve me in excesses. For what would I not do, if You did not oblige me to obey my director, to merit a moment of those sweetnesses with which You fill me! Senseless man! What am I saying, to merit? Forgive me this word, my kind Father. I am upset by the excess of Your goodness and I do not know what I am saying. Am I able to merit these ineffable graces and consolations with which You anticipate me and fill me? No, dear God, it is You alone who by Your sufferings have earned for me in the presence of Your Father all the favors that I receive. May You be everlastingly blessed for that, and fill me with misfortunes and misery in order to give me some share in Yours. I will not believe that You love me unless You make me suffer, and that much, and for a long time. I have committed the fault. Is it just that the son be punished instead of the servant?

Nothing was so pure as the confinement of Mary. She brought forth Jesus Christ without loss to her integrity. No spot, no stain tarnished the purity of her childbirth. It is thus that apostolic persons ought to bring forth Jesus Christ in their hearts. It sometimes happens that one is soiled in purifying others. It is even something quite ordinary. It is a kind of miracle to see a man who loses none of his humility, none of his holiness in his works of zeal, and in them seeks God alone.

God has allowed us to fall into an abyss of misery so as to be able to manifest His love for us. But our miseries, no matter how great they are, are not beyond the reach of His zeal. All that was needed to cure us was a drop of His blood. But His love could not be satisfied with so little. He drained all His veins. That was not necessary for the cure of our ills, but it was to Him for the manifestation of His love.

I find some consolation in setting up God's judgment against the opinion of men, who esteem us and think us of some worth; in the presence of God we are but atoms, who to Him are needed for nothing at all, and with whom He could dispense as easily as though we had never existed. Even without us He will do well indeed all that He has a mind to do; for He has a thousand servants more zealous, more faithful, more acceptable in His eyes; He who could create in a moment an infinite number of others more accomplished still; and who could make use of the most miserable of men to carry out the most magnificent plans. What a marvel, O all-lovable God, if one day You should wish to make use of my weakness to rescue some poor man from the gates of death![17] If all that is needed is to wish it, I do wish it with all my heart. It is true that one must be holy to make others holy, and my very weighty faults let me know how far removed I am from holiness. But, make me holy, dear God, and do not spare me in making me good, for I wish to become so at any cost.

If, regarding this truth that there is a God, and that God is a being that has nothing of nonbeing, who can lose nothing, gain nothing, who enfolds in Himself all being, who is the source of all being, who cannot depend on any other in any sense at all, neither for His being nor His better being; if I have been penetrated with a profound reverence for this incomprehensible greatness, I do not think that I have ever understood so well the nothingness of all things as when considered against this idea. The angels, the great saints, the Blessed Virgin herself, the holy humanity of Jesus Christ, which of themselves are nothing, which depend altogether upon God, all that seemed nothing to me in comparison with God. My astonishment was extreme when I reflected that God, being so great and so independent as I saw Him to be, deigned to think of men, so amuse Himself, so to say, in hearing their prayers, in requiring their service, in weighing their defects. I thought I was looking at a great king who had assumed care of an anthill. If He condemned us, if He annihilated us all, without other reason than his good pleasure, it would be as though a man amused himself in killing flies or crushing ants. What brought me back from my astonishment was that He is as good, as merciful, as bountiful as He is great. This it was that encouraged me to hope, to venture to approach Him, to speak to Him. Without this point of view it seems to me that I would not even venture to think of God. I will think of You, dear God, but not to know You. I must not cling to this earth to know You, and I realize how much my heart still turns to the things of earth. So many desires of being esteemed, loved and praised, although glory and praise are due only to You; so much love of my own comfort makes me groan; for the more I think, under cover of my cunning, of my self-love, I find that it has taken me by surprise, and that to my shame and confusion it has made a plaything of me. Open my eyes, therefore, O lovable Jesus: "Lord, grant that I may see." I do not ask to see You nor to know You; give me only the light that will reveal myself to me, because as soon as I know myself well, I will infallibly know You: ("I cannot know myself without knowing You"). My imperfections will give me an ardent desire of knowing something better than the creature. And what is there above the creature that is worth more than the Creator? ("To Thee is all my longing directed"). Everything else displeases me, and myself more than everything else, because I do not know of anything more worthy of being cast off, more contemptible, more pitiful.

This thought of the greatness and the independence of God on the one hand and, on the other, of the nothingness of all creatures, has revealed to me the baseness and the cowardice of those who make themselves dependent on other men, and the generosity and happiness of those who wish to depend on God alone. There is but one means of drawing us from the melancholy nothingness in which we live, and that is to attach ourselves to God: "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit" (I Cor. 6:17). In this way we lift ourselves out of the dust and become in some way like to God.

In the thought of God's spirituality, I have conceived how it is that God who is entirely spirit, can be tasted, heard, seen, embraced by the spiritual senses. This view has been a strong, interior conviction of the presence of God which faith makes perceptible to the soul in such a way that it has no doubt of it, and that there is no need of doing itself violence or of reasoning to be convinced of it. This disposition in which I find myself has given me a great desire to mortify the external senses, the disorders and the operations of which are the only obstacle which the soul meets with in the use of its spiritual senses: "But the sensual man perceiveth not those things that are of the spirit of God" (I Cor. 2:14). I am not surprised that carnal men do not recognize God. It is because God is a spirit, and the spirit in a carnal man is dead, or at least deadened.

God's simplicity seems to me to be something wonderful. This nature which excludes all composition of parts, whether they be essential or integral or accidental, which is all things and still one only, which is its own existence, which is all that it possesses, its wisdom, its goodness, its eternity, its power, and so on! I represent to myself a flower which has the perfumes of all flowers. We might be able to make a composition in which there would be all these perfumes, but what a wonder it would be if one flower had them all, and in all its parts, and in the greatest possible perfection. A fruit which would contain all tastes, a precious stone which would have all the colors of the others, a plant which would have all the good qualities of other plants, and so forth. "If you had all blessings in yourself alone, we should not let you go." I felt myself drawn to imitate this simplicity of God:

First. In my affections, loving God alone, and receiving for myself this sole love. That is not hard, for I find in God all that I can find elsewhere, and so my love will be, as the Scripture says of God, "Holy, unique and multiple." But my friends, they love me, I love them. You see that, and I know it. Dear God, alone good, alone lovable, must I sacrifice them to You, since You wish me to be Yours entirely? I will make the sacrifice which will cost me more dearly than the first I made on leaving my father and my mother. I will make, therefore, this sacrifice' and I make it cheerfully, since You forbid me to give a share of my friendship to any creature. Accept this harsh sacrifice. But in exchange, my divine Savior, be You their friend. As You wish to take their place with me, do You take my place with them. Daily I will remind You of them in my prayers and of what You owe them in promising to take my place with them. Happy they if they will profit from this privilege! I will importune You so much that I will force You to make them know and esteem the blessing that is theirs in the command You have given me to have no more friends so that I can be entirely Yours. Be, therefore, their friend, Jesus, their one and true friend. Be mine, since You command me to be Yours.

Secondly. In my intentions: "If thy eye is simple, thy whole body will be lightsome" (Matt. 6:22). To seek only God, not even to seek His gifts, His graces, the advantages to be found in His service, such as peace, joy, and so forth, but only Him alone.

An excellent means of detaching the heart from all things is frequently to change one's place and work. Insensibly we become attached and take root, which can be seen from the pain we suffer when we feel the separation. It is a kind of death to leave one place where we are known and where we have a number of friends. What will always enable me to bear this separation without pain is the thought that God will be with me everywhere, and that I will find the same Lord in the place to which I have to go. In this respect I don't make any change. He is the same to whom I pray here, who knows me, who loves me, and whom alone I wish to love.

"He only hath immortality" (I Tim. 6:16). Only God is immortal. Everything else dies: kings, relatives, friends, those who esteem us or whom we have bound to us will withdraw from us, either by death or by their absence. We will withdraw from them. The remembrance of our favors, their esteem, their friendship, their gratitude die with them. Persons whom we love die, or at least their beauty, innocence, youth, prudence do; their voice, the sight of them, and so on, all that dies with them. The pleasures of sense have, so to say, only a moment of life; God alone is immortal in every way. As He is most simple, He cannot die by the separation of parts which compose Him; as He is most independent, He cannot fail by the withdrawal of an external concursus which preserves Him. Moreover, He cannot stand aloof, nor change. He is always reasonable, always beautiful, liberal, loveable, powerful, wise and perfect in every way. The pleasure we taste in possessing Him is a pleasure that never passes. It is unchangeable. It depends neither on time nor place. It will never pall. On the contrary, it becomes always more delightful in proportion as we enjoy it.

God is perfect in every sense. It is impossible to find in Him anything that is not infinitely good. He is wise, prudent, liberal, beautiful, gentle, never despising anything of all that He has created, making account of us, governing us gently and always reverently. He is patient, free of all ill-regulated stirrings of the passions. He has all that we love in creatures. He has none of the defects which shock us, which repel us, which disgust us in created objects. How is it then that we do not love Him alone? What is there that can justify this dislike? When we find something very perfect in any order, we cannot bear with all the rest. A beautiful voice well modulated gives us a strange dislike for bad singers. A man who is experienced in painting and who has studied for some time the originals of Raphael and Titian doesn't deign to let his eyes rest on the work of other painters. When we have lived among good people and men of polished manners we cannot grow accustomed to an association less delicate and refined.

God is not only perfect, but He is also the source of all perfections. It is only in Him that we can borrow them, and that is done by studying Him and contemplating Him: "We shall be like to Him because we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2). That will be in heaven, and in this life we approach this resemblance the more we contemplate Him. We have a great obligation to be perfect, because in a man who preaches virtue and who makes profession of it, imperfections do more harm to the neighbor than his virtue does them good. They give occasion for the belief that there is no real holiness, that perfection is something impossible and that it is only an illusion and a sham. If imperfections do not suggest these thoughts, they persuade the tepid that one can have them and be holy at the same time. It is enough to lull an imperfect man and to nourish in his heart a passion which flatters him that he loves, if only he notices some shadow in a man who has the reputation of being good. He thinks that he is thereby authorized to continue his self- love and think that he is not less holy for that.

Thinking of God's eternity, I represented it to myself as an immovable rock on the banks of a stream from which the Lord saw all creatures passing without His moving and without stirring Himself. All men who were attached to created things appeared to me to be like people who were being carried by the current, some clinging to a plank, others to the trunk of a tree, others to a mass of foam which they took for something solid. Everything was carried on by the torrent. Friends died, health failed, life passed, one arrived at eternity carried on by those transient supports, just as at the open sea you cannot be prevented from entering and being lost. I saw how imprudent a man would be in not clinging to the rock, to the Eternal. One tried to make his way back, but the waves had carried him too far; return is impossible. There is nothing left but to perish with these perishable things. Whereas a man who clings to God sees the peril without fear, and the loss of all the others. Whatever happens, whatever surprising changes take place, he is always on his rock. God cannot let him escape. He has embraced only Him, he finds himself always in His arms. Adversity only gives him reason to rejoice over the good choice he has made. He is always in possession of his God. The death of his friends, his relatives, of those who esteem and help him, absence, the change of work or of place, old age, sickness, death, take away nothing of his God. He is always equally satisfied, saying in the peace and joy of his soul: "But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God" (Ps. 72:28). This consideration has moved me deeply. I think that I have understood this truth, and that God has given me the grace of being persuaded of it in a certain way which gives me great courage and much ease in detaching myself from everything and in seeking only God's will in all my life, by all the ways He will be pleased to employ me, never giving any sign of an inclination or repugnance, receiving blindly every work that my superiors shall appoint. And if it should happen that sometime they give me the choice, I promise, dear God, and I hope by Your holy grace to keep the promise. If it happens, I say, that if my superiors should leave the choice to me, I promise to renew the vow which You have inspired me to take of choosing always the employment and the place to which I feel the most repugnance, and where I think, according to God and in very truth, I shall have the most to suffer. My lovable Jesus, You have given me the example. And as far as I can, I wish to rule myself by Your example and Your principles which alone can lead me to You and draw me from the narrow straits of ignorance and error into which my passions might hurry me.

ENDNOTES

1 St. Joseph's at Lyons. This convent was situated near the confluence of the Rhane and the Saone, and was used for the tertianship. Blessed Claude pronounced his last vows there February 2, 1675, and a few days later, left to be superior of the house at Paray-le-Monial.

2 Is there in all this something of the extraordinary and sensible order? The words of the religious do not warrant an absolute affirmation. But the thoughts here disclosed certainly agree with those of the man who seven months later is going to consecrate himself completely to the Sacred Heart.

3 This act by which one resigns all one's expiatory merit is called in the Church the "heroic act."

4 This grace from this time prepared the apostle of the Sacred Heart by establishing those close bonds which united his heart with the Heart of Jesus.

5 Father La Colombiere, therefore, took this vow towards the end of the Second Week of the Exercises, shortly before November 1, perhaps even on All Saints Day. He was thirty-three years, nine and a half months of age.

6 That is, the 13th, 14th, 15th and-16th Rules of the Summary.

7 Here Father Claude gives a simple proof of his holiness.

8 These words are taken from the admirable prayer that St. Ignatius places on the lips of the retreatant in the last meditation of the Exercises, to which he has given the title, "Contemplation for Obtaining Love."

After recalling that love consists more in works than in words and that it brings about a real interchange of possessions between those who, love, St. Ignatius places before the eyes of him who wishes to obtain this love of God all that God has done for him. That is, the complete gift which the Lord has made of himself and he urges the retreatant to make a return by offering himself entirely to Him in the words: "Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and all my will, everything that I own and possess. You have given them to me, O Lord, to You do I restore them. They are all Yours. Dispose of them according to Your will. Give me Your love and Your grace, and this will be enough."

9 Those acquainted with the of St. Ignatius, know that they end with this "Contemplation to Obtain Divine Love." From this fact we must conclude that the notes added to the Third Repetition of this "Exercise for Obtaining Divine Love," are the last that Blessed Claude wrote in the course of his long retreat We see that he ends it heroically with this resolution: "God must be satisfied at any price!"

The notes which follow are those which Blessed Claude wrote in his after the retreat itself was over. In fact, they are a continuation of it and it is for this reason that the first editors added them to the notes on the themselves.

This observation admitted, as one of the notes bears the date of the feast of St. Andrew, we must also admit that Blessed Claude made the Exercises of St. Ignatius so that they ended eight or nine days before November 30, that is, that he probably made them from the 18th of October to the 21st of November.

10 Here begins the series of notes which Blessed Claude added successively to those of the retreat. The notes preceding that which is dated on the feast of St. Andrew were written down each day from the end of the retreat to the feast of the Apostle.

11 It is not known what this heroic resolution was. Some think that it was an offer to become a lay brother in the Society, w~ich is most improbable.

12 November 30, 1674, probably nine days after finishing the .

13 "O good Cross!" Words of St. Andrew at the sight of the cross on which he was to die.

14 This note and the following seem to belong to the time when Blessed Claude was superior at Paray-le- Monial, that is, between February and June 24, 1675.

15 This feast of St. John Baptist was the 24th of June 1675, three days after Claude consecrated himself to the Sacred Heart.

16 An allusion to the words of the brothers of Rebecca, when she left them to go to marry Isaac.

17 A prayer generously granted, especially at London.

SECOND SPIRITUAL RETREAT

(Made at London, 1677)

NOTE

Those who take the trouble of reading this retreat will find some difficulty in it if their attention is not called to the memorandum of which Father La Colombiere speaks on the third and fifth days of this Journal of his Spiritual Exercises. This memorandum was given him as he left France for England as preacher to Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of York. The honesty and virtue of the person (St. Margaret Mary) who gave him this paper induced the Father to preserve it carefully. There are only three points which should be set down here word for word as they are copied without any addition, from the original.

1. Father La Colombiere's talent is to bring souls to God; that is why the demons will work against him. Even persons consecrated to God will cause him trouble and will not approve of what he says in his sermons to lead them to God. But His goodness will be his support in his crosses, so far as he trusts in Him.

2. He should have a sympathetic gentleness for sinners and resort to strong measures only when God will make it known to him to do so.

3. He should be very careful never to draw the good from its source. This word is brief, but it contains much. God will give him understanding according to the application he makes of it.

AT THE MOMENT I find myself in a disposition quite opposed to that which I had two years ago.[1] Fear had complete possession of me, and I felt in no way drawn to works of zeal because of my fear of not being able to escape the pitfalls of the active life in which I saw that my vocation was going to employ me. Today this fear has disappeared, and all that is in me leads me to work for the salvation and sanctification of souls. I feel that I love life only for that, and that I love sanctification because it is a wonderful means of gaining many hearts for Jesus Christ.

I think that the reason for my being in this disposition is that I no longer feel the passion of vainglory. It is a miracle which God alone could work in me. Brilliant employments do not stir me as they did heretofore. I think that I am seeking nothing but souls, and that those in small places and even villages are as dear to me as the others. Besides, by God's mercy, the praise and the esteem of men are very far from affecting me as they once did, although on this point I am still only too sensitive. But formerly I was so beset by this temptation that it robbed me of all courage and caused me almost to lose hope of being able to achieve my own salvation while busying myself with that of others. As a result, had I been free, I do not doubt that I should have passed my days in some solitude.

This temptation began to weaken at a word which Sister Margaret Mary said to me one day. She told me that while praying to God for me, our Lord had given her to understand that my soul was dear to Him and that He would have a special care of it. I answered her, "Alas, Sister Margaret Mary, how can that agree with what I feel within myself? Would our Lord love a person as vain as I am, a person who seeks only to please men, to make himself well thought of, who is filled with human respect?" "Oh, my father," she answered, "all that does not dwell in you." Truly indeed this word quieted me, and I began to be less troubled by my temptations, and they began to weaken and be less frequent.

But nothing, I think, has so contributed to give me this desire of working for souls as two things: the little success which God has been pleased to give to the slight efforts I made at Paray-le-Monial, and what Sister Margaret Mary through Mother de Saumaise told me on my departure and which Sister gave me in writing. Every day I see things which give me reason to believe that there has been no mistake. May God grant me the grace to make good use of so many blessings of which I had made myself so unworthy.

The thought that God had done everything to me for Himself raised me, I think, above creatures, and gave me a liberty and independence which produced a great deal of peace in my heart and a great desire to wear myself out in His service. I could well wish, were it possible, never to resist the will of God. I feel a great desire to follow all His inspirations, especially since a person who enjoys great familiarity with God told me that our Lord had given her to understand that I was resisting Him for a long time in a matter on which I was hesitating, so I believed, because of my fear of not acting prudently.

The third day of my retreat I perceived that the first point on the paper which had been given me on my departure for London, which point has been clearly confirmed in a letter which I received two months ago,[2] I perceived, I say, that it was only too true. For, after I left Paris the demon laid five or six snares which worried me, and from which I escaped by a very special grace, after having been guilty of a number of acts of cowardice. I do not know why I did not notice the trouble which these things caused me. It was not that the objects themselves were absolutely evil, but it was a case of my doubting which of the two was the better. The part taken by nature was so strongly fortified by the demon that I was prevented from seeing the more perfect, or at least I was deprived of the strength to embrace it, so that I remained in great worry and uneasiness, which have ceased, God be thanked, through the grace which our Lord granted me in making me see the truth and having me embrace it.

On the fifth day God gave me, if I mistake not, an understanding of that point of the memorandum which I brought from France: "He should be very careful not to draw the good from its source. This word is brief, but it contains much, and God will give him an understanding of it according to the application he makes of it." It is true that I had frequently studied this word. "Draw the good from its source," without being able to penetrate its meaning. Today, having meditated that God must give me understanding according to the application I make of it, I have meditated on it a rather long time, without finding any other meaning than this, that I should refer to God all the good He deigns to do through me, since He is its only source. But after having laboriously turned my thought from this consideration, suddenly it became as light as day in my mind and I saw clearly that it was the solving of the doubt that troubled me the first two or three days of my retreat about the use I should make of my pension. I understood that this word contained much, because it led to the perfection of evangelical poverty, to a great detachment from all vainglory, to the perfect observance of the rules, and that it is the source of a great inward and outward peace and of very many edifying actions, instead of following another counsel, a fine pretext behind which I could have hidden:

1st. I would find myself removed from the perfection of poverty.

2nd. I would have had to ask for unnecessary dispensations.

3rd. I would have given vainglory and self-love some very delicate nourishment.

4th. I would have exposed myself to external cares which would have kept me very much occupied.

5th. I ran the risk of scandalizing people in France and of inspiring them with a love of the world, and at least deprive some in England of good example.

6th. I was going to hand myself over to all the thorns which usually accompany avarice, and I was beginning to be quite upset by them. What is wonderful in this and makes me see that You are good, dear God, is that You have given me the grace to bind myself by vow to follow this advice even before giving me an understanding of it. I would not be able to say what joy, what feelings of gratitude, what confidence in God, what courage this insight has given me. There are still some points to which I have not extended the vow, because it was too far removed. But, indeed, if it pleases our Lord, I will be quite at ease in that regard for the rest of my life. Praised a thousand and a thousand times be our Lord who has wished to give me this knowledge through His own mercy and the holiness of the person through whom he deigned to give me this warning![3]

Again, in the second paragraph I find a remedy against a temptation since I came here. I find there very clearly indicated the conduct I should observe with regard to a person whose actions are displeasing to me. I do not know why I did not understand it sooner. But God be praised who has made me understand it. This paper contained exactly the rules I had need of to draw me away from the pitfall of the demon. There is only one point the execution of which God will permit at His good pleasure. All my confidence is in Him.

On the sixth day, as I made my meditation on the vow I had taken, I was moved by a great feeling of gratitude to God who had given me the grace of taking this vow. I have never had so much leisure to consider it. It gave me great joy to see myself thus bound by a thousand chains to do God's will. I have not been frightened at the sight of so many obligations so strict and so particular, because I think that God has filled me with a great confidence that I have done His will in undertaking these obligations, and that He will help me to keep my word. It is quite plain that without a very special grace it would be really impossible to keep this vow. I have renewed it with all my heart, and I hope that our Lord will never permit me to violate it.

Today, the seventh day, I noticed that although God has given me many graces during this retreat, they have not come in the course of my meditations. On the contrary, I have found more than the usual trouble with them. I am not sure that this does not arise from the fact that I wanted to follow closely the usual points, for which I felt no attraction. I would have spent, I think, many hours, without exhausting or wearying myself in considering God about me and within me, sustaining me and helping me; in praising His mercies and entertaining myself with feelings of confidence, in desires of belonging to Him without reserve and in annihilating in myself all that belongs to self, in desires of glorifying Him and having others glorify Him, in the sight of my impotence and the great need I have of help from on high, in being pleased with all that God might wish whether in my own regard or in regard to persons with whom I have some connection. And yet, when I wanted to consider a mystery, I was tired at once and had to rack my brains to such an extent that I can say that I never had less devotion than at meditation. I thought it would not be a bad thing for me to continue in the future as I have done in the past, unite myself by an act of faith with God present, and then by acts of the virtues to which I felt more drawn. This matter is not subject to illusion, it would seem, because nothing is truer than that God is within us and that we are in Him, and that this presence of God is a great motive of respect, confidence, love, joy, and fervor, especially as the imagination has no part in the effort we make to represent this truth, since we make use only of the light of faith.

This eighth day I think I have found a great treasure, if only I know how to profit from it. It is a firm confidence in God, founded on His infinite goodness, on the experience I have had that He never fails us within the limits of our needs. Moreover, I find in the memorandum that was given me when I left France that He promised to be my strength in proportion to the confidence I placed in Him. This is why I am determined to place no limits to my confidence and to extend it to everything. I think that in the future I must use our Lord as a shield which covers me on all sides and which I hold up against the shafts of my enemies. Therefore, You shall be my strength, dear God, You shall by my guide, my director, my adviser, my patience, my knowledge, my peace, my justice and my prudence. I will have recourse to You in all my temptations, in all my aridities, in my vexations, in my fears; or rather, I do not wish to fear again either illusions or the tricks of the demon or my own weakness or my indiscretions or even my diffidence. For You must be my strength in all my crosses. You promise me that You will be with me in proportion to my confidence, and, what is wonderful, dear God, at the same time that You lay down this condition, You seem to give me confidence. Be You forever loved and praised by all Your creatures, O my most lovable Savior! What should I do, alas, if You were not my strength? But being so, how do You assure me of it, and what would I not do for Your glory? "I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:14). You are everywhere in me and I in You. Therefore, wherever I am, whatever danger, whatever enemy threatens me, I have my strength with me. This thought can scatter all my worries in a moment, and especially any recurrence of nature which I find so strong at certain moments and on account of which I cannot help trembling and shivering at the prospect of the absolute privation to which God is giving me the grace of calling me. Every text of Scripture which speaks of hope consoles and strengthens me: "In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; I shall not be confounded." "In peace and in the selfsame I will sleep and take my rest, because Thou, O Lord, hast singularly established me in hope." "I shall love Thee, O Lord, my strength . . . the Lord is my firmament and my refuge . . . The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?" "The Lord is my praise and my strength." He will be my thanksgiving, if it pleases Him.

As I finish this retreat full of confidence in God's mercy, I have laid a law upon myself to procure by every possible means the carrying out of what was prescribed me on the part of my adorable Savior with regard to His precious body in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, where I believe that He is truly and really present. Moved by compassion for those blinded people who are unwilling to submit to the belief in this ineffable mystery, I would gladly shed my blood to convince them of the truth which I believe and profess. In this country where one makes it a point of honor to doubt Your real presence in this august Sacrament I feel a great consolation in making, frequently throughout the day, acts of faith in the reality of Your adorable body present under the species of bread and wine. My heart expands every time I try to make acts of faith taught by the Roman Church, which is the only true Church and outside of which there is no hope of salvation. My heart, I say, on such occasions expands and is conscious of the sweetness which I cannot help tasting and receiving from the mercy of my God without being able to explain it. You are good indeed, dear God, to communicate Yourself with such bounty to the most thankless of Your creatures and the most unworthy of Your servants. May You be forever blessed and praised!

I recognized that God wishes me to serve Him by procuring the fulfillment of His desires regarding the devotion He suggested to a person to whom He communicates with great confidence, and for which He has been willing to make use of my weakness. I have already suggested it to a good many people in England, and I have written to France to ask one of my friends to recommend it where he is. It will be very profitable there, and the large number of chosen souls in that community makes me think that the practice in that holy house will be very pleasing to God. Why cannot I be everywhere, dear God, and make it known that You are waiting for Your servants and friends!

God, then, revealed this to the person who--I have reason to believe from the graces He has given her--is according to His Heart. She explained it to me, and I obliged her to put down in writing what she told me. But I wished to write it down myself in the journal of my retreats, because the good God wishes in the carrying out of this purpose to make use of my feeble efforts.

"Being," said this holy soul, "before the Blessed Sacrament one day of the octave, I received from my God extraordinary graces of His love. Moved as I was by the desire of making some return and of giving love for love, He told me: 'You cannot show Me greater love than by doing what I have so often asked of you.' And showing me His divine heart, 'Behold the Heart which has loved men so much that it has spared nothing, even to draining itself and consuming itself to bear witness to its love. And as thanks I receive from the larger number only ingratitude, contempt, irreverence, sacrilege, and coldness which they have for Me in this Sacrament of love. But what is more revolting still is that this comes from hearts that are consecrated to Me. It is for this reason that I have asked you that the first Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi be dedicated as a special feast to honor My heart by making it a reparation of honor by means of an , receiving communion on this day to repair the indignities it has received during the time it has been exposed on the altar. And I promise that My heart will expand to spread abundantly the influence of its divine love over those who render it this honor.'"

"But, my Lord, to whom are You applying? To so wretched a creature and poor sinner that her unworthiness itself would be even capable of preventing the fulfillment of Your design. 'Ah, poor innocent that you are, do you not know that I make use of the weakest of men to confound the strong, that it is usually the smallest and the poor in spirit in whom I make My power visible with greater brilliance, so that they will not attribute anything to themselves?' Give, me then, the means of doing what You command. It was then He added, 'Apply to My Servant N. [Father Claude La Colombiere], and tell him from Me to do all he can to establish this devotion and to give this pleasure to My divine heart. Tell him not to be discouraged because of the difficulties he will meet with, for he will not lack them. But he must know that he is all-powerful who mistrusts himself entirely to put his trust in Me alone.' "

In this retreat which I am finishing today,[4] I think that the lights that God has been pleased to give me have been shorter, but also, by His mercy, clearer than formerly. The most ordinary feeling I have had has been a desire to abandon myself and to forget myself completely, according to the advice which was given me on the part of God, as I believe, by the person whom God has used to give me many graces. I think that at times I have glimpsed what this perfect self- forgetfulness consists in, and the condition of a soul who has no further reserves with God. This state which has frightened me for so long is beginning to please me, and I hope that with God's grace I shall try to reach it. Sometimes I surprise myself by feeling quite opposed to this abandonment, and that causes me some confusion indeed.

When I am quite myself, I feel, by God's infinite mercy, a liberty of heart which causes me a joy beyond compare. I feel that nothing could make me unhappy. I am not attached to anything, at least during that time, but that doesn't prevent me from feeling daily certain movements of nearly all the passions. But one moment of reflection and peace is restored.

I have often tasted a great inward joy from the thought that I am in God's service. I felt that that was worth much more than all the favor of kings. The occupations of people of the world seemed most contemptible to me in comparison with what is done for God.

I find myself above all the kings of the earth by the honor that is mine in belonging to God. It seems to me that it is better to know Him and to love Him than to reign; and although sometimes I have thoughts of ambition and vainglory, it is certain that all the glory of the world apart from the knowledge of God and His love would not tempt me. I feel a deep compassion for those who are not satisfied with God, even though they have their heart's desire apart from Him.

I have discovered, and daily continue to discover fresh illusions in zeal, and I have felt a great desire to purify that with which God inspires me and which I see increasing every day.

I still have feelings of deep confusion over my past life; a very strong and a very clear conviction of the little contribution we make to the conversion of souls, and a very distinct insight into my own nothingness.

I have become aware of the necessity there is of moving with great circumspection and great humility and self- diffidence in the directing of souls and in one's own spiritual behavior. One must be detached from too great a desire of making great progress through a feeling of self-love. That could cause one to fall into great illusions and might engage one in matters that are indiscreet. The love of humility, of abjection, of a hidden and obscure life is a great remedy for all these ills. We unconsciously and very ridiculously compare ourselves with the greatest saints and do from motives that are very imperfect what they have done by the pure movement of the Holy Spirit. We want to do in a day in ourselves and in others what has cost them many years. We have neither their prudence nor their experience nor their talents nor their supernatural gifts. In a word, they were saints, and we are far from that, and yet we are presumptuous enough to believe that we are able to do what they have done.

There is no peace except in perfect forgetfulness of self. We must be resolved to forget even our spiritual interests, so as to seek only the pure glory of God.

I feel an ever greater desire to strive for the perfect observance of my rules. It gives me a very great pleasure to practice them, and the more exact I become, the more I think I am entering into perfect liberty. It is certain that observance does not cramp me. On the contrary, this yoke makes me, so to say, lighter. I regard it as the greatest grace I have ever received in my life.

I find myself miserable on a point which I cannot express: my imagination is foolish and extravagant. All the passions knock my heart about, and hardly a day passes that one or another doesn't awaken the most disorderly movements. Sometimes it is a real object that arouses them, sometimes an imaginary one. It is true that by God's mercy I suffer all this without contributing much to it and without any consent. But at every moment I catch up with these mad passions which disquiet this poor heart. This self-love flees from corner to corner and always has some hiding place. I have much pity for myself, but I do not get angry or impatient. What would I do then? I ask God to let me know what I ought to do to serve Him and to purify myself, and I am resolved to wait meekly until it pleases Him to work this wonder, for I am quite convinced that only He can do it. "Who can make him clean that is conceived of unclean seed? Is it not thou who only art?" (Job 14:4.) If only I can go to God with great simplicity and great confidence, I am too happy. Dear God, grant that I may always keep this thought in mind.

I think that I have a great desire to do good, and that I know the means, and that I shall not often fail if only I reflect. But this reflection is a great grace from God, from whom I very humbly ask it.

These words are never present to my mind but light, peace, liberty, meekness and love also enter at the same time:

I do not taste any joy like that of discovering some new infirmity hitherto hidden from me. I have often had this pleasure in this retreat, and I shall have it as often as God is pleased to share His light with me in the reflections I make upon myself. I firmly believe, and I have great pleasure in believing, that God leads those who surrender themselves to His guidance and that He has a care of little things.

Every day I feel more devotion to St. Francis de Sales. I pray our Lord to give me the grace of often remembering this saint, to invoke him and to imitate him.

ENDNOTES

1 The Father was then making his third year of probation. He interrupted it in February 1675 to become superior of the college at Paray-le Monial.

2 Towards the end of November, 1676. See Letter 21, dated November 20, 1676, p. 164.

3 St. Margaret Mary.

4 January 27 to February 8, 1677.

END OF THE SPIRITUAL RETREATS

OFFERING TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

THIS OFFERING is made to honor the divine Heart, the seat of all the virtues, the source of all blessings and the retreat of all holy souls.

The principal virtues which we propose to honor in Him are: first, a most ardent love of God His Father, joined to the deepest possible reverence and the greatest possible humility: secondly, an infinite patience in evils, a contrition and deep sorrow for the sins with which He was burdened, the confidence of a most tender Son joined with the confusion of a very great sinner: thirdly, a most sensitive compassion for our wretchedness and an immeasurable love. We propose these despite our wretchedness and notwithstanding all the movements, each one of which was at the highest possible point, an unalterable equality caused by so perfect a conformity with God's will that He could not be disturbed by any event however opposed it might appear to His zeal and His humility and even to His love, and to all the other dispositions of His soul.

This Heart is still, as far as possible, in the same sentiments, and especially always burning with love for men, always open to lavish every kind of grace and blessing, always moved by our misfortunes, always eager with the desire of sharing its treasures with us, and of giving itself to us, always disposed to receive us and to serve as an asylum, a dwelling, a paradise even in this life.

In return for all this He finds in the hearts of men only hardness, only forgetfulness, only contempt, only ingratitude. He loves and He is not loved. Even His love is not known, because we do not deign to receive the gifts by which He wishes to bear witness to it, nor to hear the tender and sweet declarations He would like to make to our heart.

"To make reparation for so many outrages and such cruel ingratitude, O most adorable and lovable Heart of my lovable Jesus, and to avoid falling, as far as it is in my power to do so, into a like misfortune, I offer You my heart with all the movements of which it is capable. I give myself entirely to You, and from this hour I protest most sincerely, I think, that I desire to forget myself and all that can have any connection with me. I wish to remove the obstacle which could prevent my entering into this divine Heart which You have had the goodness to open to me, and into which I desire to enter, there to live and die with Your faithful servants, entirely penetrated and inflamed with Your love. I offer to this Heart all the merit, all the satisfaction of all the Masses, of all the prayers, of all the mortifications, of all the religious practices, of all the acts of zeal, of humility, of obedience and of all the other virtues which I shall practice up to the last moment of my life. Not only all this will be to honor the Heart of Jesus and its wonderful dispositions, but again I pray Him to accept the complete gift which I make to Him to dispose of as He pleases, and in favor of whomsoever He pleases. As I have already yielded to the holy souls in purgatory all that there is in my actions that is capable of satisfying the divine justice, I desire that this will be distributed to them according to the good pleasure of the Heart of Jesus.

This will not prevent me from discharging the obligations I have of saying Masses and of praying for certain intentions which obedience prescribes; or from giving through charity Masses to poor people or to my brethren or friends who may ask them of me. But as I shall then be making use of a good that does not belong to me, I intend, as it is only just, that obedience, charity and other virtues which I shall practice on these occasions, belong to the Heart of Jesus, in which I shall find the strength to practice these virtues, which consequently will belong to Him without reserve.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, teach me perfect forgetfulness of self, since that is the only way by which one can find entrance into You. As all that I shall do in the future shall be Yours, grant that I do nothing that will be unworthy of You. Teach me what I ought to do to come to the purity of Your love, the desire of which you have breathed into me. I feel in myself a tremendous inclination to please You, and a great impotence of succeeding without a great light and a most special help which I can expect only from You. Lord, do Your will in me. I well know that I oppose it. But I dearly wish, I think, not to oppose it. It is Yours to do all, divine Heart of Jesus Christ. You alone will have all the glory of my sanctification if I become holy. That seems to me clearer than the day. But for You it will be a great glory, and it is for that reason alone that I would desire to be perfect. Amen. Amen!"[1]

1 Pere Croiset affirms that this formula of consecration to the Sacred Heart is save for a few modifications, the consecration which Blessed Claude made at Paray-le Monial, June 21, 1675.

Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN

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