LETTERS 6-10

SIXTH LETTER

To a member of the order who had received from him a book, and to whom
he again enlarges on his favourite topic. * Encouragement to persevere.

I HAVE received from Mrs. – the things which you gave her for me. I
wonder that you have not given me your thoughts of the little book I
sent to you, and which you must have received. Pray set heartily about
the practice of it in your old age; it is better late than never.

I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the
practice of the presence of GOD. For my part I keep myself retired with
Him in the depth of centre of my soul as much as I can; and while I am
so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is
insupportable.

This exercise does not much fatigue the body: it is, however, proper to
deprive it sometimes, nay often, of many little pleasures which are
innocent and lawful: for GOD will not permit that a soul which desires
to be devoted entirely to Him should take other pleasures than with
Him; that is more than reasonable.

I do not say that therefore we must put any violent constraint upon
ourselves. No, we must serve GOD in a holy freedom, we must do our
business faithfully, without trouble or disquiet; recalling our mind to
GOD mildly and with tranquillity, as often as we find it wandering from
Him.

It is, however, necessary to put our whole trust in GOD, laying aside
all other cares, and even some particular forms of devotion, though
very good in themselves, yet such as one often engages in unreasonably:
because those devotions are only means to attain to the end; so when by
this exercise of the presence of GOD we are with Him who is our end, it
is then useless to return to the means; but we may continue with Him
our commerce of love, persevering in His holy presence: one while by an
act of praise, of adoration, or of desire; one while by an act of
resignation, or thanksgiving; and in all the manner which our spirit
can invent.

Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find in it from
nature; you must do yourself violence. At the first, one often thinks
it lost time; but you must go on, and resolve to persevere in it to
death, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur. I recommend
myself to the prayers of your holy society, and yours in particular. I
am yours in our LORD.

 

SEVENTH LETTER

At the age of nearly fourscore exhorts his correspondent, who is
sixty-four, to live and die with God and promises and asks for prayer.

I PITY you much. It will be of great importance if you can leave the
care of your affairs to, and spend the remainder of your life only in
worshiping GOD. He requires no great matters of us; a little
remembrance of Him from time to time, a little adoration: sometimes to
pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and
sometimes to return Him thanks for the favours He has given you, and
still gives you, in the midst of your troubles, and to console yourself
with Him the oftenest you can. Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes
even at your meals, and when you are in company: the least little
remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very
loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.

It is not necessary for being with GOD to be always at church; we may
make an oratory of our heart, wherein to retire from time to time, to
converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love. Every one is capable
of such familiar conversation with GOD, some more, some less: He knows
what we can do. Let us begin then; perhaps He expects but one generous
resolution on our part. Have courage. We have but little time to live;
you are near sixty-four, and I am almost eighty. Let us live and die
with GOD: sufferings will be sweet and pleasant to us, while we are
with Him: and the greatest pleasures will be, without Him, a cruel
punishment to us. May He be blessed for all. Amen.

Use yourself then by degrees thus to worship Him, to beg His grace, to
offer Him your heart from time to time, in the midst of your business,
even every moment if you can. Do not always scrupulously confine
yourself to certain rules, or particular forms of devotion; but act
with a general confidence in GOD, with love and humility. You may
assure – of my poor prayers, and that I am their servant, and yours
particularly.


EIGHTH LETTER

Concerning wandering thoughts in prayer.

YOU tell me nothing new: you are not the only one that is troubled with
wandering thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving; but as the will is
mistress of all our faculties, she must recall them, and carry them to
GOD, as their last end.

When the mind, for want of being sufficiently reduced by recollection,
at our first engaging in devotion, has contracted certain bad habits of
wandering and dissipation, they are difficult to overcome, and commonly
draw us, even against our wills, to the things of the earth.

I believe one remedy for this is, to confess our faults, and to humble
ourselves before GOD. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words
in prayer; many words and long discourses being often the occasions of
wandering: hold yourself in prayer before GOD, like a dumb or paralytic
beggar at a rich man’s gate: let it be your business to keep your mind
in the presence of the LORD. If it sometimes wander, and withdraw
itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that; trouble and
disquiet serve rather to distract the mind, than to re-collect it; the
will must bring it back in tranquillity; if you persevere in this
manner, GOD will have pity on you.

One way to re-collect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and
preserve it more in tranquillity, is not to let it wander too far at
other times: you should keep it strictly in the presence of GOD; and
being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep
your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its
wanderings.

I have told you already at large, in my former letters, of the
advantages we may draw from this practice of the presence of GOD: let
us set about it seriously and pray for one another.


NINTH LETTER

Enclosing a letter to a corresponding sister, whom he regards with
respect tinged with fear. * His old theme concisely put.

THE enclosed is an answer to that which I received from – ; pray
deliver it to her. She seems to me full of good will, but she would go
faster than grace. One does not become holy all at once. I recommend
her to you: we ought to help one another by our advice, and yet more by
our good examples. You will oblige me to let me hear of her from time
to time, and whether she be very fervent and very obedient.

Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to
please GOD, that perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity. You and I
have lived above forty years in religion [i.e., a monastic life]. Have
we employed them in loving and serving GOD, who by His mercy has called
us to this state and for that very end? I am filled with shame and
confusion, when I reflect on the one hand upon the great favours which
GOD has done, and incessantly continues to do, me; and on the other,
upon the ill use I have made of them, and my small advancement in the
way of perfection.

Since by His mercy He gives us still a little time, let us begin in
earnest, let us repair the lost time, let us return with a full
assurance to that FATHER of mercies, who is always ready to receive us
affectionately. Let us renounce, let us generously renounce, for the
love of Him, all that is not Himself; He deserves infinitely more. Let
us think of Him perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him: I doubt
not but we shall soon find the effects of it, in receiving the
abundance of His grace, with which we can do all things, and without
which we can do nothing but sin.

We cannot escape the dangers which abound in life, without the actual
and continual help of GOD; let us then pray to Him for it continually.
How can we pray to Him without being with Him? How can we be with Him
but in thinking of Him often? And how can we often think of Him, but by
a holy habit which we should form of it? You will tell me that I am
always saying the same thing: it is true, for this is the best and
easiest method I know; and as I use no other, I advise all the world to
it. We must know before we can love. In order to know GOD, we must
often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also
think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure. This is an
argument which well deserves your consideration.

 

TENTH LETTER

Has difficulty, but sacrifices his will, to write as requested. * The
loss of a friend may lead to acquaintance with the Friend.

I HAVE had a good deal of difficulty to bring myself to write to M. -,
and I do it now purely because you and Madam desire me. Pray write the
directions and send it to him. I am very well pleased with the trust
which you have in GOD: I wish that He may increase it in you more and
more: we cannot have too much in so good and faithful a Friend, who
will never fail us in this world nor in the next.

If M. – makes his advantage of the loss he has had, and puts all his
confidence in GOD, He will soon give him another friend, more powerful
and more inclined to serve him. He disposes of hearts as He pleases.
Perhaps M. – was too much attached to him he has lost. We ought to love
our friends, but without encroaching upon the love of GOD, which must
be the principal.

Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is, to think often
on GOD, by day, by night, in your business, and even in your
diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone.
You would think it rude to leave a friend alone, who came to visit you:
why then must GOD be neglected? Do not then forget Him, but think on
Him often, adore Him continually, live and die with Him; this is the
glorious employment of a Christian; in a word, this is our profession,
if we do not know it we must learn it. I will endeavour to help you
with my prayers, and am yours in our LORD.

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