CONTAINING EXERCISES AND INSTRUCTIONS CALCULATED TO RENOVATE THE SOUL AND CONFIRM HER IN DEVOTION.
THAT WE OUGHT EVERY YEAR TO RENEW OUR GOOD RESOLUTIONS BY THE FOLLOWING EXERCISES.
THE first point of these exercises consists in our being thoroughly sensible of their importance. Human nature easily falls off from its good affections, on account of the frailty and evil inclinations of the flesh, which depress the soul, and draw her always downwards, unless she often raise herself up by fervent resolutions; just as birds which fall suddenly to the ground if they do not multiply the strokes of their wings to support themselves in the air. For this reason, dear Philothea, you must repeat very often the good resolutions you have made to serve God, lest, by neglecting to do so, you should relapse into your former state, or rather into a worse one; for spiritual falls always cast us down to a lower state than that from which we ascended up to devotion.
As every watch, no matter how good it may be, must be daily wound up, and now and then taken asunder, to remove the rust and dust, and to mend and repair what may be broken or out of order; so he that is careful of his soul ought to wind it up daily to God by the foregoing exercises, and at least once a year take it asunder to redress, rectify, and examine diligently all its affections and passions, that all its defects may be repaired. And as the watchmaker anoints the wheels, the springs, and all the works, with some delicate oils, that the motions of the wheels may be more easy, and the whole of the watch less subject to rust; so a devout person, after taking this review of his heart in order to renovate it, must anoint it with the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist. This exercise will fortify your spirit, impaired by time, warm your heart, reanimate your good resolutions, and make your virtues flourish with fresh vigor. The primitive Christians were careful to practise this devotion on the anniversary day of the Baptism of our Lord, when, as St. Gregory Nazianzen relates, they renewed those professions and protestations which are usually made in baptism. Let us, also, my dear Philothea, seriously dispose ourselves to follow their example. Having, then, for this purpose, chosen the most convenient time, according to the advice of your spiritual father, and withdrawn yourself into a little more solitude than ordinary, make one, two, or three meditations on the following points, according to the method I have prescribed in the second part.
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CONSIDERATIONS ON THE FAVOR WHICH GOD DOES US, IN CALLING US TO HIS SERVICE, ACCORDING TO THE PROTESTATIONS SET DOWN HERETOFORE.
CONSIDER the points of your protestation. First, that you would forsake, cast away, detest, and renounce forever all moral sin; secondly, that you would dedicate and consecrate your soul, heart, and body, with all their faculties, to the love and service of God; thirdly, that, if you should chance to fall into any sin, you would immediately rise again by the help of God's grace. Are not these just, noble, and generous resolutions? Consider well in thy soul, then, how holy and reasonable this protestation is, and how much to be desired.
2. Consider to whom you have made this protestation; for it is to God. If our word given to men bind us strictly, how much more when we have given it to God! "It is to thee, O Lord!" said David, "my heart hath spoken it, my heart hath uttered a good word. Oh, I will never forget it." Ps. xliv.
3. Consider that you made this protestation in the presence of the whole court of heaven. Ah, yes! the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, your good angel, your holy patron, and all that blessed company, beheld you, and their hearts were filled with joy and exultation at your words; they saw, with the eyes of unspeakable love, your heart prostrate at the feet of your Saviour, consecrating itself to his service. As there was a particular joy on that occasion in the heavenly Jerusalem, so there will be now a commemoration of the same, if, with a sincere heart, you renew your resolutions.
4. Consider by what means you were induced to make your protestation. Ah! how good and gracious was God to you at that time! Oh, tell me sincerely, were you not invited to it by the sweet attractions of the Holy Ghost? Were not the cords, with which God drew your little boat to this blessed haven, composed of love and charity? How earnestly did he seek to allure you to it by the divine sweetness of the sacraments, spiritual reading, and prayer! Alas, dear Philothea! you were asleep, whilst God watched; he thought over your soul's thoughts of peace, and meditated in your favor meditations of love.
5. Consider that God inspired you with these holy resolutions in the flower of your age. Ah! what a happiness it is to learn early that which we cannot know but too late! St. Austin, having been called at the age of thirty years, exclaimed, " O ancient beauty! whence is it that I have known thee so late? Alas! I saw thee before, but I considered thee not"; and you may well say, O ancient sweetness! why did I not relish thee before? Alas! you did not even then deserve it. However, acknowledging the special favor God has done you in attracting you to himself in your youth, say with David, "Thou hast taught me, O God, from my youth; and till now I will declare thy wonderful works." Ps. lxx. 17. But if this has happened in your old age, ah! Philothea, what an extraordinary grace, that, after having thus misspent all your former years, God should call you before your death, and stop the course of your misery at a time, in which, if it had continued, you must have been miserable for eternity!
Consider the effects of this vocation, and, comparing what you now are with what you have been, you will doubtless find in yourself a great change for the better. Do you not esteem it a happiness to know how to converse with God by prayer; to be inflamed with a desire of loving him; to have obtained a complete victory over the many passions with which you were troubled; to have avoided innumerable sins and perplexities of conscience; and, in fine, to have communicated so much oftener than you would have done, uniting yourself to that sovereign source of never-ending grace? Ah, how great are these favors! we must weigh them, Philothea, in the scales of the sanctuary; it is God's right hand that has done all this. "The right hand of the Lord," says David, "hath exalted me; I shall not die, but live, and shall declare with my heart, with my mouth, and by my actions, the wonderful works of the Lord." Ps, cxvii.
After all these considerations, which must doubtless furnish you with abundance of pious affections, conclude simply with an act of thanksgiving and fervent prayer, that you may make good use of them; retire with the most profound humility and the utmost confidence in God, deferring the making the effort of your resolutions till after the second point of this exercise.
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EXAMINATION OF OUR SOUL ON ITS ADVANCEMENT IN DEVOTION.
AS the second part of the exercise is rather long, in order to practise it I must tell you that it is not necessary that you should perform it all at once, but at different times, considering your duties towards God, at one time; what relates to yourself, at another; what concerns your neighbor, at a third; and your passions, at the fourth. Neither would I advise you to perform it on your knees, except at the beginning and the end, which comprise the affections. The other points of the examination you may perform profitably whilst walking abroad, or still more profitably in bed, provided that you can preserve yourself against drowsiness, and keep thoroughly awake; but then, to do this, you must read them attentively beforehand. It is necessary, however, to go through the whole of the second point in three days and two nights at most, dedicating as much time to it on each day and night as you conveniently can; for if this exercise should be deferred to times far distant from each other it would lose its force, and make but weak impressions.
After each point of the examination you must remark in what you shall find yourself to have failed; in what you are still defective, and the nature of the principal disorders you have discovered, that you may declare them to your confessor, in order to obtain his advice, and acquire resolution and spiritual strength to overcome them. Although on the days on which you perform this and the other exercises it is not absolutely necessary to withdraw yourself from all company, yet you must be more retired than usual, especially towards the evening, that you may sooner go to bed, and take that repose of body and mind which is necessary for consideration. You must also, during the day, make frequent aspirations to God, to the Blessed Virgin, to the angels, and to the whole court of heaven; moreover, all this must be done with a heart totally inflamed with the love of God, and a desire of attaining perfection.
To begin, then, this examination properly, 1. Place yourself in the presence of God. 2. Invoke the Holy Ghost, begging of him to enlighten your understanding, that you may attain a perfect knowledge of yourself, crying out, with St. Austin, to God in the spirit of humility, "O Lord! let me know thee, and let me know myself"; and with St. Francis, asking of God, "Lord! who art thou, and who am I?" Protest that it is not your intention to acquire this knowledge in order to attribute any glory to yourself on the occasion, but that you may rejoice in God, return him thanks, and glorify his blessed name for all benefits. Protest likewise, that if you find, as you fear you shall, that you made but little or no advancement, or even that you have gone backward, you will not on that account be discouraged, grow colder, or be overcome by pusillanimity or faint-heartedness; but that, on the contrary, you will encourage and animate yourself, humble yourself the more, and apply, with the assistance of divine grace, the proper remedies to your defects. Afterwards consider calmly how you have behaved to the present hour towards God, your neighbor, and yourself.
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AN EXAMINATION OF THE STATE OF OUR SOUL TOWARDS GOD.
HOW stands your heart with respect to mortal sin? Are you firmly resolved never to commit it, on any account whatever? Has this resolution continued from the time of your protestation till the present moment? In this resolution consists the foundation of the spiritual life.
How is your heart disposed with regard to the commandments of God? Do you find them good, sweet, and agreeable? Ah! my child, he whose taste is in good order, and whose stomach is sound, loves good meat and rejects bad.
How is your heart affected with regard to venial sin? We cannot keep ourselves so pure as not to fall now and then into such sins; but is there none to which you have a particular inclination; or, what would be still worse, is there none to which you bear an affection and love?
How is your heart affected with regard to spiritual exercises? Do you love them? Do you esteem them? Do they not make you uneasy? Are you not disgusted with them? To which of them do you find yourself more or less inclined? To hear the word of God, to read it, to discourse of it, to meditate, to aspire to God, to go to confession, to receive spiritual counsel, to prepare yourself for communion, to communicate, to restrain your affections, - in all this, what is there to which you feel repugnance? If you find anything to which your heart has less inclination, examine the cause whence this dislike arises, and apply the remedy.
How stands your heart towards God himself: Does it delight in the remembrance of God? Does this remembrance leave an agreeable sweetness be hind it? "Ah!" said David," I remembered God, and I was delighted." Does your heart feel an inclination to love God, and a particular satisfaction in relishing this love? Does not your heart love to reflect on the immensity of God, on his goodness, on his sweetness? If the remembrance of God comes to you amidst the occupations and vanities of the world, do you not willingly receive it? Does it not seize upon your heart? Does it not seem to you that your heart turns towards that side, and, as it were, runs to meet her God? Certainly there are such souls to be found.
When the husband of an affectionate wife returns home from a distant country, as soon as she is sensible of his approach, or hears his voice, although she be ever so much engaged in business, or forcibly detained from him by some urgent occupation, yet her heart is not withheld from him, but leaps over all other thoughts to think on her husband, who is returned. It is the same with souls that love God well; let them be ever so busy, when the remembrance of God comes near them they lose almost the thought of all things else, so rejoiced are they that this dear remembrance is returned; and this is a very good sign.
How is your heart affected towards Jesus Christ, God, and man? Do you place your happiness in him? As bees find pleasure in their honey, and wasps in corrupted things, so good souls seek their happiness in thinking on Jesus Christ, and feel a tender affection towards him; but the wicked please themselves about vanities.
How is your heart affected towards the blessed Virgin, the saints, and your good angel? Do you love them? Have you a special confidence in their patronage? Are you pleased with their pictures, their lives, and their praises?
As to your tongue: how do you speak of God? Do you find pleasure in speaking well of him, according to your condition and ability? Do you love to sing his praises?
As to works: consider whether you take the exterior glory of God to heart, and are emulous of doing something for his honor; for such as love God love, like David, the adorning of his house.
Can you discover that you have forsaken any affection, or renounced anything for the sake of God? for it is a good sign of love to deprive ourselves of anything in favor of him whom we love. What, then, have you hitherto forsaken for the love of God?
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AN EXAMINATION OF OUR STATE WITH REGARD TO OURSELVES.
HOW do you love yourself? Do you not love yourself too much for this world? If so, you will desire to live always here and be very solicitous to establish yourself on this earth; but if you love yourself for heaven, you will desire, or at least be willing, to depart hence at whatever hour it shall please our Lord.
Do you observe due order in the love of yourself? For the inordinate love of ourselves is the only thing that will cause our ruin. Now, a well-ordered love requires that we should love the soul more than the body; that we should be more solicitous to acquire virtue than anything else; that we should set a higher estimation on the favor of heaven than on the honor of this low and perishable world. A well-ordered heart will oftener say within itself, "What will the angels say, if I think upon such a thing?" than "What will men say?"
What hind of love have you for your own heart? Are you not willing to serve it in its infirmities? Alas! you ought to assist it, and procure assistance for it, whenever passions torment it, and for this purpose to neglect every other consideration.
What do you esteem yourself before God? Doubtless nothing. It is no great humility in a fly to esteem herself nothing in comparison of a mountain; nor for a drop of water to hold itself for nothing in comparison of the sea; nor for a spark of fire to hold itself nothing in respect to the sun; but humility consists in not esteeming ourselves above others, and in not desiring to be so esteemed by others. How are you disposed in this respect?
As to your tongue: Do you not sometimes boast of yourself in one way or another? Do you not flatter yourself in speaking of yourself?
As to recreation: Do you allow yourself pleasure contrary to your health, - I mean vain or unprofitable pleasure; such, for example, as that which prevents you from retiring to bed at a proper hour and the like?
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AN EXAMINATION OF THE STATE OF OUR SOUL TOWARDS OUR NEIGHBOR.
THE love of husband and wife ought to be sweet and tranquil, constant and persevering, and this principally because the will of God requires it. I say the same of the love of our children, our near relations, and our friends, every one according to his rank.
But, to speak in general, how is your heart affected towards your neighbor? Do you love him from your heart, and for the love of God? To discern this well you must represent to yourself troublesome and disagreeable persons, for it is among them that we exercise the love of God towards our neighbor, and much more among those who injure us, either by their actions or words. Examine well whether your heart be well disposed towards them, or whether you do not find a greater repugnance to love them.
Are you not apt to speak ill of your neighbor, and especially of such as do not love you? Do you refrain from doing evil to your neighbor, either directly or indirectly? Provided you be reasonable, you will easily perceive it.
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AN EXAMINATION OF THE AFFECTIONS OF OUR SOUL.
I HAVE thus protracted these points, in the examination of which consists the knowledge of out spiritual advancement; for the examination of sin is rather for the confession of such as think not seriously of advancing in devotion.
We must not, however, delay too long on any of these points, but consider gently in what state our heart has been with regard to them, and what considerable faults we have committed.
But, to abridge the whole, we must reduce the examen to a search into our passions; and if it be inconvenient to consider every point in particular, as has been said, we may examine in general what have been our dispositions, and how we have behaved ourselves in our love to God, our neighbor, and ourselves; in our hatred for our own sins, and for those of others, - for we desire the extirpation of both; in our desires relating to riches, pleasures, and honors; in our fear of the dangers of sin, and in that of the loss of our worldly goods, - for we are apt to fear the one too much, and the other too little; in our hope, placing too much reliance on the world and creatures, and too little on God and things eternal; in an inordinate sadness, or excessive joy for vain things. In a word, we must examine what affections entangle our heart, what passions possess it, in what it has principally strayed out of the way; for by the passions we may judge of the state of the soul, by examining them one after the other; and, as he that plays on the lute, by touching all the strings finds which are out of tune, and makes them accord either by winding them up, or letting them down; so, if after having examined the passions of love, hatred, desire, hope, sadness, and joy in our soul, we find them out of tune for that harmony which we desire to make to the greater glory of God, we may accord them by means of his grace, and the counsel of our spiritual director.
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AFFECTIONS TO BE FORMED AFTER THIS EXAMINATION.
AFTER having quietly considered each point of the examination into the state of your soul, you must afterwards proceed to the affections in this manner: -
1. Return thanks to God for the little amendment you may have found in your life since your resolution, and acknowledge that it has been his mercy alone that has wrought it in and for you.
2. Humble yourself exceedingly before God, acknowledging that, if you have not advanced much, it has been through your own fault, because you have not faithfully, courageously, and constantly corresponded with the inspirations, graces, and affections which he has given you in prayer, and at other times.
3. Promise that you will eternally praise him for the graces which he has bestowed on you, and for having withdrawn you from your evil inclinations, to make this little amendment.
4. Ask pardon for your infidelity and disloyalty in not corresponding with his graces.
5. Offer him your heart, that he may make himself the sole master of it.
6. Beseech him to make you forever faithful to him.
7. Invoke the saints, the blessed Virgin, your good angel, your holy patron, St. Joseph, and the whole court of heaven.
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CONSIDERATIONS PROPER TO RENEW OUR GOOD RESOLUTIONS.
AFTER having made your examination, and conferred with some worthy director concerning your defects, and the proper remedies for them, make use of one of the following considerations every day, by way of meditation, employing in it the time of your mental prayer, observing always the same method with regard to the preparation and the affections as you did in the meditations of the first part, by placing yourself first in the presence of God, and then imploring his grace to establish you in his holy love and service.
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THE FIRST CONSIDERATION. - THE EXCELLENCE OF OUR SOUL.
CONSIDER the worth and excellence of your immortal soul, which is endued with an understanding capable of knowing, not only this visible world, but also that there are angels, an eternity, a heaven, and a most high sovereign, and ineffable God, and which, moreover, knows the means of living well in this visible world, that she may one day be associated with the angels of heaven, and enjoy God for all eternity.
Consider, also, that your soul has a will capable of loving God, and cannot hate him in himself. Take a view of your heart, and behold how generous it is; and that, as bees can never stay upon any corrupt thing, but only stop among the flowers, so no creature can ever satisfy your heart, for it can never rest but in God alone. Recall to your remembrance the dearest and strongest affections that have hitherto engaged your heart, and judge in truth, whether, in the midst of them, it was not full of anxious inquietudes, tormenting thoughts, and restless cares.
Our heart, alas! runs eagerly in pursuit of creatures, thinking that they will satisfy its desires; but as soon as it has overtaken them it finds its satisfaction still afar off, God being unwilling that our heart should find any resting-place, like the dove which went out of Noah's ark, that it may return to himself, from whom it proceeded. Ah! what natural beauty is there in our heart! Why, then, do we detain it against its will in the service of creatures?
Since, then, O soul! thou art capable of knowing and loving God, why wilt thou amuse thyself about anything less than God? Since thou mayest advance thy claim to eternity, why shouldst thou amuse thyself about transitory moments? It was one of the most sorrowful reflections of the prodigal son that he might have been faring deliciously at his father's table whilst he was feeding amongst the filthy swine. Since, O my soul! thou art capable of God, woe be to thee if thou content thyself with anything less than God.
Elevate your soul cheerfully with this consideration: remind her that she is immortal, and worthy of eternity; animate her with courage on this subject.
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THE SECOND CONSIDERATION. - THE EXCELLENCE OF VIRTUE.
CONSIDER that nothing but virtue and devotion can satisfy your soul in this world. Behold how beautiful they are, and draw a comparison between the virtues and their contrary vices. How amiable is patience, when compared with revenge! Meekness, compared with anger and vexation! Humility, compared with arrogance and ambition! Liberality, compared with covetousness! Charity, in comparison with envy! Sobriety, compared with revelings! For virtues have this admirable quality, that they delight the soul with an incomparable sweetness and satisfaction after we have practised them; whereas vices leave the soul exceedingly fatigued and disordered. Why, then, do we not endeavor to acquire this satisfaction?
With respect to vices, he that has but little of them is uneasy, and he that has more of them is more discontented; but as for virtues, he that has but a little has already some contentment, which increases as the virtues themselves increase.
O devout life! how fair, how lovely, how sweet and delightful art thou! thou alleviatest our tribulations, and addest sweetness to our consolations; without thee good is evil, and pleasures are full of restlessness, trouble, and deceits. Ah! he who would know thee well might exclaim, with the Samaritan woman, "Lord! give me this water! an aspiration frequently used by the holy mother Theresa, and St. Catherine of Genoa, although upon different occasions.
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THE THIRD CONSIDERATION. - THE EXAMPLES OF THE SAINTS.
CONSIDER the examples of the saints in every condition of life. What have they not done to devote themselves entirely to the love and service of God? Look on the invincible resolution of the martyrs; what torments have they not suffered in defence of the faith? But, above all, behold that innumerable train of holy virgins, whiter than the lilies in purity, fairer than the roses in charity; of whom, some at twelve, others at thirteen, fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five years of age, have endured a thousand kinds of martyrdom, rather than renounce their resolution, not only with regard to the profession of their faith, but, also, their protestation of devotion; some dying rather than forsake their virginity; others rather than desist from the service of their companions in torments, from comforting the afflicted, and burying the dead. O good God! what fortitude have they not evinced on these occasions! Consider the unshaken constancy with which so many holy confessors have despised the world; how invincible have they shown themselves in their resolutions, from which nothing could ever divert them; they have embraced them without reserve, and practised them without exception. Good God! what admirable things does St. Austin relate of his holy mother, St. Monica? With what constancy did she pursue her determination of serving God, both in marriage and in widowhood? How admirably does St. Jerome speak of his dear daughter Paula, in the midst of so many oppositions, in the midst of such a variety of accidents? What is there that we might not do after such excellent patterns? They were what we are; they served the same God, and practised the same virtues; why, then, should not we do as much, according to our condition and vocation, to preserve our resolution and holy protestation?
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THE FOURTH CONSIDERATION. - THE LOVE THAT JESUS CHRIST BEARS US.
CONSIDER the incomparable love with which Jesus Christ our Lord has suffered so much in this world, but especially in the Garden of Olives and upon Mount Calvary, for your sake. By all these pains and sufferings he obtained of God the Father good resolutions and protestations for your heart; and by the same means he also, obtained whatever is necessary to maintain, nourish, strengthen, and fulfil them. O resolution, how precious art thou, being the daughter of such a mother, as is the passion of my Saviour! Oh, how tenderly ought my soul to cherish thee, since thou hast been so dear to my sweet Jesus! Alas, O Saviour of my soul! thou didst die to purchase for me these resolutions. Oh, grant me the grace rather to suffer death than to lose them!
Observe, my Philothea, it is certain that the heart of Jesus beheld your heart from the tree of the cross, and, by the love which he bore towards it, obtained for it all the good you shall ever have, and among the rest your resolutions. Yes, Philothea, we may all say, with the prophet Jeremias: "O Lord, before I had a being thou didst behold me, and called me by my name"; since the divine goodness did actually prepare for us all the general and particular means of salvation, and consequently our good resolutions. As a pregnant woman prepares the cradle, the linen, and swathing-clothes, and even a nurse for the child which she hopes to bring forth, although it is not yet in the world; so our Saviour, who designed to bring you forth to salvation, and make you his child, prepared all that was necessary for you upon the tree of the cross: your spiritual cradle, your linen, and swathing-clothes, your nurse, and all that was necessary for your happiness. Such are all those graces by which he seeks to attract your soul and bring it to perfection.
Ah, my God! how deeply ought we to imprint this thy love in our memory! Is it possible that I could have been so tenderly beloved by my Saviour as that he should think of me in particular even in all these little occurrences, by which he has drawn me to himself? How much, then, ought we to love, cherish, and convert them all to our own profit! 0 consoling reflection! the amiable heart of God has thought of Philothea, loved her; and procured her a thousand means of salvation, even as many as if there had been no other souls in the world to think of. As the sun shining upon one place of the earth enlightens it no less than if it shined on no other, so in the very same manner is our Lord solicitous for all his dear children, thinking on each of them as though he had forgotten the rest. "He loved me," says St. Paul, "and delivered himself for me." He says for me alone, as if he had done nothing for the rest. O Philothea! let this sacred truth be imprinted in your soul, in order to cherish and nourish your resolution, which has been so precious to the heart of our Saviour.
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THE FIFTH CONSIDERATION. - THE ETERNAL LOVE OF GOD TOWARDS US.
CONSIDER the eternal love which God has borne towards you: for, before our Lord Jesus Christ, as man, suffered on the cross for you, his divine Majesty, by his omniscience, already foresaw your being, and loved you exceedingly. But when did his love for you begin? Even when he began to be God. But when did he begin to be God? Never, for he has always been without a beginning or end, so also has he always loved you from all eternity, and in consequence of this love he has prepared for you these graces and favors. Hence, speaking to you as well as others, by the prophet Jeremias, he says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee"; and amongst other things he caused you to make firm resolutions to serve him.
O God! what resolutions are these on which thou hast thought and meditated from all eternity! Ah, how dear and precious should they be to us! What ought we not to suffer, rather than forget the least of them! Though the whole world should be destroyed in consequence, yet we must observe them faithfully; for the whole world is not worth one soul, and a soul is worth nothing without these resolutions.
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GENERAL AFFECTIONS ON THE PRECEDING CONSIDERATIONS, AND A CONCLUSION OF THESE EXERCISES.
O DEAR resolutions! fair tree of life, which God, with his own hand has planted in the midst of my heart, and which my Saviour desires to water with his blood to make thee fruitful: I will rather endure a thousand deaths than suffer any wind of prosperity or adversity to pluck thee up. No! neither vanity, delights, riches, nor tribulations, shall ever withdraw me from my design.
Alas! 0 Lord, it is thou thyself that hast planted and eternally preserved in thy fatherly bosom this fair tree for the garden of my heart. Alas! how many souls are there who have not been favored in this manner; and how, then, can I ever sufficiently humble myself beneath thy mercy?
O fair and holy resolutions! if I preserve you you will preserve me; if you live in my soul, my soul will live in you. Live, then, forever, O resolutions, which are eternal in the mercy of God; live eternally in me, and let me never forsake you!
After these affections you must consider the particular means necessary to maintain these cherished resolutions, and determine to be faithful in making good use of them; such as frequent prayer, the sacraments, good works, the amendment of your faults discovered in the examination, retrenching the occasions of evil, and following the counsels which shall be given you for this purpose.
Afterwards, by way of recruiting your strength, make a thousand protestations that you will persevere in your resolutions; and as if you held your heart, soul, and will in your hands, dedicate, consecrate, sacrifice, and immolate them to God, protesting never to take them back again, but leave them in the hand of his divine Majesty, to follow on all occasions his holy ordinances.
Pray to God to renovate you entirely, and to bless and strengthen this your protestation. Invoke the blessed Virgin, your guardian angel, and your holy patron.
In this disposition of heart go to your spiritual father, and accuse yourself of the principal faults which you may have remarked since your general confession, and, receiving absolution in the same manner as the first time, pronounce and sign your protestation before him; and, in conclusion, unite your renovated heart to its first principle, your Saviour, in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist.
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OF OUR SENTIMENTS AFTER THIS EXERCISE.
ON the day on which you have made this renovation, and the days immediately following, you ought frequently to repeat from your heart those inflamed words of St. Paul, St. Austin, St. Catherine of Genoa, etc.: "No, I am no more my own; whether I live, or whether I die, I am my Saviour's. I have no longer anything of me or mine; my me is Jesus, and my mine is to be wholly his. O world! thou art always thyself, and I have hitherto been always myself, but from henceforth I will be myself no more." No, we shall be no more ourselves, for we shall have our heart changed, and the world which has so often deceived us shall be deceived in us; for, perceiving our change only by degrees, it will think us still Esaus, but we shall find ourselves to be Jacobs. All these exercises ought to remain fixed in the heart, and when we finish our consideration and meditation we must turn gently and quietly towards our ordinary affairs and conversations, lest the precious liquor of our resolutions should be suddenly spilt; for it must penetrate through all parts of the soul, without, however, any effort of mind or body.
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AN ANSWER TO TWO OBJECTIONS WHICH MAY BE MADE TO THIS INTRODUCTION.
THE world will perhaps tell you, Philothea, that these exercises and advices are so numerous, that he who would practise them must apply himself to nothing else. Alas! Philothea, should we do nothing else, we should do enough, since we should do all that we ought to do in this world:
But do not you perceive the delusion? If they were all to be necessarily performed every day, they would then, indeed, constitute our whole occupation; but it is not requisite to perform them otherwise than in their proper time and place, as occasions may present themselves. How many civil laws and regulations there are which must be observed, but it is universally understood that they are to be executed on proper occasions, and no one imagines that they are all to be put in force every day. David was a king charged with the most difficult affairs, yet he performed many more exercises than I have prescribed to you. St. Lewis was a prince admirable both in war and peace, and one who administered justice, and managed his affairs with the most assiduous attention, yet he heard two masses every day, said vespers and compline with his chaplain, made his meditation, visited hospitals every Friday, confessed and took the discipline, heard sermons frequently, and held very often spiritual conferences; yet, notwithstanding all this, he never saw an occasion of promoting the public good which he did not improve, and diligently put in execution; and his court was more splendid and flourishing than it had ever been in the time of his predecessors. Perform, then, these exercises as I have marked them out for you, and God will give you sufficient leisure and strength to perform all your other duties, although he should make the sun stand still for you, as he did for Josue. We always do enough when God works with us.
The world will perhaps say that I suppose, almost throughout the whole work, that Philothea has the gift of mental prayer; and yet every one has it not; so that this introduction will not serve for all. It is true I have made this supposition; it is also true that every one has not this gift; but it is no less true that almost all, even the most ignorant, may have it, provided they have good guides, and are willing to take as much pains to obtain it as it deserves. But, should there be some who have not this gift in any degree whatever, which I think almost impossible, a prudent spiritual director will easily supply that defect, by teaching them to read, or to hear others read, the considerations included in the meditations with profound and close attention.
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THE THREE LAST AND PRINCIPAL ADVICES FOR THIS INTRODUCTION.
ON the first day of every month repeat, after your meditations, the protestation inserted in the first part (Part First, Chapter XX); and at all times protest that you are determined to observe it; saying, with David, "No, my God, thy justifications I will never forget, for by them thou hast given me life." Ps. cxviii. When you feel any disorder in your soul take your protestation in hand, and, prostrate in the spirit of humility, recite it with your whole heart, and you will find great ease and comfort.
Make an open confession, not of being devout, but of desiring to become devout. Be not ashamed to practise those necessary actions which conduct the soul to the love of God. Acknowledge frankly that you would rather die than commit a mortal sin; that you are resolved to frequent the sacraments, and to follow the counsels of your director, though sometimes it may not be necessary to name him; for this candid profession of our desire to serve God, and of consecrating ourselves entirely to his love, is very acceptable to his divine Majesty, who commands us not to be ashamed either of him or of his cross. Besides, it presents many proposals and invitations which the world might make to draw us into the contrary way, and oblige us in honor to act according to what we profess. As the philosophers professed themselves philosophers, that they might be suffered to live like philosophers; so we must profess ourselves to be desirous of devotion, that we may be suffered to live devoutly. If any one tell you that you may live devoutly without practising these advices and exercises, answer him mildly, that, your weakness being so great, you stand in need of more help and assistance than others.
In fine, my dearest Philothea, I conjure you by all that is sacred in heaven and on earth, by the baptism which you have received, by the breasts with which Jesus Christ was nourished, by the charity with which he loved you, and by the bowels of that mercy in which you hope, continue to persevere in this blessed enterprise of a devout life. Our days glide away, and death is at the gate. "The trumpet sounds retreat," says St. Gregory Nazianzen; "let every man be ready, for judgment is near." St. Symphorian's mother, seeing him led to martyrdom, cried after him, "My son! remember eternal life, look up to heaven, and think upon him who reigns there; your approaching end will quickly terminate the short career of this life." My Philothea, I also will say to you, Look up to heaven, and do not forfeit it for this despicable earth; look down into hell, and do not cast yourself into it for transitory joys; look at Jesus Christ, and do not renounce him for the world; and, when the labors of a devout life seem painful to you, sing with St. Francis: -
"How sweet are all those momentary toils,
Which lead to never-ending heavenly joy!"
Live Jesus! to whom, with the Father and Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, now and throughout the endless ages of eternity. - Amen.
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A CONFERENCE BETWEEN AN EMINENT DIVINE OF THE
FOURTEENTH CENTURY AND A POOR BEGGAR, ON THE MEANS OF ATTAINING TO CHRISTIAN
(TRANSLATED FROM THE WORKS OF J. THAULERIUS, D.D., PRINTED AT PARIS, 1623, p.833.)
THERE was a great divine who prayed, for the space of eight years, that God would vouchsafe to direct him to a man who might show him the way of truth. Now it happened, on a certain day, whilst he found his soul excited to offer this petition with a more than ordinary fervor, he heard a voice from Heaven, which said to him, "Go out to the church porch, and there thou shalt meet with a man who will teach thee the way of truth." On going thither he found a poor beggar, whose feet were covered with sores, dirt, and mire, and all the clothes on his back not worth three farthings. Having courteously saluted him, he wished him a good morning. To which the beggar replied, "I never remember to have had a bad morning." - "God prosper you," said the doctor. "What say you?" said the beggar; "I never was otherwise than prosperous." - "I wish you all happiness," replied the doctor; "but what do you mean by speaking in this manner?" - "Why," said the poor man, "I never was unhappy." - "God bless you," said the doctor; "explain yourself, for I cannot well understand your meaning." The poor man answered, "That I shall do very willingly. You wished me, master doctor, a good morning; and I answered that I never had a bad morning; for if I am hungry I praise God; if I suffer cold I praise God; if it hail, snow, or rain, if the weather be fair or foul, I give praise to God; if I am miserable and despised by all the world, I still give praise to God; and therefore I never met with a bad morning. You also prayed that God would prosper me; to which I answered, that I never was otherwise than prosperous; for, having learned to live with God, I know for certain that all he does must necessarily be for the best; and therefore whatever happens to me by his will, or his permission, whether it be pleasant or disagreeable, sweet or bitter, I always receive with joy, as coming from his merciful hand, for the best; and therefore I never was otherwise than prosperous. You wished me also all happiness; and I, in like manner, replied, that I had never been unhappy; for I have resolved to adhere, to the divine will alone, and have so absolutely relinquished self-will as to will always whatever God wills, and therefore I was never unhappy; for I never desire to have any other will than his, and therefore I resign my will entirely to him." "But what would you say," said the doctor, "if it should be the will of this Lord of majesty to cast you down into the bottomless pit?" - "How," said he, hastily, "cast me down into the bottomless pit! Why, if he should really do so, I have two arms, - the one of true humility, by which I am united to his most sacred humanity, which I place under him; the other, which is my right arm of love, by which I am united to his divinity; and with both I would embrace him so closely, and hold him so firmly, that he would be obliged to go down with me; and I would much rather choose to be, even in hell, with God, than in heaven without him." From this discourse the doctor learned that true resignation, accompanied with profound humility, is the shortest way to God. Having afterwards asked the beggar, whence he came, he answered, "From God." - "But where," said the doctor, "did you find God?" - "I found him," said he, "where I forsook all creatures." - "And where or with whom did you leave God?" said the doctor. "I left him," said he, "with the clean of heart, and amongst men of good will." - "But I pray thee tell me who, or what, art thou." - "I am a king," replied he. The doctor further asking him where his kingdom was, he replied, "My kingdom is in my soul; for I can govern both my exterior and interior senses so absolutely that all the affections and forces of my soul are in perfect subjection to me; which kingdom is doubtless more excellent than all the kingdoms of this world." The doctor asked him how he had attained to this perfection. He answered, "By silence, meditation, and by tending always to an union with God; for I could never rest," said he, "in anything less than God; and now, having found him, I enjoy peace and everlasting rest."