A DEVOUT LIFE.
By St. Francis de Sales
Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V
CONTAINING INSTRUCTIONS AND EXERCISES FOR CONDUCTING THE SOUL FROM HER FIRST DESIRE TILL SHE BE BROUGHT TO A FULL RESOLUTION TO EMBRACE A DEVOUT LIFE.
THE DESCRIPTION OF TRUE DEVOTION.
As Aurelius painted all the faces of his pictures to the air and resemblance of the woman he loved, so every one paints devotion according to his own passion and fancy. He that is addicted to fasting thinks himself very devout if he fasts, though his heart be at the same time filled with rancor, and scrupling to moisten his tongue with wine, or even with water, through sobriety, he makes no difficulty to drink deep of his neighbor's blood, by detraction and calumny. Another considers himself devout because he recites daily a multiplicity of prayers, though immediately afterwards he utters the most disagreeable, arrogant, and injurious words amongst his domestics and neighbors. Another cheerfully draws an alms out of his purse to relieve the poor, but cannot draw meekness out of his heart to forgive his enemies. Another readily forgives enemies, but never satisfies his creditors but by constraint. These, by some, are esteemed devout, while, in reality, they are by no means so.
As Saul's servants sought David in his house, but Michol, laying a statue in his bed, and covering it with his clothes, made them believe it was David himself, so many persons, by covering themselves with certain external actions belonging to devotion, make the world believe that they are truly devout, whereas they are in reality nothing but statues and phantoms of devotion.
True devotion, Philothea, presupposes, not a partial, but a thorough love of God. For inasmuch as divine love adorns the soul, it is called grace, making us pleasing to the Divine Majesty; inasmuch as it gives us the strength to do good, it is called charity; but when it is arrived at that degree of perfection by which it not only makes us do well, but also work diligently, frequently, and readily, then it is called devotion.
As ostriches never fly, as hens fly low, heavily, and but seldom, and as eagles, doves, and swallows fly aloft, swiftly and frequently, so sinners fly not at all towards God, but lie, groveling on earth, with only earthly objects in view. Good people, who have not as yet attained to devotion, fly towards God by their good works, but rarely, slowly and heavily; but devout souls ascend to Him by more frequent, prompt, and lofty flights. In short, devotion is nothing else but that spiritual agility and vivacity by which charity works in us, or we work by her, with alacrity and affection; and as it is the business of charity to make us observe all God's commandments, generally and without exception, so it is the part of devotion to make us observe them more fully and with diligence. Wherefore he who observes not all the commandments of God cannot be esteemed either good or devout; since to be good he must be possessed of charity; and to be devout, besides charity, he must show a cheerfulness and alacrity in the performance of charitable actions.
As devotion, then, consists in a certain excellent degree of charity, it makes us not only active and diligent in the observance of God's commandments, but it also excites us to the performance of every good work with an affectionate alacrity, though it be not of precepts, but only of counsel.
For as a man newly recovered from any infirmity walks as much as is necessary for him, but yet slowly and at his leisure, so a sinner, just healed of his iniquity, walks as far as God commands him, yet slowly and heavily, till such time as he attains to devotion; for then, like a man in sound health, he not only walks, but runs, and springs forward in the way of God's commandments; and, moreover, advances with rapidity in the paths of his heavenly counsels and inspiration.
To conclude: charity and devotion differ no more from each other than fire does from flame; for charity is a spiritual fire, which, when inflamed, is called devotion. Hence it appears that devotion adds nothing to the fire of charity but the flame, which makes it ready, active, and diligent, not only in the observance of the commandments of God, but also in the execution of His heavenly counsels and inspirations.
THE PROPRIETY AND EXCELLENCY OF DEVOTION.THEY who discouraged the Israelites from going into the land of promise told them it was a country which devoured its inhabitants; or in other words, that it was impossible to withstand the pestilential infection of its air; and, further, that the natives were such monsters that they devoured men like locusts. It is in this manner, my dear Philothea, that the world defames holy devotion, representing devout persons as a peevish, gloomy, and sullen race of men, pretending that devotion begets melancholy and insupportable humors. But as Josue and Caleb protested that the promised land was not only good and fair, but also that the possession of it would be sweet and agreeable, so the Holy Ghost, by the mouths of all the saints, and our Saviour by his own, assure us that a devout life is a life of all others the most sweet, happy, and amiable.
The world beholds devout people to fast, pray, suffer injuries, serve the sick, and give alms to the poor; it sees them watch over themselves, restrain their anger, stifle their passions, deprive themselves of sensual pleasures, and perform other actions in themselves painful and rigorous; but the world discerns not the inward cordial devotion which renders all these actions agreeable, sweet, and easy. Look at the bees: they find upon the thyme a very bitter juice, yet, in sucking it, they convert it into honey, because such is their property. O worldlings! devout souls, it is true, find much bitterness in their exercises of mortification; but in performing them they convert them into the most delicious sweetness. The fires, flames, wheels, and swords seemed flowers and perfumes to the martyrs, because they were devout. If, then, devotion can confer a sweetness on the most cruel torments, and even on death itself, what can it not do for virtuous actions? Sugar sweetens green fruits, and corrects whatever crudity or unwholesomeness may be in those that are ripe. Now, devotion is that true spiritual sugar which corrects the bitterness of mortification by the sweetness of its consolations; it removes discontent from the poor; solicitude from the rich; sadness from the oppressed; insolence from the exalted; melancholy from the solitary, and dissipation from him that is in company. It serves as well for fire in winter as for dew in summer. It knows as well how to use abundance as how to suffer want, and how to render honor and contempt equally profitable. In a word, it entertains pleasure and pain with equanimity, and replenishes the soul with an admirable sweetness.
Contemplate Jacob's ladder for in it you have a true picture of a devout life. The two parallel sides between which we ascend, and in which the rounds are fixed, represent prayer, which obtains the love of God, and the sacraments which confer it. The rounds are the several degrees of charity by which we advance from virtue to virtue, either descending by action to the help and support of our neighbor, or ascending by contemplation to an amorous union with God. Now, look attentively, I beseech you, upon those who are on this ladder: they are either men who have angelical hearts, or angels clothed in human bodies. They are not young, although they seem so, because they are full of vigor and spiritual activity. They have wings to soar up to God by holy prayer; but they have also feet to walk with men by a holy and edifying conversation. Their countenances are fair and cheerful, because they receive all things with sweetness and content. Their legs, their arms, and heads are bare, because in all their thoughts, affections, and actions they have no other design or motive than that of pleasing God. The rest of their body has no other covering than a fair and light robe, to show that, although they make use of the world and worldly things, yet they use them in a most pure and moderate manner, not taking more of them than is necessary for their condition. Such are devout persons. Believe me, dear Philothea, devotion is the quintessence of pleasures, the queen of virtues, and the perfection of charity. If charity be milk, devotion is the cream; if charity be a plant, devotion is its flower; if charity be a precious stone, devotion is its lustre; if charity be a rich balm, devotion is its odor; yea, the odor of sweetness, which comforts men and rejoices angels.
DEVOTION IS COMPATIBLE WITH EVERY STATION OF LIFE.
AS in the creation, God commanded the plants to bring forth their fruits, each one according to its kind, so he commands all Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each according to his quality and vocation. Devotion ought then, to be not only differently exercised by the gentleman, the tradesman,the servant, the prince, the widow, the maid, and the married woman, but its practice should be also adapted to the strength, the employments, and obligations of each one in particular. For I ask thee, Philothea, is it fit that a bishop should lead the solitary life of a Carthusian? or that married people should lay up no greater store than the Capuchin? If a tradesman were to remain the whole day in the church, like the religious, or were the religious man continually exposed to encounter difficulties in the service of his neighbor, as the bishop is, would not such devotion be ridiculous, preposterous, and insupportable? This fault is, nevertheless, very common, and hence the world, which distinguishes not between real devotion and the indiscretion of those who imagine themselves to be devout, murmurs at the devotion which cannot prevent these disorders.
No, Philothea, true devotion does no harm whatever, but rather gives perfection to all things; but when it is not compatible with our lawful vocation, then, without doubt, it is false. "The bee," says Aristotle, "extracts honey from flowers without injuring them, and leaves them as entire and fresh as she found them." True devotion goes still further, for it not only does no injury to any vocation or employment, but, on the contrary, adorns and beautifies it. As all sorts of precious stones, when cast into honey, receive a greater lustre, each according to its color, so every one's vocation becomes more agreeable when united with devotion. By devotion, the care of the family is rendered more peaceable, the love of the husband and wife more sincere; the service of the prince more faithful; and every employment more pleasant and agreeable.
It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say that devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman. It is true, Philothea, that a devotion purely contemplative, monastical, and religious, cannot be exercised in those vocations; but, besides these three kinds of devotion, there are several others proper to conduct to perfection those who live in the secular state. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David, Job, Tobias, Sarah, Rebecca, and Judith, bear witness of this in the Old Testament; and in the New, St. Joseph, Lydia, and St. Crispin, practised perfect devotion in their shops; St. Ann, St. Martha, St. Monica, Aquila, Priscilla, in their families; Cornelius, St. Sebastian, St. Maurice, in the army; Constantine, Helena, St Lewis, blessed Amedæus, and St. Edward, on the throne. Nay, it has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world, which seems so little favorable to perfection. "Lot," says St. Gregory, " who was so chaste in the city, defiled himself in the wilderness." Wheresoever, then, we are, we may, and should, aspire to a perfect life.
OF THE NECESSITY OF A GUIDE TO CONDUCT US IN THE WAY OF DEVOTION.
YOUNG Tobias, being commanded to go to Rages, answered, "I know not the way." "Go then," replied his father, "and seek some man to conduct thee." I say the same to thee, my Philothea. Wouldst thou walk in earnest towards devotion, seek some good man, who may guide and conduct thee; this is the best advice I can give thee. "Though you search for the will of God," says the devout Avila, "you shall never so assuredly find it as in the way of humble obedience, so much recommended and practised by all holy persons who have aspired to devotion." St. Teresa, seeing the lady Catharine, of Cardona, perform such rigorous penances, desired anxiously to imitate her, contrary to the advice of her confessor. The saint was much tempted to disobey him in that particular; but God said to her: "Daughter, thou art in a good and secure way; seest thou her penance? But I value more thy obedience." Hence she conceived so high an esteem for this virtue that, besides that which she owed to her superiors, she vowed a particular obedience to an excellent man, to whose direction and advice she implicitly submitted. In return for this obedience she, as well as many other devout souls before and after her, who, that they might more entirely subject themselves to God, submitted their wills to that of his servants, enjoyed most unspeakable consolations. St. Catharine, of Sienna, in her dialogues, highly applauds this implicit obedience. The devout princess, St. Elizabeth, submitted herself with an entire obedience to the learned Conradus; and the advice given by the great St. Lewis to his son, a little before his death, was, "Confess often; choose a good confessor, a wise man, who may safely teach thee to do the things that shall be necessary for thee."
"A faithful friend," says the Holy Scripture, "is a strong defence; and he that hath found him hath found a treasure. A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality; and they that fear the Lord shall find him." (Eccli., vi., 14., 16). These divine words, as you may easily perceive, refer to a happy immortality, for the attainment of which it is necessary that we should submit ourselves to the direction of a faithful friend, who, by the prudence and wisdom of his counsels, may guide us in all our actions, and secure us from the ambushes and deceits of the wicked one. Such a friend will be to us as a treasure of wisdom and consolation, in all our afflictions, our sorrows, and relapses; he will serve as a medicine to cure, and as a cordial to comfort our hearts in our spiritual disorders; he will guard us from evil, and make us advance in good; and should any infirmity befall us, he will assist in our recovery, and prevent its being unto death.
But who shall find this friend? They that fear the Lord, answers the wise man; that is, the humble, who earnestly desire their spiritual advancement. Since, then, it concerns you so much; Philothea, to travel with a good guide in this holy road to devotion, beseech God, with the greatest importunity, to furnish you with one who may be according to his own heart; and be assured that he will rather send you an angel from heaven, as he did to young Tobias, than fail to grant your request.
Now, such a guide, when you have found him, ought always to be an angel to you; consider him not as a mere man; place not your confidence in his human learning, but in God, whose minister he is, and who speaks to you by his means, putting in his heart and in his mouth whatever shall be requisite for your happiness, so that you ought to pay as much attention to him as to an angel who would come down from heaven to conduct you thither. Open your heart to him with all sincerity and fidelity, manifesting clearly and explicitly the state of your conscience without fiction or dissimulation; by this means your good actions will be examined and approved; and your evil ones corrected and remedied; you will be comforted and strengthened in your afflictions, and be kept regularly in order in your consolations. Place great confidence in him, but let it be united with a holy reverence, so that the reverence may not diminish the confidence, nor the confidence the reverence. Confide in him with the respect of a daughter towards her father; respect him with the confidence of a son towards his mother. In a word, your friendship for him ought to be strong and sweet, pure and holy, entirely spiritual and divine.
"For this end, choose one amongst a thousand," says Avila; but I say, choose one amongst ten thousand; for there are fewer than can be imagined who are capable of this office. He must be a man of charity, learning, and prudence. If any one of these three qualities be wanting in him, there is danger; but I say to you again, Ask him of God, and having obtained him, bless his Divine Majesty, remain constant, and seek no other; but proceed on, with sincerity, humility, and confidence, till you arrive at the happy end of your journey.
THAT WE MUST BEGIN BY PURIFYING THE SOUL.THE flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning is come."(Cantic. ii. 12). What else are the flowers of our hearts, O Philothea! but good desires? Now, as soon as they appear we must put our hand to the pruning-knife, to retrench from our conscience all dead and superfluous works. As the alien maid, before she could marry an Israelite, was obliged to put off the garment of her captivity, pare her nails, and shave her hair, so the soul that aspires to the honor of being spouse to the Son of God must divest herself of the old man, and clothe herself with the new, by forsaking sin, and removing every obstacle which may prevent her union with God. To enjoy a good state of health, it is necessary that we be previously purged from offensive humors. St. Paul, in a moment, was cleansed with a perfect purgation; so was St. Catherine, of Genoa, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Pelalia, and some others; but this kind of purgation is as miraculous and extraordinary in the order of grace as the resurrection of the dead is in that of nature; and therefore to expect it would be presumptuous. The ordinary purification, or healing, whether of the body or the mind, is not instantaneously effected, but takes place gradually, by passing from one degree to another, with labor and patience.
The angels upon Jacob's ladder had wings, yet they flew not, but ascended and descended in order from one step to another. The soul that rises from sin to devotion may be compared to the dawning of the day, which at its approach expels not the darkness instantaneously, but by little and little. “The cure,” says the medical aphorism, “which is made leisurely, is always the most perfect.” The diseases of the heart, as well as those of the body, come posting on horseback, but depart leisurely on foot. Courage and patience then, Philothea, are necessary in this enterprise. Alas! how much are those souls to he pitied who, perceiving themselves subject to many imperfections, after having for a while exercised themselves in devotion, begin to be dissatisfied, troubled, and discouraged, and suffer their hearts to be almost overcome with the temptation of forsaking all, and returning back to their former course of life. But, on the other hand, are not those souls also in extreme danger, who, by a contrary temptation, believe themselves quite purified from their imperfections the first day of their purgation; who think themselves perfect, though as yet scarcely formed, and presume to fly without wings! Philothea! in what danger are they of relapsing, being so soon out of the physicians hands? "It is vain for you to rise before light" says the prophet (Ps. cxxvi, 2); "rise after you have sitten," and he himself practised this lesson; for having been already washed and cleansed, he desires to be washed and cleansed still more and more. (Ps. I, 3).
The exercise of purifying the soul neither can nor ought to end but with our life; let us not then be disturbed at the sight of our imperfections, for perfection consists in fighting against them; and how can we fight against them without seeing them, or overcome them without encountering them? Our victory consists not in being insensible to them, but in refusing them our consent; now to be displeased with them, is not to consent to them. It is absolutely necessary for the exercise of our humility that we should sometimes meet with wounds in this spiritual warfare, but then we are never overcome, unless we either lose our life or our courage. Now, imperfections or venial sins cannot deprive us of our spiritual life, which is not lost, but by mortal sin. It then only remains that we lose not our courage. "Save me, O Lord!" said David, "from pusillanimity of spirit, or cowardice and faint-heartedness." It is, happy for us that in this warfare we shall always be victorious, provided we do but fight.
OF THE FIRST PURGATION, WHICH IS THAT OF MORTAL SINTHE first purgation that must be made is that of mortal sin; the means to make it is the holy sacrament of penance. Seek, in the first place, the best confessor you can find; then procure some of those books which have been composed for assisting sinners to make a good confession; such as Granada, Bruno, Arias, or Auger; read them carefully, and remark, from point to point, in what you have offended from the time you came to the use of reason to the present hour. Should you distrust your memory, write down what you have observed, and having thus prepared and collected together the bad humors of your conscience, detest and renounce them with the greatest contrition and sorrow that your heart can conceive, considering these four things, (1) that by sin you have lost the grace of God; (2) that you have resigned your claim to heaven; (3) that you have chosen the eternal pains of hell; and (4) that you have renounced the eternal love of God. You see, Philothea, that I speak of a general confession of the whole life, which, though not absolutely necessary, yet I look upon as exceedingly profitable in the beginning, and, therefore, earnestly advise it. It frequently happens that the ordinary confessions of those who lead a common worldly life are full of considerable defects; for they often make little or no preparation, neither have they sufficient contrition; nay, it too frequently happens that they go to confession with a tacit inclination of returning to sin, which appear from their subsequent unwillingness to avoid the occasions of sin, and to make use of the means necessary for the amendment of their life. In, all these cases, a general confession calls us to the knowledge of ourselves; it excites in us a wholesome confusion for our past life; it makes us admire the mercy of God, who has so patiently waited for us; it appeases our hearts; composes our minds; excites us to good resolutions; gives occasion to our spiritual father to prescribe us advices more suitable to our condition, and opens our heart to declare ourselves with more confidence in our following confessions. Speaking, then, of a general renovation of your heart, and of an universal conversion of your soul to God, by undertaking a devout life, it appears necessary, Philothea, to exhort you to this general confession.
OF THE SECOND PURGATION, WHICH IS THAT OF AFFECTION TO SIN ¹ALTHOUGH all the Israelites departed in effect out of the land of Egypt, yet they did not all depart in affection; wherefore many of them regretted in the wilderness their want of the onions and flesh-pots of Egypt. In like manner, there are penitents who in effect depart from sin, but yet quit it not in affection; they propose to sin no more but it is with a certain reluctancy of heart that they deprive themselves of, or abstain from, an unhappy delectation in sin. Although they renounce and avoid it, they nevertheless often look back upon it, as Lot's wife did towards Sodom. They abstain from sin, as sick men do from melons, which they forbear to taste, because the physician threatens them with death if they eat them; but it is with the utmost reluctance that they refrain from them. They talk of them incessantly, and are unwilling to believe them hurtful. They have a continual longing for them, and think those happy who may eat them. Such is the case with loose and weak penitents; they abstain for some time from sin, but it is with the utmost regret; they would rejoice if they could sin, and not be damned; they speak, of it with a certain pleasure and relish, and think those who sin more at ease. The man who was resolved to be revenged on another changes his mind in confession; but shortly after you may find him among his friends, talking with pleasure to them of his quarrel, and saying, "Had it not been for the fear of God, and that the divine law in this article of forgiving is hard, - would to God it were allowed to revenge one's self!" Ah! who does not see, that although he be delivered from the sin, he is still entangled by an affection to it; and that, being in effect out of Egypt, he is still there in affection, longing after its garlic and onions; as a woman, who having detested her impure love, is, nevertheless, pleased with being courted and followed! Alas, in how great danger are all such people!
If you desire, O Philothea, to undertake a devout life, You must not only cease to sin, but also cleanse your heart from all affections to sin; for, besides the danger of a relapse, these wretched affections will so perpetually weaken and depress your spirits, that they will render you incapable of practising good works with alacrity and diligence, in which, nevertheless consists the very essence of devotion. Souls that are recovered from the state of sin, and still retain these affections, are, in my opinion like minds in the green-sickness: though not sick yet all their actions are sick; they eat without relish, sleep without rest, laugh without joy, and rather drag themselves along than walk. This is exactly the case with those here described: they do good, but with such a spiritual heaviness that it takes away all the grace from their good exercises, which are few in number and small in effect.
¹ To understand better the sentiments of the Saint, in this chapter, with regard to the affections to sin, at which some have taken offence we must distinguish two different acceptations of these words. For if, by affection to sin, we understand the willful love, or desire of sin, a voluntary complacency, or delight in the thought of committing sin, it is certain that in this sense an affection to mortal sin is in itself mortal sin. But the holy prelate does not take the affection to sin in this sense. He only means by the affection to sin, a certain propensity and inclination to sin, contracted by a former evil habit, which is apt to remain in the soul, as a relic of the old leaven, after her conversion to God, and her reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, which, though upon reflection the soul resists it, is, nevertheless, of a very dangerous nature, if not diligently purged away, according to the sentiments which the Saint here inculcates.
OF THE MEANS TO MAKE THIS SECOND PURGATION.NOW the first means, nay, the very foundation, of this second purgation is a lively sense and strong apprehension of the dreadful evils in which sin involves the soul, by means of which we conceive a deep and vehement contrition. For as contrition, be it ever so small, when joined with the virtue of the sacrament, cleanses us sufficiently from sin, so when it is great and vehement, it cleanses us even from every affection to sin. A slight hatred or rancor creates an aversion to the person whom we hate, and makes us avoid his company; but if it be a rooted and violent hatred, we not only fly and abhor him, but even loathe the conversation of his kindred and friends, and cannot endure so much as the sight of his picture, nor of anything that belongs to him. In like manner, when a penitent hates sin only with a weak, though true contrition, he forms the resolution to sin no more; but when he hates it with a rooted and vigorous contrition, he not only detests the sin, but also the affections, connections, and occasions which lead towards it. We must, then, Philothea, enlarge our contrition as much as possible; we must extend it to everything that has the least relation to sin. Thus Magdalen, in her conversion, lost so effectually the taste of the pleasure she had taken in her sins as never to think of them more. And David protested, not only his abhorrence of sin, but also of all the ways and paths that lead to it. (Ps. xxviii. 104). In this point consists the soul's growing young again, which he beautifully compares to the renewing of the eagle. (Ps. vii. 5).
Now, in order to obtain this perfect contrition you must diligently exercise yourself in the following meditations, which, by the help of God's grace, will eradicate from your heart both sin and the affection to sin. As it is for this purpose I have composed them, use them in the order I have placed them, taking but one for each day, and that, if possible, in the morning, which is the best time for spiritual exercises; and endeavor to ruminate on them during the rest of the day. But if you be not as yet accustomed to meditation, read what shall be said on this subject in the Second Part.
THE FIRST MEDITATION. - ON OUR CREATION.
PLACE yourself in the presence of God.
2. Beseech him to inspire you.
1. Consider that so many years ago you were not yet in the world, and that your being was a mere nothing. Where were we, 0 my soul! at that time? The world had then lasted so long, and we were not known.
2. God has drawn you out of this nothing, to make you what you now are, merely out of his own pure goodness, having no need of you whatever.
3. Consider the being that God has given you; it is the greatest in this visible world, capable of eternal life, and of being perfectly united to his Divine Majesty.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS.
1. Humble yourself profoundly before God, saying from your heart, with the Psalmist, "O Lord! my whole being is as nothing before thee, and how hadst thou remembrance of me to create me?" Alas, my soul! thou wast engulfed in that ancient nothing, and hadst yet been therein had not God drawn thee thence; and what couldst thou have done hadst thou remained in such a state?
2. Return thanks to God. O my great and good Creator! how much am I obliged to thee, since thou hast vouchsafed to draw me out of nothing, and by thy mercy to make me what I am? What can I ever do to bless thy holy name as I ought, and to render due thanks to thy inestimable goodness?
3. Confound yourself. But, alas! my Creator, instead of uniting myself to thee by loving and serving thee I have made myself a rebel by my disorderly affections, separating myself, and straying far away from thee to unite myself to sin, valuing thy goodness no more than if thou hadst not been my Creator.
4. Cast yourself down before God. 0 my soul! know that the Lord is thy God; it is he that has made thee, and not thou thyself. 0 God! I am the work of thy hands.
Henceforward, then, I will take no complacency in myself, since, of myself, I am nothing. What hast thou to glory in, 0 dust and ashes? or, rather, thou very nothing! Why dost thou exalt thyself? To humble myself, therefore, I resolve to do such and such things, to suffer such and such disgraces. I will change my life, I will henceforward follow my Creator, and esteem myself highly honored by the being which he has given me, employing it entirely in obedience to his will, by such means as I shall learn from my spiritual father.
1. Give thanks to God. Bless thy God, O my soul! and let all that is within me praise his holy name; for his goodness has drawn me forth, and his mercy has created me out of nothing.
2. Offer. 0 my God! I offer to thee the being thou hast given me; from my heart I dedicate and consecrate it to thee.
3. Pray. 0 God! strengthen me in these affections and resolutions. O holy Virgin Mary! recommend them to the mercy of thy Son, with all those for whom I ought to pray.
Our Father. Hail Mary.
After your prayer, gather a little nosegay of devotion, to refresh you during the rest of the day.
SECOND MEDITATION. - ON THE END FOR WHICH WE WERE CREATED.
PLACE yourself in the presence of God.
2. Beseech him to inspire you.
1. God has not placed you in this world because he had need of you, for you are altogether unprofitable to him, but only to exercise his goodness in you, by giving you his grace and glory. To this end he has given you an understanding, to know him; a memory, to be mindful of him; a will, to love him; an imagination to represent his benefit to yourself; eyes to behold his wonderful works; a tongue, to praise him; and so of the other faculties.
2. Being created, and placed in the world for this end, all actions contrary to it are to be rejected, and whatever conduces not to it, ought to be condemned as vain and superfluous.
3. Consider the wretchedness of worldlings, who never think of their end, but live as if they believed themselves created for no other purpose than to build houses, plant trees, heap up riches. and amuse themselves with such like fooleries.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS.
1. Confound yourself, and reproach your soul with her misery, which has been hitherto so great that she has seldom or never reflected on these truths. Alas! Of what was I thinking, O my God! when I thought not of thee? What did I remember when I forgot thee? What did I love when I loved not thee? I ought, alas! to have fed upon truth, and yet I glutted myself with vanity; I served the world, which was created only to serve me.
2. Detest your past life. O vain thoughts and unprofitable amusements, I renounce you! O hateful and frivolous remembrances, I abjure you! O false and detestable friendships, lewd and wretched slaveries, miserable gratifications and irksome pleasures, I abhor you!
3. Return to God. O my God and my Saviour! thou shalt henceforth be the sole object of my thoughts. I will no longer apply my mind to amusements which may be displeasing to thee. My memory shall be occupied all the days of my life with the recollection of the greatness of thy clemency, so sweetly exercised towards me; thou shalt be the sole delight of my heart and the sweetness of my affections.
Ah! then the trifles and follies to which I have hitherto applied myself; those vain employments in which I have spent my days; and those reflections in which I have engaged my heart, shall henceforth be the object of my horror; and with this intention I will use such and such effectual remedies.
1. Thank God, who has created you for so excellent an end. Thou hast made me, O Lord! for thyself, and for the eternal enjoyment of thy incomprehensible glory! O when shall I be worthy of it! When shall I bless thee as I ought?
2. Offer. I offer to thee, O dear Creator! all these affections and resolutions, with my whole heart and soul.
3. Pray. I beseech thee, O God! to accept these my desires and purposes, and to give thy blessing to my soul, that it may be able to accomplish them, through the merits of the blood of thy blessed Son shed for me upon the cross.
Our Father. Hail Mary.
Make a little nosegay of devotion.
THIRD MEDITATION. - ON THE BENEFITS OF GOD.
PREPARATION.PLACE yourself in the presence of God.
1. Consider the corporal benefits which God has bestowed on you: what a body! what conveniences to maintain it! what health! what lawful comforts for its use and recreations for its support! what friends and what assistances! How different is the situation of so many other persons, more worthy than yourself, who are destitute of these blessings! Some are disabled in their bodies, their health, or their limbs; others abandoned, and exposed to reproaches, contempt, and infamy; others oppressed with poverty; whilst God has not suffered you to become so miserable.
2. Consider the gifts of the mind. How many are there in the world stupid, frantic, or mad, and why are not you of this number? Because God has favored you. How many are there who have been brought up rudely, and in gross ignorance? and you, by God's providence, have received a good and liberal education.
3. Consider the spiritual graces. O Philothea! you are a child of the Catholic Church; God has taught you to know him, even from your childhood. How often has he given you his sacraments? How many internal illuminations and reprehensions for your amendment? How frequently has he pardoned your faults? How often has he delivered you from those dangers of eternal perdition to which you were exposed? And were not all these years past given you as so many favorable opportunities of working out your salvation? Consider a little, by descending to particulars, how sweet and gracious God has been to vou.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS.
1. Admire the goodness of God. O how good is my God to me! O how good indeed! How rich is thy heart, 0 Lord, in mercy, and liberal in clemency! O my soul! let us recount forever the many favors he has done us.
2. Wonder at your ingratitude. But what am I, O Lord! that thou shouldst have been so mindful of me? Ah! how great is my unworthiness! Alas! I have trodden thy blessings underfoot. I have abused thy graces, perverting them to the dishonor and contempt of thy sovereign goodness. I have opposed the abyss of my ingratitude to the abyss of thy bounty and favors.
3. Excite yourself to make an acknowledgment. Well, then, O my heart! resolve now to be no more unfaithful, ungrateful, or disloyal to thy great benefactor. And how? Shall not my soul be henceforth wholly subject to God, who has wrought so many wonders and graces in me and for me?
4. Ah! withdraw then your body, Philothea, from such and such sensual pleasures, and consecrate it to the service of God, who has done so much for it. Apply your soul to know and acknowledge him by such exercises as are requisite for that purpose. Employ diligently those means which are in the Church to help you to save your soul and love God. Yes, O my God! I will be diligent in frequenting prayer and the sacraments; I will listen to thy holy word, and put thy inspirations and counsels in practice.
1. Thank God for the knowledge which he has now given you of your duty, and for all the benefits which you have hitherto received.
2. Offer him your heart, with all your resolutions.
3. Pray that he would give you strength to practise them faithfully, through the merits and death of his Divine Son. Implore the intercession of the blessed Virgin and of the saints.
Our Father. Hail Mary.
Make a little spiritual nosegay.
FOURTH MEDITATION. - ON SIN.
PREPARATION.PLACE yourself in the presence of God.
1. Call to mind how long it is since you began to sin, and reflect how much, since that time, sin has multiplied in your heart; how every day you have increased the number of your sins against God, your neighbor, and yourself, by work, by word, or by desire.
2. Consider your evil inclinations, and how far you have followed them; and by these two points you shall discover that your sins are more numerous than the hairs of your head, yea, than the sands of the sea.
3. Consider in particular the sin of ingratitude against God, which is a general sin, that extends itself over all the rest, and makes them infinitely more enormous. Consider then how many benefits God has bestowed on you, and how you have abused them all, by turning them against the giver. Reflect in particular how many inspirations you have despised, how many good motions you have rendered unprofitable, and, above all, how many times you have received the sacraments, and where are the fruits of them? What are become of those precious jewels wherewith your dear spouse has adorned you? All these have been buried under your iniquities. With what preparation have you received them? Think on this ingratitude: that God having run so often after you, to save you, you have always run from him to lose yourself.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS.
1. Be confounded at your misery. O my God! now dare I appear in thy presence? I am, alas! but the corruption of the world; a sink of ingratitude and iniquity. Is it possible that I should have been so ungrateful as not to have left any one of the senses of my body, or of the powers of my soul, which I have not corrupted, violated, and defiled, and that not so much as one day of my life has passed which has not produced its wicked effects? Is this the return I should have made for the benefits of my Creator and the blood of my Redeemer?
2. Crave pardon, and cast yourself at the feet of our Lord, like the prodigal son, like Magdalen, or like a woman who has defiled her marriage bed with all kind of adultery. Have mercy, O Lord, upon this poor sinner! Alas! O living fountain of compassion! have pity on this miserable wretch.
3. Resolve to live better. No, O Lord! never more, with the help of thy grace, never more will I abandon myself to sin. Alas! I have already loved it too much; I detest it now, and I embrace thee. O Father of mercies! I resolve to live and die in thee.
4. To expiate my past sins, I will accuse myself of them courageously, and will banish every one of them from my heart.
5. I will use all possible endeavors to eradicate the sources of them from my heart; and in particular such and such vices to which I am most inclined.
6. To accomplish this, I will fervently embrace the means which I shall be advised to adopt, and will think that I have never done enough to repair such grevious offences.
Return thanks to God for waiting for you till this hour, and bless him for having given you these good affections.
2. Offer him your heart, that you may put them in execution.
3. Implore him to strengthen you
Our Father. Hail Mary.
Make a spiritual nosegay.
FIFTH MEDITATION. - ON DEATH.
PREPARATION.PLACE yourself in the presence of God.
1. Consider the uncertainty of the day of your death. O my soul! thou shalt one day depart out of this body! but when shall the time be? Shall it be in winter or in summer? In the city or in the country? By day or by night? Shall it be suddenly or after due preparation? By sickness or by accident? Shalt thou have leisure to make thy confession? Shalt thou be assisted by thy spiritual father? Alas! of all this we know nothing; one thing only is certain: we shall die, and sooner than we imagine.
2. Consider that then the world shall end for you, for it shall last no longer to you; it shall be reversed before your eyes; for then the pleasures, the vanities, the worldly joys, and vain affections, of your life shall seem like empty shadows and airy clouds. Ah, wretch! for what toys and deceitful vanities have I offended my God? You shall then see that, for a mere nothing, you have forsaken him. On the other hand, devotion and good works will then seem to you sweet and delightful. Oh, why did I not follow this lovely and pleasant path? Then the sins which before seemed very small will appear as large as mountains, and your devotion very small.
3. Consider the long and languishing farewell which your soul shall then give to this poor world? She shall then bid adieu to riches, vanities, and vain company; to pleasures, pastimes, friends, and neighbors; to kindred, children, husband, and wife; in a word, to every creature; and finally to her own body, which she shall leave pale, ghastly, hideous, and loathsome.
4. Consider with what precipitancy they will carry off this body to bury it under the earth; after which the world will think no more of you than you have thought of others. "The peace of God be with him," shall they say, and that is all. O death! how void art thou of regard or pity!
5. Consider how the soul, being departed from the body, takes her flight to the right hand or to the left. Alas! whither shall yours go? what way shall it take? No other than that which it began here in this world.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS.
1. Pray to God, and cast yourself into his arms. Ah! receive
me, O Lord! into thy protection at that dreadful day; make that hour happy and
favorable to me; and rather let all the other days of my life be sad and
2. Despise the world. Since then I know not the hour in which I must leave thee, O wretched world! I will no more set my heart on thee. 0 my dear friends and relations! pardon me if I love you no more, but with a holy friendship, which may last eternally; for why should I unite myself to you, since I shall be one day forced to break those ties asunder? I will then prepare myself for that hour, and take all possible care to end this journey happily; I will secure the state of my conscience to the best of my power, and will form immediate and efficacious resolutions for the amendment of such and such defects.
Give thanks to God for these resolutions which he has given you. Offer them to his Divine Majesty. Beseech him to grant you a happy death, through the merits of the death of his beloved Son; implore the assistance of the blessed Virgin and the saints in heaven.
Our Father. Hail Mary.
Make a nosegay of myrrh.
SIXTH MEDITATION. - ON JUDGMENT.
PREPARATION.PLACE yourself before God.
1. After the time God has prescribed for the, duration of this world; after many dreadful signs and presages, which shall cause men to wither away through fear and apprehension; a fire, raging like a torrent, shall burn and reduce to ashes the whole face of the earth; nothing that exists shall escape its fury.
2. After this deluge of flames and of thunderbolts, all men shall rise from their graves, excepting such as are already risen, and at the voice of the angel they shall appear in the valley of Josaphat. But, alas! with what difference! for some shall arise with glorious and resplendent bodies; others in bodies most hideous and frightful.
3. Consider the majesty with which the Sovereign Judge will appear, surrounded by all the angels and saints. Before him shall be borne his cross, shining more brilliantly than the sun; a standard of mercy to the good, and of rigor to the wicked.
4. This Sovereign Judge, by his awful command, which shall be suddenly executed, shall separate the good from the bad, placing the one at his right hand, and the other at his left. O everlasting separation, after which these two companies shall never more meet together!
5. This separation being made, and the book of conscience opened, all men shall clearly see the malice of the wicked, and their contempt of divine grace; and, on the other hand, the penitence of the good, and the effect of the grace which they have received; for nothing shall be hidden. O good God! what confusion will this be to the one, and what consolation to the other!
6. Consider the last sentence of the wicked: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.'' Ponder well these awful words. "Depart from me.'' A sentence of eternal banishment against those miserable wretches, excluding them from his presence for all eternity. He calls them cursed. O my soul, what a curse! a general curse, including all manner of evils! - a general curse, which comprises all time and eternity! He adds, "into everlasting fire!" Behold, O my heart! this vast eternity. O eternal eternity of pains, how dreadful art thou!
7. Consider the contrary sentence of the good. "Come," saith the Judge. O the sweet word of salvation, by which God draws us to himself, and receives us into the bosom of his goodness! "Ye blessed of my Father." O dear blessing, which comprises all blessings! "Possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. O good God! what an excess of bounty! for this kingdom shall never have an end.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS.
1. Tremble, O my soul! at the remembrance of these things. O my God! who shall secure me in that day when the pillars of heaven shall tremble for fear!
2. Detest your sins, which alone can condemn on that dreadful day. Ah! I will judge myself now that I may not be judged then! I will examine my conscience, and condemn myself; I will accuse myself, and amend my life, that the eternal Judge may not condemn me on that dreadful day. I will, therefore, confess my sins, and receive all necessary advice.
Thank God, who has given you the means of providing for your security at that day, and time to do penance. Offer him your heart to perform it. Beg of him to give you the grace duly to accomplish it.
Our Father. Hail Mary.
Make your spiritual nosegay.
SEVENTH MEDITATION. - ON HELL.
PREPARATION.PLACE yourself in the presence of God.
1. The damned are in the abyss of hell, as within a woeful city, where they suffer unspeakable torments in all their senses and members, because as they have employed all their senses and their members in sinning, so shall they suffer in each of them the punishment due to sin. The eyes for lascivious looks shall endure the horrible sight of devils and of hell. The ears, for having taken delight in vicious discourses, shall bear nothing but wailings, lamentations, desperate howlings; and so of the rest.
2. Besides all these torments, there is yet a greater, which is the privation and loss of the glory of God, from the sight of which the damned are excluded forever. Now, if Absalom found the privation of the amiable face of his father, David. more grievous to him than his banishment, good God! what grief will it cause to be forever excluded from the sight of thy most sweet and gracious countenance?
3. Consider, above all, the eternity of those pains, which alone makes hell insupportable. Alas? if a little insect in your ear, or the heat of a fever, makes one short night seem so long and tedious, how terrible will the night of eternity be, accompanied with so many torments! From this eternity proceed eternal despair, infinite rage, and blasphemies, etc.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS.
Terrify your soul with the words of the prophet Isaiah. O my soul? art thou able to dwell with this devouring fire? Canst thou endure to dwell with everlasting burning? Canst thou think of parting with thy God forever?
Confess that you have often deserved it. But henceforward I will take a new course; for why should I go down into this bottomless pit? I will use such and such endeavors to avoid sin, which alone can bring me to this eternal death. Give thanks, offer, pray.
Our Father. Hail Mary.
EIGHTH MEDITATION. - ON HEAVEN.
PREPARATION.PLACE yourself in the presence of God.
1. Consider a fair and clear night, and reflect how delightful it is to behold the sky bespangled with all that multitude and variety of stars; then join this beautiful sight with that of a fine day, so that the brightness of the sun may not prevent the clear view of the stars nor of the moon; and then say boldly that all this beauty put together is nothing when compared with the excellence of the great heavenly paradise. O how lovely, how desirable is this place! O how precious is this city!
2. Consider the glory, the beauty, and the multitude of the inhabitants of this happy country; millions of millions of angels, of cherubin and seraphin; choirs of apostles, prophets, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and holy women; the multitude is innumerable. O how glorious is this company! the least of them is more beautiful to behold than the whole world; what a sight then will it be to behold them all! But, O my God! how happy are they! they sing incessantly harmonious songs of eternal love! they always enjoy a state of felicity; they mutually give each other unspeakable contentment, and live in the consolation of a happy, indissoluble society.
3. In fine, consider how happy the blessed are in the enjoyment of God, who favors them forever with a sight of his lovely presence, and thereby infuses into their hearts a treasure of delights. How great a felicity must it be to be united to their first principle, their Sovereign Good. They are like happy birds, flying and singing perpetually in the air of his divinity, which encompasses them on all sides with incredible pleasure. There every one does his utmost, and sings without envy the praises of his Creator. Blessed be thou forever, O sweet and sovereign Creator and Saviour, who art so good, and who dost communicate to us so liberally the everlasting treasures of thy glory! And blessed forever be you, says he, my beloved creatures, who have served me so faithfully, with love and constancy; behold, you shall be admitted to sing my praises forever.
AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS.
1. Admire and praise this heavenly country. O how beautiful art thou, my dear Jerusalem! and how happy are thy inhabitants.
2. Reproach your heart with the pusillanimity with which it has hitherto strayed so far out of the way of this glorious habitation. Oh! why have I wandered at so great a distance from my sovereign happiness? Ah! wretch that I am, for these false and trifling pleasures I have a thousand and a thousand times turned my back upon these eternal and infinite delights. Was I not mad to despise such precious blessings for gratifications so vain and contemptible?
3. Aspire with fervor to this most delightful abode. O good and gracious Lord! since it has pleased thee at length to direct my wandering steps into thy ways, never hereafter will I return back from them. Let us go, O my dear soul! let us walk towards this blessed land which is promised us: what are we doing in Egypt? I will therefore disburden myself of all such things as may divert or retard me in so happy a, journey; I will perform such and such things as may conduct me thither.
Give thanks, offer, pray.
Our Father. Hail Mary.
NINTH MEDITATION. - BY WAY OF ELECTION AND CHOICE OF HEAVEN.
PREPARATION.PLACE yourself in the presence of God.
1. Consider that you are certainly placed between heaven and
hell; and that both the one and the other lie open to receive you, according to
the choice which you shall make.
2. Consider that the choice which we make in this world shall last for all eternity in the world to come.
3. And though both the one and the other be open to receive you according to your choice, yet God, who is ready to give you either the one by his justice, or the other by his mercy, wishes, nevertheless, with an incomparable desire, that you would choose heaven; and your good angel also importunes you to it with all his power, offering you, in God's name, a thousand graces, and a thousand assistances to help you to obtain it.
4. Consider that Jesus Christ in his clemency looks down upon you from above, and graciously invites you, saying," Come, my dear soul, to enjoy an everlasting rest, within the arms of my goodness, where I have prepared immortal delights for thee in the abundance of my love." Behold likewise, with your interior eyes, the blessed Virgin, who with maternal tenderness exhorts you, saying, "Take courage, my child; despise not the desires of my Son, nor the many sighs which I have cast forth for thee, thirsting with him for thy eternal salvation." Behold the saints also exhort you, and millions of blessed souls sweetly invite you; they wish for nothing more than to see your heart one day united with theirs in praising and loving God forever; and assure you that the way to heaven is not so difficult as the world would persuade you. "Be of good heart, dear brother," say they; "he that diligently considers the way of devotion by which we ascended hither, shall see that we acquired these immortal delights by pleasures incomparably more sweet than those of the world."
1. O hell! I detest thee now and forevermore; I detest thy torments and pains; I detest thy accursed and miserable eternity; and above all, I detest those eternal blasphemies and maledictions which thou vomitest out against my God. And, turning my heart and my soul towards thee, O heavenly paradise everlasting glory, and endless felicity! I choose my habitation forever within thy holy and most lovely tabernacles. I bless thy mercy, O my God! and I accept of the offer which thou art pleased to make me. O Jesus, my sweet Saviour! I accept thy everlasting love, and the place which thou hast purchased for me in this blessed Jerusalem; not so much for any other motive, as to love and bless thee forever and ever.
2. Accept the favors which the blessed Virgin and the saints offer you. Promise to make the best of your way to join their company; and give your hand to your good angel, that he may conduct you; encourage your soul to make this choice.
Our Father. Hail Mary.
TENTH MEDITATION. - BY WAY OF ELECTION, AND CHOICE WHICH THE SOUL MAKES OF A DEVOUT LIFE.
PREPARATION.PLACE yourself in the presence of God.
1. Imagine yourself again to be in an open field, alone with your good angel; and that you see the devil on your left hand, seated on a lofty throne, attended by many hellish spirits, environed by a numerous band of worldlings, who submissively acknowledge him for their lord, and do him homage, some by one sin, and some by another. Observe the countenances of all the wretched courtiers of this abominable king. Behold some of them transported with hatred, envy, and passion; others killing one another; others consumed with cares, pensive and anxious to heap up riches; others bent upon vanity, unable to obtain any but empty and unprofitable pleasures; others wallowing in the mire, buried and putrefied in their brutish affections. Behold, there is no rest, no order, nor decency amongst them. Behold how they despise each other, and love in appearance only. In a word, you shall see a wretched commonwealth, miserably tyrannized over by this cursed king which will move you to compassion.
2. On the right hand, behold Jesus Christ crucified, who, with a cordial love, prays for these poor enslaved people, that they may be freed from the sway of this tyrant; and calls them to himself; behold around him, a band of devout souls with their angels. Contemplate the beauty of this kingdom of devotion. Oh, what a sight! to see this troop of virgins, men and women, whiter than lilies; this assembly of widows, full of holy mortification and humility! See the ranks of divers married people living together with mutual respect, which cannot be without great charity. Behold how these devout souls join the exterior care of the house with the care of the interior, the love of the husband or wife with that of the heavenly Spouse. Consider them all universally, and you shall see them in a holy, sweet, and lovely order, attending on our Lord, whom every one would willingly plant in the midst of his heart. They are joyful; but it is with a comely, charitable, and well-ordered joy; they love each other; but their love is most pure and holy. Such as suffer afflictions amongst this devout people, are perfectly resigned, and never lose courage. To conclude, behold how they look on our Saviour, who comforts them, and how they altogether aspire to him.
3. You have already left Satan, with all his execrable troop, by the good affections you have conceived; but you have not as yet enrolled yourself under the standard of the King Jesus, nor united with his blessed company of devout souls, but you have been hitherto hesitating between the one and the other.
4. The blessed Virgin, with St. Joseph, St. Lewis, St. Monica, and a hundred thousand others, who have lived in the midst of the world, invite and encourage you.
5. The crucified King calls you by name: Come, 0 my well beloved! come, that I may crown thee!
0 world! O abominable troop! No, never shall you see me under your banners! I have forever abandoned your trifles and vanities. O king of pride! O accursed king! infernal spirit! I renounce thee with all thy vain pomps; I detest thee with all thy works.
2. And, turning myself to thee, my dear Jesus! King of eternal glory and happiness! I embrace thee with all the powers of my soul! I adore thee with my whole heart, and choose thee now and forever for my king; with this inviolable fidelity, I pay thee irrevocable homage, and submit myself to the obedience of thy holy laws and ordinances.
3. O sacred Virgin! beloved Mother! I choose thee for my guide, I put myself under thy protection; I offer thee a particular respect and special reverence.
4. O my good Angel! present me to this sacred assembly, and forsake me not till I am associated to this blessed company, with whom I say, and will say forever in testimony of my choice, live Jesus, live Jesus!
Our Father. Hail Mary.
HOW TO MAKE A GENERAL CONFESSION.BEHOLD here then, my dear Philothea, the meditations necessary for our purpose. When you shall have made them all, proceed courageously in the spirit of humility to make your general confession; but, I beseech you, suffer not yourself to be disturbed with any kind of apprehension. The sting of the scorpion is poisonous; but the scorpion being reduced to oil, becomes a sovereign remedy against the venom. of its own sting. Sin is shameful only when we commit it; but, being converted into confession and penance, it becomes honorable and wholesome, - contrition and confession being so beautiful and odoriferous as to efface its deformity and purify its stench. Simon the leper said that Magdalen was a sinner, but our Lord said no, alluding to the sweet perfumes she poured forth, and the greatness of her love. If we be very humble, Philothea, our sins will infinitely displease us, because God is offended by them; but the accusation of them will become sweet and agreeable, because God is honored thereby; for it is a kind of comfort to acquaint the physician rightly with the nature of the evil that torments us.
2. When you kneel before your spiritual father, imagine that you are on Mount Calvary, under the feet of Jesus Christ crucified, whose precious blood distils on all sides to wash and cleanse you from your iniquities. For, though it be not the very blood of our Saviour, yet it is the merit of his blood shed for us that waters abundantly the soul of the penitent at the confession seat. Open then your heart perfectly, that you may cast out your sins by confession; for, as fast as they depart from your heart, the precious merits of the passion of your Divine Saviour will enter in, to fill it with his graces and blessings.
3. But be sure to declare all with candor and sincerity. Having fully satisfied your conscience that you have done so, listen to the admonitions and ordinances of your confessor, and say in your heart, "Speak Lord! for thy servant heareth." -1 Kings iii. 10. Yea, Philothea it is God whom you hear; since he has said to his vicegerents, "He that heareth you heareth me."-St. Luke x. 16.
4. Afterwards make the following protestation, which may serve for a conclusion of your contrition, and on which you ought first to have meditated and reflected. Read it attentively, and with as much devotion as you possibly can.
AN AUTHENTIC PROTESTATION, TO ENGRAVE IN THE SOUL THE RESOLUTION N TO SERVE GOD, AND TO CONCLUDE THE ACTS OF PENANCE.I, N. N., in the presence. of the eternal God, and of the whole court of heaven, having considered the infinite mercy of his divine goodness towards me, a most unworthy and wretched creature, whom he has created out of nothing, preserved, supported, and delivered from so many dangers, and loaded with so many benefits; but considering, above all, the incomprehensible sweetness and clemency with which this merciful God has so graciously borne my iniquities; so frequently called upon me and invited me to amendment, and so patiently waited for my repentance and conversion until this present time, notwithstanding the innumerable instances of ingratitude, disloyalty, and infidelity, by which I have despised his grace, rashly offended him, and deferred my conversion from day to day; having, moreover, reflected that upon the day of my holy baptism I was dedicated to God, to be his child; and that, contrary to the profession then made in my name, I have so often, so execrably and detestably, profaned and violated all the powers of my soul and the senses of my body, applying and employing them against his divine majesty; at length, returning to myself, prostrate in spirit before the throne of the divine justice, I acknowledge, avow, and confess myself lawfully attainted and convicted of treason against God, and guilty of the death and passion of Jesus Christ, on account of the sins I have committed, for which he died and suffered the torment of the cross; so that, consequently I deserve to be cast away and condemned forever.
But, turning myself towards the throne of the infinite mercy of the same eternal God, having detested with my whole heart and strength the many iniquities of my past life; I most humbly beg pardon, grace, and mercy, with an entire absolution from them, by virtue of the death and passion, of this same Lord and Redeemer of my soul, on which relying, as on the only foundation of my hope, I confirm again and renew the sacred profession of allegiance to my God made in my behalf at my baptism; renouncing the devil, the world and the flesh; detesting their base suggestions, vanities, and concupiscences during the residue of my mortal life, and for all eternity. And, turning myself towards my most gracious and merciful God, I desire, purpose, and am irrevocably resolved to serve and love him now and forever; and to this end, I give and consecrate to him my soul with all its powers, my heart with all its affections, and my body with all its senses, protesting that I will never more abuse any part of my being against his divine will and sovereign majesty, to whom I offer up and sacrifice myself in spirit, to be forever his loyal, obedient, and faithful creature, without ever revoking or repenting of this my act and deed.
But if, alas! I should chance, through the suggestion of the enemy, or through human frailty, to transgress in any point, or fail in adhering to this my resolution and dedication, I protest from this moment, and am determined, with the assistance of the Holy Ghost, to rise as soon as I shall perceive my fall, and return again to the divine mercy, without any delay whatsoever. This is my inviolable and irrevocable will, intention, and resolution, which I declare and confirm without reservation or exception, in the sacred presence of God, in the sight of the Church triumphant, and in presence of the Church militant, my mother, which hears this my declaration in the person of him who, as her officer, hears me in this action.
May it please thee, O my God! eternal, almighty, and all-gracious Father, Son and Holy Ghost! to confirm in me this resolution, and to accept this inward sacrifice of my heart, in the odor of sweetness. And as it hath pleased thee to inspire me with the will to do this, so grant me the strength and grace to perform it. O my God! thou art my God, the God of my heart, the God of my soul, and the God of my spirit: as such I acknowledge and as such I adore thee now and forever. Live, 0 Jesus!
INFERENCES DRAWN FROM THE FOREGOING PROTESTATION.HAVING made this protestation, open the ears of your heart to hear the sentence of absolution, which the Saviour of your soul, seated on the throne of his mercy, will pronounce before all the angels and saints in heaven, at the same instant that the priest, in his name, absolves you here upon earth; so that all this blessed company, rejoicing at your conversion, will sing a spiritual canticle with incomparable joy, and each of them give the kiss of peace and fellowship to your heart, now restored to grace and sanctity.
Good God! Philothea! what an admirable contract, what a happy treaty do you here enter into with the divine Majesty! By giving yourself to him, you not only receive himself in exchange, but eternal life also. Nothing, therefore, further remains but cheerfully to sign, with a sincere heart, the act of your protestation; then approach with confidence to the altar, where God will reciprocally sign and seal your absolution, and the promise he makes you of his heavenly kingdom putting himself, in the blessed sacrament as a seal or signet upon your renovated heart.
Thus shall your soul, O Philothea! be not only purged from sin, but from the affections thereto. But as these affections easily spring up again in the soul, as well through the weakness of depraved nature as through concupiscence, which may be mortified, but can never die whilst we dwell in this mortal body, I will give you some instructions, which, if diligently practised, will preserve you so effectually from mortal sin and all affection to it, that they will never find place in your heart hereafter; but, in order that they may contribute to a still more perfect purification, I will previously say something of that absolute purity to which I am desirous of conducting you.
THAT WE MUST PURIFY OURSELVES FROM AFFECTION TO VENIAL SINS.AS at the approach of daylight we perceive more clearly in a mirror the spots and stains that disfigure our faces, so, as the inward light of the Holy Spirit more and more enlightens our consciences, we see in a more distinct and clear manner the sin, inclinations, and imperfections which prevent us from attaining to true devotion, and the same light which enables us to perceive those spots and blemishes inflames us with a desire to cleanse and purify ourselves from them.
You will, then, discover, my dear Philothea, that, besides mortal sins and the affection to them, from which you have been purified by the foregoing exercises, there still remain in your soul several inclinations and affections to venial sins. I do not say that you shall discover the venial sins themselves, but your affections and inclinations to them; because the one is very different from the other; for although we can never be altogether so pure from venial sins as to continue for a long time without committing them, yet we need not entertain any voluntary affection for them. Surely it is one thing to tell a lie now and then in jest, or in matters of small importance, and another to take pleasure in lying, and retain an affection for it on every occasion.
I therefore say that we must purge the soul from every affection to venial sins; that is to say, we must not voluntarily nourish the desire of persevering in any kind of venial, sin, be it ever so small; because it displeases God, though not to that degree as to cause him to cast us off or damn us for it. Now, if venial sin offends him, the will and affection which we retain to venial sin is no better than a resolution to entertain the desire of displeasing his divine Majesty; but is it possible that a generous soul should not only consent to offend her God, but also to retain with affection the desire of offending him?
Such affections, Philothea, are as directly opposite to devotion as an affection to mortal sin is contrary to charity; they depress and weaken the spirit, prevent divine consolations, open the gate to temptations, and although they kill not, yet they make the soul extremely sick. "Dying flies," says the wise man, " spoil the sweetness of the ointment." --Eccles. x. 1. His meaning is, that flies which stay not long upon the ointment, but only taste it in passing by, spoil no more than they take, the rest remaining sound; but those which die in the ointment, deprive it of its sweetness. Thus venial sins, which come upon a devout soul, and stay not long there, do it no great damage; but if they dwell in it by affection, they make it lose the sweetness of ointment, that is, holy devotion. Spiders kill not the bees, but they spoil and corrupt their honey, and so entangle the honeycombs with their web that the bees cannot go forward in their work; now this is to be understood when the spiders make any stay among them. In like manner, venial sin kills not the soul, but it spoils devotion and entangles the powers of the soul so much with bad habits and vicious inclinations, that she can no longer exert that promptitude of charity in which devotion consists, but this also is to be understood, when venial sin continues to dwell in our hearts, by the affection with which we cherish it.
It is not a matter of great consequence, Philothea, to tell some trifling lie, to fall into some little irregularity in words, in actions, in looks, in dress, in mirth, in play, in dancing, provided that as soon as these spiritual spiders are entered into our conscience we chase and drive them away, as the bees do the corporal spiders; but if we permit them to remain in our hearts, if we cherish the desire of retaining and multiplying them, we shall soon find our honey destroyed, and the hive of our conscience corrupted and ruined. But I say once more, what probability is there that a generous soul should take pleasure in displeasing her God, or affect what would be disagreeable to him, or willingly do that which she knows would give him offence?
THAT WE OUGHT TO PURIFY OURSELVES FROM AN AFFECTION TO UNPROFITABLE AMUSEMENTS.PLAY, dancing, feasting, dress, and theatrical shows, being things which, considered in their substance, are not evil, but indifferent, and such as may be used either well or ill; nevertheless, as all these things are dangerous, to bear an affection to them is still more dangerous. I say then, Philothea, that although it be lawful to play, to dance, to dress, to feast, or to be present at innocent comedies, yet to have an affection to such things is not only contrary to devotion, but also extremely hurtful and dangerous. The evil does not consist in doing such things but in a fond attachment to them. Ah, what a pity to sow, in the soil of our heart, such vain and foolish affections, which take up the room of good impressions, and hinder the sap of our soul from being employed in good inclinations!
Thus the ancient Nazareans abstained not only from whatever might inebriate, but also from the grape itself; not from an apprehension that the grape could intoxicate them, but lest by tasting the grape they might be tempted to drink of the wine also. Now, I do not say that we can never use these dangerous things, but I affirm that we can never set our affections upon them without prejudice to devotion. As the stags, when grown too fat, retire into their thickets, because, being encumbered with flesh, they know that they are not in a condition to run, should they he hunted, so the heart of man, burdening itself with these unprofitable, superfluous, and dangerous affections, cannot certainly run after its God, the true point of devotion, readily, lightly, and easily. Let children please and fatigue themselves with pursuing butterflies, yet no one finds fault with them, because they are children; but is it not ridiculous, or rather lamentable, to see persons advanced in years fix their heart and affections upon such toys and trifles as those which I have named, which are not only unprofitable but which put us in imminent danger of falling into many irregularities and disorders in the pursuit of them? Wherefore, my dear Philothea, I say, we must purge ourselves from these affections; for though the acts are not always contrary to devotion, yet the affections are always prejudicial to it.
¹It is not the meaning of the saint in this passage to justify the assisting at any such comedies, or other plays, as have a tendency to encourage vice, or irreligion; or which serve to inflame the passions, to enervate the soul, and to dispose her to impure love, which is too often the case with our modern plays. For such as these the holy prelate would by no means allow to be innocent, but rather would loudly condemn them, as the holy fathers and saints have always done.
THAT WE MUST PURGE OURSELVES FROM OUR EVIL INCLINATIONS.WE have, moreover, Philothea, certain natural inclinations, which, though they spring from our particular sins, yet are not properly sins, either mortal or venial, but are called imperfections; and the acts which proceed from them are termed defects and failings. For example, St. Paula, according to St. Jerom, had so great an inclination to sadness that at the death of her children and husband she was in danger of dying with grief. This was an imperfection, but not a sin, because she had it against her will.
There are some people who are naturally of a light, others of a morose temper; some of an obstinate disposition, others inclined to indignation; some prone to anger, others to love; in short, there are few in whom we may not observe some of these imperfections. Now, although they are peculiar and natural to each of us, yet by care and a contrary affection, we may not only correct and moderate them, but even altogether free ourselves from them; and I tell you, Philothea, it is necessary that you should do so. As a means has been discovered to change bitter almond trees into sweet, by piercing them at the bottom to let out the juice, why may not we let out the juice of our perverse inclinations, and become better? For as there is no nature, though never so good, which may not be perverted to evil by vicious habits, so there is no disposition, though never so perverse, that may not, by the grace of God and our own industry, be brought under and overcome.
Wherefore, I shall now proceed to give you such instructions, and propose such exercises as may help to purge your soul, as well from your imperfections as from all dangerous affection to venial sins, and secure your conscience more effectually against all mortal sin. May God grant you the grace to reduce them to practice!