Introduction to the Devout Life

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This wiki edition of St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life is derived from the HTML edition found on Philothea.

I have not yet obtained permission from the copyright holder or from Philothea for this edition. This is a work in progress. When it seems relatively complete, I will try to gain the blessing of the copyright holders.

I have created this edition essentially to suit myself, Americanizing spelling and punctuation, among many other corrections and amendments. I hope that others might enjoy this version, too.

Please let me know what needs to be corrected.


Contents

Information about This Edition

Complete and Unabridged
Translated and Edited by
Fr. Antony Mookenthottam, MSFS
Fr. Armind Nazareth, MSFS
Fr. Antony Kolencherry, MSFS
Second Revised Edition
S.F.S. Publications, Bangalore, 1995

Nihil Obstat:

Rev. Dr. Midathada Mariadas, Provincial, Visakhapatnam

Imprimatur:

Most Rev. Dr. Alphonsus Mathias, Archbishop of Bangalore
Bangalore 1-3-1990

S.F.S. Publications, All rights reserved, 1995

ISBN: 81-85376-46-8

First Edition: 1990

Second Edition: 1995

Typeset by: Karthik Prints, Malleswaram, Bangalore - 560 003

Printed at: St. Paul Press Nagasandra Bangalore - 560 073

Dedication of the First Edition

In joyful remembrance of the 325th anniversary of the canonization of St. Francis de Sales and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Fr. Peter Mary Mermier, founder of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales. Lovingly and gratefully dedicated to the many European missionaries of St. Francis de Sales who served in India since 1845 and to the Indian missionaries of St. Francis de Sales serving at present in Tanzania, Brazil and Europe.

Dedication of the Second Edition

Lovingly and gratefully dedicated to the Indian Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, now serving in the Philippines and in Chile, on the 400th anniversary of St. Francis beginning his mission in the Chablais.

Acknowledgements

We thank, first of all, Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for enabling us to complete this translation. Next we thank our Lady, whose motherly care has surrounded us, and our Patron, St. Francis de Sales, who has certainly been with us making our work "pleasant, easy and delightful" (to use one of his phrases).

Then we thank Rev. Mother Superior of the First Visitation Monastery, Annecy, France, for kindly allowing us "to do a new English translation of the Introduction à la Vie Dévote from the text in the third Volume (of the definitive edition of the writings of St. Francis de Sales prepared and published by the Visitation Sisters, Annecy) using also the Preface and the footnotes." This "full permission to use these texts" was conveyed to us, in a letter dated 3rd January 1990, by Sr. Marie Patricia Burns, in charge of the Archives.

We are grateful to Rev. Fr. Emile Mayoraz, MSFS, our Superior General, and to our Provincials, Rev. Fr.Mariadas Midathada, MSFS, of the Visakhapatnam Province and Rev. Fr. Agnelo Fernandes, MSFS, of the Maharashtra-Goa Province, for their interest and encouragement. This project is the result of cordial inter-Province collaboration. We thank our confreres in both Provinces for suggestions and for all kinds of help; our special thanks to the Fathers and Brothers at Vinayalaya Theologate, Bangalore; Suvidya Philosophate, Hebbagoddi; and Fransalian Theologate, Pune. We also thank all our well-wishers, especially Sisters, for their kind prayers for us and our work.

A very special thank you to Fr. Tom Kanat, MSFS, without whose expertise and dedication at the computer we would have been doubly tired and quite confused as we drafted and redrafted our text. He is also responsible for the cover of the book. Our special thanks also to Bro. Christo Soosai MSFS, of Suvidya for typing many of the initial manuscript, and to Bro. Sebastian Kollamparambil, MSFS, of Suvidya for his inspired drawing of St. Francis de Sales (printed on page 39).

Finally, our thanks to the Proprietor, the Management and the Workers of Panther (India) Printers, Rajajinagar, Bangalore - 10, for their diligence in providing an elegant and attractive first edition of our new MSFS translation of the Introduction.

Fr. A. Mookenthottam, MSFS

Fr. A. Kolencherry, MSFS, Fr. A. Nazareth, MSFS

Bangalore, 7th April 1990

Foreword to the Second Edition

In this Second Edition of our translation, we have corrected a number of misprints and added a few things that had been left out. We thank Fr. Francis Moget, MSFS, for carefully making a detailed list of misprints for correction.

We are grateful to: the SFS Publications and the Indian institute of Spirituality

The Translators
Bangalore 28th December 1994
Anniversary of the death of St. Francis de Sales

Preface by the Translators -- Englishing The Introduction

St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life is indeed a masterpiece of the spiritual life. That is why it should be easily available to all. But a readable and complete and inexpensive English version of this timeless spiritual classic cannot be found. In fact, we decided to make an entirely new translation of The Introduction because the English versions at present in circulation are not entirely satisfactory. Those that are complete and unabridged do not read well. Their style seems antiquated, full of unfamiliar and even archaic words. Those that read well are abridged versions. These summarize the French text rather than translate it. And they have the temerity to omit most of St. Francis' quaint illustrations which make The Introduction sparkle with wit.

So we were determined to make a completely new English version of The Introduction. As we started on this venture, we had in mind the words of Mgr. Ronald Knox whose English version of the Bible made in the 1940's was greatly admired. This is what he said after nine years of translation:

Your examination of conscience, when you are doing any translating work is obviously grouped under three heads: Is it accurate? Is it intelligible? Is it readable?[1]

In the course of our work, we evolved certain guidelines. We realized that we had to give priority to intelligibility, to clarity. We had to make it easy for the general reader to grasp what St. Francis de Sales was telling them in such a conversational, and even humorous, tone. He uses long paragraphs with long sentences, according to the style of his time. We had to divide his long paragraphs into smaller ones, as he changed from one aspect of the topic to another. Further, we had to break up his long sentences into smaller ones whenever the sense allowed it. In fact, one of the defects of some of the previous English translators has been their slavish translation: following the text word-for-word, long sentence for long sentence, long paragraph for long paragraph.

Another major defect of the previous English translators has been their making a word-for-word translation by substituting one French word with a similar-sounding English word. This usually makes the sense rather obscure. And sometimes it makes the translation incorrect. For instance they have translated the French word injures by "injuries", whereas the more precise meaning is "insults." So also the French aspirer should not be "to aspire" but rather "to seek" or "to desire." Similarly the French peine can rarely mean "pain", and French words like protestant and insupportable can be translated by more accurate words in English than "protesting" and "insupportable." The ultimate was when the French phrase humeurs peccantes was rendered by some of them as "peccant humours" whereas it means "sinful dispositions."[2]

We decided to remove antiquated expressions like "devout souls" and "for the good of your soul", used by St. Francis. After all, in the liturgy of today, the Church, when praying for the dead, no longer prays for "souls" but for "the faithful departed," for persons. of course, we have retained "soul" when the context and sense required it. But we have substituted "spirit" for "soul" whenever it was found suitable. And we also decided to do away with words that have become religious jargon like "Affections and Resolutions."[3]

We have tried our best to prepare an entirely new English translation of The Introduction that is accurate, intelligible and readable. The three of us have spent long hours together, discussing and searching for simple words to express clearly in English what St. Francis says so charmingly in French. St. Francis de Sales personally revised and improved his Introduction through five editions, from 1608 to 1619. We shall greatly appreciate comments, as well as suggestions, from each one and everyone of you who read and make use of this translation, so that we can improve it when we publish a new edition. Please address them to the Director, Indian institute of Spirituality, Rajajinagar, First Block, Bangalore-560 010, India. Thank you.

May St. Francis de Sales pray for us and be with us all. May he lead us to a more committed and a more joyful love of the Father, through Christ our Lord and in the Holy Spirit. May he make us ever more gentle, compassionate and kind to one another in our homes and families, in our religious communities and in our place of work.

Live Jesus

Fr. A. Nazareth, MSFS
Fr. A. Mookenthottam, MSFS
Fr. A. Kolencherry, MSFS
Bangalore, 7th April 1990

A Biographical Sketch of St. Francis de Sales

This short biographical note is meant for those who have not yet come into contact with the life and writings of St. Francis de Sales.[4]

Childhood

St. Francis de Sales was born on 21st August 1567 at Thorens, not far from Geneva in Switzerland and Annecy in the France. Thorens then belonged to the Duke of Savoy. Later Savoy became a part of France through a referendum.[5]

The parents of Francis were Francis de Sales, generally known as M. de Boisy and Francoise de Sionnaz commonly known as Madame de Boisy.

M. de. Boisy, by his life, example and firm guidance taught Francis to be an honest, sincere, frank, straightforward and courageous boy with a great sense of justice, kindness, generosity and integrity. From his father, he learned a manly devotion while from his mother, he inherited a kind, compassionate and affectionate heart and tender devotion.

Education

In 1573, Francis was sent to a school at La Roche not far from Thorens.

From 1575, he continued his studies in the school of Chappuis at Annecy.

On 17th December 1575, he made his First Communion and received Confirmation.

On 20th September 1578 Francis received tonsure as he desired to become a priest and belong to the church entirely. To receive tonsure at an early age was a custom followed in those days to which his father reluctantly consented.

In September 1578, M. de Boisy sent Francis and his cousins to Paris for higher education. He procured the services of a diocesan priest, Fr. Deage, to accompany them, stay with them and be their tutor during their studies. Francis joined the college of Clermont run by the Jesuits.

There he studied literature, philosophy and learned arts befitting nobles like fencing, riding, dance etc. This he did to fulfill the wishes of his father. He followed courses in theology for his own satisfaction.

From December 1586 to January 1587, Francis underwent a terrible crisis, a temptation, a trial. There were several causes: his natural tendency to anxiety and the problem of predestination, keenly discussed in theological circles in those days. Above all, there was a mystical dimension to the trial: an unselfish, pure love of God and total surrender to him in which lay the answer to his problems as he was being tempted to despair of his salvation.

One day in January 1587, Francis went into the church of St. Elienne des Grès. He went to the chapel of our Lady and knelt down in front of the statue. He was inspired to make an unconditional surrender of his salvation to God, using the words; "O God, Just Judge and Merciful Father, at least in this life will I love You, if it is not given to me to love You in life everlasting." Then he saw there a card with the prayer Memorare: "Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary ..." He took it and earnestly prayed it. He was instantly healed. The temptation vanshed. Strength and confidence retund to him.

In 1588, Francis completed his studies in Paris and returned to Savoy.

On 26th December 1588, he was sent to Padua, to pursue his studies further. He had only a short stay at home. In Padua, he studied civil and ecclesiastical law. He also followed courses in theology. Fr. Possevin, SJ, (1534-1611) was chosen by him as his spiritual director.

In January 1591, Francis became very seriously ill and received viaticum. There was scarcely any hope of recovery. All the same, he was healed.

On 5th September 1591, he completed his legal studies for a Doctorate in law and passed the examination with such great success that he won the admiration of his own professors and of all present. Then he went on pilgrimage to Loretto and on an educational tour to some towns in Italy.

In February 1592, Francis returned to Savoy. He wanted to become a priest. His father was strongly opposed to it.

On 24th November 1592, not to displease his father, he enrolled himself as an advocate at the Bar of Chambery.

It was while returning from Chambery on horseback that his belt got unbuckled and his sword fell to the ground. His sword came out of the scabbard with its point directed towards him. Francis understood this to be a clear sign that God wanted him to put aside the sword in order to become a Priest.

On 7th March 1593, the document appointing Francis as Provost[6] was signed by Roman authorities, through the mediation of Louis de Sales, his cousin and supported by his own Bishop, Mgr. de Granier.

On 7th May, the document was brought to Annecy by Louis de Sales. Then Louis de Sales together with Francis approached M. de Boisy to seek his permission. Finally, the great old man gave in to the persuasion of Louis de Sales and others and granted his son permission to follow his vocation to the priesthood.

On 18th September 1593, Francis was ordained deacon, and on 18th December 1593, he was ordained priest by his own Bishop Mgr. de Granier, and after three day's recollection, on 21st December, he celebrated his first mass. After Christmas, he was installed as Provost.

As a priest he devoted himself to the spiritual renewal of Annecy. He preached in a simple style, taught catechism and tried to form a dedicated and devoted laity. The ideal of a priest as a man of God, a man of the church and a man of the people blended harmoniously in his life and activity. This ideal was soon to be put to the test.

The district of Chablais in Savoy under the Duke of Savoy had embraced Calvinism. The Duke requested the Bishop to send missionaries to Chablais to win the people back to the Catholic faith. Bishop de Granier entrusted this mission to Francis. Louis de Sales volunteered to work with him.

On 14th September 1594, both Francis and Louis left for Chablais and reached the castle of Les Allinges. Thonon was the headquarters of the district, a few kilometers away from the castle of Les Allinges perched on a small hill. Thonon was not safe for the missionaries as the Calvinists were in no mood to tolerate the presence of catholic missionaries. So they had to stay in the castle with the soldiers and go daily to Thonon in the morning and come back in the evening.

The initial work was extremely hard. They regularly visited the few catholics in the town of Thonon and began instructing them. Francis also began to contact the Calvinists. The Calvinist ministers forbade the people to receive the catholic priests and even to listen to them. Calumnies against Francis were circulated. There was constant threat to his life. No one came to listen to him. Every door was closed to him.

Then Francis took a new initiative. He began to write short notices explaining catholic teaching and left them at the door of the houses of the Protestants.

From January 1595 to January 1596, he wrote these articles which was later published as a book, the Controversies. This was one of the most trying periods of his live. He prayed, fasted and did penance, perhaps a little more than his body could support. He was very much disappointed by the uselessness of his work as no effects were seen. There was utter poverty, no money. His bishop was too poor and continued to encourage him. The Duke gave him no financial support. M. de Boisy had disapproved his taking up the mission and did his best to persuade him to come back. So he did not help him in any way. Antoine Favre, an intimate friend of Francis, continued to encourage him. Finally, the perseverance and hard and courageous work of Francis began to bear fruit.

Slowly a change for the better began. People began to discuss with him. They flocked to his sermons. Conversions followed. within few years, the whole district returned to the catholic fold.

On 1st October 1596, Pope Clement VIII, asked Francis to meet Theodore de Beze, the successor of Calvin in Geneva, and try to bring about his conversion. Francis met de Beze in Geneva three times during the year 1597 but these meetings met with no success.

From 1594, Bishop de Granier was thinking of making Francis his Co-adjutor Bishop, and from 1596, the Duke too wanted the same. It was time for ad limina visit to Rome. Bishop de Granier did not enjoy good health. So he decided to send Francis to Rome.

In November 1597, Francis was to leave for Rome but he fell very seriously sick. Only by the end of January 1598, he regained health. The journey was postponed. There were works to be immediately attended to.

So only in November 1598, Francis could leave for Rome. After Christmas, the Pope Clement VIII gave him audience.

On 22nd March 1599, Francis, passed brilliantly the examination in the presence of the Pope for nomination to a bishopric. Among the examiners were the great and learned men of the day, the Cardinals Frederic Borromeo, Bellarmine (later declared saint and doctor of the church), Baronius and Borghese. At the end of the examination the Pope, so much impressed by Francis' answers, came down and embraced him.[7]

On 25th March, the same year, Francis was admitted to assist at the mass of the Pope. He had a deep mystical experience of the mystery of the incarnation during the eucharistic celebration especially after his holy communion.[8]

On 1st June 1599, Francis was back in Annecy. He continued his ministry.

In 1602, Francis was sent to Paris to meet King Henry IV to treat with him some ecclesiastical affairs.

He had several interviews with the king. Francis made a profound impression on the king and the court. But his mission was not a success. Later Francis was accused of conspiracy against the king. He met the king and cleared up all suspicion. In September of the same year, he left Paris for Annecy. On the way, he learned that Mgr. de Granier had passed away.

In the beginning of November 1602, Francis received the papal bulls of his nomination as Bishop, which due to poverty, he had not asked for earlier.

On 8th December 1602, Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva in the Church of Thorens. The time of the consecration was for Francis, a time of deep spiritual experience of the Holy Trinity.

The Bishop of Geneva was chased away from the see of Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. In 1536, the citizens of Geneva embraced the Reformation. Geneva became a republic. From that time, the Bishops appointed to the see of Geneva stayed in Annecy with the hope of returning to the center of the diocese when the situation changed. They kept the title of Bishop of Geneva.[9]

The Bishop

Francis was rather unlike many of the Bishops of his own days as well as our own. He was easily accessible to everyone. He devoted his whole attention to pastoral work without at the same time neglecting administrative affairs. He taught catechism to children and adults, preached as often as occasions arose. He heard confessions regularly and gave spiritual direction to numerous persons, men and women of various ranks living in different life-situations, and wrote numerous letters of direction. At the same time, he was equally available to princes, dukes, Bishops, clergy, religious both men and women and to the people at large especially the poor and the sick.

Due to the poverty of the diocese, he was not able to establish a major seminary which he had planned to. A project at Thonon which he envisaged as an institution of higher education with a kind of technical school to impart skills in trades could not function well due to financial problems and lack of personnel and other causes which complicated the project. Perhaps he was ahead of time and the church had to wait for St. John Bosco.

Amidst all these activities, he led a life of prayer and contemplation. It is impossible to describe the varieties of activities in which Francis was engaged and the numerous problems and issues he had to tackle in a short biographical sketch. A detailed description will be found in E.J. Lajeunie, St. Francis de Sales, The Man, The Thinker, His influence, Vol. 1 and 2.

Such a life and activity told on his health. While returning from Avignon in France, where he had gone at the invitation of the Duke of Savoy, he stopped at Lyons. The royal court of France and that of the Duke of Savoy were meeting there. Francis stayed with the Visitation sisters, of the Order he had founded.

On 27th December 1622, Francis had an attack of apoplexy and he passed away on 28th December, the feast of Holy innocents about 8 O' clock in the evening.

On 28th December 1661, Francis de Sales was beatified by Pope Alexander VII.

On 19th April 1665 Blessed Francis de Sales was canonized by the same Pope.

On 16th November 1877, Pope Pius IX declared him doctor of the church.

There are several striking aspects of his life which make him a man for our times.

St. Francis de Sales, the Man

1. A Student Forever

Francis knew that growth in genuine spiritual life and virtues depended not only on the grace of God but also on studies. Amidst his intense activity as Bishop and Pastor, he spent long hours in study. He wrote in his personal rule: "As to inner life and especially to studies, a Bishop, shall endeavour everyday to learn something useful and appropriate to his profession."[10] What he learned he shared through his evangelizing activity.

2. The Evangelizer

As an evangelizer, Francis used his vast knowledge gained through an intense life of prayer and study to explain the faith of the Church and enlighten the people. In this regard he took various initiatives like writing pamphlets, organizing conferences and above all preaching.

3. The Preacher

There was perfect harmony between the preaching of St. Francis and his life and activity. St. Vincent de Paul who knew him personally and listened to him said: "All his actions were as many sermons."[11] St. Francis preached with love and charity and reacted against artificiality: "All you have to do...is just speak with feeling and sympathy, with simplicity, frankness and confidence. Be in love with the doctrine you are teaching and conveying to your listeners. The supreme art is to have no art."[12]

Preaching leads to change of heart. Spiritual direction follows up the change of heart and leads to change of life and growth.

4. The Spiritual Director

St. Francis believed and taught that a spiritual director was necessary to guide people to the perfection of love without going astray, wasting time and strength. St. Jane de Chantal who followed his spiritual direction says: "I know that several priests, abbots, religious, ecclesiastics, gentlemen and lawyers, princes and princesses, and persons of every rank rich and poor from different provinces have sought him out for that purpose."[13]

The letters of spiritual direction written by him to his directees are a mine of wisdom and spiritual and psychological insights.

St. Francis cherished an intimate friendship with his directees.

5. The Friend

An important aspect of his spiritual direction was his close friendship with his directees. This friendship earned him their confidence. It made the sacrifices he demanded from them less hard.

Though he was firm and strict with his directees, he wanted a holy freedom and frankness to reign every where. We must have no other law or constraint except that of love, the law of charity.[14]

Giving spiritual direction necessitated giving something in writing for the reference, guidance and constant use of his directees.

6. The Author

The most popular book of St. Francis and the best seller of his times was the Introduction to the Devout Life.

In 1608 it was published by him to help both his directees and christians to lead an authentic Christian life. (For more details see pages 42-43.) While The Introduction laid a very good foundation for christian life, it did not explain in detail the growth and experience of divine love.

From 1609 to 1616, Francis, used all the free moments available to the writing of the Treatise on the Love of God. In August 1616, it was published.

The experience of St. Francis himself and that of St. Jane de Chantal and the First Sisters of the Visitation Order he founded form the background of his book, Treatise on the Love of God.

His numerous sermons, letters, booklets etc., have been published. The Spiritual Conferences are the notes of his familiar instruction and talk taken down by the Visitation Sisters. All these together form 26 volumes, published by the Visitation Sisters of Annecy, the Order founded by him, the index prepared by Alphonse Denis, a monk, is the 27th.

7. The Founder

The objectives of St. Francis in founding the congregation of the Visitation of Holy Mary was to offer the possibility of leading a religious life to humble weak women who because of their age or some physical weakness, cannot have access to austere reformed monasteries. They are offered this opportunity provided they are healthy in mind and willing to live a life of humility, obedience, simplicity, gentleness and resignation. Thus he did not neglect the cripples, the one-eyed, the hunchbacks, the lame in body or the lame in the soul. They must strive to achieve a strong love.[15] The co-foundress was Madame de Chantal, a widow who later became St. Jane de Chantal.

The Visitation of the Holy Mary was founded on 6th June 1610. Originally, the Visitation as intended by the Founders was not be a cloistered Order. The care of the sick was undertaken. Due to the objections of Mgr. Denis-Simon de Marquemont (1572-1626), Archbishop of Lyons,[16] St. Francis agreed to make the Visitation a formal religious order.

St. Francis' activity extended to every field of human life. He brought peace and harmony in conflicting situations.

8. The Mediator, Peace-Maker

St. Francis listened to the contenders with patience and impartiality. His gentleness and kindness brought calm to the angry, made them see reason and accept his decisions.

He brought peace not only to individuals and families but also among quarrelling schools of theology. He encouraged theologians to discuss frankly and charitably[17] and discouraged the Pope from settling theological questions simply by the use of his authority.

The few aspects of the person St. Francis de Sales mentioned above give an insight into his rich personality, which cannot be exhausted in a short sketch like this. In conclusion another very relevant characteristic of his may be mentioned.

9. A Man of Synthesis and Harmony

St. Francis achieved a wonderful harmony in his own life and thought. Philosophy, theology and mysticism blended harmoniously in him. The very first sentence of the first Chapter of the first book of the Treatise on the Love of God expresses his concern for synthesis and harmony, and that is our conclusion of this short biographical note:

"Introduce unity into diversity, and you create order; order yields harmony, proportion; harmony where you have perfect integrity begets beauty. There is beauty in music when voices, which are true, clear, distinct, blend to produce perfect consonance, perfect harmony."[18]

Fr. Antony Mookenthottam, MSFS

Bibliography

Books Consulted by the Translators

  1. Oeuvres de St. Francois de Sales, Edition complète, publiée par les soins des Religieuses de la Visitation du 1er Monastère d'Annecy, Vol. I-26, Annecy, 1892 - 1932.
  2. Introduction á la vie dévote, in Saint Francis de Sales, Oeuvres, Preface et chronologie par andré Ravier avec la collaboration de Roger Devos, Gallimard, 1969, pp. 1 - 317.
  3. E. J. Lajeunie, Saint Francis de Sales, the Man, the Thinker, His Influence, Tr. Rory O'Sullivan, Vol.1, SFS Publications, Bangalore, 1986; Vol. 2, SFS Publications, Bangalore, 1987.
  4. Saint Francis de Sales, The Love of God, a Treatise, Tr. abridged and with introduction by Vincent Kerns, SFS Publications, Bangalore, 1982.
  5. Pulpit and Pew, A Study in Salesian Preaching, presented by Vincent Kerns, SFS Publications, Bangalore, 1976.

Prayer to St. Francis de Sales

Dear St. Francis de Sales by your life and in your writings you teach us to follow Christ by loving God, our Father, and all other persons, our brothers and sisters. Obtain for us the grace to be led by the Holy Spirit, so that we show our love for God by fidelity to prayer, by diligence in our work, by our cheerful service of others.

Teach us to be patient and forgiving, kind and helpful to all. Help us to face the difficulties and sufferings of life with a heart full of trust in God, our ever-loving Father.

Dear St. Francis, while on earth you were always ready to help those in need. Come to my aid and obtain for me from God through the intercession of Our Lady, the special grace for which I now pray.

(Pause)

O Gentle St. Francis, bless our home with your presence. May our hearts glow with love for God and a sincere concern for others, so that our lives may show in word and deed the blessings of your patronage, Amen.

Novena: 15th to 23rd January
Feast: 24th January.
Composed by Fr. Armind Nazareth, MSFS

Introduction: the Origin of The Introduction

St. Francis de Sales is certainly one of the few truly great teachers of the spiritual life. The very practical guidance he gives about Christian living is as relevant to us today as it was to the people of his time. In fact, as Pope Paul VI pointed out, "St. Francis de Sales appears as a new Doctor of the spiritual life, and one who is very well suited to the present times."[19]

Like a sunflower ever turned towards the sun, Francis de Sales was drawn to God from his earliest years. During his childhood the principal influence in his life was his mother. She was not merely religious but also kind and compassionate to the needy and the suffering. As a schoolboy at La Roche and at Annecy, as a teenager at the Jesuit College in Paris, and as a young man at the University of Padua, he responded to God's grace and experienced in agony and ecstacy what it means to live in complete love for God and neighbor. He joyfully welcomed all that genuine humanism had to offer, while firmly rejecting whatever was evil and debasing.

At the age of 25, Francis was an accomplished young nobleman who had completed his Doctorate, in civil law and church law, with extraordinary brilliance. As the eldest son, he could easily have agreed to follow his father's plans for him: he could have become a renowned lawyer and diplomat. But he had already made up his mind to give himself to the service of God and his people as a priest. And this he realized in spite of strong initial opposition from his father.

In the late sixteenth century and the early seventeenth century, the Church in Europe was being renewed after the Council of Trent which concluded in 1563. In this renewal, St. Francis de Sales had a very important part to play. As a recently ordained priest, Francis generously accepted the difficult task of trying to contact the hostile Calvinists of the Chablais. Here,during the three years of his ministry, the crucified Savior put the finishing touches to the preparation of Francis. Here, in his late twenties, in rejection and loneliness and suffering, he was made ready for the special mission to be entrusted to him. And it was in the Chablais that Francis became an expert at communicating in writing the truths of the Faith with clarity and attractiveness. Since the people to whom he was sent refused to listen to him, he got their attention through short articles written on loose sheets and quietly distributed to them.[20]

For many years, Francis had made Jesus the center of his life, and lived the Gospel in total fidelity and trust. He was now ready to draw all to the God of Love made known in Christ Jesus. He understood that this was his primary responsibility to Christ's faithful when he was consecrated Bishop at 35 years of age.

It is very difficult indeed to describe the enormous amount of pastoral work that young Bishop Francis de Sales took up with joyful courage and untiring zeal: preaching, hearing confessions, teaching Catechism to children, forming his priests, giving spiritual direction to individual persons in all walks of life, regularly visiting his people even though it meant fatiguing journeys up steep mountain paths, reforming monasteries,undertaking tedious diplomatic missions at the request of his rulers, settling disputes out of court after listening at length to both parties, founding the new contemplative order of the Visitation and giving special guidance to these Sisters.[21]

St. Francis de Sales began the spiritual direction of individual persons as a result of the contacts made at the time of the Lenten sermons he preached as Bishop, in Paris in 1602 and in subsequent years in different important towns in Savoy and in France. After the Lenten sermons at Dijon, in 1604, Madame de Chantal placed herself under his direction along with some others. And after the Lenten sermons at Annecy, in 1607, Madame de Charmoisy chose him as her director.

In order to help Madame de Chantal, Madame de Charmoisy and others, women as well as men, Bishop Francis de Sales began writing to them personal letters of spiritual direction.[22] Later, due to pressure of work, he prepared short articles or "essays" about different aspects of the spiritual life. These he got circulated among some of those whom he directed. It was from such short "essays" that The Introduction was born in 1608.

In his Preface to The Introduction, St. Francis refers to the origin of the book.[23] He does not mention the name of the "very respectable and virtuous person" to whom he gave "written notes" about various spiritual exercises. She has been identified as Madame Louise de Charmoisy, the wife of one of his cousins. As a matter of fact, Madame de Charmoisy gave the following testimony at the Process of Canonization of St. Francis de Sales.

Soon after I had placed myself under the direction of the said Servant of God, I was obliged to return to Court. I felt very uneasy about this. So I went to consult the said Servant of God and told him of my fears. His answer was: "Take courage, my child. Do not be afraid that you will fall back because of this. If you are faithful to God he will never fail you. He will give you enough time to make your spiritual exercises, as well as to do everything else that you have to do, even if he has to stop the sun and the moon." Because of this, he decided to give me some written instructions about this matter. I showed these to a Jesuit Father. He found them so very good and useful that he requested the Servant of God to have them published. That is why he prepared the Introduction to the Devout Life of which they became a part.[24]

The "Jesuit Father" mentioned by Madame de Charmoisy, whom St. Francis in his Preface calls "an important, learned and devout religious", is identified in one of St. Francis' letters as Fr.John Fourier, then Rector of the Jesuit College at Chambery.[25] Francis had chosen him as his spiritual director. In a letter, dated 25th March 1608, Fr.Fourier writes to Bishop Francis as follows:

How shall we go about preparing for publication the treasure of devotion with Madame de Charmoisy? It seems to me that the whole matter must be revised, arranged with titles, and have a Preface as well as the author's name. In this way the good will be more secure and more widespread; all for the glory of God.[26]

The first edition of The Introduction was published towards the end of 1608. It was immediately sold out. In mid-February 1609, Francis wrote to Madame de Chantal asking her to bring all the letters and "essays" she had received from him.[27] He completely revised the book, adding new Chapters as well as new matter. The second edition appeared in September 1609. As there were many printing mistakes, Francis carefully prepared a third edition which was published in 1610.[28] But the printing mistakes remained; and even in the fourth edition of 1616. From October 1618, St. Francis was forced to spend many months in Paris on a diplomatic mission. He used this opportunity to make one more revision. This fifth edition was published in 1619. It is the text of this fifth edition which has been retained as the definitive text in the Annecy Edition of The Introduction. It is from this text that the present translation is made. The Introduction was so well appreciated that during the lifetime of St. Francis it was translated into Italian, Latin, English, Flemish and Spanish.

In the course of the centuries, The Introduction has remained one of the few spiritual classics that has a special appeal to all of Christ's faithful. St. Francis wrote it specially for the laity. May the desire of Pope Pius XI be realized "that this book, as at one time it was in the hands of all, may now also be read by all. In this way Christian piety will flourish everywhere, and the Church of God will rejoice at seeing sanctity common among her children."[29]

Fr. Armind Nazareth, MSFS
I charge you with authority of love, whoever reads this book ... be sure to read it all - straight through. It may be that there is something in the beginning or in the middle which depends upon full exposition later. If you were to examine one part while neglecting the other, you could easily be led astray.
- From The Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th century spiritual classic by anonymous English author.

The Footnotes in This Edition

St. Francis de Sales illustrates his teaching with incidents taken from the Bible or the biographies of Saints. He also makes use of stories and natural science information from ancient writings like "History of Animals" by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle (B.C. 384-322), and especially from the "Natural History", an encyclopedia in 37 "Books" compiled by the Roman author, Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79). It is obvious that the natural science information used by St. Francis is not scientific in the modern sense. But the unusual and fantastic "facts" he presents as the basis for his illustrations make the Introduction pleasant to read.

No references were given by St. Francis, not even biblical. The Sisters of the First Monastery of the Visitation, Annecy, France, who are responsible for the definitive edition in French of St. Francis' Complete Works (called the Annecy Edition), have traced the references and indicated them along side the text published by them.

The Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible was familiar to St. Francis, as it was the official version then used in the Church. So it is sometimes difficult to find the exact text of his biblical quotations, especially from the Psalms, in some of our modern Bibles.

St. Francis gives the reason for omitting all references, and speaks of his special use of Bible texts, in his brief notice to the Reader which he published in the third edition of the Introduction in 1610. In the present edition, this notice is placed immediately after the Preface by St. Francis de Sales.[30]

However, as a help to our present-day readers, we have incorporated the biblical references in the text. We have also indicated the source of St. Francis' secular information by giving the name of the author; other details can be found in Volume 3 of the Annecy Edition. We have added footnotes of our own, wherever required for greater clarity.

The Translators

Dedicatory Prayer
Gentle Jesus, my Lord, my Savior and my God, I prostrate before your divine Majesty and dedicate and consecrate this writing to your glory. by your blessing give life to the words of this book so that those for whom I have written it may receive through it the holy inspirations which I desire for them. May they be specially inspired to pray earnestly that I may receive your infinite mercy so that while showing the path of devotion to others in this world, I may not be condemned (1 Cor 9:27) and confused eternally in the next. Rather, may I sing with them for ever, as a song of triumph, the words I utter with all my heart as a sign of my faithfulness among the dangers of this earthly life:
Live Jesus.
Live Jesus!
Yes, Lord Jesus, live and reign in our hearts for ever and ever. Amen.

Preface by St. Francis de Sales

My dear reader, please read this preface for your satisfaction and for mine.

The flower seller, Glycera, had such great skill in arranging flowers, that with the same sort of flowers she would make a great variety of bouquets. In fact, the painter Pausias wanting to make drawings of Glycera's different bouquets was unable to do so, as he could not match his skill in painting to the profusion of bouquets she had prepared.[31] in the same way, the Holy Spirit inspires and sets out the teaching on devotion in such a great variety, presenting it through the words and writings of his servants. While the doctrine is always one and the same, yet the compositions in which it is set out are very different according to the variety of ways used in putting them together.

Certainly, I cannot write, nor do I want to write, nor should I write in this Introduction anything else than what has been published already on this subject by our predecessors. My dear Reader, I offer you the same flowers but the bouquet that I have made is different from theirs, because the arrangement is not the same.

Those who have written about devotion have nearly all had in mind the instruction of persons completely separated from life in the world. At least, they have taught a kind of devotion leading to such a complete separation. My purpose is to instruct people living in towns, the married, and those at princely courts. These are obliged by their state of life to lead an ordinary life to all outward appearances. Very often such persons do not want even to think of venturing on the devout life, finding an excuse in the false claim that it is impossible.

These people are of the opinion that just as no animal dares to taste of the seed of the plant called "palm of Christ"[32] so no one caught up in the rush of living in the world should reach out for the palm of Christian devotion. But I want to make them understand that, just as the pearl oysters live in the sea without letting a single drop of salt water enter,[33] and that there are springs of fresh water in the sea close to the Chelidonian Islands,[34] and that a certain insect can fly about in the fire without burning its wings,[35] so anyone with courage and determination can live in the world without being tainted by its spirit, finding springs of the fresh water of devotion in the world's salty waves and able to fly amid the flames of the temptations of the world without losing the wings of the holy desires of a devout life.

This task is difficult, it is true, and that is why I should like many to give it their attention with greater earnestness than has been shown till now. In spite of my great imperfection, I am trying to provide by means of this book, some help to those who will take up this worthy task with a generous heart.

However, it is not through my own choice or desire that this Introduction is being published. A very respectable and virtuous person who, some time back, had received from God the grace to want to seek the devout life asked me for special help in this regard.[36] As I was indebted to her in many ways, and as I had noted long before that she was very well disposed for the devout life, I took great care to instruct her thoroughly. So I led her through various spiritual exercises suited to her purpose and her condition in life. About these I gave her written notes so that she could refer to them when needed. Later, she showed these notes to an important, learned and devout religious.[37] He made an earnest request that I get them published, as he was of the opinion that many would find them very helpful. He easily convinced me about this, since I was very much influenced by his friendship and had a great respect for his judgement.

In order to make the whole work more useful, as well as easy to read, I have revised the notes to ensure some kind of continuity, adding a number of counsels and instructions relevant to my purpose. But I have done all this with hardly any leisure. So this is not a thorough presentation but rather a collection of instructions[38] given in all sincerity and presented in simple and clear words, at least that is what I have had in mind. And I decided not even to think about other aspects that make language appealing as I had so many things to attend to.

My words are directed to "Philothea." in fact, I want to present for the general benefit of many persons what I had written in the first place for only one. So I use a name which can be given to anyone who wants to lead a devout life. "Philothea" means "one who loves God" or "one who is in love with God."

In all this my concern is for anyone who desires to be devout and so seeks to love God. Hence I have arranged this Introduction in five parts:

In the First Part, I make use of various counsels and exercises to change one's simple desire for the devout life into a total commitment. One does this by concluding with a firm resolution after a general confession. Holy Communion follows when, entrusting oneself to the Savior and welcoming him, one enters joyfully into his holy love.

After this, to help in advancing further, I give instruction about the two great means of uniting oneself ever more closely to God: The Sacraments, by which God comes to us, and Prayer by which he draws us to himself. In this consists the Second Part.

In the Third Part, I explain the practice of various virtues which are specially suitable for one's progress, giving more attention to some specific counsels which one would not get easily from elsewhere or discover by oneself.

In the Fourth Part, I help to find out certain snares of the enemies and show how one can escape them and continue on one's way.

Finally, in the Fifth Part, I teach how to withdraw for a while in order to refresh oneself, recover breath and renew one's strength and so afterwards be able to gain ground with greater joy and so make further progress in the devout life.

As this age is very peculiar, I expect that many will say that only members of religious orders and persons concerned with devotion should give such special guidance regarding the devout life; that this work requires more leisure than is at the disposal of a Bishop who is entrusted with a diocese as burdensome as mine; that it is too great a distraction for the mind which should be used for important matters. My dear Reader, I tell you with St. Denis that guiding people to perfection is the task mainly of Bishops, all the more so since their order is the highest among men as that of the Seraphim is among the Angels, and so their leisure cannot be put to better use than this.

The Bishops of ancient times and the Fathers of the Church had at least as much concern for their responsibilities as we have. Even so, as can be gathered from their letters, they did not neglect taking care to give individual guidance to many persons who came to them for help. In this they imitated the Apostles who, while gathering the harvest in the whole world, picked up nevertheless with a special and particular affection certain outstanding ears of corn. Everyone knows that St. Paul had Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Onesiumus, St. Tecla and Appia as his special disciples, just as St. Peter had St. Mark and St. Petronilla. St. Petronilla was not in fact St. Peter's own child but only his spiritual daughter, as Baronius and Galonius have learnedly proved. And St. John wrote one of his epistles to the devout woman named Electa (2 Jn 1:1).[39]

The guidance of persons individually is a difficult task, I admit, but one which brings comfort as in the case of people gathering crops or picking grapes, who are happiest when they have plenty of work to do and heavy burdens to carry. It is a task that refreshes and enlivens the heart by the delight it brings to those who take it up, just as in Arabia those who carry cinnamon are refreshed.

A tigress, it is said,[40] on finding one of her cubs which the hunter has left behind to distract her attention while he carries away the others, places it on her back even if it is big. Rather than feeling its weight she finds it very light as she runs off to keep it safe in her den, because her natural love makes her burden less heavy. Much more gladly will someone with a fatherly heart take charge of a person, whom he finds with a desire for holiness, showing tender love for such a one like a mother carrying her little child in her bosom without being weary of this burden which she loves so well. But definitely the fatherly heart has to be there. Hence, the Apostles, and those like them, call their disciples not just "children" but even more lovingly "little children" (RSV, 1 Jn 2:1,12).

My dear Reader, in spite of all that I have said, it is true that I am writing about the devout life without being devout myself. But I certainly want to be devout and it is this very desire that encourages me to give you instruction. In fact, to quote a great and learned man, "A good way to learn is to study; a better way is to listen, and the best is to teach."[41] St. Augustine writing to Florentina, one of his disciples, says, "It often happens that giving to others prepares us to receive." The work of teaching is the foundation for learning.

Alexander loved very much Campaspe and he asked the great painter Apelles to draw a picture of her. Apelles was compelled to look a long time at Campaspe, and as he drew her features in his painting, love for her was impressed on his heart. He became so enamored of her that Alexander, realising it and taking pity on him, let him marry her. For love of Apelles, he gave up the woman he loved most, and as Pliny notes, "by this he showed the greatness of his heart, as much as he would have done by a very great military victory."

Now my dear Reader, I am of the opinion that as Bishop it is God's will that I should paint on the hearts of people not only the ordinary virtues but also His most dear and greatly loved devotion. And I take up this work gladly, as much to obey and fulfill my duty as in the hope that while engraving devotion on the minds of others, my own would become filled with a holy love for it. And if God ever sees me enamored of devotion, he will give her to me in an everlasting marriage.

The beautiful and chaste Rebecca, watering Isaac's camels, was chosen to be his wife and received from him earrings and golden bracelets (Gen 24:20-22). In the same way, I await from the infinite goodness of God that while I lead his sheep to the saving waters of devotion, he will make me wholly his own. He will put in my ears the golden words of his holy love and in my arms the strength to practice them well, for in this consists the essence of true devotion. I humbly ask God to grant this devotion to me and to all the children of his Church. And to this Church I want to submit always my writings, my actions, my words, my desires and my thoughts.

Annecy, 8 August 1608
Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva

When publishing the Third Edition of the Introduction in 1610, St. Francis de Sales added the following notice:

To the Reader

This little book left my hands in the year 1608. In its second edition, several new Chapters were added to it. But three Chapters which were in the first edition were left out by mistake. Since then, it has been printed without my knowledge many times. with each printing, the mistakes have increased.

Here it is now, corrected anew, and with all the Chapters. It is still without references, since the learned do not need them and the others are not concerned about them.[42]

When I make use of the words of Scripture, it is not always to explain them. As they are more worthy of love and veneration, it is rather to explain what I mean through them.

If God hears my prayer, you will benefit greatly from this book and receive many blessings.

Part I: Counsels and Exercises

Containing counsels and exercises necessary for the guidance of a person from the first desire for the devout life up to a total commitment to live it.

Chapter 1: A Description of True Devotion

You seek devotion, dearest Philothea, because as a Christian you know that it is a virtue very pleasing to God. Small mistakes made at the beginning of any project grow infinitely great as it progresses, and in the end are almost impossible to correct. Hence you should know, before everything else, what is the virtue of devotion.

There is only one true devotion while there is a very large number of false and meaningless ones. So if you cannot recognize true devotion, you could be deceived and waste time in following some devotion that is irrelevant and irrational.

Aurelius used to draw all the faces in the pictures he painted with the expressions and appearance of the women he loved.[43] So, each one represents devotion according to his liking and imagination. He who is in the habit of fasting will think that because he fasts he is very devout, even though his heart is filled with hatred. He will not take a sip of wine, or even of water, anxious about sobriety but he has no scruples to sip the blood of his neighbor by speaking ill or by false statements.[44] Another considers himself devout because of the very great number of prayers he recites every day, even though soon after this he speaks words that are annoying, full of pride and hurtful to those in his house and to his neighbors. Another very gladly opens his purse to give alms to the poor but cannot take any gentleness from his heart to forgive his enemies. Yet another will forgive his enemies but will not pay what he owes unless he is legally forced to do so. All such persons are generally looked upon as devout whereas in fact they are not.

When Saul's soldiers came looking for David in his house, Michal placed a statue on a bed and covered it with David's clothes and so made them believe that it was David himself asleep due to illness (1 Samuel 19:11-16). In the same way, many people cover themselves with various external actions related to holy devotion. The world takes them for people who are truly devout and spiritual, whereas in reality they are nothing more than statues and illusions of devotion.

Dear Philothea, devotion that is true and living presupposes the love of God, rather it is nothing else than a true love of God. It is not, however, love as such. In so far as divine love enriches us it is called grace, which makes us pleasing to God. In so far as it gives us the strength to do good, it is called charity. But when it grows to such a degree of perfection that it makes us not only to do good but rather moves us to do it carefully, frequently and promptly, it is called devotion. Ostriches never fly, hens fly only awkwardly, quite low and rarely; but eagles, doves and swallows fly often, swiftly and very high. In the same way, sinners do not fly towards God but rather all their movements are on the earth and for the things of the earth. People who are good, but have not yet progressed to devotion, fly towards God by their good deeds but rarely, slowly and with difficulty. Persons who are devout fly to God frequently, promptly and freely.

In short, devotion is nothing else than a spiritual agility and liveliness by means of which charity realizes its actions in us, or we do so by charity, promptly and lovingly.

Just as it is the work of charity to make us keep all the commandments of God in general and without any exception, so it is the work of devotion to make us do so promptly and earnestly. Therefore, whoever does not keep all of God's commandments cannot be considered either good or devout, because to be good one must have charity. To be devout one must not only have charity but a great liveliness and promptness in doing charitable actions.

Since devotion is to be found at a certain level of charity that is extraordinary it makes us prompt, active and earnest in keeping all of God's commandments. But, more than this, it rouses us to do as many good works as we can, promptly and lovingly, even though they are in no way commanded but rather only counselled or inspired.

A man, who has recently recovered from some illness, walks only as much as he needs to, but slowly and with difficulty. So also, a sinner healed of his sinfulness moves ahead to the extent that God commands him, and that too slowly and with difficulty until he acquires devotion. After that, like a man in good health he not only walks but runs joyfully in the way of God's commandments (Ps 118:32). Even more, he moves ahead and runs in the paths of God's counsels and inspirations.

In conclusion, charity and devotion are not more different from each other than the flame from the fire, all the more so because charity is a spiritual fire which when it burns with intense flames is called devotiion. In fact, devotion adds to the fire of charity only the flame which makes charity prompt, active and diligent not only to keep God's commandments but also to put into practice his counsels and inspirations.

Chapter 2: The Nature and Exceptional Goodness of Devotion

To discourage the Israelites from entering the Promised Land, they were told that it was a country that devoured its inhabitants. It was implied that its climate was so unhealthy that no one would be able to live there for long, and further that the people there were monsters who devoured other men like locusts (Numbers 13:33-34). In the same way, my dear Philothea, the world defames holy devotion as much as it can. It represents devout persons with faces that are dissatisfied, sad and sulky. It proclaims that devotion makes people depressed and unbearable.

But Joshua and Caleb insisted that the Promised Land was good and beautiful, and also that possessing it would be delightful and pleasant (Numbers 14:7-8). So also the Holy Spirit assures us, through the words of all the Saints, and our Lord by his own teaching (Mt 11:28-30), that the devout life is pleasant, happy and lovable.

The world sees that devout persons fast, pray, put up with insults, serve the sick, give to the poor, keep awake to pray, control their anger, stifle and smother their passions, deny themselves sensual pleasures. They do these as well as other kinds of actions which, in themselves and of their very nature and character, are difficult and austere. But the world does not see the interior and wholehearted devotion which makes all these actions pleasant, delightful and easy.

Look at the bees on the thyme. They find there a very bitter juice, but as they suck it they change it into honey since that is their nature. Worldly people! it is true that the devout find much bitterness in their exercises of mortification, but in doing them they change them into the most delightful sweetness. The fires, the flames, the wheels and the swords were like flowers and perfumes to the Martyrs because they were devout. If the most cruel torments, and even death itself, are made delightful by devotion, what will it not do for the practice of virtue?

Sugar sweetens fruits that are not quite ripe and puts right anything unpleasant or harmful in those that are fully ripe. Indeed, devotion is the true spiritual sugar, removing unplesantness from mortificatioans, and what may be hurtful from consolations. Devotion takes away discontent from the poor and anxiety from the rich, despair from the oppressed and arrogance from the powerful, sadness from the lonely and dissipation from one who is with others. Devotion serves as fire in winter and dew in summer. It is able to live in prosperity and suffer need. It draws equal profit from honor and contempt. It receives pleasure and pain with a heart that hardly changes and fills us with a wonderful delight.

Look carefully at Jacob's ladder (Gen 28:10 ff) since it is a true image of the devout life. The two sides, between which we go up, and to which the rungs are fixed, represent prayer which asks for and receives the love of God and the Sacraments which give it. The rungs are the various degrees of charity by which we move from virtue to virtue, either coming down by action to help and support our neighbor or going up by contemplation to loving union with God.

Now consider those on the ladder: They are either men with angelic hearts or Angels with human bodies. They are not young but seem so since they are full of vigour and spiritual agility. They have wings to fly and they soar up to God in holy prayer. But they also have feet to walk along with men by a life of holiness and love. Their faces are beautiful and cheerful because they receive everythging with delight and contentment. Their legs, arms and heads are completely uncovered because their thoughts, desires and actions have no other intention or purpose but that of pleasing God. The rest of their body is covered, but with a beautiful and light garment, because while they do make use of the world, and of the things of the world, they do so with complete sincerity and detachment. They take with moderation what is needed for their state in life. Such are devout people.

I assure you, dear Philothea, devotion is the delight of delights and the queen of virtues, since it is the perfection of charity. If charity is milk, devotion is its cream; if it is a plant, devotion is its flower; if it is a jewel, devotion is its lustre; if it is a precious balm, devotion is its perfume, a delightful perfume that gives comfort to men and makes the Angels rejoice.

Chapter 3: Devotion Is Suitable to Every Kind of Life-Situation and Occupation

God commanded the plants, at the creation, to bear fruit each according to its kind (Gen 1:11). Similarly, he commands Christians, the living plants of his Church, to produce the fruits of devotion, according to each one's ability and occupation.

Devotion is to be practiced differently by the nobleman, the workman, the servant, the prince, the widow, the young girl, the wife. Even more than this, the practice of devotion has to be adapted to the strength, life-situation and duties of each individual.

Do you think, dear Philothea, that it is suitable for a Bishop to desire to live the life of a hermit like a Carthusian monk? If people with a family were to want to be like the Capuchins not acquiring any property, if a workman spent a great deal of time in church like the member of a religious order, and if a religious was always subject to being disturbed in all sorts of ways for the service of his neighbor like a Bishop, would not such devotion be ridiculous, disorderly and intolerable? However, this sort of fault is very common. The world, which does not distinguish or does not want to distinguish between devotion and the indiscretion of those who consider themselves devout, complains and finds fault with devotion which is in no way responsible for such disorders.

Indeed, Philothea, devotion in no way spoils anything if it be true, rather it makes everything perfect. When it conflicts with any person's legitimate occupation, it is without doubt false. "The bee," says Aristotle, "sucks honey from flowers without damaging them," leaving them as whole and fresh as it found them. But true devotion does even better. Not only does it not spoil any sort of life-situation or occupation, but on the contrary enriches it and makes it attractive. All sorts of precious stones when immersed in honey have a greater brilliance, each according to its color. Similarly, everyone becomes more pleasant in one's state of life by joining it with devotion. Devotion makes the care of the family peaceful, the love of husband and wife more sincere, the service of the ruler more loyal, and every sort of occupation more pleasant and more loveable.

It is an error, or rather, a heresy, to try to exclude the devout life from the soldiers' regiment, the workmen's shop, the court of rulers or the home of the married. It is true, Philothea, that a devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious cannot be practiced in such occupations. However, besides these three sorts of devotion, there are many others suitable for leading to perfection those who live their lives in the world. This is attested in the Old Testament by Abraham,Isaac and Jacob, David, Job, Tobias, Sara, Rebecca and Judith.

In the New Testament, St. Joseph, Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) and St. Crispin lived perfectly devout lives in their workshop, St. Anne, St. Martha, St. Monica, Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1-4) in their family; Cornelius (Acts 10), St. Sebastian, St. Maurice in the army; Constantine, Helen, St. Louis,[45] Blessed Amadeus[46] and St. Edward[47] on the throne. It has even happened that many have lost perfection while in solitude, even though it is so favorable for perfection. Others have retained it amidst the multitude which seems of such little help for perfection. As St. Gregory mentions, Lot who was chaste while living in the city, was defiled while in the desert. No matter where we are, we can and we should seek a life of perfection.

Chapter 4: The Necessity of a Guide to Begin and to Make Progress in Devotion

When young Tobias was told to go to Rages, he said, I do not know the way at all. His father replied, Well, go and find someone to be your guide (Tobit 5:2,4). Similarly, I say to you, dear Philothea: If you want to set out earnestly on the path of devotion, find some good person to guide and direct you. This is the most important advice. The devout Avila[48] writes that in whatever way you search "You will never find the will of God with such certainty than by following the path of this humble obedience so much recommended and practiced by all the devout persons of the past."

Blessed Mother Teresa[49] knowing that a certain lady, Catherine of Cardona, did severe acts of penance, was eager to imitate her in this, against the advice of her confessor who had forbidden her to do so. Being tempted to disobey him on this point, God said to her: "My daughter, you are in a way that is good and safe. Do you see the penance she is doing? But I value more your obedience." So she loved this virtue so much that, besides the obedience owed to her superiors, she vowed a special obedience to a very good man,[50] and bound herself to follow his direction and guidance by which she was very greatly consoled.

Similarly, before her and after, many good people in order to better subject themselves to God have submitted their will to that of His servants, and this is very greatly praised by St. Catherine of Siena in her "Dialogues." the devout princess, St. Elizabeth, submitted herself in absolute obedience to the learned Master Conrad. The great St. Louis, before his death, gave his son this counsel: "Make your confession frequently, choose a confessor," a suitable one, who is "a prudent man who can teach you with certainty" to do the things you need to do.

A faithful friend, says Holy Scripture (Sirach 6:14,16), is a strong defence: whoever has found one has found a treasure. A faithful friend is the medicine of life and of immortality: those who fear the Lord will find one. These divine words, you will note, refer principally to immortality, for which it is necessary to have, more than anything else, this faithful friend to guide our actions by his advice and counsel and so keep us safe from the snares and deceits of the evil one. He will be like a treasure of wisdom to us in our difficulties, sorrows and failures. He will serve as a medicine to soothe and comfort our hearts in our spiritual illnesses. He will protect us from evil and help to improve our good. When spiritually ill, he will prevent it leading to death since he will help us to recover.

But who will find such a friend? the Wise Man answers: those who fear the Lord (Sirach 6:16), that is, the humble who earnestly desire their spiritual progress. Since it is so very important for you, Philothea, that on this holy journey of devotion you travel with a good guide, pray very earnestly to God to give you one after his own heart, and do not doubt. Even if it is necessary to send an Angel from heaven, as he did for young Tobias, he will give you a guide who is good and faithful.

Always look upon this guide as an Angel, that is, once you find him do not consider him as an ordinary man. And do not put your trust in him or in his human knowledge but in God. God will give you grace, and speak to you through this man, putting in his heart and in his mouth whatever is needed for your happiness. So much so that you should listen to him as to an Angel come down from heaven to take you there. In your dealings with him open your heart, with complete sincerity and fidelity, clearly disclosing to him the good and the bad in you without pretending or concealing. In this way, the good in you will be assessed and made more secure, and the bad will be set right and cured. So you will be given relief and strength in your troubles, and moderation and control in your joys. Have very great confidence in him along with a holy reverence, in such a way that reverence may not lessen confidence nor confidence hinder reverence. Entrust yourself to him with the respect of a daughter for her father, and respect him with the confidence of a son in his mother. In short, this friendship should be strong and gentle, entirely holy, entirely sacred, entirely divine and entirely spiritual.

And that it may be so, choose one from a thousand, writes John of Avila. And I insist, choose one from ten thousand, for those who are fit for such a task are very few indeed. He must be full of charity, of knowledge and of prudence. If he lacks any one of these three qualities, there is danger.

But I tell you once again, ask God to give you such a person and when you find one give thanks to God. Be faithful and do not look for others. Rather, move on with simplicity, humility and confidence, for your journey will be full of happiness.

Chapter 5: We Must Begin with Self-Purification

The flowers, says the sacred Spouse (Song 2:12), have begun to blossom in our land, pruning time has come. What are the flowers of our heart, Philothea? Our Good desires, certainly. As soon as they appear, we should get hold of a pruning knife to cut off from our conscience every deed that is useless and irrelevant. In order to marry an Israelite, a girl who was a foreigner had to take off the garment she was wearing as a captive, trim her nails and shave her head (Deuteronomy 21:12,13). So whoever seeks the honor of being a spouse of Christ has to strip off the old self and be clothed in the new (Eph 4:12,24), giving up sin and then trimming and cutting away all sorts of obstructions which lead away from the love of God. The first step of our spiritual health is to be purified from our sinful dispositions.

St. Paul was cleansed in a moment becoming perfectly purified, as were also St. Catherine of Genoa, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Pelagia and some others. But this sort of purification is entirely miraculous and extraordinary in the order of grace, as the resurrection of the dead is in the order of nature, and so we should not claim it. The usual purification and healing, of the body as well as of the spirit, takes place only little by little, by gradual progress, by constant improvement, with effort and over a period of time.

The Angels on Jacob's ladder, even though they have wings, do not fly but rather go up and come down step by step in an orderly manner. One who rises from sin to devotion is compared to the dawn (Proverbs 4:18) which when it breaks does not drive away the darkness suddenly but little by little. As the saying goes, the cure which takes place slowly is always more sure. The illnesses of the heart, like those of the body, come on horseback very fast, but they go away on foot, slowly.

Therefore, one has to be courageous and patient, Philothea, in this venture. Alas! it is sad indeed to see people who finding they are subject to many imperfections, after practicing devotion a few times, begin to become anxious, upset and discouraged. They almost let their heart be carried away by the temptation to give up everything and go back to life as before. But on the other hand they also are in extreme danger who, by a temptation that is contrary, are led to believe they are freed from their imperfections on the first day of their purification. These consider themselves perfect when hardly formed and try to fly without wings. Philothea, they are in great danger of a relapse, having taken themselves too soon out of the doctor's hands. Do not rise before the light is come, says the Prophet, rise after you have been seated (Ps 127:2 RSV). He himself puts this advice into practice and, though he is washed and clean, he prays that he should be purified even more (Ps 51:2).

The practice of self-purification cannot and should not come to an end as long as we live. Therefore, let us not be disturbed by our imperfections, because our perfection consists in fighting them. And we cannot fight them unless we see them, nor can we overcome them if we do not come across them. Our victory is not in not being aware of them but in not consenting to them. And to be bothered by them is not the same as consenting to them.

In this spiritual struggle, we have to be wounded sometimes in order that we may practice humility, but we shall never suffer defeat unless we lose either life or courage. As imperfections and venial sins cannot take away our spiritual life, which is lost only by mortal sin, the only thing that matters is that they should not make us lose courage. Save me, Lord, David said, from cowardice and discouragement (Ps 55:5). We have a happy condition in this warfare that we shall always be victorious as long as we want to fight.

Chapter 6: First of All: Purifying Ourselves From Mortal Sins

We must begin by making a purification from mortal sin and the means to realize it is the holy sacrament of Penance. Look for the best confessor you can find. Get hold of one of the booklets which have been composed to help people to make a good confession.[51] Read it carefully, and note point by point what are your offenses, beginning from the time you came to the use of reason up to the present. In case you cannot rely on your memory, write down what you observe. Having in this way got ready and gathered up your sinful dispositions, detest them and renounce them with all the contrition and regret that your heart is capable of. Keep in mind those four points: that by sin you have lost God's grace, given up your place in Heaven, taken upon yourself the everlasting suffering of hell and renounced God's everlasting love.

You understand, Philothea, that I refer to a general confession of your whole life. of course, I admit that it is not always absolutely necessary. But I am sure that it will be of very great help to you, now in the beginning. Therefore, I strongly recommend it to you.

It often happens that the usual confessions of those who live a common and ordinary life are full of great defects. Generally they make little or no preparation, and they do not have sufficient contrition. In fact, it frequently happens that they go to confession with the implicit determination of returning to sin, since they are not willing to avoid the occasions of sin or to make use of the measures required to amend their life. In all such cases a general confession is indispensable to inspire confidence.

Besides this, a general confession invites us to a knowledge of ourselves. It arouses us to a healthy embarrassment for our past life. It makes us marvel at the mercy of God and his waiting for us with patience. It brings peace to our heart, refreshes our mind, and urges us to good resolutions. It provides our spiritual director with opportunity to give us advice that is more suitable to our condition. It opens our heart so that we can express ourselves with confidence at our subsequent confessions.

Since I am advising you about a general renewal of heart and a complete conversion to God, by committing yourself to the devout life, I think I have every reason to advise you to make this general confession.

Chapter 7: Secondly: Purifying Ourselves from Attachment to Mortal Sin

All the Israelites did in fact leave the land of Egypt, but they did not all leave in so far as attachment to it was concerned. That is why, in the desert, many of them were sad that they did not have the onions and the meat of Egypt (Numbers 11:4-5). In the same way, there are penitents who in fact leave sin but do not leave their attachment to it. In other words, they intend not to sin again but they give up and deny themselves the unhappy pleasures of sin with a certain reluctance. Though their heart turns away from sin and leaves it behind, yet it does not stop looking back again and again in that direction as Lot's wife did towards Sodom (Gen 19:26).

They give up sin the way the sick give up melons. The sick do not eat melons because of the doctor's warning that eating them would mean death. But they are disturbed at having to do without them. They talk of them and try to bargain if they could possibly have them. They want at least to smell them, and consider those who can eat them to be very happy. Similarly, penitents who are weak and lack courage give up sin for some time but with sadness. They would like very much if they could sin and not be damned. They speak of sin with delight and appreciation, and regard as happy those who sin.

A man determined to take revenge will change his mind in confession, but soon afterwards he will join his friends and enjoy speaking about his quarrel. He will say that but for the fear of God, he would have done this or that; that the divine law with regard to forgiveness is hard; that, God willing, taking revenge should be allowed. Yes, it is quite clear that, though this man has given up sin, he is greatly burdened with attachment to sin. He is in fact out of Egypt, but in desire he is still there, longing for the garlic and onions which he enjoyed eating there. He is like the woman who has put a stop to her love affairs, but still takes delight in being courted and surrounded by admirers. Alas! such persons are certainly in great danger.

Dear Philothea, as you desire to commit yourself to the devout life, you must not only turn away from sin but you must completely cut away from your heart every attachment connected with sin. Otherwise, there is first of all the danger of falling back to sin. Besides, these unhappy attachments will constantly weaken your spirit, and make it sluggish, so that you will not be able to do good works promptly, carefully, and frequently, for it is in this that the true essence of devotion consists.

Those who have given up sin but still have these attachments and weaknesses are, in my opinion, like anaemic girls. These girls are not sick but all their actions are lifeless: They eat without enjoyment, sleep without rest, laugh without joy, and drag themselves rather than walk. In the same way, these persons do good with such a great spiritual weariness that their good exercises, which are few in number and have little effect, are entirely lacking in worth.

Chapter 8: The Means to Make the Second Purification

The first motive for carrying out this second purification is a clear and forceful realization of the great harm that sin causes us. by this means, we are led to a heartfelt and earnest contrition. Contrition, as long as it is sincere, even if it is weak, cleanses us sufficiently from sin, especially when joined to the power of the Sacraments. So, when it is strong and earnest, it cleanses us from all the attachments connected with sin.

A slight and weak hatred or ill feeling gives us a dislike for the person we hate and makes us avoid him. But if it is a hatred that is deadly and violent, we not only avoid and detest the one we hate but we hold in disgust and cannot bear the conversation of his family, relatives and friends and even the sight of his picture or anything that belongs to him. In the same way, when the penitent hates sin with a contrition that is sincere but weak he is truly determined not to sin any more. But when he hates sin with a contrition that is powerful and vigorous, he not only detests sins but also all the attachments to sin, as well as everything that results from sin or leads to it.

Hence it is necessary, Philothea, to increase our contrition and repentance as far as we can, so that it extends even to the smallest things connected with sin. Thus Magdalen, when she was converted, lost all desire for her sins and the pleasures taken in them so that she never thought of them again.[52] and David declared that he detested not only sin but also all the paths and ways leading to it (Ps 119:104,128). Through such conversion is a person made quite young again. The same Prophet compares it to the renewal of the eagle (Ps 103:5).

In order to acquire such a realization and contrition, you must carefully make the following meditations. If you do them well, they will root out from your heart, with the help of God's grace, both sin as well as the principal attachments to sin. This was precisely my purpose in composing them.

Make the meditations one after the other in the order in which I have put them. Take only one each day, and as far as possible in the morning, which is the most suitable time for spiritual activities. Reflect on it during the rest of the day. If you have not yet been taught to make meditation, read what is said about it in the Second Part of this book.

Chapter 9: First Meditation: Our Creation

Preparation

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
  2. Ask him earnestly to inspire you.

Reflections

  1. Consider that a few years ago you were not in the world, and that you were just nothing. Where was I then? the world was already existing a long time but there was no news of me.
  2. God has given you existence from this nothingness. He has made you what you are, without having need of you and only because of his goodness.
  3. Consider the kind of being God has made you: The first in the visible world, capable of everlasting life and of perfect union with himself.

Give vent to Good Movements of the Will and make Deliberate Decisions[53]

  1. Humble yourself profoundly before God: Say from your heart with the Psalmist: O Lord, I am truly nothing before you (Ps 39:5). How did you have remembrance of me (Ps 8:4) to create me? Alas! I was plunged in that ageless nothingness, and I would still be there now if you had not drawn me out. And what would I do in that nothingness?
  2. Give thanks to God: O my Creator, powerful and good, how much do I owe you, since you have taken me in my nothingness, to make me in your mercy what I am. What shall I do always worthily to praise your holy Name, and to give thanks for your immeasurable goodness?
  3. Be filled with confusion: Alas! my Creator, instead of uniting myself to you by love and service, I have made myself a rebel by my disorderly attachments. I have separated myself from you and gone away in order to take hold of sin. I have not honored your goodness, as if you were not my Creator.
  4. Cast yourself down before God: Know that the Lord is your God. It is he who has made you, and you have not made yourself (Ps 100:3). O God, I am the work of your hands (Ps 138:8).
  5. From now on, I will no more be pleased with myself, since of myself I am nothing. In what can I find glory, I who am dust and ashes (Sirach 10:9), or rather, true nothingness? What have I to be proud of?

In order to humble myself, I resolve to do such or such a thing, bear such or such humiliations. I am determined to change my life and to follow my Creator from now on. I shall honor the kind of being he has given me, making use of it entirely in obedience to his will. For this I will take the means taught me, and which I shall find out from my spiritual director.

Conclusion

  1. Thank God. Bless your God, my soul, and all my being praise his holy Name (Ps 103:1), for his goodness has drawn me from nothingness, and his mercy has created me.
  2. Offer. My God, I offer you with all my heart the being you have given me. I dedicate and consecrate it to you.
  3. Pray. My God, strengthen me in these loving desires and resolutions. Holy Virgin Mary, recommend them to the mercy of your Son, along with all for whom I have to pray, and so on.

Our Father. Hail Mary.

At the end of your prayer, walk about for a while and gather a little bouquet of devotion, from your considerations, and inhale its fragrance all through the day.

Chapter 10: Second Meditation: The Purpose for which We Are Created

Preparation

  1. Place yourself before God.
  2. Ask him to inspire you.

Reflections

  1. God has placed you in this world not because he has some need of you, for you are completely useless to him. It was only to use his goodness for you, by giving you his grace and his glory. For this he has given you the understanding to know him, the memory to remember him, the will to love him, the imagination to represent to yourself his blessings, the eyes to see the wonders of his work, the tongue to praise him ... And so for your other faculties.
  2. Since you have been created and placed in this world for this purpose, all actions contrary to it must be rejected and avoided. Actions which do not help this purpose in any way must be despised as useless and irrelevant.
  3. Think of the unhappiness of worldly people who pay no attention to all this, but live as if they are convinced that they are created only to build houses, plant trees, store up wealth and be occupied with trifles.

Give vent to Good Movements of the Will and make Deliberate Decisions[54]

  1. Be filled with shame and rebuke yourself for your wretchedness which has been so great in the past that you have seldom or never thought of all this. Alas, you will say, what was I thinking about, my God, when I was not thinking of you? What was I remembering, when I was forgetful of you? What did I love, when I was not loving you? Alas, I ought to have nourished myself on truth, but I was filling myself with vanity. I was serving the world which is made only to serve me.
  2. Detest your past life. I turn away from you, vain thoughts and useless reasonings. I reject you, hateful and foolish memories. I give you up, false and disloyal friendships, wasted and wretched occupations, unprofitable pleasures and burdensome satisfactions.
  3. Turn yourself back to God. You, my God and my Savior, from now on you will be the only object of my thoughts. No more will I turn my mind to thoughts displeasing to you. My memory will be filled, each day of my life, with the greatness of your loving-kindness so tenderly shown to me. You will be the joy of my heart and the delight of my affections.

From now on, I will hold in horror such and such trash and trifles to which I have been devoted, such and such silly actions for which I have used my days, such and such affection with which I have filled my heart. with this in mind I will make use of such and such means.

Conclusion

  1. Thank God who has made you for such an excellent purpose. You have made me, O Lord, for yourself, that I may enjoy forever the immensity of your glory. When shall I be worthy of this? When shall I bless you as I ought?
  2. offer. Loving Creator, I offer you these good movements of the will and these deliberate decisions, with all my heart and mind.
  3. Pray. My God, I humbly ask you, to accept my desires and my resolutions, and to give me your blessing, that I may be able to realize them by the merits of the blood of your Son shed upon the Cross, and so on.

Make a little bouquet of devotion.

Chapter 11: Third Meditation: God's Blessings

Preparation

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God
  2. Ask him to inspire you.

Reflections

  1. Think of the bodily gifts which God has given you: your body, the many conveniences for its care, your health, all the lawful comforts, your friends, so much that is helpful. While considering all these, compare yourself to so many other persons who are more deserving than you but who have not been given these blessings: some have defective bodies or lack of health or limbs, others are subject to rebuke, disrespect and dishonor, still others are weighed down with poverty. But God has not allowed that you should suffer such miseries.
  2. Think of your gifts of the mind. Many people in this world are stupid, insane and foolish. But your are not one of these. God has shown you favor. Many others have grown up without manners and in complete ignorance. by God's Providence you have been given a good education.
  3. Think of your spiritual gifts. Philothea, you are a child of the Church. From the days of your youth God has taught you about himself. How often has he given you his Sacraments? How many times inspirations, interior lights, and warnings to correct you? How often has he forgiven you your sins? How many times has he saved you when you were exposed to spiritual ruin? Have not these past years been time and opportunity for you to grow in goodness? Consider for a short while, in detail, how gentle and loving God has been to you.

Give vent to Good Movements of the Will and make Deliberate Decisions[55]

  1. Admire God's goodness: How good is my God to me. He is good indeed. Lord, your heart is rich in mercy and full of loving-kindness (Ps 86:5). I will proclaim forever his numerous graces to me.
  2. Wonder at your ingratitude: What am I, Lord, that you are mindful of me? (Ps 8:4). I am most unworthy indeed. Alas, I have trodden underfoot your blessings. I have dishonored your gifts, turning them into insult and contempt of your sovereign goodness. I have opposed the abyss of my ingratitude to the abyss of your grace and goodness.
  3. Stir yourself up to gratitude: My heart, be no more unfaithful, ungrateful and disloyal to this great Benefactor. Shall not my soul henceforth, be subject to God (Ps 62:1) who has worked so many wonders and graces in me and for me?
  4. Philothea, hold back your body from such and such sensual pleasures and make it subject to the service of God who has done so much for it. Make use of your spirit to know him and acknowledge him by such and such exercises necessary for this purpose. Use carefully the means the Church offers to save yourself and to love God.

Yes I will pray regularly and receive the Sacraments frequently. I will listen to the word of God and put into practice his inspirations and counsels.

Conclusion

  1. Thank God for the knowledge he has now given you of your duty, and for all the blessings received till now.
  2. offer him your heart with all your resolutions.
  3. Pray to him for strength to practice them faithfully through the merits of his Son's death. Pray to our Lady and the Saints to intercede for you.

Our Father. Hail Mary.

Make the little spiritual bouquet.

Chapter 12: Fourth Meditation: My Sins

Preparation

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
  2. Ask him earnestly to inspire you.

Reflections

  1. Try to remember when you began to sin. Note that from this first beginning sins have greatly multiplied in your heart. Day by day your sins have increased, against God, against yourself, against your neighbor, by deed, by word, by desire and thought.
  2. Think of your evil inclinations, and to what extent you have followed them. From these two points you will realize that your sins are greater in number than the hairs of your head (Ps 40:12), indeed more than the sand of the sea.
  3. Consider by itself the sin of ingratitude to God. It is a general sin spreading itself to all the others and making them much more serious. Look at the numerous benefits God has given you which you have all misused against the Giver. Remember especially the many inspirations to which you have paid no attention, and the many good movements you made useless. Above all, you have received the Sacraments many times but where are the fruits? the precious jewels with which your dear Spouse adorned you are all buried beneath your sins. What preparation did you make to receive the Sacraments? Reflect on this ingratitude, that while God was running after you constantly to save you, you were always running away from him to ruin yourself.

Give vent to Good Movements of the Will and make Deliberate Decisions[56]

  1. Be filled with shame at your wretchedness: My God, how dare I come in your presence? Alas, I am only the filth of the world and a sewer of ingratitude and wrongdoing. How thoroughly disloyal I have been. There is not a single one of my senses or the powers of my spirit which I have not spoilt, misused or soiled. Not a single day of my life has passed on which I have not done much evil. What a return I have made for the blessings of my Creator and for the blood of my Savior.
  2. Ask pardon: Throw yourself at our Lord's feet like a prodigal child (Lk 15:18-21), like a sinful woman (Lk 7:37-38), like a wife who has been most unfaithful to her husband. Lord, show mercy to me a sinner. Living fountain of compassion, have pity on me so full of misery.
  3. Be determined to live a better life: No Lord, never again, with the help of your grace. No, never again will I give myself up to sin.
    Alas, I have loved it very greatly. I despise it and hold on to you, merciful Father. In you I want to live and die.
  4. I will confess my past sins with courage so that they will be wiped away. Every one of them I will drive out.
  5. I will completely root out sin from my heart, doing all I can for this, especially such and such that are most troublesome.
  6. I will constantly use the means recommended to me in order to realize all the above. I will never think that I have done enough to make up for such serious faults.

Conclusion

  1. Thank God who has waited for you till this very hour, and has given you these good desires.
  2. offer your heart to him in order to realize them.
  3. Pray to him for strength, and so on.

Our Father. Hail Mary

Make the little spiritual bouquet.

Chapter 13: Fifth Meditation: My Death

Preparation

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
  2. Ask him to give you his grace.
  3. Imagine yourself to be seriously ill, lying on your death-bed, with no hope of recovery.

Reflections

  1. Be aware that the day of your death is uncertain. One day my spirit will leave my body. When will it be? in winter or in summer? in town or in the country? During the day or at night? Will you have time to make your confession or not? Will your confessor or spiritual father be present to help you? Alas, we know nothing at all about any of these things. Only one thing is certain, that we shall die sooner than we expect.
  2. Realize that then the world will come to an end, as far as you are concerned. It will be no more for you. It will turn upside down before your eyes. Yes, because then pleasures, trifles, worldly joys and foolish affections will be seen as shadows and clouds. How foolish have I been to offend my God for such trifles and illusions.
    You will see that you have turned away from God for nothing. On the contrary, devotion and good works will then seem to you so desirable and pleasant. Why did I not follow this beautiful and delightful path? then sins that seemed very small will appear as big as mountains, and your devotion very small.
  3. Think of your final farewell to this poor world made with much reluctance: you will say goodbye to riches, to trifles and useless company, to pleasures, to friends and neighbors, to relations, to children, to husband, to wife, in short to every creature. Last of all, to your body which will be left pale, haggard, emaciated, frightful and foul-smelling.
  4. See that with haste your body will be carried away and hidden in the earth. After this, the world will seldom think of you. You will not be remembered any more, just as you have scarcely thought of others. They will say, "God grant him peace." That will be all. Death, you are powerful and you are without pity.
  5. Consider that the spirit, on leaving the body, makes its way to the right or to the left. Alas, where will you go? which way will you follow? None other than the one you have begun in this world.

Give vent to Good Movements of the Will and make Deliberate Decisions[57]

  1. Pray to God: Throw yourself into his arms. Alas, Lord, take me into your protection on that day of terror. Make that hour happy and favorable for me. Rather, may all the other hours of my life be sad and troubled.
  2. Despise the world: O World, since I do not know the hour when I must leave you, I will not be attached to you. My dear friends, my dear relatives, I shall not love you except with a holy friendship that will last forever. Why should I love you with a love that has to be ended?
  3. I want to be ready for that hour: I shall take all the necessary care to make this journey happily. I will do my best to have a clear conscience. I will correct such and such shortcomings.

Conclusion

Thank God for giving you these resolutions. offer them to him. Ask him earnestly once more to give you a happy death through the merits of the death of his Son. Implore the help of our Lady and the Saints.

Our Father. Hail Mary

Make a bouquet of myrrh.

Chapter 14: Sixth Meditation: The Final Judgement

Preparation

  1. Place yourself before God.
  2. Ask him earnestly to inspire you.

Reflections

  1. At last, at the end of the time that God has assigned for the duration of this world - and after many signs and terrifying portents which will make men whither away with fear (Lk 21:26) and dread - a deluge of fire will burn and reduce to ashes the whole face of the earth, not sparing a single one of the things we see upon it.
  2. After this deluge of flames and lightning, everyone will rise from the earth. At the voice of the Archangel (1 Thes 4:16), they will gather in the valley of Josaphat (Joel 3:2). But, alas, with what a difference! Some will have beautiful and radiant bodies, and others very ugly and frightful ones.
  3. See the majesty with which the supreme Judge will appear, surrounded by all the Angels and Saints. Before him will be his Cross, more brilliant than the sun, a sign of mercy for the good and of justice for the wicked.
  4. This sovereign Judge, by his awe-inspiring command which will be instantly carried out, will separate the good from the wicked. He will place the good on his right and the wicked on his left. They will be separated forever. After this, the two groups will never be together again.
  5. After this separation, and the opening of the book of each conscience, the malice of the wicked and their disregard for God will be clearly seen. So also, the repentance of the good and the fruits of the grace they received from God. Nothing will be hidden. The wicked will be filled with shame and the good find great comfort.
  6. Consider the final sentence of the wicked: Go, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his companions (Mt 25:41). Try to understand the meaning of these terrible words. Go, he says: it is a word of never ending rejection that God speaks to those wretched ones, casting them out forever from his presence. He calls them cursed. What a terrible curse! It is a general curse which includes every evil. It is a curse that cannot be changed, including all times and eternity. He adds: Into the everlasting fire. See this endless eternity. How horrible is this eternal eternity of sorrows.
  7. Think of the opposite sentence of the good. Come, says the Judge. It is the delightful word of salvation by which God draws us to himself and welcomes us into the bosom of his goodness. Blessed of my Father: a loving blessing including all blessings. Possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Mt 25:34): a great gift, for this kingdom will never end.

Give vent to Good Movements of the Will and make Deliberate Decisions[58]

  1. Be filled with fear at these memories. My God, who can save me on that day when the pillars of heaven will tremble (Job 26:11) with fear?
  2. Detest your sins which alone can lead to your ruin on that terrible day.
  3. I will judge myself now, so that I may not be judged (1 Cor 11:31). I will examine my conscience and condemn myself, accuse myself and correct myself so that the Judge may not condemn me on that dreadful day. Hence I will go to confession, and take necessary advice, and so on.

Conclusion

  1. Thank God for giving you the means to prepare yourself for that day, and the time to do penance.
  2. offer him your heart for this
  3. Ask him for the grace to do this well.

Our Father. Hail Mary.

Prepare a bouquet.

Chapter 15: Seventh Meditation: Hell

Preparation

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
  2. Humble yourself and ask his help.
  3. Imagine a gloomy city, completely on fire with sulphur and foul-smelling tar, full of people who are unable to leave it.

Reflections

  1. The damned are in the abyss of hell like in this miserable city. There they suffer unspeakable torments in all their senses and in all their members. Since they have used all their senses and members in sinning, they suffer in all their members and in all their senses the punishment befitting their sin.
    The eyes because of their deceitful and wicked looks, will suffer the terrible sight of the devils and of hell. The ears, for the pleasure taken in evil conversations, will hear only wailing, lamentation and cries of despair. And so on for the other senses.
  2. Besides all these torments , there is one still greater, that is, the privation and loss of God's glory which they are debarred from seeing forever. Absalom found the suffering of not seeing the loving face of his father, David, greater than that of being in exile (2 Samuel 14:23-24 and 32-33). My God, great indeed will be the sorrow to be deprived forever of the sight of your gentle and loving face.
  3. Think above all of the eternity of these punishments which by itself makes hell unbearable. Alas, if a flea in the ear or the heat of a slight fever makes a short night seem so long and exasperating, how dreadful the everlasting night filled with torments! This eternity gives birth to eternal despair, and blasphemies and ravings that never end.

Give vent to Good Movements of the Will and make Deliberate Decisions[59]

  1. Be filled with terror at the words of Isaiah (33:14): Will you be able to live forever with these everlasting burnings and in the midst of this devouring fire? Do you really want to go away from your God forever?
  2. Acknowledge that you have deserved it, yes, so many times. From now on I will follow the opposite way. Why should I go down into this abyss?
  3. Hence I will make such and such efforts to avoid sin which alone can lead me to this everlasting death.

Thank. offer. Pray.

Chapter 16: Eighth Meditation: Heaven

Preparation

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
  2. Ask his help.

Reflections

  1. Imagine a beautiful, very calm night and feel the delight of seeing the sky with its countless, different stars. Now add its beauty to that of a lovely day, but without the brightness of the sun preventing a clear view of the stars and the moon. Then say boldly that all this beauty put together is nothing in comparison to the excellence of Heaven. How much to be longed for and how lovable is this place. How greatly to be valued is this city.
  2. Think of the high quality, the beauty and the very great number of citizens and inhabitants of this happy country: millions and millions of Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim; the assembly of Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, Holy Women. The multitude cannot be counted. They are a happy gathering. The least of them is more beautiful than the whole world. What will it be to see them all?
    They are so happy, always singing the beautiful canticles of everlasting love, always rejoicing with unchanging gladness. They share with one another joys that cannot be described, living in the consolation of a happy community that will never end.
  3. Lastly, see their great happiness in enjoying God who delights them continually with his look of love, filling their hearts with limitless joys. What happiness to be united forever to the source of their being. They are there like happy birds, flying and singing perpetually in the air of the Divinity which surrounds them on every side with unbelievable pleasures.
    There they vie with one another, without envy, in singing the praises of the Creator: "May you be blessed forever, our loving and sovereign Creator and Savior. You are so good to us, pouring out your glory on us with such generosity." in return, God blesses all his Saints with an everlasting blessing: "Be blessed forever my beloved creatures, who have served me and who will praise me eternally with such great love and fervour."

Give vent to Good Movements of the Will and make Deliberate Decisions[60]

  1. Admire and praise this heavenly country. How beautiful you are, Jerusalem, and how happy are your inhabitants.
  2. Speak severely to your heart for the little courage it has had till now, turning away so far from the way to this beautiful home. Why have I strayed so far from my supreme happiness? What a wretch I am! For the sake of such unsatisfying and trivial pleasures I have a thousand and a thousand times turned away from these eternal and infinite delights. I was mad to despise such precious blessings for such empty and worthless desires.
  3. Fervently desire this dwelling full of delights. My good and supreme Lord, since it has pleased you to redirect my steps into your ways, no, never again will I turn back. I will go to this eternal rest. I will walk towards this happy land promised to us. What am I doing in Egypt?
  4. I will turn away, therefore, from things which lead me away from this path or delay my progress.
  5. I will do such and such things which can lead me there.

Thank, offer, Pray,

Chapter 17: Ninth Meditation: Deliberate Choice of Heaven

Preparation

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
  2. Humble yourself before him, asking him to inspire you.

Reflections

Imagine that you are in the open country, alone with your Guardian Angel,like the young Tobias going to Rages (Tobit 5) He makes you see Heaven open above, with the pleasures indicated in the meditation on Heaven which you have made. Then, he makes you see hell open below with all the torments mentioned in the meditation on hell. While imagining yourself in this situation, and kneeling before your Guardian Angel:

  1. Be aware that in reality you are between Heaven and hell. The one and the other is open to receive you, according to the choice you make.
  2. Realize that the choice which is made of the one or of the other in this world, will last forever in the next.
  3. Even though the one and the other is open to receive you, according to the choice you make, yet God - who is ready to give you either the one by his justice or the other by his mercy - desires very earnestly that you should choose Heaven. Your Guardian Angel urges you to do this with all his power, offering you on God's behalf a thousand graces and a thousand helps to assist you in the ascent.
  4. Jesus Christ looks at you lovingly, from the heights of Heaven, and gently invites you: "Come, dear one, to everlasting rest in the arms of my goodness. In the abundance of my love, I have prepared for you never-ending delights." See, with the eyes of your spirit, our Lady inviting you with a mother's love: "Courage my child. Do not despise my Son's desires, nor my great concern for you, since with him I long for your eternal salvation." Look at the Saints who earnestly request you, and a million faithful who gently invite you, only desiring to see one day your heart united to theirs to praise God forever. They assure you that the way to Heaven is not as difficult as the world claims it to be: "Be daring, our dear friend. Whoever examines well the path of devotion, by which we have come here, will see that we have reached these delights by means of delights immeasurably more enjoyable than those of the world."

Election

  1. Hell, I detest you now and always. I detest your torments and punishments, detest your miserable unhappy eternity, and especially the eternal blasphemies and maledictions which you vomit endlessly against my God.
    Heaven, so beautiful, everlasting glory, happiness without end, I turn my heart and my spirit to you. I choose forever and irrevocably to have my home and my dwelling within your beautiful and holy mansions and your holy and longed-for tabernacles.
    My God, I praise your mercy and I accept the offer it pleases you to make me of it. Jesus, my Savior, I accept your everlasting love. I acknowledge the purchase you have made for me of a place and a habitation in this happy Jerusalem, not so much for anything else as to love and praise you forever.
  2. Accept the graces which our Lady and the Saints offer you. Promise them that you will make your way to them. Hold out your hand to your Guardian Angel that he may lead you there.

Be determined in making this choice.

Chapter 18: Tenth Meditation: Deliberate Choice of the Devout Life

Preparation

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
  2. Humble yourself before his face. Ask for his help.

Reflections

  1. Imagine that you are in the open country again, alone with your Guardian Angel. On your left you see the devil seated on a great raised throne, with many infernal spirits near him. All around him is a vast crowd of worldly people, who with uncovered heads acknowledge him as lord and pay him homage, some by one sin and some by another.
    Look at the attitude of all the wretched courtiers of this abominable king: see some furious with hatred, envy and anger; others killing one another; others worn out, preoccupied and anxious in gathering wealth; others obsessed with worthless things, without any kind of pleasure but that which is useless and unsatisfying. Others dishonest, depraved, corrupted by their brutish longings. See how they are without rest, without order and without composure. See how they despise one another, and how they pretend to love one another. In short, you will see a kingdom marked with disaster, ruled tyrannically by this cursed king. It will move you to compassion.
  2. On your right, see Jesus Christ crucified. He prays with a heartfelt love for these miserable subjects of the devils that they may run away from this tyranny, and he calls them to himself. See a vast multitude of the devout all around him with their Angels.
    Contemplate the beauty of this kingdom of devotion. How beautiful the sight of this assembly of virgins, men and women, whiter than the lily; this gathering of widows, full of holy self-denial and humility. See the group of numerous married persons who live together with such gentleness and in mutual respect, which cannot exist without a great charity. See how these devout persons join the care of their exterior house with the care of the interior, and the love of their earthly spouse with that of the heavenly Spouse.
    Look generally everywhere. You will see that their behaviour is holy, gentle and friendly. They listen to our Lord and all want to plant him in the center of their heart. They rejoice, but with a joy that is courteous, charitable and well-ordered. They love one another, but with a love that is holy and most pure. Those among these devout persons who suffer distress, are not too upset and do not lose their composure. In a word, see the eyes of the Savior consoling them and that all of them together long for him.
  3. From now on you have turned your back on Satan, with his sad and pitiful company, by the good movements of the will formed in you. But you have not yet come to Christ the King. Nor have you joined his happy and holy assembly of the devout. Rather you have always been between Satan and Christ.
  4. Our Lady with St. Joseph, St. Louis, St. Monica, and a hundred thousand others, in the group of those who have lived in the midst of the world, invite and encourage you.
  5. The crucified King calls you by your own name: Come, my beloved one, come, that I may crown you (Song 4:8).

Election

  1. Worldlings, horrid assembly, no, never will you find me under your flag. I give up for ever your follies and trivialities. King of pride, king of misery, infernal spirit, I reject you with your worthless show. I detest you with all your works.
  2. To you I turn, my loving Jesus, King of happiness and eternal glory. I cling to you with all the powers of my spirit. I adore you with all my heart. I choose you to be my King now and forever. I am determined to be always faithful to you and I surrender myself to you forever. I dedicated myself to obey your holy laws and commands.
  3. Holy Mary, my dear Mother, I choose you for my guide. I place myself under your protection. I want to show you a particular respect and a special reverence. My Guardian Angel, present me to this sacred assembly. Do not ever forsake me so that I reach this happy gathering. with them I say, and I will say forever, in confirmation of my choice: Live Jesus, live Jesus.

Chapter 19: How to Make a General Confession

These are the meditations, my dear Philothea, needed for our purpose. Having made them, go with courage, in a spirit of humility, to make your general confession. But please do not let yourself be disturbed by any kind of anxiety.

The scorpion that stings us is poisonous when it does so. But made into an oil it becomes a powerful remedy against its own sting.[61] Sin is shameful only at the time we commit it. Changed into confession and repentance, it is honorable and brings salvation.

Contrition and confession are so beautiful and of such fragrance, that they remove the ugliness of sin and dispel its stench. Simon the leper considered that Magdalen was a sinner. But our Lord denied it and spoke only of the perfumes she poured out and of the greatness of her charity (Lk 7:36-50).[62]

If we have true humility, Philothea, our sins will displease us very greatly since God is offended by them. But the confession of our sins will be pleasant and delightful because by it God is honored. To explain clearly to the doctor, what illness is troubling us, brings us some sort of relief.

When you are in the presence of your spiritual father, imagine you are on Mount Calvary, at the feet of Jesus Christ crucified, whose precious blood flows from every side to wash away your misdeeds. Though it is not the actual blood of the Savior, nevertheless it is the merit of his blood poured out which showers down in abundance on the penitents around the confessionals.

Hence, open wide your heart to make all the sins go out from it by confession. To the extent that they go out of your heart, to that extent will the precious merit of the divine Passion enter in to fill it with blessings.

Disclose everything clearly, with simplicity and sincerity. Satisfy your conscience fully in this, once and for all. Having done so, listen to the advice and direction of God's minister, saying in your heart: Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening (1 Samuel 3:9). Yes, Philothea, it is to God that you listen, since he has said to his representatives: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Lk 10:16).

After this, take in hand the solemn resolution given below.[63] It serves as the conclusion to all your contrition. You should have previously meditated on it after reflection. Read it attentively and with as much earnestness as possible.

Chapter 20: A Firm Resolution ... As a Conclusion to the Acts of Repentance

A firm resolution to impress upon oneself the decision to serve god, as a conclusion to the acts of repentance.[64]

I, the undersigned, placing myself confidently in the presence of the eternal God, and of the whole court of heaven:

  1. having reflected on the infinite mercy of his divine goodness towards me, a most unworthy and wretched creature, whom he created out of nothing, preserved, nourished, saved from so many dangers, and on whom he has showered so many blessings;
  2. above all, having experienced the incomprehensible gentleness and mercy with which this most God has: a) so kindly put up with me in my misdeeds, b) inspired me so often and so lovingly, c) invited me to change my ways, d) waited with such patience for me to repent and be converted until this ...........th year of my life, in spite all my ingratitude, disloyalty and infidelity by which I have so shamelessly offended him, putting off my conversion and despising his graces;
  3. moreover, having realized that on the day of my holy Baptism I was so happily and holily vowed and consecrated to my God, to be his child, and that, contrary to the profession then made in my name, I have again and again, unhappily and detestably, profaned and violated my spirit, directing it and using it against his divine Majesty;
  4. now at last, returning to myself, prostrate in heart and in spirit before the throne of divine justice, I acknowledge , admit and confess myself to be rightly accused and convicted of the crime of treason against his divine Majesty, and guilty of the Death and Passion of Jesus Christ, because of the sins I have committed, for which he died having suffered the torment of the cross, so that as a result I deserve to be lost and condemned forever;
  5. I turn myself towards the throne of the infinite mercy of this same eternal God, after detesting with my whole heart and with all my strength the misdeeds of my past life. I ask and humbly beg for grace and pardon and mercy, with a complete absolution of my crime by virtue of the Death and Passion of this same Lord and my Redeemer.
  6. Relying on my Savior as the only foundation of my hope, I acknowledge again and renew the sacred profession of fidelity made at my Baptism to my God on my behalf. I renounce the world, the flesh and the devil and I detest their miserable suggestions, vanities and evil desires for all the time of my present life and for all eternity. Turning to my God, who is full of loving-kindness and compassion, I desire, determine, intend and resolve irrevocably to serve him and to love him now and forever.
  7. For this purpose I give, dedicate and consecrate to him my spirit with all its faculties, my mind with all its powers, my heart with all its affections, my body with all its senses. I affirm that I will never again misuse any part of my being against his divine will and supreme Majesty. To him I sacrifice and immolate myself in spirit to be forever loyal, obedient and faithful servant, without ever wanting to revoke or alter this resolution.
  8. Alas, if through the suggestion of the enemy or through human frailty, it happens that I in any way go against my resolution and consecration, I affirm from this moment that I am determined, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to begin again as soon as I am aware of my offence, turning back anew to the divine mercy, without hesitating or delaying in any way.
  9. This is my unchangeable and irrevocable will, intention and resolution, which I acknowledge and confirm, without reserve or exception, in the same sacred presence of my God, and in the sight of the Church triumphant, and before the Church militant, my Mother, who hears this my declaration in the person of him who, as its minister, is listening to me.
  10. My eternal God, all-powerful and all-good, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, may it please you to confirm me in this resolution, and to accept in your mercy this whole-hearted and interior sacrifice. As it has pleased you to give me the inspiration and the will to make it, so grant me also the strength and the grace necessary to carry it out.

My God,you are my God (Ps 63:1), the God of my heart (Ps 73:26), the God of my mind, the God of my Spirit. I acknowledge you as such and I adore you, now and for all eternity. Live Jesus.

Chapter 21: Concluding the Firm Resolution

After you have made the firm resolution, be attentive and open the ears of your heart. Hear in spirit the words of your absolution which your Savior himself, seated on the throne of his mercy, will proclaim in Heaven before all the Angels and Saints, at the same time as the priest absolves you, in his name, here on earth. So, the whole assembly of the Blessed, rejoicing in your happiness, will sing a spiritual canticle with incomparable joy. They will all give the kiss of peace and fellowship to your heart, now restored to grace and made holy.

Philothea, what a wonderful covenant this is by which you make a happy treaty with God. You give yourself to him, and you gain him as well as yourself for everlasting life.

All that is now left is for you to take pen in hand and sign with a joyful heart the document of your firm resolution. Later, go to the altar where God in his turn will sign and seal your absolution, and the promise he will make you of His Heaven, placing himself by his Sacrament like a signet and a sacred seal upon your heart made new again (Song 8:6). In this way, I think, Philothea, you will be purified from sin and from all the attachments to sin.

But these attachments to sin grow up afresh in us, due to our weakness and our evil inclinations. We can discipline them but they will never die as long as we live here on earth. hence, I shall give you advice which, if you follow carefully, will keep you safe in the future from mortal sin and from every attachment to it. In this way mortal sin will never again find a place in your heart. This same advice will also help you to purify yourself more thoroughly. So, before giving you this advice, I am going to tell you about this more perfect purity to which I intend to lead you.

Chapter 22: We Must Purify Ourselves from Attachment to Venial Sin

As the morning grows brighter, we see more clearly in the mirror the stains and dirt on our face. In the same way, the more the interior light of the Holy Spirit shines upon our consciences more distinctly and clearly we see the sins, inclinations and imperfections which can prevent us from acquiring true devotion. The same light, which shows us these defects and failures, inflames us with the desire to cleanse and purify ourselves from them.

You will discover, my dear Philothea, that besides mortal sins and attachment to sins - from which you have been purified by the exercises given above - there still remain in you many inclinations and attachments to venial sins. I do not say that you will find venial sins, but I say that you will find attachments and inclinations to venial sins. The two things are very different from one another. We can never be completely free from venial sins. At least we cannot continue for long in such purity. But we can well be free from every attachment to venial sins. In fact, it is one thing to tell a lie once or twice from light-heartedness, in a matter of little importance, and quite another to take pleasure in telling lies and to be fond of this sort of sin.

I tell you now that we must purify ourselves from all our attachments to venial sin. In other words, we must not foster deliberately the disposition to continue and persist in any kind of venial sin. For it would be a very great meanness, to be ready to keep in our heart knowingly, a thing so displeasing to God as the willingness to offend him. Venial sin, no matter how small it is, displease God, though it does not displease him to the extent that he will damn or ruin us for it. But if venial sin displeases God, the desire and attachment we have to venial sin is nothing else that a determination to want to displease him. Is it possible that a generous person is not only determined to displease God but is fond of displeasing him?

Such attachments, Philothea, are directly contrary to devotion, just as the attachments to mortal sin are to charity. They weaken the powers of the spirit, obstruct divine consolations, open the door to temptations. Though they do not kill the soul, they make it extremely ill. Dying flies, says the Wise Man (Sirach 10:1) spoil the quality of the ointment. He means that flies settling on the ointment for a moment, eat it in passing, spoiling only what they take and the rest remains good. But when they die in the ointment they make it lose its value and it is rejected. Similarly, venial sins touching a devout person, for only a short while, do not cause much harm. But if these same sins remain in the person, due to attachment to them, they certainly spoil the quality of the ointment, that is, of holy devotion.

Spiders do not kill bees, but they spoil and contaminate their honey. They entangle their honeycombs with the webs they spin, so that the bees cannot carry on their work. This happens when the spiders stay around the hive. In the same way, venial sin does not take away our spiritual life but it spoils devotion. It so entangles the powers of the spirit with evil habits and inclinations, that we can no longer practice charity with promptness in which devotion consists. This takes place when venial sin dwells in our heart by the attachment we have for it.

It is of no consequence, Philothea, to tell a small lie, or to be slightly immoderate in speech, in actions, in looks, in dress, in adornment, in playing games, in dancing, provided that, as soon these spiritual spiders enter our heart, we chase them away again and get rid of them as the bees do the real spiders. But if we allow them to remain in our hearts, and more than that, if we like to keep them there and let them increase, we shall soon find our honey lost and the hive of our conscience poisoned and damaged. But I repeat: What possibility is there that one who is generous should be pleased in displeasing God, be fond of offending him, and willingly want what is annoying to him?

Chapter 23: We Must Purify Ourselves from Attachment to Useless and Dangerous Things

Games, dances, feasts, pompous celebrations, plays are in no way evil in themselves. Rather, they are indifferent since they can be used for good or evil. Nevertheless, such things are dangerous, and to be fond of them makes them a greater danger. Hence, I point out, Philothea, that even though you are free to play games, dance, adorn yourself, attend decent plays, enjoy dinners, yet to have a strong liking for such things is an obstacle to devotion and full of harm and danger. It is not wrong to do such things, but it is wrong to have an attachment to them. It is a pity to sow in our hearts such useless and foolish attachments. They take the place of good desires and prevent the energy of our spirit from being directed to good inclinations.

The Nazirites of ancient times used to abstain, not only from everything that may cause drunkenness but also from grapes and any juice of grapes (Numbers 6:2-4). It was not that grapes or grape-juice are intoxicating, but because of the danger that taking grape-juice would arouse the appetite for grapes and eating grapes would awaken the desire to drink fermenting grape-juice and wine. So, I do not say that we cannot make use of these dangerous things. But I insist that we can never have an attachment to them without doing harm to devotion.

When stags have put on too much flesh, they move away and hide in the bushes. They are aware that they are burdened with fat and would not be able to run fast if they happen to be attacked. So, when our heart is burdened with these useless, irrelevant and dangerous attachments, we surely cannot run towards God promptly, joyfully and easily, which is the true sign of devotion.

Little children are fond of chasing butterflies with great eagerness. No one finds it wrong, since they are only children. But is it not laughable, or rather pitiful, to see grown-up persons who are so eager and have such fondness for worthless trifles, as are the things I have mentioned? these things, besides being useless, put us in danger of becoming undisciplined and unbalanced as we run after them.

It is for these reasons, my dear Philothea, that I tell you that we must purify ourselves from such attachments. Even though these actions are not always contrary to devotion, nevertheless, the attachments always cause damage to it.

Chapter 24: We Must Purify Ourselves from Evil Inclinations

Besides the attachments just mentioned, Philothea, we have certain natural inclinations. Since these do not have their source in our own personal sins, they are not strictly sins, neither mortal nor venial. They are called imperfections, and their acts are known as defects and shortcomings. For example, as St. Jerome indicates, St. Paula had a great tendency to sadness and grief. So much so that, at the death of her children and of her husband, she was in danger of dying of sorrow. This was an imperfection and not a sin, since it was against her liking and will.

Some persons are by nature careless, others unfriendly, some not ready to accept the opinions of others, some inclined to indignation, others to anger, others too affectionate. In brief, there are few persons in whom we cannot notice some imperfections of one kind or another. Although these seem to be proper and natural to each one, yet we can correct and regulate them, and even free ourselves and be purified from them, with care and a contrary attachment. I insist, Philothea, that we must do this.

A method has been found for changing bitter almond trees into sweet. They have only to be pierced at the foot to let the sap flow out.[65] and why do we not make our unhealthy inclinations flow out in order that we may become better? there is no natural temperament so good that it may not be made evil by bad habits. There is no natural temperament so wicked which cannot be controlled and overcome, first of all by the grace of God, and then by effort and constant care.

Hence, I shall now give you certain instructions, and recommend some exercises, by means of which you can purify yourself from dangerous attachments to things, from natural imperfections, and from every attachment to venial sins. In this way, you will make your conscience more and more secure against all mortal sin.

May God give you the grace to practice well these instructions and exercises.

Part II: Prayer and the Sacraments

Various counsels for raising oneself to God by prayer and the sacraments.

Chapter 1: Prayer Is Necessary

  1. Prayer is opening our understanding to God's brightness and light, and exposing our will to the warmth of his love.[66] Nothing else purifies so well our understanding of its ignorance and our will of its sinful attachments. It is a spring of blessings and its waters quench the thirst of the passions of our heart, wash away our imperfections, and make the plants of our good desires grow green and bear flowers
  2. I strongly recommend to you prayer of the mind and of the heart, and especially that based on the life and sufferings of our Lord. by looking at him often in meditation, your whole being will be filled with him. You will learn his attitudes and model your actions on his.
    He is the light of the world (Jn 8:12), and therefore we must be enlightened and instructed in him, by him and for him. He is the tree of desire in whose shade we must seek refreshment (Song 2:3). He is the living well of Jacob (Jn 4:6) for the cleansing of all our stains.
    Children learn to speak by constantly listening to their mothers and chattering to them. So we, remaining close to the Savior in meditation and observing his words, his actions, and his loving desires, shall learn with the help of his grace to speak, act and will like him.
    Let us stay close to him, Philothea. I assure you we can go to God the Father only through this door (Jn 14:6). The glass of a mirror would not catch our reflection if its back were not covered with tin or lead. Similarly, we could not easily contemplate God in this world if the Divinity were not united to the sacred humanity of the Savior. His life and death are the most suitable, appealing, delightful and fruitful subjects that we can take for our ordinary meditation.
    The Savior calls himself, not without reason, the bread come down from heaven (Jn 6:51). As bread should be eaten with all sorts of food, so also the Savior should be meditated on, considered and searched for in all our prayers and actions.
    The incidents of his life and death have been arranged and presented as points helpful for meditation by many writers.[67]
  3. Spend an hour in meditation every day, some time before the midday meal. If possible do it in the earlier part of the morning, as your mind will be less distracted and more fresh from the night's rest. Do not spend more than an hour, unless your spiritual director expressly tells you to do so.
  4. If you find sufficient quiet in church, it will be more easy and convenient for you to make your meditation there. No one, neither father nor mother nor wife nor husband nor anyone else is likely to prevent your staying there for an hour. Being in some way dependent on others, you might not be able to make sure of an undisturbed hour while at home.
  5. Begin any kind of prayer, whether mental or vocal, by recalling the presence of God. Keep to this rule without exception. You will soon realize how helpful it is for you.
  6. I recommend that you say the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the I believe in Latin. But also learn to understand the words well in your own language. Thus, while using the common language of the Church,[68] you will be able to relish the wonderful and delightful meaning of these holy prayers.
    You should say them fixing your attention earnestly on the words, and allowing their meaning to stir up good movements in your will.[69] Do not hurry in order to say many prayers but take care to say those that you do say from the heart. One Our Father said earnestly is of greater value than many recited quickly and in a hurry.
  7. The Rosary is a very helpful way of praying, provided you know to say it properly. For this get hold of one of the booklets which explain how it should be recited. It is good to also say the litanies of our Lord, of our Lady and of the Saints, and all the other vocal prayers to be found in approved prayer books. However, if you have the gift of mental prayer, it is your responsibility to give it always the first place.
    If it happens that after mental prayer you are not able to say any vocal prayers, either because of your many duties, or for any other reason, do not be troubled about it. Be satisfied with saying simply the Lord's Prayer, the Angelical Salutation and the Apostles' Creed either before or after your meditation.
  8. While saying vocal prayers, if you feel your heart drawn and invited to interior or mental prayer, do not turn away, but let your mind go gently in that direction. Do not worry at all that you have not said all the vocal prayers that you had intended to say. In fact, the mental prayer you have made in their place is much more pleasing to God and of greater benefit to yourself. I make an exception with regard to the Divine office. If you are bound to say it, you must fulfill your obligation.
  9. If it happens that the whole morning passes without your having spent time in mental prayer, either because you have been busy or for any other reason (you should not allow this to happen, as far as you possibly can) try to make up for this omission after the midday meal. But find a time as long after the midday meal as possible. If you try to make your meditation soon after your meal, while you are still digesting your food , you will feel very drowsy and it will harm your health.

In case you have not been able to find time for mental prayer during the whole day, make good this loss by making numerous aspirations, reading some spiritual book, and doing some act of penance to prevent the repetition of this fault. with all this, make a firm resolution to take up the practice of daily mental prayer from the following day.

Chapter 2: Mental Prayer - First Point: Recalling the Presence of God

A short method for mental prayer. First point of the preparation: recalling the presence of God.

Perhaps, Philothea, you do not know how to make mental prayer. Unfortunately, it is something that few people know nowadays. So I teach you a short and simple method for it. It will be of help until you are more fully instructed by reading the numerous good books on this subject, and above all by practice.

I begin with the preparation which consists of two points: The first is to place oneself in the presence of God, and the second is to ask for his help. I suggest four principal ways of placing yourself in the presence of God which you can use for this preparation.

The first consists in a lively and attentive awareness of the omnipresence of God: God is in everything and everywhere; there is no place or thing in this world where he is not very really present. Just as the birds always find the air wherever they fly, so wherever we go or wherever we are, we find God present. This truth is known to everyone, but not everyone is attentive to it to be conscious of it.

Blind persons do not see a prince who is among them. If they are told of his presence, they behave with respect. But, in fact, since they do not see him, they easily forget his presence. Having forgotten it, they more easily lose respect and reverence. Alas, Philothea, we do not see God who is present with us. Though faith reminds us of his presence, since we do not see him with our eyes, we very often forget and behave as though God was very far from us. In spite of knowing well that he is present everywhere, we are not attentive to it at all. Hence it is just as if we did not know it.

For this reason, before prayer we must always rouse ourselves to think and consider attentively this presence of God. Such was the awareness that David had, when he cried out: If I climb up to heaven, O my God, you are there; if I go down to the world beneath, you are there (Ps 139:8). We should make use of the words Jacob said when he saw the holy ladder (Gen 28:17 and 16): How terrible is this place! indeed, the Lord is in this place and I knew it not. He meant that he was not thinking about it, for he could not have been ignorant that God is in all things and everywhere. Hence when you come to pray, say with all your heart and to your heart: O my heart, my heart, God is truly here.

The second way of placing yourself in the presence of God is to reflect that God is present not only in the place where you are, but that he is very specially present in your heart and in the very center of your spirit. He enlivens and animates it by his divine presence, being there as the heart of your heart and the spirit of your spirit. The soul is spread throughout the entire body, and is present in every part of it, yet resides in a particular manner in the heart. Similarly, God, who is indeed present everywhere, is present in a special way in our spirit. Hence David calls God, the God of his heart (Ps 73:26), and St. Paul says that we live and move and are in God (Acts 17:28). Considering this truth you will awaken in your heart a deep reverence for God who is so intimately present there.

The third way is to think of our Savior, who in his humanity sees from Heaven all the persons in the world, but particularly Christians who are his children and most specially those who are at prayer, whose actions and behaviour he notices. This is not mere imagination but a most certain truth. Though we do not see him, yet he looks at us from on high. St. Stephen, at the time of his martyrdom, saw him in this way (Acts 7:55). So we can truly say with the Spouse: Look, there he is behind the wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice (Song 2:9).

The fourth way consists in using simple imagination to represent our Savior in his sacred humanity, as if he were near us, just as we are used to imagining our friends and saying, "I imagine I can see a certain person doing this or that, it seems to me that I see him," or some such things. But if the most holy Sacrament of the altar is present, then this presence will be real and not merely imaginary. The species and appearance of bread is like a tapestry, from behind which our Lord really present sees and observes us, though we cannot see him as he is.

Make use of one of these four ways to place yourself in the presence of God before prayer. Do not try to use them all together. Use only one at a time and that briefly and simply.

Chapter 3: Second Point: The Invocation or Asking God's Help

The invocation is made as follows: having become aware that you are in the presence of God, cast yourself down with profound reverence. Acknowledge that you are most unworthy to remain before such a supreme Lord. Yet, knowing that his Goodness desires it, ask him for the grace to serve and adore him well in this meditation.

You may use, if you wish, some short and fervent words, like these of David: Do not cast me away, my God, from your face, and do not take from me the favor of your Holy Spirit (Ps 51:11). Let your face shine on your servant (Ps 31:16), and I will see your wonders (Ps 119:18). Give me understanding and I will consider your law, and keep it with my whole heart (Ps 119:34). I am your servant, give me understanding (Ps 119:125), and similar words.

It will be of help to pray to your Guardian Angel and the holy persons who are associated with the mystery on which you are meditating. For example, if it is death of our Lord, you could pray to our Lady, St. John, St. Mary Magdalen and the Good Thief, to share with you the experiences of heart and mind that they had at that time. If the meditation is on your own death, you could pray to your Guardian Angel, who will be with you then, to inspire you with suitable reflections, and so on for other mysteries.

Chapter 4: Third Point of the Preparation: Imagining the Scene[70]

Besides these two general points to prepare for meditation, there is a third which is not common to every sort of meditation. Some call it the composition of place, and others the interior presentation. This consists in presenting to one's imagination the scene of the mystery taken for meditation, as if it was really and truly taking place before us. For example, if you wish to meditate on our Lord on the cross, imagine that your are on Mount Calvary seeing and hearing all that was done and said on the day of the Passion. Or, if you wish, for it is the same thing, imagine that in the very place where you are the crucifixion of our LOrd is being done, in the way the Evangelists describe it. Follow the same method when you meditate on death, as I have noted in the meditation on it (First Part, Chapter 13). So also for the meditation on hell and on all similar mysteries concerned with things that can be seen or which are perceptible to the senses.

With regard to other mysteries such as the greatness of God, the special goodness of virtue, the purpose for which we have been created, as these are invisible things do not try to make use of the imagination. It is true that we could use some illustration or comparison to help us in our reflection on such matters. But these are in some way difficult to find, and I wish to instruct you very simply so that your mind may not be wearied in looking for such representations.

By means of the imaginary scene, we fix our mind on the mystery on which we wish to meditate, so that it may not wander to and fro, just as we shut a bird in its cage or as we secure a hawk.[71] Yet, some will tell you that to represent these mysteries it is better to use the simple thought of faith and a simple understanding entirely mental and spiritual, or to think that the events are taking place within your own spirit. But this is too abstract for beginners. So until God raises you higher, I advise you, Philothea, to remain in the low valley which I have shown you.

Chapter 5: The Second Part of Meditation: Reflections Leading to God

Having made use of the imagination, next make use of the understanding. This is what we call meditation. It consists in making one or many reflections in order to arouse good movements of the will[72] towards God and the things of God. In this, meditation differs from study or other thoughts and reflections which are made, not to acquire virtue or the love of God, but for some other purposes and intentions, such as, to become learned, to write or to take part in a discussion.

Hence, after confining your spirit, as I have said, within the limits of the subject on which you wish to meditate, either by using the imagination if it is something perceptible to the senses, or by a simple presentation if it is not, begin to reflect on it. of this, you have fully developed examples in the meditations I have given you (Part One, Chapters 9 to 18).

As long as you find sufficient attraction, light and fruit in one of these reflections, stop there without moving on to another. Be like the bees who do not leave a flower as long as they find honey to gather there. But if a reflection is not to your liking, after attending to it and trying it for a while, pass on to another. But go on very gently and simply in this matter, without any hurry.

Chapter 6: The Third Part of Meditation: Good Movements of the Will Leading to Deliberate Decisions[73]

Meditation[74] produces good movements in the will,[75] such as the love of God and of our neighbor; the desire of Heaven and eternal glory; zeal for the salvation of others; imitation of the life of our Lord; compassion, admiration, joy; fear of God's displeasure, of judgement, and of hell; hatred of sin; confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, shame for the sins of our past life.Our spirit should give vent whole-heartedly to these good movements of the will.[76]

But Philothea, do not linger too long with these general good movements of the will. You have to change them into deliberate decisions, precise and particular, for your correction and improvement.

For example, the first words spoken by our Lord on the Cross will surely arouse in you a good movement of the will to imitate him. That is, you will desire to forgive your enemies and to love them. But I want to make it clear that this will be of little value unless you make a particular deliberate decision like the following: "I will not take offence anymore by such or such annoying words which such or such a person - my neighbor or my servant - may say about me"; or "I will not be displeased any more by this or that insult from this or that person"; and "On the contrary, I will say and do such or such a thing in order to win the person over and make him friendly"; and so on with regard to other matters.

In this way, Philothea, you will correct your faults in a short time. But only with the good movements of the will, you will do so after a long time and with difficulty.

Chapter 7: Concluding the Meditation and Spiritual Bouquet

Bring the meditation to a close with three acts which must be made with as much humility as possible:

  1. The first is an act of thanksgiving. We thank God for the good movements of the will and the deliberate decisions he has given us and for his goodness and mercy which we have discovered in the mystery on which we have been meditating.
  2. The second is an act of oblation. We offer to God his goodness and mercy, and the death, the suffering, and the virtues of his Son, and along with these, our own good movements of the will and our deliberate decisions.
  3. The third is an act of petition. We ask God and implore him to give us the graces and virtues of his Son, and to bless our good movements of the will and our deliberate decisions so that we can practice them faithfully. We pray also for the Church, for our pastors, for our relatives and friends and others. We ask our Lady, the Angels and the Saints to intercede for us. lastly, as I have already mentioned, we should pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary, the general and necessary prayers for all the faithful.

I have also suggested that, after all this, we should gather a little bouquet of devotion.[77] I shall now explain what I mean. After taking a walk in a beautiful garden, people hesitate to leave without taking four or five flowers in order to enjoy their fragrance the rest of the day. Similarly, having considered some mystery in meditation, we should pick one or two or three ideas in which we took special delight and which are more helpful to our improvement. We should remind ourselves of them during the day, breathing in their spiritual fragrance. This bouquet of spiritual thoughts is to be gathered while we are still in the place where we made our meditation, or as we walk about alone for some time soon after.

Chapter 8: Some Very Useful Advice on Meditation

It is of the greatest importance, Philothea, that after your meditation you keep in mind the deliberate decisions and plans you have made in order to put them into practice carefully during that very day. This is the principal fruit of meditation. without it, meditation is very often not only useless but even harmful. In fact, merely to meditate on virtues and not to practice them, sometimes makes our minds and our emotions swell with pride. We are convinced that we are in fact what we have resolved and decided to be. This may be true without doubt if your deliberate decisions are earnest and determined. However, they are not such but rather useless and dangerous if they are not put into practice.

Therefore, we must try in every way we can to practice our deliberate decisions, looking out for opportunities, small or great. For example, I am firmly determined to change, by my gentleness, the attitude of those who insult me. I shall try to meet them that very day in order to greet them in a friendly way. In case I do not come across them, I will at least speak well of them and pray to God for them.

On finishing this earnest prayer, take care not to give your heart a sudden jerk which will spill the balm you have received by means of the prayer. I mean, you must keep silence for some time if you can, and move your heart very gently from prayer to your occupations. Keep the feelings and good movements of the will produced in you for as long as possible.

A man is given some liquid of great value to take home in a bowl of beautiful porcelain. He will walk carefully, not looking to one side or the other. He will look sometimes in front, for fear of tripping over a stone or making a false step. Sometimes, he will look at his bowl to see that it is not leaning to one side. After finishing your meditation, you must behave in the same way. Do not become distracted all of a sudden, but look simply ahead. For instance, if you must meet someone to whom you have to speak or listen, this is unavoidable. Adjust yourself to it, but in such a way that you also take care of your heart. Thus as little as possible of the precious liquid of holy prayer will be lost.

Even more, you must get used to being able to pass from prayer to all kinds of activities which your occupation and way of life require of you, honestly and rightly, though they seem far removed from the good movements of the will received in prayer. I mean, the lawyer must be able to pass from prayer to his work in court, the shopkeeper to his business, the married woman to her duties in her family and the bother of her household tasks, with so much gentleness and peacefulness that their minds are not disturbed in any way. Prayer as well as other duties are according to the will of God. So passing from one to the other must be done in a spirit of humility and devotion.

Sometimes it may happen that, immediately after the preparation for meditation,[78] your good movements of the will are wholly aroused towards God. At such times, Philothea, give vent to them freely and do not try to follow the method I have presented to you. Usually, reflection must precede good movements of the will and deliberate decisions. But if the Holy Spirit produces in you good movements of the will before the reflection, you must not look for the reflection since it is made only to arouse the good movements of the ill. In short, whenever the good movements of the will present themselves to you, you must welcome them and make room for them, whether they come before or after all the reflections.

Although I have placed the good movements of the will after all the reflections, I have done so only the better to mark the different parts of prayer. Nevertheless, it is a general rule that we must never hold back the good movements of the will. Rather we must give expression to them freely when they present themselves. I say this not only regarding the other good movements of the will but also as regards the act of thanksgiving, the act of oblation and the act of petition,[79] which can be made among the reflections. These must not be controlled any more than the other good movements of the will. But later, when concluding the meditation, it is necessary to take them up again and repeat them.

With regard to the deliberate decisions, they are to be made after the good movements of the will, towards the end of the whole meditation, before the conclusion. All the more so, as in these we have to remember specific and familiar things. If we were to make them among the good movements of the will, they would put us in danger of being led into distractions.

Among the good movements of the will and the deliberate decisions, it is good to use colloquy,[80] speaking sometimes to our Lord, sometimes to the Angels and to the persons represented in the mysteries, to the Saints and to oneself, to one's own heart, to sinners. We can even speak to inanimate creatures as David does in his Psalms (99:7-9 and 149:3-10)[81] and like other Saints in their meditations and prayers.

Chapter 9: Dryness[82] which May Be Experienced in Meditation

It may happen, Philothea, that you find no liking for meditation nor any consolation in it. I plead with you, do not be upset in the least. Sometimes open the door to vocal prayers: tell the Lord about your unhappy condition, acknowledge your unworthiness, ask him for his help, kiss his picture if you have it, speak to him these words of Jacob: I will not let you go, Lord, unless you bless me (Gen 32:26); or those of the woman of Canaan: Yes, Lord, I am a dog, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table (Mt 15:27).

On other occasions, get hold of a book and read it attentively until your spirit awakens and is better disposed. Sometimes arouse your heart by some attitude and gesture of exterior devotion: prostrate yourself on the ground, cross your hands upon your breast, kiss a crucifix; for this, it is understood that you are in some private place.

Even if after all this your receive no comfort, do not be worried, no matter how great your dryness. Continue to remain before God in a devout attitude. So many courtiers go a hundred times a year into the audience hall of the prince, without hope of speaking to him but only to be seen by him and to fulfill their duty. We should come to holy prayer in the same way, my dear Philothea, purely and simply to fulfill our duty and as an expression of our faithfulness.

If the divine Majesty is pleased to speak to us and carry on a conversation with us, by his holy inspirations and interior consolations, it will surely be for us a great honor and a most delightful pleasure. But if it does not please him to do us such a favor, leaving us there without speaking to us, as if he had not seen us and as if we were not in his presence, we must not go away for this reason. On the contrary, we must remain there, before this supreme Goodness, with a disposition that is devout and calm.

Then, he will most certainly be pleased with our patience and observe our devoted attention and perseverance. So, another time, when we come before him again, he will show favor to us and converse with us by his consolations, making us experience the delight of holy prayer. But when he does not do so, let us be happy, Philothea, that it is a very great honor indeed to be near him and to be seen by him.

[The next four chapters discuss "five daily spiritual exercises besides meditation."]

Chapter 10: First: The Morning Exercise in Preparation for the Day's Work

Apart from the complete and developed mental prayer, and besides the vocal prayers, which you have to make once a day, there are five other kinds of shorter prayers. These are like complements and offshoots of the main prayer. The first to be made among them is in the morning, as a general preparation for all the activities of the day. You must make it as follows:

  1. Thank God and adore him with all your heart for doing you the favor of keeping you alive during the past night. If you have fallen into any sin, in the course of it, ask his forgiveness.
  2. Realize that the present day is given to you in order that during it you may win the coming day of eternity. Make a deliberate decision to use the day well for this purpose.
  3. Look ahead to the various sorts of business, conversations, opportunities, you are likely to have during the day for the service of God. Foresee also the temptations to offend him which you may meet with: by anger or by vanity or some other improper act. Prepare yourself by a deliberate decision to use well the means, which will offer themselves to you, to serve God and make progress in your devotion. Be ready, on the other hand, carefully to avoid, to resist and to overcome whatever may present itself against your salvation and the glory of God.
    It is not enough to make this deliberate decision. You must prepare the means to put it into practice well. For example, I foresee that I shall have to deal, regarding some matter, with a person who is excitable and easily gets angry. I will be determined not to lose control and annoy him. Moreover, I shall prepare gentle words to put off his anger, or get the help of someone who can keep him in check. If I expect to be free to visit a sick person, I shall fix the time as well as the comforts and help that I can give him; and so on about other things.
  4. After doing this, humble yourself before God. Acknowledge that, by yourself, you are not able to do anything of what you have decided, either to avoid evil or to do good. As though you were holding your heart in your hands, offer it to God together with all your good intentions. Implore him to take you in his care and to give you strength to serve him with dedication.
    Do this by using, in silence, the following or similar words: "Lord, look at this poor and wretched heart which, through your goodness, has conceived many good desires. Alas, I am too weak and worthless to realize the good I long for, unless you grant your heavenly blessing. I humbly ask for it, for this purpose, loving Father, through the merits of the Passion of your Son. To his honor I consecrate this day and the rest of my life." Pray to our Lady, your Guardian Angel and the Saints, that they may help you with regard to this.

Make all these spiritual acts briefly and earnestly, before leaving your room if it is possible. Thus, by means of this exercise, whatever you do all through the day will be watered by God's blessing. Please, Philothea, never omit this morning exercise.

Chapter 11: Second: The Evening Exercise; Third: The Examination of Conscience

Before the midday meal you are to have a spiritual lunch by means of meditation. Similarly, before your evening meal you are to have a small spiritual supper, or at least a devout light meal. So, set aside some time, a little before supper. Bowing low before God, bring your spirit together close to Christ Jesus crucified, whom you are to represent to yourself by a simple consideration and interior glance. Rekindle in your heart the fire of your morning meditation by a dozen earnest longings, acts of humility and loving desires which you will make towards your divine Savior. Otherwise, recall the points of the morning meditation which you liked most. Or else, arouse yourself by means of some other new subject. Do whatever you prefer.

The examination of conscience is to be always made before going to bed. Everyone knows how it is to be done:

  1. Thank God for taking care of you during the day that is over.
  2. Examine your behaviour during each hour of the day. To do this more easily, call to mind where you have been, with whom, and what you have been doing.
  3. If you find you have done any good, thank God for it. If, on the contrary, you have done anything wrong, in thought or in word or in deed, ask his pardon. Decide to confess it at the first opportunity and to correct yourself carefully.
  4. After that entrust to divine Providence your body and spirit, the Church, your relatives, your friends. Ask our Lady, your Guardian Angel, and the Saints to watch over you, taking care of you. with God's blessing go to take the rest which his will has made necessary for us.

This evening exercise, like that of the morning, must never be forgotten. by the morning exercise, you open the windows of your spirit to the Sun of Justice. by the evening exercise, you close them to the darkness of hell.

Chapter 12: Fourth Exercise: Awareness of God's Presence[83]

Regarding this exercise, dear Philothea, I want you to follow my advice with great earnestness. In fact, in this practice is contained one of the most sure means of your spiritual progress.

In the course of the day, recall to mind the presence of God, as often as you can. Use one of the four ways I have shown you (Second Part, Chapter 2). Become aware of what God is doing and of what you are doing: you will realize that his eyes are turned towards you and, with unparalleled love, fixed on you all the time. "My God", you will say, "why do I not look at you always, as you look at me always? You think of me so often, my Lord, and I think of you so seldom. Where am I? My true place is God, and where do I find myself?"

Birds have nests in the trees where they can seek refuge when they find it necessary. Deer have their bushes and their thickets where they hide, seek shelter and find the coolness of the shade in summer. Similarly, Philothea, our hearts must find and choose some place each day, either on Mount Calvary, or in the wounds of our Lord, or in some other place near him. There we must seek refuge at every opportunity. There we must refresh and recreate ourselves in the midst of exterior occupations. There we must remain as in a castle to be protected from temptations. Happy is the one who can sincerely say to our Lord: You are my house of refuge (Ps 31:2), my secure stronghold, my shelter from the rain and my shade against the heat (Is 25:4).

So keep in mind, Philothea, always to recollect yourself again and again in the solitude of your heart, while outwardly dealing with others and your occupations. This spiritual solitude cannot be prevented by the many people who are around you. They are not around your heart but only around your body. So your heart can remain by itself all alone, in the presence of God alone.

This is the exercise which king David practiced in the midst of his numerous occupations. He declares this a thousand times in his Psalms. For instance, he says: Lord, I am always with you (73:23). I see my God always before me (16:8). I have lifted up my eyes to you, my God, you who dwell in Heaven (123.1). My eyes are always turned towards the Lord (25:15). In fact, our occupations are not so serious usually. So we can every now and then, disengage our heart in order to go back into this sacred solitude.

The father and mother of St. Catherine of Siena denied her every convenience of place and of time for prayer and meditation. At that time, our Lord inspired her to make in her spirit a little interior prayer room. Retiring into it spiritually, she could, in the midst of her exterior occupations, immerse herself in this holy solitude of heart. Since then, when the world attacked her, she was not disturbed by it in the least. She said this was because she shut herself in this interior room and there found comfort with her heavenly Spouse. Hence, she advised her spiritual children to make a room in the heart and to dwell there.

So recollect your spirit within your heart every now and then. There, separated from everyone, you can speak to God heart to heart about yourself. You can say with David: I have watched and have become like a pelican in the solitude. I have become like an owl in a ruined house, and like a sparrow solitary on the roof top (Ps 102:6-7). These words, in their literal sense, confirm that this great king used to devote some hours to being alone contemplating spiritual things. In their mystical sense, they point out three outstanding places of refuge, to be regarded as three hermitages. There we can live in solitude, imitating our Savior. On Mount Calvary he was like a pelican in the solitude, which brings back to life her dead young with her own blood. At his Birth in a deserted stable he was like an owl in a ruined house, mourning and weeping over our faults and sins. On the day of his Ascension he was like a sparrow going away and flying to Heaven, which is like the roof of the world. In these three places we can find refuge amid the strain of our occupations.

Blessed Elzear, Count of Arian in Provence, had been away for a long time from Delphina, his devout and chaste wife. She sent a man to him specially to find out about his health. This was his reply: "My dear wife, I am very well. If you want to see me, look for me in the wound in the side of our loving Jesus. It is there that I dwell and there you will find me. You will never find me elsewhere." He was indeed a Christian knight.

Chapter 13: Fifth Exercise: Longing for God[84] -- Aspirations[85] and Good Thoughts

We recollect ourselves in God because we long for him, and we long for him in order to recollect ourselves in him. Thus, longing for God and recollection in God support one another. Both arise from and are born of good thoughts.

Therefore, long for God again and again, Philothea, by short and ardent soarings of the heart: admire his beauty, ask for his help, throw yourself in spirit at the foot of the Cross, adore his goodness, speak to him often about salvation, give him your heart a thousand times a day, fix your interior eyes upon his gentleness, hold out your hand to him like a little child to its father that he may guide you, put him on your breast as a delightful bouquet, plant him in your spirit like a banner. Make a thousand different movements of your heart, to rekindle in yourself love for God, and to rouse yourself to an ardent and tender affection for this divine Spouse.

Aspirations are made in this way. The great St. Augustine recommended them earnestly to the devout Proba. Philothea, devoting ourselves to such frequent, personal and affectionate communion with God, we will be filled with the perfume of his perfections. This exercise is not difficult. It can be interwoven with all our occupations and work without causing the least disturbance. All the more so because, both in the awareness of God's presence and in these interior longings, we turn aside only in a small way and briefly. This is no obstacle, but rather helps us very much to continue what we are doing. The pilgrim takes a little wine to give joy to his heart and to refresh his mouth. Even though he stops for some time to do this, he does not end his journey. Rather, he finds strength to complete it with greater speed and ease. He stops in order to go on better.

Many have made a collection of numerous vocal aspirations which are no doubt very helpful. However, I advise you not to force yourself to use any particular words. Rather, say in your heart or aloud those which love prompts at the time, for it will inspire you with as many as you want. It is true that certain words have a special ability to delight the heart in this respect. Such are the aspirations scattered in such abundance throughout the Psalms of David, as also the various invocations of the name of Jesus and the darts of love to be found in the Song of Songs. Hymns are also helpful for this purpose, provided they are sung with attention.

In brief, men in love with a human and natural love have their thoughts turned, almost always, towards the person they love. Their heart is full of affection for her. They always speak her praises. In her absence, they lose no opportunity to express their love through letters. They carve her name on the bark of every tree they find. Similarly, those who love God cannot stop thinking of him, seeking him, longing for him and speaking of him. They would engrave, if it were possible, the holy and sacred name of Jesus on the breast of every person in the world.

To the above, they are invited by every creature. There is not a single creature which does not proclaim the praise of their dearly Beloved. As St. Augustine says, following St. Anthony, everything in the world speaks to them, in a language that is silent but full of meaning, about the one they love. All things stir up good thoughts in them and these are the source, later on, of numerous longings for God and aspirations. Here are some examples:

St. Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus, recounted to his people the following incident. As he was walking on the sea shore, he noticed that the waves moving over the sand left behind various kinds of shells, bits of grass, small oysters and similar rubbish which the sea cast up and as it were spat out on the shore. Then, returning with other waves, it took back part of this and swallowed it up again. But the rocks nearby remained firm in their place, although the waves beat violently against them. On seeing this, he made a beautiful reflection, as follows. The weak are like the shells and bits of grass, letting themselves be carried away sometimes by sorrow and sometimes by consolation, subject to the waves of fortune. But the courageous remain firm and unmoved in every kind of storm. As the result of these thoughts, he said these aspirations of David: "Lord, save me, for the waters are engulfing me." "Lord, set me free from the deep waters." "I am carried into the depths of the sea and the storm is drowning me" (Ps 69:1,15,2). At that time, he was greatly troubled by the ill-advised usurpation of his bishopric which Maximus had taken in hand.

St. Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe, was present at a general assembly of the Roman nobles while Theodoric, king of the Goths, was making a speech. Seeing the brilliance of so many lords, all in order according to their rank, he said to himself: "My God, how beautiful the heavenly Jerusalem must be, since here below the earthly Rome appears so impressive. And if in this world such splendor is allowed to those who love vanity, the glory in the world to come awaiting those who contemplate the truth must be very great indeed."

St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose birth has done great honor to our mountains.[86] is said to have been remarkable in this practice of good thoughts. This holy Prelate was once on a journey when a hare, hunted by dogs, ran under his horse. The close danger of death had led it to seek safety there. The dogs, yelping all around, did not dare to attempt violating the sanctuary to which their prey had fled. This unusual sight caused laughter among all present. But the great Anselm said, amid tears and sighs: "You laugh, but the poor animal does not. The spiritual enemies of a person, who is pursued and harassed by being led astray into all sorts of sins, wait for him at the narrow gate of death to catch and devour him. Filled with fear, he seeks help and safety everywhere. If he cannot find it, he is mocked and laughed at." After saying this, he went on his way in great sadness.

St. Anthony[87] once received a respectful letter from Constantine the Great.[88] At this, the religious living with him were greatly surprised. He said to them: "Why are you amazed that a king should write to a man? Rather wonder that the everlasting God has written his law for mortal men and, even more, that he has spoken to them face to face in the person of his Son."

St. Francis of Assisi noticed a sheep all alone in a flock of goats. He said to his companion: "See how gentle this poor little sheep is amid the goats. So did our Lord go about gentle and humble among the Pharisees." On another occasion he saw a little lamb being devoured by a hog. He shed tears as he said: "Alas, little lamb, your death is a lifelike figure of the death of my Savior."

Francis Borgia, that great man of our time,[89] when still Duke of Gandia, would make numerous devout reflections while hunting. "I used to wonder", he said later, "that the falcons return to the fist, allowing themselves to be hooded and tied to the perch, while men are so unresponsive to the voice of God."

The great St. Basil said that the rose amid the thorns has this message for men: "Mortal men, whatever gives most pleasure in this world is mixed with sadness. Nothing in it is pure. Sorrow always goes along with joy, widowhood with marriage, care with fruitfulness, humiliation with fame, expense with honors, disgust with delights and sickness with health. The rose is a beautiful flower indeed, but it makes me very sad. It reminds me of my sin, for which the earth was condemned to produce thorns."

A devout person, looking at a stream on a calm night, and seeing heaven with the stars reflected in it, said: "My God, when you place me in your holy tabernacles, these stars will be under my feet. As the stars of heaven are reflected on earth, so men on earth are reflected in heaven, in the living waters of divine charity." Another devout person, watching a river flowing by, exclaimed: "My heart will never find rest until it plunges into God, the sea where it took its origin.

St. Frances of Rome, seeing a pleasant stream, and kneeling on its bank to pray, was rapt in ecstasy. She repeated many times, quite softly, the words: "the grace of my God flows gently and smoothly like this little stream." Another saintly person, looking at the trees in flower, sighed and said: "Why am I alone without blossom in the garden of the Church?"

Still another holy person, watching little chickens gathered under their mother's wings, said: "Lord, keep us safe under the shadow of your wings" (Ps 17:8). Yet another, looking at a sunflower, said: "My God, when will my heart follow the attractions of your goodness?" the same person, seeing some pansies, beautiful to look at but without fragrance, said: "Alas, my thoughts are like that. Beautiful when spoken, but without influence or fruit."

You see, Philothea, how we can foster good thoughts and aspirations from all that we come across in the course of this mortal life. Unhappy are those who turn creatures away from their Creator to involve them in sin. Happy are those who associate creatures in the glorification of their Creator, using their emptiness to honor the truth. St. Gregory Nazianzen said: "It is definitely my practice to turn everything to my spiritual advantage." Read the devout account that St. Jerome has written about St. Paula. It is inspiring to find it full of good thoughts and aspirations which she used to draw from all sorts of incidents.

In this exercise of the awareness of God's presence and of aspirations is to be found the most important practice of devotion. It can make up for the lack of all other prayers. But to make good its absence, by any other means, is almost impossible. without this exercise, the contemplative life cannot be well lived, and the active life will be lived only badly. without it, relaxation is only idleness and work only discomfort. Therefore, I ask you earnestly, take up this exercise with all your heart and never stop practicing it.

Chapter 14: Taking Part in Holy Mass

  1. Until now I have not drawn your attention to the sun of spiritual exercises, that is, the most holy, sacred and supreme Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Mass. It is the center of the Christian religion, the heart of devotion, the essence of piety. It is a mystery beyond description that encloses the abyss of divine charity. Through it God touches us in reality and gives us his graces and favors with abundant generosity.
  2. Prayer united to this divine Sacrifice has a power beyond words. In fact, Philothea, by it each one overflows with heavenly blessings, as if leaning on the Beloved (Song 8:5). by him one is completely filled with spiritual fragrance and delight. Thus one appears as a pillar of smoke from fragrant wood: of myrrh, of incense, and of all the powders of the perfumer, as it is said in the Song of Songs (3:6).
  3. Therefore, do your best to attend Holy Mass every day. Thus you can offer with the priest the sacrifice of your Redeemer to God the Father, for yourself and for the whole Church. St. John Chrysostom says that Angels, in large numbers, are always present to honor this sacred mystery. Since we are there with them, with the same intention, we certainly receive many beneficial influences from such company.
    The multitudes of the Church Triumphant and of the Church Militant come together to be united to our Lord in this divine action. Thus with him, in him and through him they delight the heart of God the Father, making his mercy entirely ours. Great indeed is the happiness of contributing one's love devoutly for a good so precious and so desirable.
  4. It may happen that you find it impossible to be actually present at the celebration of this supreme Sacrifice, due to some unavoidable reason. Then at least take your heart there so that you attend by a spiritual presence. Hence, some time in the morning, go to the church in spirit, if you are not able to do so physically. Unite your intention with that of all Christians. In the place where you are, make the same interior acts you would do if you were personally present.
  5. This is how you should assist at Holy Mass in the proper way, either actually or spiritually:[90]
    1. From the beginning until the priest goes up to the altar make your preparation with him. This includes placing yourself in the presence of God, acknowledging your unworthiness, and asking pardon for your sins.
    2. From the time the priest goes up to the altar until the Gospel, reflect on the coming of our Lord and his life in this world. Do this simply and in a general way.
    3. From the Gospel to the end of the I believe, think about our Lord's preaching. Affirm your determination to live and die in fidelity and obedience to his holy word and united to the Holy Catholic Church.
    4. From the I believe to the Our Father, let your heart be fixed on the mysteries of the Suffering and Death of our Redeemer. These are represented actually and essentially in this holy Sacrifice. offer it, with the priest and the people present, to God the Father for his honor and for your salvation.
    5. From the Our Father to the Communion strive to stir up a thousand longings in your heart. Desire earnestly to be joined and united to our Savior for ever in everlasting love.
    6. From the Communion to the end, thank our Lord for his incarnation, his life, his Suffering his Death and for the love he shows us in this holy Sacrifice. Beg of him that through it he may be always favorable to you, to your relatives, to your friends and to the whole Church.

Humble yourself with all your heart and receive devoutly the divine blessing which our Lord gives you through the ministry of his priest.

You may want to make your meditation, during the Mass, on the mysteries that you are taking up day by day. It is not necessary that you set it aside in order to make the acts suggested above. It will be enough that at the beginning of the Mass you make the intention of wanting to adore and offer the holy Sacrifice by way of your meditation and prayer. This is because every meditation includes the acts mentioned above, either explicitly or implicitly.[91]

Chapter 15: Other Public Spiritual Exercises

Besides attending Mass every day, Philothea, be present on feast days and Sundays at the office of the Hours and of Vespers, recited publicly in church, whenever you can conveniently do so. These days are dedicated to God, and so it is necessary that we do more actions to honor and glorify him on these days than on others. In this way you will experience a thousand delights of devotion, like St. Augustine. He declares in his Confessions[92] that when he was present at the Divine office, at the beginning of his conversion, his heart melted with tenderness and his eyes in tears of piety.

Moreover, I state with certainty, that there is always greater benefit and consolation in the public spiritual exercises of the Church than in individual actions. God has ordained that what is done in communion with others has to be preferred to what is done alone.

Join gladly the local confraternities of the place where you live, especially those whose exercises are most fruitful and edifying. In doing so, you will practice a kind of obedience that is very pleasing to God. The more so because though we are not commanded to join confraternities, this is recommended by the Church. The Church's desire that many should join is indicated by the indulgences and other privileges granted to the members.

Besides, to join with many others and to work together with others for their good projects is always very charitable. It may happen that all by oneself one is able to do the same sort of good work as is done together in the confraternities. And one may find greater joy in doing it alone. But joining others and sharing our good work with our brothers and sisters, as well as neighbors, gives greater glory to God.

I say the same with regard to all kinds of public prayers and religious services. As far as possible, we should take part in these in order to edify our neighbor by our good example and show our concern for the glory of God and the intentions of all.

Chapter 16: Honoring the Saints and Praying to them

God sends us inspirations very often through his Angels. So, we must also send him our longing for him frequently through them. The faithful departed who are in Heaven with the Angels, and, as our Lord says, are equal to and like the Angels (Lk 20:36), do similar work. They bring us inspirations and they express by their holy prayers our longing for God. Dear Philothea, let us unite our hearts to the heavenly spirits and to the blessed in Heaven. The young nightingales learn to sing while with the older ones. In our holy sharing with the Saints, we shall learn better to pray as well as to sing the praise of God. "I will sing praise", David said, "in the sight of the Angels" (Ps 137:1).

With a special love, give honor, reverence and respect to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary. As the Mother of Jesus, our Brother, she is truly our mother. Let us therefore turn to her for help. We are her little children, so let us with complete confidence throw ourselves in her arms. At every moment, in every circumstance, let us call to this loving mother. Let us ask earnestly for her motherly love. with our hearts full of a true filial love for her, let us strive to imitate her virtues.

Enjoy the friendship of the Angels. often be aware of their invisible presence in your life. Show a special love and respect for the Guardian Angel of the diocese where you are, for the Guardian Angels of the persons with whom you live, and particularly for your own. Pray to them often, praise them constantly. Make use of their help and assistance in all your affairs, both spiritual and temporal, so they may work to realise your intentions.

The great Peter Favre[93] was the first priest, the first preacher, the first professor of theology of the holy Company of Jesus. He was also the first companion of Blessed Ignatius,[94] its founder. One day, he was passing through this diocese, in which he was born, coming from Germany where he had done great work for the glory of our Lord. He mentioned that, while traveling among heretics, he had received a thousand blessings because he had prayed to the Guardian Angel of each parish on coming to it. He was aware of their evident help, since they had protected him from being ambushed by heretics. Also, they had prepared many to welcome the doctrine of salvation by making them gentle and docile. He spoke about this with such great earnestness, that a lady, then young, who had heard it from him repeated it with so much feeling, just four years ago, that is, more than sixty years later.[95] Last year, I was happy to consecrate an altar in the little village of Villaret, amid our very rugged mountains, in the place where by God's will this saintly man was born.

Make a choice of a few special Saints, whose lives you can best appreciate and imitate. Have a special confidence in their intercession. The Saint whose name your bear has already been assigned to you at your Baptism.

Chapter 17: Hearing and Reading the Word of God

Love the word of God. Listen to it always with attention and deep respect, whether you hear it during familiar conversation with your spiritual friends or in sermons. Draw as much profit from it as you can. Do not let it fall to the ground. Receive it in your heart like a precious balm. Imitate our Lady who kept carefully in her heart all the words spoken in praise of her child (Lk 2:19 and 51). Remember that our Lord gathers up the words we say to him in our prayers, in the measure in which we gather up the words he says to us in sermons.

Always have with you some good book of devotion, like those by St. Bonaventure,[96] or the Spiritual Combat,[97] the Confessions of St. Augustine, the Letters of St. Jerome and such others. Read a little from it every day with great love. Read as though you were reading letters sent to you by the Saints from Heaven, to show you the way and to encourage you to follow it.

Read also the stories and biographies of the Saints. You will see there, as in a mirror, the image of the Christian life. Find inspiration in their actions, drawing profit for yourself according to your life situation. Those who live their life in the world are not to imitate in every respect many of the actions of the Saints. Yet, they can imitate all the actions to a greater or lesser extent. The solitary life of St. Paul, the first hermit,[98] can be imitated in your spiritual recollections with which I have already dealt above (Second Part, Ch. 12), and in your real recollections about which I shall speak later (Fifth Part). The extreme poverty of St. Francis of Assisi can be imitated by the practice of poverty which I shall describe (Third Part, chs. 14-16), and so on with regard to others.

Certainly, some biographies give more light for the guidance of our life than others. Among these are the Life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Avila,[99] which is excellent for the purpose; the Lives of the first Jesuits; that of St. Charles Bormeo,[100] Archbishop of Milan, of St. Louis, of St. Bernard; the chronicles of St. Francis of Assisi and others of a similar kind.

In the life of some other saints there is more for our admiration than for our imitation. Among these are St. Mary of Egypt, St. Simon Stylites, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine of Genoa, St. Angela and others like them. But even these can help to strengthen in general a longing for the holy love of God.

Chapter 18: Receiving God's inspirations

By inspirations we understand all the interior attractions, movements, consciousness of wrong done and regrets for wrong doing, enlightenments and insights. These God produces in us. by his fatherly love and care, he anticipates our heart's desire with his blessings (Ps 21:3). He does this to awaken us, to stir us up, to urge us and to attract us to holy virtues, to heavenly love, to good resolutions, in short, to all that moves us forward to our everlasting good. This is what the Beloved means by knocking at the door (Song 5:2) and speaking to the heart of his Spouse (Hosea 2:14), waking her when she sleeps (Song 5:2), calling for her and asking for her when she is absent (Song 2:10,13), inviting her to eat his honey, and to gather apples and flowers in his garden (Song 5:1;6:2), as well as to sing and let her sweet voice sound in his ears (Song 2:14).

In order that the arrangement of a marriage be complete, three acts are needed with regard to the lady whom a man wishes to marry. First, the person is proposed to her. Second, she is pleased with the proposal. Third, she gives her consent.[101] God acts in the same way when he wants to do some work of great charity in us, through us and with us. First, he proposes it to us by his inspiration. Second, we are pleased with it. Third, we consent to it.

There are three steps leading down to sin: The temptation, the delight, the consent. So there are three steps leading up to virtue: The inspiration which is the opposite of temptation; the delight in the inspiration which is the opposite of the delight in the temptation; the consent to the inspiration which is the opposite of the consent to the temptation.

An inspiration might last all our life. But this would not make us in any way pleasing to God, if we took no pleasure in it. On the contrary, his Divine Majesty would be offended with us as he was with the Israelites. He had been with them, as he says, for forty years (Ps 95:10), urging them to be converted. But they would not listen to him at all. So he swore against them in his anger that they should not enter his rest (Ps 95:11). In fact, a man, who had courted a lady for a long time, would be greatly offended it, after that, she refused to show any interest in the marriage he desired.

Taking pleasure in inspirations puts us firmly on the way to giving glory to God. by it we begin already to please his Divine Majesty. Though the delight we take is not yet a full consent, it prepares us for it to some extent. It is a good sign and something very useful to take pleasure in listening to the word of God which is like an exterior inspiration. So also, it is a good thing and pleasing to God to take delight in interior inspirations. It is regarding this pleasure the sacred Spouse speaks when she says: My heart melted with joy when my Beloved spoke (Song 5:6). Similarly, a man is already quite satisfied with the lady he is courting, and feels he is favored, when he sees that she is pleased with his attentions.

But finally it is the consent that completes an act of virtue. We receive the inspiration and take pleasure in it and yet after that we refuse our consent to God. We are thus extremely ungrateful and offend very much his divine Majesty. In doing this we show greater contempt. This is what happened to the Spouse. Even though the loving voice of her Beloved touched her heart with a holy joy, yet she did not open the door to him. She used a frivolous pretext to excuse herself. At this the Beloved was rightly annoyed; he left her and went away. The same is the case with a man who has been courting a lady for a long time and has been favorably received by her. But in the end he is rejected and despised. He has more reason to be displeased, than if his proposal had not been welcomed and encouraged.

Be determined, Philothea, to accept whole-heartedly all the inspirations that God may be pleased to send you. When they come, welcome them as ambassadors of the heavenly King who wants to enter into a marriage alliance with you. Listen quietly to these proposals. Think of the love which inspires them and cherish the holy inspirations. Accept them with a consent that is total, loving and unchanging. If you do this, God who cannot be under any obligation to you will hold himself bound by your love.

However, before giving your consent to inspirations concerning matters that are important or extraordinary, always get the advice of your spiritual guide so that you may not be deceived. Let him examine whether the inspiration is true or false. All the more so because the enemy, seeing a person who is prompt to consent to inspirations, very often sends false inspirations in order to deceive. But he can never do this to someone who humbly obeys the spiritual director.[102]

Once you have given your consent to an inspiration, you must take great care to put it into practice and obtain its results; this is the height of true virtue. In fact, to give consent to an inspiration in your heart, without putting it into practice, is to plant a vine without desiring it to bear fruit.

What is extraordinarily helpful with regard to this is to practice well the Morning Exercise and the Exercise of the Awareness of God's Presence which I have explained earlier (Second Part, ch.10 and ch.12). In this way, we prepare ourselves to do what is good by a preparation that is not only general but concerns specific matters.

Chapter 19: Regular Confession

Our Savior has entrusted to his Church the Sacrament of Penance and Confession.[103] It was his intention that by this Sacrament we cleanse ourselves from all our sins, every time and as many times as we may be defiled by them. Therefore, Philothea, never let your heart remain poisoned by sin for a long time, since such an easy remedy is available to you.

A lioness that has been in the company of a leopard goes at once to wash herself and remove the unpleasant smell resulting from this contact so that when the lion meets her he will not be displeased and provoked.[104] Thus whoever yields, to sin must have a disgust of himself and cleanse himself as soon as possible, out of respect due to the divine Majesty who sees him. But why do we choose a spiritual death, when we have such an excellent remedy?

Go to confession every week with humility and devotion. Do so always, if possible, whenever you intend receiving Communion[105] even though you are conscious that you are not guilty of any mortal sin. In fact by Confession you receive more than absolution for the venial sins you confess. You are also given a great strength to avoid them in the future, much light to discern them well and abundant grace to repair whatever loss they have caused you. You will practice the virtues of humility, obedience, simplicity and charity. In no other act will you exercise more virtue than in this single act of Confession.

Always have a sincere sorrow for the sins you confess, no matter how small they may be, with a firm determination to correct yourself in the future. Many confess their venial sins from force of habit and as it were to do what is expected, without thinking at all of correcting themselves. They continue to be weighed down by such sins all their life and in this way lose many spiritual benefits and advantages. Hence if you confess that you have told a lie even though without harm to anyone, or that you have spoken in an uncontrolled manner, or spent too much time in amusements, be sincerely sorry and be firmly determined to change your behaviour. Indeed, it is an abuse to confess any kind of sin, mortal or venial, without wanting to be freed from it, since such is the very purpose for which Confession has been instituted.

Do not make accusations that are simply irrelevant. This is what many do as a matter of routine: "I have not loved God as much as I ought"; "I have not prayed with as much devotion as I ought"; "I have not shown as much concern for my neighbor as I ought"; I have not received the Sacraments with as much reverence as I ought", and similar things. The reason for avoiding such accusations is that, in saying such things, you mention nothing specific to help your confessor to understand you inner dispositions as regards sin. As a matter of fact, all the Saints in Paradise and every person on earth could say the same things if they went to confession.

Therefore, find out the particular reason you have for making such accusations. having discovered it, accuse yourself of the fault you have committed quite simply and plainly. For example, you accuse yourself of not showing as much concern for your neighbor as you ought. It was perhaps because you saw a poor man in great need, whom you could easily have helped and comforted, but you did not cared to do so. Well, accuse yourself of precisely this. You could say: "I saw a poor man in great need. I did not help him as I could have done. It was because of carelessness or hardness of heart, or contempt for the person," mentioning what you know to have been the reason for this fault. In this same way, do not accuse yourself of not having prayed to God with as much devotion as you ought. Do not make such a general statement which discloses nothing specific in Confession. Accuse yourself quite simply of what you find to be your fault: that you were distracted in prayer willingly; or that you were careless in choosing the place, or the time, or posture suitable for attention in prayer.

Do not be satisfied with confessing just the occurrence of your venial sins. Accuse yourself also of the motive which led you to commit them. For example, do not be satisfied with confessing that you have told a lie without hurting anyone. Mention whether it was from pride: In order to praise yourself or to make an excuse for yourself; or whether it was from idle fun; or from obstinacy. If you have sinned while playing, make it clear whether it was from a desire to win, or because of the pleasure of the company and so on about other things.

Confess whether you have remained in your sin for long. All the more so, since length of time ordinarily increases the sin greatly. There is a great difference between a fleeting vanity lingering in our heart for a quarter of an hour, and one which out heart has been immersed for one, or two, or three days.

So, with regard to our sins, it is necessary to confess the sinful act, its motive and its duration. of course, ordinarily we are not bound to show such strictness in confessing venial sins. In fact, there is absolutely no obligation to confess venial sins. However, those who want to purify themselves thoroughly, in order to better acquire holy devotion, must take care to give the spiritual doctor a clear knowledge of the evil, no matter how small it may be, from which they want to be healed.

Do not hesitate to disclose everything that is needed for a proper understanding of the nature of your sin, such as the reason you had for giving way to anger, or for tolerating someone's sin. For example, a person whom I dislike makes a small remark to me as a joke and so I take offence and become angry. But if another person whom I like had said something more unpleasant, I would have taken it well. I will therefore say clearly in my confession: "I lost control of myself and spoke angry words against a certain person. I took offence at something he said to me. This was not because of the kind of words he used, but because I did not like him." If there is need to repeat the actual words, to make your meaning very clear, I think that it would be a good thing to do so.

By accusing yourself with such frankness, you make known not only the sins you have fallen into but also your evil inclinations, customs, habits and other roots of sin. In this way, the spiritual father acquires a more complete knowledge of the heart he is treating and so of the suitable remedies for it. However, you must never make known, as far as possible, the identity of anyone who may have shared in your sin.

Be aware of a number of sins which live and grow strong, very often unnoticed, in the heart. You must do this in order to confess them and rid yourself of them. with this in mind read diligently Chapters 6, 27, 28, 29, 35 and 36 of the Third Part, as well as Chapter 8 of the Fourth Part.

Do not change your confessor without reason. Having chosen one, go to him on the appointed days to give him an account of your conscience, confessing your sins openly and sincerely. At fixed times, once a month perhaps or once in two moths, also reveal to him the state of your inclinations, even though you may not have sinned by them: for instance, whether you were troubled by sadness or by grief; whether you were carried away by joy or by desires to acquire possessions and such other inclinations.

Chapter 20: Frequent Communion

It is said that Mithridates, the King of Pontus, discovered an antidote called mithridate. with its use the resistance of his body became very great. Later, when he tried to poison himself to escape becoming a slave of the Romans, he could not do so.[106] the Savior has instituted the most glorious Sacrament of the Eucharist, which truly contains his body and his blood, so that whoever eats it will live for ever (Jn 6:50-58). Therefore those who receive it frequently with devotion strengthen their spiritual life and well-being, to such an extent that it is almost impossible for them to be poisoned by any kind of evil attachment. We cannot draw nourishment from this living flesh and find life in attachment to death. If men were to continue living in the earthly paradise, they could have avoided bodily death by the power of the life-giving fruit placed there by God (Gen 3:22-24). In the same way, by the power of this Sacrament of life, it is possible for us to avoid spiritual death.

Fruit that is very delicate and decays easily, like cherries, apricots and strawberries, remains good for a whole year without difficulty, if preserved in sugar or in honey. So, it is not unusual that our hearts, though frail and feeble, are kept safe from the corruption of sin when preserved in the sugar and honey of the incorruptible flesh and blood of the Son of God.

Philothea , the Christians who are damned will have no excuse to present when the just Judge makes them see that the blame for their spiritual death is entirely theirs. It was very easy for them to have kept themselves alive and well by eating his Body which he had left them for this purpose. "Unhappy ones", he will say, "why did you die while having at your command the fruit and the food of life?"

"Daily reception of Communion at the Eucharist is something I neither praise nor condemn. I advise and encourage everyone to receive Communion every Sunday, provided the heart is free of attachment to committing sin." These are the very words of St. Augustine. with him I neither condemn nor praise without condition daily Communion. Rather, I leave it to the discretion of the spiritual father of the person who wants to decide about this matter.

The disposition necessary for daily Communion has to be of a high degree of perfection. So it is not good to recommend it to everyone. But this disposition even though of great excellence, may be found in many devout persons. So it is not good either to turn away and discourage everyone from it. Rather, this matter must be dealt with by the consideration of the interior state of each individual person. It would be imprudent to advise daily Communion to everyone unconditionally. But it would also be imprudent to find fault with anyone for it especially if he were following the advice of a wise director.

Because of the frequent Communion of St. Catherine of Siena, the objection was brought against her that St. Augustine neither praised nor condemned daily Communion. Her reply was kindly. "Well," she said, "since St. Augustine does not condemn it, please do not condemn it either, and I will be satisfied."

But Philothea, you note that St. Augustine earnestly advises and encourages everyone to receive Communion every Sunday. You must do so, as far as possible. I presume that you have no kind of attachment to venial sin. So you have the true disposition that St. Augustine requires. You have one that is even more excellent. You not only do not have any attachment to committing sin, but you do not even have any attachment to sin. So, when your spiritual father finds it beneficial, you could receive Communion with profit even more frequently than on every Sunday.

However, many well-founded difficulties may arise, not from you but from those with whom you live. Because of these, a prudent director might advise you not to receive Communion so often. For example, you live in some kind of dependence on others, and those to whom you owe obedience or respect are so lacking in proper instruction or so eccentric that they are worried and disturbed at seeing you receiving Communion frequently. Taking everything into account it might perhaps be good to submit in some way to their weakness and receive Communion only once a fortnight. But it is understood that this is only in a case you cannot overcome the difficulty in any other way. This must not be taken as a general rule. You must act according to the advice of your spiritual father. But I can say this much with certainty: for those who want to serve God devoutly, the longest interval between Communions should be one month.

If you are well guided by prudence, neither mother, nor wife, nor husband nor father will come in the way of your receiving Communion often. On the day you go to Communion, you will not set aside the responsibilities that are proper to your situation in life; you will show greater gentleness and kindness to your family members, not excusing yourself from any of your duties towards them. So, it is unlikely that they will prevent you form this practice, since it will not cause them any inconvenience, unless they have an extremely whimsical and unreasonable spirit. In this case, as I have already pointed out, your spiritual director will advise you to give in to them.

I now make a brief remark to married people. Under the old Law, god held it as wrong that creditors demand payment of their debts on feast days (Deuteronomy 15:1-3). But it was not so with regard to debtors paying and giving their dues to those who made the request. It would be out of place, though no great sin, to request payment of the marriage debt on the day of Communion. But it would not be improper , rather it would be meritorious, to pay it. Therefore no one must be deprived of Communion, because of the payment of this debt, if otherwise devotion urges the person to want to receive. In fact, in the early Church, Christians used to receive Communion every day, even though they were married and blessed with children. That is why I have said that frequent Communion is not the cause of any kind of inconvenience to fathers, or wives, or husbands, so long as the person who receives Communion uses prudence and discretion.

Regarding bodily illness, none can be a genuine obstacle to this holy participation, unless it causes frequent vomiting.

To receive Communion once a week, it is necessary to be free from mortal sin, and to have no attachment to venial sin, and to have a great desire for Communion. For daily Communion, it is necessary besides this, to have overcome the grater part of our evil inclinations, and that it is done on the advice of the spiritual director.[107]

Chapter 21: Receiving Holy Communion

Begin to prepare yourself for Holy Communion, on the previous evening, by many longings and movements of love. Go to bed a little earlier than usual, so that you are able to get up earlier the next morning. If you happen to wake during the night immediately fill your heart and your mouth with words of love and in this way you will be able to welcome the Beloved with a loving fragrance. He watches while you sleep, making ready to come with a thousand graces and favors, provided you are prepared to receive them.

In the morning, rise with great joy on account of the happiness you are hoping for. Make your Confession,[108] then go with great confidence, but also with great humility to receive this heavenly food which keeps you well and strong for everlasting life. After you have said the sacred words, Lord, I am not worthy (Mt 8:8), do not move your head or your lips any more, either to pray or to sigh. Open your mouth gently and moderately. Raise your head as much as is needed for the priest to see conveniently what he is doing.

Full of faith, hope and charity, receive Him whom, in whom, by whom and for whom you believe , hope and love. Philothea the bee gathers from the flowers the dew of heaven as well as the most delicious juice of the earth and changing them into honey carries it to the hive. In the same way, the priest takes from the altar the Savior of the world, true Son of God, who likes dew has come down from Heaven, and true Son of the Virgin Mary, who like a flower has sprung from the earth of our humanity, and places him as a delightful food in your mouth and in your body. After receiving him, arouse your heart and do homage to this King of Salvation. Speak to him about your spiritual concerns. Look upon him within you, where he has placed himself for your happiness. In a word, welcome him as warmly as you can, and conduct yourself in such a way that from all your actions it may be known to all that God is with you.

But it may happen that you cannot have this blessing of actually receiving Communion at Holy Mass. On such occasions, receive Communion at least in heart and in spirit: unite yourself by an intense longing to this life-giving flesh of the Savior.

Your principal aim in receiving Communion must be to make progress, be strengthened and find comfort in the love of God. You must receive out of love that which love alone gives to you. The Savior cannot be thought of in any other action more loving or more compassionate than this one. In this action he, as it were , destroys himself and changes himself into food so as to enter our spirits and unite himself most closely to the heart and the body of his faithful.

When worldly people question you about your receiving Communion so frequently, answer them that it is to learn to love God, to be purified from your faults, to be freed from your miseries, to be comforted in your troubles, to be strengthened in your weaknesses. Tell them that two sorts of persons are to receive Communion often: those who are perfect because, being well disposed, they would be very wrong if they did not draw near to the source and spring of perfection; and those who are imperfect, that they may be able to rightly to seek perfection; the strong, that they may not become weak, and the weak, that they become strong; the sick that they may become well and the healthy that they may not become sick. Say about yourself, that being imperfect, weak, and sick it is necessary that you have frequent contact with him who is your perfection, your strength and your doctor.

Also tell them that those who do not have many worldly concerns should receive Communion often since they have the opportunity; and that those who have many worldly concerns should do the same because they need it; and that he who works very hard and is loaded with troubles must eat nourishing food frequently. Let them know that you receive the Holy Sacrament to learn to receive it well, since we rarely do an action well unless we practice it often.

Receive Communion frequently, Philothea. with the advice of your spiritual Father, receive as often as you can. The hares on our mountains become white in winter, since they neither see nor eat anything except snow.[109] I assure you that similarly by repeatedly adoring and feeding in this divine Sacrament, on him who is beauty, goodness and purity, you will become completely beautiful, completely good and completely pure.

Part III: Several Counsels for the Practice of Virtues

Chapter 1: We Must Select the Virtues to Be Practiced

The queen of the bees[110] never goes to the fields without being accompanied by her little subjects. Similarly charity never enters a heart without finding a lodging there for itself as well as for a retinue of other virtues which it exercises and sets to work as a captain does his soldiers. However, it does not put them to work all at once, nor uniformly, nor at all times and in all places. The just man is like a tree planted near running waters that bears its fruit in due season (Ps 1:3). For charity waters the soul and produces in it virtuous deeds, each in its proper season.

Music, so pleasant in itself, is out of place in time of mourning, says the Proverb (Sirach 22:6). It is a great fault in many who undertake the practice of a particular virtue to insist on turning out acts of it on any and every occasion. Like some of the ancient philosophers they wish either to weep always or to laugh always. Still worse, they criticize and condemn those who do not practice these same virtues at all times as they do. The Apostle says: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15); charity is patient, kind (1 Cor 13:4), generous, prudent and lowers itself willingly.

Nevertheless there are virtues which are almost always practiced. These must not only produce their own acts but must also communicate their quality to the acts of all other virtues. Occasions of practicing courage, magnanimity and great generosity are rare. But gentleness, moderation, honesty and humility are some of the virtues by which every action of our life should be colored. The practice of these are more necessary, though there are virtues which are more excellent. Sugar is more enjoyable than salt but salt has a more frequent and more general use. We must always have a good store of these general virtues at hand since we ought to make constant use of them.

In the practice of virtues, we must prefer that virtue which corresponds more with our duties than with our tastes. St. Paula was inclined to practice great bodily austerities in order to enjoy more easily spiritual consolations but she had a greater duty to obey her superiors. That is why St. Jerome acknowledges as blameworthy her excessive fasts carried out against the advice of her Bishop. The Apostles, on the other hand, commissioned to preach the Gospel and to distribute the bread of heaven to all, judged extremely well that it would be wrong for them to be restricted in the exercise of their mission by the practice of the virtue of caring for the poor even though this is very excellent (Acts 6:2). Every life-situation requires the practice of some particular virtue. Different are the virtues to be practiced by a Bishop, by a prince, by a soldier, by a married woman, by a widow. Although all should have all the virtues, nevertheless, all are not bound to practice them equally. But each one must devote oneself to those virtues much needed for the state of life to which one is called.

Among the virtues which do not concern our own duties, we are to prefer the most excellent and not the most showy. Usually, the comets appear bigger than the stars and occupy more space as seen by us. All the same, they are not comparable to the stars either in their size or in their importance. They appear great because they are closer to us, and are of a coarser substance than the stars. Similarly, there are some virtues which as they are close to us, are more visible and in a way more physical. They are highly esteemed and always preferred by the common people. Thus they usually prefer temporal almsgiving to the spiritual, hair-shirt, fasting, going barefoot, discipline and mortifications of the body to gentleness, good-naturedness, modesty and other mortifications of the heart which however are more excellent. Choose, then Philothea, the best virtues and not the most esteemed, the most sublime and not the most spectacular, and the most excellent and not the most showy.

It is useful for each one to choose a special practice of some particular virtue. This is not to abandon the other virtues but to keep one's mind more precisely ordered and occupied. A beautiful young girl, brighter than the sun, royally adorned and attired, and crowned with an olive wreath, appeared to St. John, Bishop of Alexandria and said to him: "I am the eldest daughter of the King. If you can have me as your friend, I shall lead you to his presence." He realized that God was recommending to him compassion towards the poor. Soon after, he so devoted himself to the practice of this virtue that he was known everywhere as St. John the Almsgiver. Eulogius of Alexandria desired to do some special service for God. But he did not have sufficient strength either to embrace the solitary life or to put himself under obedience to another. So he brought home a miserable man eaten up by leprosy to practice charity and mortification in his regard. In order to do this more worthily, he made a vow to honor, treat and serve him as a servant would his master and lord. Later some temptation came to both of them, Eulogius and the leper, to part from one another. They approached the great St. Antony who told them: "Take care, my children, not to separate from one another. For both of you are nearing the end. If the angel does not find you together, you run the great risk of losing your rewards."

St. Louis, King of France, used to visit the hospitals and serve the sick with his own hands as if he was being paid for it. St. Francis of Assisi loved poverty above everything else and called it his Lady. St. Dominic cherished preaching from which his Order took its name. St. Gregory the Great was happy to take special care of pilgrims following the example of the great Abraham and like him received the King of Glory in the form of a pilgrim. Tobias practiced charity by burying the dead (Tobit 1:17). St. Elizabeth, though a great princess, loved humiliations above all else. St. Catherine of Genoa when she became a widow devoted herself to the service of a hospital. Cassian narrates that a devout young lady desirous of practicing patience had recourse to St. Athanasius. At her request, he put with her a poor, irritable, ill-tempered, troublesome widow. She constantly scolded the young lady and so gave her sufficient opportunities for practicing worthily gentleness and kindness.

Thus among the servants of God some dedicate themselves to serve the sick, some to help the poor, some to impart christian doctrine to children, some to bring together the lost and wandering persons, some to decorate the church and adorn the altars, and some others to bring about peace and harmony among men. In this they imitate the embroiderers who make all kinds of flowers by placing silk, gold and silver on different backgrounds in such beautiful variety. Thus these devout persons who undertake some particular practice of devotion make use of it as a background for their spiritual embroidery. It forms the basis for the practice of a variety of other virtues, keeping their actions and affections so united and ordered in their relationship with the principal exercise that they thus reveal their spirit:

In a robe of golden cloth so beautiful to see
and adorned with figures fair in rich embroidery.[111]

When we struggle against some vice, in as far as it is possible, we ought to embrace the practice of the contrary virtue, relating all the others to it. by this means, we shall overcome our enemy and we shall not cease to advance in all other virtues. If I am attacked by pride or anger I should in all circumstances incline and direct myself to the practice of humility and gentleness; and make use of the practices such as prayer, the Sacraments, prudence, constancy and temperance to this end.

Wild boars sharpen their tusks by rubbing and polishing them with their other teeth which thus become very pointed and sharp. Thus a virtuous person undertaking to perfect himself in that virtue of which he stands most in need for his protection, should strengthen and perfect it through the exercise of other virtues. by refining it, all other virtues become more excellent and quite complete. So it happened to Job who exercising himself particularly in patience, against so many temptations which assailed him, became entirely holy and perfect in all kinds of virtues. In fact, as said by St. Gregory Nazianzen by the practice of one virtue, a person can reach the fullness of virtues. He refers to Rahab who by practicing perfectly the duty of hospitality reached very great glory (Joshua 6; Heb 11:31); but it means that such an action was done excellently with great fervour and charity.

Chapter 2: Further Advice On Selecting Virtues

St. Augustine says very well that beginners in devotion commit certain faults which are blameworthy according to the strict laws of perfection. All the same they are praiseworthy as they give a good indication of the future excellence of piety to which these mistakes themselves serve as a disposition. For instance, a mean and servile fear which produces excessive scruples in persons who have lately forsaken the path of sin is a recommendable virtue in beginners and a sign of future purity of conscience. The same fear would be blameworthy in those who are well-advanced; in their hearts love ought to reign which little by little chases away such servile fear.

In the beginning, St. Bernard was full of severity and harshness towards those who placed themselves under his guidance. He told them that first of all they should leave the body behind and come to him only with the spirit. When he heard their confessions, he expressed horror for any of their failures, even the smallest, with unusual severity and urged these poor beginners in perfection so much that by pushing them too far, he was in fact drawing them back. For they lost courage and eagerness at seeing themselves driven, forcibly and at once, up such a straight and steep climb. You see, Philothea, it was the ardent zeal for perfect purity which compelled this great Saint to adopt this kind of method. This zeal was a great virtue but a virtue which did not cease to be blameworthy. God himself corrected him in a holy vision infusing into him a gentle, kind, amiable and tender spirit. Through it he was completely changed. He accused himself very much of having been too exacting and severe. He became so considerate and kind that he made himself all to all to gain all (1 Cor 9:22).

St. Jerome tells us that his spiritual daughter, St. Paula, was so excessive and stubborn in the practice of bodily mortifications that she was unwilling to accept the contrary advice of her Bishop St. Epiphanius. Moreover she allowed herself to be carried away by such grief at the death of her dear ones that she was always in danger of dying. Finally he concludes:

Some may say that instead of writing the praises of this saint, I am writing criticisms and reproaches. I call Jesus to witness whom she served and whom I desire to serve, that I am not lying on one side or the other. Rather I simply relate about her as one Christian of another, that is, I am writing her history and not a panegyric and her vices are the virtues of others.

He wants to say that the failures and mistakes of St. Paula would be held as virtue in a less perfect person since there are, in fact, actions which are considered imperfections in those who are perfect. Nevertheless these would be held as great perfections in those who are imperfect. It is a good sign that a sick person as he recovers has swelling on his legs. For it is a sign that nature, already strengthened, rejects superfluous fluids. But the same sign would be bad in one who is not sick as it shows that nature has not enough strength to scatter and dissolve the unhealthy fluids.

Dear Philothea, we must have a good opinion of those who practice virtue although with imperfections because the Saints themselves often practiced them in this way. But concerning us, we are to be careful to exercise ourselves in virtues not only faithfully but also prudently. For this, we must strictly follow the counsel of the Wise Man not to rely on our own insight (Proverbs 3:5) but rather on the judgement of those whom God has given us as our guides.

There are certain things which many consider as virtues but are not such at all. I must say a word about them: These are ecstasies or raptures, experiences of insensibility, impassability, deific unions, levitations, transformations and other such perfections treated in some books. They promise to raise the soul to purely intellectual contemplation, to a total concentration of the spirit and to a supereminent life. You see, Philothea, such perfections are not virtues. Rather they are rewards which God gives for virtues. Better still, they are a foretaste of the happiness of the life to come given sometimes to men to make them long for its fullness in Paradise. But for all that we must not seek such graces since they are in no way necessary for serving and loving God well, who ought to be our sole aim.

often these are not graces which can be acquired by one's own effort and skill since they are more passive than active. We can receive them but not create them in us. I add that we have only undertaken to make ourselves good persons, persons committed to devotion, devout men and women. Therefore we must work hard for it. If it pleases God to elevate us to such angelic perfection, we shall be also good angels.

While awaiting, let us simply, humbly and devoutly exercise ourselves in small virtues the conquest of which Our Lord has entrusted to our care and toil: such as patience, good-naturedness, mortifications of the heart, humility, obedience, poverty, chastity, tenderness towards our neighbor, bearing their imperfections, diligence and holy fervour.

Let us willingly leave lofty heights to the exalted. We do not deserve such a high rank in the service of God. We shall be extremely happy to serve him in his kitchen, in his pantry, to be his servants, porters or attendants. Later, if it pleases him, it is for him to take us into his Cabinet and Privy Council. Yes, Philothea, this King of Glory does not reward his servants according to the dignity of their office but according to the love and humility with which they carry them out. Saul searching for the asses of his father found the kingdom of Israel (1 Samuel 9-10); Rebecca watering the camels of Abraham became the spouse of his son (Gen 24:44); Ruth gleaning after the harvesters of Boaz and laying herself down at his feet was taken up to his side and became his wife (Ruth 2-4).

Certainly, very high and lofty desires for extraordinary graces are greatly subject to illusions, deceptions and errors. Sometimes it happens that those who esteem themselves to be angels are not even good men and in fact there is more of greatness in the words and terms they use than in their sentiments and deeds. All the same, we must not rashly condemn or blame anything. While blessing God for the supereminence of others, let us be firm on our way: lower but safer, less excellent but more suited to our insufficiency and littleness. If we continue in it, humbly and faithfully, God will raise us to great heights which are great indeed.

Chapter 3: Patience

You have need of patience so that doing the will of God you may receive what he has promised (Heb 10:36) says the Apostle. Yes, for as the Savior had declared, You shall possess your self in patience (Lk 21:19). It is the great happiness of man, Philothea, to possess himself. The more perfect our patience, the more perfectly we possess ourselves. often recall to your mind that Our Lord saved us by his sufferings and endurance. In the same way, we must work out our salvation by sufferings, trials, bearing insults, conflicts and troubles with as much gentleness as possible.

Do not limit your patience to this or that kind of insults and trials but extend it without exception to all that God will send you or allow to happen to you. Some wish to suffer only trials which are honorable, for example, to be wounded in battle, to be prisoners of war, to be ill-treated for the sake of religion, to be impoverished by some lawsuit in which they are successful. Such persons do not love the trials but the honor they bring. The really patient servant of God bears with equanimity the humiliating trials as well as the honorable.

To be despised, criticized and accused by the wicked, this is entirely pleasant to a man of courage. But to be criticized, accused and ill-treated by good people, by friends, by relations is a real test of virtue. I admire more the gentleness with which the great St. Charles Borromeo suffered for a long time the public criticisms addressed to him in the pulpit by a great preacher of a strictly reformed Order than all the attacks which he endured from others. Just as the stings of the bees are more painful than those of flies so too the harm we receive from good people and their opposition are more unbearable than others. Yet such situations often arise: two good persons both with good intentions stir up great trials and conflicts against one another due to the differences of their opinions.

Be patient not only in the main and important details of the misfortunes which may come upon you but also as regards the secondary and accidental circumstances which flow from them. Many would be willing to accept trouble provided they were not in any way inconvenienced. "I would not be troubled at being poor," says one, "if it did not prevent me from serving my friends, educating my children and living honorably as I would like to." Another says: "I would not care about being poor if the people did not think that it happened to me due to my fault." Another would be quite glad to be calumniated and would bear it patiently provided no one believed the slanderer. Others would like to bear a little inconvenience from sickness, it seems to them, but not the whole. They are not impatient at being ill, so they say, but they have no money for treatment, or those who are around them are being bothered. Now, I say, Philothea, we must have patience not only at being ill but also at being ill with the illness which God wishes, in the place where he wishes and among the persons he wishes and also with the discomforts he wishes. The same is to be said about other trials.

When any evil happens to you, make use of such means which are possible in accordance with God's will. To do otherwise would be to tempt the divine majesty. After taking the means, await the outcome which is pleasing to God with complete resignation. If it pleases him that the means overcome the evil then thank him with humility. But if it pleases him that the evil overcomes the means then bless him with patience.

I am of the same opinion as St. Gregory: when you are rightly accused of some fault that you have committed, humble yourself very much and acknowledge that you deserve the accusation brought against you. If you are falsely accused, excuse yourself gently denying your guilt because you owe this respect to the truth and to the edification of your neighbor. But even if, after your genuine and legitimate excuse, they continue to accuse you, do not be at all troubled and do nothing to get your excuse accepted. For after doing your duty to the truth, you ought to do it also to humility. In this way, you neither offend against the care you owe to your good name, or the affection you owe to tranquility, gentleness of heart and humility.

Complain as little as possible about the wrongs done to you. For it is certain that in general the one who complains, sins in so far as self-love makes us feel the offences to be greater than they really are. Above all do not make your complaints to persons inclined to be indignant or to think rashly. If it is expedient for you to complain to someone either to correct an offence or to restore your peace of mind, then let it be to peaceful persons who really love God. Otherwise instead of calming your heart, they will stir it up to greater anxieties; instead of taking away the thorn which pricks you they will drive it deeper into your foot.

Many being sick, in trouble or offended by someone keep away from actually complaining and showing weakness. This in their opinion, and it is true, will clearly show a great lack of strength and generosity. But they desire very much and seek through several devices from everyone pity and great compassion for them and to be thought of as not only suffering but also patient and courageous. Now this is indeed patience but a false patience which in fact is nothing else than a very refined, subtle ambition and vanity. They have the glory, says the Apostle, but not before God (Rom 4:2).

The truly patient man neither complains about his suffering nor does he seek pity. He speaks of it unaffectedly, truthfully and simply without lamenting, without complaining and without exaggerating. If we pity him, he patiently allows himself to be pitied, except in case he is pitied for an affliction which he does not have. While he modestly declares that he has no such suffering, he remains in a peaceful state between truth and patience admitting the evil and not complaining about it.

When you meet with difficulties in the exercise of devotion, and these will not be wanting, remember the words of Our Lord: A woman has great anguish when she is in labour but seeing the child that is born she forgets her suffering for joy that a man is born into the world (Jn 16:21). In fact, you have within yourself the most noble child in the world who is Jesus Christ. Until he is formed and brought forth you cannot but feel great pain. But be of good courage. These sorrows will pass away and eternal joy will remain for bringing forth such a child into the world. Then he will be brought forth entirely for you, when you have formed him completely in your heart and in your works by imitating his life.

When you fall sick offer all your sorrows, pains and weaknesses to the service of Our Lord and implore him to join them to the torments he suffered for you. Obey your doctor, take the medicines, food and other remedies for the love of God, remembering the gall he took for love of you. Desire to be healed for the sake of serving him. Do not refuse to be sick in order to obey him and prepare yourself for death if such is his will that you may praise him and rejoice with him.

Remember that the bees at the time of making honey live and feed on very bitter food. Similarly we cannot make acts of the greatest gentleness and patience nor compose the honey of excellent virtues except by eating the bread of bitterness and living amidst trials. As honey made out of the flowers of thyme, a small bitter herb, is the best of all, so also the virtues practiced in the bitterness of the most vile, low and mean trials and humiliations are the most excellent of all.

Look often with your interior eyes on Jesus Christ crucified, naked, blasphemed, slandered, abandoned and overwhelmed by every kind of trouble, sorrow and pain. Consider that all your sufferings are not comparable to his either in quality or in quantity; you will never be able to suffer anything for his sake compared to what he suffered for you. Consider the torments endured by the Martyrs of old and those so many people suffer now are incomparably more severe than yours and say: Alas! my sufferings are comforts and my thorns are roses in comparison with those who without help, without assistance and without relief live in continual death weighed down by afflictions infinitely greater than mine.

Chapter 4: External Humility

Borrow empty vessels, said Elisha to a poor widow, and pour oil into them (2 Kings 4:3-4). To receive the grace of God into our hearts, we ought to empty them of our own glory. The kestrel[112] crying out and looking at birds of prey frightens them away by its characteristic secret power.[113] Because of it, the doves love it more than all other birds and live in security close to it. In the same way, humility drives away Satan and preserves in us the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Therefore all the Saints and especially the King of Saints and his Mother have always honored and cherished this precious virtue more than any other moral virtue.

Vainglory is the glory we give ourselves for what is not in us, or for what is in us but is not ours, or what is in us and is ours but for which we do not deserve any credit. Nobility of race, the favor of the great and popularity are not in us but either in our predecessors or in the esteem of others. Some feel themselves proud and haughty because they ride on a good horse, have a feather in their cap or are splendidly attired. But who does not see that all this is folly? If there is any glory in these things, it belongs to the horse, to the bird and to the tailor. What meanness to borrow one's esteem from a horse, from a feather or from a garment.

Some take pride in their curled moustaches, a well-trimmed beard, crisped hair, soft hands, in their ability to dance, play or sing. Are they not showing lack of courage in seeking to enhance their value and increase their reputation through such trifling and silly things? Some wish to be honored and respected by people for a little learning as if everyone ought to become their pupils and hold them as masters; they are, therefore, called pedants. Some strut themselves like peacocks thinking they are beautiful and believe everyone is courting them. All this is extremely vain, foolish, insolent, and the glory based on such silly things is called vain, foolish, frivolous.

We know genuine goodness like we know genuine balm. We test the balm by pouring it in water. If it goes to the bottom and takes the lowest place it is judged to be the finest and most precious. Similarly to know whether a man is truly wise, learned, generous, noble, we ought to see whether his good qualities tend to humility, modesty and submission for then they will be really good. If they float on the surface and wish to show themselves then, the more showy they are, the less genuine will they be. Pearls conceived and nourished in wind and the noise of thunder are only shells devoid of substance.[114] in the same way, the virtues and the good qualities of men received and nourished in arrogance, boastfulness and vanity have only the appearance of good without sap, without marrow and without firmness.

honors, ranks and dignities are like saffron which grows better and flourishes when trampled underfoot. It is not an honor to be handsome when one is concerned about it. Beauty to be graceful must be unaffected. Knowledge dishonors us when it puffs us up and degenerates into pedantry. If we are bickering for ranks, precedence and titles, besides exposing our qualities to examination, investigation and conflict we make them mean and contemptible. honor received as a gift is excellent but becomes mean when exacted, sought after and demanded.

When the peacock spreads its tail to display itself raising its beautiful feathers, it ruffles up all the rest of its body and shows what is ugly on all sides. Flowers which are beautiful growing on the soil fade away when handled. Those who smell the mandrake from afar and for a short time sense its sweet fragrance but those who smell it too close and for a long time become drowsy and sick. So too honors give mild comfort to him who senses them from afar and lightly without loitering around them or eager for them. But those who are attached to them and indulge in them are very blameworthy and contemptible.

The quest for virtue and the love of it begins to make us virtuous. But the pursuit and love of honors begins to make us contemptible and blameworthy. The well-born are not interested in this petty jumble of ranks, honors and salutations as they have other things to do; such things belong to the idle. He who is able to procure pearls does not burden himself with shells. Similarly, those who are intent on virtue are not eager for honors. Certainly everyone may take his rank and keep it without harming humility provided it is done without attachment and contention.

Those who come from Peru bring, besides gold and silver, also monkeys and parrots because they cost them scarcely anything and do not burden their ships much. Thus those who aim at virtue do not cease to take their ranks and honors which are due to them provided each time it does not cost them much care and attention and it is done without trouble, anxiety, disputes and contentions. I am not speaking about those whose dignity concerns the public nor about the particular occasions of great consequence. For in such cases, everyone ought to preserve what belongs to him with prudence and discretion accompanied by charity and courtesy.

Chapter 5: Interior Humility

You desire, Philothea, that I lead you further in humility. For to do as I have already proposed is rather wisdom than humility; now I pass on further. Many neither wish nor dare to think and reflect upon the graces God has given them personally, for fear of vain glory and self-complacency. In this, they certainly deceive themselves. As the great Angelic Doctor[115] says, the true means of attaining to the love of God is the consideration of his blessings. The more we shall know them the more we shall love him. Since the gifts received personally move us more powerfully than those shared in common, they are also to be considered more attentively.

Nothing indeed can humble us so much before the mercy of God as the multitude of his benefits, and nothing can humble us so deeply before his justice as the multitude of our misdeeds. Let us consider what he has done for us and what we have done against him. As we consider in detail our sins so also let us reflect in detail on the graces he has given us. There is no need to fear that the knowledge of the gifts bestowed on us will make us proud provided we are attentive to truth that the good that is in us is not from us. Alas! the mules do not cease to be clumsy and disgusting beasts even when laden with the precious and perfumed goods of the prince. What good do we have that we have not received? If we have received then why are we proud (1 Cor 4:7)? On the contrary, a lively consideration of the graces received makes us humble, for recognition of them begets gratitude.

But if the knowledge of the graces God gave us arouses some kind of vanity in us, the sure remedy is to have recourse to the consideration of our ingratitude, our imperfections and our miseries. If we reflect on what we have done when God was not with us then we shall realize well that what we do, when he is with us is not our work or of our thinking. We shall be happy and we shall rejoice in our deeds because we have done them but we shall glorify God alone because he is their author. Thus the Holy Virgin proclaims that God has done great things for her but it is only to humble herself and glorify God: my soul, she says, exalts the Lord because he has done great things for me (Lk 1:46, 49).

We often say that we are nothing, that we are misery itself and the refuse of the world. But we would be very sorry if anyone took us at our word and made public that we are such. On the contrary, we make a show of running away and hiding ourselves so that we are pursued and sought after. We pretend to wish to be the last, and seated at the lower end of the table, but it is only to pass to the top with greater advantage. Genuine humility does not make a show of itself. It scarcely says words of humility because it does not only wish to hide the other virtues but also and especially seeks to hide itself. If it were lawful to lie, to pretend, or to scandalize one's neighbor, humility would produce arrogant and proud actions in order to hide itself under them and to live there altogether unknown and concealed.

My advice, then, Philothea is that either let us not use expressions of humility at all, or say them with true interior awareness in keeping with what we utter externally. Let us never lower our eyes without humbling our hearts. Let us not make a show of wanting to be the last unless we really wish it. Now I hold this rule as so universal that I do not allow any exception to it. I only add that courtesy requires that sometimes we offer precedence to those who will not accept it and this is not duplicity or false humility. Since the offer of precedence is only the beginning of honor, and we cannot give it to them entirely, we do no wrong in giving them its beginning. I say the same about certain words of honor or respect which strictly do not seem sincere. They are all the same true enough, provided the heart of the one who speaks has the right intention of honoring and respecting the person to whom they are addressed. Even though the words mean with a little excess what we say, we are not wrong in using them when the common custom requires it. Further I would wish that our words are as suited as possible to our feelings and we follow in everything and everywhere simplicity and sincerity of heart.

A truly humble person would like to be told that he is miserable, he is nothing, he is worthless, rather than he himself saying it. At least, if he knows that someone said it of him, he does not contradict it but accepts it with a good heart. For as he believes it, he is happy that others follow his own opinion about himself.

Many say that they leave mental prayer to the perfect and they themselves are not worthy to practice it. Some declare that they do not dare to receive Communion often because they do not feel themselves pure enough. Others say that they are afraid of bringing disgrace on devotion by practicing it because of their great misery and weakness. Others refuse to employ their talents in the service of God and neighbor, because they feel that they know their weakness. In fact, they are afraid of becoming proud if they are instruments of something good, and so while enlightening others, they would burn themselves out. All this is mere pretence and a kind of humility that is not only false but also malicious. by this means, they wish silently and subtly to find fault with the things of God or at all events to conceal self-love, love of their own opinion, their own moods and laziness, under the pretext of humility.

Ask of God for a sign in heaven above or in the depths of the sea below says the prophet Isaiah to the unhappy King Ahaz and he answers, No, I will not ask of him at all, I will not tempt the Lord (Is 7:11-12). The wicked man! He pretends to show great reverence for God. Under the color of humility, he excuses himself from aspiring to the grace which divine goodness offers him. But does he not see that it is pride to refuse God's wish to bestow grace upon us? We are obliged to receive the gifts of God and it is humility to obey and follow as closely as possible his desires. Now the desire of God is that we become perfect (Mt 5:48) uniting ourselves to him and imitating him as closely as we can. The proud man who trusts in himself has good reason for not undertaking anything. The humble man is all the more courageous, the more he realizes that he is powerless; the more he esteems himself worthless, the more daring he becomes, because he puts his whole trust in God who is pleased to exalt his almighty power in our weakness and manifest his mercy in our misery. Therefore we may dare all that is judged suitable for our progress by those who guide us.

To think that we know what we do not know is utter folly. To appear learned of topics we are well aware that we do not know is an intolerable vanity. As for me, just as I would not wish to pretend myself to be learned even if I knew the subject well, so too I would not like to play the ignorant. When charity requires it, we should communicate to our neighbor frankly and gently not only what is useful for his instruction but also what is useful for his consolation. For humility conceals and covers up virtues to preserve them but makes them appear when charity orders it for increasing, developing and perfecting them. In this, humility resembles a tree found in the island of Tylus. At night it shuts up and keeps its beautiful, rose-colored flowers closed and opens them up again at sunrise so that the inhabitants of the country say that these flowers sleep at night.[116] Thus humility covers and hides all our virtues and human perfections and never allows them to appear except for the sake of charity. Being a virtue not merely human but celestial, not merely moral but divine, charity is the true sun of virtues. Hence it always ought to have dominion over them. So humility which does harm to charity is undoubtedly false.

I would neither play the fool nor the wise man. For if humility prevents me from playing the wise man, simplicity and frankness prevent me likewise from playing the fool. If vanity is contrary to humility, duplicity, affectation and pretence are contrary to frankness and simplicity. If some great servants of God pretended to be fools in order to appear mean before the people, we must admire them and not imitate them. They had some very personal and extraordinary motives for doing such deeds. Hence no one must draw any conclusions for himself from them.

As to David, he danced and leaped before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:14, 16) a little more than ordinary decorum required. It was not because he wanted to make a fool of himself. Simply and without pretence he made use of external movements in proportion to the extraordinary and enormous joy he felt in his heart. It is true that when Michal, his wife, reproached him for it as a folly, he was not annoyed at seeing himself despised (2 Samuel 6:20-22). Thus persevering in the simple and genuine expression of his joy he bore witness to his happiness in bearing a little reproach for the sake of God. Consequently, I tell you that if you are held vile, mean and foolish by people for acts of simple, genuine devotion, then humility will make you rejoice over this happy contempt of which the cause is not in you but in those who despise you.

Chapter 6: Humility Makes Us Love Our Own Abjection

I proceed further, Philothea, and I advise you that in all circumstances and everywhere you must love your own abjection. But you say to me: What does it mean: love your own abjection? in Latin, abjection means humility and humility means abjection so that when Our Lady says in her sacred canticle, because he has regarded the humility of his servant, all generations shall call, her blessed, (Lk 1:48), she means that Our Lord has graciously looked upon her abjection, littleness, and lowliness to heap upon her graces and favors. All the same, there is difference between the virtue of humility and abjection. For abjection is the littleness, lowliness and meanness which is in us without our thinking of it. But the true virtue of humility is the real knowledge and voluntary recognition of our abjection.

The highest point of humility consists not only in the voluntary acknowledgement of our abjection but in loving it and taking pleasure in it. This is not due to any lack of courage and generosity. Rather, it is to exalt the divine Majesty and to esteem our neighbor all the more in comparison with ourselves. To this, I exhort you and, for a better understanding, know that among the evils we suffer some are abject and others honorable. Many adapt themselves to the honorable but scarcely anyone to the abject. You see a devout hermit in rags and shivering from cold. Everyone honors his torn habit and has compassion for his suffering. But if a poor artisan, a poor nobleman, a poor young lady is in the same state, people despise and mock them and thus their poverty is abject. A religious receives a harsh rebuke from the superior or a child from its father. All call this mortification, obedience, wisdom. Let a gentleman or a lady suffer the same treatment from someone, it will be termed cowardice and lack of spirit though accepted for the love of God. This also is another abject evil. A person has an ulcer on his arm and another on his face. The former has only the evil, the latter besides the evil has also contempt, disdain and abjection. Now I say that we are not only to love the evil by the virtue of patience but we are also to cherish the abjection by the virtue of humility.

Moreover, there are some virtues that are abject and some honorable: patience, gentleness, simplicity and humility itself are virtues which worldly people hold as mean and abject while they appreciate very much prudence, courage and generosity. Even among acts of one and the same virtue there are some which are held in contempt and others in honor. To give alms and to forgive insults are both acts of charity. The first is honored by everyone but the second is despised by the world. A young man or a young lady who will not fall in with the disorders of a dissolute group in order to speak, play, dance, drink and dress like the rest, will be ridiculed and criticized by others. Their modesty will be called either fanaticism or pretence: to love this is to love abjection. There is another type of abjection: when going to visit the sick, if I am sent to the most wretched, it will be an abjection for me in the eyes of the world; I will, therefore, love it. If I am sent to important persons, it is an abjection according to the spirit for there is not much merit or virtue in this. So I will love this abjection. by falling in the middle of the street, besides the hurt, we incur shame; we must love this abjection.

There are even faults in which there is no evil at all except the abjection. Humility does not require that we should commit them purposely but it does require that we do not worry about them when we have committed them: such are certain follies, incivilities and lapses which we ought to avoid before they are committed in order to keep up civility and prudence. We must also accept cheerfully the abjection which comes to us from them, when they have been committed and so practice humility. I say further that if I am led by anger or dissipation to say indecent words by which God and neighbor are offended, I will repent sincerely and will be extremely sorry for the offence. I will try to make reparation for it in the best way possible. At the same time, I will not fail to love the abjection and contempt incurred by me. If one could be separated from the other, I would earnestly reject sin and would humbly keep the abjection.

Although we love the abjection resulting from an evil, we should not fail to set right the evil which is the cause of it by suitable and lawful means, especially so when the evil is serious. If I have some ugly infection on the face, I will try to get healed without doing anything to make others forget the abjection I received from it. If I have made a mistake which offends no one, I will not excuse myself for it since it is still a defect even if it is not lasting. So I can only excuse myself for the abjection which it brings me and this humility does not permit. However, if by inadvertence or foolishness I offended or scandalized someone, I will repair the offence by some genuine apology in so far as the evil is lasting and charity obliges me to get rid of it. After all, it happens sometimes that charity demands that we remedy the abjection for the sake of our neighbor to whom our good name is necessary. In such cases in removing our abjection from the eyes of our neighbor to prevent him from being scandalized we should embrace and hide it in our hearts so that he is edified.

You wish to know, Philothea, which are the best abjections. I tell you plainly that the abjections most profitable to us and pleasing to God are those which happen to us by unforeseen events or by our condition in life. For we have not chosen these but received them such as God sent them to us whose choice is always better than our own. If they are to be chosen, then the greatest are the best. Those which are most contrary to our inclinations provided they correspond to our vocation are considered to be the greatest. To say it once and for all, our choice and election mars and lessens almost all our virtues. Who will give us the grace to be able to say with the great King: I chose to be abject in the house of God rather than dwell in the tabernacle of sinners (Ps 83:11). No one can do it, dear Philothea, except he who in order to exalt us lived and died in such a way that he was the reproach of men and an abjection among the people (Ps 21:7).

I have told you many things which will appear quite hard to you when you consider them. But, believe me, they will be sweeter than sugar and honey when you practice them.

Chapter 7: How to Preserve Our Good Name While Practising Humility

Praise, honor and glory are not given to men for ordinary virtue but for outstanding virtue. For by praise we wish to persuade others to appreciate the excellence of someone. by honor, we declare that we ourselves esteem him. In my opinion, glory is nothing else than a certain brilliance of reputation which flows from a combination of many praises and honors. In fact honors and praises are like precious stones from the accumulation of which glory shines forth like that of a sparkling enamel.

Now humility does not allow us to have any desire of excelling others or of having the right to be preferred to others. It will not permit us to seek after praise, honor and glory which are due only to excellence. But it agrees with the warning of the Wise man who admonishes us to have care for our good name (Sirach 41:15) because good name is an esteem not of excellence but only of a simple honesty and integrity of life. Humility does not prevent us from recognizing them in ourselves and as a consequence desiring a reputation for it. It is true that humility would despise a good name if charity had no need of it. However, a good name is one of the foundations of human society and without it we are not only useless but harmful to the public because of the scandal it would cause. Charity requires and humility agrees that we must desire to have it and preserve it preciously.

The leaves of trees are of no great value in themselves. All the same they are of great use not only to beautify the trees but also to protect the fruits when they are still tender. So too, a good name not very desirable as such is very useful. It not only adorns our life but also preserves our virtues, especially those which are tender and weak. The duty of keeping our good name, and being such as we are esteemed, urges on us a generous courage and a powerful and gentle violence. Let us preserve our virtues, my dear Philothea, because they are pleasing to God, the great and sovereign object of all our actions. Those who want to preserve fruits are not satisfied with covering them with sugar but put them in jars suitable for their preservation. In the same way, although divine love is the principal preservative of our virtues, we can still make use of our good name as very suitable and useful for that purpose.

However, we are not to be very eager, exacting and too formal in preserving our good name. For those who are very touchy and sensitive about their reputation resemble those who take medicines for every little discomfort. While thinking of preserving their health, they ruin it utterly. In the same manner, those who wish to keep their reputation with such concern lose it entirely. by such touchiness they render themselves queer, obstinate, unbearable and provoke the malice of detractors. Disregard and contempt of the insult and calumny is usually a much more wholesome remedy than resentment, strife and revenge. Contempt makes them vanish, but if we become angry we seem to admit them.

Crocodiles harm only those who fear them and similarly calumny hurts only those who are troubled about it. The excessive fear of losing our good name indicates a great lack of confidence about its foundation which is the genuineness of a good life. Towns that have wooden bridges over large rivers fear that they will be carried away by any sort of flood. Those that have stone bridges are troubled only about extraordinary floods. In like manner, those who have a solid christian spirit generally despise the floods of insulting tongues. Those who feel themselves weak are disturbed at every instance. Philothea, he who wishes to be esteemed by all, loses the esteem of all. He deserves to lose his honor who wishes to be esteemed by those whose vices make them truly infamous and dishonored.

Reputation is like a signboard which indicates where virtue resides. Virtue then, should be preferred always and everywhere. Therefore, if they say: You are a hypocrite because you are devout, if they think of you to be a man of little courage because you have pardoned an insult, you just laugh at it. Moreover, such judgments are made by silly and foolish people. Even if we are to lose our good name, we are not to leave virtue or turn away from the path of virtue. In fact, fruits are to be preferred to leaves, that is, interior and spiritual good to all the external. We should be jealous but not idolaters of our good name. Just as we should not offend the eyes of the good, so too we should not wish to satisfy those of the malicious.

The beard is an ornament on the face of a man and the hair on the head of a woman. If the beard is plucked out by the root from the chin and the hair from the head, they will hardly grow again. But if it is only cut or shaven close, it will soon grow again stronger and thicker than before. Thus even if our good name is cut off or even shaved away altogether by the tongue of detractors, which David says is like a sharp razor (Ps 51:2), we should not be disturbed at it. It will spring up again not only as beautiful as before but also stronger. If our vices, evil deeds and evil life destroy our reputation it will be more difficult than before for it to grow up again because it is uprooted. For the root of a good name is goodness and integrity. As long as the root is in us, it can always regain the honor which is due to it.

We must give up this vain conversation, this useless practice, this frivolous friendship, this foolish intimacy if they hurt our good name. For a good reputation is better than all kinds of empty satisfactions. If they murmur, grumble and slander against the exercises of piety, growth in devotion and progress towards our eternal good, let us leave them to bark at the moon.[117] If they can raise some bad opinion against our reputation and thus cut off and shave the hair and beard of our good name, they will soon grow up again. The razor of slander will serve our honor, as the pruning knife increases and multiplies the fruit of the vine.

Let us always fix our eyes on Jesus Christ crucified. Let us go forward in his service with confidence and simplicity, with wisdom and discretion. He will be the protector of our good name and if he allows it to be taken away from us, either it will be to give us a better one or to make us progress in holy humility of which one ounce is better than thousand pounds of honor. If we are unjustly blamed, let us peacefully oppose calumny with the truth. If it lasts, let us continue to humble ourselves, thus entrusting our reputation and ourselves into the hands of God. We will never be able to secure it better.

Let us serve God in good and bad reputation (2 Cor 6:8) following the example of St. Paul so that we can say with David, O My God, it is for you that I have borne reproach, and confusion has covered my face (Ps 68:8). I except, however, certain crimes so atrocious and infamous regarding which no one should endure calumny and slander and if possible acquit himself of them. I except also some persons of good reputation on whom the edification of many depend. In such cases, following the opinion of theologians, we must tranquilly ask for the reparation of the wrong done.

Chapter 8: Gentleness towards Our neighbor and Remedies for Anger

The holy charism used in the Church of God for confirmations and consecrations following apostolic tradition is composed of olive oil mixed with balm. Among other things it represents the two favorite and beloved virtues which shone forth in the Sacred Person of our Lord. He has particularly recommended them to us to indicate that through them our hearts are to be specially consecrated to his service and dedicated to his imitation: Learn of me, he says, for I am gentle and humble of heart (Mt 11:29). Humility makes us perfect towards God and gentleness towards our neighbor. The balm, which as I mentioned earlier always sinks to the bottom more than all other liquids, symbolizes humility. Olive oil, which always floats on the surface, symbolizes gentleness and kindness which being the flower of charity rises above all things and is outstanding among virtues. According to St. Bernard charity reaches its perfection when it is not only patient but also gentle and meek.

Take care, Philothea, that this mystical charism made up of gentleness and humility is within your heart. For it is one of the great tricks of the enemy to make many people satisfied with words and the external appearances of these two virtues. Those who do not examine well their interior dispositions imagine themselves to be humble and gentle though in practice they are not. We recognize them to be such because in spite of their ceremonious gentleness and humility, they burst out with unparalleled arrogance at the least offensive word or at the least insult they receive. It is said that those who have taken the preventive commonly known as the grace of St. Paul do not suffer from inflammations when bitten and stung by a viper provided the preventive is of excellent quality.[118] So too when humility and gentleness are good and authentic we are guaranteed against the inflammations and passions which insults usually provoke in our hearts. When bitten and stung by detractors and enemies, if we become proud, puffed up and vexed, it is a sure sign that our humility and gentleness were not genuine and sincere but artificial and apparent.

The holy and illustrious patriarch Joseph while sending his brothers from Egypt back to his father's house gave them only this one advice: Do not become angry on the way (Gen 45:24). I say the same to you Philothea: this miserable life is only a progressive journey to the happy life to come. Therefore let us not be angry at all with one another on the way. Let us walk in the company of our brothers and companions gently, peacefully and kindly. Further, I tell you very plainly and without any exception: do not become angry at all if that is possible. Do not accept any pretext whatever to open the door of your heart to anger. For St. James says bluntly and without reservation that the anger of man does not work the justice of God (1:20).

We ought, indeed, to resist the evil and restrain the vices of those in our charge constantly and courageously but gently and peacefully. Nothing calms down an angry elephant so quickly as the sight of a little lamb and nothing breaks the force of cannon balls so easily as wool. We do not accept correction given in anger, even though reasonable, so well as the one that has no other origin than reason alone. For the rational soul is naturally subject to reason and is subject to passion only through tyranny. Reason accompanied by passion becomes odious, its rightful dominion being degraded by its association with tyranny.

The princes bring incomparable honor and comfort to people when they visit them with a peaceful retinue. But when they come with armies, though for the welfare of the people, their visits are always disagreeable and harmful. Even though they enforce the exact observance of military discipline on the soldiers, they cannot, however, do it so effectively that no disorder occurs in which a good civilian is oppressed. In the same way, when reason governs and peacefully administers punishments, corrections and admonitions, everyone loves and approves it even though it is done strictly and exactly. But when reason brings with it anger, fury and wrath which, according St. Augustine, are its soldiers, it renders itself more terrifying than lovable; the very heart of reason remains always oppressed and ill-treated. The same St. Augustine says in writing to Profuturus:

It is better to deny entry to just and reasonable anger rather than welcome it, however small it may be. Because once it is let in, it is difficult to drive it out; in so far as it enters as a little shoot and in no time grows and becomes a tree.

If once our anger can gain the night and the sun sets over our anger (which the Apostle forbids, Eph 4:26) it turns itself into hatred. There is hardly any means of getting rid of it. For it nourishes itself on a thousand false pretexts since no angry man ever thinks his anger to be unjust.

It is better to learn to live without anger than to try to make a wise and moderate use of anger. When we find ourselves surprised by it due to our imperfection or weakness, it is better to repel it promptly than to bargain with it. Even in the little delay offered to it, it makes itself mistress of the place, like the serpent which draws easily the whole of its body where it can put in its head. But you will ask: how can I repel it? You should, my dear Philothea, at the very first feeling of anger gather promptly all your strength not too roughly or impetuously but gently and yet seriously. We often see, in the sessions of several senates and parliaments, that the ushers crying out "Silence" make more noise than those whom they want to silence. So too it happens many a time that, by trying to repress anger violently, we stir up more agitation in our hearts than anger itself would have done. The heart thus agitated can no longer be master of itself.

After this gentle effort, put into practice the advice given by St. Augustine in his old age to the young bishop Auxilius:

Do what a man should do. If what the man of God says in the Psalm happens to you: My eye is troubled with great anger, have recourse to God crying: Have mercy on me Lord (Ps 30:10) so that he may stretch his right hand to restrain your anger.

I mean that , when we see ourselves agitated by anger, we must implore the help of God, following the example of the Apostles tossed about by the wind and the storm in the midst of the waters (Mt 8:24-26). For he will command our passions to be still and there will be a great calm. But I wish to make you aware that the prayer which is made against a present, pressing anger ought to be gentle, tranquil and not violent. This is to be followed in all the remedies we use against this evil.

Moreover, as soon as you perceive that you have acted with anger, make reparation for the fault by a prompt act of gentleness towards the same person against whom you were irritated. For just as the best remedy against lying is to disown it as soon as we become aware of it, in like manner, it is a good remedy against anger to correct it instantly through a contrary act of gentleness; as they say, fresh wounds are easily healed.

Besides, when you are at peace and without any anger make a great provision of gentleness and kindness. Do this by saying all your words and doing all your actions both small and great with the utmost gentleness possible. Recall to mind that the Spouse of the Song of Songs has honey not only on her lips and at the tip of the tongue but has it also under the tongue, that is to say in her breast; not only honey is there but also milk (4:11). For we should have not only kind, words for our neighbor but also the whole heart, that is, the whole interior of our soul. We should not only have the sweetness of honey which is aromatic and fragrant, in other words, the sweetness of polite conversation with strangers but also the sweetness of milk among the members of our family and close neighbors. Those who seem to be angels in public fail in this by being devils at home.

Chapter 9: Gentleness towards Ourselves

One of the excellent practices of gentleness which we could learn to do is never to be vexed at ourselves or against our imperfections. Its subject is we ourselves. Even though it is reasonable that we must be sorry and displeased when we commit some faults, yet we must refrain from a harsh, vexed, gloomy and angry displeasure. Many make a great mistake in this regard. When they are overcome by anger, they become angry at being angry, vexed at being vexed, fretful at being fretful. by this means, they keep their hearts steeped and soaked in anger. Although it may seem that the second anger destroys the first, all the same, it serves as an opening and a passage for fresh anger at the first occasion which presents itself. Moreover, these vexations, harshness and anger which we have against ourselves tend to pride. They have no other origin than self-love which is disturbed and anxious at seeing ourselves imperfect.

We must have a peaceful, calm and firm displeasure at our faults. A judge punishes the criminals rightly by passing his judgments guided by reason and in a spirit of tranquillity. It is not so when he does it with passion and impetuosity. In judging with passion, he does not chastise the faults as they are but in so far as he is himself. Even so, we correct ourselves much better through calm, abiding repentance and not through harsh, eager and angry repentance. In so far as this repentance is made with violence it is not according to the seriousness of our faults but according to our inclinations. For example, he who is fond of chastity will regret with unparalleled bitterness even the least fault he commits against it. But he will only smile at a serious detraction he has committed. On the contrary, he who hates calumny will torture himself for murmuring a little. But he will not take into account a serious sin he committed against chastity; and so too for other sins. The same will be the attitude towards other things too, in so far as the judgement of conscience is not made by reason but by passion.

Believe me, Philothea, the correction made by a father gently and with love has much more power to correct the child than one made with anger and fury. So too when our heart has committed some fault we must correct it with gentle, calm remonstrances, with more compassion for it than anger against it, encouraging it to amendment. Thus the repentance it will form will sink in much more and penetrate more deeply than a fretful angry, stormy repentance.

As for myself, if I had, for example, taken great care not to fall into the vice of vanity and yet fell deeply into it, I would not like to correct my heart in the following manner: 'Are you not wretched and abominable that after so many resolutions you allowed yourself to be carried away by vanity? Die of shame, do not raise your eyes to heaven, you blind, shameless, traitor disloyal to your God'; and similar expressions. But I would like to correct it reasonably by means of compassion: "Alas! my poor heart, here we are fallen again into the ditch which we had so firmly decided to avoid. Let us get up and leave it for ever. Let us entreat the mercy of God and hope that henceforth it will help us to be firm; let us return to the path of humility. Courage, henceforth let us be on our guard. God will help us and we shall do better." I would like to build up a firm and solid resolution never to fall into the same fault taking suitable means for this and following likewise the opinion of the spiritual director.

In case, anyone find that his heart is not sufficiently moved by this gentle correction, he may make use of a reproach and a severe and stern rebuke to arouse a profound sorrow. Make sure that after such a harsh reprimand and challenge you end with relief concluding all regret and anger with a gentle and holy confidence in God. Let us thus imitate that great penitent who, seeing his soul afflicted aroused it in this way: Why are you sad, O my soul, and why do you trouble me? Hope in God for I will praise him still as the salvation of my countenance and my true God (Ps 41, 42:5).

Raise your heart, then, whenever it falls, very gently humbling yourself profoundly before God for the knowledge of your misery. Do not be in the least surprised at your fall since it is not astonishing that infirmity is infirm, weakness is weak and misery is wretched. Nevertheless, detest with all your strength the offence God has received from you. with great courage and confidence in his mercy, put yourself back on the path of virtue which you had forsaken.

Chapter 10: Managing Our Affairs with Great Care But without Eagerness Or Anxiety

The care and diligence we should have in our affairs are quite different from solicitude, anxiety and eagerness. The Angels are concerned about our salvation and they obtain it with diligence but they do not have solicitude, anxiety or eagerness. Care and diligence flow from their charity but solicitude, anxiety and eagerness would be entirely contrary to their happiness. For care and diligence may be accompanied by peace and tranquility of spirit but not solicitude or anxiety and much less eagerness. Be careful and diligent, Philothea, in all your affairs of which you are in charge, since God who entrusted them to you desires that you take great care of them. But if it is possible, be not solicitous or anxious about them, that is, do not undertake them with restlessness, anxiety and eagerness. Do not be eager at work because every kind of eagerness disturbs reason and judgement. It even prevents us from doing well the very things of which we are too eager.

When Our Lord corrects St. Martha he says: Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things (Lk 10:41). You see, if she had been simply careful, she would not have been troubled at all. As she was anxious and disturbed she was in a hurry and was troubled. It is about this that Our Lord corrects her. The rivers flowing gently through the plains carry along large boats and rich merchandise. Rains falling gently on fields make them plentiful in grass and grain. But streams and rivers with strong currents rush through the land, ruin their neighborhood and are useless for navigation. Likewise heavy showers and tempests ravage fields and meadows.

Never was work done well with vehemence and in a hurry. As the ancient proverb has it, we must hasten gently. He who hurries up, says Solomon, runs the risk of stumbling and hurting his feet (Prov 19:2). We always do fast enough when we do well. Drones make much more noise and are more in a hurry than the bees but they make only wax and no honey.[119] Thus those who rush around with tormenting anxiety and noisy solicitude do neither much nor well.

Flies do not trouble us by their strength but by their number. Accept your affairs in peace as they come and strive to do them in order, one after another. For if you wish to do them all at once or in disorder, the efforts you make will crush and exhaust your spirit. Thus you will remain usually overburdened, under pressure and ineffectual.

In all your affairs, rely entirely on the providence of God through which alone all your plans succeed. All the same, on your part strive very gently to cooperate with it. Then believe that if you trust well in God, success will come to you. It will be more useful for you, whether it seems good or bad to you according to your particular way of judging.

Do as little children who with one hand hold fast to the hand of their father and with the other gather strawberries or blackberries along the hedges. In the same manner, while gathering and managing the goods of this world with one hand, hold fast with the other to the hand of your heavenly Father, turning to him from time to time to see if your actions or occupations are pleasing to him. Take care, above all, that you do not leave his hand and protection thinking of collecting and gathering more. For if he abandons you, you would not take even a single step without falling flat on your face to the ground. I mean, Philothea, that amidst your ordinary affairs and occupations which do not require a strict and earnest attention, you look more at God than at your affairs. When matters of great importance are at hand, that require all your attention to do them well, you look at God from time to time, as sailors do, who in order to reach the land they desire look more at the sky above than on the ocean below where they sail. Thus God will work with you, in you and for you and your work will be followed by consolation.

Chapter 11: Obedience

Charity alone establishes us in perfection. But obedience, chastity and poverty are the three great means of acquiring perfection. Obedience consecrates our will, chastity our body and poverty our material possessions, all to the love and service of God. These are the three branches of the spiritual cross, all the three, however, based on a fourth which is humility. I shall not say anything about these three virtues in so far as they are vowed solemnly nor even in so far as they are vowed simply, because they concern the religious. Although the vow gives many graces and much merit to every virtue, yet to make us perfect, it is not necessary to take the vows but to practice them.

If the vows are taken, especially the solemn vows, they place a person in the state of perfection. Yet, to make him perfect, it is enough to practice them. Still there is a difference between the state of perfection[120] and perfection itself: all the bishops and religious are in the state of perfection though they are not perfect as it is but too plainly seen. Let us then strive, Philothea, to practice these three virtues well, each one of us according to one's own state of life.[121] Although they do not place us in the state of perfection, yet they will lead us to perfection itself. In fact, all of us are obliged to practice these three virtues, though not all in the same manner.

There are two kinds of obedience, one necessary and the other voluntary. by necessary obedience, you should humbly obey your ecclesiastical superiors such as the Pope, the Bishop, your parish priest and those who have been authorized by them. You have to obey the civil authorities: your Prince and the officers he has appointed over your country. You have to obey your household superiors: your father, mother, master, mistress. This obedience is called necessary because no one can exempt himself from the duty of obeying these superiors since God has given them authority to command and govern, each one in the area he has charge over us. Do then what they command you as of necessity.

But to be perfect, follow also their counsels, even their desire and inclinations in so far as charity and prudence will permit. Obey them when they order you pleasant things such as eating and taking recreation; for although it appears to be not a great virtue to obey in this case, however, it would be a great wrong to disobey. Obey in indifferent things like wearing such or such a garment, going by one way or another, singing or being silent, and this will be a very praiseworthy form of obedience. Obey in unpleasant, severe and difficult things and this will be a perfect obedience. In short, obey gently without retort, promptly without delay and cheerfully without murmuring. Above all obey lovingly for the love of him who for the love of us made himself obedient till death on the cross (Phil 2:8). About him, St. Bernard says, he chose to lose life rather than obedience.

In order to learn to obey your superiors easily, comply readily with the will of your equals giving in to their opinions in what is not evil without being quarrelsome or obstinate. Accommodate yourself willingly to the wishes of your inferiors, in so far as reason permits it, and so long as they are good without exercising any domineering authority. It is an error to believe that we would obey easily if we were men or women religious, when we find it difficult and hard to render obedience to those whom God has placed over us.

We term voluntary obedience that to which we bind ourselves by our own choice and which is in no way imposed on us by another. We usually do not choose our prince and bishop, father and mother; often women do not even choose their husbands. However, we choose our own confessor and director. Now in choosing him either we make a vow to obey him (as it is told of Mother Teresa that besides obedience solemnly vowed to the superior of her Order, she bound herself by a simple vow to obey Fr.Gratian) or without a vow we dedicate ourselves to obey someone. This obedience is always called voluntary since it has its basis on our will and choice.

We must obey all our superiors, each one, however, according to the particular charge he has over us. We must obey our princes as regards administration and public affairs, bishops in ecclesiastical matters; father or mother, master or husband in household affairs. For our individual guidance we obey our particular spiritual director and confessor.

Get your spiritual exercises, which you ought to practice, enjoined by your spiritual father because they will be the better for it. Thus they will have a twofold grace and goodness: one from the deeds themselves because they are spiritual, and the other from obedience which ordered them and in virtue of which they are performed. Blessed are the obedient, for God will never let them go astray.

Chapter 12: The Necessity of Chastity

Chastity is the lily of virtues. It renders men almost equal to the Angels. Nothing is beautiful except by purity and the purity of men is chastity. We term chastity as honesty and the profession of it honor. It is called integrity and its opposite corruption. In short it has its own glory all apart to be the beautiful and fair virtue of the soul and body.

It is never permitted to derive any sexual pleasure from our bodies in any way whatsoever except in lawful marriage. The sanctity of marriage repairs through a just compensation the loss suffered in such pleasure. Even in marriage, the purity of intention is to be kept so that, if there is some unseemliness in the pleasure that is taken, there is nothing but honesty in the will which takes it. The chaste heart is like the pearl oyster which cannot receive any drop of water that does not come down from heaven.[122] It cannot, indeed take any other pleasure than that of marriage which is ordained by heaven. Outside of marriage, it is not even permitted to think of such pleasure with a voluptuous, voluntary and deliberately entertained thought.

For the first degree of this virtue take care, Philothea, that you do not admit any kind of sexual pleasure which is forbidden and prohibited. Such are all those taken outside marriage or even those within marriage taken against the laws of marriage. For the second degree, restrain yourself as far as possible from useless and super-fluous delights although lawful and permitted. For the third degree, do not set your affections on sensual pleasures that are commanded and enjoined. Though it is necessary to take such delights, that is, which concern the end and institution of holy marriage, all the same, the heart and mind must not be attached to them.

For the rest, each one has great need of this virtue. Widows ought to have a courageous chastity: it should hold in contempt not only present and future objects but resist also the imaginations which pleasures lawfully taken in marriage may produce in their minds. For this reason they are more liable to impure allurements. In this regard, St. Augustine admires the purity of his dear friend Alypius[123] who had completely forgotten and despised the carnal pleasures which he had, however, sometimes experienced in his youth. In fact, fresh fruits can be preserved some in straw, some in sand, and some in their own leaves. But once damaged it is impossible to keep them except in conserves with honey and sugar. Thus chastity which is not hurt or violated can be kept in many ways, but once it has been impaired only fervent devotion may preserve it. As I have often said devotion is the genuine honey and sugar of the spirit.

The virgins have need of an extremely simple and delicate chastity to banish from their hearts all kinds of curious thoughts and to despise with an absolute contempt all kinds of impure pleasures. In truth such pleasures do not deserve to be desired by men because they are more fitting for asses and swine. Hence, let those who are pure guard against ever doubting that chastity is incomparably better than anything which is inconsistent with it. For, as the great St. Jerome says, the enemy violently urges virgins to the desire of tasting such pleasures, representing them as immensely more pleasant and delightful than they actually are. This often troubles them very much, "since," this saintly Father says, "they esteem to be very sweet what they do not know."

The little moth seeing the flame, curiously flutters around it to find out if it is as sweet as it seems to be beautiful; urged by this fantasy, it does not stop till it is lost in the first attempt. In the same way, young persons often allow themselves to be obsessed by such false and foolish imaginations that they have of the pleasures of voluptuous flames; after many curious thoughts they finally plunge into ruin and perish in it. In this, they are more foolish than moths which have some cause for thinking that the fire is delicious since it is beautiful. The young persons, knowing that what they seek is extremely immodest, still do not cease from overestimating these senseless and animal delights.

But as regards those who are married, it is a fact that chastity is very necessary for them, even though common people may not think so. For the married, chastity does not consist in abstaining completely from carnal pleasures but observing moderation amidst such pleasures. Now this commandment, Be angry and do not sin (Ps 4:4) is, in my opinion, more difficult than the other: do not be angry at all. Avoiding anger is easier than regulating it. Even so, it is easier to keep oneself away from carnal pleasures than to keep moderation in them. It is true that the holy liberty of marriage has a special power to extinguish the fire of concupiscence, but the weakness of those who enjoy them passes easily from permission to licence and from use to abuse.

Just as we see many rich people steal, not due to necessity but avarice, so also we see many married people given up to intemperance and lewdness in spite of the lawful object at which they should and could stop. Their concupiscence is like a wild fire which burns here and there without limiting itself to any one place. It is always dangerous to take very strong medicines because if one takes more than is necessary, or if it is not well-prepared, much harm is done. Marriage was blessed and ordained partly as a remedy for concupiscence. Undoubtedly, it is a very good remedy but nonetheless very strong and, as a consequence, very dangerous if it is not reasonably used.

I add that a variety of human affairs, besides long sickness, often separate the husbands from their wives. Therefore the married need two kinds of chastity: one of absolute abstinence, when they are separated occasionally as I have just mentioned; the other of moderation when they are together in their day to day life. Indeed St. Catherine of Sienna saw among the damned many souls greatly tormented for violating the sanctity of marriage. "What happened", she said, "was not due to the mere seriousness of the sin, for murders and blasphemies are even more enormous, but in so far as those who commit it do not make it a matter of conscience and consequently continue in it for a long time."

You see, then, that chastity is necessary for every class of people. Follow peace with all, says the Apostle, and holiness without which no one shall see God (Heb 11:14). Now by holiness, he understands chastity, as St. Jerome and St. Chrysostom have observed. No, Philothea, no one will see God without chastity, no one will stay in his holy tabernacle (Ps 15:1) who is not pure of heart (Ps 24:4) and as the Savior himself said, the dogs and the impure will be banished from it (Rev 22:15), and "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8).

Chapter 13: Counsels for Preserving Chastity

Be extremely prompt to turn away from all the tendencies and all the attractions of lust. In fact, this evil acts in an imperceptible manner. It advances from small beginnings and leads to great misfortunes. It is always easier to run away from it than to heal it.

The human bodies are like glasses which cannot be carried together, one touching the other, without running the risk of breaking them. They are like ripe and well-seasoned fruits which receive some damage by touching each other. Even water, however fresh it may be in a vessel, when touched by any animal cannot keep its freshness for long. Do not allow anyone, Philothea, to touch you in an unbecoming manner either playfully or out of fondness. Although chastity may perhaps be preserved among these actions, rather thoughtless than malicious, yet the freshness and flowering of chastity always receive some damage and loss. But to allow oneself to be touched immodestly is the total ruin of chastity.

Chastity depends on the heart for its source and on the body as its subject. Hence it may be lost by all the external senses of the body and by the thoughts and desires of the heart. It is unchastity to look at, hear, speak, smell, and touch immodest objects when the heart rejoices and takes pleasure in it. St. Paul says bluntly: Let not fornication be even named among you (Eph 5:3). The bees not only dislike to touch dead bodies but flee from and hate extremely every kind of stench that comes from it. The sacred Spouse of the Song of Songs has her hands dripping with myrrh (5:5), a liquid that preserves from corruption. Her lips are fastened with a red ribbon (4:3), a sign of modesty in words. Her eyes are those of the dove (4:1), on account of their clearness. Her ears have earrings of gold (1:10), a symbol of purity. Her nose is like the cedars of Lebanon (7:4), an incorruptible wood. Such should be the devout soul: chaste, clean and pure in hands, lips, ears, eyes and in the whole body.

About this I recall the words which the ancient Father John Cassian relates as coming from the mouth of the great St. Basil. He once said about himself: "I do not know anything of women, all the same I am not a virgin." Indeed chastity may be lost in as many ways as there are different sorts of immodesty and wantonness. In so far as they are great or small, some make chastity weak, others wound it and still others make it die completely. There are some indiscreet, immodest, sensual intimacies and passions which strictly speaking do not violate chastity but weaken it, make it languishing and tarnish its brightness. There are other familiarities and passions not only indiscreet but vicious, not merely foolish but immodest, not only sensual but carnal. by these chastity is at least severely wounded an endangered. I say: at least, because it dies and perishes completely when immodesty and lust give the body the final effects of voluptuous pleasure. In this manner, then, chastity perishes more unworthily, wickedly and unhappily than when it is lost thorough fornication, adultery or incest. For these latter species of vileness are simply sins but others are, as Tertullian says in his book On Chastity "monsters" of iniquity and sin. Now Cassian does not believe, neither do I, that St. Basil had such dissoluteness when he accuses himself of not being a virgin. For I think that he was referring only to impure and voluptuous thoughts. Even though they had not defiled his body yet they had stained the chastity of his heart of which those who are generous are very jealous.

Do not frequent immodest persons especially if they are also shameless of being immodest, as they are almost always. The he-goats touching sweet almond trees with their tongues make them bitter.[124] Similarly these depraved persons with corrupt hearts can scarcely speak to anyone, either of the same or of the opposite sex, without causing them to fall off from chastity to some extent. They have poison in their eyes and breath like basilisks.[125] Hence associate with chaste and virtuous persons. often think and read about sacred things, because the word of God is chaste (Ps 119:9) and renders chaste those who delight in it. David compares it to topaz (Ps 119:127) a precious stone which has the power to weaken the heart of concupiscence.

Keep yourself always close to Jesus Christ crucified both spiritually through meditation and really by Holy Communion. Those who lie on the herb agnus castus become chaste and modest. [126] Even so by resting your heart on our Lord, who is the true chaste and immaculate Lamb, you will see that your soul and heart will soon find themselves purified of all defilement and unchastity.

Chapter 14: The Poverty of Spirit to Be Practiced Amidst Riches

Happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God (Mt 5:3). Accursed then are the rich in spirit for theirs is the misery of hell. He is rich in spirit who has riches in his spirit or his spirit in riches. He is poor in spirit who has neither riches in his spirit nor his spirit in riches. The halcyons make their nests like the closed palm of the hand and leave only a small opening from the top. They put them on the seashore and yet they remain so strong and impenetrable that, even when washed by the waves, water never enters them. Thus always floating, they remain in the midst of the sea, on the sea and masters of the sea.[127] Your heart, Philothea, is to be like that, open only to heaven, impenetrable to riches and perishable things. If you have them, keep your heart free from attachment to them. Let it always remain above riches, and in the midst of riches, let it be without riches and master of riches. No, do not put this heavenly spirit within earthly goods. Let it always be their master, above them and not in them.

There is always a difference between, keeping poison and being poisoned. The pharmacists almost all keep poisons, to make use of them in different circumstances. But they are not for that matter poisoned because they do not have poison in their bodies but only in their shops. So too you can own riches without being poisoned by them. Such will be the case, if you have them in your house, or in your purse, and not in your heart. To be rich actually and poor in affection for riches is the great happiness of the Christian. For he has by this means the benefits of the riches for this world and the merit of poverty for the next.

Alas, Philothea, no one will ever acknowledge himself to be covetous. Everyone disowns this meanness and pettiness of heart. They excuse themselves under the pretext of the urgent care of children or the prudence which demands that they are well-established in resources. They never have too much. They always find the need to have more. Even the most avaricious, not only do not admit themselves to be such, but do not even think in their conscience of being such. For avarice is a raging fever which becomes all the more imperceptible, the more violent and burning it is. Moses saw the sacred fire which was burning the bush and yet did not consume it (Exodus 3:2). On the contrary the profane fire of avarice devours and consumes the covetous but does not burn him in any way. In the midst of the ardour and excessive heat of avarice, he boasts of the most gentle coolness of the world. He thinks that his insatiable craving is a completely natural and sweet thirst.

If you desire for long, ardently and anxiously, the goods which you do not have, it is useless to say that you do not wish them unjustly for even so you will not cease to be truly avaricious. He who desires for long, ardently and anxiously to drink, even though he wishes to drink only water, shows signs of fever.

Dear Philothea, I do not know whether it is a just desire to wish to have justly what another possesses justly. For it seems that by this desire we wish to take advantage of the inconvenience of another. Has the one, who possesses property justly, more reason to keep it justly than for us to desire to possess it justly? Why then do we extend our desire over his possession to deprive him of it? Even if this desire is just, it is certainly not charitable. In fact, we would not like that anyone else desire even justly what we wish to keep justly. This was the sin of Ahab who wished to have the vineyard of Naboth justly while Naboth wished to keep it still more justly: Ahab desired it ardently, anxiously and for long and thus he offended God (1 Kings 21:2-3). Wait, dear Philothea, to desire what your neighbor possesses till he begins to wish to get rid of it, because his desire will render yours not only just but charitable. Yes, I wish that you have the care to increase your resources and wealth, provided that it is done not only with justice but also with gentleness and charity.

If you are too attached to the goods you possess, if you are too occupied with them, setting your heart on them, concentrating your thoughts on them, and fearing with a lively anxious fear of losing them, believe me, you have still some kind of fever. For those who suffer from fever, drink the water given to them with a certain eagerness, as well as earnestness and satisfaction, which the healthy do not usually have. It is not possible to take great pleasure in a thing to which one does not give much love.

Do not desire with a full and earnest longing the wealth you do not have. Do not fix your heart deeply on what you have. Do not be distressed at the losses sustained. Then you have some reason to believe that, being rich in reality, you are not rich in affection, but you are poor in spirit, and consequently blessed, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to you (Mt 5:3).

Chapter 15: How to practice Real Poverty While Remaining Rich

The painter Parrhasius painted the people of Athens in a very ingenious way representing their different and changing moods: angry, unjust, fickle, courteous, mild, merciful, haughty, glorious, humble, audacious and timid, all these in one. But, dear Philothea, I would like to put into your heart both riches and poverty together, a great care and a great indifference for temporal things.

Have much greater care than the worldly people to make your wealth useful and profitable. Tell me, are not the gardeners of the great princes more careful and diligent in cultivating and beautifying the gardens they have in their charge than if they were their own? But why is this so? Certainly, they think of these gardens as the gardens of princes and kings. They like to make themselves acceptable to them by these services. Dear Philothea, the possessions which we have, are not our own. God has given them to us to develop and wants that we make them profitable and useful and thus render him loving service in taking care of them. This care, then, ought to be greater and more dedicated than that worldly men have for their possessions. For they are busy only for love of themselves but we must work for the love of God. As self-love is a violent, agitated, eager love, so too the care taken for it is full of trouble, vexation and anxiety. As the love of God is gentle, peaceful and tranquil the care which proceeds from it, though it is for the goods of the world, is kind, gentle and considerate.

Let us then have this considerate care for the preservation of our temporal goods, and even for their increase when a just occasion presents itself and in so far as our situation demands it. For God wishes us to do so out of love for him. But take care that self-love does not deceive you, because sometimes it imitates the love of God so well that it would appear to be genuine. To prevent it from deceiving us, and the care of temporal goods from degenerating itself into avarice, besides what I have said in the preceding Chapter, we should often practice well real and effectual poverty in the midst of all the possessions and riches God has given us.

Give up always a part of your resources by giving them to the poor with a generous heart. To give away what we possess is to impoverish ourselves by so much and the more you give the more you grow poor. It is true that God will give it back to you, not only in the next world but even in this. In fact, there is nothing which contributes more to temporal prosperity than almsgiving. But as you wait for God to restore it to you, till then you will be deprived of it. How holy and rich is the impoverishment brought about by almsgiving!

Love the poor and poverty because by this love you will become truly poor; as Scripture says we become like the things we love (Hosea 9:10). Love makes the lovers equal: Who is weak with whom I am not weak (2 Cor 11:29) says St. Paul. He could say: Who is poor with whom I am not poor? indeed, love made him to be such as those whom he loved. If therefore you love the poor, you will certainly share their poverty and be poor like them. Now if you love the poor be often among them. Be happy to see them at your home and visit them at their homes. Talk with them willingly. Be quite at ease when they come near you in the church, in the streets and elsewhere. Be poor in the language you make use of. Speak to them like their companions but have generous hands giving them your gifts more in abundance.

Would you like to do still more, dear Philothea? Do not be satisfied with being poor like the poor, but be poorer than the poor. How is this possible? the servant is less than his master (Jn 13:16). Make yourself then the servant of the poor. Go to serve them in their beds when they are sick, and this with your own hands: Be their cook and at your own expense. Be their tailor and washerwoman. Dear Philothea, this service is more glorious than that of royalty.

I cannot admire enough the fervour with which this counsel was practiced by St. Louis, one of the great kings the world has seen, but I say a great king with every kind of greatness. Very often he served at the table of the poor whom he was maintaining. Almost everyday he made three of them sit at his own table, and often ate the rest of their soup with an extraordinary love. When he visited the hospitals of the sick, which he did very often, he used to serve those who had the most loathsome diseases like the leprous, the ulcerous and others like them. He did them all this service bareheaded, kneeling on the ground, respecting in their persons the Savior of the world, and cherishing them with a love as tender as that of a gentle mother for her child. St. Elizabeth, daughter of the king of Hungary, usually mixed with the poor and for recreation dressed like a poor woman among her ladies, telling them: "If I were poor I would dress like this." Dear Philothea, this prince and princess were indeed poor amidst their riches, and rich in their poverty.

Blessed are those who are thus poor, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them (Mt 5:3). I was hungry, you fed me. I was cold you clothed me: Possess the Kingdom which has been prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Mt 25:34-36), the King of the poor and of kings will say this at the great judgement.

There is no one who has not experienced at times some want or lack of convenience. Sometimes it happens that a guest comes to our house, whom we would like to and should treat well, but do not have the means at the moment. We have fine clothes in one place, we may need them in another where we are bound to appear in public. It happens that all the wines in our cellar ferment and turn sour, and there are left only wines that are of poor quality and immature. We find ourselves in the country in some hovel where everything is lacking: we have neither bed, nor room, nor table, nor service. Finally it is easy often to be in need of something, however rich we may be. This is being effectually poor with regard to what we lack. Philothea, be quite at ease on these occasions, accept them with a good heart, bear them cheerfully.

You experience some misfortunes which will impoverish you either very much or a little, such as tempests, fire, floods, droughts, thefts, lawsuits. It is then the best time to practice poverty, accepting with gentleness this decrease of wealth, and putting up gently and perseveringly with this impoverishment. Esau presented himself to his father, his hands all covered with hair and Jacob did the same (Gen 27). Since hair on the hands of Jacob did not stick to his skin but to his gloves, the hair could be removed without hurting or flaying him. On the contrary, the hair on the hands of Esau was sticking to his skin as it was hairy by nature. If anyone had tried to pluck off his hair, it would have caused him great pain. He would have cried aloud and would have been provoked to defend himself. When our resources stick to our hearts, if a tempest or a thief or a cheat takes any part of our property, what complaints, what troubles, what impatience we have! If our goods are attached only to the care that God desires us to have for them, and not to our hearts, when they are taken away we do not lose our reason or tranquillity. This is the difference between beasts and men as regards their garments. The garments of the beasts are stuck to their flesh, and that of men are simply placed on it so that they can put them on or remove them at will.

Chapter 16: How to Practice Richness of Spirit in Real Poverty

If you are really poor, dearest Philothea, be such also in spirit. Make a virtue of necessity and make use of this precious stone of poverty for what it is worth. Its brilliance is not discovered in this world, nevertheless it is exceedingly beautiful and rich. Have patience, you are in good company: our Lord, our Lady, the Apostles and so many men and women Saints have been poor. Although capable of becoming rich, they despised it. How many are the persons important in society who, inspite of much opposition, went to seek holy poverty in cloisters and hospitals with utmost diligence! they took much trouble to find it like St. Alexis, St. Paula, St. Paulinus, St. Angela and so many others. That is it, Philothea, showing you special courtesy, poverty comes to present itself to you. You have met it without searching for it and without pain. Embrace it then as the dear friend of Jesus Christ who was born, lived and died in poverty which was his nurse throughout his life.

Your poverty, Philothea, has two great privileges by means of which you are enabled to acquire great merit. The first is that poverty did not come to you by your choice but solely by the will of God who made you poor without the consent of your own will. What we receive simply from the will of God is always very pleasing to him, provided we receive it with a cheerful heart and love of his holy will. Where there is less of our will there is more of God's will. Simple and absolute acceptance of God's will renders the suffering extremely pure.

The second privilege of this poverty is that it is a poverty that is truly poor. A poverty that is praised, caressed, esteemed, helped and assisted is allied to riches and at the least it is not poor at all. But a poverty that is despised, rejected, blamed and abandoned is truly poor. Such then is the poverty of the laity. Since they are not poor by their own choice but by necessity, it is not taken into much account. The poverty of the laity not being held in great esteem, is poorer than that of the religious. However, religious poverty has a very great excellence and is more praiseworthy because of the vow and the intention for which it has been chosen.

Do not complain, then my dear Philothea, of your poverty because we complain only about what displeases us. If poverty displeases you, you are no longer poor in spirit but rather rich by attachment. Do not be grieved at not being helped so well as required, for the excellence of poverty consists in it. To be poor and not to accept any inconvenience from it is a very great ambition. In fact, it is to desire the honor of poverty and the advantages of riches.

Do not be ashamed of being poor and of asking for alms in charity. Receive with humility what will be given to you and accept the refusal with gentleness. often recall to mind the journey our Lady made to Egypt, to carry there her dear child. How much contempt, poverty and misery she had to endure! If you live like this you will be very rich in your poverty.

Chapter 17: Friendship: First That which Is Evil and Frivolous

Love holds the first rank among the emotions of the soul. It is the king of all the movements of the heart. Love changes all the rest to itself and makes us such as what is loved. Be on your guard then, dear Philothea, that there is no evil whatever in your love because if there is, soon you will become completely evil. For friendship is the most dangerous love of all. While other loves can be had without communication, friendship being entirely based on communication we can scarcely have friendship with a person without participating in his qualities.

All love is not friendship because:

  1. We can love without being loved. In this case there is love but not friendship, in so far as friendship is a mutual love. If it is not mutual, it is not friendship.
  2. It is not enough that it is mutual but the persons who love each other ought to know their reciprocal affection because, if they do not know it, they will have love but not friendship.
  3. Together with it, there must be some kind of communication between them which is the basis of friendship.

According to the variety of communications, friendship is also different. The communications are different depending on the difference of the good things we communicate to each other. If these are false and vain goods, friendship is false and vain. If they are genuine, friendship is genuine. The more excellent the good things communicated the more excellent will be the friendship. Just as honey is of the best quality, if taken from the most exquisite flowers, so too love based on a most exquisite communication is the most excellent. The honey from Heraclea in Pontus is poisonous and makes insane those who take it, because it is gathered from the aconite which is plentiful in that region.[128] in like manner friendship based on the communication of false and vicious things is entirely false and evil.

The communication of carnal pleasures is a mutual inclination and animal attraction. It is not worthy of the name of friendship between human beings any more than that of asses and horses for similar effects. If there is no other communication in marriage there would no more be any friendship at all. Besides it, there is in marriage the communication of life, of work, of goods, of affection and of an indissoluble fidelity. So the friendship of marriage is a genuine, holy friendship.

Friendship founded upon the communication of sensual pleasures is utterly crude and unworthy of the name of friendship. It is the same for that which is based on frivolous and vain virtues because these virtues depend also on the senses. I term sensual pleasures those related directly and mainly to the exterior senses such as the pleasure of seeing beauty, listening to a sweet voice, touching and the like.

I call frivolous virtues some skills and vain qualities which weak minds name virtue and perfection. Listen to most girls, women and young men speak. They do not hesitate to say: such a nobleman is very virtuous, he has many accomplishments because he dances well, he plays all kinds of games well, he dresses well, he sings well, he cajoles well, he has a fine appearance. The charlatans consider the greatest clowns among them as the most virtuous.

All these concern the senses, and the friendships which arise from them are called sensual, vain, frivolous and deserve the name of folly rather than friendship. Generally such are the friendships of young persons based on moustaches, on hair, on glances, on garments, on haughtiness and on idle talk. These are friendships proper to the age of lovers who do not have as yet any virtue except in blossom, and any judgement except in the bud. Such friendships are only transient and melt like snow in the sun.

Chapter 18: Flirtations Or Fickle Love

When these foolish friendships are between persons of different sex and without any intention of marriage they are called flirtations. Infact, they are only some miserable specimens or phantoms of friendship. They do not merit the name of friendship or love due to their unequalled vanity and imperfection. by these, the hearts of men and women are taken up, engaged and entangled with one another in useless and foolish affections, based on these frivolous exchanges and mean pleasures of which I have just spoken.

These foolish loves usually melt and lose themselves in sordid sensuality and lustfulness, even though it was not the original intention of those who engage in them. Otherwise it would not be flirtation but open obscenity. Those who are affected by this folly may sometimes spend several years without anything directly contrary to the chastity of the body. They remain with only soaking their hearts in desires, sighs, flirtations and such other foolishness and vanity, under different pretexts.

Some have no other purpose than that of satisfying their hearts in giving and receiving love, according to their amorous inclinations. These pay no attention to the choice of their love except their own taste and instinct. When they meet with a pleasant person without examining his interior attitudes or his conduct, they begin these amorous exchanges. They thrust themselves into these miserable traps from which they will have difficulty to extricate themselves. Others allow themselves to be led into it by vanity, thinking that it is no small glory to seize and bind hearts by love. In making their choice for their own glory, they set up snares and spread their nets in noticeable, elevated, rare and illustrious places. Others are carried away both by their amorous inclinations and by vanity. Although their hearts are inclined to love, they do not wish to engage in it except for the sake of acquiring some glory.

These friendships are all evil, foolish and vain. They are evil as they lead to and finally end in sins against chastity. They steal away love and consequently the heart from God, from their wife and from the husband to whom it belonged. They are foolish because they do not have either foundation or reason. They are vain because they give neither any profit nor honor, nor satisfaction. On the contrary, they waste time and compromise honor, without any other pleasure than that of an eagerness in striving and in hoping without knowing what they desire or seek after. For these mean and weak minds always esteem that there is something - I do not know what - to be desired in these reciprocal expressions of love given to them, and they are not able to say what it is. Hence their desire for it cannot end but always urges their hearts to perpetual distrust jealousies and anxieties.

St. Gregory Nazianzen, writing against frivolous women, says admirable things on this subject. Here is a short passage addressed to women indeed, but quite good also for men:

Your natural beauty is sufficient for your husband. If it is for many men as a net spread for a flock of birds, what will happen? the person pleased with your beauty will be pleasing to you, you will return glance for glance and look for look. Soon smiles and little words of love will follow, let loose stealthily in the beginning but soon you will become familiar and pass on to open love-making. Beware, my talkative tongue, of saying what will happen later! Yet let me say this truth. Nothing of all that these young men and women say or do together in these foolish intimacies are exempt from serious stings. All the rubbish that makes up flirtations stick to one another and follow one another, neither more nor less than a piece of iron drawn by a magnet draws many others along with it.

How rightly does this great Bishop speak: What do you think of doing? to give or not to give it? No one gives love willingly without receiving it necessarily. The herb called aproxis receives and conceives fire as soon as it sees it. Our hearts are the same. As soon as they see a person burning with love for them, immediately they are aglow with love for him.

I wish to accept some love, someone will tell me, but not much of it. Alas! you deceive yourself. This fire of love is more active and more penetrating than it appears to you. You think of receiving only a spark of it, and you will be astonished to see that in an instant it has seized your whole heart, reduced all your good resolutions to ashes and your reputation to smoke. The Wise Man cries out: "Who will have compassion for a snake charmer stung by a snake?" (Sirach 12:13).

I cry out with him: Foolish and senseless people! Do you think of taming love so as to manipulate it at your will? Do you wish to play with it? It will sting and bite you grievously. Do you know what people will say? Everyone will mock and laugh at your wish to tame love. with a false sense of assurance, you wished to put in your bosom a dangerous snake which has stung you, to ruin you and your honor.

What blindness it is to gamble the principal power we have to no purpose, on such trifling stakes. Yes, Philothea, God seeks man only for his soul, his soul only for his will, and his will only for his love. Alas! We have scarcely enough love even for what we need, I mean, we need it infinitely more to love God sufficiently. All the same, miserable as we are, we lavish and pour it out on foolish, vain, trifling things as if we have enough and to spare. This great God has reserved for himself the whole of our love in gratitude for creating, preserving and saving us. He will demand a very strict account of these foolish deductions which we make from it. If he makes such an exact scrutiny of idle words (Mt 12:36) what will he do with idle, insolent, foolish and harmful friendships?

The walnut tree is very harmful to the vines and fields in which it is planted because being so big, it draws the whole moisture from the soil which afterwards is not able to nourish other plants. It leaves are so dense that they make a large thick shade. Finally it attracts passers-by to itself who, to pluck its nuts, spoil and trample down everything around it. These amorous affairs cause the same damage to the self.[129] For they occupy it so much, and draw its movements so powerfully, that its strength becomes insufficient and it is incapable of doing any good work. Their leaves, that is, the talks, amusements and love-making are so frequent that they waste the whole spare time. Finally, they cause so many temptations, distractions, suspicions and other consequences that the whole heart is trampled down and spoiled by them. In short, these love affairs banish not only the love of God but also the fear of God, weaken the spirit and spoil the reputation. It is, in one word, the plaything of the court but the plague of the hearts.

Chapter 19: Genuine Friendships

Philothea, love everyone with a great love of charity but have friendship with those capable of communicating virtuous things to you. The more exquisite the virtue you put in your exchanges the more perfect will your friendship be. If you share knowledge, your friendship is indeed very praiseworthy; more so, if you communicate virtues, prudence, discretion, fortitude and justice. If your mutual and reciprocal exchange is about charity, devotion, christian perfection, precious indeed will your friendship be. It will be excellent because it comes from God, excellent because it tends to God, excellent because its bond is God, excellent because it will last eternally in God. How good it is to love on earth as one loves in Heaven, and to learn to cherish one another in this world as we shall do eternally in the next!

I do not speak here about the simple love of charity for it ought to embrace all men. But I speak of the spiritual friendship by which two or three or more persons communicate among themselves their devotion, their spiritual affection and become one in spirit. with good reason such happy souls can sing: How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together (Ps 133:1) Yes, this delicious balm of devotion distills from one heart to another, by a continual sharing, so that we may say that God has poured out his blessing and life on this friendship for ever and ever (Ps 133:3).

In my opinion, all other friendships are only shadows compared to this. Their bonds are only chains of glass and jet[130] in comparison with this great bond of holy devotion which is entirely of gold. Do not form friendships of any other kind - I mean the friendships which you make. On account of this, you are not to abandon or despise the friendships which nature and earlier duties oblige you to cultivate towards relations, kindred, benefactors, neighbors and others. I now speak of those friendships which you yourself choose.

Perhaps many people may tell you that you should not have any kind of special affection and friendship since it occupies the heart, distracts the mind and creates jealousies. But they err in their advice. For they have found in the writings of many saints and devout authors that particular friendships and excessive affections do very great harm to the religious. They think that in itself it is the same for all other persons. But there is much to be said about this.

It is understood that in a well-ordered monastery, the common purpose of all tends to true devotion. So it is not required to make these particular communications there, due to the fear of seeking in particular what is common and of passing from particularities to partialities.

But it is necessary that those who live among worldly people and embrace true devotion join together in a holy and sacred friendship. by this means they encourage, assist and support themselves well.

Just as those who walk on level ground do not need a helping hand, but those who are on a dangerous and slippery path support one another to walk more safely, so too those who are religious do not need particular friendships.[131]

But those who are in the world do need them, to save themselves and help one another, in the midst of so many difficult paths they have to cross. In the world, all do not strive for the same end, all do not have the same spirit. Hence, without doubt, it is necessary to draw oneself aside and form friendships according to our aim. This particularity is indeed a partiality but a holy partiality, which does not cause any division except between good and evil, between sheep and goats, and between bees and hornets - a necessary separation.

Indeed, no one can deny that our Lord loved with a very tender and special friendship St. John, Lazarus, Martha and Magdalen as Scripture bears witness. We know that St. Peter loved tenderly St. Mark and St. Petronilla, as St. Paul did St. Timothy and St. Thecla. St. Gregory Nazianzen boasts of his exceptional friendship with the great St. Basil a hundred times and describes it in this manner:

It seemed that in both of us there was only one single soul dwelling in two bodies. Though we do not believe those who say that all things are in all things, yet you must believe that we were both in each one of us and each in the other. Both of us had only one single aim to practice virtue and to adapt all the aims of our life to future hopes, thus going out of this mortal world before dying in it.

St. Augustine testifies that St. Ambrose loved singularly St. Monica because of the rare virtue he saw in her, and in turn she loved him as an Angel of God.

I may be wrong in detaining you on so clear a topic. St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Gregory, St. Bernard, and all the greatest servants of God, had very special friendships without prejudice to their perfection. St. Paul reproaching the disorders of the gentiles accuses them of being people without affection (Rom 1:31), that is to say, those who did not have any friendships. St. Thomas like all the good philosophers declares that friendship is a virtue. Then he speaks about particular friendship because, as he says, perfect friendship cannot be extended to many persons. Thus, perfection does not consist in having no friendship at all but in having only that which is good, holy and sacred.

Chapter 20: The Difference between True and Vain Friendships

This then, is the great warning, dear Philothea. The honey of Heraclea which is so poisonous resembles the genuine which is so wholesome. There is a great danger of taking the one for the other, or of taking them mixed together, since the excellent qualities of the one would not prevent the harmfulness of the other.[132] We must be on our guard against being deceived by these friendships. This is especially so, when they are formed between persons of different sex, under whatever pretext it may be, because very often Satan misleads those who love. They begin by virtuous friendship but, if they are not very prudent, frivolous friendship will mingle with it, then sensual love and next carnal love.

There is danger even in spiritual love, if we are not very much on our guard. However, in spiritual friendship, it is more difficult to be deceived, because its purity and whiteness render the stains which Satan desires to mingle with it more easily discernible. Hence when he undertakes to do it, he does it in a very subtle way and tries to insert impurities almost unnoticeably.

You may distinguish worldly friendship from the holy and the virtuous as you recognize the honey of Heraclea from any other. The honey of Heraclea is sweeter to the tongue than the ordinary honey because of the aconite which gives it an excess of sweetness. Worldly friendship generally produces a great flow of honeyed words, passionate, charming, flattering little expressions and praises drawn from beauty, gracefulness and sensual qualities.

But sacred friendship has a simple, frank language. It praises only virtue and the grace of God, the sole foundation on which it rests.

The honey of Heraclea once swallowed causes dizziness in the head. So also false friendship provokes dizziness of spirit which makes persons waver in chastity and devotion. It leads them to affected, delicate, improper looks, sensual caresses, disorderly sighs and little complaints about not being loved. False friendship further prompts trifling but studied, suggestive postures, gallantry, pursuit of kisses and other indecent intimacies and favors, a certain indisputable sign of the approaching ruin of chastity.

Holy friendship has only simple and modest eyes, no caresses except pure and sincere, no sighs except for Heaven, no intimacies except that of the spirit, no complaints except that God is not loved - infallible signs of purity.

The honey of Heraclea affects the sight, and worldly friendship disturbs judgement in such a way that those who are infected with it think that they are doing well when they are doing evil. They believe that their excuses, pretexts and words are quite reasonable. They fear the light, and love the darkness.

But holy friendship has clear-sighted eyes, does not hide itself, and willingly appears before good people.

Finally the honey of Heraclea leaves a strong bitter taste in the mouth. Similarly false friendships change and ends in carnal and disgusting words and requests. In case of refusal, it reacts to in insults, calumnies, deceptions, sadness, confusions and jealousies which very often end in brutish degradation and frenzy.

But chaste friendship is always equally honest, polite and amiable. It only turns into a more perfect and pure union of spirits, a living image of the blessed friendship enjoyed in Heaven.

St. Gregory Nazianzen says that the peacock making its cry, while it spreads its tail and struts about, excites very much the peahens to sexual craving. Similarly a man strutting, decking himself out and coming to cajole, dally and whisper into the ears of a woman or a girl without any intention of a honest marriage, surely, it is only to arouse her to immodesty. An honorable woman will stop her ears, in order not to hear the cry of this peacock and the voice of the charmer who desires to charm her artfully (Ps 57:6). If she listens, what a bad omen of the future loss of her heart!

The young who indulge in postures, airs and caresses, or say words, which they would not like to be seen or overheard by their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives or confessors testify by this that they treat of some other things than that of honor and conscience. Our Lady was disturbed at seeing an Angel in human form because she was alone and he gave her very high though heavenly praises. O, Savior of the world, purity is afraid of an Angel in human form and why not then impurity fear a man even if he were in an Angel's form when he praises her with sensual and human praises?

Chapter 21: Counsels and Remedies Against Evil Friendships

What are the remedies against this brood and swarm of foolish loves, indecencies and impurities? As soon as you sense the first feelings turn away from them at once. with an absolute detestation of this vanity run to the Cross of the Savior. Take his crown of thorns to surround your heart with it, so that these little fox cubs (Song 2:5) cannot come near it. Take care that you do not make any compromise with this enemy. Do not say, "I will listen to him but I will not do anything he tells me. I will lend him my ears but I will refuse him my heart." Dear Philothea, for God's sake, be strict on such occasions.

The heart and the ears communicate with one another. Just as it is impossible to stop a torrent which has taken its descent from a mountain slope so too it is difficult to prevent love which has fallen into the ear from dropping immediately into the heart. The goats, according to Alcmaeon, breathe through their ears and not through their nostrils. It is true that Aristotle denies it. I do not know if it is so. But I know quite well that our heart breathes through the ear. As it breathes in and breathes out its thoughts through the tongue, it inhales also through the ear, by which it receives the thoughts of others. Let us then carefully prevent our ears from hearing filthy words. Otherwise, our heart will soon be infected by them. Do not listen to any kind of indecent proposals no matter what the pretext. In this case alone, there is no danger of being impolite and rude.

Remember that you have dedicated your heart to God. Since your love is offered in sacrifice to God, it would, therefore, be a sacrilege to take away from it even just a little. Sacrifice it anew to him by a thousand resolutions and affirmations. Hold yourself in between them like a stag in the thickest wood and implore God. He will help you, and his love will take yours in his protection, so that it may live solely for him.

If you are caught in the nets of these foolish loves, how difficult it is to disentangle yourself from them! Place yourself before his Divine Majesty, acknowledge in his presence the greatness of your misery, your weakness and your vanity. Then with the greatest effort of which your heart is capable, detest these loves that you have begun. Give up the vain profession you made of them. Renounce all the promises received, and with a great absolute will determine in your heart and resolve never more to enter into these games and exchanges of love.

If you can distance yourself from the person you love, I would strongly recommend it. Persons who have been bitten by serpents cannot be easily healed in the presence of those who have been bitten previously.[133] So also the person who is stung by love will be healed of this passion with difficulty, as long as he is close to another who had been stung in the same way. The change of place serves very much to calm the vehemence and the anxieties both of sorrow and of love.

The young man, of whom St. Ambrose speaks in his second book of the Penance, made a long journey and came back totally freed from the foolish loves in which he had indulged earlier. He was so changed that when his foolish mistress said on meeting him: "Do you not know me? I am just the same." "Yes," he replied, "but I am not the same myself." the absence from the place had brought about this happy change in him. St. Augustine testifies that, to alleviate the sorrow he experienced at the death of his friend, he left Tagaste where his friend had died and went away to Carthage.

What is he to do who is not able to distance himself? He should absolutely refrain from all private conversations, all secret exchanges, all amorous glances, all smiles. In general he must stop all communications and allurements which may feed this stinking and smoking fire. At most, if he is forced to speak with his accomplice, let it be only to declare by a bold, short and stern affirmation of the eternal separation which he has sworn. I cry aloud to anyone who has fallen into these traps of love affairs: cut off, hew, break off. Do not waste time in undoing these foolish friendships. You are to tear them off. You must not untie the knots. You should break them asunder or cut them off, the more so as their ropes and bonds are worthless. You must not treat with consideration a love which is so contrary to the love of God.

After I have thus broken off the chains of this infamous slavery, there will still remain stamped on my feet, that is, in my affections some marks and traces of the fetters. They will not affect you, Philothea, if you have conceived as great a detestation of the evil as it deserves. In this case, you will not be troubled by any feeling except that of an extreme horror of this filthy love and all that results from it. You will remain freed from all other affections towards the abandoned person except that of a very pure charity for the sake of God.

If, through the imperfection of your repentance, there remains in you still some evil inclinations, procure for yourself a mental solitude as I have taught earlier.[134] Recollect yourself there as often as you can. Through a thousand earnest longings of your spirit renounce all your inclinations and disown them with all your strength. More than usual read holy books. Go to confession more often than you are accustomed to, and receive communion. Consult humbly and simply, if you can, your director, or at least some faithful and prudent person, about all the suggestions and temptations which come to you in this regard. Do not doubt that God will free you from all your passions provided you continue faithfully in these exercises.

You will ask me: will it not be ingratitude to break off a friendship so pitilessly? How blessed is the ingratitude that makes us pleasing to God! No, in God's name, Philothea, it will not be ingratitude but a great blessing you will bestow on the lover. Indeed, in breaking your bonds, you will break his also since they are common to both of you. Though he is not aware of his happiness at the moment, soon he will recognize it and sing with you sooner or later his thanksgiving: O Lord you have broken my bonds. I will offer you a sacrifice of praise and call upon you holy Name (Ps 116:16-17).

Chapter 22: Some Further Counsels on Friendships

Friendship requires a great communication between friends. Otherwise, it can neither begin nor exist. Hence, it often happens that with the sharing in friendship, many other communications unnoticeably pass and slip in from heart to heart, through a mutual inflow and reciprocal outflow of affections, inclinations and impressions. This happens especially when we have a great esteem for the person we love. For, we then open the heart so much to his friendship that with it, all and the whole of his inclinations and impressions, whether they are good or bad easily enter.

Indeed, the bees which gather the honey of Heraclea seek only honey; but with honey, they unknowingly suck the poisonous qualities of the aconite from which they gather it. Hence Philothea, in this regard, we must put into practice the words which our Savior used to say, as the Ancients have taught us: Be good exchangers and bankers,[135] that is, do not take false money with the good, nor low quality gold along with the fine; separate the precious from the worthless (Jeremiah 15:19).

Yes, for there is scarcely anyone without some imperfection. Why should we receive indiscriminately the stains and imperfections of the friend along with his friendship? Certainly we must love him in spite of his imperfection. But we must neither love nor receive his imperfection, because friendship demands the communication of what is good and not evil. Those who shift the gravel of the river Tagus separate the gold which they find in it, to carry it away with them, and leave the sand on the river bank. In the same way, those who commune in a good friendship, ought to separate the sand of imperfections and should not allow it to enter their spirit.

Indeed, St. Gregory Nazianzen bears witness that many who loved and admired St. Basil were drawn to imitate him, even his exterior imperfections, his way of talking slowly in an absent-minded and thoughtful manner, the style of his beard and his way of walking. Husbands, wives, children, friends have a great esteem for their friends, their fathers, their husbands and their wives. We see that due to this, they acquire, either through compliance or by imitation, a thousand little evil dispositions and inclinations by communication in friendship which they have for one another. This should not be so, since everyone has enough of one's own evil inclinations without overloading oneself with those of others. Not only does friendship require it, but on the contrary it obliges us to help one another in ridding ourselves of all kinds of imperfections. without doubt we must gently bear our friend's imperfections not to sustain him in them, much less to transfer them to ourselves.

I am speaking only of imperfections. As to sins, we should neither tolerate nor encourage them in a friend. It is either a feeble or a wicked friendship that sees a friend perish and does not succour him, sees him die of an abscess and does not dare to save him by making use of the lancet of correction.

True and living friendship cannot endure in the midst of sins. It is said that the salamander[136] extinguishes the fire in which it lives, and sin ruins the friendship in which it lodges itself. If it is just a passing sin friendship puts it to flight at once by correction. But if sin stays and settles down, immediately friendship perishes because it can be kept up only by true virtue. Then, how much less should we sin for the sake of friendship!

A friend is an enemy if he wishes to lead us into sin. He deserves to lose friendship when he desires to ruin and destroy the friend. Thus it is one of the most certain marks of a false friendship when we see it cultivated with a vicious person whatever may be the nature of the sin. If the person we love is vicious, undoubtedly our friendship is vicious. Since it is not based on true virtue, it is sure that it depends on some apparent virtue and sensual quality.

A society established for temporal profit by merchants has only the semblance of true friendship, as it is made not for the love of persons but for the love of gain.

Finally, there are two sacred texts, like two mighty columns, to support christian life strongly. One is that of the Wise Man: Whoever fears God shall also have a good friendship (Sirach 6:17). The other is that of St. James: The friendship of this world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).

Chapter 23: The Practice of Exterior Mortification

Those who deal with rural agricultural matters assure us that, if some word is written on an almond seed that is quite entire, and put back in its shell carefully, and properly folded and closed, and thus planted, then every fruit which the tree produces will have the same word written and engraved on it.[137] As for myself, Philothea, I could never approve the method of those who begin by the exterior such as the bearing, the dress or the hair in order to reform a man. On the contrary, it seems to me that we should begin by the interior: Convert yourself to me, says God, with your whole heart (Joel 2:12). My child, give me your heart (Prov 23:26). As the heart is the source of actions, they are such as the heart is. The divine Spouse inviting us says: Place me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm (Song 8:6). Yes, indeed, anyone who has Jesus Christ in his heart, will have him soon after in all his exterior actions.

I wish, therefore, dear Philothea, to engrave and inscribe on your heart, before everything else, this holy and sacred maxim: LIVE JESUS! After that, I am sure that your life which comes from your heart, like the almond tree from its kernel, will produce all its actions which are its fruits inscribed and engraved with the same word of salvation. Just as this gentle Jesus will live in your heart, he will live also in your conduct and appear in your eyes, in your mouth, in your hands, even in your hair. Then you could say reverently following St. Paul I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20). In short, he who has won the heart of man, has won the whole man. This heart itself, by which we want to begin, needs instruction as it has to form its exterior bearing and conduct. In this way, not only holy devotion but also a great wisdom and discretion are seen by men in them. For this purpose, I am going to give you briefly several counsels.

If you can bear fasting, you will do well to fast for a few days, in addition to those enjoined by the church. Besides the ordinary effects of fasting such as elevating the spirit, subduing the flesh, practicing virtue, acquiring greater reward in Heaven, it is a great help to maintain control of gluttony. It keeps the sensual appetite and the body subject to the law of the spirit. Although we may not fast much, the enemy fears us when he sees that we know how to fast. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the days on which the early Christians observed abstinence the most. Choose then from these, days for fasting, in so far as your devotion and discretion of your director may advise you.

I would say willingly what St. Jerome told the good lady Laeta: Long and immoderate fasts displease me very much, especially by those who are of tender age. I learned from experience that the little donkey, growing tired of the journey, seeks to wander away.

It means that young people carried away by weakness due to excessive fasting, easily turns to delicacies. The stags run badly during two seasons: when they are too fat and when they are too lean. We are greatly exposed to temptations when our body is too well-nourished and when it is greatly weakened. The one makes it insolent while at ease, the other renders it desperate while ill-at-ease. We cannot carry it when it is too fat, so too it cannot carry us when it is very weak.

The lack of moderation in fasting, the use of the discipline, hair-shirts and other austerities render the best years of many useless for the service of charity. This happened to St. Bernard who regretted practicing too much austerity. In as much as they ill-treat the body in the beginning, they are forced to pamper it at the end. Would they not have done better by giving it a balanced treatment, proportionate to the duties and work to which their professions in life obliged them?

Fast and work subdue and discipline the body. If the work you do is necessary for you, or very useful for the glory of God, I would prefer that you bear the pain of the work rather than that of the fast. This is the mind of the Church in exempting from fasting, even when it is commanded, those who do works, useful for the service of God and neighbor. One has difficulty in fasting, another in serving the sick, visiting prisoners, hearing confessions, preaching, assisting the desolate, praying and similar exercises. These pains are of greater value than fasting. Besides subduing the body just as much, they produce much more desirable fruits. Hence, in general, it is better to preserve more bodily strength than necessary, instead of weakening it more than required. We can always reduce it when we desire, but we cannot restore it when we wish.

I feel that we must have great reverence for the words which our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ spoke to his Disciples: Eat what is set before you (Lk 10:8). I believe that it is a greater virtue to eat without choice what is offered to you, in the same order in which it is set before you, whether it is according to your taste or not, than to choose always the worst. Though this latter manner of living seems more austere, yet the former has more resignation because by it we renounce not only our taste but also our choice. It is not a small austerity to accommodate our taste to everything and keep it subject to whatever is provided. In addition, this kind of mortification is not seen, inconveniences no one and is particularly suitable for social life.

To push aside a dish to take another, to pinch and scrape at everything, to find nothing well-prepared, nor clean and proper, to make a mystery of every mouthful shows a feeble heart attentive to dishes and plates. I appreciate more St. Bernard drinking oil, taking it for water or wine, than if he had drunk wormwood[138] water purposely. It was a sign that he was not thinking of what he was drinking. In this indifference to what we eat or drink lies the perfect practice of the sacred words: Eat what is set before you (Lk 10:8). All the same, I exempt dishes that are injurious to health, and even disturb the spirit, such as hot, spiced, smoked and flatulent food. I except also certain occasions when nature stands in need of being refreshed and helped to be able to do some work for the glory of God.

A continual and moderate sobriety is better than violent abstinences observed at irregular intervals mixed with great self-indulgence.

A moderate use of the discipline has a marvellous efficacy to awaken the desire for devotion. Hair shirts powerfully subdue the body. But their use in general, is not suitable either for married people or persons of delicate health or those who have to bear great difficulties. It is true that we may use it with the advice of a discreet confessor on days set apart for penance.

We must make use of the night for sleep, each one according to his constitution and need in order to keep awake during the day and spend it usefully. Sacred Scripture in a hundred ways, the example of the Saints and natural reasons strongly recommend the mornings as the best and most fruitful part of the day. Our Lord is even called the rising Sun (Zechariah 3:8; Lk 1:78) and our Lady the Dawn of the day (Song 6:9). I think that the care we take to go to bed early in the evening is virtuous so that we can awaken and rise up early in the morning. Indeed, this is the most beautiful, the most peaceful and the least troubled part of the day. The birds themselves challenge us to awaken and praise God: moreover early rising is helpful to both health and holiness.

Balaam mounted his ass and went to visit Balak (Numbers 22:21-34). Since he did not have the right intention, the angel sword in hand waited for him on the way to kill him. The ass which saw the angel stubbornly stopped three times. Balaam struck it cruelly with his staff to make it go ahead, till the third time when it lay on the ground under him and miraculously spoke to him saying: What have I done to you? Why did you strike me already three times? Soon after the eyes of Balaam were opened and he saw the angel and told him: Why did you beat your ass? If it had not turned away from me I would have killed you and spared the ass. Then Balaam said to the angel: Lord, I have sinned for I did not know that you have put yourself against me on the way. Do you see, Philothea, Balaam is the cause of the evil and he strikes and beats the poor ass, which cannot do anything.

often our affairs take the same turn. A woman sees her husband or her child sick and suddenly takes to fasting, hair shirt, discipline as did David on a similar occasion (2 Samuel 12:6). Alas! dear friend, you are beating the poor ass, you are afflicting your body. It can do nothing to help you to overcome your evil. It is not the reason why God has turned the sword against you. Correct your heart which idolized your husband and tolerated a thousand faults in the child and was leading it to pride, vanity and ambition.

A man sees that he often falls seriously into the sin of lust. The interior accusation comes against his conscience with sword in hand to pierce him with holy fear. Suddenly his heart awakens, and he cries out: Treacherous flesh, disloyal body, you have betrayed me. Immediately, he inflicts severe blows on his body by immoderate fasting, excessive discipline, unbearable hairshirts. Poor soul, if your flesh could speak like the ass of Balaam, it would say: Wretched man! Why do you strike me? It is against you, that God threatens his vengeance. It is you who are the criminal. Why do you lead me into bad company? Why do you use my eyes, my hands and my lips for immodesty? Why do you trouble me with impure imaginations? Think good thoughts and I shall not have impure feelings. Frequent modest people and I will not be vexed by lustful desires. Alas! it is you who throw me into the fire and you do not want me to burn. You are casting smoke into my eyes and you do not want them to be irritated.

Certainly in these cases, God tells you without doubt: Strike, break, split, crush your hearts mainly (Joel 2:13) because it is mostly against them that my anger is aroused. To cure the itch, there is not so much need of washing and taking bath as purifying the blood and toning the liver. Thus to cure ourselves of our vices it is evidently good to mortify the flesh. However, it is necessary above all to purify our affections and renew our hearts.

In everything and everywhere, we should not undertake bodily austerities except with the advice of our spiritual guide.

Chapter 24: Society and Solitude

To seek the company of others and to shun it are two blame-worthy extremes in the devotion of people living in the society of which I am going to speak to you. To keep away from such company shows disdain and contempt of our neighbor and to search for it manifest idleness and aimlessness. We should love our neighbor as ourselves. To show that we love him, we must not avoid being with him. To show that we love ourselves we ought to abide in ourselves when we are within ourselves. We are within ourselves when we are alone. Think of yourself, says St. Bernard, and then of others. Hence, if there is no urgent need for you to seek company, or to receive someone at home, remain within yourself and reflect within your own heart. In case there is need to converse or some good reason demands your presence in society, go there, Philothea, in the name of God and meet your neighbor with a joyful heart and look at him lovingly.

We term bad company that in which we engage for some evil purpose or when those who come together are vicious, indiscreet and dissolute. For these reasons, we are to turn aside from it as do the bees from a swarm of horse-flies and hornets. The sweat, breath and saliva of those who are bitten by a mad dog are dangerous, especially for children and those of a delicate constitution. So too, it is not possible to frequent these vicious and dissolute persons without risk and danger, above all for those whose devotion is still tender and weak.

There are some social gatherings useless for anything else than recreation. These take place by mere change from serious occupations. Though we must not be addicted to them yet we can give them some time meant for relaxation.

Other Social gatherings have propriety as their purpose such as mutual visits and certain meetings for honoring the neighbor. We are not to be too scrupulous in keeping them up. So too me must not be impolite by holding them in contempt. But we must fulfill the duty which we have with modesty so as to avoid equally rudeness and thoughtlessness.

There remain useful social gatherings such as those of devout and virtuous persons. Philothea, it will be always very beneficial to meet them often. The vine planted among olive trees bears oily grapes which have the taste of olives. A person who finds himself often in the company of virtuous people cannot but share their qualities. Drones alone are not able to make honey, but they help the bees to make it. It is of great help for us to associate with devout persons in order to progress in devotion.

In all gatherings artlessness, simplicity, gentleness and modesty are always to be preferred. Some persons do not assume any posture or make any movement except with so much affectation that everyone is annoyed. Such a person who does not like to walk without counting his steps, nor speak without singing would be troublesome to others. Similarly they who bear an affected demeanour and do not do anything without a fixed pattern pester social gatherings extremely. There is always some kind of presumption in this type of people.

Generally, a moderate joy should dominate our dealings with others. St. Romuald and St. Antony are very highly praised for their cheerful looks and words flowing with joy, gaiety and courtesy in spite of all their austerities. Rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom 12:15); I say to you once again, with the Apostle, Be always joyful but in Our Lord and let your modesty be manifest to all men (Phil 4:4-5). To rejoice yourself in the Lord, the subject of your joy should not only be lawful but also virtuous. I say this because there are matters permissible yet unsuitable. In order that your modesty is made known, beware of insolence which is without doubt always blameworthy. To make someone fall, to sully another, to excite a third party, to harass a fool are foolish and insolent jokes and amusements.

Besides the mental solitude, to which you may turn in the midst of the greatest transactions,[139] you must always love the real solitude of a place. You need not go into the deserts like St. Mary of Egypt, St. Paul, St. Antony, Arsenius and other solitary Fathers . Instead remain in your room, in your garden, or elsewhere for a short while. There at will you may withdraw your spirit into your heart and refresh your mind by good reflections and holy thoughts, or by a short reading, following the example of the great Bishop Nazianzen. Speaking of himself he says:

I walked alone with myself at sunset, or passed my time on the sea-shore. For I was accustomed to make use of this recreation to relax myself and to shake off a little of my usual worries.

Then he describes the good thoughts he had which I have mentioned elsewhere.[140] Again, we have the example of St. Ambrose. Speaking of him, St. Augustine[141] says that often entering his room (no one was refused entrance), he saw him reading. After waiting for sometime, afraid of disturbing him, he used to turn back without saying a word. He thought that this little time which remained for this great pastor for strengthening and refreshing his spirit after the rush of so many affairs must not be taken away from him. Also after the Apostles had, on one day told Our Lord how they had preached and worked hard, he tells them: Come to the solitude and rest there for a while (Mk 6:31).

Chapter 25: Propriety in Dress

St. Paul wishes that devout women - the same must be said of men - ought to be dressed in proper clothes adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety (1 Tim 2:9-10). Now, the propriety of the dress and other ornaments depend upon their material, style and cleanliness. As to cleanliness, it should almost always be uniform in our clothes. As far as possible, we must not leave any stain or dirt on them. Exterior cleanliness reflects to some extent interior uprightness. God demands even bodily cleanliness in those who approach his altars and have the principal charge of devotion (Is 52:11).

As to the material and style of the clothes propriety depends on several circumstances such as time, age, rank, company and occasions. Usually we dress better on feast days, in proportion to the importance of the day celebrated. In seasons of penance like Lent we put away fine clothes. At marriage people put on wedding garments, at funerals mourning. In the company of princes, we put on richer garments which we put off when we are at home.

A married woman may and ought to dress herself when with her husband as he want it. However, if she does the same when she is away from him, she will be asked as to whose eyes she is seeking to please with such particular care. Girls are allowed more finery as they can lawfully desire to please many so as to gain only one by holy marriage. People do not take it ill for widows intending to marry to dress themselves well provided they do not appear frivolous. As they have already been mothers of families, who passed through the grief of widowhood, people consider them more mature and well-ordered.

But as to true widows who are such not only in body but also in heart no ornaments are suitable to them except that of humility, modesty and devotion. For if they wish to give love to men, then they are not true widows. If they do not want to give love why do they carry the instruments of love? He who does not wish to receive lodgers ought to remove the signboard from the lodge. People always laugh at old persons when they try to appear pretty. Such foolishness is tolerable only in the youth.

Be neat, Philothea. Let there be nothing untidy or disorderly about you. It is a contempt of those with whom we live to go among them in displeasing attire. But take heed well against affections, vanities, curiosities and frivolities. As much as possible keep always on the side of simplicity and modesty, without doubt the greatest ornament of beauty, and the best excuse for being unattractive. St. Peter warns, especially young women, not to wear their hair too crisped, frizzy, ringed and plaited (1 Pet. 3:3).

Men who foolishly amuse themselves with such trifles are discredited everywhere as effeminate, and vain women are thought to be weak in chastity. At least if they are chaste it is not visible in the midst of such rubbish and nonsense. People say that they do not mean evil in such things but I reply, as I explain elsewhere,[142] that the devil always does so.

As for me, I would like that devout persons, whether men or women, be always the best dressed of the group but the least pompous and affected and, as the Proverb says, adorned with grace, propriety and dignity (Prov 31:25). St. Louis says in one word: "We must dress according to our state in such a way that the wise and good may not say: you do too much, nor the young may say: you do too little." But in case the young are not satisfied with propriety, they ought to abide by the advice of the wise.

Chapter 26: Speaking: First How We Must Speak of God

Doctors get a good knowledge of the health or the illness of a man by examining his tongue. Our words are signs of the qualities of our souls: by your words, says the Savior, you will be justified and by your words, you will be condemned (Mt 12:37). We take our hand immediately to where we feel pain and our conversation to what we love. If you are really in love with God, Philothea, you will speak often of God in a familiar way with your family, friends and neighbors. Yes, for the mouth of the just will meditate on wisdom and his tongue will speak of judgement (Ps 37:30). Just as the bees do not extract anything but honey with their tiny mouths, so also your tongue will always be delighted in speaking about God. You will have no greater joy than feeling the flow of the praises and blessings of his name from your lips. So it is said of St. Francis of Assisi that he used to suck and lick his lips in pronouncing the holy name of the Lord as if to draw from it the greatest sweetness in the world.

Always speak of God as of God, that is to say, with reverence and devotion without any affectation or playing the preacher but with a spirit of gentleness, of charity, of humility. Distil as much as you can - as it is said about the spouse in the Songs of Songs - the delicious honey of devotion and of things divine, drop by drop, sometimes into the ears of one, sometimes into the ears of another. At the same time pray to God in the depths of your spirit that it may please him to instil this holy dew into the very heart of those who listen. Above all, this angelic duty is to be done gently and kindly never by way of correction but by way of inspiration. For it is marvellous, how much the gentleness and friendliness of a good suggestion is a powerful attraction to influence the hearts of men.

Therefore never speak, of God or of devotion negligently for the sake of talking but always with attention and devotion. I say this for taking away from you a special kind of vanity which I find in many who make a profession of devotion. They say some fervent holy words at every turn by way of social tact without thinking of what they say. After saying them, they think that they are such as their words are, but it is not so.

Chapter 27: Sincerity in Words and Respect Due to Others

If anyone does not sin in words, says St. James, he is a perfect man (James 3:2). Take great care that you do not let slip any unbecoming words from your lips. Even though you may not say them with an evil intention, those who hear them may take them in a different way. An unbecoming word which falls into a feeble heart spreads and extends like a drop of oil on a piece of cloth. Sometimes it seizes the heart in such a way that it fills it with a thousand impure thoughts and temptations. Just as what poisons the body enters through the mouth so too what poisons the heart enters through the ear. The tongue which produces it is murderous. Sometimes, by chance, the poison ejected by the tongue does not produce any effect because the heart of the hearers happens to be strengthened by some antidote. True in such cases the poison does not cause their death but it is not due to the lack of the malice of the one who speaks.

Let no man tell me that he does not think about it. For our Lord who knows the thoughts of men has said that the mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart (Mt 12:34). Even if we do not intend any evil, yet the evil one thinks much of it and always makes use of these bad words secretly to pierce the heart of someone. It is said that those who have eaten the herb called angelica[143] always have a pleasant and agreeable breath. Those who have the angelic virtue of modesty and chastity in their hearts always speak pure, polite and suitable words. As to indecent and foolish things, the Apostle wants that we do not even name them (Eph 5:3). He assures us that nothing corrupts good manners so much as evil exchanges (1 Cor 15:33).

If these indecent words are said under cover with affectation and subtlety, they are much more poisonous. The sharper a dart, the more easily it enters into our bodies. Similarly the more pointed an evil word is the more it penetrates into our hearts. Those who pride themselves in uttering such words while talking do not know why we engage in conversations. They must be like a swarm of bees gathered together to make honey from some gentle, virtuous conversation and not like a group of wasps which joins together to feed on something rotten. If some fool speaks unbecoming words to you, make it evident that your ears are offended by them, either by turning aside or by some other means as your prudence may suggest.

One of the worst conditions in which a person can be is that of a scoffer. God detests this vice very much and in the past he gave strange punishments for it. Nothing is so contrary to charity and still more to devotion as contempt and scorn for our neighbor. Ridicule and mockery can never be without such contempt. Therefore it is a very serious sin so that theologians are right in saying that mockery is the worst kind of offence which we can commit against our neighbor by words. Whereas other offences are committed with some esteem for the person who is offended, while this is done with contempt and scorn.

As to words spoken in fun among ourselves with a modest gaiety and joyfulness, they belong to the virtue which is called eutrapelia by the Greeks, which we may term pleasant conversation. by them, we take a decent and friendly recreation from trifling situations which human imperfections cause. However, we must guard against passing from this simple joyfulness to mockery. Mockery provokes laughter through the contempt and scorn of our neighbor. But gaiety and humour cause laughter through simple freedom, trust, familiar simplicity joined to the charm of some words. St. Louis told the religious who wanted to speak to him of subtle matters after dinner that "it was not the time for scholarly discussions but to recreate themselves with merriment and jokes; let each one say politely what he wants to." He was saying this for the sake of the nobles who accompanied him to receive his favors. But, Philothea, let us pass the time for recreation in such a way that we secure holy eternity by devotion.

Chapter 28: Rash Judgments

Do not judge that you will not be judged, says our Savior, do not condemn and you will not be condemned (Lk 6:37). No, says the Apostle, do not judge before the time till the Lord who will reveal the secrets of darkness and will manifest the counsels of the hearts comes (1 Cor 4:5). How displeasing to God are rash judgments!

The judgments of the children of men are rash because they are not judges of one another. In judging they take over the function of our Lord. They are rash because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention and consent of the heart which is a secret hidden in darkness for us. They are rash because each one has enough to do in judging oneself without attempting to judge one's neighbor. So that we ourselves may not be judged, we should not judge others but judge ourselves. While our Lord forbids the one, the Apostle commands the other saying: If we judge ourselves we will not be judged (1 Cor 11:31). But, my God, we do exactly the opposite. Indeed, we do not stop doing what is forbidden to us by judging our neighbor at every turn, and never do what is enjoined on us - to judge ourselves.

We must remedy rash judgments starting with the causes of their origin. There are some hearts which are harsh, bitter and hard by their nature. They convey the same harshness and bitterness to everything they receive. Thus they convert judgement into wormwood as the Prophet says (Amos 6:13), by never judging their fellow men except with extreme severity and harshness. They are in great need of being treated by a good spiritual physician. It is difficult to overcome this bitterness of heart since it is natural to them. Although it is not a sin in itself but an imperfection yet it is quite dangerous because it introduces rash judgments and slander into the heart and make them reign there. Some judge rashly not from bitterness but from pride thinking that according to the measure in which they lower the honor of another, they raise their own. Being arrogant and presumptuous persons, they admire themselves and place themselves very high in their own esteem. Hence they look down on all the others as mean and low: I am not like the rest of men, said the foolish Pharisee (Lk 18:11).

Some do not have this noticeable pride but only a certain self-satisfaction in thinking over the defects of others. by this, they intend to relish and make others appreciate the opposite virtue with which they imagine themselves to be endowed. This self-satisfaction is so secret and unnoticeable that if we do not have good insight we are unable to discover it. Those who are affected by it do not recognize it if it is not pointed out to them.

Some to flatter themselves or to excuse themselves, and to lighten the guilt feelings of their consciences, judge very willingly that others are corrupted by the same vices to which they are attached or some other sin equally great. They believe that the multitude of offenders will make their sins less blameworthy.

Several persons indulge in rash judgments for the sole pleasure they take in philosophizing and guessing the morals and moods of persons by way of exercising their intelligence. Unfortunately, if sometimes they find truth in their judgments, their rashness and desire to continue in it increase to such an extent that it is quite difficult to turn them away from it.

Others judge due to their emotions. They always think well of what they love, and always ill of what they hate. An exception is an astonishing yet real case in which excess of love arouses them to judge badly what they love. This is a monstrous effect which comes also from an impure, imperfect, troubled and sick love which is jealousy. As everyone knows it condemns persons loved as guilty of infidelity and adultery for a simple look or for the least smile in the world. Finally, fear, ambition and such weakness of the mind often contribute very much to cause suspicion and rash judgement.

But what are the remedies? Those who drink the juice of the herb called ophiusa of Ethiopia imagine that they see everywhere serpents and terrifying things.[144] Those who have swallowed pride, envy, ambition, hatred see nothing which they do not find evil or discreditable. The former must take the palm wine in order to be cured of it. I suggest the same kind of remedy for the latter. Drink as much as you can of the sacred wine of charity. It will free you from these evil moods which cause you to make distorted judgments. Charity is afraid of meeting evil, so far is it from going in search of it. When charity meets with evil, it turns away its face from it and takes no notice of it. Even it closes its eyes before seeing it at the first rumour of evil it hears. Then it believes by a holy simplicity that it was not the evil but some shade or phantom of evil. If, by force, it recognizes that it is evil itself, it turns away from it immediately and tries to forget its form. Charity is the great remedy for all evils but particularly for rash judgments.

Everything appears yellow to the one who is suffering from jaundice, especially to those who have severe jaundice. It is said that to heal this sickness, they must keep celandine[145] under the soles of their feet. Indeed this sin of rash judgement is a spiritual jaundice which makes all things appear evil to the eyes of those who suffer from it. Those who wish to be cured of it ought to put the remedies not on the eyes, not on the understanding but on the affections which form so to say our feet. If your affections are gentle, your judgments will be gentle. If they are charitable, your judgement will be the same.

I give you three praiseworthy examples. Isaac had said that Rebecca was his sister. Abimelech saw that he was playing with her, that is, he was caressing her tenderly, and immediately he judged that she was his wife (Gen 26:7-9). A malicious man would rather have judged that she was a prostitute or incestuous if she were his sister. But Abimelech followed the most charitable opinion that he could form about such an action. We must always do the same, Philothea, judging in favor of our neighbor as far as it is possible. If an action were to have a hundred faces we must look at the most beautiful. Our Lady was with child and St. Joseph saw it clearly. Since he saw her entirely holy on the one hand, pure, all angelic, he could not believe that she had conceived in an unlawful manner. While he decided to leave her, he also left the judgement to God. Though the evidence was quite strong for him to form an evil opinion of this Virgin, he never wished to judge her. But why? Because says the Spirit of God, he was a just man (Mt 1:19).

The just man, when he cannot excuse either the fact or the intention of a person whom he knew earlier to be good, still does not want to judge. Instead, he gets rid of it from his mind and leaves the judgment to God. The crucified Savior being unable to excuse the sin of those who crucified him at least lessened the malice by pleading their ignorance (Lk 23:34). When we cannot excuse the sin let us make it at least worthy of compassion, by attributing to it the most valid cause the person may have had for doing it like ignorance or infirmity.

Can we ever judge our neighbor? No, indeed, never. It is God, Philothea, who judges criminals in courts of justice. It is true that he avails himself of the voice of magistrates to make himself intelligible to us. They are his spokesmen and interpreters. As they are his oracles, they should declare only what they have learned from him. If they do otherwise following their own emotions, then truly it is they who judge and as a consequence, they will be judged. For it is forbidden to men, as men to judge others.

To see or know a thing is not to pass judgement on it. For, the judgment, at least, according to the text of Scripture presupposes some difficulty, little or great, true or apparent which must be settled. Hence Scripture says that those who do not believe are already judged (Jn 3:18) because there is no doubt whatever about their condemnation. Then is it a sin to doubt about our neighbor? No. For it is not forbidden to doubt but to judge. All the same, we are not allowed either to doubt or to suspect our neighbor except with strict accuracy in so far as reasons and evidence force us to doubt. Otherwise doubts and suspicions are rash. Had a malicious person seen Jacob when he kissed Rachel at the well (Gen 29:11) or had seen Rebecca accept bracelets and ear-rings from Eliezer, a man unknown in that country (Gen 24:22), he would certainly have thought evil of these two models of chastity but without reason and basis. When an action is but itself indifferent, it is a rash suspicion to draw a bad conclusion from it unless several circumstances strengthen the evidence. It is also a rash judgment to criticize a person concluding from a single action. Later I will speak about this more clearly.

Finally those who foster a delicate conscience are rarely liable to rash judgment. Bees seeing mist or cloudy weather go back to their hives to prepare honey. So too, the thoughts of good persons do not judge about confused objects or hazy actions of neighbors. Rather, to avoid falling into such occasions, they withdraw themselves into their hearts to prepare there good resolutions for their own improvement. It is the occupation of an idle person to be busy with scrutinizing the life of another.

I make an exception of those who have charge of others whether in the family or in the state. For a great part of their responsibility consists in looking into and watching over the functions of others. Let them accomplish their duty with love. Beyond this, let them abide in themselves for their own improvement.

Chapter 29: Slander

Rash judgment causes anxiety, contempt of our neighbor, pride, self-satisfaction and a hundred other very destructive effects. Slander holds the first rank among these and is the real plague of conversations. How I wish that I had one of the live coals from the holy altar to touch the lips of men so that their iniquity is taken away and their sin cleansed in imitation of the Seraph who purified the mouth of Isaiah (6:6-7). He who would rid the world of slander would remove from it a great part of its sins and iniquity.

Whoever unjustly ruins the good name of his neighbor commits sin. Moreover he has the obligation to make amends though differently according to the various kinds of slanders. For no one can enter Heaven with the goods of another and among all external goods, reputation is the best.

Slander is a kind of murder since we have three kinds of life: The spiritual life consists in the grace of God, the bodily life depends on the soul and the social life consists in reputation. Sin takes away the first from us, death deprives us of the second, and slander strips us of the third.

With a single stroke of his tongue, the slanderer usually commits three murders. He kills his own soul and that of the one who listens to him by a spiritual murder and he takes away the social life of the man whom he slanders.

As St. Bernard says, he who slanders and he who listens to the slanderer both have the devil in them, one in his tongue and the other in his ear. David speaking of slanderers says: They have sharpened their tongue like a serpent (Ps 140:3). The serpent's tongue is forked and has two points, says Aristotle. Such is the tongue of the backbiter that with a single sting he poisons the ear of the listener as well as the reputation of the person of whom he is speaking.

I implore you, then, dearest Philothea, never to calumniate anyone either directly or indirectly. Beware of attributing false crimes and sins to your neighbor, of exposing those which are secret, of exaggerating those that are known. Neither interpret badly his good work nor deny the good which you know to be in him. Do not hide maliciously, or decrease it by words. For in all these ways, you will greatly offend God, especially by accusing falsely and denying the truth to the prejudice of your fellowmen. In fact it is a double sin to lie and do harm to our neighbor at the same time.

Those who for the sake of defaming begin with a respectful introduction or say compliments and jokes in between, are the most subtle and poisonous detractors of all. I affirm, they say, that I love him and that otherwise, he is an excellent man; nevertheless, the truth must be told; he was wrong in committing such a treachery. She is a very virtuous girl but she was surprised, and such small insinuations. Do you not see the craftiness? He who wishes to shoot with a bow draws the arrow as close to himself as possible but it is only to shoot it forth with greater force. These detractors seem to draw their slander to themselves, but it is only to hurl it with greater force so that it penetrates deep into the hearts of the listeners.

The defamation told in the form of jokes are the most cruel of all. The hemlock is not in itself a strong poison but mild enough so that it can be easily remedied. But when it is taken with wine it is impossible to cure it. Similarly slander which in itself will pass lightly into one ear and come out by the other, as they say, settles down in the brain of the listeners when it is presented in some cunning and pleasant jest. They have, says David, the poison of the viper in their lips (Ps 12:3-4; 140:3). The viper stings in a way that is almost unfelt. Its poison, at first, gives a pleasant itching sensation by which the heart and bowels expand and take in the poison for which afterwards there is no remedy.

Do not say that so and so is a drunkard even if you saw him drunk, or that he is an adulterer because you saw him commit this sin, or that he is incestuous for finding him in this evil. For a single act does not justify such labelling of a person. The sun stood still once in favor of the victory of Joshua (Joshua 10:13). Another time it became dark as a sign of the victory of the Savior (Lk 23:45). But no one will therefore say that the sun does not move or is dark. Noah was intoxicated once (Gen 9:21) and Lot another time and the latter moreover committed the serious sin of incest (Gen 19:30 ff). All the same, neither the one nor the other were drunkards, and the latter was not incestuous. St. Peter was not blood-thirsty for shedding blood once (Jn 18: 10-11) or a blasphemer for blaspheming once (Mt 26:69-75). To attribute the name of a vice or of a virtue to a person, there should be some progress in it and it must become a habit. Hence it is a lie to say that a man is ill-tempered or is a thief for seeing him angry or stealing once.

Even if a man has been vicious for a long time, we run the risk of lying when we call him vicious. Simon the leper called Magdalen a sinner because she had been one earlier (Lk 7:39). Nevertheless, he was lying because she was no longer a sinner but a very holy penitent. Our Lord also defends her. The foolish Pharisee thought that the Publican was a great sinner or perhaps an unjust man, an adulterer, a robber. But he was greatly mistaken for just then he was justified (Lk 18:11-14). Since the goodness of God is so great that a single moment is sufficient to pray for and receive God's grace, what certainty have we that a man who was a sinner yesterday is the same today?

Yesterday must not judge today nor today judge yesterday. It is only the last day which judges all. Hence we can never say that a man is wicked without danger of lying. What we can say, in case we are obliged to speak, is that he did a wicked act, he lived badly at such a particular time, and he does evil now. But we cannot draw any conclusion from yesterday for today or from today for yesterday and still less from today for tomorrow.

Although we ought to be extremely careful not to slander our neighbor, yet we must guard against another extreme into which some fall. Some praise and speak well of vice in order to avoid detraction. If a truly backbiting person is found, do not say that he is free and sincere in order to excuse him. Do not say that a person is generous and honest when he is openly boastful. Do not call dangerous intimacies, simplicity or innocence. Do not give the name of zeal to disobedience, of sincerity to arrogance and the name of friendship to lust. No, dear Philothea, we must not cherish, flatter or encourage other vices with the intention of avoiding the vice of slander. Instead, we must speak plainly and sincerely of evil as evil and find fault with things deserving blame. by doing this, we will glorify God provided we keep the following conditions.

To criticize rightly the vices of another, it has to be for the usefulness of the person of whom we speak or of those to whom we speak. Someone recounts in the presence of girls the indiscreet intimacies of such and such persons which are clearly dangerous. The licentiousness of such and such a person in words and bearing which are openly lustful is told. If I do not courageously condemn this evil and I try to excuse such conduct, these tender persons who listen will take the chance of yielding themselves to something similar. Hence their benefit demands that I openly disapprove of these things then and there. If not, I may postpone doing this good service to a more opportune time, when with less harm I can speak about the persons in question.

Moreover, I am obliged to speak on this matter when I am one of the principal persons of the company, and if I do not speak it will seem that I approve of the vice. If I am the least in the group then I must not venture to censure it. Above all, I ought to be very precise in my words so that I do not say even a single word too much. For example, I criticize the familiarity of this young man and of this girl because it is too imprudent and dangerous. Philothea, then I must hold the balance so evenly that I do not exaggerate the affair even a little bit. If there is only a mere likelihood of it, I will say only that. If there is only a simple imprudence, I will not say anything more than that. If there is neither imprudence nor a real semblance of evil but only some malicious persons may find a pretext for slander, either I will not say anything at all or I will say precisely that. While I speak of my neighbor, my tongue in my mouth is like a lancet in the hand of surgeon who intends to make an incision between the nerves and the sinews. The incision which I make should be so precise that I say nothing more or nothing less than what it really is. Finally, in blaming the vice, you ought to be especially careful to spare as you can the person in whom it is found.

It is true that we may speak freely of notorious, public and well-known sinners provided it is with a spirit of charity and compassion. It must not be with arrogance and presumption, and not in order to take pleasure in the evil of others. To rejoice in such evil is the sign of a vile and mean person. I exclude among all the declared enemies of God and of his church. For we must denounce these as much as we can, as well as heretical and schismatical sects and their leaders. It is charity to cry out against the wolf when it is among the sheep, and indeed wherever it may be.

Each one takes the freedom to judge and criticize princes and to speak ill of whole nations depending on the variety of feelings one has towards them. Philothea, do not commit this fault. Besides offending God, it may involve you in a thousand kinds of disputes.

When you hear anyone spoken ill of, make the accusation doubtful if you can justly do it. If not, excuse the intention of the person accused. If even this cannot be done show compassion for him and change the subject of conversation, reminding yourself and the group that those who do not fall into vice owe it all entirely to the grace of God. Recall the slanderer to himself in a gentle way. Say something good of the offended person, if you know it.

Chapter 30: Further Advice on Conversation

In your speech be gentle, free, sincere, straight forward, simple and truthful. Be on your guard against duplicity, cunning and pretence. Although it is not good to say always all kinds of truths, yet it is never allowed to go against truth. Accustom yourself never to tell a lie deliberately either by way of excuse or for any other reason. Remember that God is the God of truth (Ps 31:5). If you happen to tell a lie inadvertently and you can correct it on the spot, by some explanation or alteration, do so. A genuine excuse has much more grace and strength as an apology than a lie.

Although we may sometimes discreetly and prudently disguise and conceal the truth by some play on words, yet it is not to be done except in a matter of importance when the glory and service of God clearly requires it. Beyond this such tricks of words are dangerous. For as Scripture says the Holy Spirit does not abide in a deceitful and double-dealing person (Wisdom 1:5). There is no ingenuity so good and desirable as simplicity. Worldly prudence and carnal devices belong to the children of this world. But the children of God walk sincerely with an open heart. Whoever walks with simplicity, says the Wise Man, walks confidently (Prov 10:9). Lying, duplicity and pretence always manifest a weak and mean spirit.

St. Augustine had said in the fourth Book of his Confessions that his soul and that of his friend[146] were just one soul. After the death of his friend, this life was dreadful for him because he did not wish to live by halves. For that same reason, he was afraid of the eventuality of death lest his friend should die completely. Later these words seemed to him very artificial and exaggerated so that he revoked them in the book of his Retractions. He called them an absurdity. Do you see, dear Philothea, how this beautiful person was sensitive to the feelings of artificiality in words? indeed, truthfulness, simplicity and sincerity in speech are a great ornament to christian life. David said: I said, I will guard against my ways not to sin with my tongue. Set a watch, Lord, at my mouth, at the door which closes my lips (Ps 39:1; 141:3).

King St. Louis advises us not to contradict any person except in case of sin or of great harm in agreeing with him. This is to avoid all quarrels and arguments. When it is necessary to contradict someone and to oppose his opinion to that of another, we must use great gentleness and tact without any wish to force his spirit. In fact we gain nothing by being rough in our dealings.

To speak little is recommended by the ancient sages. It does not mean that we speak a few words only, but that we are not to say many useless words. In speaking we are not concerned about quantity but quality. It seems to me that we should avoid two extremes. To be too reserved and rigid, refusing to contribute to familiar talk in conversations, seems to show either lack of confidence or some kind of contempt. To chatter and cajole always, without giving leisure or opportunity for others to speak as they would like to, is a sign of shallowness and light-mindedness.

St. Louis did not think it advisable to speak secretly or confidentially in company, especially at table. This was to prevent causing suspicion in others that evil was being spoken of them. He used to say: "He who is at table in good company, and has something joyful and pleasant to share, ought to say it in such a way that everyone can hear it. If it is a serious matter, let him not speak but keep silence about it."

Chapter 31: Lawful and Praiseworthy Pastimes and Recreation

Sometimes it is necessary to relax our mind and also our body by some kind of recreation. Cassian says that one day a hunter found St. John the Evangelist holding a partridge in his hand. He was stroking it by way of recreation. The hunter asked how such a great man like him could spend his time in such a silly and mean amusement. St. John asked him: "Why don't you carry your bow always bent?" "For fear," replied the hunter, "lest remaining always bent it loses its power to stretch when I need it." "Do not be surprised," retorted the Apostle, "if I relax somewhat the concentration and attention of my spirit to take a little recreation so that soon after I may apply myself to contemplation with greater earnestness." without doubt it is a vice to be so stern, rude and unsociable as to allow no kind of relaxation either for oneself or for others.

To go out in the fresh air, to go for a walk, to take part in cheerful friendly conversation, to play the flute or other musical instruments, to sing to the accompaniment of music, to go hunting are all such suitable relaxations. In order to make good use of them, we need only ordinary prudence which gives to everything order, time, place and moderation.

Games in which success serves as a reward and recompense for competency and skill of body or mind are recreation good and permissible in themselves. Such are the games of tennis, ball, pall-mall,[147] tilting at the ring, chess, draughts. We must watch against excess, either as to the time spent on it or as to the amount of money we play for. In fact, if one spends too much time, then it is not relaxation but occupation. We relax neither the body nor the mind, instead we are weighed down and confused. After playing chess for five or six hours, we are quite worn out and tired. If we play tennis for a long time, it does not refresh the body but crushes it. Now, if the stakes for which the game is played are too great, then the emotions of the players become unbalanced. Moreover, it is unjust to gamble for too great prices for competencies and skills, of so little consequence and so useless, as are the skills of games.

Above all, take care, Philothea, that you do not attach yourself with fondness to all these games. No matter how honest a recreation may be, it is wrong to put one's heart and affection into it. I do not say that we are not to take pleasure in playing games while we play. Otherwise we will not refresh ourselves. But I do say that we must not set our affection on them in order to desire them, be taken up by them and be eager for them.

Chapter 32: Forbidden Games

Games of dice, cards and the like in which success depends mainly on chance are not only dangerous pastimes, like dances, but they are simply and naturally evil and blameworthy. Hence, they are forbidden both by civil and church law. "What great harm is there in them?" You would ask me. The success in these games is decided not by reason but by chance. often it falls to the one who does not deserve it either for his competence or for his skill. In this, therefore, reason is violated. "But we have agreed upon it," you may insist. It serves to show that he who wins does no wrong to others, but it does not follow that the agreement is not unreasonable and the game as well. For success which is to be the reward of competence is made the reward of chance, which is not worthy of any prize since it does not depend on us in any way.

Besides this, these games are called recreation and are organized for it. Yet, they are by no means such but oppressive occupations. Is it not an occupation to keep the mind tied down and strained by continual concentration and disturbed by continual anxiety, fears and eagerness? Is there any attention more sad, more gloomy and depressing than that of the players? That is why, we must not speak about the game, we must not laugh, we must not cough, otherwise they will lose their temper.

Finally, there is no joy at all in gambling except for the winner. Is not this joy unrighteous since it cannot be had except through the loss and grief of the companions in the game? This joy is indeed sordid. For these reasons, such games are forbidden. The great king St. Louis hearing that the Count of Anjou, his brother and M. Gautier de Nemours were gambling, rose up though he was sick and went staggering to their room. There, he took the table, the dice and a part of the money and threw them out of the window into the sea, being extremely angry with them. The holy and chaste maiden, Sara, speaking to God of her innocence says: "You know, O Lord, that I never joined with those who play" (Tobit 3:14-15 RSV).

Chapter 33: Dances and Permissible But Dangerous Pastimes

Dances and balls are pastimes neither morally good nor morally evil by their very nature. But the usual way of conducting these pastimes is very much inclined and disposed towards evil and consequently full of danger and risk. They are held at night in dim light and darkness. Several disgraceful and sinful incidents easily slip in as the situation itself is very favorable to evil. They keep awake till very late at night after which they lose the mornings of the following days, thus losing the means of serving God in them. In a word, it is always foolishness to change day into night, light into darkness and good works into trifles. At the ball each one tries to excel in vanity. Now vanity is so great a tendency to evil attachments and dangerous and blameworthy loves that all these easily occur at dances.

I speak of dances, Philothea, in the same vein as doctors speak of pumpkins and mushrooms. They say that the best are good for nothing, and I say that the best balls are scarcely good. Nevertheless if you have to eat pumpkins, take care that they are well prepared. If you have to go to a ball on some occasion, and you cannot reasonably excuse yourself, take care that your dance is properly prepared. But how can it be properly prepared? with modesty, with dignity and with good intention. Speaking of mushrooms, the doctors say: eat little and rarely. No matter how well-prepared they may be, taken in large quantity, they become poisonous. Dance little and rarely, Philothea, because by doing otherwise, you run the risk of becoming attached to it.

Pliny mentions that mushrooms being spongy and porous easily draw in every form of infection which is around them. So, if they are near serpents, they absorb their poison. Balls, dances and similar gatherings at night usually attract the vices and sins which are prevalent in a place such as quarrels, envy, mockery immodest love-making. While these pastimes open the pores of the body of those who take part in them they open also the pores of their hearts. Then, if some serpent breathes into their ears some lustful suggestion, some silly words of love, some flattering words, or if a basilisk[148] casts some impure glances, amorous looks, their hearts are easily seized and poisoned.

Philothea, these unwholesome recreations are usually dangerous. They scatter the spirit of devotion, weaken spiritual energies and make charity grow cold. They awaken in the person a thousand kinds of evil attachments. Therefore, they are to be used with great prudence.

It is said that especially after taking mushrooms we must drink very good wine. I say that after dances some holy and good reflections are to be made in order to prevent dangerous impressions, received from the vain pleasure, entering the mind. But what reflection?

  1. At the very same time when you were at the ball, many were burning in the fire of hell for sins committed at dances or on account of dances.
  2. Many religious and devout people were, at the very same time, in the presence of God singing his praises and contemplating his beauty. Surely their time was spent with much greater profit than yours.
  3. While you were dancing, many died in great anguish. Thousands of men and women were suffering great pains, in their beds, in the hospitals and in the streets: gout, kidney stones, burning fever. Alas! they had no rest. Will you not have compassion for them? Do you not think that one day you will groan like them while others will be dancing as you did?
  4. Our Lord, Our Lady, the Angels and Saints saw you at the ball. How much they pitied you, seeing your heart given up to such trifling amusements and occupied with such nonsense!
  5. Alas! while you were there, time was passing by, death was approaching. You see that death is mocking you and is calling you to its dance in which the sobs of your relations will serve as violins. There you will make a single movement from life to death. This dance is the real pass-time of the mortals since they pass by it in a moment from time to eternity either of happiness or of pain.

I note down these little reflections for you but God will inspire in you several others for the same purpose, if his fear is in you.

Chapter 34: When We May Play Or Dance

Playing and dancing are permissible provided we take part in them for the sake of recreation and not from any attachment to them. It should be for a short time, not till we are tired or dizzy. Let it be rarely. It is usually done changing recreation into an occupation. On what occasions can we play or dance? Suitable opportunities for proper dancing and for lawful games are more frequent. Opportunities for forbidden games are quite rare since such games are very blameworthy and dangerous. In a word, dance and play in keeping with the conditions which I have laid down for you. When prudence and discretion counsel you, you may comply and give pleasure to a social gathering which you are attending. In fact, compliance being a form of charity makes good what is indifferent and permissible what is dangerous. It even takes what is harmful from things which are in some way evil. Therefore games of chance which are otherwise reproachable are not such if sometimes a right compliance leads us to them.

I was happy to read in the Life of St. Charles Borromeo that he used to comply with the Swiss in certain things about which he was otherwise strict. Also Blessed Ignatius of Loyola being invited to play accepted it. As to St. Elizabeth of Hungry, when she found herself in recreative gatherings, sometimes she played and danced without harm to her devotion. It was so deeply rooted in her that, just as the rocks around the lake of Rietta grow when beaten by waves,[149] so also her devotion increased in the midst of vanities and pomps to which her situation exposed her. These are the great fires which grow and break into flames by the wind while the little ones are extinguished if we do not protect them.

Chapter 35: We Must Be Faithful Both in Great and Little Things

The Sacred Spouse in the Song of Songs says that his Bride has delighted his heart with one of her eyes and with one of her hairs (4:9). Among all the external parts of the human body there is nothing more noble either for its versatility or for activity as the eye and nothing more lowly than the hair. Hence the divine Spouse wants to make us understand that not only the great deeds of devout persons but also the least and most lowly are pleasing to him. To serve him according to his liking, we must take great care to serve him well in great and lofty matters as well as in the little and the lowly. In fact, we can equally delight his heart both by the one and the other.

Be ready, then, Philothea, to bear great sufferings even martyrdom for the sake of our Lord. Decide to give him all that is most precious to you, if it pleases him to take it away: father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, children, even your eyes and your life because for all these you must keep your heart ready. As long as divine Providence does not send you such acute and such great sufferings and does not demand from you your own eyes, give him at least your hair. I mean bear very gently the petty insults, these little inconveniences, these losses of little consequences which occur to you daily. by making use of these little opportunities with pure and tender love, you will win his heart entirely and will make it your own. These little daily acts of charity, this headache, this toothache, this swelling, this whim of the husband or wife, this breaking of a glass, this contempt or this sulking; this loss of gloves, of a ring, of a handkerchief; this little inconvenience in going to bed early and in getting up early in the morning to pray, to receive communion; this little shame in performing acts of devotion publicly, in short all these little sufferings accepted and embraced with love are extremely pleasing to the divine Goodness. God has promised his faithful a sea of every happiness for a single glass of water (Mt 10:42). Since these occasions occur at every moment, it is a great means of gathering vast spiritual riches by making use of them well.

When I read in the life of St. Catherine of Siena so many raptures and elevations of the spirit, so many words of wisdom and even sermons preached by her, I had no doubt that with the eye of contemplation she had enraptured the heart of her heavenly Spouse. But I was equally consoled when I saw her in her father's kitchen humbly turning the spit, kindling the fire, dressing the meat, kneading the bread and doing all the meanest household tasks with a courage full of tender, pure love towards God. I appreciate no less the little humble meditation which she was making in the midst of these mean and lowly occupations than the ecstasies and raptures she so often had. These were, perhaps, given to her only as a reward for her humility and self-abasement. Her meditation was like this: she imagined that in cooking food for her father she was preparing it for our Lord like another Martha. Her mother held the place of our Lady and her brothers that of the Apostles. Thus she encouraged herself to serve the whole court of heaven in spirit while doing these trifling services with great relish because she knew that such was the will of God for her. I gave this example, dear Philothea, that you may realize how important it is to direct all our actions, however lowly they may be, to the service of God's divine Majesty.

Hence I earnestly advise you, to the best of my ability, to imitate the strong women whom the great Solomon praised so much. As he said, she put her hand to strong, generous and lofty things and yet did not abandon spinning and turning the spindle: She has put her hand to strong things and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle (Prov 31:19). Put your hand to strong things by practicing prayer and meditation, frequenting the Sacraments, spreading good inspirations to others and lastly by doing great and important works according to your way of life. But do not forget your spindle and distaff. I mean, practice these little humble virtues which are like flowers growing at the foot of the Cross: The service of the poor, visiting the sick, care of the family with the works which go with it, and useful diligence which will not permit you to be idle. Intermingle similar considerations, such as those I mentioned about St. Catherine, in the midst of all these occupations.

Great occasions of serving God are rare but little ones are common. He who will be faithful in little things, says the Savior himself, he shall be established over many things (Mt 25:21). Do, then, all things in the name of God (Col. 3:17) and all things will be done well. Whether you eat or whether you drink (1 Cor 10:31) whether you sleep or whether you recreate or you turn the spit, provided you know well to manage your affairs, you will gain much in the sight of God doing all these things because God wills that you do them.

Chapter 36: We Must Have A Just and Reasonable Mind

We are men only through reason. Yet it is a rare thing to find men truly reasonable. All the more so, since self-love generally confuses reason, it leads us unnoticeably into a thousand kinds of small but dangerous injustices and unfair dealings. These, like the little foxes spoken of in the Song of Songs destroy the vines (2:15). As they are small we do not pay attention to them. Because they are many, they do not cease to do much harm.

I shall now point out to you certain unfair and unreasonable attitudes. We accuse our neighbor for a little and we excuse ourselves much. We wish to sell very dear and buy quite cheap. We desire that justice be done in the house of another and at home we show mercy and indulgence to our own. We want our words to be taken in a good sense by others and we are touchy and sensitive to what others say. We would like our neighbor to leave us his property when we pay him. Is it not more just that he keeps it and leave us our money? We are displeased with him because he does not want to adjust to us. Has he not greater reason to be angry with us because we wish to inconvenience him? If we are attached to a particular practice, we despise all the rest and criticize all that is not according to our taste. If one of our subordinates is not good-looking or we dislike him, whatever he may do we take it ill. We do not cease to make him sad, and we are always ready to blame him. On the contrary, if someone is pleasing to us as he is good-looking, there is nothing he does that we will not excuse. There are virtuous children whom their father and mother can hardly tolerate on account of some physical defect. There are vicious children who are favorites because of their graceful appearance.

On the whole we prefer the rich to the poor even though they are not better either in character or in virtue. We even prefer the best dressed. We maintain our rights strictly and want others to be polite in demanding theirs. We keep our rank with great formality but desire that others be humble and submissive. We easily complain about our neighbor but we do not wish anyone to complain about us. What we do for others always appears much, while what others do for us seems nothing. In short, we are like the partridges of Paphlagonia which have two hearts.[150] For we have a gentle, kind and gracious heart towards ourselves and a hard, stern and strict heart towards our neighbor. We have two weights: one to weigh our interests with the greatest possible advantage for ourselves and the other to weigh those of our neighbors with the greatest possible disadvantage to him. Now, as the Scripture says: The deceitful lips have spoken with a double heart (Ps 12:2), in other words, they have two hearts. Also they have two weights, one heavy for receiving and the other light for giving which is an abominable thing before God (Prov 20:23).

Philothea, be impartial and just in your actions. Put yourself always in the place of your neighbor, and your neighbor in your own place, and thus you will judge him well. Make yourself a seller while buying and a buyer while selling; you will sell and buy with justice. All these acts of justice are small, and do not oblige us to restitution, since we remain strictly within the limits of what is advantageous to us. But they continue to oblige us to correct our attitudes because these are great defects of reason and charity. After all these are simply deceits. We lose nothing by living generously, nobly, courteously and with a magnanimous, impartial and reasonable heart. Remember, then, dear Philothea, to examine your heart often regarding its attitude towards your neighbor. Is it as you would wish that his should be towards you if you were in his place. For this is the mark of true reason. Trajan when he was criticized by his intimates for rendering the imperial majesty, in their opinion, too accessible, answered: "Yes, indeed. Should I not be such an emperor towards private citizens as I would want an emperor to be if I were a private citizen?

Chapter 37: Desires

Everyone knows that we ought to watch against the desires for sinful things. In fact, the desire for evil makes us evil. I say even more, dear Philothea: Do not desire things which are dangerous to us such as balls, games and other pastimes. Do not desire either honors or positions, visions or ecstasies since there is much danger, vanity and deceit in such things. Do not desire things in the distant future, that is, which cannot take place for a long time. by such desires many become negligent and disturb their hearts uselessly and put themselves in great danger of anxiety. If a young man desires earnestly to be provided with some job before time, to what purpose will this desire serve him? to what purpose does a married woman desire to be a religious? If I desire to buy the property of my neighbor before he is willing to sell it, am I not wasting my time in this desire? Being sick, if I desire to preach or say Mass, visit the sick and do the work of those who are in good health, are not these desires impractical since during this time, it is not possible for me to realize them? Moreover, these worthless desires occupy the place of others which I ought to have: to be very patient, very resigned, very mortified, very obedient and very gentle in my sufferings. This is what God wants me to practice at such a time. Generally we desire like expectant mothers for fresh cherries in autumn and for fresh grapes in winter.

I do not approve in any way that a person bound to some duty or occupation distracts himself by desiring a different kind of life than that which is befitting to his duty, or even practices inconsistent with his present state. Indeed, this dissipates the heart and weakens it in carrying out necessary exercises. If I desire the solitude of the Carthusians, I waste my time. This desire takes the place of the one that I must have to accomplish well my present charge. Likewise, I would not even wish that we desire better talent and better judgment because these desires are silly. They take the place of that desire which we should have to improve our own talent such as it is. We are not to desire the means of serving God which we do not have. Instead we are to use faithfully those which we have. This is applicable to the longings which distract the heart. As to simple wishes, they do no harm provided they are not frequent.

Do not desire crosses except in so far as you have borne those which were offered to you. It is an error to desire martyrdom without having enough courage to bear an insult. The enemy often arouses in us ardent desires for things that are absent and may never come on our way. It is to turn away our minds from present objects from which, however small they may be, we could draw great profit. In imagination we fight monsters in Africa. But in fact, due to lack of attention we allow ourselves to be killed by little serpents on our way. Do not desire temptations for it will be rashness. Rather, engage your heart in awaiting them courageously and in defending yourself from them when they come.

The variety of foods, especially when the quantity is large, always burden the stomach and if it is weak spoils it. Do not fill your spirit with many desires: neither with worldly desire for they will corrupt you entirely, not with the spiritual ones, for they will overwhelm you. When your spirit is purified, feeling itself freed from evil dispositions, it has enormous hunger for spiritual things. In a state of starvation, it desires a thousand kinds of spiritual exercises and practices of mortification, of penance, of humility, of charity, of prayer. It is a good sign, dear Philothea, thus to have a keen appetite but see whether you can digest well all that you wish to eat. Choose then, from among so many desires, with the advice of your spiritual father, what can be practiced and accomplished now. Turn these into good account. Once you do this, God will send you other desires which you will realize in their own time. Thus you will not waste your time in useless desires. I do not say that we should lose any kind of good desire but I insist that we must render them fruitful in due order. Those which cannot be practiced now, store them in some corner of your heart till their time comes. In the mean time, put into effect those which are ripe and in season. I suggest this not only to the spiritual but also to the worldly. without it we will live only in anxiety and eagerness.

Chapter 38: Advice to the Married

Marriage is a great Sacrament, I say in Jesus Christ and in his Church (Eph 5:32). It is honorable to all (Heb 13:4) persons, in all and in everything, that is, in all its aspects. To all persons, because even the virgins ought to honor it with humility. In all, because it is equally holy among the poor as well as among the rich. In all aspects: In fact, its origin, its purpose, its usefulness, its form and its matter are holy. It is the nursery of Christianity. It fills the earth with believers to complete the number of the elect in Heaven. So, the preservation of the well-being of marriage is extremely important for the State, for it is the root and the origin of all its resources.

Would to God that his beloved Son was invited to all the marriages as he was to that of Cana! Then the wine of consolations and blessings would never be lacking there. The reason why there is usually only a little of such wine in the beginning, is because Adonis is invited in the place of our Lord and Venus[151] instead of our Lady. Like Jacob, he who wishes to have beautiful spotted lambs, must place before the sheep fine rods of various colors when they are brought together for breeding (Gen 30:38-39). Those who wish to have success in marriage should represent to themselves the holiness and dignity of this Sacrament at their weddings. Instead of this, there occur a thousand disorders in pastimes, celebrations and speech. It is not, therefore, astonishing that the results of such marriages are disorderly.

Above all, I urge the married to mutual love which the Holy Spirit recommends to them so much in the Scriptures. Dear married couples it is nothing to say: love one another with a natural love, for the pairs of turtle-doves do that well. Nor even to say: love one another with a human love, for the pagans have practiced this love well. But following the great Apostle, I say to you: Husbands love your wives as Jesus Christ loves his Church (Eph 5:25). Wives, love your husbands as the Church loves her Savior. It was God who brought Eve to our first father Adam and gave her to him as his wife. It is also God, my friends, who with his invisible hand established the sacred bond of your marriage[152] and gave you to one another. Why do you not love one another with a love completely holy, sacred and divine?

The first effect of this love is the indissoluble union of hearts. If two pieces of fir are glued together, provided that the glues are good, they will stick together very strongly. It will be easier to break pieces from any other part, rather than from where they are joined together. But God has joined the husband to the wife in his own blood. Hence this union is so strong that the soul ought to separate itself from the body of one or the other rather than the husband from the wife. Now this union is not concerned chiefly with the body but with the heart, with the affection.

The second effect of this love must be the inviolable faithfulness of the one to the other. In olden times, seals were engraved on rings which were worn on fingers as Holy Scripture itself testifies (Esther 8:8; Daniel 6:17). This, then, is the deeper meaning of the special ceremony at the wedding. The Church blesses a ring by the hands of the priest and gives it first to the bridegroom. Thus she testifies that she puts a stamp on his heart and seals it by this Sacrament. In this way she indicates that never more any name or any love of another woman can enter his heart as long as the one who has been given to him in marriage is living. Then the bridegroom puts the rings on the hand of the bride. by this she is to know in turn that her heart should not receive any affection from another man as long as the one whom our Lord has just given her is alive.

The third fruit of marriage is the procreation and proper upbringing of children. It is a great honor to you, the married, that through you God desires to multiply human beings who will bless and praise him for all eternity. He makes you cooperators of so noble a task by your generating the bodies in which he spreads the souls like heavenly drops. These he creates, and as he creates them, he infuses them into the bodies.

Husbands cultivate, therefore, a tender, constant and sincere love for your wives. For this purpose, the woman was taken from the side closest to the heart of the first man so that she would be sincerely and tenderly loved by him. The inabilities and the weaknesses either of body or of spirit of your wives should not cause any kind of contempt in you but rather a gentle and loving compassion. For God has created them as such so that they are dependent on you and thus you receive greater honor and respect from it. You may have them as your companions in such a way that you are, all the same, their heads and superiors.

You, wives, love your husbands whom God has given you. Love them with a love that is respectful and full of esteem. Truly, God has created them as a more vigorous and dominant sex. He has willed that the woman must depend on man, bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh (Gen 2:23); she was made out of one of his ribs taken from under his arm to show that she ought to be under the hand and guidance of her husband. Holy Scripture strongly recommends to you this submission. But the same Scripture makes it pleasant. It wishes that not only you adapt yourself to it with love but also commands your husbands to exercise their authority with great love, tenderness and gentleness. Husbands, says St. Peter, treat your wives discreetly giving them honor as to a fragile vessel (1 Peter 3:7).

While I advise you to grow more and more in this mutual love, take care that it does not turn into any kind of jealousy. Indeed, it often happens that the worm breeds in the most exquisite and ripest apple. Similarly jealousy arises in the most ardent and compelling love of the married. It spoils and corrupts the very nature of this love because it causes quarrels, strife and divorces. Certainly, jealousy never arises where friendship is mutually founded upon true virtue. Hence jealousy is an unquestionable mark of a love which is in some way sensual and rude. It establishes itself in a heart where it has found a defective unsteady virtue inclined to suspicion. It is a foolish boast as regards friendship to desire to extol it by jealousy. Jealousy is indeed a characteristic of the greatness and largeness of friendship, but not of the goodness, purity and perfection of it. While the perfection of friendship presupposes that we are convinced of the virtue of the person loved, jealousy presupposes its uncertainty.

If you, husbands, wish your wives to be faithful, then teach that lesson by your example. "with what boldness," says St. Gregory Nazianzen, "can you demand chastity from your wives, if you yourself live in unchastity? How can you ask for what you do not give them?" Do you want them to be chaste? Behave chastely towards them. As says St. Paul, "Let each one know to possess his vessel in holiness" (1 Thes 4:4). But if on the contrary, you yourself teach them dishonesty, it is not astonishing that you have disgrace at their infidelity.

But you, wives, whose honor is inseparably joined to modesty and honesty, preserve jealously your glory. Do not allow any kind of licentiousness to stain the brightness of your good name. Fear all sorts of attacks on your modesty, however slight they may be and never permit anything trifling around you. Whoever comes to praise your beauty and your charm must be held in suspicion. For anyone who praises a thing which he cannot buy is usually tempted to steal it. But if he adds the contempt of your husband to the praise he gives you, he offends you very seriously. In fact, it is evident that he wishes not only to ruin you but already thinks of you as half lost. Indeed half of the bargain is already made with the second merchant when one is dissatisfied with the first.

Ladies both ancient and modern have been accustomed to hang a number of pearls from their ears. According to Pliny, they do so for the pleasure of hearing them jingle when they touch one another. But as to me, I know that the great friend of God Isaac sent earrings to the chaste Rebecca as the first pledges of his love (Gen 24:22). I think that this mystical ornament has a meaning: The first thing that a husband should have from his wife and a wife should faithfully keep for him is her ear. Thus no speech or rumour can enter there except the gentle and pleasant sound of chaste and modest words. Such are the words of the Gospel, the real pearls of the Orient. We must always remember that our souls are poisoned through the ear and our bodies through the mouth.

Love and faithfulness when joined together always beget intimacy and trust. Hence men and women saints have used much mutual caresses in their married life, caresses which are truly affectionate yet chaste, tender yet sincere. Thus Isaac and Rebecca, the most chaste married couple of ancient times were seen through the window by Abimelech. They were caressing each other in such a way, that though there was nothing immodest about it, he recognized that they could not but be man and wife (Gen 26:8-9). The great St. Louis was equally strict with himself and tender in the love for his wife. He was almost found fault with for being too lavish in such caresses. In fact, he rather deserved praise for knowing to put aside his martial and courageous spirit in order to pay these little attentions needed for preserving conjugal love. Though these little expressions of pure and sincere friendship do not bind hearts together, nevertheless, they bring them closer and give a pleasant direction to conjugal life.

When St. Monica was pregnant with the great St. Augustine, she consecrated him several times to the Christian religion and to the service of the glory of God. Thus he himself testifies that he had already tasted "the salt of God in his mother's womb."[153] This is a great lesson for Christian mothers to offer the fruit of their womb to the divine Majesty even before they are born. For God who accepts the offerings of a humble and willing heart usually grants the good desires of mothers during this time. Samuel, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Andrew of Fiesole and many others are witnesses of it. The mother of St. Bernard, worthy mother of such a son, taking her children in her arms as soon as they were born offered them to Jesus Christ. From that time, she loved them with respect like a consecrated object entrusted to her by God. This succeeded so happily that in the end all the seven became very saintly.

After children are born and reach the age of reason, the fathers and mothers ought to take great care to instil the fear of God into their hearts. The good queen Blanche fulfilled this duty earnestly for the king, St. Louis, her son. She used to tell him often: "I would much prefer to see you die before my eyes, my dear child, rather than see you commit a single mortal sin." It remained deeply engraved in the heart of this saintly son. As he himself said, there was not a day of his life on which he did not remember it. He took all possible care to be faithful to this divine teaching.

Indeed, in our language, races and generations are called houses. The Hebrews even refer to the begetting of children as the building up of a house. It is said in this sense that God built the houses of the midwives of Egypt (Exodus 1:21). It is to show that to make a good home is not to fill it with vast worldly possessions. Rather it is to bring up well the children in the fear of God and in virtue. In this, they should not spare any pain or hardships since the children are the crown of the father and the mother (Prov 17:6). Hence St. Monica fought with great zeal and perseverance against the evil tendencies of St. Augustine. She followed him by land and by sea, making him with greater happiness the child of her tears by his conversion than he had been the child of her blood by his bodily generation.

St. Paul leaves to the wives the care of the house, as their share (Titus 2:5). Hence many hold the well-founded opinion that their devotion is more profitable to the family than that of their husbands. Husbands do not usually come into contact with the members of the household. So they cannot easily form them in virtue. For this reason, Solomon in his Proverbs makes the happiness of every family depend on the care and diligence of this strong woman whom he describes (Prov 30).

It is said in Genesis that Isaac, seeing that his wife Rebecca was barren, prayed to the Lord for her. Or according to the Hebrew text he, opposite to her, prayed to the Lord (25:21). This was because he was praying from one side of the prayer room, and she from the other. So the prayer of the husband made in this way was heard. The greatest and most fruitful union of husband and wife is made in holy devotion. In this, they ought to encourage one another, vying with each other.

There are some fruits like the quince which due to the sourness of their juice are scarcely tasty except in preserves. There are others like cherries and apricots which being tender and delicate cannot last unless similarly preserved. Thus women most desire that their husbands be preserved in the sugar of devotion. A man without devotion is a harsh, violent and coarse animal. Husbands must want their wives to be devout because without devotion, the wife is very unsteady and liable to fall or tarnish her virtue. St. Paul said that an unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband (1 Cor 7:14). For in this very close union of marriage, one can easily draw the other to virtue. But what a blessing it is when the believing husband and believing wife sanctify each other in a true fear of the Lord.

As for the rest, the mutual encouragement of one for the other is to be very great. The two must never be angry together and at the same time so that there is no disagreement or dispute among them. Honey-bees cannot stay in a place where there are echoes and resounding, vibrating voices. Indeed, the Holy Spirit cannot remain in a house in which there are disputes, retorts, resounding shrieks and quarrels.

St. Gregory Nazianzen testifies that in his times, the married people used to celebrate the anniversary of their marriage. I would approve the revival of this custom provided that it is not celebrated with worldly and sensual pastimes. Instead, on that day, let husbands and wives make their Confession receive Holy Communion and recommend to God more fervently than usual the progress of their marriage. Let them renew their good decisions to sanctify it more and more by mutual friendship and faithfulness. Let them renew their strength in our Lord for the support of the burdens of their duty.

Chapter 39: Chastity in Married Life[154]

The marriage bed should be spotless (Heb 13:4) as the Apostle says, that is, free from immodesty and other unholy defilements. Also, holy Marriage was first established in the earthly Paradise. There was no disorder of concupiscence, nor anything immodest till the fall.

There is some similarity between sexual pleasure and that of eating since both concern the body. However, the former on account of its brutal impetuosity, is specifically called carnal. I will explain therefore what I cannot say of the one by that of the other.

  1. Eating is directed to the preservation of life. Eating, simply for the nourishment and preservation of life, is good, holy and recommended. So too acts required for the generation children and the multiplication of persons in marriage are good and very holy, since this is the principal purpose of marriage.
  2. To eat not only for preserving life but also for promoting fellowship and sociability, which we must have for one another, is something very just and honest. In the same way, the mutual and lawful satisfaction of the husband and the wife in marriage is called marital duty (1 Cor 7:3) by St. Paul. But it is so great a duty that he does not wish one of them to abstain from it without the free and voluntary consent of the other, not even for the sake of the exercise of devotion (1 Cor 7:5). It made me give the advice mentioned in the Chapter on Holy Communion on this subject.[155] How much less, then, can they abstain from it for a whimsical show of virtue or due to anger and contempt!
  3. Those who eat because of the obligation of mutual sociability must eat freely and not by force. Moreover, they are to show some appetite. Similarly the marriage debt should always be rendered faithfully, frankly and just as if it were with the hope of begetting children, even though sometimes there may be no such hope.
  4. To eat not because of the first two reasons mentioned above but only to satisfy the appetite is something tolerable but all the same not praiseworthy. The mere pleasure of the sensual appetite is not sufficient reason to make an action praiseworthy. It is enough that it is permissible.
  5. To eat not from mere hunger, but in excess and from disorder, is something more or less blameworthy in so far as the excess is great or little.
  6. Now, the excess of eating does not only consist in too large a quantity but also in the manner and way of eating. It is surprising, dear Philothea, that honey so good and wholesome for bees nevertheless may become quite harmful to them. Sometimes it makes them ill, when they eat too much of it in spring. It upsets them and sometimes it makes them die inevitably when their heads and wings are covered with honey.
    In fact, marital intercourse which is so holy, so just, so commendable and so useful to society is nevertheless dangerous on certain occasions to those who exercise it. Sometimes, it makes them die by mortal sin. This happens when the order established for the generation of children is violated and perverted. In such cases, in so far as one is more or less led astray from this order, the sins become more or less detestable but always mortal. Since the procreation of children is the primary and principal end of marriage, it is never lawful to turn away from the required order. Nevertheless, it is not possible to effect it in some particular circumstances as in the case of barrenness or pregnancy which prevents begetting and generation. In such case sexual intercourse does not cease to be just and holy provided the laws of generation are followed.
    No casual circumstance can ever go against the law which governs the principal aim of marriage. Indeed, the shameful and detestable action which Onan committed in his marriage was abominable before God, so says the Sacred Scripture in the thirty-eighth Chapter of Gen Some heretics of our age, a hundred times more blameworthy than the Cynics of whom St. Jerome speaks in his commentary on the Letter to the Ephesians, hold that it was the depraved intention of this wicked man that displeased God. Scripture, however, speaks quite otherwise, and declares specifically that the act itself which he committed was detestable and abominable in the sight of God.
  7. It is a true sign of a beggarly, ignoble, mean and shameful spirit to think of food and eatables before the time for meals. More so, when after meals, one takes delight in the pleasure which one had in eating: enjoying it by words and thoughts, and revelling one's spirit in the memory of the pleasure one had in swallowing the mouthfuls. Such are those who before dinner keep their minds on what is being cooked and after dinner on what was eaten. They deserve to be scullions[156] in the kitchen who, as St. Paul says, make a god of their belly (Phil 3:19). Persons of honor do not think of the table except when they sit down. After the meal, they wash their hands and mouth in order to have neither the taste nor the smell of what they have eaten.

The elephant is only a huge beast but the most dignified and most intelligent animal which lives on earth. I wish to tell you an instance of its excellence. It never changes its mate and loves tenderly the one it has chosen. However, it does not mate with it except every third year, and that for five days only, and so secretly that it is not seen doing this act. Nevertheless, it is seen on the sixth day on which before anything else, it goes straight to some river. There it washes completely its whole body without any wish to return to the flock before it is purified.[157] Are not these beautiful and chaste characteristics of such an animal an invitation to the married? they are not to remain entangled in attachment to sexual pleasures which they have experienced according to their vocation. When they are over, they are to wash their hearts and affection for them, and purify themselves as soon as possible. Thus, soon after, they can practice with freedom of spirit other purer and more noble actions.

The perfect practice of the excellent teaching which St. Paul gives to the Corinthians consists in this counsel: The time is short, he says, it remains that those who have wives be as if they do not have any (1 Cor 7:29). According to St. Gregory, he who has a wife as if he has not any, means that he takes such bodily comforts with her that by them he is not turned away from his spiritual aims. What is said of the husband extends reciprocally to the wife. Let those who use the world, says the same Apostle, be as if they do not use it (1 Cor 7:31). Let all, therefore, use the world, each one according to one's state of life, but in such a way that they do not attach their love to it. They ought to be free and ready to serve God as if they do not use it at all. "It is the great evil of man," says St. Augustine, "to wish to enjoy things which he should only use, and to wish to use those which he should only enjoy." We must enjoy spiritual things and only use bodily things. When the use of bodily things is turned into enjoyment, our rational soul becomes brutal and irrational like an animal.

I think that I have said all that I desired to say and made clear without saying it what I did not want to say.

Chapter 40: Advice for Widows

St. Paul instructed all the prelates in the person of St. Timothy saying: Honor the widows who are truly widows (1 Tim. 5:3). Now, to be truly a widow the following things are necessary:

  1. Let the widow be not only a widow in body but also a widow at heart. So, let her be determined by an unshakable decision to persevere in the state of chaste widowhood. In fact, widows, who are only such while waiting for a chance to remarry, are separated from men only concerning bodily pleasure. But they are joined to them according to their will and affection.
    The true widow could desire to offer her body and her chastity to God by vow, in order to strengthen herself in her widowhood. She would, then, add a great ornament to her widowhood and make her decision very secure. Seeing that after her vow it is not in her power to abandon chastity without losing Paradise, she will be very earnest in her purpose. She will be so committed to her plan as not to allow even the least thoughts about marriage to remain in her heart even for a moment. Thus this sacred vow will erect a strong barrier between her and every kind of project contrary to her decision.
    St. Augustine, indeed, greatly urges the christian widow to make this vow. Earlier, the learned Origen went further. He exhorted married women to vow and consecrate their chastity in advance if it were to happen that their husbands died before them. Thus in between the sensual pleasures they could have in their marriage, they could enjoy all the same the merit of a chaste widowhood by means of this anticipated promise.
    The vow renders the works done as a consequence of it more pleasing to God. It strengthens the courage to do them. It gives not only the works to God, which are like the fruits of our good will, but also dedicates our will itself which is like the tree of our actions. by the practice of chastity without a vow, we lend our bodies to God, keeping back, however, the freedom to enjoy lawfully sensual pleasures at some other time. But by the vow of chastity, we give our bodies to him as an absolute and irrevocable gift, without reserving to ourselves any power to withdraw it. Thus we become happily the slaves of Him whose servitude is better than all royal power. I strongly recommend the counsels of these two great persons. I wish also that those who like to follow joyfully these counsels will do so prudently, holily and firmly. Let them first examine well their courage, invoke heavenly inspiration and take counsel from a wise and devout director. Thus all things will be done more profitably.
  2. Moreover, this renunciation of the second marriage must be done purely and simply with greater purity. Thus we direct all our affections to God and unite every part of our heart with that of the divine Majesty. For if the desire to leave the children rich or some other worldly intention keeps a widow in her widowhood, she will have, perhaps, praise for it but not certainly before God (Rom 4:2). Indeed, before God, nothing can have real praise except what is done for God.
  3. Further for the widow to be truly a widow she must separate herself from and deprive herself of secular satisfactions. The widow who lives in delights, says St. Paul, is dead though living (1 Tim 5:6). To desire to be a widow and be pleased with being courted, caressed and flattered; to wish to be at balls, dances and celebrations; to like to be perfumed, splendidly dressed and appear pretty, is to be a widow alive in the body and dead in spirit. What does it matter whether the sign of the inn of Adonis[158] and of secular love be made of white feathers arranged in the form of a wreath or of a veil spread all over the face in the form of a net? Thus often from vanity the black is put over the white in order to make the color stand out better. The widow, as she had experienced the way in which women may please men, casts the most dangerous allurements before them. The widow, then who lives in these foolish delights, is dead though" living. Properly speaking she is only an idol of widowhood.

The time of pruning has come, the voice of the turtle-dove has been heard in our land, says the Song of Songs (2:12). The pruning of worldly superfluities is necessary for anyone who desire to live devoutly, especially necessary for a true widow, who like a chaste turtle-dove has just recently wept, sighed and lamented the loss of her husband. When Naomi came back from Moab to Bethlehem, the women of the town who had known her at the time of her marriage were saying to one another: Is not this Naomi? But she replied: Please, do not call me Naomi, for Naomi means graceful and beautiful but call me Mara, for the Lord has filled my soul with bitterness (Ruth 1:19-20). She said this as her husband was dead. Thus the devout widow does not want to be called or esteemed as beautiful, or lovely. She is satisfied with being what God wants that she should be, that is, humble and lowly in his sight.

Lamps burning with aromatic oil emit a more pleasant fragrance when their flames are put out. Thus the widows whose love has been pure in their marriage spread a greater perfume of the virtue of chastity when their light, that is, their husband is extinguished by death. To love the husband while he is still alive is quite common among women. But to love him so much after his death that she wants no one else is a degree of love which belongs only to true widows. It is not very rare to hope in God while the husband helps and is her support. But to hope in God when she is deprived of this help is worthy of great praise. Hence the perfection of virtues practiced in marriage is more easily recognized in widowhood.

The widow with children who need her guidance and management, especially in spiritual matters and the settlement of their life, cannot and should not abandon them in any way whatever. For the apostle St. Paul says clearly that they are obliged to this care in order to return the same to their fathers and mothers (1 Tim 5:4) and all the more so, if someone has no care for his own, and especially for those of his family, he is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8). But if her children do not stand in need of her guidance, then the widow ought to gather all her affection and thoughts to direct them more purely to her progress in the love of God.

Unless some unavoidable necessity obliges the true widow, in conscience to be involved in external problems such as lawsuits, I counsel her to abstain from them entirely. Let her follow the method of managing her affairs in a way more peaceful and calm even though it does not seem to be the most profitable. For the fruits of anxiety ought to be very great as to be equal to the benefits of a holy tranquillity. Moreover, lawsuits and such entanglements disturb the heart and often open the door to the enemies of chastity. In the meanwhile, to please those whose favor they need, they have to behave in a way which is not devout and not pleasing to God.

Let prayer be the constant practice of the widow. Since now she should have love only for God, she ought to speak almost always only for God. A piece of iron, which is prevented from following its attraction to a magnet due to the presence of a diamond, dashes towards the magnet as soon as the diamond is removed. In like manner, the heart of a widow cannot totally soar up to God nor follow the attractions of divine love while her husband is alive. Soon after his death, she must run earnestly after the odor of heavenly perfumes. Let her say in imitation of the sacred Spouse: Lord, now that I am entirely mine receive me as entirely yours. Draw me after you, we run after the odor of your ointments (Song 1:3-4).

The practice of virtues suitable to the holy widow are perfect modesty, renunciation of honors, or ranks, of social gatherings, of titles and similar vanities. Also it includes serving the poor and the sick, comforting those who suffer, instructing girls in the devout life and giving a perfect example of all the virtues to young women. Neatness and simplicity are the two ornaments of their garments; humility and charity the two ornaments of their conversation; modesty and chastity, the ornament of their eyes; and Jesus Christ crucified the unique love of their heart.

In short, the true widow is a little March violet within the Church. She spreads an extraordinary perfume by the odor of her devotion. She remains almost always hidden under the large leaves of her lowliness and by her less brilliant color testifies to her mortification. She grows in uncultivated places, as she does not wish to be influenced by the society of worldly people. Thus she preserves better the freshness of her heart against all the heat which the desire for wealth, honors or even loves could bring to her. She will be happy, says the holy Apostle, if she perseveres in it (1 Cor 7:40).

I could say many other things on this subject. But I shall have said everything when I say that the widow, jealous of the honor of her condition, read attentively the beautiful letters which the great St. Jerome wrote to Furian and to Salvia and to many other ladies. These were so happy to be the spiritual daughters of such a great Father. Nothing can be added to what he has told them except this warning: The true widow must never blame or criticize those who marry a second or even third or fourth time. For in some cases, God arranges thus for his greater glory. It is always necessary to keep in mind this teaching of the Ancients: neither widowhood nor virginity has any rank in Heaven except that which is given to them by humility.

Chapter 41: A Word to Virgins

Virgins, if you desire a temporal marriage, then, keep your first love jealously for your first husband. I think that it is a great fraud to offer a heart all worn out, spoiled and weary with love instead of a whole and sincere heart. But if it is your good fortune to be called to chaste and virginal spiritual nuptials, and you want to preserve your virginity always, keep your love with the utmost care for this divine Spouse. He is purity itself and loves nothing as much as purity (Song 2:16) and to him the first fruits of all things are due but especially that of love. The letters of St. Jerome will give you all the counsels which you need. Since your state of life binds you to obedience, choose a guide under whose direction you may consecrate your heart and your body more holily to the divine Majesty.

Part IV: Counsels Required for Overcoming the More Common Temptations

Chapter 1: We Must Ignore the Negative Remarks of Worldly People

As soon as the worldly-minded observe that you are determined to follow the devout life, they will fling at you a thousand darts of mockery and slander. The more malicious will falsely ascribe your change to hypocrisy, bigotry and pretence. They will say that the world has frowned upon you and due to this rejection you are turning to God. Your friends will be eager to pour out upon you countless objections which in their opinion are prudent and charitable. They will say: You will fall into a gloomy mood, it will discredit you in the eyes of the world, you will make yourself unbearable, you will grow old before time, your household affairs will suffer; in the world you must live the life of the people in the world; you can attain salvation without so many mysteries; and thousands of such trifles.

Dear Philothea, all this is but silly and senseless babbling. Such persons have no concern either for your health or for your affairs. If you were of the world, says the Savior, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you (Jn 15:19). We have seen men and women spending, not only the whole night but even several nights one after another, playing chess or cards. Can there be anything more depressing, more gloomy and more dull than this? and yet the worldly people utter not a word of complaint, and their friends are least disturbed. But for an hour in meditation, or if we are seen getting up a little earlier than usual to prepare for Communion they run to the doctor to get us cured of being depressed and of jaundice! they spend thirty nights in dancing, and no one complains. But if they are awake during one Christmas night everyone coughs and grumbles about being ill the next day. Who cannot see that the world is an unfair judge? It is gracious and lenient to its own children, but harsh and rigorous with the children of God.

We cannot please the world without losing ourselves with it. We can never satisfy it for it is so peculiar. When John came, says the Lord, neither eating nor drinking, and you say that he was possessed; the Son of Man came eating and drinking and you say, that he is a samaritan (Mt 11:18-19).

It is true, Philothea, if we condescend to laugh, play or dance with the world, it will be scandalized. If we do not do so, it will accuse us of hypocrisy or of being depressed. If we dress well, it will attribute it to some ulterior motive; if we dress in simple clothes, it will be considered as stinginess. Our joy will be called dissipation by the world, and our mortification sadness. Since it looks upon us with prejudice, we can never satisfy it. It exaggerates our imperfections and proclaims them to be sins. It counts our venial sins as mortal, and our sins of frailty as sins of malice.

Charity is kind, says St. Paul (1 Cor 13:4-5), the world on the contrary is spiteful; whereas charity never thinks evil the world always does so. If it cannot find fault with our actions, it finds fault with our intentions. Whether the sheep have horns or not, whether they be black or white, the wolf will devour them if it can.

Whatever we may do, the world will always be at war with us. If we are for a long time with the confessor they will wonder that we have so much to say; if we are with him for a short time they will say that we have not confessed everything. They will closely watch our behaviour, and, for one small word of anger, they will declare that we are unbearable. Our care in managing our affairs will be regarded as avarice, and our being gentle as foolishness. But as for the worldly people their anger is superiority, their avarice is thrift, their undue familiarity is honorable conversation. Spiders always spoil the work of the bees.

Let us ignore this blind world, Philothea. Let it cry out as much as it wants, like an owl trying to disturb the birds of the day. Let us be firm in our intentions, unwavering in our decisions. Our very perseverance will prove that in good earnest we have sacrificed ourselves to God and committed ourselves to the devout life. Comets and planets shine almost with the same brightness; but comets disappear in a very short time since they are only passing lights, while planets are constantly shining. Similarly hypocrisy and true virtue are very much alike externally. But they may be easily distinguished from one another. Hypocrisy does not last long and vanishes like rising smoke. True virtue is ever firm and constant.

To face reproaches and criticisms is a great help to keep us firm in devotion at the beginning. In this way we escape the danger of vanity and pride which are like the midwives of Egypt, to whom the wicked Pharaoh gave orders to kill all the male children of Israel on the very day of their birth (Ex 1:15-16). We are crucified to the world and the world should be crucified to us (Gal 6:14). The world looks upon us as fools, let us hold it to be unreasonable.

Chapter 2: We Must Have Great Courage

Though light is beautiful and pleasant, it dazzles our eyes if we have been in darkness for long. Before we grow familiar with the inhabitants of any country, however courteous and gracious they are, we feel somewhat ill at ease. It may well happen, my dear Philothea, that at this change of life there will be many feelings of disgust within you. You experience some sadness and discouragement in bidding complete farewell to the follies and vanities of the world. Should this happen, please have a little patience, for it will come to nothing. It is only a little uneasiness caused by change. As soon as it wears off you will receive ten thousand consolations.

Perhaps you may regret at first for giving up the glory which fools and flatterers gave you for your vanities. Would you lose the eternal glory which God will certainly give you? the futile amusements and pastimes of the previous years may return to your heart to entice it and draw it back to them. Would you dare to renounce this happy eternity for the sake of such deceitful trifles? I assure you, if you persevere, you will receive without delay very pleasant and delightful consolations of the heart. Thus you will admit that the pleasures of the world are but gall in comparison with this honey, and a single day of devotion, is better than a thousand years of worldly life (Ps 83:11).

But you understand that the mountain of Christian perfection is very lofty. You say, "How shall I be able to ascend it?" Courage, Philothea! When the little bees are formed they are called nymphs; at this stage they are not yet able to fly to the flowers nor to the mountains, nor to the neighboring hills to gather honey. But little by little feeding on the honey which the bees have prepared, they grow wings and get strong to fly in search of honey all over the countryside. It is true, we are still little bees in devotion. We are not able to ascend according to our purpose, which is to reach the summit of Christian perfection. But if we begin to form ourselves by means of our desires and resolutions, our wings will begin to grow, and we can hope that one day we shall be spiritual bees able to fly. And meanwhile, let us live on the honey of the teachings left by the devout persons of the past. And let us pray to God to give us wings like a dove, so that we may be able not only to fly in this life but also to find rest (Ps 54:7) in the eternity to come.

Chapter 3: The Nature of Temptation: The Difference Between Feeling Temptation and Yielding to It

Imagine, Philothea, a young princess who is very dearly loved by her husband. Some wicked man to seduce her and commit adultery with her sends a dishonorable messenger to arrange with her his disgraceful proposal. First of all, this messenger conveys to the princess his master's aim. Secondly, the princess is pleased or displeased with the proposal. Thirdly, she either accepts or refuses. In the same way, Satan, the world and the flesh, seeing a person espoused to the Son of God, send suggestions and temptations by which: 1) sin is proposed; 2) the person is pleased or displeased with the suggestion 3) the person either consents or refuses. These are the three steps which lead down to sin: temptation, delight and consent. These three acts which can be clearly seen in great and serious sins are not easily discernible in all other sorts of sins.

Even if temptation to any sin should last all our life, it cannot make us displeasing to God as long as we do not take pleasure in it and do not yield to it. For in temptation we are not active but we bear it. And as long as we take no pleasure in it we cannot be guilty. St. Paul endured temptations of the flesh for long. He was far from being displeasing to God. Instead God was glorified by them (2 Cor 12:7,9). Blessed Angela of Foligno was subject to such violent temptations of the flesh that she moves us to compassion when she narrates them. St. Francis and St. Benedict also had to bear great temptations that the one cast himself upon thorns and the other into the snow to overcome them. Nevertheless, they lost nothing of God's grace, but grew greatly in it.

So have great courage, Philothea, in the midst of temptations. Never think yourself vanquished as long as they are displeasing to you. Note well that there is a difference between feeling and consenting. We may still feel them even though they displease us. However, we cannot consent to them unless we take pleasure in them, because pleasure ordinarily serves as a step to consent.

Let the enemies of our salvation set before us their snares and allurements as much as they like. Let them remain always at the door of our heart seeking entrance. Let them make as many proposals as they like. But as long as we are determined to take no pleasure in all this, we can never offend God. The prince, the husband of the princess of whom I have spoken, could not be displeased with her on account of the message which was sent to her, if she had not taken any pleasure in it. There is however a difference between us and the princess in this case. The princess can, if she chooses, hearing this dishonorable proposal drive away the messenger and not listen to him any more. But it is not always within our power not to feel the temptation, though it is always in our power to refuse consent. Therefore, even though the temptation may continue and persist for long, it can do us no harm as long as we take no pleasure in it.

But as to the delight which might follow the temptation, remember we have two parts in our soul: The one inferior and the other superior. The inferior part does not always follow the superior part, but acts independently. It often happens that the inferior part takes pleasure in the temptation without the consent and even against the will of the superior This is the conflict and warfare to which the Apostle St. Paul refers when he says that his flesh lusts against his spirit (Gal 5:17) and that there is a law of the members and a law of the spirit (Rom 7:23), and so on.

Have you ever seen, Philothea, a large fireplace covered with ashes? When you come ten or twelve hours later in search of fire, you will find only a little at the center and even that with difficulty. Yet it is there, and since you find it, you can rekindle with it all other coals that had already gone out. It is the same with charity, which is our spiritual life, amidst great and violent temptations. In fact, the temptation casting its delight into the inferior part of the soul seems to cover the whole soul with ashes and to reduce the love of God to a spark. For it appears only in the very center of the heart, in the very depths of the spirit. It seems so imperceptible that it is difficult to discover it at all. Yet it is really there. Even though all may be troubled in our soul and our body, yet we have the resolution never to consent to the sin or to the temptation. The delight which pleases our outward nature displeases our inward nature, and though it surrounds our will, yet it is not in it. In this we see that such delight is involuntary, and as such it cannot be sin.

Chapter 4: Two Good Examples on This Subject

It is very important that you understand this well, and so I do not hesitate to explain it further. St. Jerome speaks of a young man tied down upon a very soft bed with silk scarves. He was provoked with all sorts of vile touches and allurements by a sensual woman who lay with him for the express purpose of breaking his resolution. Must not he have reacted to her touch? Must not his senses have been possessed by pleasure and his imagination filled with the presence of these voluptuous objects? Certainly. Yet in the midst of so much distress, such a terrible storm of temptations, and such a flood of sensual pleasure, he proved the victory of his heart and his will's refusal to consent. His spirit saw the complete revolt of all against him. Having no part of the body subject to his control, except the tongue, he bit it off and spat it in the face of the wretched woman. She was tormenting him more cruelly with voluptuousness than torturers could have done by their torments. So the tyrant, who despaired of conquering him by tortures, thought to overcome him by these pleasures.

There is a remarkable account of the struggle of St. Catherine of Siena in a similar situation. It can be summarized as follows: God allowed the devil to try the chastity of this holy virgin with the greatest possible fury, provided that he did not touch her. He made all kinds of impure suggestions to her heart. In order to provoke her further, appearing with his companions in the form of men and women, he committed thousands of carnal and lascivious actions in her sight, adding filthy words and solicitations. Although all this was exterior to her, yet they penetrated through her senses deep into her heart. As she herself confessed, her heart was entirely filled with them. However, the supreme point of her superior will still remained unshaken by this tempest of obscenity and carnal pleasure. This lasted for a long time, until one day our Lord appeared to her. She asked him: "Where were you, my dear Lord, when my heart was full of darkness and filth?" and He answered: "I was within your heart, my daughter." "and how," she replied, "could you dwell within my heart which was full of impurities? Do you abide then in such unclean places?" and the Lord said to her: "Tell me, did these impure thoughts of your heart cause you pleasure or sadness, bitterness or delight?" "Extreme bitterness and sadness" she replied. And He answered her" 'Who was it that caused this great bitterness and sadness in your heart? It was myself, who remained hidden within the depths of your spirit. Believe me, my daughter, had I not been present, these thoughts which surrounded your will but could not take it by assault, would certainly have prevailed, and entered into it. They would have been welcomed with pleasure by your free will bringing death to your soul. But because I was within, I caused this displeasure and resistance in your heart and thus enabled it to resist the temptation with all its power. Not being able to resist as much as it wanted to, it felt a still greater displeasure and hatred against the temptation and against itself. Thus your struggles were a source of great merit and immense profit to you, increasing very much your virtue and strength."

Notice, Philothea, how this fire was covered with ashes, how the temptation and pleasure entered the heart and encircled the will. Aided by our Savior her will alone resisted the evil which was suggested to it, by the bitterness, displeasure and hatred of it, refusing steadfastly to consent to the sin which encompassed it. My God, how distressing to one who loves you, not to know whether you are present within or not, whether the divine love for which one fights, is still alive or not. But it is the fairest flower of the perfection of heavenly love to make the lover suffer and fight for love's sake not knowing whether he has the love for which and by which he fights.

Chapter 5: Encouragement to Those in Temptation

Philothea, God allows these great trials and temptations only to those whom he wishes to raise to His pure and excellent love. All the same, it does not follow that they are sure of attaining it thereafter. For it has often happened that those who remained loyal in very violent attacks, afterwards succumbed to very small temptations because they did not respond faithfully to God's grace. I tell you this so that if you ever experience such great temptations, you may recognize that God is granting you an extraordinary favor, manifesting his desire to exalt you in his sight. Nevertheless, you must always be humble and diffident. Do not be too sure of your ability to overcome small temptations because you have overcome great ones. Trust only in a constant fidelity to God.

Whatever temptations may assail you, and whatever pleasure may follow from them, as long as your will refuses its consent not only to the temptation but also to the pleasure, do not be least disturbed for God is not offended by them.

If a man is in a swoon and does not give any sign of life we place our hand on his heart. If we feel the least movement we judge him to be still alive. Hence by means of some medicine or restorative we may be able to make him regain consciousness and strength. Similarly it sometimes happens that, owing to the violence of temptations, we seem to have lost all use of our strength, and as though in a swoon to be without spiritual life or movement. But if we wish to know whether this be so, let us lay our hand on our heart. Let us consider if the heart and will still have their spiritual movement, that is, if they do their duty in refusing to consent and yield to temptation and pleasure. As long as the movement of refusal is within our hearts we are assured that charity, the life of our spirit, is in us. Indeed Jesus Christ our saviour is present in us, though hidden and concealed. Thus by means of continual prayer, the Sacraments and confidence in God, we shall regain our strength to lead a whole and happy life.

Chapter 6: How Temptation and Pleasure Can Be Sinful

The princess mentioned earlier was not responsible for the dishonorable proposal made to her, since as we have assumed, it was made against her will. But on the contrary, if she had by some attitude given encouragement to the proposal, willing to give her love to him who courted her, she would obviously be responsible for the solicitation itself. And even if she then drew back from it, yet she would still be worthy of blame and punishment. It could happen sometimes that a temptation itself is a sin if we are the cause of it. For example, I know, I give way readily to anger and blasphemy when I play. Such games are an occasion to sin. I sin as often as I play. So I am guilty of all the temptations that arise while playing. Similarly if I know that being in certain company is an occasion of temptation and sin, and I go there willingly, I am certainly responsible for all the temptations which I face there.

The pleasure arising from temptation can be avoided. It is always a sin to welcome it, depending short or long duration of the pleasure taken and on the partial or full consent given. If the princess already mentioned not only listens to the impure and dishonorable proposal made to her but after listening to it also takes pleasure in it, allowing her heart to dwell upon it with delight, she is certainly worthy of blame. Though she may not wish to consent to the realization of what is suggested to her, yet she consents to it interiorly, fixing her heart on it by the pleasure she takes in it. It is always a sin to turn either the heart or the body to what is sinful. However, the sin consists so much in the consent of the heart that without it even the consent of the body cannot be a sin. When you are tempted to some sin consider whether you voluntarily gave occasion to the temptation. In that case the temptation itself puts you in a state of sin since you exposed yourself to the risk. This means that you could have easily avoided the occasion and foresaw or should have foreseen the coming of the temptation. If you have given no occasion to the temptation, it can in no way be attributed to you as sin.

When the pleasure which follows the temptation could have been avoided., but was not, there is always some kind of sin. The sin depends on the length of time we have dwelt on it, and the cause of the pleasure taken. A woman who has not encouraged anyone to flirt with her, and yet takes pleasure in it, is blameworthy if the pleasure arises from the flirtation itself. For example, if the person who flirts with her plays the lute beautifully and she takes pleasure, not in the flirtation, but in the harmony and sweetness of the sound of the lute, there is no sin. But she should not indulge in this pleasure for long, lest it leads to delight in the flirtation itself. In the same way, suppose some one suggests to me an ingenuous and cunning proposal to take revenge on my enemy. I take no pleasure in the revenge proposed to me, and do not consent to it at all, but take pleasure only in the ingenuity of the proposal, then certainly I do not sin in any way. However it is not proper to entertain this pleasure too long lest little by little I be led to take some delight in the revenge itself.

At times we are surprised by some feeling of pleasure which immediately follows the temptation before we have had time to be aware of it. This can be at the most a very light venial sin. It becomes more serious if, seeing the evil, we are negligent and bargain with the pleasure for a long time whether we should accept or reject it. The sin is greater still if, after perceiving the pleasure, we continue in it for some time through real negligence without any intention of rejecting it. But if we willingly and deliberately resolve to accept such pleasure, even this deliberate intention is a grave sin if the object of pleasure was notably evil. It is seriously wrong for a woman to wish to entertain a sinful love, even though she may have no intention of actually yielding herself to the lover.

Chapter 7: Remedies Against Great Temptations

As soon as you feel yourself tempted, follow what little children do when they see a wolf or a bear in the field. They run at once to their father's or mother's arms or at least call out to them for help and assistance. In the same way, have recourse to God, imploring his mercy and his help. This is the remedy which our Lord teaches: Pray that you may not enter into temptation (Mt 26:41).

If you find, however, that the temptation persists or even grows stronger hasten in spirit to embrace the holy Cross as if you see Jesus Christ crucified before you. Affirm that you will never yield to the temptation and ask him for help against it. As long as the temptation lasts continue to assert that you do not wish to consent to it. While you thus disapprove strongly and refuse to consent, never look at the temptation itself, but look at our Lord. If you look at the temptation, especially when it is strong, it may shake your courage.

Divert your mind from it by means of good and praiseworthy occupations. These occupations entering into your heart and taking possession of it, will drive out the evil temptations and suggestions.

The best remedy against temptations whether great or small, is to open our hearts and make known our suggestions, feelings and affections to our spiritual director. Remember that silence is the first condition the devil makes with a person whom he wishes to seduce like those who wish to lead astray women or young girls. First of all, they forbid them to communicate the evil proposals to their fathers or husbands. On the contrary, God through his inspirations requires above all that we should make them known to our superiors and spiritual directors.

But, after all this, if the temptation still obstinately persists troubling and harassing us we have nothing to do but be stubborn ourselves in our refusal to consent. Just as girls cannot be married so long as they say 'no', so also anyone who is harassed can never be harmed as long as she says 'no'.

Do not argue with your enemy. Never give him any answer save that of the Lord with which he overcame him: Away with you Satan, you shall adore the Lord your God, and you shall serve him alone (Mt 4:10). A chaste wife should not answer a word to one who makes an impure proposal nor even look at the scoundrel, but leave him at once; she should instantly turn her heart towards her husband, renewing the promise of fidelity which she made to him, without wasting any time in arguments. In the same way, a devout person, assailed by some temptation should waste no time in arguing or replying. Instead, he should turn quite simply, towards Jesus Christ, the Beloved renewing his faithfulness and his desire to belong entirely to him.

Chapter 8: We Must Resist Small Temptations

It is true, we have to resist great temptations with invincible courage, and the victory which it brings is very profitable. But perhaps we may be able to gain greater profit resisting well small temptations. Just as the great temptations surpass the small in quality, so the small surpass the great very much in number. Hence the victory over the small is comparable to that over the great.

Wolves and bears are obviously more dangerous than flies, but they are less annoying and do not try our patience so much. It is easy to refrain from murder, but it is difficult to refrain from little outbursts of anger for which opportunities arise at every moment. It is easy for a man or a woman to refrain from adultery but it is not easy to refrain from amorous glances, from giving or receiving flirtatious love, from soliciting little favors, from speaking or listening to words of flattery. It is easy to admit of no rival to the husband or wife as far as the body is concerned, but it is not easy to do so with regard to the heart. It is easy not to be unfaithful to one another in married love, but hard to refrain from everything that may be injurious to it. It is very easy not to steal the goods of others, but difficult to refrain from envy and covetousness. It is very easy not to bear false witness in a court of law but difficult not to tell lies in conversation. It is easy not to wish the death of another, but difficult never to wish him harm. It is easy never to slander a man, but difficult never to despise him.

In short, little temptations to anger, suspicion, jealousy, envy, flirtation, vanity, frivolity, duplicity, affectation, deceit, unchaste thoughts - these are the trials which even the most devout and resolute must constantly face. Therefore, Philothea, we have to prepare ourselves for this battle with great care and diligence. Be sure that, for all our victories over these little enemies, as many precious stones will be set in the crown of glory which God prepares for us in Heaven. Because of this, I repeat, while being ready to fight courageously against great temptations when they come, we must defend ourselves well and diligently against these little and feeble assaults.

Chapter 9: Remedies Against Small Temptations

These small temptations to vanity, suspicion, irritability, jealousy, envy, flirtation and similar follies, hover before our eyes, like flies and gnats stinging us sometimes on the cheek, and sometimes on the nose. Since it is impossible to be entirely free from their importunity, our best way of defence is not to allow ourselves to be worried. In fact, they can annoy us but never hurt us, as long as we are firmly resolved to serve God.

Despise, then, these little assaults and do not care even to think of what they suggest. Let them buzz about your ears as much as they like, fly here and there around you, as if they were flies. When they come to sting you, and you notice them settling on your heart in any way, do nothing else but simply drive them away. Do not attack them or argue with them, but make acts contrary to them, according to their nature, especially acts of the love of God. For if you believe me, you will not be obstinate in wanting to oppose the contrary virtue to the temptation which you feel because it would be, as it were, desiring to dispute with it. After having performed an act of the contrary virtue, on recognizing the real nature of the temptation, turn your heart simply to Jesus Christ crucified and in a spirit of love kiss his sacred feet.

It is the best way to overcome the enemy in temptations both small and great. For the love of God containing in itself all the perfections of all the virtues, and more excellently than the virtues themselves, is also the most perfect remedy against all vices. by accustoming yourself in all temptations to seek refuge in this common resort, you will have no need to examine or consider what temptations you had. On feeling troubled, you will find rest in this great remedy. It is so terrifying to the evil spirit, that when he sees that these temptations incite us to this divine love, he will cease to trouble us.

So much as regards these little and frequent temptations Whoever would go into the detail of these temptations, would waste his time and attain nothing.

Chapter 10: How to Strengthen the Heart Against Temptations

Reflect sometimes on what are your dominating passions. After discovering them, adopt a way of life completely contrary to them in thoughts, words and deeds. For example, if you feel inclined to vanity, think often of the misery of this human life; consider how troublesome these vanities will be to the conscience on the day of your death; how unworthy they are of a generous heart; that they are but toys and amusements of little children; and so on. Speak often against vanity, and even though you feel reluctant, do not cease to despise it. by this means you will commit yourself against vanity even as regards your honor. by repeatedly speaking against a thing we come to hate it, though at the beginning we were attached to it. Do lowly and humble works as often as you may feel a dislike for them. Thus you will accustom yourself to humility and weaken your vanity. In this way when temptation comes your inclination will not favor it much, and you will have more strength to resist it.

If you are inclined to avarice, think often of the folly of this sin which makes us slaves of that which is created only to serve us; when we die we have to leave all our possessions and put them in the hands of some one else who may squander them, or use them for his ruin and damnation;, and similar thoughts. Speak strongly against avarice, praise highly the contempt of the world. Force yourself to give alms often, and to do works of charity. Sometimes let opportunities of gathering wealth slip by.

If you are inclined to give or receive insincere love think often how dangerous such a pastime is, both for you and for others. How unworthy it is to profane the spirit's most noble affection for amusement! indeed, it is a matter for blame as it is extreme frivolity of spirit. Speak often in praise of purity and simplicity of heart, conforming your actions to such words and avoiding all affectations and flirtations.

Finally, in time of peace, that is, when temptations to sins to which you are inclined do not trouble you, make many acts of the contrary virtue. If opportunities do not arise, go boldly to meet them. In this way you will strengthen your heart against future temptations.

Chapter 11: Anxiety

Anxiety is not just a temptation by itself. Rather it is a source from which and by which many temptations come. Hence, I speak something about it. Sadness is nothing else than the sorrow of heart which we experience due to some evil in us against our liking. It can be external such as poverty, sickness, contempt or internal such as ignorance, dryness[159] aversion or temptation. Hence when we feel the presence of some evil, we are displeased at it, and this is sadness. We immediately desire to be freed from it, and to have the means to do so. So far we are right, for each one naturally desires what is good and avoids what is considered to be evil.

If we seek the means to be delivered from our troubles for the love of God, We will seek them with patience, gentleness, humility and calm. We will look for our deliverance more from the goodness and providence of God than from our own efforts, skill or diligence. If we seek our deliverance out of self-love, we will be eager and anxious in search of the means, as if this deliverance depended more on ourselves than on God. I do not say that we think so, but I say that we act eagerly as if we thought so. If we do not obtain at once what we desire, we fall into great restlessness and impatience. This, instead of overcoming the evil, only makes it worse.Thus we are overwhelmed with anguish and distress. We experience such a great loss of courage and strength that the evil seems beyond cure. You see then that sadness, justified in the beginning, begets anxiety. Anxiety in its turn increases sadness, making it extremely dangerous.

Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall us except sin. Sedition and internal troubles ruin a nation utterly and prevent it from being able to resist a foreign invasion. Similarly, when we are troubled and restless we lose our power to maintain the virtue which we have acquired. We also lose the means of resisting the temptations of the enemy who then makes every effort to fish, as they say, in troubled waters.

Anxiety arises from an inordinate desire to be freed from the evil we experience or to acquire the good we hoped for. Yet there is nothing which so aggravates the evil or impedes the good as anxiety and eagerness. Birds remain captive in the nets and traps because, when they are entangled in them, they flutter and struggle wildly in order to escape; by doing that they always entangle themselves the more. Therefore when you are taken up by the desire to be delivered from some evil or to obtain some good, place yourself above all in peace and tranquillity. Compose your judgement and your will. Then quietly and gently pursue the object of your desire, taking in order the means which are fitting. And when I say 'quite gently', I do not mean 'negligently' but 'without eagerness, confusion and anxiety.' Otherwise instead of obtaining what you desire you will spoil everything and get yourself entangled.

My soul is always in my hands, Lord, and I have not forgotten thy law, said David (Ps 119:109). Examine more than once every day, but at least evening and morning, whether your soul is in your hands or whether some passion or anxiety has robbed you of it. Consider whether your heart is under your control, or if it has escaped from your hands to entangle itself in some inordinate attachment of love, hatred, envy, avarice, fear, weariness or joy. If it has wandered, above all things, go after it and bring it back quite gently to the presence of God. Subjecting your feelings and desires to the obedience and guidance of his divine will. For, like those who fear to lose something that is precious to them, hold it tightly in their hands so in imitation of this great king we should always say: O my God, my soul is at stake; and therefore, I carry it always in my hands, and thus I have not forgotten your holy law (Ps 119:109).

Do not let your desires, however small and unimportant, to trouble you. After the little desires, the great and more important ones would find your heart more inclined to trouble and disorder. When you experience the beginning of anxiety, entrust yourself to God. Decide to do nothing of what your desire urges you until the anxietiy has passed away completely, unless it is something which cannot be put off. In such a case you must restrain and control the course of your desire with a gentle and peaceful effort. Then you must act according to reason, not according to your inclination.

If you can disclose your anxiety to your spiritual director or at least to some faithful and devout friend, do not doubt that you will find relief immediately. Making known the sufferings of heart has the same effect on the soul as blood-letting has upon the body of one who has constant fever: it is the remedy of remedies. As the king St. Louis advised his son: "If your heart is troubled make it known at once to your confessor or to some good person. You will then be able to bear your ill easily by the comfort which he will give you."

Chapter 12: Sadness

Sadness which is according to God, says St. Paul, works penance for salvation: but the sadness of the world works unto death (2 Cor 7:10). Sadness can be good or evil depending on the different effects which it produces in us. It is true that it produces more evil effects than good, for it produces only two good ones, namely compassion and repentance. But there are six evil ones, namely, anxiety, sloth, anger, jealousy, envy and impatience which made the wise man say: Sadness kills many, and there is no profit in it (Sirach 30:24). While only two good streams flow from the spring of sadness, there are six which are quite evil.

The enemy makes use of sadness to tempt the good. As he tries to make the wicked rejoice in their sins so he tries to make the good sad in their good works. Since he cannot bring about evil except by making it appear pleasant, so he cannot turn us away from good except by making it appear unpleasant. The devil is pleased with sadness and melancholy because he himself is sad and gloomy. He will be so eternally. Hence he wishes everyone to be as he is.

Evil sadness disturbs us, leads to anxiety, arouses unreasonable fears, makes prayer distasteful, weights down and dulls the mind, deprives us of counsel, of determination, of judgement and of courage, and saps our energy. In short, it is like a severe winter which robs the earth of all its beauty and benumbs all living creatures. In fact, it robs us of all consolation and makes us almost paralysed and powerless in all our faculties.

If ever such sadness comes upon you Philothea, make use of the following remedies. If anyone is sad, says St. James, let him pray (5:13). Prayer is a sovereign remedy, for it lifts up our mind to God, who is our only joy and consolation. But in praying make use of longings and words, either interior or exterior which tend to confidence and love of God, such as: O God of mercy, O God most good, My loving Savior, O God of my Heart, My Joy, My Hope, My dear Spouse, My Well Beloved, and so on.

Resist vigorously all inclinations to sadness. Though it may seem that everything you do at this time is done coldly, sadly and half-heartedly, yet do not give it up. The enemy tries to make us weary of good works by sadness. Seeing that we persevere, and that our good works done in spite of disgust are more meritorious, he ceases to trouble us any more.

Sing spiritual canticles. by this means the devil was often forced to abandon his efforts. For instance, Saul was beset and possessed by an evil spirit; its violence was subdued by the singing of psalms (1 Samuel 16:23).

It is good to occupy ourselves with exterior works as varied as possible in order to divert the mind from what causes sadness, and to purify and warm the spirit. Sadness is in fact a passion of a cold and dry nature.

Make some fervent exterior acts such as kissing the crucifix, clasping it to the breast, kissing the feet and hands of the Crucified, raising your eyes and your hands to heaven, even though all this is done without relish. Lift up your voice to God earnestly by words of love and confidence such as these: My Beloved to me, and I to him (Song 2:16) A bouquet of myrrh is my Beloved to me: he shall abide between my breasts (Song 1:12) My eyes melt in tears for you, my God saying; When will you comfort me? (Ps 119:82) Jesus, be to me a Jesus. Live Jesus! and my soul shall live. Who shall separate me from the love of my God? (Rom 8:35), and so on.

A moderate use of the discipline is good against sadness, because this voluntary exterior suffering merits interior consolation. Feeling these exterior pains, the mind is diverted from those that are within. Receiving Holy Communion often is excellent since this heavenly bread strengthens the heart (Ps 104:15) and rejoices the spirit.

Make known to your spiritual director and confessor, humbly and faithfully all the feelings, affections, and suggestions that flow from your sadness. Seek the company of spiritual persons and meet them as often as you can during such times. Finally resign yourself into the hands of God. Be ready to bear patiently this troublesome sadness as a just punishment for your vain joys. Have no doubt at all that God, after testing you, will deliver you from this evil.

Chapter 13: Spiritual and Sensible Consolations and Our Conduct with Regard to them

God keeps this wonderful world in existence amidst constant change. Thus day passes into night, spring into summer, summer into autumn, autumn into winter and winter into spring. One day never exactly resembles another: some days are cloudy, some rainy, some dry, some windy. Variety gives great beauty to the universe. It is the same with man, who has been called by the Ancients "an epitome of the world." He is never in the same state. His life flows on earth like the waters which surge and swirl in a perpetual diversity of movements. Sometimes he is lifted up by hope, sometimes cast down by fear; sometimes bent to the right by joys, sometimes to the left by sorrow. Not one day nor one hour is exactly the same.

We can learn much from all this: we must try to keep a constant and unchanging balance of mind in the midst of this great variety of changes. Though everything turns and changes about us, we must always remain firm, our eyes fixed on God seeking him and moving towards him. A ship may sail in different directions, north or south, east or west, driven by various winds, yet the needle of its compass will always point towards the pole star. Let everything turn upside down, not only about us but also within us: whether we are in sadness or joy, in consolation or bitterness, in peace or trouble, in light or darkness, in temptation or tranquillity, in liking or disgust, in dryness or warmth, scorched by the sun or refreshed by the dew, yet the highest point of our heart, of our spirit, of our superior will, which is the needle of our compass, must always be turned to God, our Creator, and Savior, our unique and sovereign good, tending continually towards him.

Whether we live or die, says the Apostle, we are the Lord's (Rom 14:8). Who shall separate us from the love and charity of God? No, nothing shall ever separate us from this love: neither tribulations nor sorrow, neither death nor life, neither the present sufferings, nor fear of future calamities, neither the deceptions of evil spirits, nor the height of consolations, neither the depth of afflictions nor the tender feelings of devotion nor dryness ought ever to separate us from this holy charity which is founded in Jesus Christ (Rom 8:35, 38, 39).

This total commitment never to abandon God, nor to forsake his gentle love serves as counterweight to our spirits, to preserve them in holy equanimity in the midst of all the changing circumstances which the conditions of this life bring to them. Bees, when caught in a storm in the fields, take up little stones to keep their balance in the air and not to be easily carried away by the storm. Similarly, we hold on eagerly to the precious love of God by our firm determination. Thus we remain steadfast in the midst of the inconstancy and instability of consolations and afflictions, whether temporal or spiritual, exterior or interior. But in addition to this general principle we need some particular instructions.

  1. First of all, devotion does not consist in delight, pleasant feelings, consolation and sensible tenderness of heart which moves it to tears and sighs, and gives us a certain pleasant and enjoyable taste for some spiritual exercises. No, dear Philothea, all this is not the same as devotion. There are many who have these feelings of tenderness and consolation, but are still subject to many sins. As a result, they have no true love for God, much less any true devotion.
    Saul was in pursuit of David in order to kill him. David fled from him into the desert of Engaddi. Saul entered all alone into a cave where David and his men lay hidden. David could very easily have killed him on this occasion, but he spared his life. He did not even want to cause Saul fear. He let him go undisturbed and called out to him afterwards to prove his innocence and to let him know that he could have killed him. Now what did Saul do to show that his heart was softened towards David? He called him his son and wept aloud, praising him and admitted his goodness. He prayed to God for him, foretold his future greatness, and asked him to be merciful to his descendants (1 Samuel 24). What greater affection and tenderness of heart could he have shown? Nevertheless, inspite of all that, he did not change his heart and continued to persecute David as cruelly as before.
    In the same way, there are persons who, considering the goodness of God and the Passion of the Savior, feel their heart greatly moved. This leads them to sigh and to shed tears, to prayer and offer thanksgiving with deep feeling. From this it would seem that their hearts are full of devotion. But when this devotion is put to the test, it is found to be similar to showers of a very hot summer which fall in great drops on the earth without soaking it serving only to produce mushrooms. In fact these tears and feelings of tenderness fall on a sinful heart without penetrating and so are of no use to it. Because of this, these poor persons would not give up one single paisa of the illgotten goods they have, would not renounce any of their evil attachments, and would not inconvenience themselves in the least to serve the Savior for whom they have shed tears. The good movements they had, are only spiritual mushrooms. Not only they are not true devotion, but very often they are great snares of the devil to please such person with these little consolations. Such snares make them remain pleased and satisfied with such feelings. Hence they no longer seek true and solid devotion which consists in a firm, determined, prompt and active will to do what we know is pleasing to God.
    A child will shed tender tears, if he sees his mother bled with lancet; but if at the same time his mother, for whom he has been weeping, asks him for an apple or for sweets that he has in his hand, he will not part with them. Such are most of our feelings of devotion: seeing the thrust of the lance which pierced the heart of Jesus crucified, we weep tenderly. Alas, Philothea, it is right to weep over this painful Passion and Death of our Savior and Redeemer. But why then do we not give him the apple which we hold in our hands and which he asks for so earnestly? in other words, why do we not give him our heart? It is the only apple of love which our dear Savior wants for us. Why do we not give up for his sake those little pleasures and satisfactions which he desires to pluck out of our hands? We cannot do it because they are our sweets and we prefer them to his heavenly grace. Such are the friendships of little children, tender but feeble, whimsical and fruitless. Hence devotion does not consist in those delicate feelings and affections. Sometimes, these result from a natural temperament soft and susceptible to the impression which may be given to it. Sometimes, they come from the devil who to deceive us, stirs up our imagination to the emotion which produces such effects.
  2. These feelings of tenderness and delightful affections are nevertheless sometimes very good and useful. They rouse our spiritual hunger and strengthen the heart. To the promptness of devotion they add a holy joy and cheerfulness which render our actions beautiful and pleasant, even externally. David refers to this delight which may be found in divine things when he says, Lord, how sweet are thy words to my palate! they are sweeter than honey to my mouth (Ps 119:103). Indeed, the least little consolation of devotion which we receive is worth far more than the most excellent worldly delights. The breasts and the milk, that is, the favors of the divine Spouse are sweeter than the costliest wine of earthly pleasures (Song 1:1). He who has tasted them holds all other consolations as gall and wormwood.
    Those who have in their mouth the herb called scitic get from it such a great sweetness that they feel neither hungry nor thirsty.[160] Thus those whom God has given this heavenly manna of interior delights and consolations can neither desire nor receive worldly consolations, at least in such a way as to return them and become attached to them. They are small foretastes of eternal delights foretastes of eternal delights which God gives to those who seek him. They are the sweets which he gives to his little children to attract them. They are medicinal waters which he gives to strengthen them. Sometimes they are also pledges of eternal rewards. It is said[161] that Alexander the Great, sailing the high seas discovered Arabia Felix by the scent of the sweet odors carried to him by the wind. It gave courage to him and to all his companions. So on the sea of our mortal life, we often receive feelings of sweetness and delight which without doubt give us a foretaste of that heavenly Fatherland to which we strive and aspire.
  3. But, you may ask me: There are sensible consolations which are good and come from God: There are others useless, dangerous and even harmful, arising from nature or even from the devil. How can I distinguish the one from the other, and know the evil or useless ones from the good? It is a general principle, Philothea, regarding the affections and passions of our soul that we are to know them by their fruit (Mt 7:16). Our hearts are trees, our affections and passions are their branches and our works or actions are their fruits. The heart is good which has good affections and passions; and the affections and passions are good which produce in us good effects and holy actions. If the feelings of sweetness and of tenderness, and the consolations make us more humble and patient, adaptable, charitable, and compassionate towards our neighbor, more fervent in mortifying our selfish desires and evil inclinations, more regular in our spiritual exercises, more docile and submissive to those whom we must obey, more simple in our life, it is certain, Philothea, that they come from God. But if these feelings of sweetness make us gentle only towards ourselves, they make us inquisitive, fussy, impatient, stubborn, proud, arrogant, harsh towards our neighbor, and thanking that we are already small saints, we no longer want to be guided or corrected, there is no doubt that they are false and harmful consolations: A good tree only brings forth good fruit (Mt 7:17).
  4. When we have these delights and consolations let us act as follows:
    1. We must humble ourselves profoundly before God. Let us be cautious never to say on account of such feelings: "How good I am"! No, Philothea, they are good things, but they do not make us better. As I have already said, devotion does not consist in this. We must rather say: how God is good to those who hope in him, to the one that seeks him? (Lamentations 3:25). Whoever has sugar in the mouth cannot say that his mouth is sweet, but only that the sugar is sweet. Similarly, though this spiritual sweetness is very good, and God who gives it is supremely good, yet it does not follow that he who receives it is also good.
    2. Let us admit that we are still small children in the need of milk, and these sweets are given to us because our spirit is yet tender and delicate. So, it needs some inducements and attractions to be drawn to the love of God.
    3. With this in mind, generally speaking and in ordinary situations, let us receive these graces and favors humbly and esteem them very highly. Value them, not so much because they are good in themselves, but because they are put into our hearts by the hands of God. A mother to win over her child puts sweets into his mouth one after the other with her own hand. If the child were able to understand, he would find greater pleasure in the sweetness of his mother's loving attention and caresses than from the sweetness of the sweets. Philothea, it is a great thing, indeed, to have feelings of sweetness, but it is supreme sweetness to realize that God, like a loving mother puts them with his own hand into our mouth, our hearts, our soul and our mind.
    4. After thus receiving them humbly, let us use them with care according to the intention of the Giver. For what reason does God grant us these feelings of delight? It is to make us gentle towards others and loving towards himself. The mother gives sweets to the child so that he may kiss her. Let us then kiss the Savior who gives us so much sweetness. Now to kiss the Savior is to obey him, keep his commandments, fulfill his will, follow his desires. In short, it is to embrace him tenderly with obedience and fidelity. Therefore when we have received some spiritual consolation, we must be particularly earnest in doing good and in being humble on that day.
    5. Besides all this, we must renounce from time to time such feelings of delight, tenderness and consolation. We are to separate our hearts from them and affirm that we accept them humbly and love them, because God sends them to us and they arouse us to his love. However, it is not these that we seek, but God and his holy love: not the consolation, but the Consoler; not the sweetness, but the gentle Savior; not the tenderness but Him who is the delight of heaven and earth. In this disposition, we must keep ourselves ready to remain rooted in the holy love of God, even though we may never have any consolation in our lives. We must be as ready on Mount Calvary as on Mount Tabor to say: O Lord, it is good for me to be (Mt 17:4) with you, whether you are on the cross or in glory.
  5. Finally, I advise you, if you experience such a remarkable abundance of consolations, tenderness, tears and delight or anything extraordinary regarding them, to faithfully communicate these to your spiritual director. Thus you will learn how to regulate them and how to act with regard to them. As it is written: Have you found honey? Eat what is sufficient for you (Prov 25:16).

Chapter 14: Spiritual Boredom and Absence of Sensible Consolations[162]

When you have consolations, dearest Philothea, act as I have just directed you. But this fine weather, so pleasant, will not always last. Sometimes, it will happen that the feelings of devotion will be completely removed and taken away from you. Then you will feel like an arid desert, fruitless and barren, where there is no path or road to God, nor any water (Ps 63:1) of grace to water it, because the drought there turns it into a waste land. Alas, anyone in such a state deserves copassion, especially when this evil is acute. Thus like David, he feeds on tears day and night while (Ps 42:3) by a thousand insinuations, the devil mocks him to lead him to despair, saying: O! wretched creatures, where is your God? (Ps 42:3). by what road can you find him? Who can ever restore to you the joy of his holy grace?

What will you do then, Philothea? You must discover the source of the evil: In fact, we ourselves are often the cause of our barreness and dryness.

  1. As a mother refuses to give sugar to her child suffering from worms, so God deprives us of his consolations when we take some vain pleasure in them and are subject to the worms of presumption: "It is good for me, my God, that you have humbled me." "Yes, for before I was humbled, I had offended you" (Ps 119:71,67).
  2. When we do not care to gather the sweetness and the delights of the love of God in its proper time, he withdraws them from us in punishment of our sloth. The Israelite who did not gather the manna early in the morning could not do so after the sunrise, for it all melted away (Exodus 16:21).
  3. Sometimes we rest on a bed of sensible delights and passing consolations like the sacred Spouse in the Song of Songs (5:2-6). Our Beloved knocks at the door of our hearts, he inspires us to resume our spiritual exercises. But we bargain with him, because we are displeased to cast aside these vain amusements and deprive ourselves of these false satisfactions. Therefore he goes away and leaves us in our sloth. Later, when we wish to seek him, we have great difficulty in finding him. This is only what we have well deserved because we have been so unfaithful and disloyal to his love that we have refused to practice it in order to follow the love of worldly things. Alas, if you still keep some of the flour of Egypt you cannot have the manna of heaven. Bees detest all artificial smells; and the delights of the Holy Spirit are incompatible with the artificial delights of the world.
  4. Insincerity and subtlety in our confessions and spiritual talks with our director lead to spiritual boredom and the absence of sensible consolations. As you lie to the Holy Spirit, it is not surprising that he denies you his consolation. If you are not simple and sincere like a little child, you will not receive the sweets of little children.
  5. You have fed yourself greedily on worldly pleasures and it is not surprising that you have a distaste for spiritual delights. "Doves that have overeaten", says the ancient proverb, "find cherries bitter." He has filled the hungry with good things, says our Lady, and the rich he has left empty (Lk 1:53). Those who are rich in worldly pleasures are not able to receive spiritual delights.
  6. Have you been careful to preserve the fruits of the consolations you have received? If so, you will receive more, for to him who has more will be given; and from him who has not what has been given to him, but has been lost by his own fault, even that which he has will be taken away from him (Mt 13:12). This means, he will be deprived of the graces which had been prepared for him. It is true, the rain revives plants which have green leaves, but as to those which have none at all, it takes away from them even the life which they might have had, for it rots them completely.

Due to many such causes, we lose the consolations of devotion and fall into spiritual boredom and desolation of the spirit. Let us then examine our conscience to see if we can observe in ourselves any of the defects mentioned earlier. But remember, Philothea, we must not make this examination with anxiety and too much curiosity. If, after careful consideration of our conduct in this respect, we discover the cause of the evil in ourselves, we must thank God, since an evil is half cured when its cause is discovered. On the contrary, if you find nothing in particular which seems to have caused this spiritual dryness, do not waste any time on a more careful examination. In all simplicity, without any further examination into details, follow the instructions I now give you:

  1. Humble yourself profoundly before God, being aware of your own nothingness and misery: Alas, what am I left to myself? Nothing else, Lord, than a parched land, split in all directions, thirsting for the rain from heaven, while the wind scatters it and reduces it to dust.
  2. Implore God and ask him earnestly for his joy: Restore to me, Lord, the joy of your salvation (Ps 51:12). My Father, if it be possible, take away this chalice from me (Mt 26:39). Depart from here, unfruitful north wind that dries up my soul; come, gentle wind of consolations and blow through my garden (Song 4:16), and its good affections will spread a fragrant odor.
  3. Go to your confessor. Open your heart fully to him, making him see all your interior dispositions. Follow with great simplicity and humility the advice he gives you. God, who loves obedience very much, often renders profitable those counsels which we accept from others, especially from spiritual directors, though they may not seem to be of much use. God made the waters of the Jordan a source of healing for Namaan, which Eliseus seemingly without any human reason had ordered him to use (2 Kings 5:9-14).
  4. In such spiritual dryness and barrenness nothing is so useful and fruitful as not having any longing and attachment to the desire of being freed from it. I do not say that we should not have simple wishes to be set free, but I say that we should not set our heart on it. We must resign ourselves to the full mercy of God's special providence so that he can use us as long as it pleases him in the midst of those thorns and among those deserts. Let us therefore say to God at such times: Father, if it be possible, take away this chalice from me: but let us add with great courage: nevertheless not my will but yours be done (Lk 22:42). Let us remain in this state with as much tranquillity as possible. In fact, God seeing us in this holy indifference will comfort us with many graces and favors, just as he did when he saw Abraham ready to deprive himself of his son Isaac. He was pleased to see him indifferent, in this state of total resignation. He comforted him with a most delightful vision and many heavenly blessings (Gen 22:15-18). Hence whatever be the afflictions, corporal or spiritual, in the absence and withdrawal of sensible devotion which may happen to us, we must say with all our heart and with complete submission: The Lord gave me consolations, and the Lord has taken them away from me blessed be his holy Name (Job 1:21). If we persevere in this humility, he will give back to us his delightful favors, as he did to Job, who constantly used similar words in all his trials.
  5. Finally, Philothea, in the midst of all our spiritual dryness and desolation let us be full of courage. Let us wait patiently for the return of consolations, always continuing on our way. Let us not leave out exercises of devotion. Rather, if possible, let us multiply our good works. Since we cannot present to our Beloved sweets that are juicy, let us offer him dried ones. It is all the same to him, provided that the heart which offers them to him is firmly determined to love him. In fine spring weather, bees make more honey and have fewer young ones. On account of the fine weather they are so busy gathering honey from the flowers that they forget producing their young ones. But when the spring is chill and cloudy, they produce more young ones and gather less honey. Since they are unable to go out to gather honey, they occupy themselves with increasing and multiplying their number.

Philothea, we often find ourselves in the bright spring time of spiritual consolations. We are so absorbed in gathering and enjoying them that we perform much fewer good works because of the abundance of these sweet delights. On the other hand in spiritual dryness and barrenness, to the extent we find ourselves deprived of delight in devotion, we increase genuine good works. Moreover, interior practice of true virtues such as patience, humility, self-abjection, resignation, renunciation of self-love, flourishes.

Many, especially women, make a great mistake in thinking that the service we offer to God is less pleasing to his divine Majesty, when done without relish, without tenderness of heart and without feeling. Our actions are like roses which are more beautiful when fresh, yet have a greater fragrance and power when dry. Even so, though our works done with tenderness of heart are more pleasing to ourselves - to ourselves I say, who only consider our own satisfaction - yet when performed in a state of spiritual dryness and desolation, they have a greater fragrance and are more valuable in the sight of God. Yes, dear Philothea, in times of dryness our will carries us to the service of God, as it were, by pure force and therefore it must be more vigorous and firm than in times of consolation. It is not extraordinary to serve a prince amid the joy of peaceful days and the pleasures of the court. But to serve him during the hardships of war, and in troubles and persecutions, is a true sign of firmness and loyalty.

Blessed Angela of Foligno says that "the prayer most pleasing to God is that which is made by force and under stress." in other words it is the prayer which we practice not because we find attraction in it, not from our inclination to it, but simply to please God. Our will carries us to do this against our inclination, overcoming and breaking down the dryness and dislike we feel. I say the same regarding all kinds of good works, for the greater the opposition we have whether exterior or interior in doing them, the more their esteem and value in the eyes of God. The less the self-interest we show in the acquisition of virtues, the more pure the divine love which shines from it. A child promptly kisses the mother when she gives it sugar; but if it kisses her after she has given it wormwood or aloes[163] it shows that its love for her is great indeed.

Chapter 15: A Remarkable Example to Support and Clarify What Has Been Said

So that you may understand more clearly the advice I have given above, I am now going to mention an interesting incident from the life of St. Bernard. It is from a learned and prudent writer.

Almost all the beginners in the service of God, are still inexperienced in the withdrawals of sensible favors as well as in the ups and downs of spiritual life. It is common that, when they lose the feeling of sensible devotion, and the pleasant light which invites them to hasten on their way to God, they at once feel weary, become discouraged and grow sad at heart. Those who are experienced give this explanation: human nature cannot remain for long in a state of hunger and without any kind of delight, either heavenly or earthly. Persons lifted above themselves by spiritual joys, easily renounce material things. When God allows spiritual joy to be withdrawn from them, and having already deprived themselves of bodily consolations, and as they are still unaccustomed to wait patiently for the return of the true sun, it seems to them that they are neither in heaven nor on earth but buried in an everlasting night. Thus, like newly weaned children deprived of their mother's milk, they long for it and sigh, becoming annoying and troublesome especially to themselves.

Here is the incident which took place during a journey. Geoffrey of Peronne was travelling in a group with St. Bernard. Geoffrey had recently dedicated himself to the service of God. He suddenly experienced a state of spiritual dryness, being deprived of consolation and flooded by interior darkness. He began to think of his worldly friends, relatives and the wealth he had just renounced. Consequently, he was assailed by so violent a temptation that he could not hide his feelings. One of his close friends noticed this. He took him aside tactfully and asked him gently: "What has happened Geoffrey? Why are you, so unusually preoccupied and sad?" then, Geoffrey answered with a deep sigh: "My brother, I shall never be happy again." His friend was moved to pity by these words. Filled with brotherly concern, he went immediately and informed their common spiritual father, St. Bernard. Realizing the danger, St. Bernard entered a nearby Church and prayed to God for him. Meanwhile, Geoffrey, overwhelmed by sadness, laid his head upon a stone and fell asleep. After some time, both stood up, the one from prayer having obtained the favor he had asked for, the other from sleep. As Geoffrey was now smiling and peaceful, his dear friend was amazed at so great and sudden a change. He could not prevent himself from reproaching his friend for the answer he had given him a short while ago. The Geoffrey replied to him: "A short while ago I told you that I shall never be happy again. Now I assure you that I shall never be sad again." Such was the happy outcome of the temptation faced by this devout person. Dear Philothea, take note of the following:

  1. God usually gives a foretaste of heavenly delights to those who begin to serve Him. This is to withdraw them from worldly pleasures and encourage them in the search for divine love. It is like a mother, who puts honey on her breast to entice and allure her little child to suckle.
  2. Nevertheless, this loving God, in his wise design, takes from us the milk and honey of consolations. This is to wean us so that we may learn to eat the dry but more solid bread of a vigorous devotion, practiced as it is tested in the midst of distastes and temptations.
  3. Very great storms sometimes arise in the midst of dryness and desolation. Then we must fight steadily against temptations because they are not from God. But we must bear patiently with the feelings of dryness as God has ordained them for our training.
  4. We must never lose courage in the midst of interior troubles or say like the good Geoffrey: "I shall never be happy again." During the night we must wait for the light. Similarly during the finest spiritual weather that we have, we must not say: I shall never be upset. Indeed, as the Wise Man says, in the days of happiness, we must be mindful of unhappiness (Sirach 11:25). We ought to hope in the midst of trials, and fear in the midst of prosperity; in either situation we must remain humble.
  5. It is a very good remedy to make known our trouble to some spiritual friend who can comfort us.

Finally, to conclude this indispensable instruction which is so needed I note that, as in all things so also in this matter our good God and the devil have contrary aims. by these trials, God wants to lead us to a great purity of heart, a total renunciation of our self-interest from ourselves. But the devil strives to make use of these trials to lead us to dicouragement and to make us go back to sensual pleasures. Finally, he tries to make us burdensome to ourselves and to others in order to discredit and defame holy devotion. But, if you follow the advice I have given you, you will increase greatly in perfection by the practice of virtue during these interior afflictions. Before I conclude this subject, I would like to say just one more word about these interior afflictions.

Sometimes these feelings of distaste, desolation and dryness arise from physical indisposition. Due to excess in staying awake to pray, in working and in fasting, we find ourselves overcome by weariness, drowsiness, heaviness and such infirmities. Though these depend on the body, yet they also do not cease to inconvenience the mind due to the very connection between them. On such occasions we must always remember to make several acts of virtue with the highest point of our spirit and the superior will. Although our whole soul may seem to be asleep and overcome by drowsiness and fatigue, yet the actions of our spirit are very pleasing to God. At such a time we can say with the sacred Spouse: I sleep, but my heart is awake (Song 5:2). As I already said, if such works are distasteful to us they are, nevertheless, more meritorious and virtuous. On such occasions, the remedy is to refresh the body by some kind of suitable recreation and relaxation. St. Francis of Assisi made it a rule for his religious to work with such moderation as not to weigh down the fervour of the spirit.

This glorious Father was once afflicted and troubled by so deep a melancholy of spirit that he could not conceal it in his behaviour. If he wished to stay with his religious, he could not; if he withdrew from them, he felt worse. Abstinence and bodily mortification weighed him down and prayer gave him no relief. This trial lasted for two years so that he seemed totally abandoned by God. At last, after he had humbly endured this violent storm, the Savior restored to him his joyful tranquillity in a single moment. This shows that even the greatest servant of God are subject to these shocks. Hence, the least must not be surprised if sometimes they have such troubles.

Part V: Exercises and Counsels to Renew Oneself and Confirm in Devotion

Chapter 1: We Must Renew Every Year

We must renew every year our deliberate decisions by the following exercises.

The most important aspect of these exercises is to recognize their great value. Our human nature falls away easily from our good dispositions. This is due to the frailty and evil inclination of our nature. It burdens our spirit and always drags it down unless we lift ourselves upwards by repeated, lively, deliberate decisions. We are like birds which fall at once to the ground unless they increase the movements and strokes of their wings to keep themselves in flight. That is why, dear Philothea, it is necessary that you renew and repeat very often the deliberate decisions you have made to serve God. If you do not do this, there is danger that you may fall back to your former state, or rather into a much worse state (Lk 11:26). In fact, spiritual falls are such that they always cast us down lower than the state from which we had gone up to devotion.

Even a good clock needs be wound twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Besides this, it has to be dismantled every year, to clean the rusty parts, to straighten those that are bent and to replace the worn out. Thus, whoever has a deep concern for his dear heart must wind it up daily to God, in the evening and in the morning, by means of the exercise mentioned above.[164] Besides, he must examine its conditions several times, rectifying and readjusting it.

Finally, at least once a year, it should be dismantled and all its parts examined in detail. In other words, all its desires and passions are to be examined to remedy all the defects that may be there.

The Clock-maker oils the wheels, the springs and all the moving parts of the clock with fine oil so that it may run more smoothly, and be less liable to rust. Similarly, the devout person after this exercise of dismantling his heart, to review it well, must anoint it with the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist. This practice will renew your strength diminished by time, give fervour to your heart, bring fresh greenness to your deliberate decisions and make the virtues of your spirit flower again. According to St. Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus the early Christians used to practice this carefully on the feast of our Lord's Baptism and renew the declarations and promises made in this Sacrament. Let us do the same, my dear Philothea, taking up this practice willingly and carrying it out earnestly.

So, choose a suitable time, following the advice of your spiritual director. withdraw yourself, a little more than usual, into solitude both spiritual and real. Make one or two or three meditiations on the following points, according to the method I described in the Second Part (Chapters 2-8).

Chapter 2: The Favor which God Shows Us in Calling Us to His Service

Consideration on the favor which God shows us in calling us to his service according to the firm resolution.[165]

  1. Reflect on the points of your Firm Resolution. First of all, you have forsaken, rejected, detested and renounced for ever all mortal sins. Secondly, you have dedicated and consecrated your soul, your heart, your body, and all your powers to the love and service of God. Thirdly, if you happen to fall into any evil action, you will rise again at once with the help of God's grace. Are not these beautiful, just, worthy and generous resolutions? Enter into your own self and consider how holy, reasonable and desirable this Firm Resolution is.
  2. Consider to whom you made this Resolution: it was to God. If we are strictly bound by the reasonable promises we make to men, how much more by those which we have made to God? "Lord," said David, "my heart said to you...", "my heart has uttered this good word," "no never will I forget it" (Ps 26:8; 45:1; 119:16).
  3. Think in whose presence you made your Resolution. It was made before the whole heavenly court. The Holy Virgin, St. Joseph, your Guardian Angel, St. Louis, the whole company of the blessed beheld you and approved your words with signs of joy. with eyes of unspeakable love they saw your heart prostrate at the feet of the Savior consecrating itself to his service. There was a special joy over this in the heavenly Jerusalem. Now there will be a commemoration of it if you renew your resolutions with a good heart.
  4. Realise by what means you made your Resolution. How loving and gracious God was to you at that time. But tell me truly, were you not drawn to it by the gentle attraction of the Holy Spirit? Were not the cords with which God drew your little boat to this safe harbour, cords of love and charity? (Hosea 11:4). How he attracted you by his divine sweetness: The Sacraments, reading, and prayer! Dear Philothea, while you were asleep God was watching over you and thinking of your heart with thoughts of peace (Jeremiah 29:11) and considering you with thoughts of love.
  5. Be aware when God drew you to these great resolutions. It was in the prime of your life. What happiness to know early what we cannot know but too late! St. Augustine converted at the age of thirty, cried out: "O ancient Beauty, too late have I come to know you. Alas, I saw you, yet I did not think of you."[166] You may say in your turn: "O ancient sweetness, why did I not taste you sooner?" Alas! you did not even deserve it then. Acknowledge now the great favor God has shown you in drawing you in your youth. Say with David: "My God, you have enlightened me and touched me from my youth, and I will declare your mercy for ever" (Ps 71:17). If you have been drawn in your old age, Philothea, what a grace it is. After you had wasted the preceding years, God had called you before your death. He has stopped you on the path of misery. It was at a time when you would have been eternally unhappy, if you had cantinued in it.
  6. Remember the effects of this call. I think that you will find in yourself a change for the better, comparing what you are with what you were. It is indeed a blessing, to know how to speak with God in prayer, to have the desire to love him, to have brought calm and tranquillity to many of the passions which were disquieting you, to have avoided many sins and burdens to your conscience, and finally to have received Holy Communion so frequently, uniting yourself to the supreme source of eternal grace. How great are these favors! Weigh them, dear Philothea, with the exact weights of the sanctuary. The Powerful hand of God has done all this. David says: The loving hand of the Lord has brought strength, his right hand has exalted me I shall not die but live and declare with my heart, my mouth and by my works, the wonders of his goodness (Ps 118:16-17).

Having made all these reflections which, as you see, provide you with many good movements of the will, you must conclude quite simply with a prayer of thanksgiving. Also make a prayer that is full of love to draw great profit from these considerations. Conclude with humility and a great confidence in God. The task of making resolutions is to be taken up after the second point of this exercise.

Chapter 3: Examination of Conscience on One's Progress in the Devout Life

The second point of this exercise is rather long. I would suggest that, in order to carry it out, it is not necessary to go through it all at once, but on different occasions. For instance, examine on one occasion whatever concerns your conduct towards God; take up at another time what concerns yourself; after that what concerns your neighbor; and finally what concerns your passions. It is not necessary or advisable to kneel down, except at the beginning and at the end which includes the good movements of the will.

The other point of examination can be made profitably while you are walking, and even more profitably in bed, so long as you can be there for sometime without being drowsy and that you are well awake. In order to do this, you must read them carefully beforehand. However, it is necessary to complete the whole of this second point of the exercise within three days and two nights at the most. Make use of some time each day and night according to your possibilities. If you make this exercise at long intervals, it would lose its effect and would make only feeble impression. After each point of the examination, note in what you failed, in what you have defects, and the principal disorders you have experienced. This will enable you to confess them in order to get advice, make deliberate decisions and find spiritual strength.

On the days when you make this exercise, it is not necessary to withdraw entirely from the company of others. But do so to a certain extent, especially towards the evening. Thus you can go to bed early and take the bodily and spiritual rest so necessary for reflection. In the course of the day make frequent aspirations to God, to our Lady, to the entire heavenly Jerusalem. Do all this with your heart filled with love of God and of your perfection.

In order to begin well this examination:

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God.
  2. Pray earnestly to the Holy Spirit. Ask him for enlightenment and clarity that you may be able to know yourself well. Pray with St. Augustine who cried out to God in a spirit of humility: "Lord, that I may know you and that I may know myself," and with St. Francis of Assisi, who asked God: "Who are you, and who am I?" Affirm that you wish to note your progress not in order to take delight in yourself; it is only to rejoice over it in God; not for your own glory; but for the glory of God and to thank him for it.
  3. Declare firmly that if you seem to have made a little progress, or even fallen back, you will not give way to disappointment or lukewarmness by any sort of discouragement or faint-heartedness. On the contrary you are determined to take courage and arouse yourself, to humble yourself and correct your faults with the help of God's grace.

Having done this, consider calmly and peacefully how up to the present time you have behaved yourself towards God, towards your neighbor and towards yourself.

Chapter 4: Examination of One's State with Regard to God

  1. What is your attitude towards mortal sin?[167] Have you a firm determination never to commit it no matter what may happen? Has this determination lasted from the time of your Firm Resolution until now? the foundation of the spiritual life is in this determination.
  2. What is your attitude towards God's commandments? Do you find them good, delightful and pleasant? My daughter, he whose taste is in good order and whose stomach is healthy loves good food and rejects the bad.
  3. What is your attitude towards venial sin? We cannot avoid committing venial sins now and then, but have you a particular inclination to any venial sin? and, what is worse, is there any for which you have attachment and love?
  4. What is your attitude towards spiritual exercises? Do you love them? Do you value them? Do you find them troublesome? Are you disgusted with them? to which do you feel yourself less inclined and to which more inclined? Do you feel dislike for any of the following: hearing the word of God, going to confession, taking spiritual advice, preparing for and receiving Communion, controlling your inclinations? If you discover something to which your heart is less inclined, examine from where this distaste comes and what is its cause.
  5. What is your attitude towards God himself? Do you take pleasure in often recalling God to mind? in doing this, do you feel any pleasant delight? David says: I remember God and was delighted (Ps 77:5-6). Do you feel within you a certain readiness to love God and a special satisfaction in tasting this love? Do you find joy in thinking of the immensity of God, of his goodness, of his gentleness? If the thought of God comes to you amid worldly activities and its vanities, does it find a ready welcome and does it fill your heart? Does your heart turn towards God and in some way wait for him? there are certainly such persons. A woman's husband returns home from afar. As soon as she sees him returning and hears his voice, though she may be fully engaged in work held back by some urgent preoccupation, her heart is not held back but leaves all other thoughts to think of her husband who has just come back. It is the same with those who love God greatly. However busy they may be when the thought of God comes to them, they find the return so delightful, that they give little attention to anything else. This is a very good sign.
  6. What is your attitude towards Jesus Christ, God and man? Do you find pleasure in him? Bees take pleasure in honey, and wasps in garbage. In the same way, the good find happiness in Jesus Christ and have a most tender love for him. But the wicked take pleasure in vanities.
  7. What is your attitude towards our Lady, the Saints and your Guardian Angel? Do you love them greatly? Have you special confidence in their kindheartedness? Are their pictures, their life stories, their praises pleasing to you?
  8. As to your tongue, how do you speak about God? Do you take pleasure in speaking well of him according to your condition of life and your ability? Do you love to sing sacred songs?
  9. As regards works, do you have at heart the external glory of God and doing something in his honor? Those who love God, love to add beauty to his house (Ps 26:8).
  10. Are you aware of having renounced any attachment and given up anything for God? For it is a clear expression of love to deprive oneself of something for the sake of the one who is loved. What have you renounced for the love of God?

Chapter 5: Examination of One's State with Regard to Oneself

  1. How do you love yourself? Do you love yourself much for the sake of this world? If so, you will desire to remain here always, and will be very concerned to make yourself secure on this earth. But if you love yourself for the sake of Heaven, you will desire, or at least be willing to leave this world whenever it is pleasing to the Lord.
  2. Do you keep a right order in the love of yourself? It is only inordinate love of ourselves which ruins us. A well-ordered love of ourselves demands that we should love the soul more than the body, that we should be more diligent to acquire virtues than anything else, that we should set a greater value on heavenly honor than on that which is low and passing. The well-ordered persons say more often to himself: "What will the Angels say if I think of a such a thing?" rather than "What will men say?"
  3. What love have you for your own heart? What trouble do you take to care for it in its illness? You owe it this care, in order to help it and to obtain help for it when it is tormented by passions, and to lay all else aside for that.
  4. How much do you value yourself before God? Nothing, no doubt. There is not much humility in a fly esteeming itself nothing compared with a mountain, nor in a drop of water esteeming itself nothing compared with the sea, nor in a spark of fire esteeming itself nothing compared with the sun. But humility lies in not esteeming ourselves better than others, and in not wanting to be overestimated by others. What is your stand in this respect?
  5. As to the tongue, do you boast yourself in one way or another? Do you flatter yourself in speaking of yourself?
  6. As to works, do you indulge in any pleasure harmful to your health? I mean vain and useless pleasures, too many late nights without any good reason, and so on.

Chapter 6: Examination of One's State with Regard to One's neighbor

The love for one's husband or wife should be tender and peaceful, firm and continuous. It must hold the first place since this is God's plan and will. I say the same of the love of one's children, close relatives and friends, each in its place.

Generally speaking what is your attitude towards your neighbor? Do you love him from your heart and for love of God? in order to discern this well, call to mind certain persons whom you think are troublesome and unpleasant. It is specially in such cases that we practice the love of God towards our neighbor, and still more in loving those who do us harm by their actions or their words. Examine carefully whether you are sincere at heart with regard to them? Or do you have great difficulty in loving them?

Do you readily speak ill of your neighbor, especially of those who dislike you? Do you do anything evil to your neighbor directly or indirectly? Provided you are a little reasonable, you will easily notice it.[168]

Chapter 7: Examination of One's inclinations

I have treated at great length of these points. In their examination depends the knowledge of the spiritual progress you have made. A mere examination of sins belongs to the confessions of those who do not think about making progress. We must not set to work on each one of these points except very gently. Let us reflect in what state our heart has been with regard to them, from the time since we made our Firm Resolution. We are to note any outstanding faults we have committed.

To sum up the whole, you must reduce the examination to a scrutiny of your passions. If it is troublesome to consider them so carefully in detail, as suggested, you can examine yourself with regard to what you have been and how you have behaved:

In your love of God, of your neighbor and of yourself.

In your hatred of the sin, which is in yourself, and that which is in others. In both cases you should desire their destruction.

In your fear of the dangers of sinning and the fear of losing temporal goods: we fear the former too little and the latter too much.

In your hope, set perhaps too much upon the world and on created things, and too little on God and eternal things.

In your sadness, if it is too excessive over vain things. In your joy, if it is excessive, and regarding unworthy things.

What inclinations obstruct your heart? What passions possess it? Where has it gone most astray? For from the passions of the soul you may know its state examining them one after another. A lute player, touching all the strings of his lute, tunes those which he finds out of tune, either tightening or loosening them. In the same way, having examined the love, the hate, the desire, the fear, the hope, the sadness and the joy of your soul, should you find them out of tune to the air we wish to play, which is the glory of God, you may tune them by means of his grace and the advice of your spiritual father.

Chapter 8: Good Movements of the Will[169] in Concluding the Examination

After reflecting peacefully on each point of the examination and discovering in what state you are, you will give vent to the good movements of the will as follows:

Thank God for the progress, even if little, you have made in your life since your Firm Resolution and acknowledge that it is his mercy alone which has realized it in you and for you.

Humble yourself profoundly before God, acknowledging that, if the progress you have made is little, it is due to your own fault. It is because of your lack of fidelity, courage and regularity in responding to the inspirations, lights and good movements which he has given you in prayer and on other occasions.

Promise to praise him forever for the graces given to you. They have taken you away from your evil inclinations leading you to this progress, even if little.

Ask him pardon for your infidelity and disloyalty in responding to him.

offer him your heart so that he may make himself its sole master.

Ask him earnestly to make you entirely faithful to him.

Pray to the Saints, our Lady, your Guardian Angel, your Patron, St. Joseph and others.

Chapter 9: Reflections for Renewing Our Deliberate Decisions

Having completed the examination, take the advice of a spiritual director about your defects and their remedies. Take up one of the following five reflections, using one each day as the subject of your meditation. Spend in this way your time of prayer, following the same method regarding the preparation and the good movements of the will which you used in the meditations of the First Part. Before each meditation, place yourself in the presence of God and ask earnestly for his grace to establish you firmly in his holy love and service.

Chapter 10: First Reflection for Renewal: The Excellence of Our Soul

Think of the nobility and excellence of your soul. It has an understanding that knows not only this visible world but also the Angels and Heaven. It knows that there is a God most high, most good and inexpressible and that there is an eternity. It realizes also what is right and proper to live well in this visible world, in order to be joined to the Angels in Heaven and to enjoy God eternally. Your soul has in addition a most noble will, capable of loving God and incapable of hating him in himself.

Consider how generous your heart is. Nothing that is corrupt can attract bees; they rest only on flowers. In the same way, your heart cannot be at rest except in God alone. No creature can satisfy it. Recall freely the most dear and the most absorbing pastimes which has once possessed your heart. Judge in truth whether they were not full of troublesome anxiety, harassing thoughts and boring cares, in the midst of which your poor heart was unhappy.

Our heart running after creatures, does so with eagerness. It thinks that creatures can satisfy its desires. But as soon as it meets with creatures, it understands that it must begin again, and that nothing can satisfy it. God does not will that our heart finds a resting place anywhere like the dove which Noah sent from the ark (Gen 8:9), so that it may return to its God from whom it went forth. How beautiful is our heart by nature. Why do we hold it back against its inclination and make it serve created things?

My beautiful soul, you ought to say, you can know and desire God, why should you be occupied with something less? You can claim eternity, why are you engrossed in fleeting moments of time? It was one of the regrets of the prodigal son that when he could have lived delightfully, eating at his father's table, he was eating loathsomely at that of beasts (Lk 15:16-17). When you are able to enjoy God, what wretchedness to be satisfied with less than God! Lift high your heart by means of this reflection. Realize that you are eternal and worthy of eternity. Be filled with courage to reach this end.

Chapter 11: Second Reflection: Excellence of the Virtues

Be aware that only virtue and devotion can make you happy in this world. See how beautiful they are. Compare the virtues with the vices which are contrary to them. How gentle is patience in comparison with revenge; gentleness in comparison with anger and irritability: humility in comparison with pride and ambition; generosity in comparison with avarice; charity in comparison with envy; sobriety in comparison with dissipation. The virtues are admirable in that they fill the heart with incomparable sweetness and delight when practiced. But vices leave us completely wearied and ill-treated. Let us, then, strive to acquire such delights.

Regarding vices, he who has only a few of them is not happy, and he who has more is unhappy. But as to virtues, he who has only a few of them already has happiness, which increases as he makes progress. How beautiful, delightful and gentle is the devout life! It lightens our trials and adds sweetness to our consolations. without it good is ill, and pleasures full of anxiety, troubles and disappointements. He who understands it might well exclaim with the Samaritan woman: Domine, da mihi hanc aquam: Lord, give me this water, an aspiration very often used by Mother Teresa and St. Catherine of Genoa, though in different situations.

Chapter 12: Third Reflection: The Example of the Saints

Remember the example of the Saints in every condition of life. What have they not done to love God, and to show him their devotion? Look at those Martyrs unconquerable in their determination. What torments have they not endured to be faithful? Consider above all those beautiful women, in the prime of their youth, whiter than the lily in purity, redder than the rose in charity. Some were twelve years of age, others thirteen, fifteen, twenty and twenty-five. They suffered a thousand kinds of martyrdom rather than renounce their decision, not only regarding the profession of faith, but also regarding their commitment to devotion. Some chose to die rather than forsake their virginity, others rather than giving up serving the sick, comforting the afflicted or burying the dead. My God, what constancy has this weaker sex displayed on such occasions!

Think of the many holy Confessors: with what fortitude they renounced the world, how invincible they were in their resolutions! Nothing could make them turn back from their resolutions. They embraced them without conditions and kept them all without exception. My God, what does St. Augustine say of his mother, Monica? with what firmness did she carry out her venture to serve God in her marriage and as a widow! and how does St. Jerome speak about his dear daughter Paula? She had to face such great misfortunes and all sorts of troubles! What is there that we may not do following the example of such excellent patrons? they were as we are. They did it for the same God, for the same virtues. Why can we not do as much according to our state of life for our Firm Resolution and holy affirmation.

Chapter 13: Fourth Reflection: Jesus' Love for Us

Be conscious of the love with which Jesus Christ, our Lord suffered so much in this world, especially in the Garden of Olives and on the Mount Calvary. You were the object of this love. by means of all these sufferings, he obtained from God the Father good resolutions and decisions for your heart. by the same means he obtained also all that you need to observe, nurture, strengthen and carry out these resolutions. Firm Resolutions, how precious you are being the child of such a mother as is the Passion of my Savior! How much should I cherish you, since you have been so dear to my Jesus. My Savior you died to win for me the grace to make my deliberate decisions. Grant me the grace to die rather than forsake them.

Remember Philothea, the heart of our Lord saw your heart, and loved you surely from the tree of the Cross. by this love he obtained for you all the good things that you will ever have, including your resolutions. Yes, Philothea, we can say with Jeremiah: Lord, before I existed you beheld me and called me by name (1:5). This is indeed so, His divine Goodness has prepared in his love and mercy all the means, general and particular for our salvation, and consequently our resolutions. Yes, without doubt. A women with child prepares the cradle, the linen and swaddling clothes, and even arranges a nurse for the child whom she hopes to bring forth, though it be not yet in the world. So our Lord, his godness, as it were pregnant with you, wishing to bring you forth to salvation and make your his child, prepared upon the tree of the Cross everything you would need. He got ready your spiritual cradle, linen, and swaddling clothes, your nurse and everything suitable for your happiness. These are all the means, all the attractions and all the graces by which he guides you and wants to lead you to perfection.

My God, how deeply this truth should be fixed in our memory. Is it possible that I have been loved, and loved so tenderly, by my Savior? That he thought of me personally in all these little events by which he has drawn me to himself? How much then should we love, cherish and make good use of all this for our benefit! This is extremely kind: this loving heart of my God thought of Philothea, loved her and obtained for her a thousand means of salvation. This he did as though there was no other soul in the world he could think of. The sun shines on one part of the earth, shining on it no less than if it shone nowhere else, and as if it shone upon it alone. In the same way, our Lord thought of and cared for all his loving children, in such a way that he thought of each one of us as though he had not thought of all the rest. He loved me, says St. Paul, and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20); as if he said: for myself alone, as though he had done nothing for the others. Imprint this in your spirit, Philothea, in order to cherish and nourish with care your Firm Resolution so precious to the heart of the Savior.

Chapter 14: Fifth Reflection: God's Eternal Love for Us

Consider the eternal love which God had for you. Already before our Lord Jesus Christ, as man suffered for you on the Cross, his divine Majesty thought of you in his sovereign goodness and loved you infinitely. But when did he begin to love you? He began when he began to be God. When did he begin to be God? Never, for he has always been God, without beginning and without end. Also, he has loved you from all eternity. That is why he was preparing for you the graces and favors he has bestowed on you. He says it through the Prophet Jeremiah (31:3): I have loved you (he speaks to you as though there is no one else) with an everlasting love: Therefore have I drawn you, taking pity on you. Hence, among other things he thought of leading you to make your deliberate decisions to serve him.

My God, what resolutions are these! God has thought of, meditated and planned them from all eternity! How dear and valuable they should be to us! How much must we be ready to suffer rather than turn aside from them by a hair's breadth. No, definitely not, even if the whole world were to be destroyed. The whole world together is not worth one person. But a person is worth nothing without the deliberate decisions.

Chapter 15: General Good Movements of the Will; Conclusion of the Exercise

General good movements of the will resulting from the preceding reflections and conclusion of the exercise.

Dear deliberate decisions you are the beautiful tree of life planted by God with his own hand in the center of my heart. My saviour desires to water it with his blood, to make it bear fruit. I would rather undergo a thousand deaths than allow any storm to uproot it. No, neither vanity, nor riches, nor difficulties will turn me away from my purpose. Lord, you have planted this beautiful tree, protected it in your fatherly heart, from all eternity, for my garden. How many persons there are who have not been so favored! How shall I ever humble myself enough before your mercy? Beautiful and sacred resolutions, if I keep you, you will keep me; if you live in my heart, my heart will live in you. Resolutions, you are eternal in the mercy of my God. Remain and live eternally in me. Never may I set you aside.

After these good movements of the will you must specify the means necessary to keep your precious decisions. Affirm that you are determined to make faithful use of these means: frequency of prayer, of the Sacraments, of good works; the correction of the faults you have discovered at the examination of the second point;[170] the avoidance of the occasions of sin; the practice of the advice given to you in this regard. After doing this, as if taking fresh breath and renewing your strength, make a thousand affirmations that you will be faithful to your resolutions. As though you were holding your heart, your soul and your will in your hands dedicate, consecrate, sacrifice and immolate yourself to God. Promise that you will never take them back. Rather, you will leave them in the hands of his divine Majesty, to follow his precepts in everything and everywhere. Ask God to renew you wholly and bless and strengthen the renewal of your Firm Resolution. Pray to our Lady, your Guardian Angel, St. Louis and other saints.

Go in this disposition of heart to your spiritual father. Confess your principal faults, committed since your general confession. Receive the absolution in the same manner as you did the first time.[171] Read and sign your Firm Resolution in his presence. Finally, go and unite your renewed heart to its Source and Savior in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Chapter 16: Good Movements of the Will to Be Cherished After This Exercise

On the day you made this renewal and on the days that follow, you must often repeat with your heart and your lips these ardent words of St. Paul, of St. Augustine, of St. Catherine of Genoa and others: No, I am no longer my own, whether I live or whether I die, I belong to my Savior; I have no more my self nor anything mine, my self is Jesus, my mine is to be his. World, you are always yourself, and I have always been myself, but from now on I will be myself no longer. No, we will no longer be ourselves, for our hearts will be changed; and the world which has so much deceived us, will be deceived in us. Not noticing our change except little by little, it will think that we are always Esaus when in reality we have become Jacobs.

Let these exercises remain quietly in your heart. After completing your reflection and meditation, go gently to your daily duties and occupations, so that the precious liquid of your resolutions is not spilt by a sudden change. Your resolutions must soak into and penetrate every part of your being. However, you must do this without strain of the mind or of the body.

Chapter 17: Reply to Two Objections which May Be Made Against This Introduction

Worldly people will tell you, dear Philothea, that these exercises and counsels are too many in number. Whoever wishes to practice them will have no time for anything else. Indeed Philothea, even if we were to do nothing else, we should be doing well enough, for we would be doing that we should be doing in this world. But do you not see the trick? If we were obliged to do all these exercises each and everyday, they would surely take all our time. But it is not necessary to do them except at the required time and place as the occasion arises. How many civil laws are there in the Digests and code, which must be observed? But they must be observed according to the need and they are not all to be practiced everyday. David, a King who was extremely busy with very difficult tasks used to practice many more exercises than I have put down for you. St. Louis, a King so admirable in war as well as in peace, administered justice and managed his affairs with very great care. He assisted at two Masses every day. Besides this he said Vespers and Compline with his chaplain and made his meditation. He used to visit hospitals. He made his confession and took the discipline every Friday. He frequently listened to sermons, and very often held spiritual conferences. In spite of all this, he lost no opportunity of working for the public good, which he did with great diligence. His court was more splendid and flourishing than it was at the time of his predecessors. practice courageously these exercises, therefore, as I have indicated. God will give you sufficient leisure and strength to fulfill all your duties, even though he should have to make the sun stand still as he did for Joshua (Joshua 10:12-14). We always do enough, when God works with us.

Wordly people will say that in this book I almost always presume that Philothea has the gift of mental prayer, whereas this is not always the case. So this introduction will not be suitable for all. It is certainly true, that I have assumed this and it is also true that not every one has the gift of mental prayer. Nevertheless, it is true that almost everyone, even the most dull, is able to have it, provided that they have good spiritual directors. Also, they must be willing to strive to acquire it as much as it deserves. And in case there is anybody who has not this gift at all (which I think could happen only in very rare cases), a wise spiritual father can easily remedy the defect. He could teach them to be attentive to the same considerations which are set down in the meditations, either by reading or hearing them read.

Chapter 18: Three Final and Important Counsels for This Introduction

  1. On the first day of every month renew your Firm Resolutions, after meditation, as given in the First Part (Chapter 20). At every moment, affirm your determination to keep it, saying with David: No, I will never forget your justifications, my God, for by them you have given me life (Ps 119:93). When you feel any disorder in your spirit take your Firm Resolution in your hand, and kneeling in a spirit of humility read it through with your whole heart, and you will find great relief.
  2. Declare gently that you want to be devout; not that you "are devout," but that you "want to be devout." Never be ashamed of ordinary and necessary actions which lead us to the love of God. Make known to all boldly that you try to meditate, that you would rather die than commit mortal sin, that you desire to frequent the Sacraments and follow the advice of your spiritual director. (Very often, for various reasons, there is no need to mention his name.) This frank profession of our desire to serve God, and that we have consecrated ourselves to his love with special affection, is very pleasing to his divine Majesty. He does not want us to be ashamed of him or of his cross. Besides, it cuts off many contrary invitations from the world. In this way, we are committed to live up to our reputation of professing to seek devotion. Philosophers used to proclaim themselves philosophers that they might be allowed to live as philosophers. We too should proclaim our desire for devotion so that we may be allowed to live devoutly. In case anyone tells you that it is possible to live devoutly, without practicing these counsels and exercises do not deny it. But reply with kindness that you are so weak, that you need more help and assistance than others.
  3. Finally, my dear Philothea, I entreat you by all that is sacred in Heaven and on earth, by the Baptism you have received, by the breasts which nourished Jesus Christ, by the loving heart with which he loved you, by the tender mercy in which you hope, continue and persevere in this happy venture of the devout life. Our days pass away, death is at the door. "The trumpet sounds the retreat," says Gregory Nazianzen, "let everyone be ready, for the judgement is near." When the mother of St. Symphorian, seeing him being led away to martyrdom, cried out after him: "My son, remember eternal life; look up to Heaven and think of Him who reigns there; your approaching death will soon end the brief course of this life." Dear Philothea, I say the same to you: Look up to Heaven, and do not forsake it for the earth: look down to hell, and do not cast yourself into it for the sake of fleeting moments; look upon Jesus Christ, do not deny him for the sake of the world; and should the difficulties of the devout life seem hard to you, sing with St. Francis of Assisi:
I hope for good things without measure
Life's troubles to me are but pleasure.[172]

Vive Jesus ("Live Jesus"), to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever and ever. Amen.

Footnotes

  1. In "On Englishing the Bible" (Burns Oates, London, 1949) p. 84.
  2. St. Francis uses this phrase twice in the First Part: In Ch. 5, in the concluding phrase of para 1, p. 67; and in Ch. 6 in para 1, concluding phrase on p. 69.
  3. Regarding the special phrases we have used to translate "Affections and Resolutions", and the reasons for the change, please read carefully the footnotes to Ch. 6 of the Second Part, p. 116.
  4. For a scientific and scholarly biography of St. Francis de Sales, See, E.J. Lajeunie, St. Franics de Sales, the Man, the Thinker, His influence, Vol. I, Tr. Rory O Sullivan OSFS, SFS Publications, Vinayalaya, Bangalore, 1986; Vol. II, 1987.
  5. See, Francis Moget, The Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales of Annecy, SFS Publications, Vinayalaya, Bangalore, 1985, p. 8. Fr. Moget gives a description of Savoy.
  6. The post of Provost is more or less equivalent to that of the Vicar General of a diocese today. The Provost was the person next in rank to the Bishop.
  7. Lajeunie, Vol. 1, p. 358.
  8. ibid., p. 363.
  9. So the Bishop of Geneva was still addressed Monsieur de Geneve in French and often in writings mentioned as M. de Geneve.
  10. Lajeunie, Vol. 2, p. 35.
  11. Lajeunie, Vol. 2, p. 56.
  12. Pulpit and Pew, A study in Salesian Preaching, presented by Vincent Kerns, SFS Publications, Bangalore, 1976, p. 64.
  13. Lajeunie, Vol. 2, p. 262.
  14. Francis de Sales Selected Letters, Tr. Elizabeth Stopp, Faber & Faber, Ltd., London 1960, p. 67-74.
  15. Lajeunie, Vol. 2, p. 294-295.
  16. Lajeunie, Vol. 2, p. 325.
  17. ibid., p. 167-168.
  18. Saint Francis de Sales, The Love of God, A Treatise. Tr. & abridged, Vincent Kerns, SFS Publications, Bangalore 1982, p. 3.
  19. Apostolic Letter, "Jewel of Savoy," of January 1967, for the 4th centenary of the birth of St. Francis de Sales. From the French text published by Bishop's House, Annecy (1967).
  20. From January 1595 to January 1596, later collected into a book called Controversies (A.E., Vol. 1).
  21. The talks he gave to the Sisters were taken down and now form the book called Spiritual Conferences (A.E., Vol. 6).
  22. There are 2,100 extant letters of St. Francis. Many of these were written to give spiritual guidance to individual persons. The letters occupy eleven volumes in the 26-volume Annecy Edition of St. Francis writings. But the editors point out that he must have written ten times that number. See A.E., Vol. 21, pp. v-vi.
  23. See p. 50, last para.
  24. Translated from the French; quoted by Dom B. Mackey, O.S.B., in his Preface to The Introduction, A.E., Vol. 3, p. xiv.
  25. See A.E., Vol. 14, p. 215.
  26. Translated from the French in A.E., Vol. 13, p. 413.
  27. See A.E., Vol. 14, p. 131.
  28. The notice with which Francis introduced this edition is on p. 56.
  29. In the Encyclical Letter of January 1923, for the 3rd Centenary of the death of St. Francis de Sales. From the Latin in L'Osservatore Romano.
  30. See p. 56.
  31. Pliny.
  32. The Castor-oil plant. It was called 'palm of Christ' from the hand-like shape of its large leaves. Its seed is extremely poisonous if eaten, but the oil extracted from it is medicinal. [MXM: misplaced in the HTML edition.]
  33. Pliny.
  34. [MXM, speculative: Pausanius.]
  35. Aristotle.
  36. Madame Louise de Charmoisy.
  37. Fr. Jean Fourier, SJ.
  38. In spite of St. Francis' self-effacing words, his Introduction presented from its first edition, an excellent summary of the principles of Christian living.
  39. It is now agreed that St. John's Second Letter is addressed to a Church of Asia and not to any single person.
  40. Pliny.
  41. In his letter on Preaching, St. Francis attributes the last part of this quotation to Erasmus (1466-1536) (see "Pulpit and Pew", translated by Fr. Vincent Kerns, MSFS, SFS Publications, Bangalore, India, 1976, p. 33).
  42. Emphasis added by editors. In the Notice to the Reader of the Second Edition (1609), which is similar to the above though shorter, St. Francis wrote: "My dear Reader...I have not wished to improve it with any references though some wanted this... May our Lord be with you."
  43. Pliny.
  44. Literally "by detraction and calumny (slander)."
  45. St. Louis IX, King of France (1227-1270).
  46. Blessed Amadeus IX, Duke of Savoy (1465-1472).
  47. St. Edward the Confessor, King of England (1042-1066).
  48. St. John of Avila (1500-1569), a Spanish priest, author of Advice for a Christian Life, canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
  49. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), canonized only in 1622.
  50. Fr. Gratian (mentioned in the Third Part, Ch. 11: 3rd last para).
  51. Here St. Francis recommends: Louis of Granada (1505-1588), Spanish Dominican; Vincent Bruno (1532-1594), Italian Jesuit; Francis Arias (1533-1605), Spanish Jesuit; Emond Auger (1530-1591), French Jesuit.
  52. St. Francis is following here the tradition which incorrectly identifies Mary Magdalen with the sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50. There is no basis for this identification. Mary Magdalen was a possessed woman healed by Jesus as indicated by Luke in the passage that immediately follows (Lk 8:1-2).
  53. Read Second Part, Chapter 6.
  54. As in Second Part, Chapter 6.
  55. As in Second Part, Chapter 6.
  56. As in Second Part, Chapter 6.
  57. As in Second Part, Chapter 6.
  58. As in Second Part, Chapter 6.
  59. As in Second Part, Chapter 6.
  60. As in Second Part, Chapter 6.
  61. Pietro Mattioli (1500-1577), Italian Physician and botanist.
  62. Magdalen: see footnote Ch. 8, First Part, p. 73.
  63. From p. 50.
  64. In the original, the text is in three long paragraphs. For clarity it is presented here in ten points. This resolution is drawn up like a legal document. St. Francis was a qualified lawyer.
  65. Pliny.
  66. Literally "Prayer placing our understanding in the divine clearness and light, and exposing our will to the warmth of heavenly love."
  67. Here St. Francis recommends meditation books available in French in his days: those by St. Bonaventure (1221-1274), Franciscan; Matthew Bellintani (1534-1611), Italian Capuchin; Vincent Bruno (1532-1594), Italian Jesuit; andrew Capilia (1530-1610), Spanish Jesuit who became a Carthusian; Louis of Granada (1505-1588), Spanish Dominican; Louis de la Puente (1545-1624), Spanish Jesuit.
  68. It is only from the time of the Second Vatican Council document on the Liturgy, dated 4 December 1963, that the vernaculars have progressively replaced Latin for the celebration of Mass, the administration of the Sacraments and the praying of the Divine office.
  69. "Good movements in your will" literally "your affections." Read Second Part Chapter 6.
  70. Literally "The Setting Forth of the Mystery."
  71. Literally "as a hawk (trained for hunting) is secured by its jesses (leg straps) so that it remains on the fist. "
  72. "Good movements of the will" is literally "affections." Read next footnote.
  73. The latter part of the title is literally "Affections and Resolutions" Our translation of these words by "Good Movements of the Will and Deliberate Decisions" gives the sense in which St. Francis uses them, as can be gathered even from this Chapter. The words "affections and resolutions" are religious technical terms whose precise sense has become obscured. Moreover, the usual understanding of "affections" is emotions of love, compassion or similar feelings; and that of "resolutions" is general desires to do or not do something.
  74. See para. 1 of Ch. 5 above for the exact meaning of "meditation."
  75. "Good movements in the will." Here St. Francis expressly uses the phrase. We have used the phrase in place of "affections" in this Chapter, and whenever he uses it in connection with Prayer, for reasons given in the footnote regarding the title of this Chapter. Moreover, St. Francis adds here that the will is "the affective part of our soul." He explains elsewhere that our will is that part of our spirit which is the seat of rational emotions (see The Love of God, translated by Fr. Vincent Kerns, MSFS, SFS Publications, Bangalore, India, 1982, pp. 11-13).
  76. Here St. Francis advises the reading of the Preface of the First Volume of Meditations by andrew Capilia (1530-1610), Spanish Jesuit who became a Carthusian, and the Treatise on Prayer by Francis Arias (1533-1605), Spanish Jesuit.
  77. See end of Ch. 9 of First Part, p. 76.
  78. See Chapters 2 to 4, Second Part.
  79. See first half of previous Chapter.
  80. Conversation.
  81. See also Daniel 3:59-78 (Jerusalem Bible).
  82. Spiritual boredom. [MXM: acedia?]
  83. Literally "Spiritual Recollection" rendered as "Spiritual Retirement" or "Spiritual Retreat" in most translations.
  84. Literally "Aspirations": this word is used by some writers to mean ejaculatory prayers. Here St. Franics is also referring to another spiritual activity that is, earnest longing for God. [MXM: I have replaced "ejaculatory prayers" in the text with "aspirations."]
  85. From "to ejaculate"="to say suddenly and briefly." Ejaculatory prayers are short prayers that can be said quickly and repeated often, like "Father, I thank you"; "My Jesus, mercy"; 'Lord, help me." [MXM: I have replaced "ejaculatory prayers" in the text with "aspirations."]
  86. St. Anselm was born in 1033 at Aosta, on the border of Savoy.
  87. From Egypt, the founder of Christian monasticism (251-356).
  88. First Christian emperor (306-337).
  89. He died in 1572 as the third General of the Jesuits, Canonized in 1671.
  90. The advice which follows is given by St. Francis to people attending Holy Mass celebrated in Latin, and to whom Daily Missals in the vernacular were not available.
  91. Now that we have the Mass in the vernacular "the Church earnestly desires that Chirst's faithful, when present at this Mystery of Faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a proper understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collobration" (Second Vatican Council, Document on the Liturgy, no. 48).
  92. Book 9, Chapters 6 and 7.
  93. He was a native of Savoy (1506-1546), now a Blessed.
  94. St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was canonized only in 1622.
  95. She was the mother of one of St. Francis' great friends, Fr. Peter Critain.
  96. Here St. Francis mentions other authors he has recommended earlier: John of Avila (see p. 16), Granada and Arias (see p. 21), de la Puente (see p. 60). Besides these he mentions the following: John Gerson (1362-1429) famous Chancellor of the University of Paris, who in St. Francis' time was thought to be the author of The Imitation of Christ; Denis the Carthusian (1402-1471); Louis de Blois (1506-1566), Flemish Benedictine; Diego Stella (1524-1598), Portuguese Franciscan; Luca Pinelli (died 1607), Italian Jesuit.
  97. By Lorenzo Scupoli (1530-1610), Italian theatine. It was St. Francis' favorite book since his studies in Padua.
  98. From Egypt, died about 341.
  99. Canonized only in 1622.
  100. Canonized in 1610.
  101. Explained in greater detail in Fourth Part, Ch. 3.
  102. Read also the last para of Ch. 37, Third Part.
  103. Now referred to as the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
  104. Pliny.
  105. In St. Francis' time, daily Communion was not the practice among lay people. Even Communion every Sunday was not common and he recommends at least this in the Chapter that follows.
  106. Aulus Gellius, Latin author (2nd century A.D.).
  107. In modern times the practice of daily Communion was promoted by Pope St. Pius X. His decree of 1905 states that "though it is extremely desirable that those who practice frequent and daily Communion be free from venial sins, or at least from fully deliberate ones, and from all attachments to them, yet it is enough that they be free from mortal sin and resolved never to sin again. with this sincere proposal, it is impossible that they should not gradually correct themselves from venial sin and from attachment to it." Right intention is also required, that is, a person should receive Communion "not from routine, vanity or human motives, but because he wishes to please God, to be more closely united with him in charity and to overcome his weakness and defects by means of this divine remedy" (The Christian Faith, ed. Neuner S.J. & Dupuis, S.J., T.P.I., Bangalore, 3rd Edition, 1978, p. 323).
  108. St. Francis has in mind weekly Communion and hence weekly Confession. He presents convincing reasons for frequent Confession in the Second Part, Ch. 19, esp. para 2.
  109. Pliny. Hares are usually grayish brown in color. In regions where it snows they naturally turn white in winter.
  110. Literally "the king of the bees." For a long time the leader of the beehive was thought of as male until entomology (study of insects) corrected this view. So the phrase means "the queen of the bees."
  111. Ps 45:13, St. Francis quotes in verse and so we have translated in verse.
  112. A small hawk trained to hunt birds for sport.
  113. Pliny.
  114. Pliny.
  115. Honorific title given to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) from the fifteenth century.
  116. Pliny.
  117. To complain uselessly.
  118. Mattioli: See footnote on p. 96.
  119. St. Francis shared the mistaken belief of his contemporaries that drones make wax.
  120. The term "state of perfection" used by theologians meant a stable state of life consecrated to seeking perfection. In this sense, Bishops and the Religious were considered to be in a "state of perfection." However, the Second Vatican Council does not use "state of perfection" for any form of life approved by the Church and consequently not for religious life. All the faithful are invited and have the duty to seek holiness and the perfection of their own state of life (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, No. 42). The emphasis of Vatican II is on the universal call to holiness and on the practice of perfection, and not on the "state of perfection." the thought of Vatican II and of St. Francis de Sales in this matter are very similar.
  121. The originality of St. Franicis: The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience are to be practiced by every Christian each according to one's state of life.
  122. Pliny.
  123. Confessions, Book 6, Ch. 12.
  124. Pliny.
  125. The basilisk is a mythical reptile with breath and look capable of causing death.
  126. Pliny, Agnus castus (Chaste lamb): A tree once believed to be preservative of chastity.
  127. Pliny. The halcyon, is a bird, usually identified with a species of kingfisher. The ancients believed that it bred about the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea. It was able to charm the wind and waves so that the sea was especially calm during the period.
  128. Pliny.
  129. Self, literally soul.
  130. A hard black mineral used for ornaments.
  131. There is a difference between "necessary", "useful" and "forbidden." Something "necessary" implies a need, while something "useful" need not be necessary. St. Francis says that friendship is not necessary for religious. According to him, the religious community itself must be an expression and a witness of the highest form of friendship and sharing ("Spiritual Conferences" IV: On Cordiality, Annecy Edition, Vol. 6, pp. 55-70).
  132. Pliny.
  133. Pliny.
  134. Second Part, Ch. 12.
  135. These words are not found in Sacred Scripture. Several Fathers of the Church like Clement of Alexandia, Origen, St. Ambrose and St. Jerome cite them.
  136. Pliny. A lizard-like animal thought to be able to live in fire.
  137. Palladius, a fourth century Latin writer on agriculture.
  138. A woody herb with bitter taste.
  139. Second Part Ch. 12.
  140. Second Part Ch. 13.
  141. Confessions, Book 6, Ch. 3.
  142. Third Part, Ch. 27.
  143. Aromatic plant used in cooking.
  144. Pliny. The name of the herb comes from the Greek word ophis=serpent.
  145. A small wild plant with yellow flowers.
  146. Ch. 6.
  147. Pall-Mall: a now obsolete game played from the 16th century in France and Italy.
  148. Third Part, Ch. 13, p. 206.
  149. Pliny.
  150. Pliny.
  151. Adonis and Venus, a god and goddess of Graeco-Roman mythology who became symbols of immature, wanton sexuality. St. Francis warns that sexual excess can be an important cause of unhappiness in married life.
  152. Literally "tied the knot" of the sacred bond of your marriage.
  153. Confessions, Book 1, Ch. 11.
  154. Literally, "Sanctity of the Marriage Bed."
  155. Second Part, Ch. 20.
  156. Boys or men who did rough work in the kitchens of noblemen.
  157. Pliny.
  158. Third Part, Ch. 38, p. 275.
  159. Experienced in prayer, see Second Part, Ch. 9, p. 122.
  160. Pliny.
  161. Pliny.
  162. Literally "Spiritual Dryness (Aridity) and Spiritual Barrenness (Desolation.)"
  163. Bitter medicine.
  164. See Second Part, Ch. 10, p. 124 and Ch. 11, p. 126
  165. See First Part, Ch. 20.
  166. Confessions, Book 10, Ch. 27.
  167. The first seven questions of this Chapter begin literally with "What is the attitude of your heart towards..."
  168. See also Third Part, Ch. 36, p. 270.
  169. See footnotes on p. 116.
  170. Chapter 3-7 of the Fifth Part.
  171. See First Part, Ch. 21, p. 100.
  172. St. Francis de Sales quotes in verse and so we have translated in verse.

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