Book 2. My Soul To Steal. Book 3. With All My Soul. Book 4. My Soul to Save. Book 5. If I Die. Book 6.
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There is no joy equal to that which is shared by the truly poor in spirit. It is therefore not enough for me to give to whoever asks—I ought to anticipate the wish, and show myself glad to be of service; but if anything of mine be taken away, I should show myself glad to be rid of it. I cannot always carry out to the letter the words of the Gospel, for there are occasions when I am compelled to refuse some request.
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Yet when charity is deeply rooted in the soul it lets itself be outwardly seen, and there is a way of refusing so graciously what one is unable to give, that the refusal affords as much pleasure as the gift would have done. It is true that people do not hesitate to ask from those who readily oblige, nevertheless I ought not to avoid importunate Sisters on the pretext that I shall be forced to refuse.
For sinners also lend to sinners for to receive as much. But you do good and lend, hoping for nothing thereby, and your reward shall be great. Verily, the reward is great even on earth. In this path it is only the first step which costs. To lend without hope of being repaid seems hard; one would rather give outright, for what you give is no longer yours. The Divine precepts run contrary to our natural inclinations, and without the help of grace it would be impossible to understand them, far less to put them in practice.
I must confess I am far from living up to my ideal, and yet the very desire to do so gives me a feeling of peace. If I fall into some fault, I arise again at once—and for some months now I have not even had to struggle. I have been able to say with our holy Father, St. Since that victory, the hosts of Heaven have hastened to my aid, for they will not allow me to be wounded, now that I have fought so valiantly. A holy nun of our community annoyed me in all that she did; the devil must have had something to do with it, and he it was undoubtedly who made me see in her so many disagreeable points.
I did not want to yield to my natural antipathy, for I remembered that charity ought to betray itself in deeds, and not exist merely in the feelings, so I set myself to do for this sister all I should do for the one I loved most. Every time I met her I prayed for her, and offered to God her virtues and merits. I felt that this was very pleasing to Our Lord, for there is no artist who is not gratified when his works are praised, and the Divine Artist of souls is pleased when we do not stop at the exterior, but, penetrating to the inner sanctuary He has chosen, admire its beauty.
What attracted me was Jesus hidden in the depths of her soul—Jesus who maketh sweet even that which is most bitter. I spoke just now, dear Mother, of the flight that is my last resource to escape defeat. It is not honourable, I confess, but during my noviciate, whenever I had recourse to this means, it invariably succeeded. I will give you a striking example, which will, I am sure, amuse you. You had been ill with bronchitis for several days, and we were all uneasy about you. One morning, in my duty as sacristan, I came to put back the keys of the Communion-grating.
This was my work, and I was very pleased to have an opportunity of seeing you, though I took good care not to show it. One of the Sisters, full of solicitude, feared I should awake you, and tried to take the keys from me. I told her as politely as I could, that I was quite as anxious as she was there should be no noise, and added that it was my right to return them. I see now that it would have been more perfect simply to yield, but I did not see it then, and so I followed her into the room.
Very soon what she feared came to pass: the noise did awaken you. I was burning to defend myself, but a happy inspiration of grace came to me. I thought that if I began to justify myself I should certainly lose my peace of mind, and as I had too little virtue to let myself be unjustly accused without answering, my last chance of safety lay in flight.
No sooner thought than done. I hurried away, but my heart beat so violently, I could not go far, and I was obliged to sit down on the stairs to enjoy in quiet the fruit of my victory. This is an odd kind of courage, undoubtedly, but I think it is best not to expose oneself in the face of certain defeat. When I recall these days of my noviciate I understand how far I was from perfection, and the memory of certain things makes me laugh.
It may be that some day my present state will appear to me full of defects, but nothing now surprises me, and I do not even distress myself because I am so weak. On the contrary I glory therein, and expect each day to find fresh imperfections.
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Nay, I must confess, these lights on my own nothingness are of more good to my soul than lights on matters of Faith. O Jesus!
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Dear Mother, God in His infinite goodness has given me a clear insight into the deep mysteries of Charity. If I could but express what I know, you would hear a heavenly music; but alas! When the Divine Master tells me to give to whosoever asks of me, and to let what is mine be taken without asking it again, it seems to me that He speaks not only of the goods of earth, but also of the goods of Heaven.
Besides, neither one nor the other are really mine; I renounced the former by the vow of poverty, and the latter gifts are simply lent. If God withdraw them, I have no right to complain. But our very own ideas, the fruit of our mind and heart, form a treasury on which none dare lay hands. For instance, if I reveal to a Sister some light given me in prayer, and she repeats it later on as though it were her own, it seems as though she appropriates what is mine.
Or, if during recreation someone makes an apt and witty remark, which her neighbour repeats to the Community, without acknowledging whence it came, it is a sort of theft; and the person who originated the remark is naturally inclined to seize the first opportunity of delicately insinuating that her thoughts have been borrowed.
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I could not so well explain all these weaknesses of human nature had I not experienced them. I should have preferred to indulge in the illusion that I was the only one who suffered thus, had you not bidden me advise the novices in their difficulties. I have learnt much in the discharge of this duty, and especially I feel bound to put in practice what I teach. If it happens that a thought of mine should please my Sisters, I find it quite easy to let them regard it as their own. My thoughts belong to the Holy Ghost.
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They are not mine. Paul assures us that without the Spirit of Love, we cannot call God our Father. And besides, though far from depreciating those beautiful thoughts which bring us nearer to God, I have long been of opinion that we must be careful not to over-estimate their worth. The highest inspirations are of no value without good works.
It is true that others may derive much profit therefrom, if they are duly grateful to our Lord for allowing them to share in the abundance of one of His privileged souls; but should this privileged soul take pride in spiritual wealth, and imitate the Pharisee, she becomes like to a hostess dying of starvation at a well-spread table, while her guests enjoy the richest fare, and perhaps case envious glances at the possessor of so many treasures. Verily it is true that God alone can sound the heart.
How short-sighted are His creatures! When they see a soul whose lights surpass their own, they conclude that the Divine Master loves them less. Since when has He lost the right to make use of one of His children, in order to supply the others with the nourishment they need?
Generations have passed away since the Most High spoke these words, and His ways have not changed. He has ever chosen human instruments for the accomplishment of His work.
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