The first point in these exercises is to appreciate their
Our earthly nature easily falls away from its higher tone by
reason of the frailty and evil tendency of the flesh, oppressing
and dragging down the soul, unless it is constantly rising up by
means of a vigorous resolution, just as a bird would speedily fall
to the ground if it did not maintain its flight by repeated
strokes of its wings.
In order to this, my daughter, you need frequently to reiterate
the good resolutions you have made to serve God, for fear that,
failing to do so, you fall away, not only to your former
condition, but lower still; since it is a characteristic of all
spiritual falls that they invariably throw us lower than we were
at the beginning.
There is no clock, however good, but must be continually wound
up; and moreover, during the course of each year it will need
taking to pieces, to cleanse away the rust which clogs it, to
straighten bent works, and renew such as are worn. Even so, any
one who really cares for his heart's devotion will wind it up to
God night and morning, and examine into its condition, correcting
and improving it; and at least once a year he will take the works
to pieces and examine them carefully;--I mean his affections and
passions,--so as to repair whatever may be amiss.
And just as the clockmaker applies a delicate oil to all the
wheels and springs of a clock, so that it may work properly and be
less liable to rust, so the devout soul, after thus taking the
works of his heart to pieces, will lubricate them with the
Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. These exercises will
repair the waste caused by time, will kindle your heart, revive
your good resolutions, and cause the graces of your mind to
The early Christians observed some such practice on the
Anniversary of our Lord's Baptism, when, as S. Gregory, Bishop of
Nazianzen, tells us, they renewed the profession and promises made
in that Sacrament. It were well to do the like, my child, making
due and earnest preparation, and setting very seriously to work.
Having then chosen a suitable time, according to the advice of
your spiritual father, and having retired somewhat more than usual
into a literal and spiritual solitude, make one, two, or three
meditations on the following points, according to the method I set
before you in Part II.