Not finding my manner of life described in books, although I have
no problem with that, yet, for reassurance, I would appreciate
your thoughts about it.
In conversation some days ago a devout person told me the
spiritual life was a life of grace, which begins with servile
fear, which is increased by hope of eternal life, and which is
consummated by pure love; that each of these states had its
different steps, by which one arrives at last at that blessed
I have not followed these methods at all. On the contrary, I
instinctively felt they would discourage me. Instead, at my
entrance into religious life, I took a resolution to give myself
up to God as the best satisfaction I could make for my sins and,
for the love of Him, to renounce all besides.
For the first years, I commonly employed myself during the time
set apart for devotion with thoughts of death, judgment, hell,
heaven, and my sins. Thus I continued some years applying my mind
carefully the rest of the day, and even in the midst of my work,
to the presence of God, whom I considered always as with me, often
as in my heart.
At length I began to do the same thing during my set time of
prayer, which gave me joy and consolation. This practice produced
in me so high an esteem for God that faith alone was enough to
Such was my beginning. Yet I must tell you that for the first ten
years I suffered a great deal. During this time I fell often, and
rose again presently. It seemed to me that all creatures, reason,
and God Himself were against me and faith alone for me.
The apprehension that I was not devoted to God as I wished to be,
my past sins always present to my mind, and the great unmerited
favors which God did me, were the source of my sufferings and
feelings of unworthiness. I was sometimes troubled with thoughts
that to believe I had received such favors was an effect of my
imagination, which pretended to be so soon where others arrived
with great difficulty. At other times I believed that it was a
willful delusion and that there really was no hope for me.
Finally, I considered the prospect of spending the rest of my days
in these troubles. I discovered this did not diminish the trust I
had in God at all. In fact, it only served to increase my faith.
It then seemed that, all at once, I found myself changed. My soul,
which, until that time was in trouble, felt a profound inward
peace, as if she were in her center and place of rest.
Ever since that time I walk before God simply, in faith, with
humility, and with love. I apply myself diligently to do nothing
and think nothing which may displease Him. I hope that when I have
done what I can, He will do with me what He pleases.
As for what passes in me at present, I cannot express it. I have
no pain or difficulty about my state because I have no will but
that of God. I endeavor to accomplish His will in all things. And
I am so resigned that I would not take up a straw from the ground
against His order or from any motive but that of pure love for
I have ceased all forms of devotion and set prayers except those
to which my state requires. I make it my priority to persevere in
His holy presence, wherein I maintain a simple attention and a
fond regard for God, which I may call an actual presence of God.
Or, to put it another way, it is an habitual, silent, and private
conversation of the soul with God. This gives me much joy and
contentment. In short, I am sure, beyond all doubt, that my soul
has been with God above these past thirty years. I pass over many
things that I may not be tedious to you.
Yet, I think it is appropriate to tell you how I perceive myself
before God, whom I behold as my King. I consider myself as the
most wretched of men. I am full of faults, flaws, and weaknesses,
and have committed all sorts of crimes against his King. Touched
with a sensible regret I confess all my wickedness to Him. I ask
His forgiveness. I abandon myself in His hands that He may do what
He pleases with me.
My King is full of mercy and goodness. Far from chastising me, He
embraces me with love. He makes me eat at His table. He serves me
with His own hands and gives me the key to His treasures. He
converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand
and a thousand ways. And He treats me in all respects as His
favorite. In this way I consider myself continually in His holy
My most usual method is this simple attention, an affectionate
regard for God to whom I find myself often attached with greater
sweetness and delight than that of an infant at the mother's
breast. To choose an expression, I would call this state the bosom
of God, for the inexpressible sweetness which I taste and
experience there. If, at any time, my thoughts wander from it from
necessity or infirmity, I am presently recalled by inward emotions
so charming and delicious that I cannot find words to describe
them. Please reflect on my great wretchedness, of which you are
fully informed, rather than on the great favors God does one as
unworthy and ungrateful as I am.
As for my set hours of prayer, they are simply a continuation of
the same exercise. Sometimes I consider myself as a stone before a
carver, whereof He is to make a statue. Presenting myself thus
before God, I desire Him to make His perfect image in my soul and
render me entirely like Himself. At other times, when I apply
myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit lifted up without any care
or effort on my part. This often continues as if it was suspended
yet firmly fixed in God like a center or place of rest.
I know that some charge this state with inactivity, delusion, and
self-love. I confess that it is a holy inactivity. And it would be
a happy self-love if the soul, in that state, were capable of it.
But while the soul is in this repose, she cannot be disturbed by
the kinds of things to which she was formerly accustomed. The
things that the soul used to depend on would now hinder rather
than assist her.
Yet, I cannot see how this could be called imagination or delusion
because the soul which enjoys God in this way wants nothing but
Him. If this is delusion, then only God can remedy it. Let Him do
what He pleases with me. I desire only Him and to be wholly
devoted to Him.
Please send me your opinion as I greatly value and have a singular
esteem for your reverence, and am yours.