I. OF THE HIGHEST PERFECTION
WHICH MAN CAN ATTAIN UNTO
IN THIS LIFE 15
II. HOW A MAN MAY DESPISE ALL
THINGS AND CLEAVE TO
CHRIST ALONE 19
III. THE LAW OF MAN’S PERFECTION
IN THIS LIFE 23
IV. THAT OUR LABOUR MUST BE
WITH THE UNDERSTANDING
AND NOT WITH THE SENSES 27
V. OF PURITY OF HEART, WHICH
IS TO BE SOUGHT ABOVE ALL
VI. THAT A MAN TRULY DEVOUT
MUST SEEK GOD IN PURITY
OF MIND AND HEART 40
VII. OF THE PRACTICE OF INTERIOR
VIII. THAT A TRULY DEVOUT MAN
SHOULD COMMIT HIMSELF TO
GOD IN ALL THAT BEFALLS
IX. THE CONTEMPLATION OF GOD
IS TO BE PREFERRED ABOVE
ALL OTHER EXERCISES 57
X. THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE TOO
SOLICITOUS FOR ACTUAL AND
SENSIBLE DEVOTION, BUT DESIRE
RATHER THE UNION OF
OUR WILL WITH GOD 65
XI. IN WHAT MANNER WE SHOULD
RESIST TEMPTATION AND ENDURE
XII. THE POWER OF THE LOVE OF
XIII. OF THE NATURE AND ADVANTAGES
OF PRAYER,–OF INTERIOR
XIV. THAT EVERYTHING SHOULD BE
JUDGED ACCORDING TO THE
TESTIMONY OF OUR CONSCIENCE 88
XV. ON THE CONTEMPT OF SELF:
HOW IT IS ACQUIRED: ITS
PROFIT TO THE SOUL 94
XVI. OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD,
WHICH WATCHES OVER ALL
“It is good for me to adhere to my God.”
“Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.”
ON UNION WITH GOD
OF THE HIGHEST PERFECTION WHICH MAN CAN ATTAIN UNTO IN THIS LIFE
I have felt moved to write a few last thoughts describing, as far as one
may in this waiting-time of our exile and pilgrimage, the entire
separation of the soul from all earthly things and its close, unfettered
union with God.
I have been the more urged to this, because Christian perfection has no
other end but charity, which unites us to God.
This union of charity is essential for salvation, since it consists in
the practice of the precepts and in conformity to the Divine will. Hence
it separates us from whatever would war against the essence and habit of
charity, such as mortal sin.
But religious, the more easily to attain to God, their last end, have
gone beyond this, and have bound themselves by vow to evangelical
perfection, to that which is voluntary and of counsel. With the help
of these vows they cut off all that might impede the fervour of their
love or hinder them in their flight to God. They have, therefore, by
the vow of their religious profession, renounced all things, whether
pertaining to soul or body. God is in truth a Spirit, and “they that
adore Him must adore Him in spirit and in truth,” that is, with a
knowledge and love, an intelligence and will purified from every phantom
Hence it is written: “When thou shalt pray, enter into thy
chamber”–_i.e._, into the inmost abode of thy heart–and, “having shut
the door” of thy senses, with a pure heart, a free conscience and an
unfeigned faith, “pray to thy Father” in spirit and in truth, in the
“secret” of thy soul.
Then only will a man attain to this ideal, when he has despoiled and
stripped himself of all else; when, wholly recollected within himself,
he has hidden from and forgotten the whole world, that he may abide in
silence in the presence of Jesus Christ. There, in solitude of soul,
with loving confidence he makes known his desires to God. With all the
intensity of his love he pours forth his heart before Him, in sincerity
and truth, until he loses himself in God. Then is his heart enlarged,
inflamed, and melted in him, yea, even in its inmost depths.
HOW A MAN MAY DESPISE ALL THINGS AND CLEAVE TO CHRIST ALONE
Whosoever thou art who longest to enter upon this happy state or seekest
to direct thither thy steps, thus it behoveth thee to act.
First, close, as it were, thine eyes, and bar the doors of thy senses.
Suffer not anything to entangle thy soul, nor permit any care or trouble
to penetrate within it.
Shake off all earthly things, counting them useless, noxious, and
hurtful to thee.
When thou hast done this, enter wholly within thyself, and fix thy gaze
upon thy wounded Jesus, and upon Him alone. Strive with all thy powers,
unwearyingly, to reach God through Himself, that is, through God made
Man, that thou mayest attain to the knowledge of His Divinity through
the wounds of His Sacred Humanity.
In all simplicity and confidence abandon thyself and whatever concerns
thee without reserve to God’s unfailing Providence, according to the
teaching of St. Peter: “Casting all your care upon Him,” Who can do
all things. And again it is written: “Be nothing solicitous”; “Cast
thy care upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee”; “It is good for
me to adhere to my God”; “I set the Lord always in my sight”; “I
found Him Whom my soul loveth”; and “Now all good things came to
me” together with Him. This is the hidden and heavenly treasure, the
precious pearl, which is to be preferred before all. This it is that we
must seek with humble confidence and untiring effort, yet in silence and
It must be sought with a brave heart, even though its price be the loss
of bodily comfort, of esteem, and of honour.
Lacking this, what doth it profit a religious if he “gain the whole
world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?”. Of what value are the
religious state, the holiness of our profession, the shaven head, the
outward signs of a life of abnegation, if we lack the spirit of humility
and truth, in which Christ dwells by faith and love? St. Luke says: “The
kingdom of God,” that is, Christ, “is within you.”
THE LAW OF MAN’S PERFECTION IN THIS LIFE
In proportion as the mind is absorbed in the thought and care of the
things of this world do we lose the fervour of our devotion, and drift
away from the things of Heaven.
The greater, on the other hand, our diligence in withdrawing our powers
from the memory, love and thought of that which is inferior in order to
fix them upon that which is above, the more perfect will be our prayer,
the purer our contemplation. The soul cannot give itself perfectly at
the same time to two objects as contrary one to another as light to
darkness; for he who lives united to God dwells in the light, he who
clings to this world lives in darkness.
The highest perfection, therefore, of man in this life lies in this:
that he is so united to God that his soul with all its powers and
faculties becomes recollected in Him and is one spirit with Him.
Then it remembers naught save God, nor does it relish or understand
anything but Him. Then all its affections, united in the delights of
love, repose sweetly in the enjoyment of their Creator.
The image of God which is imprinted upon the soul is found in the three
powers of the reason, memory, and will. But since these do not
perfectly bear the Divine likeness, they have not the same resemblance
to God as in the first days of man’s creation.
God is the “form” of the soul upon which He must impress His own image,
as the seal on the wax or the stamp on the object it marks.
This can only be fully accomplished when the reason is wholly
illuminated according to its capacity, by the knowledge of God, the
Sovereign Truth; the will entirely devoted to the love of the Supreme
Good; the memory absorbed in the contemplation and enjoyment of eternal
felicity, and in the sweet repose of so great a happiness.
As the perfect possession of this state constitutes the glory of the
Blessed in Heaven, it is clear that in its commencement consists the
perfection of this life.
THAT OUR LABOUR MUST BE WITH THE UNDERSTANDING AND NOT WITH THE SENSES
Blessed is he who by continually cleansing his soul from the images and
phantoms of earth draws its powers inward, and thence lifts them up to
At length he in a manner forgets all images, and by a simple and direct
act of pure intellect and will contemplates God, Who is absolutely
Cast from thee, therefore, all phantoms, images, and forms, and
whatsoever is not God, that all thy intercourse with Him may
proceed from an understanding, affection, and will, alike purified. This
is, in truth, the end of all thy labours, that thou mayest draw nigh
unto God and repose in Him within thy soul, solely by thy understanding
and by a fervent love, free from entanglement or earthly image.
Not by his bodily organs or outward senses does a man attain to this,
but by the intelligence and will, which constitute him man. So long
as he lingers, trifling with the objects of the imagination and senses,
he has not yet passed beyond the limits and instincts of his animal
nature, which he possesses in common with the brute beasts. They know
and feel through images and by their senses, nor can it be otherwise,
for they have no higher powers. Not so is it with man, who, by his
intelligence, affections, and will, is created in the image and likeness
of God. Hence it is by these powers that he ought, without intermediary,
purely and directly to commune with God, be united to Him, and cleave to
The Devil does his very utmost to hinder us from this exercise, for he
beholds in it a beginning and a foretaste of eternal life, and he is
envious of man. Therefore he strives, now by one temptation or passion,
now by another, to turn away our thoughts from God.
At one time he assails us by arousing in us unnecessary anxiety,
foolish cares or troubles, or by drawing us to irregular conversations
and vain curiosity. At another he ensnares us by subtle books, by the
words of others, by rumours and novelties. Then, again, he has recourse
to trials, contradictions, etc.
Although these things may sometimes seem but very trifling faults, if
faults at all, yet do they greatly hinder our progress in this holy
exercise. Therefore, whether great or small, they must be resisted and
driven from us as evil and harmful, though they may seem useful and even
necessary. It is of great importance that what we have heard, or seen,
or done, or said, should not leave their traces or fill our imagination.
Neither before nor after, nor at the time, should we foster these
memories or allow their images to be formed. For when the mind is free
from these thoughts, we are not hindered in our prayer, in meditation,
or the psalmody, or in any other of our spiritual exercises, nor do
these distractions return to trouble us.
Then shouldst thou readily and trustfully commit thyself and all that
concerns thee to the unfailing and most sure Providence of God, in
silence and peace. He Himself will fight for thee, and will grant thee a
liberty and consolation better, nobler, and sweeter than would be
possible if thou gavest thyself up day and night to thy fancies, to vain
and wandering thoughts, which hold captive the mind, as they toss it
hither and thither, wearying soul and body, and wasting uselessly alike
thy time and strength.
Accept all things, whatsoever their cause, silently and with a tranquil
mind, as coming to thee from the fatherly hand of Divine Providence.
Free thyself, therefore, from all the impressions of earthly things, in
so far as thy state and profession require, so that with a purified mind
and sincere affection thou mayest cleave to Him to Whom thou hast so
often and so entirely vowed thyself.
Let nothing remain which could come between thy soul and God, that so
thou mayest be able to pass surely and directly from the wounds of the
Sacred Humanity to the brightness of the Divinity.
OF PURITY OF HEART, WHICH IS TO BE SOUGHT ABOVE ALL ELSE
Wouldst thou journey by the shortest road, the straight and safe way
unto eternal bliss, unto thy true country, to grace and glory? Strive
with all thy might to obtain habitual cleanness of heart, purity of
mind, quiet of the senses. Gather up thy affections, and with thy whole
heart cleave unto God.
Withdraw as much as thou canst from thy acquaintance and from all men,
and abstain from such affairs as would hinder thy purpose.
Seek out with jealous care the place, time, and means most suited to
quiet and contemplation, and lovingly embrace silence and solitude.
Beware the dangers of which the times are full; fly the agitation of a
world never at rest, never still.
Let thy chief study be to gain purity, freedom, and peace of heart.
Close the doors of thy senses and dwell within, shutting thy heart as
diligently as thou canst against the shapes and images of earthly
Of all the practices of the spiritual life purity of heart stands
highest, and rightly, for it is the end and reward of all our labours,
and is found only with those who live truly according to the spirit and
as good religious.
Wherefore thou shouldst employ all thy diligence and skill in order to
free thy heart, senses, and affections from whatever could trammel their
liberty, or could fetter or ensnare thy soul. Strive earnestly to gather
in the wandering affections of thy heart and fix them on the love of the
sole and pure Truth, the Sovereign Good; then keep them, as it were,
enchained within thee.
Fix thy gaze unwaveringly upon God and Divine things; spurn the follies
of earth and seek to be wholly transformed in Jesus Christ, yea, even to
the heart’s core.
When thou hast begun to cleanse and purify thy soul of earthly images,
and to unify and tranquillize thy heart and mind in God with loving
confidence, to the end that thou mayest taste and enjoy in all thy
powers the torrents of His good pleasure, and mayest fix thy will and
intelligence in Him, then thou wilt no longer need to study and read the
Holy Scriptures to learn the love of God and of thy neighbour, for the
Holy Spirit Himself will teach thee.
Spare no pains, no labour, to purify thy heart and to establish it in
Abide in God in the secret place of thy soul as tranquilly as though
there had already risen upon thee the dawn of Eternity, the unending Day
Strong in the love of Jesus, go forth from thyself, with a heart pure, a
conscience at peace, a faith unfeigned; and in every trial, every event,
commit thyself unreservedly to God, having nothing so much at heart as
perfect obedience to His will and good pleasure.
If thou wouldst arrive thus far, it is needful for thee often to enter
within thy soul and to abide therein, disengaging thyself as much as
thou canst from all things.
Keep the eye of thy soul ever in purity and peace; suffer not the form
and images of this world to defile thy mind; preserve thy will from
every earthly care, and let every fibre of thy heart be rooted in the
love of the Sovereign Good. Thus will thy whole soul, with all its
powers, be recollected in God and form but one spirit with Him.
It is in this that the highest perfection possible to man here below
This union of the spirit and of love, by which a man conforms himself
in everything to the supreme and eternal will, enables us to become by
grace what God is by His nature.
Let us not forget this truth: the moment a man, by the help of God,
succeeds in overcoming his own will, that is, in freeing himself from
every inordinate affection and care, to cast himself and all his
miseries unreservedly into the bosom of God, that moment he becomes so
pleasing to God that he receives the gift of grace. Grace brings
charity, and charity drives out all fear and hesitation, and fills the
soul with confidence and hope. What is more blessed than to cast all our
care on Him Who cannot fail? As long as thou leanest upon thyself thou
wilt totter. Cast thyself fearlessly into the arms of God. He will
embrace thee, He will heal and save thee.
If thou wouldst ponder often upon these truths they would bring to thee
more happiness than all the riches, delights, honours, of this false
world, and would make thee more blessed than all the wisdom and
knowledge of this corruptible life, even though thou shouldst surpass
all the wise men who have gone before thee.
THAT A MAN TRULY DEVOUT MUST SEEK GOD IN PURITY OF MIND AND HEART
As thou goest forward in this work of ridding thee of every earthly
thought and entanglement thou wilt behold thy soul regain her strength
and the mastery of her inward senses, and thou wilt begin to taste the
sweetness of heavenly things.
Learn, therefore, to keep thyself free from the images of outward and
material objects, for God loves with a special love the soul that is
thus purified. His “delights” are “to be with the children of men,”
that is, with those who, set free from earthly affairs and distractions,
and at peace from their passions, offer Him simple and pure hearts
intent on Him alone.
If the memory, imagination, and thoughts still dwell below, it follows
of necessity that fresh events, memories of the past, and other things
will ensnare and drag thee down. But the Holy Spirit abides not amid
such empty thoughts.
The true friend of Jesus Christ must be so united by his intelligence
and will to the Divine will and goodness that his imagination and
passions have no hold over him, and that he troubles not whether men
give him love or ridicule, nor heeds what may be done to him. Know well
that a truly good will does all and is of more value than all.
If the will is good, wholly conformed and united to God, and guided by
reason, it matters little that the flesh, the senses, the exterior man
are inclined to evil and sluggish in good, or even that a man find
himself interiorly lacking in devotion. It suffices that he remains
with his whole soul inwardly united to God by faith and a good will.
This he will accomplish if, knowing his own imperfection and utter
nothingness, he understands that all his happiness is in his Creator.
Then does he forsake himself, his own strength and powers, and every
creature, and hides himself in complete abandonment in the bosom of
To God are all his actions simply and purely directed. He seeks nothing
outside of God, but knows that of a truth he has found in Him all the
good and all the happiness of perfection. Then will he be in some
measure transformed in God. He will no longer be able to think, love,
understand, remember aught save God and the things of God. He will no
longer behold himself or creatures save in God; no love will possess him
but the love of God, nor will he remember creatures or even his own
being, save in God.
Such a knowledge of the truth renders the soul humble, makes her a hard
judge towards herself, but merciful to others, while earthly wisdom
puffs up the soul with pride and vanity. Behold, this is wise and
spiritual doctrine, grounded upon the truth, and leading unto the
knowledge and service of God, and to familiarity with Him.
If thou desirest to possess Him indeed, thou must of necessity despoil
thy heart of earthly affections, not alone for persons, but for every
creature, that thou mayest tend to the Lord thy God with thy whole heart
and with all thy strength, freely, simply, without fear or solicitude,
trusting everything in entire confidence to His all-watchful
ON THE PRACTICE OF INTERIOR RECOLLECTION
The author of the book entitled “De Spiritu et Anima” tells us (chap.
xxi.) that to ascend to God means nothing else than to enter into
oneself. And, indeed, he who enters into the secret place of his own
soul passes beyond himself, and does in very truth ascend to God.
Banish, therefore, from thy heart the distractions of earth and turn
thine eyes to spiritual joys, that thou mayest learn at last to repose
in the light of the contemplation of God.
Verily the soul’s true life and her repose are to abide in God, held
fast by love, and sweetly refreshed by the Divine consolations.
But many are the obstacles which hinder us from tasting this rest, and
of our own strength we could never attain to it. The reason is
evident–the mind is distracted and preoccupied; it cannot enter into
itself by the aid of the memory, for it is blinded by phantoms; nor can
it enter by the intellect, for it is vitiated by the passions. Even the
desire of interior joys and spiritual delights fails to draw it inward.
It lies so deeply buried in things sensible and transitory that it
cannot return to itself as to the image of God.
How needful is it, then, that the soul, lifted upon the wings of
reverence and humble confidence, should rise above itself and every
creature by entire detachment, and should be able to say within itself:
He Whom I seek, love, desire, among all, more than all, and above all,
cannot be perceived by the senses or the imagination, for He is above
both the senses and the understanding. He cannot be perceived by the
senses, yet He is the object of all our desires; He is without shape,
but He is supremely worthy of our heart’s deepest love. He is beyond
compare, and to the pure in heart greatly to be desired. Above all else
is He sweet and love-worthy; His goodness and perfection are infinite.
When thou shalt understand this, thy soul will enter into the darkness
of the spirit, and will advance further and penetrate more deeply into
itself. Thou wilt by this means attain more speedily unto the
beholding in a dark manner of the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in
Trinity, in Christ Jesus, in proportion as thy effort is more inward;
and the greater is thy charity, the more precious the fruit thou wilt
reap. For the highest, in spiritual things, is ever that which is most
interior. Grow not weary, therefore, and rest not from thy efforts until
thou hast received some earnest or foretaste of the fulness of joy that
awaits thee, and has obtained some first-fruits of the Divine sweetness
Cease not in thy pursuit till thou shalt behold “the God of gods in
In thy spiritual ascent and in thy search after a closer union with God
thou must allow thyself no repose, no slipping back, but must go forward
till thou hast obtained the object of thy desires. Follow the example of
mountain-climbers. If thy desires turn aside after the objects which
pass below thou wilt lose thyself in byways and countless distractions.
Thy mind will become dissipated and drawn in all directions by its
desires. Thy progress will be uncertain, thou wilt not reach thy goal,
nor find rest after thy labours.
If, on the other hand, the heart and mind, led on by love and desire,
withdraw from the distractions of this world, and little by little
abandon baser things to become recollected in the one true and
unchangeable Good, to dwell there, held fast by the bonds of love, then
wilt thou grow strong, and thy recollection will deepen the higher thou
risest on the wings of knowledge and desire.
They who have attained to this dwell as by habit in the Sovereign Good,
and become at last inseparable from it.
True life, which is God Himself, becomes their inalienable
possession; for ever, free from all fear of the vicissitudes of time
and change, they repose in the peaceful enjoyment of this inward
happiness, and in sweet communication with God. Their abode is for ever
fixed within their own souls, in Christ Jesus, Who is to all who come to
Him “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
THAT A TRULY DEVOUT MAN SHOULD COMMIT HIMSELF TO GOD IN ALL THAT BEFALLS
From all that has hitherto been said, thou hast understood, if I mistake
not, that the more thou separatest thyself from earthly images and
created objects, and the closer thy union with God, the nearer wilt thou
approach to the state of innocence and perfection. What could be
happier, better, sweeter than this?
It is, therefore, of supreme importance that thou shouldst preserve thy
soul so free from every trace or entanglement of earth that neither the
world nor thy friends, neither prosperity nor adversity, things present,
past, or future, which concern thyself or others, not even thine own
sins above measure, should have power to trouble thee.
Think only how thou mayest live, as it were, alone with God, removed
from the world, the simple and pure life of the spirit, as though thy
soul were already in eternity and separated from thy body.
There thou wouldst not busy thyself with earthly things, nor be
disquieted by the state of the world, by peace or war, fair skies or
foul, or anything here below. But thou wouldst be absorbed and filled by
Strive even now in this present life to come forth in a manner from thy
body and from every creature.
As far as thou canst, fix the eye of thy soul steadfastly, with
unobscured gaze, upon the uncreated light.
Then will thy soul, purified from the clouds of earth, be like an Angel
in a human body, no longer troubled by the flesh, or disturbed by vain
Arm thyself against temptations, persecutions, injuries, so that in
adversity as in prosperity, thou mayest still cleave to God in unbroken
When trouble, discouragement, confusion of mind assail thee, do not lose
patience or be cast down. Do not betake thee to vocal prayers or other
consolations, but endeavour by an act of the will and reason to lift up
thy soul and unite it to God, whether thy sensual nature will or no.
The devout soul should be so united to God, should so form and preserve
her will in conformity to the Divine will, that she is no more occupied
or allured by any creature than before it was created, but lives as
though there existed but God and herself.
She will receive in unvarying peace all that comes to her from the hand
of Divine Providence. In all things she will hope in the Lord, without
losing patience, peace, or silence.
Behold, therefore, of how great value it is in the spiritual life to be
detached from all things, that thou mayest be interiorly united to God
and conformed to Him.
Moreover, there will then be no longer anything to intervene between thy
soul and God. Whence could it come? Not from without, for the vow of
voluntary poverty has despoiled thee of all earthly goods, that of
chastity has taken thy body. Nor could it come from within, for
obedience has taken from thee thy very will and soul. There is now
nothing left which could come between God and thyself.
That thou art a religious, thy profession, thy state, thy habit and
tonsure, and the other marks of the religious life declare. See to it
whether thou art a religious in truth or only one in name.
Consider how thou art fallen and how thou sinnest against the Lord thy
God and against His justice if thy deeds do not correspond with thy holy
state, if by will or desire thou clingest to the creature rather than to
the Creator, or preferrest the creature to the Creator.
THE CONTEMPLATION OF GOD IS TO BE PREFERRED ABOVE ALL OTHER EXERCISES
Whatever exists outside of God is the work of His hands. Every creature
is, therefore, a blending together of the actual and the possible, and
as such is in its nature limited. Born of nothing, it is surrounded by
nothingness, and tends to nothingness.
Of necessity the creature depends each moment upon God, the supreme
Artist, for its existence, preservation, power of action, and all that
It is utterly unable to accomplish its own work, either for itself or
for another, and is impotent as a thing which is not before that which
is, the finite before the infinite. It follows, therefore, that our
life, thoughts, and works should be in Him, of Him, for Him, and
directed to Him, Who by the least sign of His will could produce
creatures unspeakably more perfect than any which now exist.
It is impossible that there should be in the mind or heart a thought or
a love more profitable, more perfect or more blessed than those which
rest upon God, the Almighty Creator, of Whom, in Whom, by Whom, towards
Whom all tend.
He suffices infinitely for Himself and for others, since from all
eternity He contains within Himself the perfections of all things. There
is nothing within Him which is not Himself. In Him and by Him exist the
causes of all transitory things; in Him are the immutable origins of all
things that change, whether rational or irrational.
All that happens in time has in Him its eternal principle.
He fills all; He is in all things by His essence, by which He is more
present and more near to them than they are to themselves.
In Him all things are united and live eternally. It is true that the
weakness of our understanding or our want of experience may oblige
us to make use of creatures in our contemplation, yet there is a kind of
contemplation which is very fruitful, good, and real, which seems
possible to all. Whether he meditates on the creature or the Creator,
every man may reach the point at which he finds all his joy in His
Creator, God, One in Trinity, and kindles the fire of Divine love in
himself or in others, so as to merit eternal life.
We should notice here the difference which exists between the
contemplation of Christians and that of pagan philosophers. The latter
sought only their own perfection, and hence their contemplation affected
their intellect only; they desired only to enrich their minds with
knowledge. But the contemplation of Saints, which is that of
Christians, seeks as its end the love of the God Whom they contemplate.
Hence it is not content to find fruit for the intelligence, but
penetrates beyond to the will that it may there enkindle love.
The Saints desired above all in their contemplation the increase of
It is better to know Jesus Christ and possess Him spiritually by grace,
than, without grace, to have Him in the body, or even in His essence.
The more pure a soul becomes and the deeper her recollection, the
clearer will be her inward vision. She now prepares, as it were, a
ladder upon which she may ascend to the contemplation of God. This
contemplation will set her on fire with love for all that is heavenly,
Divine, eternal, and will cause her to despise as utter nothing all
that is of time.
When we seek to arrive at the knowledge of God by the method of
negation, we first remove from our conception of Him all that pertains
to the body, the senses, the imagination. Then we reject even that which
belongs to the reason, and the idea of being as it is found in
creatures. This, according to St. Denis, is the best means of
attaining to the knowledge of God, as far as it is possible in this
This is the darkness in which God dwells and into which Moses entered
that he might reach the light inaccessible.
But we must begin, not with the mind, but with the body. We must observe
the accustomed order, and pass from the labour of action to the repose
of contemplation, from the moral virtues to those of sublime
Why, O my soul, dost thou vainly wear thyself out in such multiplicity
of things? Thou findest in them but poverty.
Seek and love only that perfect good which includes in itself all good,
and it will suffice thee. Unhappy art thou if thou knowest and
possessest all, and art ignorant of this. If thou knewest at the same
time both this good and all other things, this alone would render thee
the happier. Therefore St. John has written: “This is eternal life: that
they may know thee,” and the Prophet: “I shall be satisfied when thy
glory shall appear.”
THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE TOO SOLICITOUS FOR ACTUAL AND SENSIBLE DEVOTION,
BUT DESIRE RATHER THE UNION OF OUR WILL WITH GOD
Seek not too eagerly after the grace of devotion, sensible sweetness and
tears, but let thy chief care be to remain inwardly united to God by
good will in the intellectual part of the soul.
Of a truth nothing is so pleasing to God as a soul freed from all trace
and image of created things. A true religious should be at liberty from
every creature that he may be wholly free to devote himself to God alone
and cleave to Him. Deny thyself, therefore, that thou mayest follow
Christ, thy Lord and God, Who was truly poor, obedient, chaste, humble,
and suffering, and Whose life and death were a scandal to many, as the
Gospel clearly shows.
The soul, when separated from the body, troubles not as to what becomes
of the shell it has abandoned–it may be burnt, hanged, spoken evil of;
and the soul is not afflicted by these outrages, but thinks only of
eternity and of the one thing necessary, of which the Lord speaks in
So shouldst thou regard thy body, as though the soul were already freed
from it. Set ever before thine eyes the eternal life in God, which
awaits thee, and think on that only good of which the Lord said: “One
thing is necessary.” A great grace will then descend upon thy soul,
which will aid thee in acquiring purity of mind and simplicity of heart.
And, indeed, this treasure is close at thy doors. Turn from the images
and distractions of earth, and quickly shalt thou find it with thee and
learn what it is to be united to God without hindrance or impediment.
Then wilt thou gain an unshaken constancy, which will strengthen thee
to endure all that may befall thee.
Thus was it with the martyrs, the Fathers, the elect, and all the
blessed. They despised all and thought only of possessing in God eternal
security for their souls.
Thus armed within and united to God by a good will, they despised all
that is of this world, as though their soul had already departed from
Learn from them how great is the power of a good will united to God.
By that union of the soul with God it becomes, as it were, cut off from
the flesh by a spiritual separation, and regards the outward man from
afar as something alien to it.
Then, whatever may happen inwardly or in the body will be as little
regarded as though it had befallen another person or a creature without
He who is united to God is but one mind with Him.
Out of regard, therefore, for His sovereign honour, never be so bold as
to think or imagine in His presence what thou wouldst blush to hear or
see before men.
Thou oughtest, moreover, to raise all thy thoughts to God alone, and set
Him before thine inward gaze, as though He alone existed. So wilt thou
experience the sweetness of Divine union and even now make a true
beginning of the life to come.
IN WHAT MANNER WE SHOULD RESIST TEMPTATION AND ENDURE TRIALS
He who with his whole heart draws nigh unto God must of necessity be
proved by temptation and trial.
When the sting of temptation is felt, by no means give thy consent, but
bear all with patience, sweetness, humility, and courage.
If thou art tempted to blasphemy or any shameful sin, be well assured
thou canst do nothing better than to utterly despise and contemn such
thoughts. Blasphemy is indeed sinful, scandalous, and abominable, yet
be not anxious about such temptations, but rather despise them, and do
not let thy conscience be troubled by them. The enemy will most
certainly be put to flight if thou wilt thus contemn both him and his
suggestions. He is too proud to endure scorn or contempt. The best
remedy is, therefore, to trouble no more about these thoughts than we do
about the flies which, against our will, dance before our eyes. Let not
the servant of Christ thus easily and needlessly lose sight of his
Master’s presence, nor let him grow impatient, murmur, or complain of
these flies; I mean these light temptations, suspicions, sadness,
depression, pusillanimity–mere nothings which a good will can put to
flight by an elevation of the soul to God.
By a good will man makes God his Master, and the holy Angels his
guardians and protectors.
Good will drives away temptation as the hand brushes away a fly.
“Peace,” therefore, “to men of good will.”
In truth no better gift than this can be offered to God.
Good will in the soul is the source of all good, the mother of all
virtues. He who possesses it, possesses without fear of loss all he
needs to live a good life.
If thou desirest what is good and art not able to accomplish it, God
will reward thee for it as though thou hadst performed it.
He has established as an eternal and unchangeable law that merit should
lie in the will, and that upon the will should depend our future of
Heaven or hell, reward or punishment.
Charity itself consists in nothing else but a strong will to serve God,
a loving desire to please Him, and a fervent longing to enjoy Him.
Forget not, therefore, temptation is not sin, but rather the means of
proving virtue. By it man may gain great profit, and this the more
inasmuch as “the life of man upon earth is a warfare.”
THE POWER OF THE LOVE OF GOD
All that we have hitherto described, all that is necessary for
salvation, can find in love alone its highest, completest, most
Love supplies all that is wanting for our salvation; it contains
abundantly every good thing, and lacks not even the presence of the
supreme object of our desires.
It is by love alone that we turn to God, are transformed into His
likeness, and are united to Him, so that we become one spirit with Him,
and receive by and from Him all our happiness: here in grace,
hereafter in glory. Love can find no rest till she reposes in the full
and perfect possession of the Beloved.
It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws nigh to man,
and man to God, but where charity is not found God cannot dwell. If,
then, we possess charity we possess God, for “God is charity.”
There is nothing keener than love, nothing more subtle, nothing more
penetrating. Love cannot rest till it has sounded all the depths and
learnt the perfections of its Beloved. It desires to be one with Him,
and, if it could, would form but one being with the Beloved. It is for
this reason that it cannot suffer anything to intervene between it and
the object loved, which is God, but springs forward towards Him, and
finds no peace till it has overcome every obstacle, and reached even
unto the Beloved.
Love has the power of uniting and transforming; it transforms the one
who loves into him who is loved, and him who is loved into him who
loves. Each passes into the other, as far as it is possible.
And first consider the intelligence. How completely love transports the
loved one into him who loves! With what sweetness and delight the one
lives in the memory of the other, and how earnestly the lover tries to
know, not superficially but intimately, all that concerns the object of
his love, and strives to enter as far as possible into his inner life!
Think next of the will, by which also the loved one lives in him who
loves. Does he not dwell in him by that tender affection, that sweet
and deeply-rooted joy which he feels? On the other hand, the lover lives
in the beloved by the sympathy of his desires, by sharing his likes and
dislikes, his joys and sorrows, until the two seem to form but one.
Since “love is strong as death,” it carries the lover out of himself
into the heart of the beloved, and holds him prisoner there.
The soul is more truly where it loves than where it gives life, since it
exists in the object loved by its own nature, by reason and will; whilst
it is in the body it animates only by bestowing on it an existence which
it shares with the animal creation.
There is, therefore, but one thing which has power to draw us from
outward objects into the depths of our own souls, there to form an
intimate friendship with Jesus. Nothing but the love of Christ and the
desire of His sweetness can lead us thus to feel, to comprehend and
experience the presence of His Divinity.
The power of love alone is able to lift up the soul from earth to the
heights of Heaven, nor is it possible to ascend to eternal beatitude
except on the wings of love and desire.
Love is the life of the soul, its nuptial garment, its perfection.
Upon charity are based the law, the prophets, and the precepts of the
Lord. Hence the Apostle wrote to the Romans: “Love is therefore the
fulfilling of the law,” and in the first Epistle to Timothy: “The
end of the commandment is charity.”
OF THE NATURE AND ADVANTAGES OF PRAYER–OF INTERIOR RECOLLECTION
Of ourselves we are utterly unable to attain to charity or any other
good thing. We have naught to offer to the Lord, the Author of all,
which was not His already.
One thing alone remains to us: that in every occurrence we should turn
to Him in prayer, as He Himself taught us by word and example. Let us go
to Him as guilty, poor, and miserable, as beggars, weak and needy, as
subjects and slaves, yet as His children.
Of ourselves we are utterly destitute. What can we do but cast ourselves
at His feet in deepest humility, holy fear mingling in our souls with
love, peace, and recollection?
And while we are fain to draw nigh with all lowliness and modesty, with
minds sincere and simple, let our hearts burn with great desires, with
ardour and heartfelt longings. And so let us supplicate our God, and lay
before Him with entire confidence the perils which menace us on every
side. Let us freely, unhesitatingly, and in all simplicity, confide
ourselves to Him, and offer Him our whole being, even to the last fibre,
for are we not in truth absolutely His?
Let us keep nothing for ourselves, and then will be fulfilled in us the
saying of Blessed Isaac, one of the Fathers of the Desert, who,
speaking of this kind of prayer, said: “We shall be one being with God,
and He will be all in all to us, when that perfect charity by which He
loved us first has entered into our inmost hearts.”
This will be accomplished when God alone becomes the object of all our
love, our desires, our striving, of all our efforts and thoughts, of all
that we behold, speak of, hope for; when that union which exists between
the Father and the Son, and between the Son and the Father shall be
found also in our mind and soul.
Since His love for us is so pure, sincere, and unchanging, ought not we
in return to give Him a love constant and uninterrupted?
So intimate should be our union with Him that our hopes, thoughts,
prayers breathe only God. The truly spiritual man should set before
him, as the goal of all his efforts and desires, the possession even in
a mortal body, of an image of the happiness to come, and the enjoyment
even here below of some foretaste of the delights, the life, and glory
This, I say, is the end of all perfection–that the soul may become so
purified from every earthly longing, and so raised to spiritual things,
that at last the whole life and the desires of the heart form one
When the soul has thus shaken off the dust of earth and aspires unto her
God, to Whom the true religious ever directs his intention, dreading
the least separation from Him as a most cruel death; when peace reigns
within and she is delivered from the bondage of her passions and cleaves
with firmest purpose to the one Sovereign Good, then will be fulfilled
in her the words of the Apostle: “Pray without ceasing,” and “in
every place, lifting up pure hands, without anger and contention.”
When once this purity of soul has gained the victory over man’s natural
inclination for the things of sense, when all earthly longings are
quenched and the soul is, as it were, transformed into the likeness of
pure spirits or Angels, then all she receives, all she undertakes, all
she does, will be a pure and true prayer.
Only persevere faithfully in thy efforts and, as I have shown from the
beginning, it will become as simple and easy for thee to contemplate God
and rejoice in Him in thy recollection as to live a purely natural
THAT EVERYTHING SHOULD BE JUDGED ACCORDING TO THE TESTIMONY OF OUR
There is also another practice which will tend greatly to thy progress
in spiritual perfection, and will aid thee to gain purity of soul and
tranquil rest in God. Whatever men say or think of thee, bring it before
the tribunal of thine own conscience. Enter within thyself, and there,
turning a deaf ear to all else, set thyself to learn the truth. Then
wilt thou see clearly that the praise and honour of men bring thee no
profit, but rather loss, if thou knowest that thou art guilty and
worthy of condemnation in the sight of truth. And, just as it is useless
to be honoured outwardly by men if thy conscience accuse thee within, so
in like manner is it no loss to thee if men despise, blame, or persecute
thee without, if within thou art innocent and free from reproach or
blame. Nay, rather, thou hast then great reason to rejoice in the Lord
in patience, silence, and peace.
Adversity is powerless to harm where sin has no dominion; and just as
there is no evil which goes unpunished, so is there no good without
Seek not with the hypocrites thy reward and crown from men, but rather
from the hand of God, not now, but hereafter; not for a passing moment,
but for eternity.
Thou canst, therefore, do nothing higher nor better in every
tribulation or occurrence than enter into the sanctuary of thy soul, and
there call upon the Lord Jesus Christ, thy helper in temptation and
affliction. There shouldst thou humble thyself, confessing thy sins, and
praising thy God and Father, Who both chastises and consoles.
There dispose thyself to accept with unruffled peace, readiness, and
confidence from the hands of God’s unfailing Providence and marvellous
wisdom all that is sent thee of prosperity or adversity, whether
touching thyself or others. Then wilt thou obtain remission of thy
sins; bitterness will be driven from thy soul, sweetness and
confidence will penetrate it, grace and mercy will descend upon it.
Then a sweet familiarity will draw thee on and strengthen thee, abundant
consolation will flow to thee from the bosom of God. Then thou wilt
adhere to Him and form an indissoluble union with Him.
But beware of imitating hypocrites who, like the Pharisees, try to
appear outwardly before men more holy than they know themselves in truth
to be. Is it not utter folly to seek or desire human praise and glory
for oneself or others, while within we are filled with shameful and
grievous sins? Assuredly he who pursues such vanities can hope for no
share in the good things of which we spoke just now, but shame will
infallibly be his lot.
Keep thy worthlessness and thy sins ever before thine eyes, and learn
to know thyself that thou mayest grow in humility.
Shrink not from being regarded by all the world as filthy mud, vile and
abject, on account of thy grievous sins and defects. Esteem thyself
among others as dross in the midst of gold, as tares in the wheat, straw
among the grain, as a wolf among the sheep, as Satan among the children
Neither shouldst thou desire to be respected by others, or preferred to
anyone whatsoever. Fly rather with all thy strength of heart and soul
from that pestilential poison, the venom of praise, from a reputation
founded on boasting and ostentation, lest, as the Prophet says, “The
sinner is praised in the desires of his soul.”
Again, in Isaias, we read: “They that call thee blessed, the same
deceive thee, and destroy the way of thy steps.” Also the Lord says:
“Woe to you when men shall bless you!”
ON THE CONTEMPT OF SELF: HOW IT IS ACQUIRED: ITS PROFIT TO THE SOUL
The more truly a man knows his own misery, the more fully and clearly
does he behold the majesty of God. The more vile he is in his own eyes
for the sake of God, of truth, and of justice, the more worthy of esteem
is he in the eyes of God.
Strive earnestly, therefore, to look on thyself as utterly contemptible,
to think thyself unworthy of any benefit, to be displeasing in thine own
eyes, but pleasing to God. Desire that others should regard thee as
vile and mean.
Learn not to be troubled in tribulations, afflictions, injuries; not to
be incensed against those that inflict them, nor to entertain thoughts
of resentment against them. Try, on the contrary, sincerely to believe
thyself worthy of all injuries, contempt, ill-treatment and scorn.
In truth, he who for God’s sake is filled with sorrow and compunction
dreads to be honoured and loved by another. He does not refuse to be an
object of hatred, or shrink from being trodden under foot and despised
as long as he lives, in order that he may practise real humility and
cleave in purity of heart to God alone.
It does not require exterior labour or bodily health to love God only,
to hate oneself more than all, to desire to seem little in the eyes of
others: what is needed is rather repose of the senses, the effort of the
heart, silence of the mind.
It is by labouring with the heart, by the inward aspiration of the soul,
that thou wilt learn to forsake the base things of earth and to rise to
what is heavenly and Divine.
Thus wilt thou become transformed in God, and this the more speedily if,
in all sincerity, without condemning or despising thy neighbour, thou
desirest to be regarded by all as a reproach and scandal–nay, even to
be abhorred as filthy mire, rather than possess the delights of earth,
or be honoured and exalted by men, or enjoy any advantage or happiness
in this fleeting world.
Have no other desire in this perishable life of the body, no other
consolation than unceasingly to weep over, regret and detest thy
offences and faults.
Learn utterly to despise thyself, to annihilate thyself and to appear
daily more contemptible in the eyes of others.
Strive to become even more unworthy in thine own eyes, in order to
please God alone, to love Him only and cling to Him.
Concern not thyself with anything except thy Lord Jesus Christ, Who
ought to reign alone in thy affections. Have no solicitude or care save
for Him Whose power and Providence give movement and being to all
It is not now the time to rejoice but rather to lament with all the
sincerity of thy heart.
If thou canst not weep, sorrow at least that thou hast no tears to shed;
if thou canst, grieve the more because by the gravity of thy offences
and number of thy sins thou art thyself the cause of thy grief. A man
under sentence of death does not trouble himself as to the dispositions
of his executioners; so he who truly mourns and sheds the tears of
repentance, refrains from delight, anger, vainglory, indignation, and
every like passion.
Citizens and criminals are not lodged in like abodes; so also the life
and conduct of those whose faults call for sighs and tears should not
resemble those of men who have remained innocent and have nothing to
Were it otherwise, how would the guilty, great though their crimes may
have been, differ in their punishment and expiation from the innocent?
Iniquity would then be more free than innocence. Renounce all,
therefore, contemn all, separate thyself from all, that thou mayest lay
deep the foundations of sincere penance.
He who truly loves Jesus Christ, and sorrows for Him, who bears Him in
his heart and in his body, will have no thought, or care, or solicitude
for aught else. Such a one will sincerely mourn over his sins and
offences, will long after eternal happiness, will remember the Judgment
and will think diligently on his last end in lowly fear. He, then, who
wishes to arrive speedily at a blessed impassibility and to reach God,
counts that day lost on which he has not been ill-spoken of and
What is this impassibility but freedom from the vices and passions,
purity of heart, the adornment of virtue?
Count thyself as already dead, since thou must needs die some day.
And now, but one word more. Let this be the test of thy thoughts, words,
and deeds. If they render thee more humble, more recollected in God,
more strong, then they are according to God. But if thou findest it
otherwise, then fear lest all is not according to God, acceptable to
Him, or profitable to thyself.
OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD, WHICH WATCHES OVER ALL THINGS
Wouldst thou draw nigh unto God without let or hindrance, freely and in
peace, as we have described? Desirest thou to be united and drawn to Him
in a union so close that it will endure in prosperity and adversity, in
life and in death? Delay not to commit all things with trustful
confidence into the hands of His sure and infallible Providence.
Is it not most fitting that thou shouldst trust Him Who gives to all
creatures, in the first place, their existence, power, and movement,
and, secondly, their species and nature, ordering in all their number,
weight, and measure?
Just as Art presupposes the operations of Nature, so Nature presupposes
the work of God, the Creator, Preserver, Organizer, and Administrator.
To Him alone belong infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, essential
mercy, justice, truth, and charity, immutable eternity, and immensity.
Nothing can exist and act of its own power, but every creature acts of
necessity by the power of God, the first moving cause, the first
principle and origin of every action, Who acts in every active being.
If we consider the ordered harmony of the universe, it is the Providence
of God which must arrange all things, even to the smallest details.
From the infinitely great to the infinitely small nothing can escape His
eternal Providence; nothing has been drawn from His control, either in
the acts of free-will, in events we ascribe to chance or fate, or in
what has been designed by Him. We may go further: it is as impossible
for God to make anything which does not fall within the dominion of His
Providence as it is for Him to create anything which is not subject to
His action. Divine Providence, therefore, extends over all things, even
the thoughts of man.
This is the teaching of Holy Scripture, for in the Epistle of St. Peter
it is written: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He hath care of
And, again, the Prophet says: “Cast thy care upon the Lord and He shall
sustain thee.” Also in Ecclesiasticus we read: “My children, behold
the generations of men; and know ye that no one hath hoped in the Lord,
and hath been confounded. For who hath continued in His commandment, and
hath been forsaken?” And the Lord says: “Be not solicitous,
therefore, saying, What shall we eat?” All that thou canst hope for
from God, however great it may be, thou shalt without doubt receive,
according to the promise in Deuteronomy: “Every place that your foot
shall tread upon shall be yours.” As much as thou canst desire thou
shalt receive, and as far as the foot of thy confidence reaches, so far
thou shalt possess.
Hence St. Bernard says: “God, the Creator of all things, is so full of
mercy and compassion that whatever may be the grace for which we stretch
out our hands, we shall not fail to receive it.”
It is written in St. Mark: “Whatsoever ye shall ask when ye pray,
believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you.”
The greater and more persistent thy confidence in God, and the more
earnestly thou turnest to Him in lowly reverence, the more abundantly
and certainly shalt thou receive all thou dost hope and ask.
But if, on account of the number and magnitude of his sins, the
confidence of any should languish, let him who feels this torpor
remember that all is possible to God, that what He wills must
infallibly happen, and what He wills not cannot come to pass, and,
finally, that it is as easy for Him to forgive and blot out innumerable
and heinous sins as to forgive one.
On the other hand, it is just as impossible for a sinner to deliver
himself from a single sin as it would be for him to raise and cleanse
himself from many sins; for, not only are we unable to accomplish this,
but of ourselves we cannot even think what is right. All comes to us
from God. It is, however, far more dangerous, other things being equal,
to be entangled in many sins than to be held only by one.
In truth, no evil remains unpunished, and for every mortal sin is due,
in strict justice, an infinite punishment, because a mortal sin is
committed against God, to Whom belong infinite greatness, dignity, and
Moreover, according to the Apostle, “the Lord knoweth who are His,”
and it is impossible that one of them should perish, no matter how
violently the tempests and waves of error rage, how great the scandal,
schisms and persecutions, how grievous the adversities, discords,
heresies, tribulations, or temptations of every kind.
The number of the elect and the measure of their merit is eternally and
unalterably predestined. So true is this that all the good and evil
which can happen to them or to others, all prosperity and adversity,
serve only to their advantage.
Nay more, adversity does but render them more glorious, and proves their
fidelity more surely.
Delay not, therefore, to commit all things without fear to the
Providence of God, by Whose permission all evil of whatever kind
happens, and ever for some good end. It could not be except He permitted
it; its form and measure are allowed by Him Who can and will by His
wisdom turn all to good.
Just as it is by His action that all good is wrought, so is it by His
permission that all evil happens.
But from the evil He draws good, and thus marvellously shows forth His
power, wisdom, and clemency by our Lord Jesus Christ. So also He
manifests His mercy and His justice, the power of grace, the weakness of
nature, and the beauty of the universe. So He shows by the force of
contrast the glory of the good, and the malice and punishment of the
In like manner, in the conversion of a sinner we behold contrition,
confession, and penance; and, on the other hand, the tenderness of God,
His mercy and charity, His glory and His goodness.
Yet sin does not always turn to the good of those who commit it; but it
is usually the greatest of perils and worst of ills, for it causes the
loss of grace and glory. It stains the soul and provokes chastisement
and even eternal punishment. From so great an evil may our Lord Jesus
vouchsafe to preserve us! Amen.