Monday, November 19, 2007


If any religious desires to attain in a short time to holy recollection, spiritual silence, detachment and poverty of spirit-where the peaceful rest of the spirit is enjoyed, and union with God attained; if he desires to be delivered from all the hindrances which created things put in his way, to be defended against all the wiles and illusions of Satan, and to be protected against himself, he must strictly practise the following instructions. If he will do this, with ordinary attention, without other efforts or other practices, at the same time carefully observing the obligations of his state, he will advance rapidly to great perfection, acquire all virtue and attain unto holy peace. All the evils to which the soul is subject proceed from the three enemies already mentioned: the world, the devil and the flesh. If we can hide ourselves from these we shall have no combats to fight. The world is less difficult, and the devil more difficult, to understand; but the flesh is the most obstinate of all, and the last to be overcome together with the 'old man'. If we do not conquer the three, we shall never perfectly conquer one; and if we conquer one, we shall also conquer the others in the same proportion. In order to escape perfectly from the evils which the world inflicts, there are three things to be observed.

The first is, preserve an equal love and an equal forgetfulness of all persons whether relatives or not; withdraw your affections from the former as well as from the latter, yea rather more more from the former, on account of the ties of blood, for the natural affections which people feel for their kindred always subsists. You must mortify this affection if you are to attain to spiritual perfection. Look upon your kindred as strangers, and you will thereby the more completely discharge your duty to them; for by not withdrawing your heart from God on their account, you will fulfil your duties towards them better by not giving to them those affections which are due unto God. Do not love one person more than another, for if you do you will fall into error. He whom God loves most is the most worthy of love, and you do not know who he is. But if you strive to forget all people alike-as holy recollection requires you to do-you will escape all error, whether great or small. Do not think about them; have nothing to say to them either good or bad. Avoid them as much as you possibly can. If you do not observe this, as things go, you will never become a good religious, you will never attain to holy recollection, nor will you get rid of your imperfections. If you will indulge yourself here, Satan will in some way or other delude you, or you will delude yourself under the pretence of good or evil. If you will observe this direction you will be safe; and in no other way can you get rid of imperfections and escape the evils which result to your soul from intercourse with others.

The second precaution against the world relates to temporal goods. If you desire in earnest to escape the evils which worldly goods occasion and restrain your excessive desires, you must hold all personal possession in abhorrence, and cast from you every thought about it. You must not be solicitous about what you eat or drink or wear, or about any created thing whatever: you must not be 'solicitous for tomorrow', but occupy yourself with higher things-with the Kingdom of God, that is fidelity to Him-for all these things, as our Lord says in the Gospel, 'shall be added unto you' (Matthew 6:33). He who takes care of the beasts of the field will not forget you. If you do this you will attain to silence, and have peace in your senses.

The third precaution is most necessary, that you may avoid all evil in your relation with the other religious of the community. Many person from not heeding this have not only lost their peace of mind, but have fallen and fall daily, into great disorders and sin. Be especially careful never to let your mind dwell upon, still less your tongue to speak of, what is passing in the community, its past or present state. Do not speak to any religious in particular, do not discuss their condition or their conversation, or their actions, however grave, either under the cloak of zeal, or of remedying what seems amiss, except only to the one who of right should be spoken to, and then at the fitting time. If you lived among the angels and gave heed to what was going on many things would seem to you not to be good, because you do not understand them. Take warning from the example of Lot's wife who, because she was disturbed at the destruction of Sodom, turned back to look at it. God punished her for this, and she was 'turned into a pillar of salt' (Genesis 19:26). This teaches you that it is the will of God, even if you were living among devils, you should so live as not to turn back in thought to consider what they are doing, but forget them utterly. You are to keep your soul wholly to God, and not to suffer the thought of this or that to disturb you.

Be sure of this, there is no lack of stumbling blocks in religious houses, because there is no lack of devils who are labouring to throw down the saints. God permits this in order to try them and to prove them, and if you are not on your guard, you will never become a religious, do what you may, neither will you attain to holy detachment and recollection, or avoid loss. If you live otherwise, in spite of your zeal and good intentions, Satan will lay hold of you in one way or another, and indeed you are already sufficiently in his power, when your soul is allowed such distractions as these. Remember those words of the apostle St James, 'If any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, this man's religion is vain'. This is applicable to the interior, quite as much as to the exterior, tongue-to thoughts as well as words.