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Letter X.—Delusions in Prayer.

On the same subject.

This is my reply about the person in question. It seems to me that her prayer of recollection is more from the mind than from the heart. It is the opposite of what it should be, for in order that prayer be fruitful the heart should have a greater share in it than the intellect, in fact it is entirely a prayer of love; the soul resting in God loves Him without the knowledge of that which it loves, nor how this love is produced in it. But the reality of it is manifested by a certain warmth it feels in the heart, by an irresistible attraction to this divine centre, which it seeks without seeing distinctly what it pursues, and to which it yields, and from which nothing can distract it. From this arises the great facility of this prayer which is a sweet rest for the heart, and continues without effort for as long as it is desired. Therefore, if the person of whom you speak experiences as a preliminary, a great exertion of the mind, it is a sign that her recollection is not yet what it should be. The remedy for this seems to me to be, 1st, When carried away by this great recollection to concentrate the attention on the movements and affections of the heart, as if to retain and enjoy this delightful repose; there is such a charm about this feeling of sweetness and joy that it engrosses the whole attention of the soul, which thus understands better that it loves; while the mind without effort, and almost without voluntary application, finds itself captivated by this feeling which is, as it were, the food of the heart.

2nd, If, notwithstanding all efforts to the contrary, the intensity of thought continues, forbid this person to spend more than two hours, at most, in prayer; and during her reading, and at other times, tell her not to purposely try to get recollection, but only to give herself up to it when God impels her, remembering always to fix her attention interiorly on the affections of her heart, to enjoy in them, at leisure, this sweetness, delightful repose and interior peace. 3rd, Tell her always to employ a little time to examine how her prayer was made; at its beginning, in its progress and at its conclusion; that is to say, firstly, what form did the recollection take? secondly, if it produced in her distinct thoughts and feeling, or, if this sweet sleep was too profound to enable her to remember 137anything? thirdly, how she felt when this state ceased; for example did it leave her in a state of great recollection, with a great desire to act rightly, to attach herself entirely to God, and to please her divine Master only? Let us be thoroughly persuaded that we can find God everywhere without the least effort; because He is truly present to those who seek Him with all their hearts, although they may not be always aware of His presence.

Therefore whenever you are no longer occupied with created things so that you have ceased to think any more about them, know that your soul is then occupied by God, and in God without your knowledge. And this is the reason: God, being that hidden and invisible object to which tend all the desires of a right heart; from the moment it turns its desires away from creatures, they then find their natural centre, which is God; and by continually dwelling in this centre they gradually increase until they become very distinctly felt and produce strong outbursts of love. Therefore the true presence of God is, to speak plainly, but a kind of forgetfulness of creatures with an interior desire to find God. You thus perceive in what consists the divine interior and exterior silence, so precious, so desirable, and so advantageous; true earthly paradise in which souls who love God already enjoy a foretaste of heavenly happiness.

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