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Letter V.—On the Love of One’s Neighbour.

To Sister de Lesen. On the love of one’s neighbour. Nancy, 1735.

I am not at all surprised at the friendship you have for your dear relative, and understand that it is due to her for many reasons. However, because by your own showing this affection disturbs you, and prevents you giving your whole heart to God, there must needs be some irregularity about it. If you wish to sanctify it, and to render it altogether supernatural, this is what God demands of you.

1st. That you will not allow yourself to think about this person too often nor to be engrossed by thoughts of her; there is moderation in all things.

2nd. That in the illnesses and afflictions she has to endure you will submit to them as a sacrifice you must make to God, and abandon yourself to Him so that He may dispose of her, and of you in all things, and about all things according to His most holy will and loving good pleasure. You must know that in abandoning her thus to the will and care of divine Providence you render her, as well as yourself, the greatest possible service, since by this sacrifice you place her in the hands of God Who is infinitely good, and infinitely powerful.

We must certainly make use of our reasoning faculties in our trials; but, as a very holy and learned Christian has well said, we must not depend too much on this feeble faculty which is stronger in opposition to what is good, than in overcoming evil. It is religion, and the grace we obtain through humble prayer which can sustain us. Sadness, depression, interior rebellion when our relatives suffer from various causes, taking rise in a too affectionate disposition, will be a grand occasion of virtue and merit to us, if, endeavouring to raise ourselves by faith above our natural feelings, we understand that all has to be sacrificed to the adorable and most holy will of God. Do we not know that nothing can happen in this world without His permission, and that He has arranged everything for the greater good of those who submit to Him, or, at least who desire to acquire and to practise this submission?

If we could only understand the value of this virtue! Of all the means of salvation this is, together with the fulfilment of the divine precepts, the most universal, and the most infallible. Nothing more is required to sanctify most people and to lighten for them the trials of life. A wise pagan thought in this way when he said, “If one has a sensitive nature, and is accustomed to foster in oneself what the world calls refined and generous 196sentiments, it is no easy matter to cure oneself of thinking too much about the family honour, and of taking too great an interest in family affairs, and also of being too much moved by every incident affecting those to whom we are most tenderly attached.” It is necessary to pray much about this, and also to reflect how to combat it. Firstly, to reflect on the uselessness of our worries and our feelings, and on the harm they do ourselves, as much to the bodily health, as to the welfare of the soul. Secondly, to combat it by refraining from frequent, lengthy, and earnest thoughts on the subject, and by sacrificing and abandoning it entirely to God in spite of the pangs the heart must endure from the violence of such sacrifices; consider that, after all, there is only one thing necessary, and that provided that this great affair succeeds everything else must be as God pleases. These feelings are quickly overcome, or rather, they are so trifling and paltry that they pass like shadows, to return no more. Let us act like worldly people when they have to attend to business of the utmost importance on which depend their honour, their life, their property, in fact everything, as they think. They have nothing else in their minds day or night but this important business, and neglect everything else as being nothing in comparison. As Jesus Christ has said, we must learn from the children of this world who are “wiser in their generation than the children of light.” Remember that what can help to save us is not exterior solitude, nor retirement, for these can be had even in the world; but an interior withdrawal and solitude of the mind and heart; of the mind, by banishing superfluous cares and thoughts and by endeavouring to make God the absorbing occupation of the heart, by lamenting its defects, by humbling it and frequently sighing after God, and by detaching it gradually from the creature to attach it solely to the Creator. He is the supreme truth, and nothing has any reality apart from Him. Consequently purely temporal interests, the business, the honours, pleasures, or sufferings of this lower world are nought but shadows and phantoms; they appear to exist, but, in reality, are nothing.

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