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Letter XIII.—On being Self-Opinionated.

On attachment to one’s own judgment.

My dear Sister,

At last you are freed from your ties and released from all those engagements by which the world expected to keep you always captive. I do not doubt that you understand the full value of the inestimable grace of a religious vocation, and that you are disposed to accomplish generously all its duties. The longer you have waited for this grace, the greater is the gratitude you owe to Him Who has, at last, bestowed it on you. You must, however, be prepared to encounter many difficulties in your new life, difficulties not felt by those who embrace it earlier; but humility, renunciation, simplicity, and the holy spiritual infancy of the Gospel will diminish these difficulties considerably and will finish by making them disappear altogether. With the help of these virtues you will be preserved from a very subtle illusion of pride, to which many novices yield, and which is all the more dangerous because it is almost imperceptible. With the excuse of trying themselves better, they always want to do a little more than the rest, or to deprive themselves of those little comforts that the charity of the Superiors offers them. All this 205is nothing else but a refined self-love, and a disguised vanity. As for you, my dear Sister, never, I implore you, have any other ambition than to follow the ordinary course in all things; not one iota beyond that. Accept with simplicity and humility the little comforts and alleviations that the weak are allowed, rejoice at seeing yourself reduced to the level of a small child and treated like one and take good care not to seem strong and courageous. What profound and meritorious humility will you not thus exercise! delightful in the eyes of God, and more pleasing to His heart than the most austere life chosen by yourself. What an amount of pride and vanity may be concealed in conduct contrary to this! I do not wish to hide from you what a good long experience has taught me; that those who were most devout in the world before entering the religious state, have generally given the most trouble to their Superiors and Mistresses. This comes of their having formed certain ideas of virtue for themselves which they will not relinquish. Accustomed to be admired by all who surrounded them, and to be, usually, approved of by their directors, they cling to their own ideas and their own spirit without suspecting that this attachment is the very antipodes of all true sanctity. Therefore it is far more difficult to make those persons practise humility and renunciation, to give up their notions and self-will than in the case of young people of unformed character; or even of worldly people who have become converted. Nevertheless if we do not become as little children we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. I hope, therefore, that you are treated exactly as if you were a young person of fifteen or sixteen years of age, equally unformed physically and mentally, and who is told: “Sister, you must rest to-morrow; you are dispensed from such or such a thing; you must take some recreation in the garden,” or “My dear Sister, that work is too hard for you, the Mother Superior will dispense you from it,” while you, a formed character, formerly most devout, should, without replying by a single word or frowning, carry out all you are told to do, to the letter, in a spirit of humility and simplicity, satisfied to be treated thus, as if you were the weakest and the least of all. Look upon yourself as such, and even rejoice at it, or at least, do your best to do so. Admire the loving charity of the Rev. Mother and the Sisters, and bless God for it. This is what a true interior spirit, and a spirituality that is real and good should teach you, and inspire you with. But, it must be admitted it is a most difficult matter to reduce these pretended devotees to this. Poor souls! blinded and deceived, the less they know how to humble themselves the further they are from real greatness. If they would but go to Bethlehem, and there contemplate the God 206of Heaven become a little Infant in swaddling clothes, in a manger, handled, carried, and taken from place to place, turned and touched by everyone, it might effect their cure. Let this example, my dear Sister, be that which you propose to follow during your novitiate; and it is by becoming like this little Child that you will merit to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

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