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Letter II.—Different States of the Soul.

To Sister Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil. On interior vicissitudes.

My dear Sister,

The different states that you depict in your letter to me are nothing more than interior vicissitudes to which we are all subject. These perpetual alternations of light and darkness, of consolation and desolation, are as useful, I should say, as indispensable for the growth and ripening of virtue in our souls, as the atmospheric changes are necessary for the growth and ripening of the harvests. Let us learn, therefore, to resign ourselves to them, and to accept with equal love trials and consolations, for all trials, even the most painful are equally just, holy and beneficial, whether they proceed from the justice, or the mercy of God. Often they are sent to us both by justice and mercy, but while we are on earth justice is never exercised without mercy. I am delighted to hear that your usual occupation during prayer is the contemplation of your weakness, and the realisation of your nothingness; this is the way to acquire, by degrees, an entire distrust of self, and a perfect confidence in God only; also in this way you will become perfectly grounded in interior humility, which is the firm and solid foundation of the spiritual edifice, and the principal source of all the graces of God in the soul. You need neither be surprised nor pained at the destruction of all that is dear to self-love; it would not be self-love if it did not fear this. Only those souls that are already detached from self are free from the fear of this death; and not only do they not fear it, but they desire and beg it of God without ceasing. For us it is enough if we endure in peace, and with patience the successive blows that are effecting it. It often happens that during the day we experience certain feelings and desires for God or divine things, which do not occur during prayer. God arranges it thus so that we may recognise that He is absolute Master of all His gifts and graces; that He bestows them when and where it pleases Him. In receiving them thus, at times when we least expect them and in being disappointed at other times when we expect them, we shall no longer be able to persuade ourselves that they are the result of our own disposition, work, or industry; this is what God intends to prove to us. Therefore if He is prodigal 219of His gifts He expects to receive all the glory of them, and would be compelled to withdraw them if He found that we appropriated any part of them through self-satisfaction.

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