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Letter X.—Fear of Making No Progress.

To Sister Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil. On the fear of making no progress, and of not doing enough penance.

Do not be astonished, my dear Sister, at making apparently so little progress. One does not ever advance in spiritual as one does in visible works. The business of our sanctification and perfection ought to be the work of our whole life-time. I notice that your natural vivacity and eagerness intrude into everything, and from this proceed anxieties, discouragement, and troubles which lead you astray in causing you distress. Here is the remedy! As long as you feel a sincere good-will to belong to God, a practical appreciation for everything that leads you to God, and a certain amount of courage to rise after your little falls, you are doing well in the sight of God. Have patience with yourself then; learn to bear with your own weaknesses and miseries gently, as you have to put up with those of your neighbour. Be satisfied to humble yourself quietly before God, and do not expect to make any progress except through Him. This hope will not be disappointed, but God will realise probably by a hidden operation which will take place in the centre of your soul, and this will cause it to make considerable progress without your knowledge.

You are uneasy about your penance. Oh! my dear daughter, how could you perform a better penance, and one in which there is less of your own will than to bear patiently the crosses that come from God? Besides, all our crosses come certainly from Him when they are the necessary, natural, and inevitable consequences of the state in which divine Providence permits us to be settled. These are the heaviest crosses, but also the most sanctifying because they all come from God. Crosses from our heavenly Father, crosses from divine Providence, how much 312easier to bear they are than those we fashion for ourselves, and embrace voluntarily. Then love yours, my dear Sister, since they have been prepared for you by God alone for each day. Let Him do this; He alone knows what is suitable for each one of us. If we remain firm in this, submissive and humbled under all the crosses sent by God, we shall find in them, at last, rest for our souls. Thus we shall enjoy an unshaken peace when, by our submission, we shall have merited from God to be made to feel that divine unction which belongs to, and is a part of the cross since Jesus Christ died upon it for us. But you ask how the spiritual life can be compatible with this state of trouble and darkness. Ah! my dear daughter, how many are mistaken about this! Do not you share their delusion. The spiritual life, gentle, and tranquil as I have always described it to you to inspire you with a taste for it, is only to be found in two sorts of persons; first, in those who are entirely separated from the world and have nothing to do with its affairs; secondly, sometimes, but more rarely, in persons living in the world, when by dint of having overcome themselves, and detached themselves from everything, they live in the world, but are not of it; that is to say they belong to it outwardly, but not in mind and heart. But this absence of business and of care if far from constituting the essential part of the spiritual life, or from forming its merit. There is another sort of interior life, which, devoid of sweetness, is on this account all the more meritorious, and it is to this that you must conform yourself; the other may follow later. This interior life may also be divided under two heads, first, the generous fulfilment of the divine will whenever manifested to us either by the precepts it has itself laid down for us, or by our Rule, or by the commands or desires of our Superiors; secondly, to receive everything as coming from the hand of God, whether business affairs, adversity, illness, difficulties, or annoyances. Sometimes, however, one forgets oneself. You must expect this to happen. What is to be done then? You know what, return quietly to yourself, regain your tranquillity with submissiveness, humble yourself gently before God, never be discouraged nor disheartened, and above all take good care, according to the teaching of St. Francis of Sales, not to be grieved at having been grieved, nor to be angry at having been angry, nor worried at having been worried, because this would be to go from bad to worse, and would augment still more the interior trouble. This is the rock ahead of lively persons.

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