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Letter XIII.—On Fears About Contrition.

To Sister Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil.

You desire the impossible, my dear Sister, you want to feel what is not perceptible by the senses, and to enjoy a certainty that we cannot possess during this life. True contrition which remits sin is, of its nature, entirely spiritual and consequently above the senses. It is true that with certain persons and on certain occasions it becomes sometimes sensible, and then it is much more consoling to self-love, but is not on that account either more efficacious, or more meritorious. This tenderness of feeling does not in any way depend upon us, neither is it by any means essential for obtaining the remission of our sins. A great number of souls truly devoted to God hardly ever experience this tenderness, and the fear inspired in them by this deprivation is the best proof that they are not responsible for it. The coldness they feel, far from depriving them of true repentance is, on the contrary, one of the best penances they could offer to God. 315What I now say on the subject of contrition in general, I say in particular about the sovereignty of this sorrow, a quality that is usually the one least felt. It must be asked of God and you must wait till He produces it Himself in your heart by His grace. To persist in tormenting yourself after this would be to allow yourself to fall into the devil’s trap. Nothing should astonish us less than to be sometimes touched and affected, and at others to find ourselves callous and insensible to everything. This is one of the inevitable vicissitudes of the spiritual life. Fiat! fiat! resignation is the only remedy. It is certain that God always gives what is necessary to those souls who fear Him. The gifts He bestows on them are not always the most apparent to the senses, nor the most agreeable, nor the most sought after, but the most necessary and solid; all the more so, usually, in being less felt and more mortifying to self-love; for that which helps us most powerfully to live to God is what best enables us to die to self.

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