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Letter VII.—Supernatural Fears.

To Sister de Lesen of the Annunciation. Supernatural fears and pain. (1736)

In spite of the great natural compassion, and the great affection in our Lord that I feel towards the afflicted person of whom you speak, I cannot feel either alarmed at her state, or even pity her very much about it. I have frequently told her that, after the signal favours she has received from God, I was astonished at one thing only, which was, that having received a high degree of the gift of simple recollection she has not been sooner submitted to the usual trials of that state. It will suffice to inform you that when I became aware of the beginning of this trial I could feel neither surprise nor annoyance. Now that I perceive a fresh access of suffering I can but repeat what she already knows, and what God has given her grace to put in practice, in fact, what you yourself have told her. This you know as well as I do. As long as God keeps her in this suffering state an angel from Heaven could not draw her out of it, nor impart to her the slightest consolation. Nevertheless I will, for your satisfaction, willingly explain a few little details.

1st. That which enables me to judge that the state of this dear soul is, at one and the same time, a trial and an effect of her progress in the supernatural life is, first, that this sad condition is the outcome of a sense of faith, of a lively fear of the judgments of God, of death, of eternity, etc. Secondly, that she has been much consoled for a long time by abandoning herself into the hands of God, and uniting herself to Jesus crucified. Thirdly, that this painful access of suffering has come upon her now without any sensible or apparent cause, and without being preceded by any reflexion. Fourthly, even if her natural temperament, character, disposition, and other causes have contributed to produce it, as sometimes happens, the pain, in the end, is none the less supernatural; because it is beyond nature to produce such an effect without sensible or apparent cause. Therefore have no fears on her account for she is certainly in the state that mystical authors call “suffering the crucifying gift of God.” As for the fear she has of losing her reason, she is not the only one who has been tormented by such fears. I have known numbers of people who have been impelled to make this great and last sacrifice with an entire abandonment, and full confidence. She will have the whole merit of it without its realisation, I hope, being required of her by God. These are the ways of God with souls. He only asks in 352innumerable similar cases, the sacrifice of the heart without its completion, as He acted formerly with regard to Abraham. Therefore let her hope against all hope. Every trial, borne well, will turn out for her very advantageous; be consoled and in peace about her. As for the Retreat, I am inclined to think it would be well to defer it. But if, however, she wishes to continue it she has only to do what you have advised her; her only meditation to be on confidence in God; her only reading such as will nourish her soul with the essence of pure recollection, almost without thought or reasoning, at any rate none that requires effort.

2nd. She should reflect as little as possible about her suffering and interior distress. Such reflections while detracting from the merit only tend to embitter and increase the evil. Let her try to forget herself and to think only of God, but gently and simply without any violent effort. She should not speak of her afflictions any more, not even to God in prayer. Let her intercourse with Him be on quite different subjects as much as possible.

3rd. If solitude has the effect of plunging her more deeply into anguish in spite of herself, then I advise her to converse about holy things with you, or any of the other Sisters. The Rev. Mother is right to cut off the annual confession. I forbid it on the part of God, and prohibit the mere thought of it.

4th. As you, very rightly, remark, it is certain that this state of suffering has already produced very good results in this soul. Nothing ever has, nor ever could do her so much good. Even when the extreme pain should have altogether ceased, I foretell that there will remain for a long time a certain impression of interior humiliation which will continue to produce marvellous after-effects. The fear that this miserable state will return will make her depend on God with a profound and continual confidence, which will prove for her a very great blessing.

5th. For the rest, if these supernatural troubles find no human remedy, nothing is more easy than to point out a way to derive great profit from them, and to soften them considerably. Submission, abandonment, peace, patience, confidence in God, and to allow God to act without interruption by too frequent interior acts; in a word, there should only be a humble and simple interior disposition produced in the soul by the grace of Jesus Christ, with which it co-operates somehow, but more passively than actively, or to speak correctly, by making its activity submissive to the action of God. Amen.

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