by St. Peter Julian Eymard

Imprimi Potest, Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1940

Ego quasi ros, Israel germinabit sicut lilium,
et erumpet radix ejus ut Libani.

I will be as the dew, Israel shall spring as the lily, and his root shall shoot forth as that of Libanus. (Osee. 14:6.)

IN THE garden of our soul, that paradise of God, we have to cultivate the Divine grain, Jesus Christ, sown in us by Holy Communion, that it may spring up and produce the flower of sanctity. Now, in nature, in growing flowers the essential thing is to keep them fresh by watering the roots. If the root dries, the plant will die. Fertility depends on moisture. The sun by itself does not make flowers bloom; its heat alone would make them wither; but it makes moisture fertile, active. Therefore, to cultivate the flower of sanctity in your soul, you have to keep the roots fresh and moist, which means simply that you have to live the interior life. Nature gives dew and rain to the earth. The grace of God is the dew of the soul; given in abundance, it is a shower which floods it and makes it fruitful.

The cultivation of your soul consists, therefore, in leading a life of recollection.


BEYOND doubt, life in the outer world, however holy and apostolic it may be, always makes us lose a little of our recollection, and if we fail to renew this inner self, we end by losing all grace and all supernatural life.

On the other hand, it would seem that, since virtue is meritorious, its outer practice ought to increase our grace every day instead of decreasing it. That is essentially true; virtue naturally has that tendency. But the store of interior life we draw upon is small, and is soon expended in action. I base this statement on facts. Ask missionaries whether their zealous activities promote their inner life, and they will all answer no.

We are told in the Gospel how a woman approached our Lord unperceived and touched the hem of His garment. She was healed, but Jesus said: "I know that virtue is gone out from Me." 1 Yet Jesus had not lost this strength; His infinite Divine power was undiminished. As the sun darts forth its rays and diffuses its heat without exhausting itself, so God gives without being impoverished. But with us it is different. When we give our efforts to works of zeal for our neighbor, we decrease our store of supernatural life. This is not, I repeat, something inherent in virtue itself, but it comes from our weakened and degraded state, our constant tendency to fall, so that we never perform external acts of virtue without losing some part of our interior strength and needing to return to the inner life for rest and recuperation.

Mind you, I speak not only of brilliant and arduous labors, such as preaching, the direction of charitable works, study, and the hearing of confessions. No, it is the simple daily occupations to which we are bound by the obligations of our state or by obedience that use up our spiritual reserves. And unless we frequently renew our intention, they will be fatal to us. We shall become machines, and machines even less perfect than the steam engine, which gives forth constantly and regularly the power of which it is capable, while we ourselves cannot long keep up the same pace. We shall become a monstrous machine! The world is always with us and, however retired our life may be, finds stealthy entrance into our heart. It is so easy to let self-love enter where the love of God alone ought to dwell!
What I say of outside activities and manual labor is true also of study. Even your study of God, of Holy Scripture, of theology, the highest of all knowledge, will puff you up and make your heart arid if you do not unremittingly cultivate the interior life. Your mind will gain ascendancy over your heart and make it an arid waste unless you diligently refresh its life with aspirations, good intentions, and yearnings toward God. Knowledge is only an aid to piety; but piety sanctifies knowledge.

It is different, however, with religious labors which demand great care, such as sermons, confessions, and the direction of charitable works. You expend more spiritual energy in them, and your need of recuperation is greater. "The baptismal water," said Saint Chrysostom, "which makes the Christian so pure, is nevertheless very unclean when it comes from the basin after you have been plunged into it." And I say to you: "Are you willing to suffer the loss of your own soul in order to save others?" What a misfortune!

The higher one rises in dignity of office, the greater the loss to one's inner life and the depletion of one's spiritual forces, because everyone draws upon them. For that reason one has then to pray more. The Saints worked in the daytime and prayed at night. The victorious soldier must return to his encampment to rest, or the flag of victory will drape his bier. The harder you work, the greater your need of retreat.

THE world is strangely deceived in this regard. "Look," people say. "What a beautiful life! This person has not a moment to himself; he sacrifices himself entirely in the service of others." All very good, but on closer examination I find certain defects in all this good which make me suspicious of so great a zeal. The leaves on this fine tree, it seems to me, are beginning to turn yellow before their time. There must be some inner blight. You see it dying little by little; it lacks the true sap, the inner life. We must be as closely united to God inwardly as we are in the performance of good works. Well does the devil know how to make use of our ignorance or neglect of this principle to send us to perdition. When he sees a zealous and generous soul, he urges it on and makes it so absorbed in work that it is unable to look within. He affords it a thousand opportunities to waste its forces, until it is utterly exhausted. While it is thus taken up with the troubles of others, he undermines its defenses and ends by taking full possession of it.

Oh, how quickly we wither beneath the scorching sun of action when our roots do not lie deep in the fresh ground of the inner life!

"But," you say, "I simply must work; there is so much to do; God's work calls me on every side!" True, but take time to eat and sleep if you do not want to lose your wits. Yes, there is great danger in devoting oneself too assiduously to outside good works unless, like the Prophet, we continually watch over our soul to see whether we still keep in the law and walk in the straight way. It is so easy to let oneself be drawn away to the right or to the left, and it is sometimes so brilliant! Skirmishers render good service in an army; but they are not the ones who carry off the victory. So you must not always be rushing forward but must often retire within yourself to ask God for strength and meditate on the best way to use it. Here is a practical rule: if, instead of dominating your position you are dominated by it, you are lost. What will become of a ship, in spite of all the skill of its pilot, when its rudder has been carried away by the tempest? The rudder which guides you and moves you is recollection. Do everything in your power to preserve it, or you will go adrift.

Then, never say again: "Oh, what a holy soul! See how zealous this person is!" But, "Does he live the interior life?" If so, you may expect everything good from him; if not, he will come to nothing holy or great in the eyes of God. Therefore be master of your exterior life; if it masters you, it will hurry you on to destruction. If your occupations leave you opportunity to contemplate our Lord interiorly, you are on the right road; continue on it. If in the midst of action your thoughts turn to God; if you know how to prevent dryness and desolation of heart; if your exterior labors always leave you tired and weary, yet conscious of a deep inner peace, oh, then, that is excellent! You are free and, beneath the eye of God, your own master.

When the Apostles returned triumphant after having preached, healed, and performed all sorts of miracles, see what reward Jesus gave them: "Come apart and rest a little." ---- Venite seorsum ... et requiescite pusillum." 2 In other words: "You have used up much energy; come regain what you have lost."

And after Pentecost, the Apostles, filled with the Holy Ghost, felt a boundless eagerness to be doing. That is a mark of great souls. When they are in charge of some undertaking, they want to oversee everything and never think they have done enough, so long as there is still something else to do. Thus Moses acted not only as leader and judge of Israel, but as representative of his people before God. The Lord commanded him, however, to share these offices with other elders. Thus, too, the Apostles cared for the poor, settled differences, preached, and Baptized the multitudes. It never occurred to them that in dividing their time thus between preaching and the service of their neighbor they had none left for prayer. That happens to all of us. We are overloaded with work; we might of course obtain help, but that hardly ever occurs to us. We must do everything ourselves! It is unwise; we wear ourselves out, and things go no better. We are carried away by the desire for action and self-sacrifice!
But Peter who, above all the Apostles, was given special light, said one day: "It is not fitting that we do everything; we have no time left for prayer. Let us choose deacons to serve the poor, but we will give our time to prayer and the ministry of the word."
---- Nos vero orationi et ministerio verbi instantes erimus." 3 Well, who can claim to be holier and more filled with the Holy Spirit than the Apostles? Poor pygmies that we are in the spiritual life, we ought to pray continually day and night!


VIRTUE which does not have its birth inwardly, beginning in thoughts, affections, and prayer, is not true virtue. Where is the ear of wheat during the winter? It is in the wheat-grain beneath the ground. Warmth and moisture together are needed to make it grow and ripen. Well, now, virtue is a seed planted within you. You can cause if to grow only by prayer, cultivation of the inner life, and sacrifice. The kingdom of God is within you. You will never possess a solid external virtue which is not in the first place internal.

But do you not notice that God's work in us always begins with our inner life? Do you not feel interior temptations? It is God tilling and planting in your heart. Violent tempests will shake the fragile stalk of virtue that is beginning to grow in you and cause it to send out its roots. That is God's work. And when an action costs you an effort, it is not your hand or your body that is resisting, but your too feeble heart and will.

So you will have no virtues which are not first, interior, which do not draw their life from within. How much virtue a soul possesses may be known from the depth of its inner life.

This thought ought to be a practical guide for you. When you make a resolution to practice a certain virtue, resolve to practice it inwardly. Begin, that is, to exercise that virtue in prayer, in habits of thought, in meditation. Later on you will attain to its outward practice.

It is the course our Lord follows in the Eucharist. Why does He come to us in Communion? To visit us, certainly; but since He remains within us, He still has something else to do there. He comes to implant His virtues in our soul and make them grow, to form Himself in us, to mold us in His image. He comes to accomplish our education in the Divine life within us, in such a way that He increases in us as we increase in Him, until we have reached full growth in the perfect man, that is, Himself, Jesus Christ.

Consider the state of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Do you see Him there? Yet He is there. Only the Angels see His outward life, however. We see nothing of it, and nevertheless we believe He does live there, as we believe in the sun even when clouds hide it from us, as we believe in the labor of nature though it is entirely imperceptible to our senses. All this is evidence to us that the external life is not the only one, but that there is also an invisible life, a life which is wholly interior, yet very real.
When you receive Communion, therefore, ask our Lord to live in you and let you live in Him. That is something entirely spiritual. It is not what most Christians ask. They receive Communion, but their mind, their will, and intention, all are abroad seeking external things, so that Jesus finds no one within to entertain Him.

To sum up, the power of virtue lies in the inner life; where there is no inner life, there is no virtue, unless God performs a miracle for you.

"But," you will say, "according to this principle, salvation is very difficult." I am not talking to people who do no more than follow strictly the commandments. They know their duties, and an upright conscience shows them what is good and what is evil. The fewness of their obligations saves them.

But you want to live a life of piety, a life above the common, and enjoy the special favor of the Divine Master. You will have more to do. You advance in dignity, advance also in virtue; your obligations are more numerous. The Savior, Who loves you more and gives you more graces, demands more of you.

Beware of falling into routine, which is so easy when you live a regular course of life and are occupied with external good works. Renew your intention frequently. Keep the roots of the tree fresh if you would have it bring forth fruits of salvation.

1. Luke 13:46.
2. Mark 6:31.
3. Acts 6:4.