DESIGNED FOR LCD MONITORS WITH 1440
TAKEN FROM HOLY
St. Peter Julian Eymard
Imprimi Potest, Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1940
Ego quasi ros, Israel germinabit sicut
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.