THE FIRST BOOK:
ADMONITIONS USEFUL FOR PURIFYING THE HEART
CHAPTER XIII. THAT FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS WE MUST FIRMLY RELY UPON OUR LORD, AFTER WE HAVE SINCERELY DONE WHAT WAS MORALLY IN OUR POWER
1. The voice of Jesus.-----As I live, I desire not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live.
If the sinner do penance for all the sins which he has committed, and keep all My commands, living, he shall live, and not die.
The ungodliness of the ungodly shall not hurt him, in whatever day he shall turn away from his ungodliness: the sins which he has sinned shall not be imputed to him.
Why, then, art thou troubled, My Child, or why fearest thou so immoderately? Am I like a man, that I should lie or change? Did I say it, and shall I not do it? Did I promise, and shall I not make it good? Did I swear, and shall I not keep My word?
Why dost thou doubt, O man of little faith? Amen: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.
2. Behold, God, My heavenly Father, Who, for thy salvation, did not spare His only Son, but delivered Him up for thee, no less than for the rest; did He not give thee, together with Him, all other things, pardon, perseverance, Paradise, every blessing? Through Me, therefore, the only-begotten Son of God, thou art become rich in all things, so that thou canst be wanting in no grace. For, where sin abounded, there grace did more abound.
Go then, with confidence, to the throne of grace, that thou mayst obtain those things that are needful to thee.
3. My Child, I came down from Heaven, that I might snatch thee from the jaws of Hell: all the days of My life, I was in suffering, that thou mightst be happy through all eternity; I was willingly condemned to die, that thou mightst be free from everlasting death: and all these things I did for thee, when thou wast My enemy; what, then, will I not do, or what can I refuse, when thou lovest Me?
If thy sins affrighten thee, know, My Child, that My infinite merits are infinitely more powerful to save thee, if thou art willing, than thy sins to destroy thee, if thou art uneasy.
If, by reason of thy sins, thou standest in dread of My judgment, call to mind, that, I thy Saviour, who, even at the right hand of God, My Father, intercedes for thee, shall be thy Judge.
4. Enlarge, therefore, thy heart in the Holy Spirit, Whom thou didst receive in the Sacrament of Divine mercy. That Spirit of love, that consuming fire, will destroy the remnant of thy sins, and cast out all inordinate fear.
Hadst thou been an exceedingly great sinner, like the thief crucified with Me; hadst thou, like Paul, persecuted Me; hadst thou even denied Me, like Peter: behold, if once thou confessest rightly, so as to enjoy the effect of the Sacrament, all thy sins are forgiven thee.
5, Why art thou sad, My Child, and why dost thou disquiet thyself? Thinkest thou that I am a harsh master, Whom it is difficult to satisfy?
Thou art mistaken, Child; thou art greatly deceived. For, behold, am I not a Father, Whose Heart is goodness itself? Dost thou not know this? Hast thou not experienced it?
Do not then dishonor Me; do not revile Me, by attributing to Me things which are so wrongful.
6. My Child, thou hast not received the spirit of bondage again in fear: but thou hast received the spirit of adoption of the sons of God, whereby thou mayst love and address Me: Abba, Father!
Do not, then, fear, Child; do not, by worrying thyself uselessly, lose the time which thou oughtest to spend happily in loving Me. For I do not require anguish, but love.
Have confidence, My Child, that thy sins have been forgiven thee. Do now strive to love Me the more, the more I have forgiven thee.
7. The voice of the Disciple.-----O Jesus! O my love! my life! How delightful to me, how sweet are the words thou utterest from Thy Heart!
O Lord, my God! Thou didst wash not my feet, not my hands, not my head alone, but my soul, my whole self, and that with Thy Own Blood.
Behold, Thou didst cast my sins into the depth of a sea, into the abyss of the mercy of Thy Heart, where they have disappeared from Thy sight.
O Jesus! how can I ever be unmindful of Thy mercies, whereby Thou hast thus restored me to life!
I will sing Thy mercies, O Lord, forever: I will praise the goodness of Thy heart for evermore.
8. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless His Sacred Heart. Yea, bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all He has done for thee. Who forgives all thy iniquities: Who heals all thy diseases.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor has He rewarded us according to our iniquities: but He has blotted them out according to the multitude of the mercies of His Heart.
As a father has pity on his children, so has the Lord had pity on us; because He is good, because His mercy endures forever.
9. Love the Lord, O my soul, love Jesus, love Him much; because He has forgiven thee much.
Let them love less to whom He has forgiven less: but do thou, by the greatness of thy love, strive to make a suitable return for the greatness of His bounty.
Yea, O most sweet Jesus, I will love Thee with all my strength: nor will I henceforward pass my time in vexing my heart, Thy kingdom now; but I will employ it better, more usefully to me, more pleasingly to Thee: Thy love shall ever be my occupation. In peace in the self-same, will I take my rest and repose.
CHAPTER XIV. HOW WE MUST GUARD AGAINST A RELAPSE
1. The voice of Jesus.-----My Child, hast thou fallen into sin? Do not again give thyself up to it; but so guard against the future as not to return to the past.
When the demon has been expelled from a heart, he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and, returning, attempts to enter again. If man does not resist, the enemies enter, and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
If, therefore, thou desire not to become the prey of Hell, thou must, by all means, resist the temptations of the devil.
Do not be afflicted nor sad, My Child, because thou art assailed, against thy will, by various temptations; be rather rejoiced and consoled. For it is a sign that thou art in the state of grace, and that thou followest My standard.
If thou didst adhere to the devil, he would surely not attack what is his own; but because thou standest by Me, therefore does he tempt thee, and endeavor to draw thee over to his ranks.
2. My Child, temptation is not prevarication; yea, so long as it is displeasing to thee, it is meritorious of a Divine reward.
Therefore, however loathsome the things which the enemy may suggest, be not uneasy; however violently he may entice thee to evil, think not that thou art forsaken by Me.
Never am I nearer to thee, or more ready to help thee, than when thou sufferest under these trials.
When thou art tempted, Child, I stand by, looking on the struggle, and helping thee, that, being thus encouraged and aided, thou mayst not only withstand the foe, but gloriously triumph over him.
Be, therefore, ready for the combat: no one shall be crowned, unless he has struggled lawfully; and he that shall overcome shall receive the crown of life.
3. As thou dwellest among enemies to the right and to the left, and art exposed to their assaults from within and from without; thou oughtest to be so well armed at all times that they can never find thee defenseless.
Have thy heart lifted up and united to Mine, with a determined and generous resolve, to endure all things, yea, even to die in the struggle, rather than turn thy back upon Me. Otherwise thou shalt not be able fully to withstand the stubbornness of the contest.
4. In this warfare, two kinds of weapons are necessary to thee: the one, defensive, the other, offensive.
Humility will furnish thee weapons to defend thyself. By means of this virtue, place no reliance upon thyself, put all thy trust in Me: and, being convinced of thy own frailty, shun, as much as thou art able, all dangerous occasions.
For it were an inexcusable, and most shameful presumption, to seek them, or to go to meet them, especially if they are of the flesh.
5. If, nevertheless, the foe assails, call upon Me; rely upon My help, confidingly and lovingly.
He that prays amid temptation, as he ought, cannot be overcome; but he that neglects prayer, is usually vanquished.
Resist generously from the very beginning of the temptation, and pray fervently in this, or a similar manner: O, Jesus! hide me within Thy Heart, that I may not be separated from Thee . . . O, God! my God! come to my assistance . . . Jesus and Mary! make haste to help me . . . I will rather die, O Lord, than commit sin.
If the enemy continue to tempt, faithfully withdraw thy mind from the object of the temptation; and, having earnestly turned it to other things, either good or indifferent, persevere in prayer, persevere in thus resisting, not with anxiety or impatience, but calmly and steadily: and the foe shall either flee away, or stand abashed.
6. Let it not be enough for thee to repulse Satan; strive, also, to injure him. This thou canst do, if, by means of the weapons which Divine love will furnish thee, thou turn the temptations of the enemy against himself.
As often, therefore, as the demon tempts thee, so often use temptation against his aim and object, that thou mayst unite thyself more closely with Me; glorify Me by thy faithfulness, and acquire for thyself greater strength and merit.
So it shall come to pass, that thy adversary, frightened by his defeat, either dares not return, or, if he dares, will secure for thee a more signal victory and a brighter crown.
7. But, if ever thou be so unfortunate as to fall, arise without delay; fight with more humility and courage; and beware, above all, lest thou surrender and make thyself a slave to the foe.
Many have been lost, because, after having fought bravely,-----when they were on the point of gaining the victory,-----cast down by the troublesomeness of the temptation, they surrendered disgracefully, and perished miserably.
Up then, My Child; the struggle is short, but the prize everlasting.
Be magnanimous: courage is a great part of the victory. It prepares thee for grace; it raises the heart, increases strength, moderates labor, frightens and weakens the enemy.
For Me, thy God and Saviour, for thy salvation, for an everlasting crown, for the very Kingdom of Heaven, fight thou bravely, and display a sight worthy of God, of the Angels, and of men.
8. The voice of the Disciple.-----Thanks to Thee, most benign Jesus, Who thus teachest my hands to fight and my fingers to war.
Behold, Thou also cheerest up my heart, and givest me courage, so that I am ready to put forth my strength, and to act valiantly.
But I know and confess that of myself I am weak and cowardly: if I am left to myself alone. if I rely upon myself alone, what can be looked for, except that I shall shamefully fall away from Thee and perish ignobly?
Give me grace, I entreat Thee, that I may not presume on myself; that, of my own accord, I may not expose myself; but that I may, with prudence, shun every occasion of falling, and, by watchfulness, escape all the snares of my foes.
And at what time Thou shalt see me attacked by the enemy, or engaged with him, do Thou arise, I beseech Thee, hasten to my assistance; because Thou, O Lord, art my strength.
Be thou near me, I pray, set me beside Thee, and let any man's hand fight against me; with Thee I will conquer, with Thee I will triumph.
CHAPTER XV. HOW THE ROOTS OF VICES AND DEFECTS ARE TO BE WHOLLY PLUCKED UP
1. The voice of Jesus.-----My Child, to obtain perfect purity of heart, it is not enough to cherish a good will, to meditate and pray frequently, to confess often and devoutly. These means are very efficient and necessary, and therefore never to be omitted, nor neglected.
But, alone, they do not suffice; since they are not wont to pluck up completely the roots of vices and defects.
It is necessary, then, to use besides another means, whereby thou mayst, so to speak, exterminate the noxious roots, and thus render thy heart perfectly clean.
These sweet and wholesome effects are produced, in a marvelous manner, by self-examination, an exercise apparently trifling indeed, and a small matter but in itself very efficient, and more deeply penetrating than any two-edged instrument,-----reaching even to the dividing of the soul and the discerning of spirits, and searching into thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Nor does it serve merely to root out evil habits and defects; but, what is more wonderful, to acquire solid virtues, and even to attain to perfection.
2. This self-examination is threefold. The first, which is used to collect one's self, consists in this, that, when an opportunity offers, thou turn to thy heart, and inspect it for a short time, observing whence it is moved, with what things it busies itself; or what it has done, and in what manner; what it should do in future, and how.
Opportunities of performing a very short self-examination of this sort, are wont to present themselves frequently. When, for example, thou beginnest any of the more important actions of the day; and when thou hast performed them.
When something is presented to thy senses, or to thy mind, by which thou mayst be allured, or tempted; also, when thou hast fallen into some defect. When thou meetest with any difficulty which may occasion trouble, or disturb thee: lastly, as often as, during some length of time, thou hast not looked into thy heart.
Now, this can easily be done, at any time, and in any place, even whilst others are present, and without attracting their attention.
In the exercise itself, there is no difficulty whatever. At first, indeed, some attention should be used, but no straining of the mind; and, in a short time, thou shalt begin to acquire a holy and consoling habit, and gather from it the sweetest and most wholesome fruits.
3. The second is a general examination, by which, twice, or at least once, every day, thou devotest a short time, some minutes, exclusively to asking of thyself an account of thy way of living.
Having briefly returned thanks to God, and begged for Divine light, inspect and scrutinize, how, since thou didst last examine thyself, thou hast deported thyself, in thy exterior and interior.
Examine thy thoughts, words, and deeds: see wherein thou hast sinned, or failed: then, carefully mark each sin, or defect, at least mentally.
If thou hast already practically learnt something of the interior life, place thy heart near to Mine, compare, and notice the difference between the thoughts, sensations, and actions of both.
After thou hast, in this manner, discovered thy faults and failings, then see and acknowledge thy unthankfulness for My Divine favors; form an act of sorrow, as perfect as possible, beg for grace to amend thyself, and to make better progress.
4. Lastly, the particular examination is that, by means of which thou exertest thyself, to root out, separately, only one vice or defect at a time.
Most wonderful is the power, and incredible the efficacy, of this exercise. Would that thou didst understand it well, My Child, and that thou didst perform it in a proper manner!
There is no habit so deep-rooted, no vice so great, which, by this means, cannot be overcome and subdued.
For, with God's grace, it can, in some manner, do all things. How many sinners have, by its means, been freed from vices, which had grown on them like a second nature! How many souls has it enabled to cleanse themselves thoroughly! How many has it helped to reach perfection!
Whatever defects, then, thou mayst have, he of good cheer, My Child: sure art thou of victory: sure of future freedom, if thou use this means diligently and perseveringly.
Attack, first, that vice or defect which may be a stumbling-block, or a just cause of offense, to thy neighbor; afterwards, the one which seems to be thy chief fault. When the leader is overthrown, the rest are easily overcome.
5. Now, thy method of proceeding shall be this: In the morning, resolve firmly and considerately, that, during the day, thou wilt shun what thou mayst have chosen to he avoided in a particular manner; at the same time, beg for grace, that thou mayst be faithful to thy resolution.
Then, twice, or only once a day, according as thou makest the general self-examination, thou shalt also search thyself and see how often, since the last scrutiny, thou hast failed in thy special resolve; and mark the number of times.
Afterwards, grieve not only for thy faults in general, but also for these defects in particular: and resolve again to be specially on thy guard against them, and for this end implore also special grace.
Meanwhile, My Child, it will help thee very much, if, when thou perceivest thyself growing, in some way, indifferent or careless, thou inflict upon thyself some small punishment; and this as often as thou offendest against thy particular examination.
6. But that thou mayst use rightly and constantly these and other means, thou needest a guide to direct, to teach, to fashion thee; to keep thee in. or stir thee up, and cheer thee on at all times.
No one, when left to himself, can walk with safety in the path of the spiritual and interior life; for, oftentimes, he will be exposed to the danger of going astray, of losing heart, of falling into the snares of the foe; nay more, of perishing.
Wert thou a Saint, or a chosen Apostle, thou yet wouldst need some guide. Was not Paul, although a Vessel of election to carry My name among the nations, at My command, instructed and directed by Ananias? Were not the Saints trained to holiness, by others that led a holy life?
Pray, therefore, My Child, that thou mayst be worthy to find a guide according to My Heart, either in thy Confessor, thy Superior, or some other person, who possesses authority, skill and experience in spiritual matters, and a practical knowledge of the interior life.
To such a one, My Child, do thou occasionally make known thy heart: at certain times give some account of thyself, that thou mayst know whether thou advancest rightly; what thou must correct, and how it is to be done; on what thou oughtest to insist, and in what manner it is to be accomplished.
The subjects, concerning which this interior manifestation should be made, are usually: the disclosing of the soul's state or habitual feeling, whether it be peaceful or agitated; what longings for a more perfect life thou feelest within thyself; what obstacles embarrass thee; to what practices of devotion and mortification thou art wont to apply thyself.
What method thou hast in prayer and meditation; with what relish and fruit thou advancest by this method; what spiritual books thou readest, and whether they agree with the present degree of thy interior life: whether thou readest in a manner proper and profitable.
In what manner thou approachest the Sacraments; with what preparation, with what feelings of piety, with what thanksgiving, with what results.
How thou makest thy self-examinations; with what painstaking, and with what fruit.
How thou performest the duties of thy state of life, the obligations of thy office, thy ordinary actions,-----by what motive or principle, whether of nature or of grace, with what object,-----what end thou hast in view.
In what manner thou deportest thyself towards others, with what disposition of heart, with what profit or loss to thyself and to them.
With what fidelity thou obeyest God's inspirations; how thou feelest disposed towards Me; finally, in what degree thou relishest the sentiments of My Heart.
Do thou, My Child, modestly and religiously, with humble candor and docile charity, make known such and similar matters, sometimes one, then another, according as spiritual necessity or usefulness may require.
All this, if thou perform it after this manner, thou shalt find easy, most useful, and full of consolation.*
7. The voice of the Disciple.-----Lord Jesus, to execute all those things, greatly, indeed, do I need light from above,-----wherewith to discover my defects,-----and Divine assistance, to remove them.
For many of them lie hidden from human eyes nor can I see them myself, neither can anyone point them out to me, unless aided by a supernatural light.
But if, with the brightness of this light, Thou deignest to illumine my inmost soul, behold! all things therein, great and small, shall be unveiled. For even as the sun shining into a chamber reveals the very atoms that fill its every space, so Thy grace gleaming on my heart, shall bring to view numberless defects, the existence of which I did nowise suspect.
But what shall it avail me to know my defects, if I cannot uproot them? Thy help, therefore, is also necessary to me, who, without it, can effect nothing conducive to salvation.
Lord Jesus, by Thy most Sacred Heart, I beg and beseech Thee, grant me uninterruptedly the plentifulness of this two-fold grace, that thereby I may be enlightened and assisted.
Without this grace, no assiduity of mine, no care of a director, however much he may toil, whatever zeal he may exercise, can aught avail.
Thou, therefore, O Jesus, the eternal Wisdom, the infinite Goodness, Thou art the supreme Director: do Thou, I pray, guide me, through him whom Thou mayst will to hold Thy place, and with whom I am willing to act in all things as with Thyself.
* Purity of heart, being of the greatest importance, it is thought proper to bring together, in this place, the means to attain it, although they have been given separately. The first is a settled and constant determination of always trying to improve. The second, stated and repeated mental and vocal prayer. The third, the pious and frequent use of the Sacraments. The fourth, the faithful practice of the three-fold self-examination, especially of the particular examination. The fifth, the candid disclosing of our interior life; and, on the other hand, a holy guidance. Whoever makes a right use of these means, will doubtless attain to as great a purity of heart, as the Lord is ordinarily wont to require. But if He require something extraordinary, He Himself will provide the means; for no one is able to make provision under such circumstances. Yet, as things are wont to be preserved by the same means that produced them, you shall preserve interior purity, by the same means that have been pointed out to attain it. These then are, "the five loaves of the show-bread, which must be ever new and fresh before the Lord." Wherefore, these means are always to be used with the same care. And, lest you grow lukewarm by degrees, either through frailty or carelessness. examine yourself from time to time, and make known how you use them; and if you have in any wise fallen off, do as quickly as possible to strive to regain your former fervor. As long as you shall employ these means, even with ordinary diligence, you shall have within yourself the consoling sign, that you are on the right road, which leads to perfection.
CHAPTER XVI. THAT HE WHO DESIRES TO FOLLOW THE HEART OF JESUS, MUST ALSO
WITHDRAW HIS HEART FROM THE WORLD
1. The voice of Jesus.-----Woe to the world, My Child: woe to the heart that clings to its allurements and its vanities!
It is not enough to cast Satan out of thy heart, thou must also expel the world. If thou inwardly cherish the world, whatever else thou mayst do wholly to amend thyself, shall avail thee little.
For the world will continue to infect thy heart, will doubtless pervert, and finally betray thee into the power of the demon.
2. What is the world, except an inordinate or perverse love of pleasure, riches, honors; whereby its votaries are themselves corrupted and corrupt others?
If thou desirest to know what thou oughtest to think of the world, consider what I Myself have judged of it.
Behold! I passed through life doing good to all; I loved the enemies that persecuted Me; when fastened to the Cross, I prayed for those that crucified me; but for the world I prayed not.
The world is of the devil, is wholly placed in wickedness, and cannot possess My Spirit: even as falsehood cannot be truth, as corruption cannot be purity.
3. The world is itself a proof, not only of the undeniable existence-----but even of the necessity of a Hell.
What can there be in common between the world and My Heart, since the world, either openly or secretly, favors every vice; whilst My Heart breathes naught, except what is holy?
The world in league with Satan, its prince, seeks for souls to destroy them forever; My Heart longs to save them all.
Thou canst, therefore, not serve the world and Me: for, if thou art the friend of the world, thou becomest the enemy of My Heart.
4. If thou art a votary of the world, thou wilt perish with the world: but if thou followest My Heart, thou wilt go into life everlasting.
If thou drivest the world, and the maxims of the world, from thy heart, so as to offer it wholly to Me, the offering will be pleasing and honorable to Me, and full of glory and merit to thyself. The Angels and the Saints will applaud the deed, and the world itself shall be compelled to admire the lofty heroism of thy mind.
Blessed is he, My Child, who withdraws his affections from the things of the world, and consecrates them to Me alone!
5. What findest thou in the world, on account of which thou wouldst love it? Behold! all that is in the world, is the desire of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And the end of all these is death and Hell.
If, then, thou lovest the world, or the things which are of the world, thou takest into thy embrace everlasting perdition.
What good has the world done to thee, that thou wouldst devote thy affections to it? It has done, and never will do thee aught but evil. How, then, canst thou give thy heart to it?
Trust not, My Child, to the smiles and blandishments of the world; they show only a covert desire to deceive and destroy thee.
But hearken to the invitings of My Heart, that longs to save thee from the everlasting misfortunes, which the world is preparing for thee.
6. If thou dost not forsake the world, the world will forsake thee, when thou art spent and worn out in its service; yea, it will laugh and mock at thy destruction; and, when thou standest most in need of help, thou shalt be alone and powerless.
Think frequently, which of the two, when thou art about to go into eternity, thou shalt rather wish to have followed, the world or Me.
Do freely, therefore, and meritoriously now, what without merit, thou shalt be forced to do then.
Apply thyself to draw thy heart from the love of earthly things; and, by a complete disengagement from it, to triumph over the world.
Have confidence, My Child, I have overcome the world: if thou art willing. thou also canst vanquish it. So soon as thou shalt have conquered, I will give thee a most delightful place in My Heart.
5. The voice of the Disciple.-----O Lord, how foolishly have I acted! how wickedly have I lived! A willing dupe, I have been misled by the false appearances of pleasure, of riches, of honor; I have forsaken Thee, to make myself a slave of the world, Thy enemy.
I have left the fountain of every good, to go down to the pestilential pool of the world. There made I myself drunk with poisonous draughts; I grew senseless, and, in my madness, I cast aside everything.
I became forgetful of Thee, my God and my all; I gave myself wholly to the world; and in its service, I unhallowed Thy gifts, my external senses, and the inward powers of my soul.
Alas! I became exceedingly guilty: my soul was filled with iniquity: I drew myself nigh to Hell.
Thy wrath came upon me, and Thy terrors troubled me, so that night and day I was wretched.
8. Alas! good Jesus! even after-----seized with a great dread of Thy judgment and fear of Hell-----I had resolved to lead a good life, into what fatal illusion did I fall! how banefully did I go astray!
I divided my heart between Thee and the world: I wished, at one and the same time, to serve Thee and the world.
O! how great an insult did I offer to Thee, when I placed Thee on an equality with the world! I pleased neither the world nor Thee: and, meanwhile, I was most wretched, because, not being satisfied with the world, nor with Thee, I found true happiness in neither.
But now that Thou didst open my eyes, and move my heart, behold! O Lord Jesus, I will serve Thee alone: I give my whole heart to Thee forever.
Take out of my heart, I beseech Thee, all affection for the world: change for me all its apparent sweets into real bitterness.
So fill me with the delight of Thy love, that the world, with all its vanities, become tasteless to me.