Tuesday, October 12, 2021

"Walk in My presence and Be Perfect": Reverring the Holiness of God

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Once again we turn to Mother Mectilde de Bar to sharpen the focus we must have in understanding the nature of our relationship with Christ and how it must shape our lives. She speaks of the infinitely adorable holiness of God and that nothing is holy except by participation in His divine holiness. It is by drawing close God in His holiness that a marvelous purity is brought about in the soul. Mectilde is clear that we must love the holiness of God and to do so we must love Him purely for Himself, without any interest and without any regard for oneself.  Like the angels we must be consumed in God, celebrating His holiness and with our very being cry out "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus!"  We must hide ourselves in His hiddenness and adore Him in His mystery.  This means that we must not want God to lower Himself simply to please us in our senses but rather we must learn to experience God as He is in Himself.  She writes: "You must labor to empty yourself of yourself as much as you can, and walk in the presence of God. This point alone, faithfully practiced, is capable of making you live in the holiness which is God Himself. There is nothing so powerful for the right ordering of a soul as the continual presence of God; it vivifies, it purifies, and it sanctifies." Such must our willingness be not to presume to fathom the divine ineffability.  We must simply believe the words God spoke to Abraham as applying to us: "Walk in my presence and be perfect."

Tu Autem in Sancto Habitas, Laus Israel. This morning upon waking, I found myself saying these holy words of the prophet: “O Lord, You dwell in holiness and all creatures praise You.” If Providence had given me time this morning, I would have talked with you about what is going on in my soul with regard to the feast we are celebrating today, and my desire was to apply you to the holiness of Jesus Christ. 


Would to God that you are able to understand what I wish to be able to say about that infinitely adorable holiness! Revere what you cannot understand and know that today’s feast is the feast of Jesus’s holiness, which produces effects in all the saints. These are the words of the Church from the holy Mass, “You alone are holy.” Yes, in truth, God alone is holy and nothing is holy except by participation in His divine holiness.


Therefore, at your Communion today, adore the emanations of the divine sanctity in all the saints and say often with the Church, Tu solus sanctus, “You alone are holy.” O my God, I rejoice in Your divine sanctity, I rejoice that all the saints are the effects of it. Expose yourself to the divine sanctity so as to have some share in it, but remember that it causes a marvelous purity in souls, for in order to be holy it is necessary to bring about the destruction of all the impurities which are in us. 


Our Lord causes you to have in your present condition some effects of His divine holiness, but you do not know them. Know, then, that He dwells in His holiness. God is in you, withdrawn into Himself. He dwells in His holiness; adore Him in it and think about your miseries as little as you can. 


Holiness is the most austere, rigorous, and abstract of all the divine perfections. Moreover, there is nothing in God which is so much His, and which is so remote from what is not God, as His holiness. To love His holiness is to love Him very purely for Himself, without any interest and without any regard to oneself. The smallest perfections in God – if we can speak of something more or less great in Him – are those which have to do with us, such as mercy, since this has nothing to do with Himself. Moses, who was a mortal man, and viewed God in connection with creatures, magnified God’s mercy and cried, “Misericors, Clemens, patiens et multa misericordiae.” But the seraphim, who are pure spirits, detached and completely consumed in God, celebrate His holiness and sing, “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus.” And it is the superiority of the New Law established through Jesus, to consider God, not according to our interests, but according to those of His greatness and glory. It is our obligation to honor and extol His sanctity along with the seraphim; to love Him not only as good and merciful towards us, but also as holy and for Himself. 


In His agony Jesus properly bore God’s justice, but in the forsakenness of the cross, He bore God’s holiness. That is why for the sake of expressing the harshness of His forsakenness and the depths to which the divine holiness reduced Him, after saying, “My God, My God, why have Your forsaken Me, I cry night and day and You do not hear me,” He adds, “Tu autem in sancto habitas, laus Israel.” As for you, You will dwell and abide in Your holiness: that is, God, with respect to His Son on the cross, withdrew Himself into the highest solitude and most distant retreat of His holiness, and left Him entirely forsaken in His sufferings. 


God is so holy, so incomprehensible, and so mysterious that we can truly say that He is a hidden God, “Deus absconditus.” He is so deeply hidden that He is above everything our minds can think. He is a God hidden from our senses, He is a God hidden from our understanding, in short, He is the Deus absconditus in an infinite number of ways. And if we adore Him hidden under the sacramental species, how much more must we adore Him in the mystery of Himself, or rather, in His incomprehensibility and hidden in His divine sanctity. 


Oh! If you understood the dignity and excellence of a hidden God, you would take a singular delight in the retreat that God makes in Himself within you. But what prevents you from living in this truth, which is nevertheless a dogma of faith, is that when He does not pour out the sweetness and consolations of His graces into your soul, you suppose that God has withdrawn from you. Oh! How great is our blindness and how terrible is our presumption! Why do you want God to lower Himself so far as to please your senses? You must learn to find God in Himself and to take your satisfaction in the delight He finds dwelling in His holiness.


All the retreats God makes into Himself are holy and adorable and you must love and unite yourself to them. When you find in your soul that God makes Himself inaccessible, you must remain hidden in your nothingness, hiding yourself in such a way that the divine Majesty will cast His holy gaze on you and take delight in seeing you reduced to nothing in homage to His retreat in Himself within you.


It is presumption for the soul to want to understand something about God; it is not for us (poor little wretches that we are) to fathom the divine ineffability. We must do as the seraphim do: veil our faces, and cry out with profound reverence and love, Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus! Oh, how holy God is, how great God is, how immense God is, how powerful God is! Oh, how inaccessible and incomprehensible God is! I have a very great and profound joy in my soul to see that God can be comprehended only by Himself. We must be overwhelmed and lost in Him, not scrutinize His divine qualities. And it seems to me that we know God in a way that is much more pure when we know nothing at all through our intelligence but solely by the light of faith.


Our manner of thinking about God demeans His grandeurs, but the practice of pure faith raises us to Him and causes us to find Him in our soul’s center, where He makes His abode, which makes us to say with Jacob, “Truly God is in this place and I knew it not.” Yes, God lives in us, “et habitavit in nobis,” and you do not know it. He rests in Himself in the highest point of your soul, where He has established His dwelling, as He did in the past on the holy [mountain] Zion.


In that place He rests as on a throne of peace, as David says, “Et factus est in pace locus eius. Oh, how blessed is the soul that is led into this region of peace and is not disturbed by the impurity and din of creatures and its senses! In this profound solitude, the soul understand the marvelous lesson: “Be holy, for I am holy.” God desires you to be holy; it is by His divine mouth that He commands it. O holy and divine mandate! Since God orders you to be holy, it is a dogma of faith that He will give you the graces for it.


But what must we do, according to our small capability? 


You must labor to empty yourself of yourself as much as you can, and walk in the presence of God. This point alone, faithfully practiced, is capable of making you live in the holiness which is God Himself. There is nothing so powerful for the right ordering of a soul as the continual presence of God; it vivifies, it purifies, and it sanctifies. That is why God says to Abraham, “Ambula coram me, esto perfectus.” Walk in My presence and be perfect. Believe that God is saying these same words to you; receive them out of obedience as from His divine mouth, and open your heart to be filled with the virtue of faith, so that by the pure use of it you may persevere in it. 


I wish you in faith the highest of all blessings and the grace of perseverance, or rather, being consumed in the love of Jesus. 

Mother Mectilde de Bar

Breviary of Fire

Thursday, August 19, 2021

To Love Silence

Mother Mectilde on Silence, Its Importance for the Spiritual Life and How to Foster It

My Daughter, I wanted to write to you today, but Our Lord did not second my little desire and His Providence has made it sufficiently clear to me that it consents to the privation, in which you and I must take pleasure as well. 


You say that yesterday I gave you some great lessons, especially on silence. It seems to me that you understood little, and this is what made me determined to write to you more fully when Providence grants me the leisure for it. 


O my child, it is a great secret for making much progress in prayer to know well how to keep silence in Our Lord’s presence. It is through silence that we are reduced to nothing before that adorable Majesty and it is in profound silence that in a wonderful manner He makes Himself heard. I pray His Holy Spirit to make you understand it, or rather, that you be immersed in it without knowing it, so that your self-love does not pollute the grace. 


Yes, I deem it good that you work at silence according to your present ability; meanwhile, I am making you repeat your lesson and writing you more about it. I hope that Providence will give me the grace and the time. Therefore, let us begin to work profitably, as you say. Let us only dwell on eternal things. What are the grounds for loving what perishes? Let us withdraw and subsist only on things that are truly solid. I desire that your nourishment be God Himself, and that everything else be pleasing to you only for Him and through Him. Taste the divine sweetness, be filled with God, and you will see that everything else is tasteless. 


You say that it is to make me do penance that God gave you to me. Oh! How sweet and pleasing that penance will be for me if it grants me the privilege of giving you to Him and if it gives me the consolation of seeing you faithful. Yes, I say it before God and His angels, that your soul is more precious to me than your understanding can comprehend. It is infinitely more dear to me than a hundred million lives; and because it is more intimate and dear to me than all I am saying to you, think what joy I would receive to see it completely united with Jesus Christ, and how greatly I would like to obtain graces and blessings for it if I could. But alas! I have only good desires: you know my extreme helplessness. My child, I assure you that physical presence does not unite us more. Heart and mind are indissolubly joined through Jesus Christ. Neither life, nor death, nor the sword, nor hell, nor persecutions, nor height, nor depth, nor angels, nor any other creature will separate us from the charity and union we have in Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ. 


You say that it is not enough to be near my heart; you desire to enter into it, in order to be sacrificed there and made a victim with me. O my child, how impure is the altar of my heart! I welcome you there, despite my unworthiness, since our miseries serve as a throne for Jesus Christ’s mercy. I want to hope that His goodness will receive our sacrifice and that He will consume it one day by the sacred fire of His pure love. These are the desires of two hearts which are made one in Jesus Christ. 




Since your life must not be anything but a continuation of Jesus’s life, you must learn to keep silence, and to speak, and to act, like Jesus. This is a lesson we often reiterated to you, but since you do not tire of hearing the things necessary for your perfection, I will begin to tell you about the silence of the mind and the tongue. 


It is not without reason, my daughter, that we have so frequently exhorted you to silence, to speak little and to weigh carefully what you should say; because, according to Scripture, “in much talking you will not avoid sin.” And St. James says that “the man who does not sin in speaking is perfect.” We have almost infinite examples of the tongue’s bad effects; but I will not stop to tell you about them. Suffice it to say that you yourself have enough, if not too much, experience; and there are few souls who do not become sinful by much talking. 


I know and I can say with sorrow and regret that I have sinned countless times through the tongue; and seeing myself so unfortunate as to offend God every hour by speech, I asked God for many years for the favor of being mute, since my weakness was so appalling and the evil of my ground so dreadful that I cannot be protected from its vile effects. But I was unworthy to have my desire fulfilled. I am forced to bear this extreme misery in myself, and a great many others, which my pride deserves to experience. 


But since necessity urges us to speak sometimes, it is necessary to speak like Jesus Christ and be silent like Jesus Christ. You know that He kept a profound silence for thirty years. St. Joseph spoke little and the holy Virgin still less. Here is a wonderful example of silence, which must move you, and confound your self-sufficiency, and the pride which causes you to speak and act. Can you speak in a way better than Jesus Christ and say things more holy and more righteous? And yet the Gospel says, “Jesus was silent.” He kept silence in order to earn for you the grace to observe it on such occasions. Therefore, you must learn to be silent. Also it is for the Master to speak and the disciple to listen. You are a school girl, my daughter, and a student of Jesus Christ: therefore, listen to your divine Teacher. 


I told you that there are two kinds of silence, one belonging to the mind, and the other to speech. The one belonging to speech must be observed exactly in two or three ways: 


1.     Never speak needlessly.

2.     Speak with a moderate voice.

3.     Speak with prudence and presence of mind; that is, without busyness or rashness.


One often falls into a fault, but a very important one, for not having sufficiently weighed one’s words. We must ponder what we ought to say in the presence of God, especially the most important things, and be attentive to God in order to speak according to His mind and for His glory. 


If words that are merely vain will be punished so strictly, how much more rigorously will those words be punished which have more malignity and are more voluntary? There are many motives for you to keep silence; but the most pressing and the one which must move you the most is that it will purify your soul and render it more fit for God’s presence. It will give you more facility with inner recollection and dispose you to receive God’s gifts. If an idle word pollutes your soul, how many sins will you avoid through silence! 


Love silence. Listen much and speak little. Before you engage in lengthy conversation, and about something important, raise your mind to God, begging Him to speak through you and to preserve you from offending Him through speech. It is difficult to speak much without sinning! Weigh well this truth taken from Holy Scripture and put it into practice. Speak without scruple about necessary things and about your obligations, and in those encounters where charity requires your speech; but speak as little as you can about superfluous things. 


Try to make all your words honor God, as the words of Jesus Christ honored His divine Father. Always have the desire to manifest Jesus Christ through them, to make Him known, to make Him loved by the souls with whom you are required to converse and communicate. Beware, in a multitude of words, of injuring your neighbor. This is a very delicate matter and we fall into it unawares, even often, through laxity. Never speak of the faults of others; and in company, when someone says something like this, prudently watch over your silence or, if you can, skillfully turn the conversation away, so as to avoid the sins which we may easily commit on such occasions. 


Never argue with anyone when it is just about your own interest. Yield on everything that is possible for you, without trespassing on prudence and the authority you must keep to govern your domestic servants. And this, not as a severe mistress, but as a Christian, filled with the charity of Jesus Christ, who, being the master and lord of all, became the least and the servant of all. Mix oil with wine, like the Good Samaritan in the Gospel. Be both grave and affable; but above all, always see your strength, your grace, and your ability in Jesus Christ. 


In conversations, speak about yourself as little as possible. It is impossible to speak much of oneself without putting oneself forward, without being polluted with many other infidelities. Self-satisfactions, vanity, and our sense of superiority play their cards well in the proliferation of discourse. 


Pay attention to God, and you will see that what I am telling you is important and very true. Never have such an unfortunate obligingness that you displease God in order to please the creature. When you recognize that God desires some fidelity from you, be immovable with regard to everything that can distract you from it. Let God always be first in your thoughts, your words, and your intentions; let Him always be God most powerful and reigning in you. Prefer nothing to His love. 


My dear daughter, I am admonishing you most insistently on these matters. Perhaps these will be the last instructions I give you? I pray Our Lord to inscribe them on your heart for His glory. I am most unworthy to express His will to you, but I must do what He commands me in simplicity, waiting until He gives you an interpreter more capable of making you understand and of expressing His intentions. 


Oh! How many things I would have to say to you in view of your remoteness, not only about silence, but about many other very important points. I hope always that Our Lord will be your Teacher and the He Himself will reveal to you His good pleasure. But in order to be prepared to receive such a grace, you must enter into inner silence and begin to be more present to Him and more attentive to the movements of His grace. In order to reach this you must put yourself in a condition more worthy to receive your adorable Master’s divine teaching, dismissing everything useless in your mind; the thoughts and unnecessary conversations and even the follies of your mind. You must renounce the complacency of your thoughts and learn to be silent, since you are before your Master, your Judge, and your King.


Silence, love, and respect are needed, and without these three points, you will learn nothing in this sacred school. Silence disposes you to listen. Love makes you embrace the instructions which God’s Spirit gives you. And respect keeps you in a profound reverence for the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Consequently, be attentive to God who is present, with love and respect. Never forget these three points, which must never be separated from each other. For if you are attentive without love and respect, Jesus Christ’s words will not have the results they must have in you. If you are without love, your action is without life or soul. Thus, love and respect are bound inseparable to attention. This is the reason  I have so often recommended loving attention to God who is present. Remember God with love and respect. 


Therefore, be silent in your mind in order to hear God’s voice, who speaks to the soul in various ways: sometimes by distinct words, at other times by touches in the heart’s depth; sometimes by delicate invitations which He makes felt in the apex of the soul, other times through His divine inspirations; sometimes by some words or actions, even outward, which we see or hear from others. God has voices everywhere: in the flames, in the waters, a voice in virtue, a voice in splendor, and so on, according to what David teaches us. And the great secret of the interior life is to listen well to these voices and to yield oneself to what they teach us. It is also necessary to listen to His voice in afflictions, in insults, in contradictions, in sorrows, in disturbances. “Vox, Vox, Vox.” Voices, voices, voices everywhere, in heaven and on earth. An attentive soul listens only to the voices which invite it to love, adore, and glorify the One who is. All these voices are calling you to see and to know God in all things, to make you worship His holy hand which applies to you the cross, the nails, and the thorns, which tells you to suffer for pure love, which invites you to humble and reduce yourself to nothing beneath all creatures, which exhorts you to fidelity on all occasions. 


My daughter, listen to this divine voice, and let us beware of hardening our hearts, as Scripture says. Be yielding to His loving warnings. Leave everything to follow Him. 


Possible you will ask me, “What is the inner silence of the mind and how can we observe it?” Silence of the mind consists in keeping the three powers of the soul silent. There are two ways of being silent: the first is to reduce to nothing all the operations of the powers, doing everything we can on our part, aided by grace, to place our whole selves in an emptiness. And this way is called active aneantissement because of the work the soul performs to arrive at it: 


First, it silences the memory, according to its ability, by not accepting all the objects that it presents to the understanding. It ignores them as much as it can in order to empty this faculty and hinder its productions which distract the soul from the simple remembrance of God by faith, which is more precious to the soul and more glorious to God than all the imaginings the mind can produce. Thus, the memory keeps silence because we do not permit it remembrance or being voluntarily occupied with anything created. 


The understanding is likewise in silence when we do not welcome its images or its reasonings. We must ignore all it produces in order to become attentive to God in pure faith, without clothing Him in our imaginings. You must abolish its natural curiosity and be satisfied with God alone, who will indeed know how to illumine you when it will please Him. 


Your will is in silence when it has no desire, no inclination toward created things, when nothing on earth any longer engages it – not even concerns about its perfection. It is entirely in God and leaves itself entirely to Him.


In your prayer right now, your memory must simply recall God; your understanding must believe in Him, that is, it must be raised toward God in faith; and your will must be pure and simple love, allowing yourself to be gently pulled by the powerful attraction of Our Lord’s grace, which will draw you in the way that pleases Him, more or less according to your soul’s purity and fidelity or according to the good pleasure of the divine Master, who sometimes purifies souls for a long time in conditions of pain, darkness, and privation, in order to prepare them to receive high graces and mercies which He wants to communicate to them. My child, you must be very faithful in all the different dispositions to which Providence will bring you.


If, in your prayer, your memory presents things to you which only serve to distract you and wipe out the simple and loving remembrance of God, you must disregard them and pay them no attention. I say the same with regard to your understanding, which sometimes wishes to bring in its own natural activities. Ignore all this exuberance and impertinence, raising yourself gently toward God above all those things; and if the din and uproar is so great that you cannot eradicate it yourself, then remain peaceful by surrendering yourself to the divine permission which desires to crucify you through these things. This aneantissement is called aneantissement of the will, which is the most excellent of all; for once the will, as the lady and mistress, is reduced to nothing, the other faculties do not have much power. Now, you cannot always reduce to nothing the operations of your memory or your mind; but as for the will, you can reduce it to nothing; for on account of your freedom, you only have to will this. When you say, “I do not want this or that,” the will is made to obey. Now, your will is reduced to nothing by your inclination to leave yourself entirely to God, abandoning without reservation to His good pleasure, not wanting to choose anything in heaven or on earth except His divine will.  

Mother Mectilde of the Blessed Sacrament

The "Breviary of Fire"

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Constancy in One’s Path

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Once again we return to Mother Mectilde de Bar and the recent publication in English of her correspondence offering spiritual counsel to Marie de la Guesle—the Countess of Châteauvieux. These letters offer us, three centuries after they were written, guidance that is rare in our day both in its psychological insight and practical mysticism. To the modern mind the counsel offered here is sorely needed but deeply resisted.  The following letters describe the constancy of mind and heart we are to have in the embrace of God's will and the desire to give Him glory.  Such a path, regardless of one's station in life, requires the setting aside of one's ego and a willingness to allow oneself to be guided by God in order to please Him over and above ourselves and others.  So often we can treat virtue and the works of virtue as a commodity; something that we choose in accord with our sensibilities and desires.  We may spend years along a particular path and engaging in acts of piety not having died to self or become more perfect because we failed to discern the will of God and the direction of His Spirit.  God guides us along paths in accord with His wisdom and for our sanctification.  Such guidance may completely elude us or we may consciously or unconsciously seek to elude it when it requires being reduced to nothing and the humble obedience of the Son.  How many of us seek to give ourselves to God in the manner in which He calls us? Mother Mectilde tells the Countess and all of us: "Faith teaches you that the greatest and most noble glory you can give Him is to be perfectly submissive to His good pleasure, to be the prisoner of His love, to be without choice, without life, and without any will; because when you are of this kind He is glorified in you perfectly."  Perhaps most of us would shrink from viewing our life and relationship with God so soberly. For to allow the divine will to operate so powerfully in us that it is omnipotent in our souls is crucifying to the self.  There is always some secret satisfaction that creeps in to lead us away from the path that is salutary. "Simplify your mind in all things, especially with regard to what you have neither order nor obligation to examine or know; in this way your soul will remain free and detached."  Can we have such confidence in God, such a deep trust in His love, that we so detach ourselves looking to others or ourselves and abandon ourselves to the divine Teacher alone to guide and instruct us? Do we fear losing ourselves and given as prey to the spirit and grace of Jesus - to fall in to the hands of the Living God?  Mectilde responds with sharp clarity: "You have nothing which has not cost His Blood, but He desires that you labor with Him to reduce yourself to nothing, to submit yourself, and to give yourself to His cause; you owe this to Him through a thousand kind of rights and obligations." 


The Path of Anéantissement is the one which gives the most glory to god

My dearest daughter, I do not know if Our Lord will agree to give me the grace to say a few words to you about the constancy you must have in your path, without your being either occupied with or full of pride regarding the path of others. Daniel was told to remain in his degree in order to show you that each soul must remain in its own path and stay within its degree, without wanting to enter into those that appear to us fine and pleasing in other people. 

It is a great fault in the interior life and particularly in the way of anéantissement to enter by affection or desire into an arrangement to which God does not call you, to want to do good works in which God does not imply you. And under the pretext that you see the external acts of piety to be good and holy, your pride wants to include everything, without discerning if God desires this of you or not. Most often, with this way of acting, you do good deeds through the choice and inclination of your mind, without the order or prompting of grace, and thus it happens that after very long practice of these works of piety, you are not any more dead to self or more perfect. Therefore, it is necessary to do them through the direction of God’s spirit. 

Second, you must beware of being occupied with all the good things you see done; because what God asks of one souls He does not ask of all. Some He appoints to charity and the service of their neighbor; others, to the consolation of the afflicted; others to humility; others to poverty; others to penance and austerity, and so on. It does not follow that all should do the same thing. Sometimes there is a similarity in the exterior works but a very great difference in the ground of the soul, because of the difference of the [spiritual] paths. In this what appears, in an entirely marvelous manner, is the power and wisdom of God who has given to each one according to His good pleasure, for the sanctification of His chosen ones, without any of the paths being alike. 

O, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God, who will be able to understand the sublimity and sanctity of Your ways? Within the variety of paths from God, we find those who are dedicated to honoring the hidden and reduced-to-nothing life of Jesus Christ; and these, having a powerful attraction which draws them away from all that has renown, retreat into the abyss of their nothingness, in order to have no life among creatures. It seems to me, according to the insight it pleased Our Lord to give me about your soul, that you are among the number of these and that you owe it an inviolable fidelity. 

Now it is not a small grace to know your path: for, knowing it, you can no longer go wrong except through an infidelity which can never be excused. You must give yourself to God in the manner in which He calls you. Therefore, if in your path you owe Him honor through the imitation of the hidden and reduced-to-nothing life of God’s Son, you must lead a life withdrawn from creatures, a life of silence, of humble obedience, in short, a life of death, a life which no longer looks like your life, but a life hidden in Jesus Christ, as the Apostle teaches you. 

You must take delight in the path in which God placed you. It is not you who chose it, but eternal Wisdom chose it for you and requires you to give yourself to it without being anxious that you are doing nothing great or excellent for the glory of Our Lord. Faith teaches you that the greatest and most noble glory you can give Him is to be perfectly submissive to His good pleasure, to be the prisoner of His love, to be without choice, without life, and without any will; because when you are of this kind He is glorified in you perfectly. In that state, you glorify Him more perfectly than if you were to build a thousand hospitals and if you were to do many other good works from which your self-love took life on account of your good action. Whereas, in the path where God’s goodness leads you, everything tends toward nothingness and the destruction of yourself. Your way is guaranteed; do not doubt that Our Lord calls you by this route: you receive too much grace and understanding it is to doubt. I confess that this way is more crucifying than the other; but it is more certain because there is less of ourselves and it gives us to God in a purer way. 

Therefore, from now on be at peace when you see your neighbor who does the good works you do not do. Do not leave your path in order to enter into a foreign one and one that is not your own. And what must console you and give you peace is the union you have as a Christian with the Church. And as your form one body with all Christians who are members of Jesus Christ, all the good works that one Christian does, you share in and contribute to in a certain fashion; because you are united to that member as forming the same body. Through this sacred tie, you are charitable, humble, and patient along with your neighbor. You, in your path, should not want to do what they do. You must not say, “I would like this or that,” because the divine will must operate so powerfully in you that it is omnipotent in your soul, without allowing your self-love to wish [to do], or to be anxious about not doing, as much good as many others. If God does not want those works from you, then why do you want to do them? It is a vestige of the wickedness we received from Adam to always want to be and to do something that to us makes a show, in order to take a secret satisfaction in it. We cannot take hold of anéantissement; the thought of this tortures us and nevertheless it is our salvation. God desires you to be in this state; it is for you to desire another? Is not God’s will more holy than all the rest? What God has chosen for you, is it not more salutary for you than all the good and good works you could do? Oh, my daughter, would we be so presumptuous as to give laws to God? For myself, I confess to you that I have so much respect for His good pleasure that I would prefer to pick up straws from the ground, by His order, than to convert the whole universe by the ardor of my own will.

Let us love this divine good pleasure; let us take our delight in being attached to it. The blessed do not have any other happiness, and the satisfaction they have in the accomplishment of the divine will comprised their beatitude. You also see certain souls on earth who being completely dead to themselves, enjoy an anticipated happiness. For having lost their own will in the divine will, they are always completely content, seeing nothing on earth outside of God’s good pleasure. O my daughters when shall we be in that blessed death, which will give life to the good pleasure of God in us? It is indeed necessary to work toward the renunciation of ourselves. We must destroy our own satisfaction. 

I do not know if you truly understood what I want to tell you regarding the good actions which are done by others. I am telling you that just as your pray with all Christians because of the union [in the Mystical Body], you act with them too. All the first Christians had only one will, just as they had only one faith, one law, and one baptism, as you observe in the Acts of the Apostles; all Christians have only one will in Jesus Christ, and all have one desire to glorify Him. (At least, they could not have any other intention in their actions, or they would not act in a Christian way). Remaining, therefore, within the intention of your good mother, the Church, you honor God in all the good works which are done by her children, because, as I already told you, your form only one body. 

Here is the disposition your must have in your heart to share in these: first, consent to all the good works performed in the whole Church; second, be glad that God is glorified in many ways according to His good pleasure. And when you see a good work done, offer it to God by a simple elevation, rejoicing inwardly to see souls who do God’s work which you are not worthy to do. Do not regard your own path as better and more elevated than the paths of others. Be very reserved on this point; especially since you do not see each person’s degree of grace and it does not belong to you to judge of it. 

Remember that each souls has its way: the one that belongs to another is not yours. God gave to each one what is proper. If you were to enter into someone else’s path, you would perish in it; and if another entered yours, it would not bring about his salvation. Therefore, let all souls do what they do and if they go astray, you will not answer for it. Be faithful in yours, and beware of focusing on this one of that one. Remain detached from creatures. Do not condemn what you cannot understand. And especially since sometimes you will find souls whose ways and modes of acting are offensive to your feelings and even often to your reason, keep yourself from judging or blaming them. God does not give you any order or authority to condemn them; leave them to His judgement and do not be polluted by rash judgements. If there were souls under your direction, there would be something more to tell you; but since this is only in passing and in encounters with certain devout people, you must restrain your mind, which goes a little too fast on this subject. 

Be very circumspect, then, for fear the your might reject what God accepts and disapprove of what He approves. And although the path of death and true anéantissement may be the most genuine, the most holy, and the most secure in the Church, you must respect the grace of Jesus Christ in souls and the differences of each. For it is in the sight of Our Lord as it is in the sight of a king who has all his officers: his court is comprised of different persons where each has a different function, and the ones that the king intends to be continually in his chamber and enjoy his presence must not dawdle in the kitchen. Each one must fulfill his responsibility and his office; otherwise there would be nothing but confusion. 

Remain in your degree, and since the king, Jesus Christ, your all, does you the honor of keeping you in His holy presence and desires this fidelity from you, do not lower your arrow in order to be occupied with creatures, not even angels. When God keeps you busy with Himself, leave all creatures in God to be what God desires them to be. And you, my daughter, hide yourself in God Himself, in His divine essence which surrounds you; do not leave Him, if possible, at least voluntarily. Simplify your mind in all things, especially with regard to what you have neither order nor obligation to examine or know; in this way your soul will remain free and detached. 

Learn a truth which surprises you so often: this is when I tell you that N. is in the lowest and smallest path in the Church. Meanwhile, we are assured, and Holy Scripture teach edit by the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself, that the path of anéantissement is the holiest in the Church. And God’s servants say that it is the most elevated, most pure, and most sanctifying. As or me, by God’s mercy, I see it in its excellence, according to my ability; but with all its holiness, I find it disparaged beneath all the paths in a certain way. 

1. It is without renown.

2. It is almost unknown, and few persons make it their true state. 

3. A soul who follows this path understands herself to be so small and so much lower than everything that she cannot see in herself anything but nothingness. 

4. She does not compare herself even to devils. 

5. She sees herself as unworthy of all rejection, insult, and shame; so that she in infinitely beneath everything. 

6. She has nothing of lights or gifts from God; she has no share in anything except nothingness. 

Now is there anything less than nothing? There, she is the lowest in herself and in creatures: she sees herself as nothing in everything. See, then, how low this path is. The souls who is brought here, can she raise herself for anything? If she were to do miracles and convert the whole world, she would never leave her nothingness. It is her life, her happiness, and her delight to be immersed in it and to be so low that she can no longer be found. O blessed loss! O holy and sacred anéantissement, what happiness and benediction your produce in the souls that has you! 

See, then, that it is not without reason that I tell you that this path is low. It is the narrow and hidden path which Our Lord tells us leads to the true life, since it leads you into God Himself, where you will receive a new life; but a life of grace, a life of love, divine life, life which cannot be understood except by those who experience it, a life so holy, a life so noble that all one says to expound its excellence demeans it infinitely below what it is. Oh how good it is to live with this life! How happy and a thousand times happy is the soul who allows herself to be led into it! 

I want to keep silent, then, about the sanctity of this path and about its privileges and excellence, which it takes from Jesus. It does not belong to me to speak about such noble matters, poor and worthless runt that I am. It is not at all the affair sinners like me to speak about the favors and graces which the divine Spouse grants to faithful souls. I retreat into my nothingness and into the silence which I must eternally observe.

I think I am obliged to leave you some time to ruminate on what Our Lord wanted me to show you, although I am very unworthy. You will make use of it as will please Him, and you will learn to detach yourself entirely from everything and to purify and simplify your mind so greatly that the virtues of others will not be vices to you. 

Our Lord says to you, “Let the dead bury the dead.” Leave creatures among creatures, and you, my daughter, retreat into God, in whom you must make your continual dwelling. Do not voluntarily leave Him to waste time among creatures. Do not leave the All for the nothing. 

Farewell, my daughter, I think I will be unable to write to you for some time. I withdraw into my center to leave you with God. He is your divine Teacher, and I pray Him that He will instruct you, and pardon me all the infidelities I commit in not receiving with the purity that I owe them the truths which He makes me understand so as to express them to you; I diminish their grace and this is what makes me wish that you received [them] from God without any mediation. This will be when it will please Him. 

Each soul has a different path for giving glory to god

Oh, the ingratitude of the human heart! Oh, the blindness of our mind which, being so full of its own interests, cannot be separated from them to make room for those of Jesus Christ! 

I confess that it is a blessing to be innocent: but who can assure you that you have this? And if you do have it, are you sure you will persevere in it? Oh! How uncertain is the salvation of a soul when it relies upon its life or dispositions, or on I-know-not-what inner habit which produces neither good nor evil! Compare these souls to the happiness of a soul who tends toward God, seeks Him, and loves Him. The difference is almost infinite. The souls who lives in a slack way never receives divine communications, it does not taste God, it does not know Him, it does not glorify Him, it is like one dead, or to put it better: in a sickness which tends toward death; and little is needed for these souls to fall into mortal sin. 

Let us leave the proofs of this truth until our meeting (it would take too long now), in order for me to tell you that I feel inwardly urged to reprove you for your meanness and sloth with respect to God. See from your attitude—at least based on what you tell me in you letter—how full you are of your own interests, and the impurity of your depths in reflecting on yourself and telling you that you ask no more than to be assured of your salvation. Oh! How unfaithful you are after the promises you made to Jesus Christ, and which you renewed with so much ardor! Where are the resolutions to be purely God’s out of reverence for God Himself? Where is that profession of Jesus Christ that you made in baptism, to live from His life and to be animated by His Spirit? See how well you are imitating your Head, and if you are, like Him, clothed with the interests of His Father’s glory. The Son of God never acted for Himself as a man. His heavenly Father’s glory was His perpetual and constant motive, in all His dispositions, and in all His actions. But you are satisfied with the certainty of being saved, wanting to abandon the rest without working anymore! This is a thought from temptation, which comes from your impure ground, and from your pride’s secret fear of one day being stripped of yourself and clothed in Jesus Christ. You fear losing yourself and being given as prey to the spirit and grace of Jesus. 

“The one who loves his life will lose it and the one who hates it in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” It is Jesus Christ who speaks this truth to you, in St. John. Do you want to be assured of your salvation? Be stripped of your own interests, even about your salvation, and abandoning yourself to the guidance of God, go forward in poverty, seeking no other interest than to please God. 

Are you not very miserable to esteem so little God’s gifts and mercies? You noticed how He desires you to be entirely His—and you are so unfaithful that you do not want to give yourself to His love which wants to permeate you, or to His holiness which wants to sanctify you? You want only to be assured of your salvation, without caring about the operations or the other particular effects of grace? I cannot understand such ingratitude or rather, such blindness—to esteem God so little that you do not want to consider the interests of His glory! 

“The one to whom much is given, of him will much be required,” says Our Lord. One soul will be saved with a small grace and another will perish in having an equal one. The matter of our salvation is in God’s control and within His view and eternal designs. If He wants you in a perfect state even in this life, necessarily you must enter it and give yourself to His grace. For this reason, do not waste time considering the path of others, but consider and weigh your own correctly. Another person will be saved through a very ordinary life, and you, you would be shipwrecked there. We must give ourselves to God’s designs and enter into the purity of the paths by which He calls us if we do not want to perish eternally. It is a great secret of the interior life to know one’s path and to walk faithfully in it. Another’s path is not your path, which is why you do not control the work of your sanctification: each one must follow what God desires of him. Understand this matter rightly and you will live in more peace and be more faithful. 

In support of your position, you say that God, being essentially glorious in Himself, has no need of accidental glory. It is true that God was as glorious in Himself as He is now, before the creation of the world. However, He was pleased in His wisdom to create the universe and to fashion creatures in order to manifest His greatness and His divine perfections, and at the same time to oblige us to adore them. He delights in His works, He is glorified in them, and He requires us to glorify Him according to what is possible for us. 

1. Because He is our creator: He drew us out of nothingness, we owe Him our being, and  that being must glorify Him; it was created for this reason. But there are many ways to glorify Him, and each soul has an obligation and an inner path through which God desires to be glorified in it. And the soul must show here submission and reverence. 

2. A king’s glory increases by having many servants and persons subject to his greatness, and who render homage to his crown. Likewise (but without any comparison), God desires to have subjects who extol His supreme authority, who are obliged to render Him homage and are sacrificed to His greatness in order to teach us that He is King and that He must be revered; that He is God and must be adored; that He is our Master who must be respected; that He is our Judge who must be feared; that He is our Spouse who must be loved, and that He is our Father and our all, who must be obeyed and honored. In brief, He has obliged us to give Him glory, and it is His delight. There is nothing to say about this: it is for this He created us and it is for this He keeps us in being, and gives us His graces and so on. 

O presumption of the human heart which says, “Why should we give ourselves so much trouble when we think we are in [a state of] grace, and Jesus Christ having completely atoned for our sins, we have only rest left, without [the need of] bothering ourselves further?” “God created you without you, but He will not save you without you,” said a Church Father. Jesus Christ repaired all the glory that sin took away from His Father, and merited for you the grace to cooperate in your salvation. You have nothing which has not cost His Blood, but He desires that you labor with Him to reduce yourself to nothing, to submit yourself, and to give yourself to His cause; you owe this to Him through a thousand kind of rights and obligations. 

Mother Mectilde of the Most Blessed Sacrament

The Breviary of Fire