444. My dear daughter, I will not deny thee the instruction thou askest of me with the desire of putting it into practice; but do thou receive it with an appreciative and devout mind, ready to follow it in deed. The wise man says : “My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, thou hast engaged fast thy hand to a stranger, thou art en snared with the words of thy mouth, and caught with thy own words” (Prov. 6, 1). Accordingly he who has made vows to Cod has bound his own will ; so that he has no freedom of acting except according to the will and direction of Him to whom he has bound himself; for he is chained down by the words of his own mouth uttered in the profession of his vows. Before taking his vows, the choice of his ways was in his own hands; but having once bound and obliged himself, let him know that he has entirely lost his liberty and had delivered himself up to God in his superiors. The whole ruin or salvation of souls depends upon the use of their free will; but since most men use it ill and damn themselves, the Most High has established religious life under the sacred vows. Thus the creature, by once using its liberty to make a perfect and prudent choice, can deliver up to his Majesty that very liberty, which so many pervert, if it remains free and unhampered in its choice.
445. By these vows the liberty to do evil is happily lost, and the liberty for doing good is assured. It is like a bridle, which leads away from danger and directs into the smooth and sure road. The soul is freed from the slavery and subjection of the passions, and acquires a new power over them, resuming her place as mistress and queen in the government of her kingdom and remaining subject only to the law of grace and the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. If she thus applies her whole will solely to the fulfillment of all that she has promised to God, the holy Spirit will govern and direct all her operations. The creature thereby passes from the condition and state of a slave to that of a child of the Most High, from an earthly to an angelic life, while the corruption and evil effects of sin cannot exert their full power. It is impossible that thou ever be able in this earthly life to calculate or comprehend, what and how many are the blessings and treasures those souls gather for themselves, who with all their powers and affection strive to fulfill perfectly the vows of their profession. For I assure thee, my dearest, that those who are perfect and punctual in their religious obligations can equal and even surpass the martyrs in merit.
446. My daughter, thou didst happily begin to gather these blessings on the day when thou didst choose the better part; but remember well that thou hast bound thy self to the eternal and mighty God, to whom the inmost secrets of thy heart are manifest. If it is so base and de testable to deceive and disappoint men in just promises, how vile is it to be unfaithful to God in the most just and holy promises? As thy Creator, Preserver and Benefactor, He claims thy gratitude; as Father, thy reverence; as Spouse, thy fidelity ; as a Friend, amicable intercourse ; as the most Faithful, He should excite thy faith and hope ; as the highest and eternal Good, He should possess thy love; as the Almighty, thy entire subjection; as the most just Judge, He should rouse thy humble and holy fear. Against all these allegiances and many others thou committest perfidious treason, in failing or hesitating to fulfill what thou hast promised according to thy profession. And if in all the nuns who have obliged themselves to a spiritual life and conversation, it is such a monstrous and terrible abomination to call themselves spouses of Christ, while living as members and slaves of the devil, how much more abominable will it be in thee, who hast received more than they all, and therefore shouldst exceed them in loving and exerting thyself to make a return for such incomparable blessings and benefits.
447. Consider, O soul, how detestable this fault would make thee in the sight of the Lord, of myself, and of the angels and saints. For we all are witnesses of the love and fidelity, which He has shown toward thee as a generous, loving and faithful Spouse. Strive then with all thy heart to avoid offending Him either in great or in small things; do not force Him to relinquish thee and to de liver thee over to the beastly disorders of sin; for thou knowest that this would be a greater misfortune and punishment than if He consign thee to the fury of the elements, or to the wrath of all the wild animals, or even to the rage of the demons. If all these were to execute their anger upon thee, and if the world were to heap upon thee all its punishments and insults, all would do thee less damage than one venial sin against the God whom thou art obliged to serve and love in all things and through all things. Any punishment of this life is less dreadful than sin ; for it ends with mortal life, but the guilt of sin, and with it punishment, may be eternal.
448. In this life any punishment or tribulation fills mortals with fear and dread, merely because it affects the senses and brings them in close touch with it through them, but the guilt of sin does not affect them nor fill them with dread. Men are entirely taken up by that which is visible, and they therefore do not look upon the ultimate consequences of sin, which is the eternal punishment of hell. Though this is imbibed and inseparably connected with sin, the human heart becomes so heavy and remiss that it remains as if it were stupefied in its wickedness, because it does not feel it present in its senses. Though it could see and feel it by faith, this it self remains listless and dead, as if it were wanting entirely. O most unhappy blindness of mortals! O torpid negligence, that holds so many souls, capable of reason and of glory, oppressed in deceit! There are not words or sentences sufficient to describe this terrible and tremendous danger. My daughter, haste away, and fly with holy fear such an unhappy state, and deliver thyself up to all the troubles and torments of life, which pass soon, rather than incur such a danger ; for nothing will be wanting to thee, if thou do not lose God. To be convinced that there are no small faults for thee and for thy state, is a powerful means of saving thyself; fear greatly the small things, for in despising small faults the Most High knows, that the human heart invites other greater ones. That is not a blameless love, which does not avoid all displeasure of the beloved one.
449. The order which religious souls should maintain in their desires should be : that they strive to be punctual in fulfilling the obligations of their vows and all the virtues, which are connected with them. Afterwards and secondarily they may engage in voluntary practices, such as are called supererogatory. This order some of the souls, who are misled by the devil to entertain an indiscreet zeal for perfection, are wont to invert; thus, while they fail seriously in the obligations of their state, they are eager to add other voluntary exercises and practices, which are usually of small use or benefit, or arise from a spirit of presumption and singularity. They secretly de sire to be looked upon as distinguished in zeal and perfection, while in truth they are very far even from the beginning of perfection. I do not wish to see in thee a fault so reprehensible : but first fulfill all the duties of thy vows and of community life, and then thou mayest add what thou canst, according to thy ability and the inspiration of divine grace. This together will beautify thy soul and will make it perfect and agreeable in the eyes of God.
450. The vow of obedience is the principal one in religion; for it implies a total renunciation and denial of one s will. By it the religious renounces all jurisdiction or right to say for himself: I will or I will not, I shall or I shall not act : all this he throws aside and renounces by obedience, delivering himself into the hands of his superior. In order to fulfill this obligation it is necessary for thee not to be wise in thy own conceit, not to imagine thyself still mistress of thy likings, thy desires, or thy opinion; for true obedience must be of the quality of faith, so that the commands of the superior are esteemed, reverenced and put into execution, without any pretense of examination or criticism. Accordingly, in order to obey, thou must consider thyself without opinion, without life of thy own, without right of speech ; but thou must allow thyself to be moved and governed like a corpse, alive only in order to execute devotedly all that the superior desires. Never discuss within thyself whether thou shouldst fulfill his commands or not, but only consider how thou canst best execute that which is commanded. Sacrifice thy own inclination and repress all thy appetites and passions; and when by this efficacious determination thou art dead to all the movements of self, let obedience be the soul and the life of thy works. To the will of thy superior thou must conform all thy own, with all its activity in all thy words and works ; let it be thy prayer, to be able to quit thy own being and receive another new one, so that nothing be thine and all in thee be of obedience without contradiction or resistance.
451. Remember that the most perfect manner of obeying is to avoid offending the superior by showing that you disagree with him. He should find a willing obedience, convincing him that his commands are obeyed promptly, without objection or murmur, either in words or by any other signs. The superiors take the place of God, and he who obeys his superiors, obeys the Lord himself, who is in them and governs them and enlightens them, so that their commands will be for the salvation of souls. The contempt shown to superiors passes on to God himself, who through them manifests and makes known his will (Luke 10, 16). Thou must persuade thyself, that the Lord moves them to speak, and that it is the word of the Omnipotent himself. My daughter, strive to be obedient in order that thou mayest speak of victories (Prov. 21, 28) ; do not fear to obey, for that is the secure path ; so secure, that God will not bring to account the errors of the obedient on the day of judgment, but He will rather blot out other sins in consideration of the sacrifice made in obedience. My most holy Son offered his precious sufferings and death in special love for the obedient, and pro cured for them special rights in regard to mercy and grace, and special privileges toward the success and perfection of all that is due under obedience. Even now, in order to appease Him, He reminds the eternal Father of his obedience unto death and unto the cross (Phil. 2, 8), and so the Father is placated toward men. Because He was pleased with the obedience of Abraham and his son Isaac, He held Himself obliged not only to save Isaac from death, who showed himself so obedient, but to make him the ancestor of the incarnate Word and to designate him as the head and beginning of the great blessings.
452. The vow of poverty is a generous renunciation and detachment from the heavy burden of temporal things. It is an alleviation of the spirit, it is a relief afforded to human infirmity, the liberty of a noble heart to strive after eternal and spiritual blessings. It is a satiety and abundance, in which the thirst after earthly treasures is allayed, and a sovereignty and ownership, in which a most noble enjoyment of all riches is established. All this, my daughter, and many other blessings are contained in voluntary poverty, and all this the sons of the world are ignorant and deprived of, precisely because they are lovers of earthly riches and enemies of this holy and opulent poverty. They do not consider, although they feel and suffer, the heavy weight of riches, which pins them to the earth and drives them into its very bowels to seek gold
and silver in great anxiety, sleeplessness, labors and sweat, as if they were not men, but wild beasts that know not what they are suffering and doing. And if they are thus weighed down before acquiring riches, how much more when they have come into their possession ? Let the count less hosts that have fallen into hell with their burden, pro claim it ; let their incalculable anxieties of preserving their riches, and much more, let the intolerable laws, which riches and those that possess them have foisted upon the world, testify what is required to retain them!
453. If, on the one hand, possessions throttle the spirit and tyrannically oppress it in its weakness, if they suppress the sours most noble privilege of following eternal goods and God himself : it is certain on the other hand, that voluntary poverty restores to man the nobility of his condition and, liberating him from vile servitude and reinstating him his noble freedom and mastery of all things. The soul is never more a mistress than when she despises them, and only then has she the more firm possession and makes the more excellent use of riches, when she gives them away or leaves them of her own free will ; only then her appetite for them is best satiated, when she does not care to possess them. Then above all is the heart set free and made capable of the treasures of the Divinity, for which it is furnished by the Creator with almost infinite capacity.
454. My daughter, I wish thee to study diligently this divine philosophy and science, which the world forgets, and not only the world, but also many religious souls, who have promised it to God. Great is the divine wrath on account of this fault, and suddenly will the infringers of this vow receive heavy and unexpected punishment. By setting aside their voluntary poverty, they have alienated from themselves the spirit of Christ, my most holy Son, and all that We have come to teach men in abnegation and poverty. Although they do not now feel it, be cause the Judge delays and they enjoy the abundance which they desire, yet in the judgment they will find them selves overwhelmed and dismayed by the rigor of their punishment, greater than they ever expected, considered or imagined in their forgetfulness of divine justice.
455. The temporal goods are created by the Most High for the sole purpose of sustaining life; having attained this end, the need of them ceases. And as this need is limited, soon and easily satisfied, there is no reason that the care for the immortal soul should be only fitful and temporary, while the hunger after riches should be so perpetual and unintermitting, as it has come to be among men. It is the height of perverseness for man to mix up the end and the means in an affair so important and urgent, that he devote all his time, all his care, all the exertion of his powers and all the alertness of his mind to the life of his body, of which he knows npt the duration nor the end, and that on the other hand, in many years of his existence he spare for his poor soul only one hour, and that very often the last and the worst one of his whole life.
456. Make use therefore, my dearest daughter, of the true enlightenment, by which the Most High has un deceived thee in regard to such a dangerous error. Renounce all affection or inclination for earthly things ; even under the pretext of the necessity and poverty of thy con vent do not be oversolicitous to procure the things used for the sustenance of life. In exerting ordinary care, let it be such as will not disturb thee, when thou failest to obtain what thou desirest, and let it be without inordinate
affection, even when thou seekest it for the service of God :
for thou must know, that thy love of God shall be so much the less, as the number of things thou lovest together with Him is greater. Great possessions thou must renounce as superfluous ; thou dost not need them and it is a crime tokeep them for no purpose ; the little thou standst in need of should also be esteemed but little; for it would be a great error to embarrass the heart with that which is of no account and can hinder it much. If thou hast all that according to thy judgment is necessary for human wants,
thou art not in reality poor ; for to be poor properly and strictly means to have less than what is necessary. Those, to whom nothing is wanting, call themselves rich. To possess more than is necessary creates unrest and affliction of spirit ; to desire and look for what is not used will be a poverty without quiet or satisfaction.
457. I require of thee such a freedom of spirit, as not to attach thyself to anything, be it great or small, super fluous or necessary. Of the things that are necessary for human life, accept only so much, as is needed to prevent death or indecency. Let this latter be of the poorest and of such as is patched up sufficient to cover thee, and in thy nourishment seek what is most coarse, without satisfying thy particular whims of taste, but asking for what is insipid and tasteless, so that on purpose thou mayst be served with what is disagreeable and be deprived of what the appetite craves, thus seeking in all things the greatest perfection.
458. The vow of chastity includes purity of body and soul; this is easily lost, and it is difficult, sometimes, ac cording to the manner of losing it, even impossible to re pair. This great treasure is deposited in a castle, which has many portals and openings, and if these are not all well guarded and defended, the treasure is without security. My daughter, in order to preserve perfectly this vow, it is necessary to make an inviolable pact with thy senses, not to use them, except for what is according to the dictates of reason and for the glory of the Creator. After once the senses are mortified, it will be easy to overcome thy enemies, for only through them can they conquer thee ; for no thoughts can recur, or be awakened to activity, unless fomented and excited by the images and impressions admitted through the exterior senses. Thou shouldst not touch, nor look upon, nor speak to any per son of whatever condition, whether man or woman, so as to let their images or resemblances find entrance into thy imagination. This carefulness, which I enjoin, will be the guard of the purity, which I require of thee. If on account of charity or obedience thou must converse with them ( for only these virtues are sufficient causes for conversing with creatures), do it with all gravity, modesty and reserve.
459. In regard to thy own person live as if thou wert a pilgrim and stranger in this world; be poor, mortified, laborious, loving the hardship connected with temporal things, without expecting alleviation or enjoyment, as one who is absent from her home and her country, enlisted to work and battle against powerful foes. Since the flesh is the center of weakness and danger, it is proper that thou carefully resist thy natural likings, and through them the temptations of the demons. Raise thyself above thy self, and seek a habitation far above all that is earthly in order that thou mayest live under the shadow of Him, whom thou desirest (Cant. 2, 3) and in his protection thou shalt enjoy tranquillity and true refreshment. Deliver thyself over with thy whole heart to his chaste and holy love, without attending to any creatures, except in so far as they may help and oblige thee to love and serve thy Creator ; in all other respects abhor them.
460. Although no virtue should be wanting in her, who professes herself, and is entitled to call herself, a spouse of Christ ; yet it is the virtue of chastity which makes her most worthy and like to her Spouse. For it is chastity, which makes her spiritual and withdraws her from earthly corruption, elevating her to angelic life and to a certain resemblance of God himself. This virtue beautifies and adorns all the rest, raises the body to a higher existence, enlightens the mind and preserves in the soul a nobility above all that is corruptible. Because this virtue was in an especial fruit of the Redemption, merited by my Son on the Cross, where He paid for the sins of the world, there fore holy Scripture expressly mentions that virgins ac company and follow the Lamb (Apoc. 14, 4).
461. The vow of enclosure is the wall of chastity and of all virtues, the preserve where they are nourished and expanded : it is a privilege granted by heaven to the spouses of Christ in religion, dispensing them from the burden some and dangerous tribute, which the freedom of the world pays to the ruler of its vanities. By this vow the religious live as in a secure port, while other souls navigate and are tossed about in the storms of a dangerous sea. With so many advantages enclosure cannot be considered as a confinement in a narrow space, for in it are offered to the religious the spacious fields of virtue, of the knowledge of God, of his infinite perfections, of his mysteries, and of his benefits conferred on man. On such spacious grounds can a nun, recreate and enjoy herself; and only when she fails in this enjoyment, does she be gin to feel narrow confinement in this, the greatest free dom. For thee, my daughter, let there be no other play ground, nor do I wish to see thee confine thyself to so narrow limits as even the whole visible world. Rise up to the height of the knowledge and love of God, where there
are no limits or confines to hold thee, and where thou canst live in unbounded liberty. From that eminence thou wilt see how small, vile and despicable is all that is created, and how much too narrow it is to hold thy soul.
462. To the necessary enclosure of the body add also the restrictions of the senses, in order that, imbued with fortitude, they may preserve for thee interior purity, and through it keep ablaze the fire of the sanctuary (Lev. 6, 12) which thou must continue to nourish and watch lest it be extinguished. In order to better guard the senses and profit from the vow of enclosure, do not approach the portals, nor the speaking-grate, nor the windows, and do not even remember that the convent is furnished therewith, unless it is required by some particular office or by obedience. Desire nothing, and therefore strive after nothing, and do not exert thyself for that, which is not allowed thee to desire. In retirement, solitude and circumspection wilt thou find thy peace. Thereby wilt thou give me pleasure, and merit for thyself copious fruit and the re ward of love and grace, which thou desirest.