Women of Spirit:
Women’s Wisdom from Early Christianity, Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy

Timothy Conway (Compiler / Editor)

© Copyright 1992, 2017 by Timothy Conway



Miriam/Mary of Nazareth; Amma Theodora; Amma Syncletica; Amma Sarah; Hildegard of Bingen; Clare of Assisi; Beatrice of Nazareth Convent; Mechtild of Magdeburg; Mechtild von Hackenborn; Gertrude the Great; Hadewijch of Antwerp; Hadewijch II; Marguerite Porete; Angela of Foligno; Catherine of Siena; Juliana of Norwich; Catherine of Genoa; Teresa of Avila; Marie of the Incarnation; Mary (Petit) of St. Teresa; Madame Jeanne-Marie Guyon; Elizabeth Ann Beyley Seton; Thérèse of Lisieux; Mother Francesca Cabrini; Raïssa Maritain; Dorothy Day; Simone Weil; Mother Catherine Thomas; Mother Angelica; Mother Teresa of Calcutta; Briege McKenna; Bernadette Roberts; Methodia of Kimolos; Abbess Thaisia; Nun Brigid; Mother Maria Skobtsova.


Miriam / Mary of Nazareth, Mother of Jesus (1st century BCE to 1st century CE; Israel):   [In response to angel Gabriel:] Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. (Luke 1: 38)  

[To her cousin Elisabeth:] My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call be blessed.  For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name.  And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. ... He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.  He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy... (Luke 1: 46-54)

[The Marian revelation to the people given through Bernardo Martinez in 1980 at Cuapa, Nicaragua:]

Pray the Rosary, meditate on the mysteries [of God’s manifestations as reported in the Gospels]. Listen to the Word of God spoken in them. Love one another. Forgive each other. Make peace... [1]


[Excerpts from the Marian revelations to the children at Medjugorje, Yugoslavia:]

Dear children, these are the days in which the Father is giving special graces to all who open their hearts.  I am blessing you.  My desire, dear children, is that you may recognize God’s graces and place everything at His disposal so that He may be glorified by you.  My heart follows all your steps attentively.  Thank you for your response to my call. (12/25/1986) [2]


The only word I wish to say is “conversion!”  To the whole world. ... I ask only for conversion.  Be ready for everything and be converted.  Give up everything that goes against conversion. 


There are many believers who do not pray; faith cannot be alive without prayer. ... Please pray to Jesus.  I am His Mother and I intercede for you with Him.  But all prayer goes to Jesus.  I will help.  I will pray, but everything does not depend only on me.  It depends also on your strength, the strength of those who pray.


You have forgotten that with prayer and fasting you can ward off wars, suspend natural laws.


Dear children, pray and open your inner self to the Lord so that He may make of you a harmonious and beautiful flower for heaven. (12/18/1986)


Pray, dear children.  Only in that way will you be able to recognize all the evil that dwells in you and abandon it to the Lord so that He may purify your hearts completely.  So, dear children, pray without ceasing and prepare your hearts in penance and fasting. (12/4/1986)


Dear children, now you are preoccupied about material things.  In the material, you lose everything that God wants to grant to you.  I am inviting you, dear children, to pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit... Abandon yourselves to me so that I can lead you totally. (4/7/1986)


Be apostles of the messages of peace, conciliation, prayer, fasting and penance.  I encourage everyone to live these messages for the changing of your lives. (5/5/1986)


In God there are no divisions and there are no religions.  You in the world have made the divisions. ... There is only one God; be at peace with God and each other. [3]


[Mirjana Dragicevic, one of the visionaries at Medjugorje, spoke the following during an interview with a priest on 1/10/1983:]

I have seen the Blessed Virgin Mary for eighteen months now, and feel I know her very well.  I feel she loves me with her motherly love, and so I have been able to ask her about anything I would like to know... The Madonna said we need communal prayer, family prayer.  She stressed the need for family prayer most of all.  Also, every family should have at least one sacred object in the house, and [the] house should be blessed regularly [through prayer].  She also emphasized the failings of religious people, especially in small villages—for examples, here in Medjugorje, where there is separation [of Catholics] from Serbians [Orthodox Christians] and Moslems.  This separation is not good.  The Madonna always stresses that there is but one God, and that people have enforced unnatural separation.  One cannot truly believe, be a true Christian, if he does not respect other religions as well. ... She said that everyone’s religion should be respected... [Concerning the troubled times ahead which she has prophesied:]  The Madonna said people should prepare themselves spiritually, be ready, and not panic; be reconciled [to God] in their souls.  They should be ready for the worst, to die tomorrow.  They should accept God now so that they will not be afraid. ... No one accepts death easily, but they can be at peace in their souls if they are believers.  If they are committed to God, He will accept them. [4]



Amma Theodora (4th-5th century; desert region of Alexandria, Egypt):


The wise man practices perpetual prayer.


It is good to live in peace. ... However, you should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul through acidie, faintheartedness, and evil thoughts.  It also attacks your body through sickness, debility, weakening of the knees and the members.  It dissipates the strength of soul and body, so that one believes one is ill and no longer able to pray.  But if we are vigilant, all these temptations fall away. 


A teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle, and humble as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls.Neither asceticism nor vigils nor any kind of suffering are able to save, only true humility can do that. [5]




Amma Syncletica (d. c.400; desert region of Alexandria, Egypt):


In the beginning there are a great many battles and a good deal of suffering for those who are advancing towards God and afterwards, ineffable joy.  It is like those who wish to light a fire; at first they are choked by the smoke and cry, and by this means obtain what they seek (as it is said: “Our God is a consuming fire” [Heb. 12:24]): so we also must kindle the divine fire in ourselves through tears and hard work. (DC) [6]


The strong soul becomes much more stable thanks to voluntary poverty. (DC)


Just as the most bitter medicine drives out poisonous creatures so prayer joined to fasting drives evil thoughts away. (DC)


Do not let yourself be seduced by the delights of the riches of the world, as though they contained something useful... (DC)


Those who are great athletes must contend against stronger enemies. (DC)


Many are the wiles of the devil.  If he is not able to disturb the soul by means of poverty, he suggests riches as an attraction.  If he has not won the victory by insults and disgrace, he suggests praise and glory. Overcome by health, he makes the body ill.  Not having been able to seduce it through pleasures, he tries to overthrow it by involuntary sufferings.  He joins to this, very severe illness, to disturb the faint-hearted in their love of God.  But he also destroys the body by very violent fevers and weighs it down with intolerable thirst.  If, being a sinner, you undergo all these things, remind yourself of the punishment to come, the everlasting fire and the sufferings inflicted by justice, and do not be discouraged here and now.  Rejoice that God visits you and keep this blessed saying on your lips:  “The Lord has chastened me sorely but he has not given me over unto death.” (Ps. 118:18)  You were iron, but fire has burnt the rust off you. ... Are you gold?  You will pass through fire purged. (DC)


If illness weighs us down, let us not be sorrowful... for all these things are for our good, for the purification of our desires. ... This is the great asceticism: to control oneself in illness and to sing hymns of thanksgiving to God. (DC)


Choose the meekness of Moses and you will find your heart which is a rock changed into a spring of water. (DC)


Why hate the man who has grieved you?  It is not he who has done the wrong thing, but the devil.  Hate sickness but not the sick person. (DC)


There is an asceticism which is determined by the enemy [the devil] and his disciples practice it.  So how are we to distinguish between the divine and royal asceticism and the demonic tyranny?  Clearly through its quality of balance. (DC)


As long as we are in the monastery, obedience is preferable to asceticism.  The one teaches pride, the other humility. (DC)


There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time.  It is possible to be a solitary [in communion with God] in one’s mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is [externally] a solitary to live in the crowd of his own thoughts. (DC)


My children, we all want to be saved, but because of our habit of negligence, we swerve away from salvation. (DC)


It is impossible to be saved without humility. (DC)


A treasure is secure so long as it remains concealed; but when once disclosed, and laid open to every bold invader, it is presently rifled; so virtue is safe as long as it is secret, but if rashly exposed, it but too often evaporates in smoke. (LS)


Oh, how happy should we be, did we but take as much pains to gain Heaven and please God as worldlings do to heap up riches and perishable goods!  By land they venture among thieves and robbers; at sea they expose themselves to winds and waves; they suffer shipwrecks and perils; they attempt all, dare all, hazard all:  but we, in serving so great a Master, for so immense a good, are afraid of every contradiction. (LS)



Amma Sarah (4th-5th century; Near East desert):


If I prayed God that all men should approve of my conduct, I should find myself a penitent at the door of each one, but I shall rather pray that my heart may be pure towards all.


It is good to give alms for men’s sake.  Even if it is only done to please men, through it one can begin to seek to please God.


[Amma Sarah said to some visiting monks:] It is I who am a man, you who are women. [7]




Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179; Catholic Benedictine; Germany):


And it came to pass ... when I was forty-two years and seven months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain.  And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming... and suddenly I understood the meaning of the expositions of the books, that is to say of the psalter, the evangelists, and other catholic books of the Old and New Testaments. (4) [8]


God ... cannot be seen, but can be known through his creation... And just as the inner brightness of the sun cannot be seen, so God cannot be seen by mortal man, but he may be understood through faith as the external shape of the sun can be seen by the watching eye. (155)


The sweetness of the Holy Spirit is immense and entirely encircling all creatures in its grace... The Holy Spirit is ablaze and his burning serenity which strongly kindles the fiery virtues will never be destroyed and thus all darkness is put to flight by him. (62)


[Invoking Jesus:]

O sweetest lover!

O sweetest enfolder!

help us to guard our virginity.

We were born in dust

alas, alas, and in Adam’s crime. ...

Set us upright Saviour, Christ.

Our burning desire is to follow you.

O how heavy it is for our wretched selves

the spotless and innocent King of Angels to follow!

Yet we trust in you

and your desire

to seek a gem in the dust. 

Now we call on you, husband and consoler,

who redeemed us on the cross.

We are joined to you in a marriage of your blood

rejecting men and choosing you, Son of God.

O most beautiful form!

O most sweet savour of desirable delight!

We ever sigh after you

in fearful exile,

when will we see you and dwell with you?

We are in the world

and you in our minds

and we embrace you in our hearts, as if we had you here. ...

Grant us ...

to remain in you, O most sweet Spouse,

who has wrested us from the jaws of the Devil. (118-9)




Clare of Assisi (c.1193-1253; Catholic Franciscan; Italy):


[Addressing her Franciscan sisters:]

Loving one another with the charity of Christ, let the love you have in your hearts be shown outwardly in your deeds so that, compelled by such an example, the sisters [who subsequently come] may always grow in love of God and in charity for one another.  I also beg that sister who will have the office [of caring for] the sisters [as their Abbess] to strive to exceed others more by her virtues and holy life than by her office so that, encouraged by her example, the Sisters may obey her not so much out of duty but rather out of love.  Let her also be prudent and attentive to her sisters just as a good mother is to her daughters; and especially, let her take care to provide for them according to the needs of each one from the things which the Lord shall give.  Let her also be so kind and so available that all [of them] may reveal their needs with trust and have recourse to her at any hour with confidence as they see fit, both for her sake and that of her sisters.  But the sisters who are subjects should keep in mind that for the Lord’s sake they have given up their own wills [through the vow of obedience].  Therefore I ask that they obey their mother as they have promised the Lord of their own free will so that, seeing the charity, humility and unity they have toward one another, their mother might bear all the burdens of her office more lightly.  Thus what is painful and bitter might be turned into sweetness for her because of their holy way of life. (231) [9]


[From a letter to a Sister, attributed to Clare’s hand:]

Our labor here is brief, but the reward is eternal.  Do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world, which passes like a shadow.  Do not let the false delights of a deceptive world deceive you.  Close your ears to the whisperings of hell and bravely oppose its onslaughts.  Gladly endure whatever goes against you and do not let good fortune lift you up [in pride or complacency]... (207)


[Excerpts from letters to Blessed Agnes, who renounced royal marriage and a life of luxury to become a nun in the order founded by Clare:]

You have rejected all these things and have chosen with Your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution...


O blessed poverty,

     who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!

O holy poverty,

     to those who possess and desire you

     God promises the kingdom of heaven

     and offers, indeed, eternal glory and blessed life! ...


What a great and laudable exchange:

     to leave the things of time for those of eternity,

     to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth,

     to receive the hundred-fold in place on one,

     and to possess a blessed and eternal life. (191-3)


He [Jesus] has adorned you with such splendours of virtue and signed you with such marks of perfection, that, since you have become such a diligent imitator of the Father of all perfection, His eyes do not see any imperfection in you.  This is the perfection which will prompt the King Himself to take you to Himself in the heavenly bridal chamber where He is seated in glory on a starry throne because you have despised the splendors of an earthly kingdom and considered of little value the offers of an imperial marriage.  Instead, as someone zealous for the holiest poverty, in the spirit of great humility and the most ardent charity, you have held fast to the footprints of Him to Whom you have merited to be joined as a Spouse. ...

     go forward securely, joyfully, and swiftly,

     on the path of prudent happiness,

          believing nothing,

          agreeing with nothing

          which would dissuade you from this resolution

          or which would place a stumbling block for you on the way,

     so that you may offer your vows to the Most High

     in the pursuit of that perfection

     to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you. (195-6)    


      If you suffer with Him, you shall reign with Him,

     [if you] weep [with Him], you shall rejoice with Him;

     [if you] die [with Him] on the cross of tribulation,

     you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints...


Because of this you shall share always and forever the glory of the kingdom of heaven in place of earthly and passing thins, and everlasting treasures instead of those that perish, and you shall live forever. (197)


Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!

Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!

Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!

And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself

     through contemplation.

So that you too may feel what His friends feel

     as they taste the hidden sweetness

     which God Himself has reserved

     from the beginning

     for those who love Him. (200)


Is it not clear that the soul of the faithful person... is greater than heaven itself?  For the heavens with the rest of creation cannot contain their Creator.  Only the faithful soul is His dwelling place and [His] throne, and this [is possible] only through the charity which the wicked do not have. (201)


Hold Him by Whom you and all things are held together. (201)


How many kings and queens of this world let themselves be deceived!  For, even though their pride may reach the skies and their heads through the clouds, in the end they are as forgotten as a dung-heap! (201)


Happy, indeed, is she [the soul]... to cling with all her heart to Him

     Whose beauty all the heavenly hosts admire unceasingly,

     Whose love inflames our love,

     Whose contemplation is our refreshment,

     Whose graciousness is our joy,

     Whose gentleness fills us to overflowing,

     Whose remembrance brings a gentle light,

     Whose fragrance will revive the dead,

     Whose glorious vision will be the happiness

       of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem... (204)




Beatrice of the Convent of Nazareth (1200-68; Catholic Beguine; Brabant, Belgium):


     As soon as she was raised aloft into ecstasy, ... her eyes of contemplation magnetized towards the incomprehensible Essence of Divinity, while the innermost point of her intelligence, in an admirable manner, considered the eternal and true God, the uncreated Most High, the Lord, in the majesty of His substance.  ... In this union in which she became “one single spirit with God” (I Cor. 6:17) she realized that she had reached that purity, freedom of spirit and glory for which she had been created from the very beginning.  And as if her spirit had been transferred entirely within the Divine Spirit, she thus understood that, for a short while, she was united to the Most High Deity and rendered entirely celestial. ... And remembering what she had seen and understood, comforted by the indescribably divine sweetness, she reposed peacefully in the arms of the Beloved, burning with the fire of love. ...

     The Betrothed [the soul, is] ... attracted by a Love which is above her humanity, above human reason and intelligence, above all the heart’s operations, drawn exclusively by Eternal Love in the eternity of love, in the incomprehensibility, in the inaccessible breadth and height, in the profound abyss of the Divinity Who is “all in all things” and Who remains unknowable above all things, unchangeable, the plenitude of Being Who embraces all in His power, intelligence and sovereign work.  The blessed soul is so tenderly engulfed in love, so strongly drawn by desire... All in her is strained towards the fruition of Love in which she wishes to settle. ...It is in this way that love draws her to a higher state.  In spirit she is raised above time into eternity, above the gifts of love, which is outside time, above human modes of loving, above her very nature in her desire to overpass it.  Such is her being and her will, her desire, and her love: to enter ... the sweet company of the higher spirits who are engulfed in overflowing Love and who know clearly their Love ... Her wish is to be up there; in her desire she goes there, she comes amidst these spirits, particularly the burning Seraphim; but it is within the Great Divinity, the Most-High Trinity that she hopes to find sweet repose and lasting fruition.  She seeks [the Lord] in His majesty, she follows Him up above, contemplating Him with her heart and her mind.  She knows Him, she loves Him, she desires Him so strongly that she can consider neither saint, nor man, nor angel, nor creature, unless it is in that common love in which she loves everything with Him.  It is He alone Whom she has chosen in love, above all else, at the heart of everything and in everything, with all the aspirations of her heart, all the strength of her spirit... All that is terrestrial can neither satisfy nor appease her and it brings her great torments to be a stranger in a distant land. ... She wishes to be delivered in order to be with Christ, not because she is weary of the present, nor on account of future sufferings, but it is by reason of a holy love, an eternal love, that she ardently and vehemently longs to reach the land of eternity...  It is a blessed passion, a raging torment, a lasting suffering, a brutal death, a dying life.  Up above, the soul cannot arrive; here below, she cannot feel at peace. ... She refuses all consolation from God Himself and from creatures... In spite of all God’s gifts, she remains unsatisfied, unappeased, far from the presence of her Love. ...

     Love has drawn her and guided her, has taught her Her ways; the soul has followed Love faithfully, in great toils and countless works, in noble aspiration and violent desires, in great patience and great impatience, in suffering and in happiness, in numerous torments, in quest and supplication, loss and possession, in ascent and in suspense, in pursual and in embrace, in anguish and cares, in distress and in troubles; in immense trust and in doubt, in love and in affliction, she is ready to endure everything.  In death or in life, she wishes to devote herself to Love...

     She wishes to follow Love, to know Love, to reach the fruition of Love—an impossibility in exile; so she wishes to migrate to the land where she has established her home and where she rests with Love.  This she knows:  every obstacle will be removed and she will be tenderly welcomed by the Beloved. ... It is then that the soul will be united to her spouse and will be “one single spirit with Him” (I Cor. 6:17) in an indissoluble fidelity and an eternal Love.  And those who have devoted themselves to Love in the time of grace will enjoy her in eternal glory where there will be nothing other than praise and love.

     May God deign to lead us all thither!  Amen. [10]


Mechtild of Magdeburg (c.1207-82; Catholic Benedictine; Magdeburg-Helfta, Germany):


I, unworthy sinner, was greeted so overpoweringly by the Holy Spirit in my twelfth year when I was alone, that I could no longer have given way to any serious daily sin.  The loving greeting came every day and caused me both love and sorrow; the sweetness and glory increased daily—and this continued for thirty-one years. ... I had never dreamt that such things could come to any human being. ... Then through the love of God I went to a town (Magdeburg) where I had no friends save only one.  ... But God never left me.  He brought me such sweetness of love, such heavenly knowledge, such inconceivable wonders, that I had little use for earthly things.  Then was my spirit first brought out of my prayer and set between heaven and earth.  And I saw with the eyes of my soul in heavenly bliss, the beautiful humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ and I knew him by his shining countenance. I saw the Holy Trinity, the eternity of the Father, the work of the Son and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. (5-6) [11]


His divinity is never foreign to me,

For always and without any fetters,

I feel it in every one of my limbs. (9)


The true greeting of God, which comes from the heavenly flood out of the spring of the flowing Trinity, has such power that it takes all strength from the body and lays the soul bare to itself.  Thus it sees itself as one of the blessed and receives in itself divine glory.  The soul is then separated from the body, with its power and love and longing.  Only the smallest part of life remains to the body, which is as it were in a sweet sleep. ... Then it [the soul] may ask what it will, and that shall be granted.  Should it not be granted, it is because the soul is taken further by God to a secret place where it must not ask nor pray for anyone, for God alone will play with it in a game of which the body knows nothing... Thus God and the soul soar further to a blissful place of which I neither can nor will say much: it is too great and I dare not speak of it, for I am a sinful creature.  Moreover, when the infinite God brings the unmoored soul up into the heights of contemplation, it loses touch with the earth in face of that wonder, and forgets it ever was upon the earth.  When this flight is at its height, the soul must leave it.  Then the All-Glorious God speaks: “Maiden! thou must humble thyself and descend again.”  She ... says: “Lord! thou has drawn me up so high that I am out of myself...” (10-11)


[“Love” speaking to “The Soul”:]

When thy death-blow falls,

and when thy Easter [resurrection] comes,

I shall be all around thee,

I shall be through and through thee,

and I shall steal thy body

and give thee to thy Love. (13)


[God speaking to “The Soul”:]

When I shine, thou must reflect...

When thou sighest, thou dost draw

my divine Heart unto thee;

when thou weepest for me,

I take thee in my arms;

but when thou lovest me,

then are we twain one— for thus united, nothing can separate us:

rather, a blissful waiting lies between us. (17)


The Lord spoke ... thus:

“I say to thee by my divine fidelity

that there are more in Holy Church

who go straight to heaven

than go down to hell. ...

My mercy forces me yet further

than the ill will of wicked men forces them,

and my righteousness is greater

than all the wickedness of the devil.” (19)


When man has sorrow

of which he does not know the cause

and yet is aware of little sin,

our Lord [Jesus] says to him:

“I have touched thee

in the same way in which

my Father let me be touched on earth.

In those I there draw to myself,

that causes much suffering,

but my friends should know truly

that the more I draw them,

the nearer they come to me.

When man makes a conquest over self,

so that suffering and consolation weigh equally,

then will I raise him to blessedness

and let him taste eternal life.” (22-3)


My body is in great distress,

My soul is in highest bliss,

for she has seen and thrown her arms around her Loved One all at once.

Poor thing, she is distressed by him:

He so draws and delights her,

she cannot withhold herself, and he brings her into himself.

Then the body speaks to the soul:

“Where have you been?  I cannot bear it any more.”

And the soul says, “Shut up, you fool,

I want to be with my beloved;

You will never enjoy me any more—

I am his joy... [12]



Mechtild von Hackenborn (1241-98; Catholic Benedictine; Helfta, Germany):


[In praise of God:]  Though you come to fulfill me wholly and enlighten me marvelously, I am nevertheless so tiny a creature that all I know and can make others know about you is no more than an ant can carry away from a vast mountain. (58) [13]


If any obstacle arises in our service of God, whether from the attitude of others, from external circumstances, from our own desires, memories, or from any other cause—whatever the impediment, we should take it as a messenger from God, sending it back to him, so to speak, with praise and thanksgiving. (38)


When you are alone, raise your heart constantly to God, speak with him, and direct all your desires to him with great intensity.  You can never be in so large a crowd that you are not alone with him. (39)


[Christ said to her:]  Seek me through your five senses, just as a host awaiting the arrival of a very dear friend looks through the doors and windows to see if the expected guest is coming.  The faithful soul ought to watch for me unceasingly through the senses which are the windows of the spirit.  If he sees beautiful or lovable things, let him think how beautiful, lovable, and good is the one who made them.  When he hears an enchanting melody or an excellent discourse, let him say to himself: “O how sweet will be the voice that will one day call me!”  And when he hears conversation or something read aloud, let him seek his Beloved therein. (39)


Christ is more easily possessed than a bit of thread or straw. A single wish, a sigh, is sufficient. (64)


Three things very pleasing to God are: first, never to abandon one’s neighbor in his needs, and to excuse his shortcomings and sins as much as possible; second, in tribulation to seek refuge only in God, abandoning to him alone all that disquiets the heart; third, to walk with him in truth. (38)


Once after communion, Christ said to Mechtild: “Thou in me and I in thee.  Be submerged in my omnipotence like the fish in the ocean.”  “O Lord,” she answered, “fish are often caught in the net.  What if that should happen to me?”  The Savior replied: “You cannot be drawn forth from me.  You will make your nest in my divine Heart.... The nest is sincere humility, maintained among all the gifts and favors I have imparted to you.” (186)


[Mechtild entreats her sisters on the need for, and efficacy of, praying to Christ on behalf of others:]  One should be as liberal as a queen at the king’s table. ... He is pleased when we confidently expect great things of him [for our neighbor]. ... He never wearies even if we entreat him a thousand times a day. (48)


St. Mechtild’s devotion to her companions did not end with their deaths. Once she recognized among the sisters in the choir a friend of hers who had recently died.  “Tell me,” Mechtild asked her, “is everything in the next life just as I told you it would be?”  “Yes,” answered her friend, “all that you said is perfectly true, and now I have found my [love repaid by the Lord one] hundredfold.” (40)



Gertrude the Great of Helfta (1256-1302; Catholic Benedictine; Germany):


[Addressing Jesus as the Sacred Heart:]  O Heart, fountain of sweetness!  O Heart surging with compassion!  O Heart overflowing with charity! ... O dearest Heart, I pray thee, engulf my whole heart in thee! ... Come, and at the hour of my death open to me without delay the door of thy most benign Heart; my Beloved, by the pure intention of thy most holy thoughts and the ardent love of thy transpierced Heart, wash away all the guilt of my evil thought and of my sinful heart ... thy Heart ... my everlasting dwelling-place, ... thou alone art he whom I have chosen rather than all created things. (192) [14]


Although after my death I should undergo the torments of hell for my folly, nevertheless I should rejoice if through my labors the Lord God might receive honor from others. (171)


Adversity is the ring by which the soul is espoused to Christ. (139)


[Christ told her:] It does not matter to me whether you perform spiritual exercises or manual labor, provided only that your will is directed to me with a right intention. (133)




Hadewijch of Antwerp (c.1250; Catholic Beguine; Flanders/Belgium):


Craving, sating—both in one—

such is the reward of love

as it may be seen by those

who consort in truth with it.

Craving: “Come, O Love supreme.”

Sating: “Stop!”  Such is the moan

for its light becomes too bright

and its blows turn into joy. ...

Holy Love I recommend

to all those who look for it.

For this goal, spare not your pains,

but conform your life with it. (DV 28-9) [15]


The sweetest part of love is found in its assaults.

Its deepest abyss shines as its most splendid form.

Becoming lost in it is reaching to its core.

Starving to death for it is most delicious food.

Its total sense of loss is full security.

Its most severe wounds are means of perfect health.

Being consumed by it is everlasting life. ...

Breaking one’s heart for it is perfect sanity.

The healing it provides is challenge to the soul.

The losses it entails are its most lavish gifts. ...

Imprisonment in it is total freedom found. (DV 30)


Let all those who surrender to Love

give up creatures and union with them:

Poor in spirit in the kingdom of earth,

they shall hold the new life as their due. ...

For a soul with no end or prelude,

with no form and no reason or sense,

with no model, no thought and no sign

has no circle to narrow it down.

In this madness of widening union

poor in spirit and living as one,

they will find in it nothing but leisure

that will give them eternal repose.

All of this may be said in few words,

but the passing is long, I know well,

for torments in great number befall

every soul that goes through to the end. (DÖ 36)


At every moment Love Is new

And is renewed each day,

Those who are renewed, She causes to be reborn

To a goodness which is ever new.

Alas, how can one remain old,

Renouncing Love’s presence,

Old in sadness

And without gain?

For such a one has strayed from the new path

And the newness escapes him,

That newness of a new Love

In the essential love of new lovers. ...

But the wise, the old who have been renewed,

Who give themselves anew to Love,

Abandoning themselves to Her entirely,

These I call young and old.

They live in exalted mood

For they cling to Love,

Gazing upon Her ardently.

Their power in Love grows,

For they must be as novices

And, as old, lean upon Love

And be led where the Beloved wishes them,

Their spirit renewed by a new yearning. (ZB 115-6)


May he [the Lord] seize you within himself, for in the very place where the

depth of his wisdom dwells, he will teach you who he is by making you know

the ineffable bliss of lovers who enter each other and are so completely

absorbed in each other that they are no longer able to distinguish their

individual selves, but live the total fruitfulness of their love mouth to

mouth, heart upon heart, body within body and soul within soul, while a

gentle divine nature suffuses them entirely.  And in this union of their

selves, they yet remain themselves, and so do they go on forever. (DV 38)




Hadewijch II (unidentified Beguine writing somewhat later than Hadewijch I):


We must detach ourselves

From the agitations of reasons,

From forms and images,

If we wish

Inwardly to know,

Beyond understanding. /

Those who do not stop on the way

To give themselves to other work

Than this here spoken of,

They are unified

In their first Origin,

In Eternity. /

There they become

With Him so One

In their first origin

That no earthly union

Of two beings 

Could be compared to this. /

In the intimity of Unity

They are pure

And wholly inward,

Wholly naked,

Without images,

Without forms. /

As if freed

In eternal time,




In the silent vastness. ... (ZB 134-5)


If knowledge is lacking you,

Seek inwardly

Your simplicity;

There you will find

Your mirror,

Always ready for you. / ...

To desire and love

Without the aid of the senses;

This is what is needed.

Outwardly and inwardly

To be without knowledge,

Like someone dead. /

Learn to know

What Love commands;

Heed the love of nobody,

For Love covers

Those She teaches

As if with seraphim wings. /

A foretaste

He must first have

And then be transformed,

He who, without turning back,

Desires to be anchored

To the beautiful Deity. /

To praise God

On high,

Joyfully here below,

To be true to Him,

Without betrayal,

This is a noble work indeed! (ZB 136-7)


Fear and love,

Desire and knowledge,


Hope and aspirations

Joy and taste,

All have left me. /

My knowledge has soared above me

Beyond intelligence,

Beyond the senses;

But of this I must keep silent

And still stay where I am. / 

It is like a desert

To be here below,

For here,

Neither sense nor words

Can reach or penetrate. (ZB 138)


In the abandonment of naked love

There must be detachment from all created aid,

For Love strips of all form

Those She receives in Her simplicity. /

The poor in spirit are then free of all modes,

Strangers to all images;

This is the life they lead,

Here below. /

It is not enough to exile themselves,

Nor to beg their bread or anything else;

The poor in spirit must be without thoughts

In the vast simplicity, /

Which has neither beginning nor end,

Neither form nor mode, neither reason nor sense,

Neither opinion nor thought, nor attention nor knowledge,

Uncircumscribed in the vast immensity. /

It is in this wild and vast simplicity

That the poor in spirit live in unity:

There they find nothing but the freedom of detachment

Which always opens up to Eternity.  (ZB 138-9)




Marguerite Porete (d. 1310; Beguine; France)


[God] is Who is; therefore He is what He is by Himself: lover, beloved, love. (157) [16]


He is... and I am not. (159)


God works in me:  I owe Him no work as He himself works in me, and if I did something myself, it would be undoing His work. (152)


All that one does “with oneself” is to encumber everything with self. (175)


Whoever trusts in God is strong and great, entirely free and disencumberedof everything, for God sanctifies him. (175)


[Divine Love (personified) speaks of this Soul:]

I am God, for Love is God and God is Love, and this Soul is God by condition of Love; I am God by divine nature and this Soul is so by the justice of Love, so that this precious friend of mine is taught and led by Me, without herself, for she is transformed into Me. (152)


LOVE: He has peace who dwells in willing nothing, there where he was before he had willing. (154)


LOVE: He to whom God has given the understanding of these things knows what the meaning is, and nobody else does, for the Scriptures do not contain it, neither can human wit comprehend it, just as the efforts of a living creature cannot serve to understand it, or to comprehend it.  This gift comes, rather, from the Most High Who has enraptured this Soul by plenitude of knowledge and she is brought to nought as to her understanding.  And so such a Soul, having become nothing, possesses all and yet possesses nought, wishes all and wishes nothing, she knows everything and knows nought. (166)


[Divine Love articulates the nine points of Fine Amour, that chivalrous, Supreme Charity on the part of the faithful soul, who joyously endures and braves all things in devotion to the Lord:]

LOVE: [1st:] Such a Soul cannot be found. ... For she is ... annihilated by humility... [2nd:] Nothing created can remain in her memory but passes swiftly away, because this ... occupation [with God—Father, Son, and Spirit] has taken complete possession of her understanding. ... [3rd:] This Soul finds neither comfort, nor affection, nor hope in any of the creatures God has made, neither in Heaven nor upon the earth, but only in God’s goodness. Such a Soul neither begs nor asks anything of creatures.  She is ... alone in Love.  [4th:] This Soul does nothing for God... This Soul has no use for anything, except for what God does.  She does not care about herself; let God care about her, He Who loves her more than she loves herself.  This Soul has such great faith in God that she is not afraid of being poor, as her Beloved is so rich. ... [5th:]  This Soul does not leave aside, for God, anything that she is able to do.  ... She can do nothing other than the will of God, and so she cannot even wish anything else, and therefore she leaves aside no action, for God.  In fact, she lets nothing enter her thoughts which would be against God and so she does not leave aside any of her actions, for God. ... [6th:]  She can be taught nothing. ... It means that this Soul is of such great constancy that if she had all the knowledge of all creatures who ever were, are, and shall be, this would seem nothing to her compared to the One she loves, Who was never known [by limited human understanding] and never will be. ... [7th:] Nothing can be taken away from her. ... for if one should take from this Soul her honor, her riches, her friends, her heart, her body, and her very life, one would be taking nothing from her, if God still remains hers; and so it is clear that one can take nothing from her, no matter what effort he makes. ... [8th:] One can give her nothing... If she were given everything that ever was and ever shall be given, it would be nothing compared to what she loves and will love... that is, God Himself. ... [9th:] This Soul has no will. ... For all this Soul wants and consents to is what God wants her to will, and she wants this in order to accomplish God’s will and not at all her own will; and she cannot want this by herself but it is the will of God willing it in her; from which it results that this Soul has no will apart from God’s will that makes her will all that she ought to will. (168-172)


LOVE: This Soul swims in the sea of Joy, that is to say, in the sea of delights which issues and flows from the Divinity; and so she feels no joy, for she herself is joy, and thus she swims and floats in joy without feeling any joy, for she dwells in Joy and Joy dwells in her; she is joy herself by the force of Joy that has transformed her into Itself.

SOUL: Ah, most sweet, pure, and divine Love, what a suave transformation it is to be transformed into what I love more than myself.  And I am so transformed that I have lost my name in order to love, I who can love so little; it is into Love that I have been transformed; for I love nothing but Love. (154)


LOVE: If anyone should ask them if they wished to be in Purgatory, these freed Souls, peaceful and confident, would reply no; if they wished, in this life, to be certain of their salvation, they would say no; as to whether they would like to be in Paradise, they would still say no.  Besides, with what could they wish anything?  They have no will, and if they wished something they would be severed from Love, for Love Who holds their will knows what is good for them, and that suffices them, without knowing it themselves and without further assurance. (166-7)



Angela of Foligno (1248-1309; Catholic Franciscan tertiary; Italy):


[At a certain stage in her spiritual unfolding:]

I had such a vivid feeling of God and perceived such great pleasure in prayer that I forgot to eat.  And I wished I had no need of food so that I could remain in prayer.  Thus did temptation creep in, that is, not to eat, or if I did, to eat very little... And such was the fire of the love of God in my heart that I never got tired of genuflections or other penitential practices.  And this fire of the love of God in my heart became so intense that as soon as I heard someone speak of God, I cried out.  And even if someone had wielded an ax over me to kill me, I could not have stopped my cries. (47) [17]


[After a visit to Assisi:] After returning home, I felt within myself a tranquil sweetness so deep I cannot describe it.  And I wanted to die.  Living was for me such a pain because of this tranquil and quiet sweetness, this sweetness so deep I cannot describe it, but I desired to die to this world in order to go to this sweetness and not lose it.  Living for me was a greater pain than the death of my mother and sons, and beyond any pain I could imagine.  I lay at home in this supreme consolation and languor for eight days.  And my soul cried out: “Lord, have mercy on me, and do not allow me to stay longer in this world.”  On the way to Assisi, he had foretold to me this unutterable sweetness and consolation... When I realized all this was going to end, ...[Jesus] said: “My daughter, you are sweeter to me than I am to you... My temple!  My delight! ... I hold you close.  From now on, you will never leave me.” ... Later I often perceived extraordinary fragrances.  These experiences and others were so tremendous I cannot explain them in words. I can repeat a little of the words, but I cannot reproduce the sweetness and the pleasure. (49-50)


[Jesus revealed to her:] “Work at loving with all your might, for you are much loved, and you will be transformed into something infinite. ... It is when you feel yourself most abandoned that you are most loved by God, that God stands closest to you.” (54-5)


On a certain occasion, my soul was lifted up: I saw God in a light and fullness I had never seen him in before... After that, I saw him in darkness, and precisely in darkness, because he is too great to be imagined or understood, and anything that can be thought or comprehended does not attain him, or even come close to him. (55)


I am lifted up and led by God to this state: I do not go to it on my own. I could not, and would not, nor do I desire it or ask for it.  I now live in it continuously.  Very often God lifts up my soul without asking for my consent.  At certain times, when I am expecting it or thinking of it the least, suddenly my soul is lifted up by God.  I dominate and embrace the whole world.  It seems to me I am no longer on earth, but in heaven.  Such is my actual state.  It is much more excellent than any I have gone through so far: it entails so much fullness, light, certainty, nobility, and expansion that I have the feeling no past condition comes anywhere near it.  [And Angela told her scribe that she “had enjoyed this unutterable manifestation of God more than a hundred thousand times, more than a million times, yet it was always new: each time, her soul had received something fresh, and whatever she had, she possessed in a novel and different way.”]  (56)


Those who are lifted up to the vision of the Uncreated and of the being of God by standing before the cross and practicing the works of virtue, are at rest wherever they happen to be.  Their love renews itself and rekindles itself in order to act with greater efficiency.  But those who are not living in truth fashion idols out of their works and virtues.  And the first idol is the one they make out of the divine light that was given to them. (57)



Catherine of Siena (1347-1380; Catholic Dominican tertiary; Italy):


You, eternal Trinity [of Father, Son, and Spirit], are a deep sea: The more I enter you, the more I discover, and the more I discover, the more I seek you. ... O abyss!  O eternal Godhead!  O deep sea!  What more could you have given me than the gift of your very self? (364-5) [18]


O eternal Trinity, fire and abyss of charity, dissolve this very day the cloud of my body!  I am driven to desire, in the knowledge of yourself that you have given me in your truth, to leave behind the weight of this body of mine and give my life for the glory and praise of your name. (365)


In your light you have made me know your truth: You are that light beyond all light. ... In this light I know you, highest and infinite Good:  Good above every good, joyous Good, Good beyond measure and understanding! Beauty above all beauty... You who are the angels’ food are given to humans with burning love. (365-6)


As the soul comes to know herself she also knows God better, for she sees how good he has been to her.  In the gentle mirror of God she sees her own dignity: that through no merit of hers but by his creation she is the image of God.  And in the mirror of God’s goodness she sees as well her own unworthiness, the work of her own sin. ... Now as light and knowledge grew more intense in this soul, a sweet bitterness was both heightened and mellowed. ... The fire in this soul grew so great that her body could not have contained it.  She could not, in fact, have survived had she not been encircled by the strength of him who is strength itself. (48)


Then that soul [Catherine speaking of herself], truly like one drunk, seemed to be beside herself and separated from her bodily senses because of her loving union with her Creator.  She lifted up her spirit and gazed into eternal Truth with her mind’s eye.  And as she had come to know the truth she was in love with truth, and she said:  O high eternal goodness of God!  Who am I, wretched as I am, that you, high eternal Father, have revealed to me your truth... What moved you to this?  Love.  For you loved me without being loved by me.  O fire of love!  Thanks, thanks to you, eternal Father!  I am imperfect and full of darkness.  Yet you, perfect and lightsome, have shown me perfection and the lightsome path of your only-begotten Son’s teaching.  I was dead and you revived me. (202)


Then that soul [speaking about herself] was as if drunk with love of true holy poverty.  She was filled to bursting in the supreme eternal magnificence and so transformed in the abyss of his supreme and immeasurable providence that though she was in the vessel of her body it seemed as if the fire of charity within her had taken over and rapt her outside her body.  And with the mind’s eye steadily fixed on the divine majesty she spoke to the high eternal Father:  O eternal Father!  O fiery abyss of charity!  O eternal beauty, O eternal wisdom, O eternal goodness, O eternal mercy!  O hope and refuge of sinners!  O immeasurable generosity!  O eternal, infinite Good! O mad lover!  And you have need of your creature?  It seems so to me, for you act as if you could not live without her, in spite of the fact that you are Life itself, and everything has life from you and nothing can have life without you.  Why then are you so mad?  Because you have fallen in love with what you have made!  You are pleased and delighted over her within yourself, as if you were drunk [with desire] for her salvation.  She runs away from you and you go looking for her.  She strays and you draw closer to her:  You clothed yourself in our humanity, and nearer than that you could not have come. (325)


And if I should claim to be anything of myself, I should be lying through my teeth! ... For you alone are who you are, and whatever being I have and every other gift of mine I have from you, and you have given it all to me for love... (273-4)


She gazed into the abyss of his charity and saw how he is supreme eternal Goodness, and how through love alone he created us and redeemed us with the blood of his Son.  It is with this very love that he gives what he gives and permits.  Trials and consolations and all other things are given for love and to provide for our salvation, and for no other purpose. (284)


What would it mean to me to have eternal life if death were the lot of your people[?] (49)


A soul ... [needs] continual, humble prayer, grounded in the knowledge of herself and of God.  For by such prayer the soul is united with God, following in the footsteps of Christ crucified, and through desire and affection and the union of love he makes of her another himself.  So Christ seems to have meant when he said, “If you will love me and keep my word, I will show myself to you, and you will be one thing [united] with me and I with you.” [cf. John 14:21-3] (25)


God would not hide from her [Catherine’s] mind’s eye his love for his servants [the saints]. ... “... They are united with me through love... they are another me; for they have lost and drowned their own will and have clothed themselves and united themselves and conformed themselves with mine.”  It is true then, that the soul is united to God through love’s affection. (25-6)


[God’s Holy Spirit speaks a number of other things to Catherine in their “Dialogue”:]

You ask for the will to know and love me... Here is the way, if you would come to perfect knowledge and enjoyment of me, eternal Life:  Never leave the knowledge of yourself.  Then, put down as you are in the valley of humility [seeing your imperfections] you will [then] know me in yourself, and from this knowledge you will draw all that you need.  No virtue can have life in it except from charity, and charity is nursed and mothered by humility. (29)


Know [that] the transitory things of this world ... all pass away like the wind. ... Know how inconstant is the world. (185)


All that exists comes from me.  With power and strength beyond imagining I govern the whole world:  Not a thing is made or kept in order without me. (61)


I am the Creator of everything that has any share in being.  But sin is not of my making, for sin is nonbeing. (56)


[The deluded souls] do not see except with blind eyes, since their desire is fixed on passing thins, and so they are deceived and act like fools ... The goods of the world, all its delights and pleasures, if they are got and had apart from me with selfish and disordered love, are just like scorpions. ... These scorpions carry gold in front of them and venom in their tails. (95-6)


Every evil is grounded in selfish love of oneself. ... No matter what your state in life, it is essential to kill this selfish love in yourself. (103, 110)


What I ask of you is nothing other than love and affection for me and for your neighbors.  This can be done any time, any place, and in any state of life by loving and keeping all things for the praise and glory of my name. (110)


You should love your neighbors with the same love with which you love me.  Do you know how you can tell when your spiritual love is not perfect?  If you are distressed when it seems that those you love are not returning your love or not loving you as much as you think you love them. (121)


My goodness has ordained ... that no one in any situation whatever should have an excuse for sin. ... I have made allowance for their passions and weaknesses in such a way that if they choose to remain in the world they can.  They can possess wealth and hold positions of authority.  They can be married and care for their children and toil for them.  They can remain in any situation whatever, so long as they truly cut off the venomous sting of selfish sensuality that deals eternal death. (98)


No one can be taken away from me.  ... They [all souls] are mine; I created them, and I love them ineffably.  And so, in spite of their wickedness, I will be merciful to them... (56-7)


Weep for the damnation of the foolish and be glad for the perfection of my beloved children. (59)


Those who are perfect ... let go of the world and all its pleasures.  They discipline their bodies with penance and vigils, with constant humble prayer. (97)


The soul is inebriated and set on fire and sated with holy longing, finding herself filled completely with love of me and of her neighbors.  Where did the soul learn this?  In the house of self-knowledge, in holy prayer.  There she lost her imperfection, just as the disciples and Peter lost their imperfection and learned perfection by staying inside in watchful prayer. How?  Through perseverance seasoned with most holy faith.  But do not think that such ardor and nourishment is to be had from vocal prayer alone, as many souls believe.  Their prayer consists more in words than in affection, and they seem to be concerned only to complete their multitude of psalms and to say a great many Our Fathers.  When they have finished the number they have set themselves to say, they seem to think of nothing more.  It seems they place the whole purpose of prayer in what is said vocally.  But that is not how they should act.  ... The soul ... while she is still imperfect, [may] stay with vocal prayer so as not to fall into laziness, but she should not omit mental prayer. ... Keep expanding your heart and your affection in the immeasurable greatness of my mercy, with true humility. (123-4)


Perfect prayer is achieved not with many words but with loving desire, when the soul rises up to me... (126)


Whatever you do in word or deed for the good of your neighbor is a real prayer. ... Everything you do can be a prayer, whether in itself or in the form of charity to your neighbors, because of the way you use the situation at hand. (127)


As soon as you and my other servants come in this way to know my truth you will, for the glory and praise of my name, have to endure great trials, insults, and reproaches in word and in deed, even to the point of death. Behave, then, ... with true patience, with sorrow for sin and love of virtue... The sufferings you endure will, through the power of charity, suffice to win both atonement and reward for you and for others. (30)


The devil is weak and can do nothing of himself, but only as I permit him. And I give him leave not through hatred but through love, not so that you may be conquered but that you may conquer and come to perfect knowledge of yourself and of me, and to prove your virtue—for virtue can only be tested by its opposite. (88)


When my servants remain united to me I prune them with great suffering so that they will bear more and better fruit, and virtue will be proved in them. (62)


I send people troubles in this world so that they may know that their goal is not this life, and that these things are imperfect and passing.  I am their goal, and I want them to want me, and in this spirit they should accept such things. (100)


Seeing me these souls know me, and knowing me they love me.  And in loving me their selfish will is swallowed up and lost. (92)


No one born into this life passes through it without suffering of body or spirit.  My servants may suffer physically, but their spirit is free.  In other words, suffering does not weary them, because their will is in tune with mine. (91)


Your tongue could never tell, nor your ears hear, nor your eyes see the joy they have who travel on this road [of spirituality], for even in this life they have some foretaste of the good prepared for them in everlasting life. (68)


[If souls] were truly humble and not presumptuous, they would see ... that everything I give is for love, and that therefore they should accept everything with love and reverence. ... No matter what I send them, they hold it in due reverence... After the soul has come to know my will she clothes herself in it and attends only to how she may keep and intensify her perfection for the glory and praise of my name.  In the light of faith she fixes her mind’s eye on Christ crucified, my only-begotten Son, loving and following his teaching... She sees how the Lamb my Truth [Jesus] is in love with her and instructs her in perfection, and seeing it, she falls in love with him. ... She runs to the table of holy desire, in love as she is and eager with a lover’s restlessness.  She has no eyes for herself, for seeing her own spiritual or material comfort.  Rather as one who has completely drowned her own will in this light and knowledge [of God’s truth], she shuns no burden, from whatever source it may come.  She even endures the pain of shame and vexations from the devil and other people’s grumbling... She seeks no recompense either from me or from others, because she is stripped of any mercenary love, of any loving me for her own profit. She is clothed in perfect light, and loves me sincerely without any other concern than the glory and praise of my name.  Souls such as these have let go of themselves, have stripped of their old nature, their selfish sensuality, and clothed themselves in a new nature, the gentle Christ Jesus, my Truth, and they follow him courageously.  These ... have set their minds ... on slaying their selfish will... They are always peaceful and calm, and nothing can scandalize them... They can stand in the water of great troubles and temptations, but it cannot hurt them because they are anchored to the vine of burning desire.  They find joy in everything.  They do not sit in judgment on my servants or anyone else, but rejoice in every situation and every way of living they see, saying, “Thanks to you, eternal Father, that in your house there are so many dwelling places!”  And they are happier to see many different ways [for souls to come to God] than if they were to see everyone walking the same way...  In everything they find joy and the fragrance of the rose.  This is true not only of good things; even when they see something that is clearly sinful they do not pass judgment, but rather feel a holy and genuine compassion, praying for the sinner and saying with perfect humility, “Today it is your turn; tomorrow it will be mine unless divine grace holds me up.”   O dearest daughter, let the love of this sweet marvelous state take hold of you.  Look at those who run along in this glorious light and their own magnificence.  Their spirits are holy and they feast at the table of holy desire. ... They are clothed in the lovely garment, the teaching, of the Lamb, my only-begotten Son, with flaming charity. (187-90)


As for any assault [usually in the form of words] against yourself, consider that my will permits it to prove virtue in you and in my other servants.  And assume that the offender does such a thing as an instrument commissioned by me.  For often such a person’s intention is good; there is no one who can judge the hidden heart. (191)


I will only your well-being, and whatever I give, I give it so that you may reach the goal for which I created you.  The soul who considers things in this light remains always in love for her neighbors, and so she remains in my love.  And because she remains in my love she remains united with me. So if you would attain the purity you ask of me, there are three principal things you must do.  You must be united with me in loving affection, bearing in your memory the blessings you have received from me.  With the eye of your understanding you must see my affectionate charity, how unspeakably much I love you.  And where the human will is concerned you must consider my will rather than people’s evil intentions, for I am their judge—not you, but I.  If you do this, all perfection will be yours. (191-2)


And if anyone should ask me what this soul is, I would say: She is another me, made so by the union of love. ... Oh, how lovely, how lovely beyond all loveliness, is the dwelling place of the soul’s perfect union with me!  Not even the soul’s own will stands between us, because she has become one thing with me.  She gives forth a fragrance to the whole wide world, the fruit of constant humble prayers.  The fragrance of her longing cries out for the salvation of souls... (181)


It is your duty to love your neighbors as your own self.  In love you ought to help them spiritually with prayer and counsel, and assist them spiritually and materially in their need—at least with your good will if you have nothing else. (33)


Lack of charity for me and for your neighbors is the source of all evils...Everywhere, on every level of society, all are giving birth to sin on their neighbors’ heads.  For there is no sin that does not touch others, whether secretly by refusing them what is due them, or openly by giving birth to the vices... Selfish love which deprives your neighbors of your charity and affection is the principle and foundation of all evil.  Every scandal, hatred, cruelty, and everything unbecoming springs from this root of selfish love.  It has poisoned the whole world and sickened the mystic body of holy Church and the universal body of Christianity. (34-6)


Love of me and love of neighbor are one and the same thing:  Since love of neighbor has its source in me, the more the soul loves me, the more she loves her neighbors. (36)


When you return good for evil you not only prove your own virtue, but often you send out coals ablaze with charity that will melt hatred and bitterness from the heart and mind of the wrathful, even turning their hatred to benevolence.  Such is the power of charity and perfect patience in one who takes up the burden of the sins of the wicked and bears with their anger. (39)


The soul in love with my truth never ceases doing service for all the world. ... Beyond a general love for all people she sets her eye on the specific needs of her neighbors and comes to the aid of those nearest her according to the graces I have given her for ministry.  Some she teaches by word, giving sincere and impartial counsel; others she teaches by her example—as everyone ought to—edifying her neighbors by her good, holy, honorable life. (37)


She [the soul] must love her neighbors with such affection that she would bear any pain or torment to win them the life of grace, ready to die a thousand deaths, if that were possible, for their salvation.  And all her material possessions are at the service of her neighbors’ physical needs. (44)


She loves every person with the same love she sees herself loved with, and this is why the soul, as soon as she comes to know me, reaches out to love her neighbors.  Because she sees that I love them even more than she does, she also loves them unspeakably much. ... She sets herself to repaying my love through the means I established—her neighbors. They are the ones to whom you must be of service... Every virtue is realized through your neighbors.  I have given you these to serve, every one, both in general and individually, according to the different graces you receive from me.  You must love with the same pure love with which I love you. ... You must give this love to other people, loving them without [feeling the need for] being loved by them.  You must love them without any concern for your own spiritual or material profit, but only for the glory and praise of my name, because I love them.  In this way you will fulfill the whole commandment of the Law, which is to love me above all things and your neighbor as your very self. (164-5)


The soul is never so perfect in this life that she cannot become yet more perfect in love. (166)


That love would indeed be disordered and lacking in discernment which would commit even a single sin to redeem the whole world from hell or to achieve on great virtue.  No, neither the greatest virtues nor any service to your neighbor may be bought at the price of sin. (44)


How glorious is the soul who has so truly learned to cross the stormy flood to come to me, the peaceful sea!  The vessel of her heart is filled with the sea that is my very self, the most high eternal Godhead! (163-4)


Those who love me live in me and I live in them. [cf. John 4:16] (46)


You will share in the eternal Godhead made one with humanity, whence you will draw that divine love which inebriates the soul (61)


There are three specific things I want you to do so that ignorance will not stand in the way of the perfection I am calling you to, and so that the devil will not feed the root of presumption within your soul under the guise of charity for your neighbors. ... [First:]  Even if your neighbors’ sins are clearly shown to your spirit not just once or twice but many times, you should still not confront them with specific sins.  Rather, when they come to visit you, you should correct their bad habits in a general way and lovingly and kindly plant the virtues [in their place]... So let silence or a holy argument for virtue be in your mouth to discourage vice. ... [Second:]  If it sometimes happens ... that you have prayed specifically for certain individuals and in your prayer have seen some light of grace in the one for whom you were praying while you see in the other (and both are my servants) a confused and darksome spirit, you neither should nor can assume that the second person is guilty of serious sin, for often as not your judgment would be false. ... When you are praying for someone it may happen that at one time you will find that person enlightened and filled with holy desire in my presence... But at another time you will find that same person’s spirit apparently far away from me and all full of darkness and troubles, so that it seems burdensome for you to keep praying and holding that soul in my presence.  Sometimes this happens because of some fault on the part of the person for whom you are praying.  More often, however, it is not because of any fault but because I, God eternal, have withdrawn [the sense of my presence] from that soul, as I often do to lead souls to perfection ... Though I have not taken away my grace, I have withdrawn the feeling of delight and consolation.  ... So you see, dearest and sweetest daughter, how foolish and reprehensible would be any judgment you or anyone else might make by assuming on appearances alone... Leave this and every other kind of judgment to me, because it is my perogative, not yours. Give up judgment, which belongs to me, and take up compassion with hunger for my honor and the salvation of souls.  ... The third thing I want you to be careful of [is to] reprove yourself if ever the devil or your own short-sightedness should do you the disservice of making you want to force all my servants to walk by the same path you yourself follow...  (193-6)


I give ... [spiritual] gifts very differently:  Sometimes I give the pleasure of a spiritual gladness; sometimes contrition and contempt for sin, which will make it seem as if the spirit is inwardly troubled. Sometimes I am in the soul without her sensing my presence.  Sometimes I make my Truth, the incarnate Word [Jesus Christ] take shape before her mind’s eye in different ways, and yet it will seem that in her feelings the soul does not sense him with the ardor and delight she thinks ought to follow on such a vision.  And sometimes she will see nothing but will feel tremendous pleasure.  All this I do out of love, to support her and make her grow in the virtue of humility and in perseverance... Her goal is not consolation but only virtue built on me.  ... She should remain humble.  Her beginning and end should be in the love of my charity. (130)


The sign [of whether consolations and visions are coming from God or the devil] is the gladness and hunger for virtue that remain in the soul after the visitation, especially if she is anointed with the virtue of true humility and set ablaze with divine charity.  ... This is how one can be deluded. ... The more a soul loves what she has [in the form of divine consolations, visions, etc.], the less she sees or is careful to discern with prudence where that thing came from.  She finds so much pleasure in the consolation that her gladness over receiving what she loves does not let her see or care about such discernment.  Thus people who are very fond of spiritual consolation and find great pleasure in it hanker after visions and set their hearts more on the enjoyment of consolation than (as they should) on me.  ... Those who are still imperfect ... look more to the gift of consolations they receive from me the giver than they do to the loving charity with which I give. ... Souls can be deluded in their gladness... If such gladness is found to be devoid of any burning desire for virtue and is not anointed with humility and set ablaze in the furnace of my divine charity, then that visitation and whatever consolation or vision the soul has receive are from the devil and not from me, in spite of the sign of gladness the soul feels.  Because her gladness is not joined with love for virtue you can clearly see that her gladness comes from her love for her own spiritual consolation.  ... There are others [perfect souls] who are sincere and without any self-interest.  These, afire as they are with love, look only to me the Giver, and not to the gift.  They love the gift because of me the Giver, and not because of their own consolation.  These cannot be deluded by such gladness.  ... [Regarding] those, on the other hand, who are in love with their own consolation... One does not see them coming out of this experience with humility and true charity, with hunger for honoring me, God eternal, and for the salvation of souls. (199-200)


[Some] people find all their pleasure in seeking their own spiritual consolation—so much so that often they see their neighbors in spiritual or temporal need and refuse to help them.  Under pretense of virtue they say, “It would make me lose my spiritual peace and quiet...”  [These souls] offend me more by abandoning charity for their neighbor for a particular exercise or for spiritual quiet than if they had abandoned the exercise for their neighbor.  For in charity for their neighbors they find me, but in their own pleasure, where they are seeking me, they will be deprived of me. ... So, those who want to gain lose, and those who are willing to lose gain. In other words, those who are willing to lose their own consolation for their neighbors’ welfare receive and gain me and their neighbors, if they help and serve them lovingly.  And so they enjoy the graciousness of my charity at all times.  (130-1)


And sometimes this selfishness of theirs [i.e., the imperfect souls] harms them even further.  If their desire and searching is fixed only on consolations and visions, then they will fall into spiritual bitterness and weariness when they find themselves deprived of these. ... They are often deluded in yet another way by the devil, when he takes on the appearance of light.  For the devil gives whatever he sees the mind disposed to desire and receive. ... He does this in different ways: now as an angel, now under the guise of my Truth [Jesus], now as one or the other of my saints. ... And unless she [the soul] rouses herself with true humility, scorning all pleasure, she will be caught on this hook in the devil’s hands.  But let her humbly disdain pleasure and cling to love not for the gift but for me, the giver. (132-3)


One can tell that a soul has attained perfect love [by the same sign] ... as that given to the holy disciples after they had received the Holy Spirit. ...They had no fear of suffering. (136)


Patience is a sure sign that the soul loves me perfectly and without self-interest... She is patient and strong in suffering and persevering. (141)


My saints ... made themselves small for me, and I have made them great in myself ... The world holds them in reverence because they have despised the world [worldly pleasures].  These souls hide their virtue ... through humility... If their neighbors have need of their service, ... they serve them courageously, with no concern for themselves.  In whatever way they use their lifetime for my honor, they are happy and find spiritual peace and quiet. (142)


With what delight these souls enjoy me while still in their mortal bodies. ... There is a fruit that comes from this ... perfect union with me.  She [the soul] receives strength upon strength until she no longer merely suffers with patience, but eagerly longs to suffer for the glory and praise of my name.  Such souls ... want to be of service to their neighbors in pain and suffering, and to learn and preserve the virtues while bearing the marks of Christ in their bodies ... [The stigmata wounds are being described here; Catherine herself, like St. Francis of Assisi and others, bore these wounds on her body.] ... To such very dear children as these, suffering is a delight and pleasure is wearisome, as is every consolation or delight the world may offer them. ... Even the spiritual consolation they receive from me, the eternal Father—even this they scorn because of their humility and contempt for themselves [i.e., disregard for their own selfish pleasure]. ... This is because of the true humility they have learned. ... To such as these it is granted never to feel my absence. ... For through loving affection their desire has reached such union that nothing can separate it [from me].  Every time and place is for them a time and place of prayer. ... They have shed every earthly affection and sensual selfishness and have risen above themselves to the height of heaven by the stairway of virtue... They feel me constantly present to their spirits.  And the more they have scorned pleasure and been willing to suffer, the more they have lost suffering and gained pleasure.  Why?  Because they are enflamed and on fire in my charity... The delight of charity that makes them happy can never be taken away from them, and in this they receive gladness and blessedness. ... So it is with these souls cast into the furnace of my charity, who keep nothing at all, not a bit of their own will, outside of me, but are completely set afire in me.  There is no one who can seize them or drag them out of my grace.  They have been made one with me and I with them.  I will never withdraw from their feelings.  No, their spirits always feel my presence within them... When they reach perfection I relieve them of this lover’s game of going and coming back.  I call it a “lover’s game” because I go away for love and I come back for love—no, not really I, for I am your unchanging and unchangeable God; what goes and comes back is the feeling my charity creates in the soul. ... [These souls] taste in me the eternal Godhead, and I am to them a peaceful sea with which the soul becomes so united that her spirit knows no movement but in me.  Though she is mortal she tastes the reward of the immortals, and weighed down still with the body she receives the lightness of the spirit.  Often, therefore the body is lifted up from the ground because of the perfect union of the soul with me... [Catherine, like some other saints, was seen on a number of occasions to have actually physically levitated.] ... It is ... because the union of the soul with me is more perfect than the union between the soul and the body.  And for this reason the strength of the spirit united with me lifts the body’s weight off the ground... (144-8)


The soul who has shed her body and come to me her final goal sees it clearly, and in her vision she knows the truth.  Seeing me, the eternal Father, she loves; loving, she is satisfied... Her will is grounded firmly in mine—so firmly and solidly that nothing can cause her to suffer... Suffering has ended for the blessed, but not love. ... They will find themselves in me, the sea of peace, lifted above imperfection and emptiness into perfection and filled with every good. (151-2)


Death gives these souls no difficulty.  They long for it. ... They have lost the natural tenderness which binds soul and body... (154)


[Regarding] the perfection of this unitive state in which souls are carried off by the fire of my charity[:]  In that charity they receive supernatural light, and in that light they love me.  ... By this light they reach that eternal vision of me in which they see and taste me in truth when soul is separated from body... This is that superb state in which the soul even while still mortal shares the enjoyment of the immortals.  In fact, she often attains such union that she hardly knows whether she is in the body or out. ... Her own will is dead. ... These soul have, then, a taste of eternal life.  They have let go of the hell of self-will. (157-8)


[Regarding the sanctified souls of heaven:]  Forever they rejoice in love at the sight of me, sharing in that goodness which I have... They are established in love for me and for their neighbors.  And they are all united in general and special love... They rejoice and exult, sharing each other’s goodness with loving affection... They rejoice and exult with the angels, and they find their places among the saints according to the different virtues in which they excelled in the world.  And though they are all joined in the bond of charity, they know a special kind of sharing with those whom they loved most closely with a special love in the world. ... They still love and share with each other even more closely and fully, adding their love to the good of all. ... When a soul reaches eternal life, all share in her good and she in theirs. ... They experience a new freshness in their exultation—a mirthfulness, a jubilation, a gladness—in knowing this soul. ... And that soul finds joy in me and in all these souls and blessed spirits, seeing and tasting in them the sweetness of my love. Their desires are a continual cry to me for the salvation of others, for they finished their lives loving their neighbors, and they did not leave that love behind but brought it with them when they passed through that gate which is my only-begotten Son.  So you see that in whatever bond of love they finish their lives, that bond is theirs forever and lasts eternally. ... What these blessed ones want is to see me honored in you who are still on the way, pilgrims running ever nearer your end in death. ... They are constantly praying to me for you. ... The good of these souls is beyond what your mind’s eye can see or your ear hear or your tongue describe or your heart imagine. (83-4)



Juliana of Norwich (b. 1342; d. after 1413; Catholic anchoress; England):


Prayer makes the soul one with God.  For though the soul, restored by grace [through the coming of Jesus the Christ], is always like God in nature and substance, it is often unlike him in condition, because of sin on man’s part. (150) [19]


The fruit and end of our prayer is to be made one with our Lord and to live for him in all things. (148)


Our Lord ... says, “Pray inwardly, though you think it gives you no satisfaction.  For the prayer is profitable though you feel nothing, though you see nothing, yes, though you think you can do nothing.  In dryness and in barrenness, in sickness and in feebleness—then is your prayer most pleasing to me...” (146)


When we know and see clearly what our self is in truth, then we shall in truth see and know our Lord God clearly, in fullness of joy. (154)


It is necessary for us to know the littleness of creatures in order to reduce them to nothingness in our judgment, so that we may love and have the uncreated God.  The reason we are not fully at ease in heart and soul is because we seek rest in these things that are so little and have no rest within them, and pay no attention to our God, who is Almighty, All-wise, All-good and the only real rest. ... Nothing less than he can satisfy us.  This is why no soul can be at rest until it has judged all created things as nothing.  When one has deliberately valued all things as nothing in order to possess him who is all, then is he able to receive spiritual rest. (89)


It is a glorious property of God that he is unchanging. (105)


My understanding was lifted up into heaven, where I saw our Lord like a lord in his own house who has called all his valued servants and friends to a solemn feast.  Then I saw the lord take no place in his own house, but royally reign there, and he completely filled it with joy and mirth.  He himself endlessly gladdened and solaced his valued friends most modestly and courteously with the marvelous melody of endless love in his own fair, blessed face.  This glorious countenance of the godhead completely fills all heaven with joy and bliss. (106)


Out of him we all come; in him we are all enclosed; into him we shall all go, finding in him our complete heaven in everlasting joy... (178)


Our Lord showed himself more glorious in my sight than I had ever seen him before.  In this I was taught that our soul shall never have rest until it comes to him, knowing that he is the fullness of joy, familiarity and courteously blissful, and life itself. (123)


The greatest fulfillment of joy we shall have, as I see it, is the marvelous courtesy and unassuming friendliness of our Father who is our maker, in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our brother and our savior.  But this marvelous familiarity no man may experience in this present life unless he does so through a special showing of our Lord, or through great fullness of grace given him inwardly by the Holy Spirit. (94)


As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our mother. (189)


I saw that God rejoices that he is our Father; God rejoices that he is our Mother; God rejoices that he is our true Spouse and that our soul is his beloved wife.  Christ rejoices that he is our brother, and Jesus rejoices that he is our saviour.  These are the five noble joys, as I understood things, in which he wills that we rejoice, praising him, thanking him, loving him and endlessly blessing him. (173-4)


Our saviour [Lord Jesus] is our true mother; in him we are endlessly born, and we shall never come out of him. ... For in truth I saw that our substance is in God. (186)


In our Father, God Almighty, we have our being.  In our mother, Christ, we have our reforming and our restoration by mercy.  In him, our parts are made one, and all is made perfect man.  And by the harvest and the giving of grace, we are completely filled by the Holy Spirit. (188-9)


And because of the great, endless love that God has for all mankind, he makes no distinction in love between the blessed soul of Christ and the least of the souls that will be saved.  It is very easy to believe and trust that the dwelling of the blessed soul of Christ is completely on high, in the glorious godhead.  And in truth, as I understood what our Lord meant [in his “showings” to Juliana], where the blessed soul of Christ is, there is the substance of all the souls that will be saved by Christ.  We ought to rejoice greatly that God dwells in our soul, and much more greatly that our soul dwells in God. ... I saw no difference between God and our substance, but saw it as if it were all God. (179)


We are in God and he is in us, though we do not see it. (180)


In this [Juliana’s revelations] I saw matter for mirth and matter for mourning.  The matter for mirth is that our Lord, our maker, is so near to us and that he is in us and we are in him by the sure keeping of his great goodness.  The matter for mourning is that our spiritual eye is so blind and that we are so borne down by the weight of our mortal flesh and the darkness of sin that we cannot see our Lord God clearly in his fair expression of bliss.  No, and because of this murkiness and darkness, we can scarcely believe and trust his great love and the certainty of our preservation. (213)


God is nearer to us that our own soul, for he is the ground in whom our soul is rooted... Our soul sits in God in true rest, and our soul stands in God in sure strength, and our soul is naturally rooted in God in endless love. (183)


[Therefore,] we can never come to the full knowing of God until we first know clearly our own soul. (183)


Our Lord ... wills that we have knowledge of four things.  The first is that he is the ground from whom we have our entire life and our whole being.  The second is that he keeps us powerfully and mercifully while we are in our sins, among all our enemies, who are most deadly against us. ... The third is how courteously he keeps us and causes us to know that we go astray [for our own humility].  The fourth is how steadfastly he waits for us, and does not change his expression.  For he wills that we should be turned and joined to him in love as he is to us. (224)


God wills that we understand these things... For to know them fully and to see them clearly is nothing other than the endless joy and bliss that we shall have in heaven.  This God wills, that we begin here [in this life] in the knowing of his love. (184)


He will never have his full bliss in us until we have our full bliss in him... (212)


The greatest honor we can pay him of anything that we can do is to live gladly and merrily for his love... (229)


Our soul can never have rest in things that are beneath itself. (206)


Our brothers [and sisters] who are saints in heaven ... will nothing but what God wills. (134)


To be perfectly like our Lord is our true salvation and our complete bliss. If we do not know how we shall do so, let us desire all of it from our Lord, and he will teach us, for it is his own delight and his glory... (223)


He wills that we be like him the wholeness of endless love for our fellow Christians. (145)


The contemplation of other men’s sins creates, as it were, a thick mist before the eyes of the soul, and we cannot, for that time, see the fairness of God.  This is true unless we contemplate them with contrition with the sinner, with compassion on him, and with holy desire for God on his behalf. (220)


We are all one in love. (96)


It is a greater honor to God for you to see him in everything than in any one, special thing. ... The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything. (135-6)


We may not be blissfully saved until we are truly in peace and love, for that is our salvation. ... That is to say, completely pleased with God, with all his works and with all his judgments, and loving and peaceable with our selves, with our fellow Christians and with everything God loves and love delights in it.  God’s goodness accomplishes this in us.  Thus I saw that God is our true peace... He continually works to bring us into endless peace.  And thus, when we, by the working of mercy and grace, are made meek and mild, we are completely safe.  The soul is made suddenly one with God when it is truly at peace in itself. ... God is our steadfast ground, and he shall be our complete bliss and make us unchangeable, as he is, when we are there. (160-1)


Bliss is everlasting, while pain is passing and shall be reduced to nothingness for those who shall be saved.  Therefore, it is not God’s will that we follow [get attached to] the feelings of pain, in sorrow and mourning on their account, but that we immediately pass beyond them and hold ourselves in the endless delight that is God. (108)


[Regarding the passion and suffering of Christ on the cross:] We are now on his cross with him in our pains, and dying with him in our sufferings.  If we deliberately stay on the same cross, with his help and his grace, up to the final point, suddenly he shall transform his countenance for us and we shall be with him in heaven. ... We shall be full of bliss. ... And the harsher our pains have been with him on his cross, the greater shall our glory be with him in his kingdom. (116-7)


By his [God’s] permission, through spiritual enmity we are tested in the faith and made strong. (210)


He wills that we accept our periods of waiting and our discomforts as lightly as we can take them, and that we should count them as nothing. (201)


Man is changeable in this life, and by frailty and being overcome, by simplicity and lack of cunning, he falls into sin.  In himself he is powerless and unwise, and his will is overborne. ... The cause is blindness, for he does not see God.  If he saw God continuously, he would have no mischief-making feelings and no kind of stirring or yearning that would urge him to sin. (157)


All of us who shall be saved have within us during our lifetime a marvelous mixture of both well-being and woe.  We have within ourselves our risen Lord Jesus Christ, and we have within us the wretchedness and evil consequences of Adam’s falling.  Dying in Christ, we are everlastingly preserved, and by the touching of his grace, we are raised to a real trust in salvation. (174)


A mother may allow her child to fall sometimes, and be made uncomfortable in various ways for his own profit, but because of her love she can never allow any kind of peril to come to her child. ... [So also,] our heavenly mother, Jesus, can never allow us who are his children to perish.  For he is Almighty, All-wisdom, All-love, and there is none like him, blessed may he be! (195)


Because of our feebleness and our folly, it is ours to fall.  Because of mercy and grace from the Holy Spirit it is ours to rise to greater joy. (222)


When we fall, he raises us hastily, by his lovely calling and his gracious touching.  ... And yet after this he allows some of us to fall harder and more seriously than we have ever done before, as we imagine.  And then we suppose that we are not entirely wise, and that all we have begun is nothing.  But it is not so.  For it is necessary for us to fall, and it is necessary for us to see it.  If we did not fall, we would not know how feeble and wretched we are of ourselves, nor should we know so fully the marvelous love of our maker. (194)


Just as God, by his courtesy, forgets our sin when we repent of it, so he wills that we forget our sin as far as our unskillful depression [over our sins] and our doubt-filled dreads are concerned. (216)


God [actually] rejoices in Adam’s falling, on account of the noble raising and the fullness of bliss that mankind has come to, surpassing what we would have had if he had not fallen. (175)


It is the failure of love on our part that causes all our distressful labor. (140)


[Yet,] there can be no wrath in God. ... For wrath is nothing else but a perversity, and a contrariness to peace and love.  It comes either from the failing of power, or the failing of wisdom, or the failing of goodness. These failures are not in God. (104, 158)


Our courteous Lord comforts and assists.  He always wears a cheerful expression for the soul, loving and longing to bring us to bliss. (166)


Glad, merry and sweet is the blissful, lovely expression of our Lord to our souls. (211)


I understood [through the divine revelations] that the lord [God] looked at the servant [the human being] with pity and not with blame, for this passing life does not ask to be lived entirely without blame and sin.  He loves us endlessly.  We sin habitually, and he shows it to us most mildly.  Then we sorrow and mourn prudently, turning ourselves inward to the contemplation of his mercy, cleaving to his love and to his goodness... (230)


It was a great wonder to the soul, ... that our Lord God in himself cannot forgive, because he cannot be angry—it is impossible.  For it was shown [to me] that our life is entirely grounded and rooted in love and without love we cannot live. ... I saw no kind of wrath in God, neither for the short term nor for the long, for truly, as I saw it, if God could be angry, even a touch, we should never have life, nor place, nor being. ... Though we feel in ourselves wrath, wretched debates and strifes, we are mercifully in all ways fully enclosed in the mildness of God, in his meekness, in his benignity... I saw most certainly that all our endless friendship, our place, our life and our being is in God. (159-60)


God is the goodness that cannot be angry, for he is nothing but goodness. Our soul is made one with him, who is unchangeable goodness, and between God and our soul there is neither anger nor forgiveness, in his sight.  For our soul is most completely made one with God by his own goodness, so that between God and the soul absolutely nothing can exist. (155)


By his permission we fall, in his blissful love with his might and his wisdom we are preserved, and by mercy and grace we are raised to many more joys.  ... For all that is good our Lord does, and what is evil our Lord suffers. (136)


I know in truth that we sin grievously all the time and are worthy of much blame... In this was my marveling, that I saw our Lord God showing us no more blame than if we were as pure and holy as angels are in heaven. (162)


God also showed that sin will be no shame but an honor to man, for just as for every sin there is an answering pain in reality, so for every sin a bliss is given to the same soul.  Just as different sins are punished by different pains according to their seriousness, so shall they be rewarded by different joys in heaven according to the pain and sorrow they have caused the soul on earth. ... The goodness of God never allows the soul which will come there to sin without giving it a reward for suffering for that sin.  ... The soul is blissfully restored by exceeding glories. (140)


Therefore, when the judgment is given and we are all brought up above, then shall we clearly see, in God, the secrets that are now hidden to us.  Then none of us shall be stirred to say about anything, “Lord, if it had been thus and so, it would have been completely well...”  But we shall all say with one voice, “Lord, blessed may you be!  Because it is this way, it is well.  And now we see in truth that everything is done as your ordained it before anything was made.” (234)


As we are punished here with sorrow and penance, we shall be rewarded in heaven by the courteous love of our Lord God Almighty, who wills that no one who comes there shall suffer any loss at all for his bitter labor.  For he sees sin as sorrow and pain to his lovers, to whom, for love, he assigns no blame. ... Our courteous Lord does not will that his servants despair, either for frequent or for serious failures, for our failures do not prevent him from loving us. (142-3)


When we have seen how foul we are, we imagine that God must be angry with us for our sin.  Then we are stirred by the Holy Spirit, by means of contrition, to pray and desire to amend our lives, and with all our powers, to lessen God’s wrath until such time as we can find rest of soul and relief in [the sacrament of] confession.  Then we hope that God has forgiven us our sins... Then our courteous Lord shows himself to the soul most merrily and with a glad expression.  With a friendly welcome, ... he says sweetly, “My darling, I am glad you have come to me.  In all this misery I have ever been with you.  Now you see my loving and we are made one in bliss.” (143)


I saw in truth that God does everything, no matter how little it is.  I also saw for a fact that nothing is done by chance or accident, but all is done by the foreseeing wisdom of God.  If it looks like chance or accident in the sight of man, our blindness and lack of foreseeing is the cause. ... Therefore, I must and ought to grant that everything that is done is well done, because our Lord does it all. ... Man sees some deeds as well done, and some deeds as evil, but our Lord doesn’t see things that way.  For as everything that has natural being is made by God, so everything that is done is done by virtue of God’s doing. ... There is no doer but he.  There was nothing unknown to him in his rightful laws from eternity, all things were set in order before anything was made, as it should stand endlessly. No kind of thing shall fail in this regard, for he made all things in the fullness of goodness. ... All this he showed [to me] most blissfully, intending this to be understood: “See! I am God.  See! I am in all things. See! I do all things.  See! I never take my hands off my works and never shall forever. See! I lead all things to the end I ordained for them from eternity, by the same might, wisdom and love by which I made them.  How should anything be amiss? (101-2)


I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the beginning of sin had not been prevented, for then, I thought, all would have been well. ... But Jesus ... answered in these words, saying, “Sin is necessary, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” ... These words were said most tenderly, showing no kind of blame assigned to me or to anyone who shall be saved.  Consequently, it would be a most unnatural act for me to blame or wonder at God on account of my sin, seeing that he does not blame me for sin. (124-5)


He does away with all our blame by his noble courtesy and regards us with compassion and pity, like innocent children, who can’t be hated. (127)


As we see it, there are many deeds evilly done.  So great is the harm they cause, that it seems to us impossible that they should ever come to good. We look upon these deeds sorrowing and mourning so that, on their account, we cannot be at rest in the blissful contemplation of God... The cause is this: the reasoning we can use now is so blind, so low and so simple that we cannot know the lofty, marvelous wisdom, the power and the goodness, of the blessed Trinity. ... There is a deed that the blessed Trinity shall do on the last day, according to what I saw. ... This great deed is the one ordained by God from eternity. ... By this deed, he shall make all things well.  Just as the blessed Trinity made all things from nothing, so the same blessed Trinity shall make well all that is not well. ... [The Lord said:]  “What is impossible to you is not impossible to me. ... I shall make all things well.” (131-2)


Then shall we all come in to our Lord, knowing ourselves clearly and possessing God most fully.  We shall endlessly be completely possessed by God, seeing him in truth, most fully feeling him, spiritually hearing him delectably smelling him, sweetly swallowing him.  Then shall we see him face to face, familiarly and most fully.  The creature that is made shall see and endlessly gaze at God, who is its maker. ... For we are made for endless joy and bliss, and our natural substance [true identity] is now blissful in God, has been so since it was made, and shall be so without end. (151)


From the time of [this] showing [by God to Juliana], I desired frequently to understand what our Lord’s meaning was, and more than fifteen years afterward I was answered by a spiritual understanding that said, “Do you want to understand your Lord’s meaning in this experience?  Understand it well: love was his meaning.  Who showed it to you?  Love.  What did he show you?  Love.  Why did he show it?  For love.  Hold yourself in this truth and you shall understand and know more in the same vein....”  Thus was I taught that love is our Lord’s meaning.  And I saw most certainly in this and in everything that before God made us he loved us, and this love never slackened and never shall. ... And all this we shall see in God without end. (235)



Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510; Catholic; Italy):


The proper center of everyone is God Himself. (30) [20]


All goodness is a participation in God and His love for His creatures. (73)


Without work on our part, grace refuses to save. (33)


My Being is God, not by some simple participation, but by a true transformation of my Being. (30)


If I do anything that is evil, I do it myself alone, nor can I attribute the blame to the Devil or to any other creature but my own self-will, sensuality, and other such malign movements.  I clearly recognize now that all good is in God alone, and that in me, without divine grace, there is nothing but deficiency. (33)


His love manifests itself in greater or lesser degree according to the impediments that block His love.  ... The evil lies clearly in the perverse will that opposes God. (73-4)


The soul, once purified, comes to rest and abide in God. ... Its being is God. (35-6) 


When God sees the Soul pure as it was in its origins, He tugs at it with a glance, draws it and binds it to Himself with a fiery love that by itself could annihilate the immortal soul.  In so acting, God so transforms the soul in Him that it knows nothing other than God.  ... As it is being drawn upwards, the soul feels itself melting in the fire of that love of its sweet God, for He will not cease until He has brought the soul to its perfection. ... And I see rays of lightning darting from that divine love to the creature, so intense and fiery... These rays purify and then annihilate.  The soul becomes like gold that becomes purer as it is fired, all dross being cast out.  ... In this purification, what is obliterated and cast out is not the soul, one with God, but the lesser self.  Having come to the point of twenty-four carats, gold cannot be purified any further; and this is what happens to the soul in the fire of God’s love. ... Once stripped of all its imperfections, the soul rests in god, with no characteristics of its own, since its purification is the stripping away of the lower self in us.  Our being is then God. (78-80)


If we are to become perfect, the change must be brought about in us and without us; that is, the change is to be the work not of man, but of God. ...The last stage of love is that which comes about and does its work without man’s doing. (81)


Lord, Lord, I want no signs from you, nor am I looking for intense feelings to accompany your love. ... They get in the way of Pure Love—for under the guise of Pure Love it is those emotional feelings to which the soul becomes attached.  Love must be naked.  I beseech you, therefore, to grant me no such additional feelings, for I do not care for them. ... Pure Love does not attach itself to pleasure or feeling, bodily or spiritual. ... Spiritual pleasures ... are something of a poison against pure love of God. They are more difficult to eradicate once we become attached to them.  Not to understand this is to be barred from the one perfect good—God pure and naked. (122-4).


God never allows man to carry a weight that is greater than his strength. (126)


[In her last days:] I still cannot say that I am suffering.  You make all things bearable, and my joy is such that it cannot be imagined or expressed. (144-5)


As for paradise, God has placed no doors there.  Whoever wishes to enter, does so.  All-merciful God stands there with His arms open, waiting to receive us into His glory.  I also see, however, that the divine essence is so pure and light-filled—much more than we can imagine—that the soul that has but the slightest imperfection would rather throw itself into a thousand hells than appear thus before the divine presence. (78)



Teresa of Avila (1515-82; Catholic Carmelite; Spain):


Let nothing disturb thee;

Let nothing dismay thee;

All things pass:

God never changes.

Patience attains

All that it strives for.

He who has God

Finds he lacks nothing:

God alone suffices. [21]


O Thou our Emperor! Supreme Power, Supreme Goodness, Wisdom Itself, without Beginning, without end and without measure in Thy works: infinite are these and incomprehensible, a fathomless ocean of wonders, O Beauty containing within Thyself all beauties. (WP 159-60) [22]


Remember how important it is for you to have understood this truth—that the Lord is within us and that we should be there with Him. (WP 184-5)


Without You, what am I, Lord?  If I am not close to You, what am I worth? If I stray a little from Your Majesty, where will I end up? God is everywhere; and ... wherever God is, there is Heaven. (WP 183)


Being in prayer one day ... I saw beside me, or felt rather, for I saw nothing with the eyes of the body nor with those of the soul, but it seemed to me that Christ was close beside me, and I saw it was He who spoke to me... Since I was quite ignorant that there could be such a vision, it gave me great fear at first, and I could but weep, although in [His] saying to me a single word to assure me I remained as usual, quiet and joyful and without any fear.  It seemed to me that Jesus Christ was always at my side, and as it was not an imaginary vision, I did not see in what form, but I felt very clearly that He was always at the right side, and that he was witness of all that I did... (TA 132)


The whole mischief comes from our not really grasping the fact that He is near us, and imagining Him far away—so far, that we shall have to go to [a distant] Heaven in order to find Him.  How is it, Lord, that we do not look at Thy face, when it is so near us? (WP 192-3)


[Teresa used to say that God walked among the pots and pans as well as anywhere else. (TA 246)]


Let our thoughts always be fixed upon what endures, and not trouble ourselves with earthly things which do not endure even for a lifetime. (WP 190)


There is a great difference between the [spiritual realm and the world]..., the one being eternal and the other only a dream. (WP 68)


Think and meditate upon what is real and upon what is not. (WP 114)


Pray without ceasing. [Cf. Luke 18:1] (WP 52)


To conquer oneself for one’s own good is to make use of the senses in the service of the interior life.  If she [the soul] is speaking she must try to remember that there is One within her to Whom she can speak; if she is listening, let her remember that she can listen to Him Who is nearer to her than anyone else. ... Let her realize that, if she likes, she need never withdraw from this good companionship... If she can, let her practice recollection many times daily; if not, let her do so occasionally.  As she grows accustomed to it, she will feel its benefits, either sooner or later.  Once the Lord has granted it to her, she would not exchange it for any treasure.  Nothing, sisters, can be learned without a little trouble, so do, for the love of God, look upon any care which you take about this as well spent.  I know that, with God’s help, if you practise it [inner recollectedness and prayer] for a year, or perhaps for only six months, you will be successful in attaining it.  Think what a short time that is for acquiring so great a benefit. (WP 194-5)


See how blind the world is!  It never thinks of all the thousands who have fallen into heresies and other great evils through yielding to distractions and not practising prayer. (WP 153)


Believe me, friends, it is a great thing to realize the truth of this so that we may see how deceptive are earthly things and favours when they deflect the soul in any way from its course and hinder it from entering within itself. (WP 191)


It is absurd to think that we can enter Heaven without first entering our own souls—without getting to know ourselves... (IC 53)


Each of us possesses a soul, but we do not prize our souls as creatures made in God’s image deserve, and so we do not understand the great secrets which they contain. (IC 206)


We actually have something within us incomparably more precious than anything we see outside.  Do not let us suppose that the interior of the soul is empty... If we took care always to remember what a Guest we have within us, I think it would be impossible for us to abandon ourselves to vanities and things of the world, for we should see how worthless they are by comparison with those which we have within us. ... Perhaps you will laugh at me and say that this is obvious enough; and you will be right, though it was some time before I came to see it.  I knew perfectly well that I had a soul, but I did not understand what that soul merited, or Who dwelt within it, until I closed my eyes to the vanities of this world in order to see it.  I think, if I had understood then, as I do now, how this great King [God] really dwells within this little palace of my soul, I should not have left Him alone so often, but should have stayed with Him and never have allowed His dwelling-place to get so dirty. ... If we fill the palace with vulgar people and all kinds of junk, how can the Lord and His Court [the saints and angels] occupy it? (WP 188-9)


His will is for us to desire truth, whereas we desire falsehood; His will is for us to desire the eternal, whereas we prefer that which passes away; His will is for us to desire great and sublime things, whereas we desire the base things of earth; He would have us desire only what is certain, whereas here on earth we love what is doubtful. (WP 277)


What matters is not whether or no we wear a religious habit; it is whether we try to practise the virtues, and make a complete surrender of our wills to God and order our lives as His Majesty ordains; let us desire that not our wills, but His will, be done. (IC 65)


What do you suppose His will is, daughters?  That we should be altogether Perfect, and be one with Him and with the Father ... The Lord asks only two things of us: love for His Majesty and love for our neighbour.  It is for these two virtues that we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly we are doing His will and so shall be united with Him. ... The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments is, I think, that we should really be loving our neighbour... [Yet] I do not believe we could ever attain perfect love for our neighbour unless it had its roots in the love of God. (IC 114-5)


The important thing is not to think much, but to love much. ... Love Consists, not in the extent of our happiness, but in the firmness of our determination to try to please God in everything, and to endeavor, in all possible ways, not to offend Him... (IC 76)


True perfection consists in the love of God and of our neighbour, and the more nearly perfect is our observance of these two commandments, the nearer to perfection we shall be.  Our entire Rule and Constitutions are nothing but means which enable us to do this the more perfectly. (IC 42)


Do not suppose, my friends and sisters, that I am going to charge you to do a great many things... There are only three things... One of these is love for each other; the second, detachment from all created things; the third, true humility, which, although I put it last, is the most important of the three and embraces all the rest. (WP 53)


There is nothing, however annoying, that cannot easily be borne by those who love each other, and anything which causes annoyance must be quite exceptional. (WP 54)


There are two kinds of love which I am describing.  The one is purely spiritual ... The other is also spiritual, but mingled with it are our sensuality and weakness; yet it is a worthy love, which, as between relatives and friends, seems lawful. ... (WP 57)


When we desire anyone’s affection, we always seek it because of some interest, profit or pleasure of our own.  Those who are perfect, however, have trodden all these things beneath their feet ... in such a way that, even if they wanted to, so to say, they could not love anything outside God, or unless it had to do with God. ... Such persons ... care nothing whether they are loved or not.  Do you think that such persons will love none and delight in none save God?  No; they will love others much more than they did, with a more genuine love, with greater passion and with a love which brings more profit; that, in a word, is what love really is. And such souls are always much fonder of giving than of receiving, even in their relations with the Creator Himself.  This [holy affection], I say, merits the name of love, which name has been usurped from it by those other base affections.... If they [noble souls] love anyone they immediately look right beyond the body ... fix their eyes on the soul and see what there is to be loved in that. (WP 70-1)


[Nevertheless,] the holier they are, the more sociable they should be with their sisters. (WP 272)


Let us now come to the detachment which we must practise, for if this is carried out perfectly it includes everything else.  I say “it includes everything else” because, if we care nothing for any created things, but embrace the Creator alone, His Majesty will infuse the virtues into us...(WP 81)


O Lord!  All our trouble comes to us from not having our eyes fixed upon Thee. (WP 122)


Our life lasts only for a couple of hours; our reward is boundless... (WP 43)


Attachment to our relatives is ... the thing which sticks to us most closely and is hardest to get rid of.  (WP 87)


Always see to it that your conversation is benefiting those with whom you speak.  For your prayers must be for the profit of their souls... (WP 147)


It remains for us to become detached from our own selves and it is a hard thing to withdraw from ourselves and oppose ourselves... It is here that true humility can enter, for this virtue and that of detachment from self, I think, always go together. ... Oh, how sovereign are these virtues... He that possesses them can safely go out and fight all the united forces of hell and the whole world and its temptations. ... There is none whom he need fear, for he cares nothing if he loses everything, nor does he count this as loss:  his sole fear is that he may displease his God... (WP 89-90)


The first thing, then, that we have to do, and that at once, is to rid ourselves of love for this body of ours—and some of us pamper our natures so much that this will cause us no little labor, while others are so concerned about their health that the trouble these things give us ... is amazing. (WP 90)


This body of ours has one fault: the more you indulge it, the more things it discovers to be essential to it.  It is extraordinary how it likes being indulged. (WP 94)


Subduing the body to the spirit... consists mainly or entirely in our ceasing to care about ourselves and our own pleasures. (WP 98)


Learn to suffer a little for the love of God without telling everyone about it. (WP 95)


As there can be nothing in our supreme Good [Lord] which is not perfect, all that He gives is for our welfare. (WP 141)


Let us remember our holy Fathers of past days, the hermits whose lives we attempt to imitate.  What sufferings they bore, what solitude, cold, [thirst], and hunger, what burning sun and heat!  ... Try not to fear these and commit yourselves wholly to God, come what may.  What does it matter if we die? ... This resolution is much more important than we may think; for, if we continually make it, day by day, by the grace of the Lord, we shall gain dominion over the body. ... and no one will regret having gone through trials in order to attain this tranquility and self-mastery. (WP 96-7)


I know that, with the Lord’s help, the gradual attainment of this freedom, and of renunciation and self-detachment, is quite possible. (WP 115)


Be certain that the Lord will never fail His lovers, when they take a risk for Him alone. (SS 239)


God deliver us from ... lukewarmness. (SS 231)


[One time the Lord came to Teresa,] assuring me that anyone who served Him would never lack what was necessary to live. (TA 210)


The Lord [is] ... not going to fail those who [have] ... no other care but how to please Him. (TA 247)


He will never leave you unless you leave Him. (WP 178)


God deliver you from the peace of many kinds that worldly people have. ... When such persons of the world remain quiet, while going about in serious Sin, and so tranquil about their vices, for their consciences don’t feel remorseful about anything, their peace ... is a sign that they and the devil are friends.  While they live, the devil does not wage war against them.  For bad as they are they would then return to God somewhat, not out of love for Him but so as to flee from this war. (SS 222)


[Regarding the wealthy nobility:]  One of the lies the world tells is to call such persons lords and ladies, for to me [Teresa was forced to live with a noblewoman for a period of months] they seem only slaves of a thousand things. (TA 201)


[Nevertheless, let us not criticize others:]  Let us ... always try to look at the virtues and good things we see in others, and mantle their defects with our own great sins. (TA 89)


Those who really love God love all good, seek all good, help forward all Good, praise all good, and invariably join forces with good men [and women] and help and defend them.  They love only truth, and things worthy of love. Do you think it possible that anyone who really and truly loves God can love vanities, riches, worldly pleasures or honours?  Can he engage in strife or feel envy?  No; for his only desire is to please the Beloved. Such persons die with longing for Him to love them and so they will give their lives to learn how they may please Him better. (WP 262)


God deliver us, sisters, from saying “We are not angels,” or “We are not saints,” whenever we commit some imperfection.  We may not be; but what a good thing it is for us to reflect that we can be if we will only try and if God give us His hand! ... We must have a holy boldness, for God helps the strong, being no respecter of persons; and He will give courage to you and to me. (WP 122-3)


It’s true that we cannot live without faults, but at least there should be some change so that they don’t take root.  If they take root, they will be harder to eradicate. (SS 230)


If we return to Him, He must pardon us, as He pardoned the prodigal son, must comfort us in our trials, and must sustain us, as such a Father is bound to do, for He must needs be better than any earthly father, since nothing good can fail to have its perfection in Him.  He must cherish us, He must sustain us, and at the last He must make us participants and fellow-heirs with Thee [Christ]. (WP 180)


It’s [in fact] impossible for us to be angels here below because such is not our nature.  In fact, a soul doesn’t disturb me when I see it with great temptations.  If love and fear of our Lord are present, the soul will gain very much; I’m certain of that.  If I see a soul always quiet and without any war—for I’ve run into some like this—I always fear [for the state of their souls] even if I do not see it offending the Lord.  Never do I finish ... trying and tempting such persons, if I can, since the devil doesn’t do so, in order that they may know themselves.  I have met a few; to be without war is possible, once the Lord has brought the soul to an abundance of contemplation. (SS 223)


[Teresa speaks of a lady very devout, contemplative, and free from almost all sins but one—she has too much self-interest concerning her reputation:] She and two other souls that I have seen in this life ... who were saints in their own opinion, caused me more fear [for the state of their souls], after I spoke with them, than all the sinners I have seen.  I beg the Lord to give us light. (SS 233)


God deliver us from people who wish to serve Him yet who are mindful of their own honour. (WP 102)


The truth is that, if we serve the Lord with humility, He will sooner or later succour us in our needs.  But, if we are not strong in this virtue, the Lord will leave us to ourselves, as they say, at every step.  This is a great favour on His part, for it helps us to realize fully that we have nothing which has not been given us. (WP 252-3)


If we think the Lord has given us a certain grace, we must understand that it is a blessing which we have received but which He may take away from us again... Sometimes I think I am extremely detached, and, in fact, when it comes to the test, I am; yet at other times I find I have such attachment to things which the day before I should perhaps have scoffed at that I hardly know myself. (WP 252)


We think that we have no desire for honour and that we care nothing about anything; but as soon as our honour comes to be slighted in some detail our feelings and actions at once show that we are not humble at all.  If an opportunity occurs for us to gain more honour, we do not reject it. (WP 255)


You must practise simplicity and humility, for those are the virtues which achieve everything. (WP 217)


Humility is the principal virtue which must be practised by those who pray. ...True humility consists to a great extent in being ready for what the Lord desires to do with you and happy that He should do it.… [These include] contemplation and mental and vocal prayer and tending the sick and serving in the house and working at even the lowliest tasks... What should it matter to us if we do one of these things rather than another? (WP 123, 127)


True humility consists in our being satisfied with what is given us. (WP 131)


Let each of you ask herself how much humility she has and she will see what progress she has made. (WP 101)


If you want to know whether you have made progress or not, sisters, you may be sure that you have if each of you thinks herself the worst of all and shows that she thinks this by acting for the profit and benefit of the rest.  Progress has nothing to do with enjoying the greatest number of consolations in prayer, or with raptures, visions, or favours [often] given by the Lord, the value of which we cannot estimate until we reach the world to come. (WP 131-2)


Even if you think you possess it [one of the virtues], ... suspect that you may be mistaken; for the person who is truly humble is always doubtful about his own virtues; very often they seem more genuine and of greater worth when he sees them in his neighbours. (WP 253)


Beware also, daughters, of certain kinds of humility which the devil inculcates in us and which make us very uneasy about the gravity of our past sins.  There are many ways in which he is accustomed to depress us so that in time we withdraw from Communion and give up our private prayer, because the devil suggests to us that we are not worthy to engage in it. ...Sometimes thinking yourselves so wicked may be humility and virtue and at other times a very great temptation. ... [True] humility, however deep it be, neither disquiets nor troubles nor disturbs the soul; it is accompanied by peace, joy and tranquility.  Although ... we ... are distressed by our sinfulness, ... if our humility is true, this distress is accompanied by an interior peace and joy of which we should not like to be deprived. ... When you find yourselves in this state [of disturbance through distorted humility,] cease thinking, so far as you can, of your own wretchedness, and think of the mercy of God and of His love and His sufferings for us. (WP 256-7)


We in this [Carmelite] house, and for that matter anyone who would be Perfect, must flee a thousand leagues from such phrases as: “I had right on my side”; “They had no right to do this to me”; “The person who treated me like this was not right.”  God deliver us from such a false idea of right as that!  Do you think that it was right for our good Jesus to have to suffer so many insults...?  ... When ... some offence is done to us ... I do not see what we can find to complain of.  Either we are the brides of this great King [Jesus] or we are not.  If we are, what wife is there with a sense of honour who does not accept her share in any dishonour done to her spouse... To desire to share in the kingdom [of our Spouse Jesus Christ], ... and yet not to be willing to have any part in His dishonours and trials, is ridiculous. (WP 104)


I cannot believe that a soul which has approached so nearly to Mercy Itself, and has learned to know itself and the greatness of God’s pardon, will not immediately and readily forgive, and be mollified and remain on good terms with a person who has done it wrong.  For such a soul remembers the consolation and grace which He has shown it ... (WP 244)


[Teresa emphasized joyousness in all of this:]  God deliver me from gloomy saints! (TA 310)


To suffer without making excuses is a habit of great perfection, and very edifying and meritorious. ... It takes great humility to find oneself unjustly condemned and be silent, and to do this is to imitate the Lord... The truly humble person will have a genuine desire to be thought little of, and persecuted, and condemned unjustly, even in serious matters.... Oh, my Lord!  When I think in how many ways Thou didst suffer, and in all of them undeservedly, I know not what to say for myself, or what I can have been thinking about when I make excuses for myself. (WP 111-3)


If, then, you are really surrendering yourselves to God, as you say, cease to be anxious for yourselves, for He bears your anxiety, and will bear it always. (WP 225)


Those who attain perfection do not ask the Lord to deliver them from trials, temptations, persecutions and conflicts—and that is another sure and striking sign that these favours and this contemplation which His Majesty gives them are coming from the Spirit of the Lord and are not illusions. ... Perfect souls are in no way repelled by trials, but rather desire them and pray for them and love them. (WP 249)


After a long time [many years of deep prayer], in which the Lord had given me many of the favors I have described, and others very great, I was one day in prayer when I found myself, without knowing how, in a state where I seemed to be in the middle of hell.  I understood that the Lord wished me to see there the place which the demons had prepared for me, and which I merited by my sins.  This lasted a very short time, but I think that if I lived many years I could never forget it. ... I felt a fire in my soul, which I don’t understand how to say what it is like.  The most unbearable bodily pains, and I have suffered very grievous ones in this life... [There was an] agonizing of the soul, a sense of constraint, a stifling, an anguish so keen, and with a sorrow so abandoned and afflicted, that I don’t know how to describe it. ... I don’t know how it was, but I understood it to be a great favor, and that the Lord wished me to see with my own eyes the place from which His mercy had saved me. ... It left me so frightened that even now, as I write about it almost six years later, the natural warmth leaves my body, here where I am.  And so I don’t remember any times since that I have had trouble or pain, without thinking that everything that can be suffered here is nothing, and so it rather seems to me that we complain without cause.  And so I say again that it was one of the greatest favors the Lord has done for me, for it has been of much help to me, not only in losing my fear of tribulations and contradictions in this life, but in giving me strength to endure them and to give thanks to the Lord who delivered me, as it now seems to me, from evils so everlasting and terrible. (TA 169-70)


[Once while visiting a church in Toledo, Teresa was assailed by a poor woman who had lost a shoe; thinking Teresa, dressed in rags, to be likewise poor and to have stolen her shoe, she began to beat Teresa after Holy Communion with her remaining shoe.  Teresa smiled at her affectionately.  What could be better than to bear blows and insults for Christ’s sake? “God reward that good woman,” she said afterwards, “but I certainly have a headache!” (TA 354)]


Let us endure everything, and be very glad to do so, and love those who do us wrong; for, greatly as we have offended this great God, He has not ceased loving us... (IC 195)


Only after one has been occupied in much prayer, penance, humility and many other virtues, will that [perfect] peace come. (SS 236)


All who wish to follow Christ must walk the way He went. (TA 86)


Love is the measure of our ability to bear crosses, whether great or small. (WP 213)


How true it is that nothing seems impossible to the one who loves!  Oh, happy the soul that has obtained this peace from its God, for it is master over all the trials and dangers of the world. (SS 238)


The more resolute we are in soul and the more we show Him by our actions that the words we use to Him [in prayer] are not words of mere politeness, the more and more does Our Lord draw us to Himself and raise us above all petty earthly things, and above ourselves, in order to prepare us to receive great favours from Him. ... Not content with having made this soul one with Himself, through uniting it to Himself, He begins to cherish it, to reveal secrets to it... He causes it gradually to lose its exterior senses so that nothing may occupy it.  This we call rapture.  He begins to make such a friend of the soul that not only does He restore its will to it but He gives it His own also. (WP 216)


This [spiritual] journey has the advantage of giving us very much more than we ask or shall even get so far as to desire. (WP 165)


The soul ... sees that worldly things are nothing but toys; so in due course it rises above them... It withdraws the senses from all outward things and spurns them so completely that, without its understanding how, its eyes close and it cannot see them and the soul’s spiritual sight becomes clear. Those who walk along this path almost invariably close their eyes when they say their prayers... (WP 186)


Those who are able to shut themselves up in this way within this little Heaven of the soul, wherein dwells the Maker of Heaven and earth, and who have formed the habit of looking at nothing and staying in no place which will distract these outward senses, may be sure that they are walking on an excellent road, and will come without fail to drink of the water of the fountain [of God], for they will journey a long way in a short time. (WP 185)


[With regard to a topic for mental prayer, Teresa thinks highly of meditation on Jesus’ Passion, his suffering and death, as bringing forth various virtues; yet:]  There are many souls that profit more by other meditations than by the one on the sacred Passion.  And so, as there are many mansions in heaven, there are many roads.  Some persons profit by thinking of hell, and others of heaven and are afflicted in thinking of hell, others of death.  Some, if they are tenderhearted, tire themselves much in thinking always of the Passion, and get pleasure and profit from considering the power and grandeur of God in His creatures, and the love He has for us, which is shown us in all things.  This is an admirable way to proceed, though we should not often forget the Passion and life of Christ, whence comes and has come all our good. (TA 89-90)


When I repeat the [Lord’s Prayer, beginning with] “Our Father,” my love should make me want to understand Who this Father of ours is and Who the Master is that taught us this prayer. ... [Don’t] assert that you know Who He is already, and so there is no need for you to think about Him... (WP 167)


If, while I am speaking with God, I have a clear realization and full consciousness that I am doing so, and if this is more real to me than the words I am uttering, then I am combining mental and vocal prayer. (WP 156)


Mental prayer is nothing else, in my opinion, but friendly conversation, frequently conversing alone, with One Who we know loves us. (TA 80)


Avoid being bashful with God, as some people are, in the belief that they are being humble. ... A fine humility it would be if I had the Emperor of Heaven and earth in my house, coming to it to do me a favour and to delight in my company, and I were so humble that I would not answer His questions, nor remain with Him, nor accept what He gave me, but left Him alone.  Or if He were to speak to me and beg me to ask for what I wanted, and I were so humble that I preferred to remain poor and even let Him go away, so that He would see I had not sufficient resolution. (WP 184)


If she [the soul] persists in it [mental prayer], whatever sins and temptations and faults of a thousand kinds the devil may put in her way, I hold it certain that at last the Lord will take her to the port of salvation, as, from present appearances, He has taken me. ... I can say from my own experience that whoever has begun it, let him not give it up, whatever sins he may commit; for it is the means by which he can make himself whole again, and without it, this will be much more difficult.  And let not the devil tempt him, as he did me, to forgo it through [false] humility... (TA 81)


Every Christian should try to consult if possible with very learned men [i.e., spiritual directors], the oftener the better; and it is more necessary for those who go by the way of mental prayer, and the more spiritual they are, the more necessary.... I am convinced that a person of prayer who deals with learned men [directors—male or female] will never be deceived by the devil with illusions unless she wishes to be deceived... (TA 91)


Terrible are the crafts and wiles which the devil uses to prevent souls from learning to know themselves and understanding his ways. (IC 39)


[Teresa speaks of the troubles encountered during the contemplative life, such as the wandering mind, pride, encounters with the devil, and so forth:]  I know they are very great and I think they call for more courage than many other troubles of the world.  But I have seen clearly that God does not leave them [contemplative souls] without great reward even in this life... I hold for my part that the Lord wishes to give these torments and many other temptations that occur, often in the beginning and sometimes later on, to try out His lovers, and to find out if they can drink the chalice and help Him to carry the cross before He commits to them great treasures. (TA 87)


While you are repeating the Paternoster [Our Father] or some other vocal Prayer, it is quite possible for the Lord to grant you perfect contemplation. ... Understand how different it is from mental prayer, ... which consists in thinking of what we are saying, understanding it, and realizing Whom we are addressing ... In the contemplation which I have just described we can do nothing.  It is His Majesty Who does everything; the work is His alone ... (WP 170-1)


[In] the Prayer of Quiet ... the Lord ... begins to give us His Kingdom on earth so that we may truly praise Him and hallow His name and strive to make others do likewise.  This is a supernatural state, and, however hard we try, we cannot reach it for ourselves; for it is a state in which the soul enters into peace, or rather in which the Lord gives it peace through His presence ... In this state all the faculties are stilled ... and have no wish to move, for any movement they may make appears to hinder the soul from loving God. (WP 200-1)


[During the Prayer of Quiet,] what the soul has to do in the time of this quiet is no more than to be gentle and make no noise.  I call it noise to go about with the understanding [the faculty of reasoning] looking for many words and reflection to give thanks for this benefit, and piling up her sins and shortcomings to show herself that she doesn’t deserve it. ... Let the will quietly and prudently understand that one does not deal successfully with God by any efforts of one’s own. ... Let her pay no heed to the understanding, which is a bore. ... It avails her more ... to let it alone and not to run after it. ... The [only] reason that has to be held here is to understand clearly that there is no [reason] why God should do so great a favor, except His goodness alone... By the goodness of God, all may reach this point... In these times of quiet, then, let the soul repose in her rest.  Let learning be put to one side—the time will come when it will be of use to the Lord ... (TA 94-5)


In such spiritual activity as this the person who does most is he who thinks least and desires to do least. ... The soul must just leave itself in the hands of God. (IC 88-9)


To know nothing is everything. (WP 160)


[Some people] are tempted to imagine that they can prolong it [the Prayer of Quiet] and they may even try not to breathe.  This is ridiculous:  we can no more control this prayer than we can make the day break, or stop night from falling; it is supernatural and something we cannot acquire... We can neither diminish nor add to it, but, being most unworthy and undeserving of it, can only receive it with thanksgiving. (WP 204)


The will simply loves, and no effort needs to be made by the understanding... (WP 205-6)


There are persons—and I have been one of them—to whom the Lord gives tenderness of devotion and holy inspirations and light on everything.  He bestows this Kingdom on them and brings them to this Prayer of Quiet, and yet ... they do not accept it, but think that they will do better to go on reciting their prayers, which only distract them from their purpose. (WP 209)


When one of you finds herself in this sublime state of prayer ... and the understanding (or, to put it more clearly, thought) wanders off after the most ridiculous things in the world, she should laugh at it and treat it as the silly thing it is, and remain in her state of quiet.  For thoughts will come and go, but the will [the intention] is mistress and all-powerful, and will recall them without your having to trouble it.  But if you try to drag the understanding back by force, you lose your power over it... (WP 207)


I have known people of a very high degree of spirituality who have reached this state, and whom, notwithstanding, the devil, with great subtlety and craft, has won back to himself.  For this purpose he will marshal all the powers of hell ... The devil comes with his artful wiles, and, under colour of doing good, sets about undermining it in trivial ways, and involving it in practices which, so he gives it to understand, are not wrong; little by little he darkens its understanding, and weakens its will, and causes its self-love to increase, until in one way and another he begins to withdraw it from the love of God and to persuade it to indulge its own wishes. (IC 120-1)


However sublime your contemplation may be, take great care both to begin and to end every period of prayer with self-examination [for any violations or omissions of virtue]. (WP 259)


For the love of God be very careful.  There must be war in this life.  In the face of so many enemies [to virtuous living] ... there must always be this care about how we are proceeding interiorly and exteriorly. (SS 223)


Have such a fixed determination not to offend the Lord that you would rather lose a thousand lives and be persecuted by the whole world, than commit one mortal sin. (WP 269)


[Concerning the next stage of prayer, the initial phase of the Prayer of Union:]  It is a sleep of the powers [the personality faculties of will, understanding, and memory], which are neither wholly lost nor do they understand how they work.  The joy and sweetness and delight is incomparably more than what is past. ... It seems to me nothing else than a dying almost altogether to all the things of the world, and to be enjoying God. ... She [the soul] doesn’t know whether to speak or be silent, to laugh or to weep.  It is a glorious folly, a celestial madness, in which the true wisdom is seized upon; and it is the most delightful way of rejoicing the soul.... Many times I remained as if out of my mind and intoxicated in this love, and never had I been able to understand how it was.  I understood well that it was God ... The faculties no longer have any power except to occupy themselves wholly with God. ... What a soul is when she is thus!  She would like to be all tongues, to praise the Lord. She says a thousand holy extravagances, striving to please the One Who so pleases her. ... Sometimes it seems the soul is on the very point of beginning to leave this body.  And what a happy death that would be! ...

     The soul now wishes to see herself free; eating kills her; sleeping afflicts her ... nothing can now delight her outside of You... she no longer wishes to live in herself, but in You. ...

     This kind of prayer seems to me very obviously a union of all the soul with God... [In the midst of the sublime peace,] the understanding and the memory are so free that they can carry on business and attend to works of charity.  This, although it seems to be all one, is different in part from the Prayer of Quiet I have mentioned, for there the soul is so that she does not wish to bustle about or stir... [But] in this prayer she ... is almost working in the active and contemplative life together, and can attend to works of charity and business belonging to her state in life. (TA 97-100)


[In the fullness of the Prayer of Union:]  All the senses are occupied with this joy in such a way that they cannot disengage themselves to do anything else, either outside or inside. ... Here the soul enjoys incomparably more, and can make herself understood much less, for there remains no power in the body, nor does the soul have any that can communicate that joy. ... This is what they call union, but what it is, I do not know how to make clear. ... Nor do I know how to understand what is “mind,” or what difference it has from the “soul,” or the “spirit” either.  All seems to me one thing... (TA 102)


This secret union takes place in the deepest centre of the soul, which must be where God Himself dwells. ... The soul (I mean the spirit of this soul) is made one with God, Who, being likewise a Spirit, has been pleased to reveal the love that He has for us ... (IC 213)


For it is quite certain that, when we empty ourselves of all that is creature and rid ourselves of it for the love of God, that same Lord will fill our souls with Himself. (IC 216)


[There is that] union with the will of God; such a union that there is no division between Him and the soul, but one same will.  It is a union not based on words or desires alone, but a union proved by deeds.  Thus, when the bride knows she is serving the Bridegroom in something, there is so much love and desire to please Him that she doesn’t listen to the reasons the intellect will give her or to the fears it will propose.  But she lets faith so work that she doesn’t look for her own profit or rest; rather, she succeeds now in understanding that in this service lies all her profit. (SS 236-7)


You must not doubt the possibility of this true union with the will of God. (IC 113)


God does not allow us to drink of this water of perfect contemplation whenever we like; the choice is not ours; this Divine union is something quite supernatural... (WP 139)


The soul feels herself almost swooning with sweet and uttermost delight, quite like a sort of fainting, so that the breath, and all the bodily powers, begins to fall away; so that she cannot even move her hands, unless it is with much difficulty.  Her eyes close without her wishing to close them, or if she keeps them open, she sees almost nothing... She hears, but does not understand what she hears. (TA 103)


Nothing ... is seen in this state of prayer which can be said to be really seen, even by the imagination. (IC 126)


[The soul] has completely died to the world so that it may live more fully in God.  This is a delectable death, a snatching of the soul from all the activities which it can perform while it is in the body; a death full of delight ... That joy is greater than all the joys of earth, and greater than all its delights, and all its satisfactions. (IC 98-9)


He [the Lord] begins to commune with the soul in so friendly a way that only those who experience this friendship will understand it. ... In the interior of the soul a sweetness is felt so great that the soul feels clearly the nearness of its Lord.  This experience is not merely one of devotion... It’s as though there were poured into the marrow of one’s bones a sweet ointment with a powerful fragrance. ... God ... enters the soul and does so with a wonderful sweetness.  He pleases and makes it happy. (SS 243)


[The Lord now shows the soul that He loves it in so particular a way that there is nothing separating the two. ... While in this joy it [the soul] is so enwrapped and absorbed that it doesn’t seem to be within itself but in a kind of divine intoxication so that it doesn’t know what it wants or what it says or what it asks for.  In sum, it doesn’t know itself; but it isn’t outside itself to the extent that it fails to understand something of what is going on.  But when this most wealthy Bridegroom desires to enrich and favor the soul more, He changes it into Himself to such a point that, just as a person is caused to swoon from great pleasure and happiness, it seems to the soul it is left suspended in those divine arms... It doesn’t know how to do anything more than rejoice. (SS 244)


This joy makes the soul so forgetful of itself, and of everything, that it is conscious of nothing, and able to speak of nothing, save of that which proceeds from its joy—namely, the praises of God. (IC 169)


In this prayer and union the soul remains in such great tenderness that she wishes to be dissolved, not in sorrow, but in some joyful tears.  She finds herself bathed in them without feeling it, or knowing when or how she wept them... (TA 105)


Let worldly people worry about their lordships, riches, delights, honors, and food, for even if a person were able to enjoy all these things without the accompanying trials—which is impossible—he would not attain in a thousand years the happiness that in one moment is enjoyed by a soul brought here by the Lord. (SS 245)


Oh, Christians and my daughters!  Let us now, for love of the Lord, awake from this sleep and behold that He does not keep the reward of loving Him for the next life alone.  The pay begins in this life.  O my Jesus, who could explain the benefit that lies in throwing ourselves into the arms of this Lord of ours... (SS 246)


The soul remains [so] courageous that if at that moment they broke her into pieces for God, it would be a great comfort to her.  That is where the promises and heroic determinations are, the vigor of the [holy] desires, the beginning to abhor the world, the very clear seeing of her vanity ... and the humility more increased... (TA 105)


[In the soul’s state of God-realization] He wants her [the soul] to drink in conformity with her desire and become wholly inebriated, drinking all the wines in God’s storehouse.  Let the soul rejoice in these joys.  Let it admire God’s grandeurs.  Let it not fear to lose its life from drinking so much beyond what its natural weakness can endure.  Let it die in this paradise of delights.  Blessed be such a death that so makes one live!  And truly this is what it makes the soul do.  For the marvels the soul understands are so great—without its understanding how it understands—that it remains outside itself. (SS 251-2)


The soul [is] lost to itself, transported so as to love Him, ... love’s very force has taken away the intellect in order that the soul may love more. (SS 254)


I have met some persons in this stage of prayer.  I now remember one of them.  Within three days the Lord gave her such blessings that were it not for my experience with her for some years and my seeing her always improve, I would not have believed the blessings possible.  And I saw Him do the same for another within three months; and both were quite young.  Others I have seen to whom God grants this favor after a long time. ... One must not place limits on a Lord so great and desirous to grant favors.  I am speaking of true favors from God, not of illusions or of the results of melancholy or of our own natural efforts.  Only time will tell where the favors come from.  When they are from God the virtues grow so strong and love becomes so enkindled that there’s no concealing the two. (SS 255)


The soul really seems to have left the body; on the other hand, it is clear that the person is not dead, though for a few moments he cannot even himself be sure if the soul is in the body or no.  He feels as if he has been in another world, very different from this in which we live, and has been shown a fresh light there .. This is ... seen with the eyes of the soul very much more clearly than we can ordinarily see things with the eyes of the body; and some of the revelations are communicated to it without words.  If, for example, he sees any of the saints, he knows them as well as if he had spent a long time in their company.  Sometimes, in addition to the things which he sees with the eyes of the soul, in intellectual vision, others are revealed to him—in particular, a host of angels, with their Lord; and, though he sees nothing with the eyes of the body or with the eyes of the soul, he is shown things I am describing, and many others which are indescribable, by means of an admirable kind of knowledge. ... When the soul, as far as it can understand, is right outside itself, great things are revealed to it; and, when it returns to itself, it finds that it has reaped very great advantages and it has such contempt for earthly things that, in comparison with those it has seen, they seem like dirt to it. (IC 160-1)


Sometimes the delight [in the most advanced stages of prayer] is so excessive that it seems to dissolve the soul in such a way that there is no longer any desire to live. ... Nothing else is desired when the soul arrives here. ... Don’t think, daughters, there is any exaggeration in saying that she dies.  As I have said, it indeed happens that love sometimes operates with such force that it rules over all the powers of the natural subject.  Thus, I know a person [probably Teresa is speaking of herself] who while in this kind of prayer heard someone, with a beautiful voice, singing; and she certifies that, in her opinion, if the singing had not stopped the soul would have gone out of itself on account of the great delight and sweetness the Lord gave it to enjoy.  His Majesty provided that the singing stop, for the one who was in this suspension could easily have died.  But because she was powerless to stir or make any exterior movement, she couldn’t tell the one singing to stop. ...

     In this suspension ... death [would not] be painful to it [the soul] but great happiness, for this is what it desires.  And how happy a death it would be, at the hands of this love!  But sometimes His Majesty gives it light to see that living is good for it.  [Such as in doing service to others.]  In the active—and seeming exterior work the soul is working interiorly.  And when the active works rise from this interior root, they become lovely and very fragrant flowers.  For they proceed from this tree of God’s love and are done for Him alone, without any self-interest.  The fragrance from these flowers spreads to the benefit of many.

     I want to explain myself further so that you understand.  Someone preaches a sermon with the intention of benefitting souls, but he is not so detached from human considerations that he doesn’t make some attempt to please, or to gain honor or credit; or he has his mind set on receiving some canonry for having preached well.  There are also other things people do for their neighbor’s benefit—many things—and with a good intention, but with much care not to lose anything through them and not to displease. They fear persecution; they want to be pleasing to kings, lords, and the people...

     These persons will serve His Majesty, and they profit much.  But, in my opinion, such are not the works and flowers ... [of the soul] who looks only for the honor and glory of God in everything.  Truly, I don’t believe that souls brought to this state by the Lord, from what I have understood of some, think of themselves, and of whether they will lose or gain, any more than if they did not exist.  They look only at serving and pleasing the Lord.  And because they know the love He has for His servants, they like to leave aside their own satisfaction and good so as to please Him and serve and tell souls beneficial truths by the best means they can.  Nor do they, as I say, think about whether or not they will themselves lose.  They keep before their minds the benefit of their neighbor, nothing else.  So as to please God more, they forget themselves for their neighbor’s sake. ... They are not aware of the words they say while enveloped in so sublime a love of God, in their inebriation from that heavenly wine.  And if they are aware, they don’t care if they displease men.  These souls do much good. ... The more they advance in this kind of prayer and the gifts of our Lord the more attention they pay to the needs of their neighbor, especially to the needs of their neighbors’ souls.  For to draw one soul away from mortal sin it seems such persons would give many lives... (SS 256-9)


When it awakens from that sleep and that heavenly inebriation, it remains as though stupefied and dazed and with a holy madness. ... The soul ... knows that [that] great blessing ... is the greatest that can be tasted in life, even if all the delights and pleasures of the world were joined together.  It sees that it is nourished and made better and doesn’t know when it deserved this.  It is instructed in great truths without seeing the Master who teaches it; fortified in virtues and favored by One who knows it well and can do these things for it.  It doesn’t know what to compare His grace to, unless to the great love a mother has for her child in nourishing and caressing it. (SS 244-5)


There are many saintly people who have never known what it is to receive a favour of this kind, ... and there are others who received such favours, although they are not saintly. (IC 192)


I will ... warn you that, when you learn or hear that God is granting souls these graces, you must never beseech or desire Him to lead you along this road. ... There are certain reasons why such a course is not wise.  The first reason is that it shows a lack of humility ... The second reason is that such a person is quite certain to be deceived, or to be in great peril, because the devil has only to see a door left slightly ajar to enter and play a thousand tricks on us.  The third reason is to be found in the imagination.  When a person has a great desire for something, he persuades himself that he is seeing or hearing what he desires... The fourth reason is that it is very presumptuous in me to wish to choose my path, because I cannot tell which path is best for me. ... The safest thing is to will only what God wills, for He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He loves us. (IC 190-1)


Having now tasted the consolations of God, [the soul] ... sees that earthly things are mere refuse... and ... [is] strengthened in all the virtues. (IC 91)


The greater the favour the soul receives, the less by far it esteems itself, the more keenly it remembers its sins, the more forgetful it is of its own interest, the more fervent are the efforts of its will and memory in seeking nothing but the honour of God rather than being mindful of its own profit... (IC 147)


There are three things in particular which it [the soul] enjoys to a very high degree.  The first is knowledge of the greatness of God... The second is self-knowledge and humility... The third is a supreme contempt for earthly things, save those which can be employed in the service of so great a God. (IC 162)


The love the soul had for the world is taken away; the soul’s love of itself turns to disregard; its love for its relatives is such that it loves them solely for God; its love for its neighbors and its enemies is unbelievable unless experienced—a very strong love; its love of God is boundless, for sometimes the love impels it so much that is lowly nature cannot endure the love. (SS 255)


Such a soul would gladly have a thousand lives so as to use them all for God, and it would like everything on earth to be tongue so that it might praise Him.  It has tremendous desires to do penance [if only for the sake of others]; and whatever penance it does it counts as very little, for its love is so strong that it feels everything it does to be of very small account... (IC 155)


The Lord is never content with giving us as little as we desire... He grants the soul in answer to some of its petitions an opportunity to merit and suffer something for Him, whereas the soul’s intention was to suffer only what its strength could bear.  Since His Majesty can make one’s strength to increase in payment for the little that one determines to do for Him, He will give so many trials and persecutions and illnesses so that a poor man won’t know himself.  This happened to me when I was quite young.  Sometimes I would say, “Oh Lord, I didn’t want so much.”  But His Majesty gave strength and patience in such a way that even now I am amazed at how I was able to suffer, and I would not exchange those trials for all the world’s treasures. (SS 251)


Understanding clearly that the fruit [of the prayer of union] is not hers, she can begin to share it, and this without losing it for herself.  She begins to give signs of a soul that guards treasures of heaven, and to have a desire to share them with others, and to beg God that she alone may not be the rich one.  She begins to do good to those nearest her, almost without understanding it or making any account of herself. (TA 106)


To pray for those who are in mortal sin is the best kind of almsgiving—a much better thing than it would be to loose a Christian whom we saw with his hands tied behind him, bound with a stout chain, made fast to a post and dying of hunger... (IC 208)


This, my sisters, I should like us to strive to attain:  we should desire and engage in prayer, not for our enjoyment, but for the sake of acquiring this strength which fits us for service. (IC 231)


When I see people very diligently trying to discover what kind of prayer they are experiencing and so completely wrapt up in their prayers that they seem afraid to stir, or to indulge in a moment’s thought, lest they should lose the slightest degree of the tenderness and devotion which they have been feeling, I realize how little they understand of the road to the attainment of union.  They think that the whole thing consists in this.  But no, sisters, no; what the Lord desires is works.  If you see a sick woman to whom you can give some help, never be affected by the fear that your devotion will suffer, but take pity on her; if she is in pain, you should feel pain too; if necessary, fast so that she may have your food, not so much for her sake as because you know it to be your Lord’s will. That is true union with His will.  Again, if you hear someone being highly praised, be much more pleased than if they were praising you; this is really easy if you have humility, for in that case you will be sorry to hear yourself praised. (IC 116-7)


The foundation of this whole edifice [of contemplative prayer and God-realization] ... is humility, and, if you have not true humility, the Lord will not wish it to reach any great height; in fact, it is for your own good that it should not; if it did, it would fall to the ground. (IC 229)


[Teresa explains in one mature passage the “7th Mansion” of prayer, wherein there occurs an apparently permanent Spiritual Marriage with God, even beyond the earlier-described union:]  We might say that union is as if the ends of two wax candles were joined so that the light they give is one: the wicks and the wax and the light are all one; yet afterwards the one candle can be perfectly well separated from the other and the candles become two again, or the wick may be withdrawn from the wax.  But here [in Spiritual Marriage] it is like rain falling from the heavens into a river or a spring; there is nothing but water there and it is impossible to divide or separate the water belonging to the river from that which fell from the heavens.  Or it is as if a tiny streamlet enters the sea, from which it will find no way of separating itself, or as if in a room there were two large windows through which the light streamed in: it enters in different places but it all becomes one.  Perhaps when St. Paul says, “He who is joined to God becomes one spirit with Him,” he is referring to this sovereign Marriage. (IC 214-5)


This little butterfly [the soul] has now died, full of joy at having found rest, and within her lives Christ.  Let us see what her new life is like ... First, there is a self-forgetfulness which is so complete that it really seems as though the soul no longer existed, because it is such that she has neither knowledge nor remembrance that there is either heaven or life or honour for her, so entirely is she employed in seeking the honour of God. ...She seems no longer to exist, and has no desire to exist—no, absolutely none—save when she realizes that she can do something to advance the glory and honour of God, for which she would gladly lay down her life. ... The second effect produced is a great desire to suffer [for the sake of bringing souls to God]... When these souls [of advanced prayer] are persecuted ...  they have a great interior joy, and much ... peace. ... They bear no enmity to those who ill-treat them... They love to commend them to God... They are no more afraid of death than they would be of gentle rapture. ... The desires of these souls are no longer for consolations or favours, for they have with them the Lord Himself and it is His Majesty Who now lives in them. ... These souls have a marked detachment from everything and a desire to be always either alone or busy with something that is to some soul’s advantage.  They have no aridities [periods of lack of devotion] or interior trials [doubts, etc.] but a remembrance of Our Lord and a tender love for Him, so that they would like never to be doing anything but giving Him praise. ... The soul is almost always in tranquility. ... There is no reason now for the understanding to stir, or to seek out anything. ... The soul has no more raptures (accompanied, that is to say, by the suspension of the senses), save very occasionally, and even then it has not the same transports and flights of the spirit.  These raptures, too, happen only rarely... Nor have they any connection, as they had before, with great occasions of devotion; if we see a devotional image or hear a sermon, it is almost as if we had heard nothing, and it is the same with music. ... [Such souls] have no lack of crosses, but these do not unsettle them or deprive them of their peace. ... The Presence of the Lord which they have within them makes them forget everything.  May He be for ever blessed and praised by all His creatures. (IC 219-25)


The aim of all my advice to you in this book is that we should surrender ourselves wholly to the Creator, place our will in His hands and detach ourselves from the creatures. (WP 214)


In Heaven [after bodily death] we shall have an intrinsic tranquility and glory, a joy in the rejoicings of all, a perpetual peace, and a great interior satisfaction which will come to us when we see that all are hallowing and praising the Lord, and are blessing His name, and that none is offending Him.  For all love Him there and the soul’s one concern is loving Him, nor can it cease from loving Him because it knows Him.  And this is how we should love Him on earth, though we cannot do so with the same perfection nor yet all the time; still, if we knew Him, we should love Him very differently from the way we do now. (WP 197-8)



Marie of the Incarnation (1599-1672; Catholic Ursuline; France-Canada):


[In a letter to her son, who wishes to know the state of her soul, while she is living among the Indians in the New World:]

For almost three years I have been thinking of death all of the time; however, I do not want, and can not want, either life or death, but only Him who is the Master of life and death, according to whose adorable judgement I commit myself to doing whatever He in eternity arranged for me.  These feelings give my soul and my body a fundamental peace and a spiritual food which helps me to survive and support all kinds of accidents and all the things, general or particular, which happen to others or to me with a balanced mind—in this part of the world, where it is easy to find occasion to practice patience and other virtues that I do not have.


[In this same letter, Marie relates how she spoke to the Lord:]

     You are beautiful, my dear Love, and you transport my mind in an interior vision of what you are in your Father and of what your Father is in You.  But how could I stand before your splendours, unless you ravished my heart and mind.  In this ravishing you brought it to yourself allowing it to be one with you.  So even though I see you as God of God, Light of Light and True God of True God, still I kiss you as being my Love and all my goal.

     O my Divine Spouse!  How is this?  I see you belonging to your Father and you belong to me: your Father and you belong to me; your Father also belongs to me and I do not know how this came about. ...

     O my dear Beloved:  In this familiarity which entices my soul I feel I am losing myself in a bottomless abyss.  You are this profound abyss, You who hold me with Your power; and then, oh Father, at the same time You inspire me in such a way that I talk to You as if I had power over You.

     Forgive my liberty, of which You are Yourself the cause, because in this state you consume me. ...

     I see You to be essentially Love!  Love!  Having made me sing this canticle which makes me find myself in You again and again, You render me mute.

     I am powerless by a consumption of love in You that I can not express:  I can see aspects of your greatness and of your loving actions, O Uncreated Word [Jesus], they destroy my thoughts in a deep abyss where they become lost. ...

     I abandon myself to Your will. ...

     Put me where You want, everywhere You will be my Love. [23]




Mary (Petit) of St. Teresa (1623-77; Catholic Carmelite; Belgium)


There is sometimes shown and given to me a life of the spirit in our Lady [Mother Mary], a rest, enjoyment, fusion, union in and with her.  This is how it happens.  When my spirit is turned to God in all simplicity, nakedness, and tranquility, resting in His Being without images by contemplation of that absolute Being, my soul experiences at the same time a union with and blossoming in Mary inasmuch as she is united with God: so much so that they seem to be but one object... God shows her to the soul who contemplates Him as perfectly one with and united to Him, in such a way that the beholder cannot distinguish any intermediary.  I seem to embrace and kiss our Lady with a marvellous losing of my being in her and at the same time in God, and sometimes it seems that I am enclosed within her stainless, loving heart.  I am as it were drunken and crazy with love for her and God together, giving myself up to them entirely.  Thus a Divine life both compound and simple is realized, making a completely perfect way of loving our blessed mother.  But very few people know this life both for and in Mary and for and in God experimentally, for it is given only to some of her true lovers, her darlings, the little ones whom she has chosen. ...


There is very little representation of the person of our Lady in the mind, for the soul regards her as united to and in God.  The memory, understanding, and will are occupied with Mary and God in perfect repose, simplicity and tenderness, to the degree that I can scarcely give any account of the mode and kind of ideas that occupy my soul. ...


I call this love “spiritual” because it seems to operate in the higher part of the soul, detached from the sensible faculties and so better adapted to the intimate fusion and “oneing” in and with God and our Lady.  ... All three, God, our Lady, the soul, seem to be but one being, absorbed and dissolved in one another.  This is the supreme end of the soul in the practice of the “Marian life.”  It is the unique result, or at least the chief effect, of love for our Lady, whereby she becomes a yet firmer bond between the soul and God.  She is ... [a] stimulus helping the soul more surely to reach the life of contemplation, union, and transformation in God and to remain firmly therein. ...


[God] has made her [Mary] the almoner of His grace and goodness towards men ... nothing Divine comes freely and graciously to us except through her hands, as rain passes through a spout. ... What numberless graces I see come down to us from God through the loving hand of Mary!  I indeed believe that HE puts the salvation of every man into her keeping, and that it is in her care to lead each one to blessedness.  Although she dwells in the consummation of contemplation of Divine Being she is not unmindful of our troubles and our needs, her motherly concern is always for us, to help and protect, physically and spiritually, all who call upon her trustfully.  She is like the eagle which, for all her flight into the sun, still has an eye on her fledglings, that they want nothing and are in no danger.  And we in our turn are bound to the service of this loving Mother, to honour her and return her love with the fond devotion of children. ...


The love and kindness of our Lady for us are now made so clear and evident that there cannot be the least doubt or suspicion of illusion or other intrusion of natural considerations. ... Never for a moment do I fail to realize her presence at the side of God.  This intellectual image and seeing has no materialistic element, introduces no multiplicity or mediate means into the soul: on the contrary, it is all achieved in a tranquil simplicity. ... This life in our Lady and through her in God ... is a matter of humbleness, submission, obedience, and I remain like a child in the hands of its mother.  ... I have an intense desire to be pleasing to our Mother and to do whatever she likes most, and my attention is fixed on watching for interior indications of her preference in one direction or another.  My heart is all ready to follow them and I am afraid neither of work nor difficulties nor fuss nor inconvenience nor anything in trying to fulfill her good pleasure. 


It is the nature of love to form a union with and in the loved object, and it so penetrates and identifies the lover and the beloved that they seem to become one being.  So it is that a great love for our Lady leads the soul to life in her, to union with her, and to other effects and changes conformable with its kind; she [the soul] finds herself in a state of perfection and efficiency, especially when the Divine Spirit guides and encourages her love. ...


Our hearts are so enthusiastic in this love, ... especially at the liturgical feasts of our Lady—we are aware of an almost uninterrupted warmth of heart: a Divine warmth, quite unlike anything in the natural order.  I cannot lose the memory of it for a moment in a day, any more than I can forget God Himself.  So am I swallowed up in her love and as it were consumed, for this interior affection is so strong and burning that I forget myself and all other created things: its flames bear up both soul and body. ... I am so happy in Mary’s might, majesty, and honour, in the inexpressible love of God for her, that I don’t know what I can do or say to give thanks, praise, and worship to God and her proportionate to the enlightenment and understanding of which I am conscious at this moment. But if I am powerless to act I can remain in the intimate quiet and rest of love.  The spirit fails before the immensity of the mystery, which exceeds our comprehension and leaves it helpless; but the will can still be busied in loving.... The heart is smitten by a flame of love which lifts the soul forcefully towards consummation. ... But love is not yet satisfied.  It seeks for names that will express Mary’s grandeur and dignity, for words that will proclaim her praise and blessing; it uses strange phrases in exaltation of her who is loved so much, just as the lover is driven to nonsense in praise of the beauty of his mistress. ...


I am simply overwhelmed with love for her when I think of her loving-kindness towards us, and my emotion to-day was so violent that I cried out aloud and carried on as if I were drunk or half lunatic [cf. Angela of Foligno, and see my note on this “energetic” component of spiritual experience in the endnotes].  A little more and I should have to have had recourse to physical remedies, for it did not seem possible to bear more of that interior fire which was forcing these bodily manifestations from me.  What strength cannot this Divine love give to the soul for the undertaking of great enterprises at the word of the Well-beloved [Jesus] and His mother, what perseverance in seeking to please them in the smallest things: barriers of fire and steel could not hold one back!  I am always conscious of Mary’s encouraging and guiding hand in all that I do or refrain from doing, and I look up to her with the eyes of a child to learn her will and pleasure in the slightest thing.  I feel that I can say truly that she is mine and I am hers, all mine and all hers, for I am no longer my own. [24]



Madame Jeanne-Marie Guyon (1648-1717; Catholic laywoman; France):

[From Guyon’s autobiography, which opens with the words “GOD ALONE”:] [25]

     [In 1668, age 19, she met a holy Franciscan monk and confided to him her difficulties in prayer:]  HE answered me at once:  “It is, Madame, because you seek outside what you have within.  Accustom yourself to seek God in your heart, and you will find him there.”  On finishing these words, he left me. 

     The next morning he was very greatly astonished when I went to see him, and when I told him the effect his words had produced in my soul; for it is true they were for me like an arrow that pierced my heart through and through. ... O my Lord, you were in my heart, and you asked from me only a simple turning inward to make me feel your presence.  O Infinite Goodness, you were so near, and I went running here and there to look for you, and I did not find you.  My life was miserable, and my happiness was within me.  I was in poverty in the midst of riches, and I was dying of hunger near a table spread and a continual feast.  O Beauty so ancient and new, why have I known you so late?  Alas! I was seeking you where you were not, and I did not seek you where you were.  It was for want of understanding those words of your Gospel when you say, “The kingdom of God is not here or there, but the kingdom of God is within you.”

     I told this worthy [Franciscan] Father that I did not know what he had done to me; that my heart was quite changed; that God was there, and I had no longer any trouble to find him; for from that moment I was given an experience of his presence in my central depth, not through thought or application of the mind, but as a thing one possesses really in a very sweet manner. ... I experienced in my soul an unction which, like a soothing balm, healed all my wounds, and which even spread itself so powerfully over my senses, that I could hardly open my mouth or my eyes.  I did not sleep at all the whole of that night, because your love, O my God, was not only for me like a delightful oil, but also like a devouring fire, which kindled in my soul such a flame that it seemed bound to devour everything in an instant.  I was all of a sudden so changed that I was no longer recognizable either by myself or by others.  I no longer found either those faults or those dislikes.  All appeared to me consumed like straw in a great fire. ...

     Nothing was now more easy for me than to pray.  Hours were to me no more than moments, and I was unable not to do it.  Love left me not a moment of respite. ... My prayer was, from the moment of which I have spoken, void of all forms, species, and images.  Nothing of my prayer passed into my head, but it was a prayer of enjoyment and possession in the will, where the delight of God was so great, so pure, and so simple, that it attracted and absorbed the other two powers of the soul [“reason/understanding” and “memory”] in profound concentration, without act or speech. I had, however, sometimes freedom to say some words of love to my Beloved, but then everything was taken from me.  It was a prayer of faith, which excluded all distinction; for I had not any view of Jesus Christ or the divine attributes.  Everything was absorbed in a delicious faith, where all distinctions were lost to give love room for loving with more expansion, without motives or reasons for loving. (A 42-4)


     True ravishment and perfect ecstasy are operated by total annihilation, where the soul, losing all self-hood, passes into God without effort and without violence, as into the place which is proper and natural to her. For God is the center of the soul, and when once the soul is disengaged from the self-hood which arrested her in herself or in other creatures, she infallibly passes into God, where she dwells hidden with Jesus Christ.  But this ecstasy is operated only by simple faith, death to all things created, even to the gifts of God, which, being creatures, hinder the soul from falling into the One uncreated. ... It is of great importance to make her pass beyond all his gifts, howsoever sublime they may appear, because, as long as the soul dwells in them, she does not veritably renounce herself, and so never passes into God himself, although she may be in those gifts in a very sublime manner.  But resting thus in the gifts, she loses the real enjoyment of the Giver, which is an inestimable loss.

     Through an inconceivable goodness, O my God, you introduced me into a state very pure, very firm, and very solid.  You took possession of my will, and you there established your throne, and in order that I should not let myself aim at those gifts and withdraw myself from your love, you put me at once into a union of the powers [faculties] and into a continual adherence to you.  I was unable to do anything else but to love you with a love as profound as it was tranquil. (A 45)


     I practiced all the austerities I could imagine, but all was too feeble to satisfy the desire I had of suffering [for the sake of Christ and for saving souls—these austerities included scourgings, wearing girdles of hair and iron points, fasting often, putting unpleasant spices and herbs in her mouth and in her food, etc.] (A 46-7)


     When the worthy [Franciscan] Father [who had received inward guidance to become her spiritual director, though he previously had never accepted women as students], ... asked me how I loved God, I told him that I loved him more than the most passionate lover loved his mistress; that this comparison was yet improper, since the love of creatures can never attain to that either in force or depth.  This love was so continual, and always occupied me, and so powerful, I could not think of anything else. ... To hear your name mentioned, O my God, or your love, was enough to throw me into profound prayer. ... I gave up all society.  I renounced for ever games and amusement, the dance, and all useless promenades. ... My only diversion was to snatch moments to be alone with you, O my only Love. (A 47)


     [After her second major spiritual transformation, around 1680-1:]  My soul was placed in an immense freedom.  I recognized the difference between the graces which had preceded that state and those which have succeeded it. Previously everything was collected and concentrated within, and I possessed God in my center, and in the inmost of my soul; but afterwards I was possessed of him in a manner so vast, so pure, and so immense, that nothing can equal it.  Formerly God was, as it were, enclosed in me, and I was united to him in my center; but afterwards I was submerged in the sea itself.  Before, the thoughts and views were lost, but in a way perceived, though very slightly; the soul let them go sometimes, which is yet an act; but afterwards they had, as it were, entirely disappeared, in a manner so bare, so pure, so lost that the soul had no action of her own, however simple and delicate... which could rise into consciousness.

     The powers and the senses are purified in a wonderful manner: the mind is of a surprising limpidity; I was sometimes astonished that not a thought appeared in it.  That imagination, once so troublesome, gives no longer any trouble whatsoever; there is no longer embarrassment, nor disturbance, nor occupation of the memory; everything is naked and limpid, and God makes the soul know and think whatever he pleases without irrelevant species any longer inconveniencing the mind.  This is of very great purity.  It is the same in the case of the will, which, being totally dead to all its spiritual appetites, has no longer any taste, leaning, or tendency; it remains empty of all human inclination, natural or spiritual.  It is this which enables God to bend it where he pleases, and how he pleases.

     This vastness, which is not bounded by anything whatever, however simple, increases day by day, so that it seems that this soul, in sharing the qualities of her Spouse, shares especially his immensity.  Formerly one was, as it were, drawn and shut up within; afterwards I experienced that a hand far more powerful than the first drew me out of myself, and plunged me, without view, or knowledge, in God, in a way which ravished me... (A 164)


     My soul was in an entire self-surrender, and very great contentment in the midst of ... violent tempests.  She could do nothing but continue in her former indifference, desiring nothing even of God, whether grace or disgrace, sweetness or cross.

     A soul in this state has no sweetness nor spiritual relish. ... She remains such as she is in her nothingness to herself, ... and in the all as to God, without reference to, or reflection on, herself.  She knows not if she has virtues, gifts, and graces in him who is the author of all that; she does not think of it, and can will nothing, and everything that concerns her is, as it were, foreign.  She has not even the desire of procuring the glory of God, leaving to God the care of procuring it for himself, and she is in regard to it as pleases him.  In this state God sometimes sets her to pray for some soul; but this is done without choice or premeditation, in peace, without desire for success.  What does this soul, then? one will ask.

     She lets herself be led by providences and by creatures without resistance.  Her outside life is quite common, and as for within, she sees nothing there; she has no assurance, either internal or external, and yet she never was more assured.  The more hopeless everything, the more is her central depth tranquil, in spite of the ravage of the senses and of creatures [persecution, noxious stimuli, etc.] ...

     At the commencement of the way of faith the soul profits from her defects, being by them humiliated through a reflection, simple, peaceful tranquil, loving the abjectness which she reaps from them. ... At last there is no longer a question of this [reflection on defects]; the soul remains motionless and unshaken, bearing without movement the trouble her fault causes her, without any action [i.e., reflection] whatsoever.  It is what God requires from the soul from the time she is completely passive...

     The same firmness which keeps her from stirring under the troubles of her defects, the soul should preserve under temptations.  The Devil greatly fears to approach such souls, and he leaves them at once, no longer daring to attack them.  HE attacks only those who yield, or who fear him.  Souls conducted by faith are not ordinarily tried by the demons; that is for souls conducted by illumination. ... Those who are conducted by illumination, by extraordinary gifts, ecstasies, etc., have also extraordinary trials which are effected by the intervention of demons... But it is not the same with the souls of simple faith: as they are conducted by nakedness, self-annihilation, and by what is commonplace, their trial is also quite commonplace; but that is far more terrible, and destroys the selfhood more. ...     The same firmness which one should have in regard to defects and temptations, so as not to give an opening to the Devil, one should have in regard to gifts and graces.  In this state everything is so inward that nothing is perceived.  But if anything falls upon the senses the soul is steadfast in letting the grace come and go, making no movement, however simple, either to relish or to recognize it.  She leaves everything as though it was passing in another, without taking any part in it. ... She no longer regards anything, she no longer appropriates to herself anything, and she lets all flow by into God in purity, as it has come forth from him.  Until the soul be in this state, she always in some degree defiles by her inter-mixture the operation of God, like those streams which contract corruption from the places through which they flow; but as soon as the same streams flow in a pure place, they then continue in the purity of their source.

     For this reason she knows not what to choose, neither state nor condition, however perfect they may be.  She is content with everything she has; she keeps herself at peace wherever she is placed, high or low, in one country or in another; all that she has is all that is needed for her to be fully content ... though everything be wanting to her. ...

     But what is it which makes this soul so perfectly content?  She knows not.  She is content without knowing the subject of her contentment, and without wishing to know it, but content in a way that is vast, immense, independent of external events...

     O you alone who conduct these souls, and who can teach these ways, so self-annihilating, and so contrary to the ordinary spirit of devotion, full of itself and its own discoveries, conduct thus souls without number, that you may be loved purely!  These are the souls which alone love you as you wish to be loved.  These souls are the delight of God ... these souls quite childlike and innocent.  They are very far from pride, being unable to attribute to themselves aught but nothingness and sin, and they are so one with God that they see only him, and all things in him. ...

     To what has he destined those cherished souls?  “To be conformed to the image of his Son.”  Oh, it is here is the great secret of that call and that justification, and the reason why so few souls arrive at that state.  It is because there one is predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son of God.  But some one will say, Are not all Christians called to be conformed to the image of the Son of God?  Yes, every one is called to be conformed to it in something... But the souls of which I speak are destined to bear Jesus Christ himself, and to be conformed to him in all, and the more perfect their conformity, the more perfect are they.

      But is every one called to this state?  Very few, as far as I can understand, and even of the few who are called to it, few walk in it in true purity.  The souls in passive illumination and extraordinary gifts, though holy and quite seraphic, do not enter into this way.  There is a way of illumination—a holy life, where the creature appears quite admirable... It is also the more esteemed by those who have not the purest lights.  These persons have striking things in their life; they have a fidelity and a courage which astonish, and it is this which wonderfully adorns the life of the saints.  But the souls which walk in this other path are little known.  God despoils them, weakens them, strips them naked bit by bit, so that, depriving them of every support and every hope, they are obliged to lose themselves in him.  They have nothing great which is apparent, hence it comes that the greater their interior is, the less they can speak of it, because for a very long time they can see there only want and poverty; afterwards they no longer see themselves. (A 187-91)


     I will not speak here of that long persecution ... through a succession of ten years of prisons of all kinds [from 1688 on], and of an exile [to Blois] almost as long, which is not yet finished, by trials, calumnies, and all imaginable kinds of sufferings [poisonings, slanders, etc.].  There are facts too odious on the part of divers persons, which charity makes me cover, and others [who] ... showed too bitter a zeal [in persecuting Guyon] for things of which they had no true knowledge. ... What I may say is that through so long a series of crosses, with which my life has been filled, it may be conceived the greatest were reserved for the end, and that God, who has not cast me off through his kindness, took care not to leave the end of my life without a greater conformity with Jesus Christ.  HE was dragged before all sorts of tribunals: he has done me the favor to be the same.  HE suffered the utmost outrages without complaining: he has shown me the mercy of behaving similarly. ... In this resemblance to Jesus Christ I regarded as favors what the world regarded as strange persecutions.  The inward peace and joy prevented me from seeing the most violent persecutors other than as instruments of the justice of my God, who has always been to me so adorable and so amiable.  I was then in prison as in a place of delight and refreshment; that general privation of all creatures giving me more opportunity of being alone with God, and the want of things which appear most necessary making me taste an exterior poverty I could not have otherwise tasted.

     I have borne mortal debility, overwhelming, crushing, and painful illnesses without treatment.  God, not content with that, abandoned me spiritually to the greatest desolations for some months... It was at that time I was led to take the part of God against myself, and to practice all the austerities I could think of: seeing God and all creatures against me, I was delighted to be on their side against myself.  How could I complain ... Should I now be interested for myself, after having made such an entire sacrifice of that “me,” and all that concerns it?  I prefer, then, to consecrate all those sufferings by silence....

     I shall only cursorily say something of the dispositions in which I have been at the different times of my imprisonment.  During the time I was at Vincennes [1695-6] ... I continued in great peace, very content to pass my life there, if such was the will of God.  I used to compose hymns, which the maid who served me learned by heart as fast as I could compose them; and we used to sing your praise, O my God!  I regarded myself as a little bird you were keeping in a cage for your pleasure... The stones of my tower seemed to me rubies: that is to say, I esteemed them more than all worldly magnificence.  My joy was based on your love, O my God... The central depth of my heart was full of that joy which you give to those who love you, in the midst of the greatest crosses. (A 379-81)


     Let us remain in our “nothing” through homage to the sanctity of God, and we shall be sanctified and instructed by the truth.  Jesus Christ will be ... to us everything.  WE shall find in him all that is deficient in us. IF we seek anything for ourselves out of him, if we seek anything in us as ours, however holy it may appear to us, we are liars, and the truth is not in us.  WE seduce ourselves, and we shall never be the saints of the Lord, who, having no other sanctity but his, have renounced all usurpations, and at last their entire SELFHOOD. ... It is to be in falsehood to attribute to one’s self the least thing.  It is to be in falsehood to believe we are able to do anything: to hope anything from one’s self or for one’s self... All language which departs from this principle is falsity... he who speaks only the ALL OF GOD and the NOTHING OF THE CREATURE is in the truth, and the truth dwells in him... (A 384-5)


[From Guyon’s letters of correspondence:]

There is nothing of any value but the love of God, and the accomplishment of his will.  This is pure and substantial happiness. ... It is my only desire to abandon myself into the hands of God, without scruples, without fears, without any agitating thoughts. ... When divine Love has enfranchised the soul, what power can fetter it?  How small the world appears to a heart that God fills with himself! ... It seems to me I love thee alone, and all creatures only for Thy sake.  Thou art so much the soul of my soul, and the life of my life, that I have no other life than thine.  Let all the world forsake me; my Lord, my Lover lives, and I live in him.  This is the deep abyss where I hide myself in these many persecutions [imprisonment, blame, libel, etc., from those who did not understand her].  O, abandonment! blessed abandonment!  Happy the soul who lives no more in itself, but in God. ... All is well, when the soul is in union with him. (L 26-7)


Let your soul have within it, a continual Yes.  When the heart is in union with God, there is no Nay,—it is Yes, be it so, which reverberates through the soul. (L 40-1)


Leave yourself ... in the hands of Love.  Love is always the same [inwardly], although it causes you often to [outwardly] change your position [your circumstances].  He who prefers one state to another, who loves abundance more than scarcity, when God orders otherwise, loves the gifts of God more than God himself.  God loves you; let this thought equalise all states.  Let him do with us as with the waves of the sea, and whether he takes us to his bosom, or casts us upon the sand, that is, leaves us to our own barrenness, all is well.  For myself, I am pleased with all the Lord orders for me.  I hold myself ready to suffer, not only imprisonment, but death... all is good in Him, to whom I am united forever. (L 43-4)


An external religion has too much usurped the place of the religion of the heart. (L 15)


Many pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”; but they are unwilling to be crucified to the world, and to their sinful lusts.  God designs to bring his children, naturally rebellious, through the desert of crucifixions—through the temptations in the wilderness, into the promised land.  But how many rebel, and choose rather to be bond-slaves in Egypt, than suffer the reductions of their sensual appetite. (L 15-16)


Our Lord imposed no rigorous ceremonies on his disciples.  He taught them to enter into the closet; to retire within the heart; to speak but few words; to open their hearts, to receive the descent of the Holy Spirit. Oh! that all Christians might know the coming of Jesus Christ in the soul! Might live in God, and God in them! (L 16-17)


Be on your guard against everything that entangles you in self. (L 18)


When the man of sin is destroyed, and the new man established in the soul, it finds itself in perfect liberty.  As a bird let loose from its cage, the soul goes forth, unfettered, to dwell in the immensity of God.  The natural selfish life restricts the soul at every point; and even God, the great I am, is unseen, or deprived of his glory. ... Quit self, and you will find the freedom and enlargement of the All in All. (L 28)


When I speak of progress, it is in descending, not in mounting. ... The more love we have in the soul, the lower we are abased in self. ... Let us so charge ourselves with the weight of love, as to bring down self to its just level.  Let its depths be manifested by our readiness to bear the cross, the humiliations, the sufferings, which are necessary to the purification of the soul.  Our humiliation is our exaltation.  “Whosoever is least among you shall be the greatest,” says the Lord. ... Let us die to all but God. (L 22-3)


The tendency of all communications from God, is to make the soul die to self. ... [Whereas] nothing gives the enemy [the devil] greater advantage than the love [on our part] of extraordinary manifestations [visions, and so forth]... Delusory manifestations ... leave the soul in a disturbed state, while those that come from God humble, tranquilise and establish the soul in Him. ... The only true and safe revelation, is the internal revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the soul. ... This involves no disturbance of our freedom, of the natural operations of the mind; but produces a beautiful harmonious action of all the powers of the soul. ... I beseech you, my friend, ... separate yourself from all these delusions of the adversary. (L 35-7) 


There are two methods of serving little children.  One is, to give them all they want for present pleasure.  Another is, to deny them present pleasure for greater good.  God is a wise Father, and chooses the best way to conduct his children. (L 31)


O, that you could realize, my dear friend, how much God loves you. ... He cherishes you as the mother her only son. (L 33)


As the air rushes to a vacuum, so God fills the soul emptied of itself. (L 24)


God communicates himself to pure souls, and blesses, through them, other souls, who are in a state of receptivity. (L 24)


In proportion to your abandonment to God, he will take care of you.  When you yield readily to his will, you will be less embarrassed to discern the movements of God.  You will follow them naturally, and be led, as it were, by the providences of God.  God will gently arrest you if you mistake. ... Let there be no longer any resistance in your mind, and your heart will soon mingle in the ocean of love; you will float easily, and be at rest. (L 33)


Melancholy contracts and withers the heart, and renders it unfit to receive the impressions of grace. ... It is necessary to serve God with a certain joyousness of spirit, with a freedom and openness... If you would please God, be useful to others, and happy yourself, you must renounce this melancholy disposition.  It is better to divert your mind with innocent recreations, than to nourish melancholy. ... Let the desire to please God, and honor him, by an exterior all sweet, all humble, all cordial and cheerful, arouse and animate your spirit. (L 31-2)


You will find the Lord at all times near your heart, when you seek him by a simple and sincere desire to do and suffer his will.  He will be your support and consolation in this time of trouble, if you go to him, not with fear and agitation of spirit, but with calm, confiding love. ... O, that you might experience the abiding peace which Christ gives.  O, that you might become reduced to the simplicity of the little child!  It is the child who approaches the nearest to Jesus Christ.  It is the child whom he takes in his arms and carries in his bosom.  O, how lovely, how attractive, is child-like simplicity! (L 89-90)


During all eternity, the communication of God the Father, and the Son, to angels and saints, and their reciprocal communication to each other, will be a well-spring of blessedness. ... All the splendor of angels and saints, is but light reflected from God. (L 93)


We must walk with God in entire abandonment and uncertainty, at the risk of sometimes making mistakes, which in the infancy of experience is unavoidable. ... A pure soul acts in simplicity, and without certainty, being persuaded that what is good comes from God, and what is not good from the self.  The greater the simplicity—the more separate from the mingling of self-activity—the purer are these operations... This method of divine leading—by the hour and by the moment—leaves the soul always free and unencumbered, and ready for the slightest breath of the Lord. ... Do not then expect to have anticipated movements, or movements beforehand from God.  I have an experience of many years, that God often makes known his will only in the time of action.  If a pure soul, wholly sacrificed to God, should undertake something contrary to the will of God, it would feel a slight repugnance, and desist at once.  If one does not feel this repugnance, let the act be performed in simplicity. (L 47-9)


You say I do not seem to be wounded, nor blame myself when reproved for a fault.  To which I reply simply, there is no more of self remaining in me to be wounded.  This indifferent state you notice in me, arises from the state of innocency and infancy in which I find myself.  Our Lord holds me so far removed from myself ... that it is impossible for me to take a painful view of myself. ... Do not infer that I am blind to my faults.  The light of truth is so subtle and penetrating, that it discovers the slightest fault.  [Yet,] souls, transformed into God, have faults, as a writing traced on sand when the wind is high, the wind defacing it as soon as it is traced. (L 50-1)


All the graces of the Christian spring from the death of self.  Let us, then, bear patiently the afflictions ... Let us welcome any trials, that teach us what we are, and lead us to renounce ourselves and find our all in God.  Jesus Christ says, “He who renounces not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple.”  Of all possessions, that of ourselves is the most dangerous. ... I am convinced that the loss of wealth, worldly honor, persecutions, are the best instruments to unite us to Jesus Christ.  All evils, or apparent evils, are great blessings when they unite us to our All in All. (L 54-5)


It is important to use great care and sweetness in reproving others. Reprove when alone with the person, and take not your own time, but the moment of God.  As we are not free from faults ourselves, we must not expect too much from others.  Be yourself very humble and child-like, and this character will act sympathetically on others.  Jesus Christ was full of sweetness and charity.  ... How lowly was Jesus! ... He imparts to his little ones no tyrannic power. ... How happy are we in the presence of a little child; how much at ease!  It imposes on us no burden of restraint, of fear, of management!  It is in this childlike disposition of meekness, of sweetness, of innocency, that we should seek to benefit others. (L 57-8)


A single word, spoken in the spirit of Christ, with humility and sweetness,will have more weight, in correcting others, than many words uttered in our own spirit. ... It is important to wait the moment of God to correct others.  We may see real faults, but the person may not be in a state to profit by being told their faults. ... If those to whom God has given so much grace, have so many faults themselves, with how much patience should they bear with those who are less favored. (L 118-9)


[Yet at times she could be direct in her constructive criticism, such as with intellectuals and those full of themselves, who needed a “shock”:] Souls are won more by the unction of grace—by ... love—than by the power of argument.  Are not the truths you utter, my friend, too much elaborated by the intellect, and polished by the imagination?  Their effect seems to be lost, for want of simplicity and directness.  They fall pleasantly on the ear, as a lovely song, but do not reach and move the heart.  There is a lack of unction.  Are you not always laboring for something new and original, thus exhibiting your own powers of mind, rather than the simple truth? (L 38-9)


I cannot compliment you, dear sir... You need more of ... simplicity.  The frequent self-returns you make, dwelling so much on your unworthiness, although it may have the appearance of humility, is only a refined self-love.  True simplicity regards God alone; it has its eye fixed upon him, and is not drawn towards self; and it is as pleased to say humble as great things [about oneself].  All our uneasy feelings and reflections, arise from self-love, whatever appearance of piety they may assume. ... Go where we will, if we remain in ourselves, we shall carry everywhere our sins and our distresses.  If we would live in peace, we must lose sight of self, and rest in the infinite and unchangeable God.  These self-returns have a tendency to establish the soul more and more in itself, and hinder it from running into its great original.  But it is to this, God is calling you.  You withhold from God the only thing he desires—the possession of your heart.  The time is short; wherefore spend it in the compass and surroundings of self?  The single eye sees only God.  You act as a person who being called before a king, instead of regarding the king and his benefits, is occupied only with his own dress and appearance.  God wishes to disarrange you—to destroy self; and you wish to preserve what he would destroy.  Be more afraid of self than of the evil one.  It is the spirit of Satan to exalt self above God, and this spirit is fostered by these continual self-returns you make upon your own doings and misdoings, which leaves no place in your mind for the occupation of God. (L 85-6)


The pride, presumption and vanity of the natural [selfish] man, must give place to the littleness and simplicity of the child. ... O, when shall we learn that it is littleness, and not greatness, that God requires of his child! (L 87-8)


[In prayer:]  Silence is often more efficacious than a multitude of words. ...The sun, the moon, and stars, shine in silence.  The voice of God is heard in the silence of the soul.  The operation of grace is in silence... Oh, that all Christians knew what it means to keep silence before the Lord! (L 59-60)


[To one person:]  Let me urge you, my child, to enlarge your heart; or, rather, suffer it to become enlarged by grace.  This contraction [of your heart] shuts you up in yourself, and hinders an agreeable openness which we should ever maintain, even towards those who have no particular affinity with ourselves. ... I entreat you, pass beyond the narrow bounds of self;—suffer yourself to be led out of self into the will and way of God.  Thus you will be much more happy and useful.  If I loved you less, I should be less severe. (L 61-2)


All is accomplished in you by the suppleness of your will,—by the state of infancy. (L 63)


What we call the death of the will is the passage of our will into the will of God.  This change implies not only a change in externals, but the inward subjection of the desires and sentiments of the heart.  Here most persons, who commence the religious life, stop short.  They cannot submit to the interior crucifixion, which lays prostrate the whole of the natural carnal life, and consequently there follows a mingling of the spirit of the flesh with grace, and it is this which produces such monsters in the religious world. ... God accomplishes his will in us, when we have surrendered our souls to him. ... God does not arrest the soul with violence.  He adjusts all things in such a manner, that we follow him happily, even across dangerous precipices.  Suppleness of soul, is, therefore, of vital consequence to its progress.  It is the work of God to effect this.  Happy are the souls who yield to his discipline.  God renders the soul, in the commencement, supple to follow illuminated reason; afterwards to follow the way of faith.  He then conducts the soul by unknown steps, causing it to enter into the wisdom of Jesus Christ which is so different from all its former experience, that without the testimony of divine filiation, ... and the ease and liberty the soul finds in this unknown way, it would consider itself as being separated continually from God, being left, as it were, to act of itself.  Human wisdom being here lost, and the powers of the soul controlled by the wisdom of Jesus Christ, born in the soul, it increases in its proportions, even unto the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. The soul, having now passed into God, is in its proper place, and will be happy, provided it remains fixed and separate from its former manner of acting.  Reason may at times oppose with all its strength, and cause some fears, some hesitations; but, being fixed in God, it is impossible for the soul to change its course... The soul is in its natural state.  The ease and naturalness of this state ... is as much the nature of man, originally, and in his new creation in the likeness of Christ, to be in God, and to be there in perfect enlargement, simplicity, and innocence, as it is the nature of water to flow in its channel.  When man is as he should be, his state is one of infinite ease and without limitations, because he is created sovereign, or master of himself, and cannot be subjected by anything created, although he is subjected to God, if that may be called subjection, which brings the soul into affinity with God, and makes it partaker of his nature. ... When the soul is disenfranchised of all that is opposed to the will of God; when it is not arrested either by desires or repugnancies, it runs without stopping or weariness in the way.  This is what is called death,—death to self; but the soul was never so much alive; it now lives the true life, the life of God.  When the soul becomes one with God by the loss of its own will and life, it has purposes, and it is important to follow them; but they are purposes in God, and have in them nothing of self. ... God is all.  Being passed into God, the soul is changed and transformed in him. ... The will, or natural life is consumed, and gives place to the will or life of God.  Thus the Holy Spirit operates effectively in the soul, transforming it into the likeness of the Son of God. (L 63-8)


Do not be disheartened, my friend, on account of your slow progress.  A long martyrdom is sometimes necessary, in order to purify our souls from the concealed faults of self-love—faults interwoven in our nature, and strengthened by long indulgence.  As you cannot control at once the agitations of nature, arm yourself with patience, to accomplish the task little by little; not in the way of direct effort, but rather by ceasing from effort, remaining quiet... There are many deaths to pass; in a word, death to self.  It is this long martyrdom, or dying of the old man of sin, which causes all the pains of the interior life.  It is rare to find persons, who are willing to die entirely to self, and therefore few reach the highest state of grace. (L 73-4)


The death of self is not accomplished at once.  It is for some time a living death. ... When the soul begins to incline towards God, it finds many obstructions; but in proportion as we yield to the will of God, these obstructions are removed. ... The rivers empty themselves into the sea, before they lose themselves there.  Wave by wave following its course, seems to urge onward the river, to lose itself in the sea.  God imparts to the soul some waves of pure love, to urge on the soul to himself; but as the river does not lose itself in the sea, until its own waters are exhausted, so the soul reaches God, and loses itself in god, only when the means of supply from self are at an end. ... The results of self-crucifixion are happy, because God then becomes all to the soul.  We lose self, and substitute God in its place.  We take away the finite, and receive the Infinite. (L 97-8)


During the process of the soul’s purification and advancement, it loses sight not only of itself, but of all things else, except God; and even of the distinct apprehension of our Lord, in his humanity.  That is, there are no longer distinct, bounded views and perceptions of Christ, the soul becoming identical with Christ.  This is necessary in order to draw the soul into oneness with God.  Let all go in the divine order.  When the soul has returned to its end and origin, and is lost in God, it finds all it lost, without going out from God.  When the soul is yet in itself, it draws all things to itself, and sees God and all creatures in itself.  But when the soul is in oneness with God, it carries all creatures with it in God, and sees nothing separate from God.  Seeing all in God, it sees all things in the true light, as with the eye of God. (L 77-8)


Do not measure yourself by others, who may not be led as you are.  God chooses to enrich some souls with brilliant gifts, but he has chosen you, stripped of all, in the depths of spiritual poverty.  This is the perfect self-renouncement... All other states, however elevated they may be, are inferior to this pure, naked state of the soul.  It is a state, which despoils the lover of all he possesses in favor of his Beloved. ... God has chosen you for himself alone. (L 79)


Can you not believe God loves you... Does he not say, “A mother may forget, yet I will never forget thee!” (L 96)


Are you leaning upon him, or upon the creature?  If on the creature, it is a bruised reed, which will fail you.  God sometimes makes use of instruments, whom he finds it necessary afterwards to reject.  If he designs to remove me from you, can I have any wish to retain you? ... He may no longer design to use me for your benefit. ... What am I but an erring creature? ... Leave me, and unite yourself only to God, who will never mislead you. ... Whatever separation there may be between us, believe me, you will always be dear to me in our dear Lord.  I hope, when you are lost in him, you will find this little drop of water, (myself), in the same great ocean of love. (L 99-100)


Death only lends a helping hand to rend away the veil, which hides infinite beauties. (L 101)


How wonderful is this operation—the sacred mingling of a poor creature with its God, where all the evils of our fallen nature, are removed from the depths of the soul, and the soul, in its elemental being is lost in its original!  There all the little ones are united in Him,—these little drops of water reassembled in the divine ocean! (L 103)


Purity of soul consists in an entire separation from self, and re-union with God. (L 104)


In proportion as the outward man has been reduced, God seems to be more the life of my soul. (L 105)


God alone can render you happy.  Give yourself wholly to him, never more to take yourself back.  Love him with all your heart.  Retire often within the closet of your heart to commune with God.  Do not pray to him in a constrained and formal manner, but all simple and natural.  God loves better the affectionate language of the heart, than the cold and discursive thoughts of the intellect. (L 107)


Do not shrink from your ordinary duties.  We are often more united to God in our daily avocations than in retirement. ... Endeavor to maintain, at all times, harmony and oneness with God. (L 107)


He calls us to a temperate life, but not to a life too austere. (L 108)


O divine love! how great are thy wonders, how marvellous thy operations on human hearts!  My soul is lost in the depths of thy secret wonders! Silence, silence—only silence! (L 111)


We are only instruments in his hands, which he may lay aside, or use according to his good pleasure.  We should be so dead to self, as to be indifferent, whether he makes use of us or not.  Remain, therefore, my dear friend, in the hand of God.  Let him accomplish in you, and by you, all his good pleasure, whether to cast down, or build up. (L 112-3)


Remember, the present moment comes to you as the moment of God.  Use it for his glory, and every succeeding moment.  Thus the present becomes the eternal moment... May God be All in All to us in every passing moment, now and forever. (L 116-7)


Die, live; lose yourself, and find yourself again; then you will have experience of this state. (L 125)


God designs you, my friend, for himself but he will lead you by a way, entirely opposed to what you have marked out.  He does this in order to destroy your self-love [selfishness].  This is accomplished only by the overthrow of all your purposes, preconceived views, natural reason and sagacity.  Self-love has many hiding places.  God alone can search them out. ... God wishes to reduce you to littleness, and poverty of spirit. Believe me, dear sir, you will grow in grace, not by knowledge acquired from books; not from reasonings upon divine truths, but by an efflux from God.  This efflux will reach and fill your soul, in proportion as you are emptied of self.  You are so much occupied of yourself in speaking, reading and writing, that you give no place to God.  Make room, and God will come in.  You speak of your many cares.  If you will give yourself wholly to God, these cares will be greatly diminished.  God will think for you, and arrange by his Providence, what you cannot effect by long years of planning.  In the name of God, I entreat you to renounce your own wisdom, your self-leadings, and yield up yourself to God.  Let Him become your wisdom. ... Take courage, and be persuaded that if God destroys the natural life, it is only to give you himself.  Endeavor to be nothing, that God may be all.  When void, God himself fills the space. (L 128-9)


Yesterday, after I left the parlor, I uttered some words hastily, and suffered very much in consequence; a suffering ... subtle and interior... A part of myself seemed to be thrown out of God... I was willing to remain where God placed me, until the moment he received me again to himself.  If I should afflict myself on account of this experience, which was new and unexpected, I believe it would be wrong, and sully still more the soul. The depths of my soul remain unchanged—fixed in God.  he removes the impurity, that has exteriorly sullied it, and holds the soul still his own. (L 130-1)


The true Apostolic state is to become all things to all men; that is, to impart to each one spiritually, according to his necessities.  Only those who are reduced to littleness and simplicity, have this power of communicating grace.  They have also the ability to sympathise deeply in the states of others; of bearing in some measure their burdens, and are sometimes in great heaviness on their account.  This communication of grace and aid is not necessarily restricted to the personal presence of the individual.  We may be “absent in body, yet present in spirit”... Unity of souls is experienced, not only with those in the body, who have affinity with ourselves, but also with those out of the body. (L 132-3)


The soul loses itself in God, only by the loss of the [self-centered] will and by love. ... Love, which carries the will in its train, changes the whole man; this is the divine, the true ecstasy.  This is what is called transformation, and loss of the soul in God.  It is certain, however, that the creature always remains a being distinct from God. (L 136-7)


Admit no reflections in regard to the good you have accomplished so that all that nourishes self-complacency may die.  Possess your soul in peace as much as possible; not by effort, but by ceasing from effort; by letting go everything that troubles you.  Be quiet, that you may settle, as we leave water to settle when agitated.  When you discover your errors and sins, do not stop, under whatever good pretext to remedy [and thereby become self-obsessed].  Rather abandon yourself at once to God, that he may destroy, in you, all that is displeasing to him.  I assure you, you are not capable of yourself to correct the least fault.  Your only remedy is abandonment to God, and remaining quiet in his hands. (L 138-9)


The soul, in this state of union with God, is sometimes permitted to foretell things to come... (L 141)


I have given to my Sovereign all that I am; and as far as I know, I have nothing more to give him.  My soul is at rest in his will.  It is the same in regard to prayer, or petitions.  The soul having a very simple method of prayer, all other prayer seems foreign to it.  When it would make a request, and as soon as the soul knows distinctly what it demands, there is something which goes before to accomplish it, without the utterance of words. ... God takes the place of self in the soul, and there prays for things agreeable to his will.  This is a state of the soul, in which it has no desire to originate prayer, but loves to be silent in the presence of God. ... O, that all the earth knew what it means to keep silence before the Lord! (L 142-3)


[To a suffering soul:]

I have a clear discernment of your state... the reasons why you suffer, and the blessed results of these sufferings. ... You suffer not only on your own account, but also for the benefit of others.  God destines you to accomplish great things for his glory, and exterior humiliations in your case not being suited to his designs, he makes use of concealed humiliations, known only to yourself and God. ... The greater your humiliation, the more God will use you to perform his most excellent works. (L 144-5)


Having given up myself wholly to God, and loving Him far better than myself, how can I find any opposition to his good pleasure? ... The creature can take no glory to itself, to whatever state it may arrive.  O that you might comprehend ... the goodness of God... God seems so truly all things to me, that I seem to see nothing, to love nothing, relish nothing, only what he causes me to see, love and relish in himself.  I am only capable of loving and submitting to him, so much is he my life. ... God is; this is sufficient.  How immense is the freedom of the soul in him! ... O God, can I have any self-interest, or appropriate aught as mine?  In what can I take it?  ... I am lost.  God is. (L 146-7)


Although for many years, profound truths have been revealed to me, and God has manifested his power through me, in an extraordinary manner, my state has invariably been one of infancy, simplicity, and candor.  God’s grace has rendered me equally willing to lie concealed, or to execute his will more publicly.  During seven years, without my knowing how it was accomplished, as soon as I have approached some persons, possessed by demons, the evil spirits have departed.  I have realised simply a desire to relieve them, and this desire, or prayer, has been answered in a way unknown to myself.  Of myself, I have no goodness nor power at all.  I have only the capacity of a child—of letting myself be used by God, as pleases Him.  My life appears natural.  I am encompassed with infirmities.  My health is greatly impaired. My infirmities are a balance-wheel, a counter-poise to exaltation. (L 148-9)


In reply to your enquiry, my dear children, concerning my state, I would say, that exteriorly, I am open, simple, childlike.  My interior resembles a drop of water, mingling and lost in the ocean, and no more discerning itself,—the sea not only surrounding but absorbing it.  In this divine immensity, the soul discerns and enjoys all objects in God.  All is darkness and obscurity in respect to itself; all is light on the part of God.  Thus, God is all to me.  This has been my state more than thirty years, although in latter years I have realized greater depths in these experiences.  Think of the bottomless sea; what is thrown therein, continues sinking, without ever reaching the end.  Thus divine love is the weight of the soul, that sinks it deeper and deeper in God.  “God is Love, and he who dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him.”  O immensity! (L 150-1)


     The soul seeks God in faith not by the reasonings of the mind and labored efforts, but by the drawings of love; to which inclinations God responds, and instructs the soul, which co-operates actively.  God then puts the soul in a passive state, where he accomplishes all, causing great progress, first by way of enjoyment, then by privations, and finally by pure Love. 

     What do we understand by the Interior way?  It is to seek the kingdom of God within us.  Luke 17, 21.  We find this kingdom only where God has placed it, within the soul.  It becomes necessary, then, to withdraw the eyes of the soul from external landmarks and observations ... and rest the eye in faith on the Word of the Lord,—“Seek and ye shall find.” This seeking involves an interior activity of the soul; a desire, a determination, and searching after what is hidden. 

     When the soul has earnestly sought the kingdom of God within, this kingdom is developed little by little.  Interior recollection becomes less difficult, and the presence of God more perceptible and agreeable.  Formerly it was supposed that the presence of God was only the thought of God, and that it was necessary to force the mind—to concentrate the thoughts with violence to find God.  This is true in some sense, but, as the soul cannot long endure this tension, and as the kingdom of God is not found in the external vestments of the soul, but in its depths, this labor is of little avail.  So little progress is made, the soul becomes discouraged, and the evil one ... makes an effort to draw the soul to externalities. ...

     You reply, how, then, is this life accomplished?  I answer, God, seeing the heart of him who seeks him within, draws near to him, and teaches him a just moderation in all things; and ... the soul begins to perceive the peaceful kingdom.  It realizes within itself a guide, who provides for its necessities, according to divine laws, who takes away the burdens that sin imposes; a guide who does not foster corrupt nature, nor forbid innocent pleasures. 

     When the soul begins to perceive this kingdom, and that the King himself is manifested in some degree, it thus communes ... O my Beloved!  I have sought thee with all the strength of my heart ... and I have ... found thee! ... I will do thy will alone. ...

     At this stage of progress, the soul ceases from self.  Its work is to regard, lovingly, the operation of God, without a desire either to advance it, or place any obstacle in the way of its progress.  The soul has been active, in the first stage, to destroy, with all its power, that which might hinder the kingdom of God within; and this was a great effort; for habit had rendered interior recollection very difficult, and the powers of the soul did not easily reunite themselves in one centre. 

     Now the soul seeks no longer to combat the obstacles which hindered its return within, but lets God combat and act in the soul. ...

     The soul passes days, and even years, separated from creature enjoyments without weariness. ... It is not without faults and imperfections, but divine love diminishes them little by little... This state is called passive love. ...

     The soul begins to feel a drawing, to let God not only be all things in the soul, but there to reign separate from the soul’s enjoyment of his gifts.  The soul now ... has an impression that God reigns there alone... Every successive state is marked by a purifying process.  Persons often mistake, and take the first purification for the last.  When God reigns alone in the soul, separate from the actions of self, and self is destroyed, it is beyond any previous state. 

     When the soul has ceased from its own selfish operations, and the man of sin is exterminated, its defects become more apparent, because God wishes it to comprehend what it is by itself, and what it would be without him.  The soul is thus afflicted, believing it has lost the virtues, acquired with so much care, and seems to have faults that it had not before perceived. ... In the mean time, it is not the desire of the spouse to become beautiful in her own eyes, but to see only the beauty of her Lover.  When the soul is faithful in this state, and really desires to die to itself, she is pleased only with the beauty of her Beloved, and says his beauty shall be my beauty.  But it is necessary to advance beyond this, for, after being despoiled of her beauty, it would be a selfishness much greater to appropriate to herself, the beauty of her Beloved.  His beauty must remain untarnished, unappropriated by her; she must leave him all, and remain in her nothing, for the nothing is her proper place.  This is Perfect Love, which regards God alone. (L 152-9)


[The following extracts are from Guyon’s correspondences to Archbishop Fenelon:]

God is leading you, not by the way of great crosses and violent conflicts, but by the way of littleness.  You cannot become too little, too childlike; and therefore God has chosen a child [she refers to herself] to be your [spiritual] companion, to teach you the route of little children.  When you reach this state of littleness, God will renew within you his image: you will live no more.  Jesus Christ will live in you.  To accomplish this is the work of the Holy Spirit. ... And then Jesus Christ the Word will be formed in you; you will be changed into his image, from glory to glory. “Our Lord is a consuming fire.”  ... It is to this blessed life, which is reached only by the death of self, that I invite you. (L 175-6)


The point of consideration most important for you, sir, is the loss of your own will in the will of God.  God desires to lead you himself; and all he requires of you is to permit him to do so.  And, in order to this, you must suffer yourself to die daily, and moment by moment, by means of all the passing events of life... Often, when one prop is removed, the soul finds itself clinging to another.  And at this point, letting go the hold of some things, the will awakens even to a firmer grasp of some other things. ... The suffering of advancing souls arises from resistance to God’s will... We must not judge of the propriety of God’s dealings with us by our relish or disrelish of these dealings. (L 180-1)


Do not understand me as saying that you should not act of yourself, and thus become passive; but, rather, that you should act at all times in simplicity, not waiting for a special movement, but leaving your heart always open to God, as a room is left open to go in and out as one pleases.  While your eye is ever towards God for light and direction, you must walk on, having faith in your guide, and not waiting for a special movement.  God will always be with you, and teach you all things.  He will give you at the right moment words to utter.  Inspiration comes in the moment needed, and is not the product of reasoning.  You must become simple as a little child. (L 205)


He who has lost his own will is so well balanced as to be easily moved by God, when the right moment comes for a decision.  The perfect will of God ...leaves the soul, in its incipient state of progress, to a thousand uncertainties.  Certainty would be a prop, and hinder the loss of the will. (L 181)


Leave to God things to come. (L 204)


Oh that I could express to you what I now perceive of the designs of God, in giving you his spirit of truth, which searches you out, and leaves you in possession of nothing in order to possess you himself!  Leave yourself, then, all empty, as you are, with God ... By the loss of all things you will obtain infinite riches, infinite freedom. (L 183)


May our Lord teach you how close is the union between himself and the soul fully consecrated to him! (L 211)


The soul, being created originally in the image of God, and being restored to this image by means of the personal incarnation of the Word, receives a part of his divine nature or attributes.  In receiving a part of this nature, the soul receives the quality of productiveness, or power of communicating grace.  It is thus in union with God; and, being made a partaker of the nature of God, that soul unites itself to soul, and in this way communicates grace, as God communicates himself, his essence and nature and power, to his creatures.  The soul being in God and of God, it draws and penetrates other souls, by means of the divine operation through this soul, as an absorbing and reflecting medium.  Although those intervening rays may seem of themselves to draw others, it is God alone who acts as first cause. ... And those souls who are nearest to God, or in closest union with him, possess the most of this power.  Yes: it is God alone who draws and unites souls in himself to one another; the intervening soul presenting no obstacle, on account of its purity and transparency, but serving rather as a medium for the communication of grace.  It is thus one soul bears the burden of another soul.  It is in this way God has caused me to suffer on your account. ... The grace that God gives me to aid souls is increasing, and the number of such persons is increasing.  The results are wonderful. (L 188-90)


The love of God for his creatures goes out of himself like a torrent, and blesses all hearts open to receive it; and the love which the holy soul experiences and diffuses is only a portion of this same love. (L 195)


The greater my union with God, the greater my union with you. (L 194)


I have a certain indifference to all that relates to me personally.  I desire, first of all, the glory of God, whatever becomes of me. (L 194-5)


It seems to me impossible to act of myself, separate from the divine will manifested in me.  If I try to originate a movement or plan of acting, I find myself helpless as an infant, and without strength.  What I do must have a corresponding movement or life-power from within.  One must pass through many deaths in order to reach this state. ... It is something to become passive, and cease from self-interested movements; but it is more to become passively active in doing the will of God.  This is an experience that few, comparatively, reach, because they have not courage enough to die to the extent that is necessary, in order to reach this state.  One who has reached this state possesses an indomitable courage and firmness to execute all God’s will at whatever cost.  And, also, such an one experiences a corresponding infantile weakness or inability to do what is contrary to God’s will. (L 211-2)


[An abridged version of her last letter, written to the famous “Mr. Poiret,” in response to his desire to know her spiritual state:]

What I now experience [compared to earlier years] is more simple, more naked, more nothing, and more God; a state so exalted, and so reduced regarding myself, as to leave me nothing to say of myself.  Love seems now an existence in me independent of my volitions, and distinct acts of the soul.  I am not able ordinarily to make any distinction between my will and the will of God.  The soul seems not to know itself any more in those distinct acts and exercises which were its former life.  God is, and God is all: the soul possesses all things in him purely, and not possessing them by any right of self-appropriation.  I cannot reflect nor reason about my state, because it is no state.  I remain nothing, and God alone is my life.  If I should indulge in scruples or fears or care or self-returns in any way, I should go out of my state.  I have so little interest for myself, aside from God’s will, that I seem in this respect as one who has no perception, emotions, or choice.  I remain nothing.  God is, and God is all in all. (L 216-7)


[From Guyon’s “A Short Method of Prayer”:]

     Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is the efficacious means of getting rid of all vices and of acquiring all virtues; for the way to become perfect is to live in the presence of God. ... Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep you there continually. ...

     Nothing is easier than to have God and to live upon Him.  He is more truly in us than we are in ourselves. ...

     Oh, you who imagine yourselves incapable of religious feeling, you may live in prayer and in God as easily and as continuously as you live by the air you breathe. ...

     After having brought ourselves into the presence of God by a definite act of faith, we should read something substantial, not so much to reason upon it as to fix the attention, observing that the principal exercise should be the presence of God, and that the subject should rather fix the attention than exercise reason.

     This faith in the presence of God within our hearts must lead us to enter within ourselves, collecting our thoughts, and preventing their wandering; this is an effectual way of getting rid of distracting thoughts, and of losing sight of outward things, in order to draw near to God, who can only be found in the secret place of our hearts, which is the sancta sanctorum in which He dwells. 

     He has promised that if any one keeps His commandments, He will come to him, and make His abode with him. ...

     It is difficult at first thus to retire within ourselves, because of the habits, which are natural to us, of being taken up with the outside; but when we are a little accustomed to it, it becomes exceedingly easy, both because we have formed the habit of it, and because God, who only desires to communicate Himself to us, sends us abundant grace and an

experimental sense of His presence, which renders it easy ...

     After a time, ... the soul becomes [adept] in recognising the presence of God; it collects itself more easily; prayer becomes natural and pleasant; it knows that it leads to God; and it perceives the smell of His perfumes. ...

     When you bring yourself into the presence of God by faith, remain a short time in an attitude of respectful silence. ...

     It is also necessary that you should go to God, not so much to obtain something from Him as to please Him and to do His will...

     Go, then, to prayer, not only to enjoy God but to be as He wills; this will keep you equal in times of [emotional] barrenness and in times of abundance, and you will not be dismayed by ... His apparent indifference. (DW 328-31)


     I beg you, whoever you may be, who are desirous of giving yourselves to God, not to take yourselves back when once you are given to Him... Abandonment is the key to the inner life: he who is thoroughly abandoned will soon be perfect. ...

     Abandonment is the casting off of all care of ourselves, to leave ourselves to be guided entirely by God.  All Christians are exhorted to abandonment... Abandonment, then, ought to be an utter leaving of ourselves, both outwardly and inwardly, in the hands of God, forgetting ourselves and thinking only of God.  By this means the heart is kept always free and contented.

     Practically it should be a continual loss of our own will in the will of God, a renunciation of all natural inclinations, however good they may appear, in order that we may be left free to choose only as God chooses: we should be indifferent to all things, whether temporal or spiritual, for the body or the soul; leaving the past in forgetfulness, the future to providence, and giving the present to God; contented with the present moment, which brings with it God’s eternal will for us; attributing nothing which happens to us to the creature, but seeing all things in God, and regarding them as coming infallibly from His hand, with the exception only of our own sin. 

     Leave yourselves, then, to be guided by God as He will, whether as regards the inner or the outward life. (DW 331)


[On the highest degree of the passive way of prayer; from Ch. 9 of Guyon’s “Spiritual Torrents”:]

     All that has taken place up to this point has been in the individual capacity of the creature; but here the creature is taken out of his own capacity to receive an infinite capacity in God Himself.  And as the torrent, when it enters the sea, loses its own being in such a way that it retains nothing of it, and takes that of the sea, or rather is taken out of itself to be lost in the sea; so this soul loses the human in order that it may lose itself in the divine, which becomes its being and its subsistence, not essentially, but mystically.  Then this torrent possesses all the treasures of the sea, and is as glorious as it was formerly poor and miserable.

     It is in the tomb [of ego-death] that the soul begins to resume life... O you who are coming out of the sepulchre! you feel within yourselves a germ of life springing up little by little: you are quite astonished to find a secret strength taking possession of you: your ashes are reanimated... The poor soul, which only expected to remain at rest in its grave, receives an agreeable surprise. ... It is still more astonished when it feels [a] ... secret vigour permeating its entire being, and finds that it gradually receives a new life, to lose it no more for ever, unless it be by the most flagrant unfaithfulness.

     But this new life is not like the former one: it is a life in God.  It is a perfect life.  The soul lives no longer and works no longer of itself, but God lives, acts, and operates in it (Gal 2:20); and this goes on increasing, so that it becomes perfect with God’s perfection, rich with God’s riches, and loving with God’s love.

     The soul sees now that whatever it owned formerly had been in its own possession: now it no longer possesses, but is possessed: it only takes a new life in order to lose it in God; or rather it only lives with the life of God; and as He is the principle of life, the soul can want nothing. What a gain it has made by all its losses!  It has lost the created for the Creator, the nothing for the All in all.  All things are given to it, not in itself, but in God; not to be possessed by itself, but to be possessed by God.  Its riches are immense, for they are God Himself.  It feels its capacity increasing day by day to immensity; every virtue is restored to it, but in God. ...

     The more it loses itself in God, the greater its capacity becomes; just as the more the torrent loses itself in the sea, the more it is enlarged, having no other limits than those of the sea; it participates in all its properties.  The soul becomes strong and firm... This divine life becomes quite natural to it.  As it no longer feels itself, sees itself, or knows itself, so it no longer sees or understands or distinguishes anything of God as distinct or outside of itself.  It is no longer conscious of love, or light, or knowledge; it only knows that God is, and that it no longer lives except in God.  All devotion is action, and all action is devotion: all is the same; the soul is indifferent to all, for all is equally God.  Formerly it was necessary to exercise virtue in order to perform virtuous works; here all distinction of action is taken away, the actions having no virtue in themselves, but all being God, the meanest action equally with the greatest, provided it is in the order of God and at His time: for all that might be of the natural choice, and not in this order, would have another effect, leading the soul out of God by unfaithfulness. ... So the soul is indifferent as to whether it be in one state or another, in one place or another: all is the same to it, and it lets itself be carried along naturally.  It ceases to think, to wish, or to choose for itself; but remains content, without care or anxiety, no longer distinguishing its inner life to speak of it.  Indeed it may be said not to possess one: it is no longer in itself; it is all in God.  It is not necessary for it to shut itself up within itself; it does not hope to find anything there and does not seek for it. ... So the soul does not trouble itself to seek anything or to do anything; that is, of itself, by itself, or for itself.  It remains as it is.  But what does it do?  Nothing—always nothing.  It does what it is made to do, it suffers [endures] what it is made to suffer [endure].  Its peace is unchangeable, but always natural.  It has, as it were, passed into a state of nature; and yet how different from those altogether without God! 

     The difference is that it is compelled to action by God without being conscious of it, whereas formerly it was nature that acted.  It seems to itself to do neither right nor wrong, but it lives satisfied, peaceful, doing what it is made to do in a steady and resolute manner.

     God alone is its guide; for at the time of its loss, it lost its own will.  And if you were to ask what are its desires, it could not tell.  It can choose for itself no longer: all desire is taken away, because, having found its centre, the heart loses all natural inclination, tendency, and activity, in the same way as it loses all repugnance and contrariety.  The torrent has no longer either a declivity or a movement: it is in repose, and at its end.

     But with what satisfaction is this soul satisfied?  With the satisfaction of God, immense, general, without knowing or understanding what it is that satisfies it; for here all sentiments, tastes, views, particular opinions, however delicate they may be, are taken from it... But this insensibility is very different [from] ... that of death, burial, and decay.  That was a deprivation of life ... the powerlessness of the dying united with the insensibility of the dead; but this is an elevation above all these things, which does not remove them, but renders them useless.

     In this degree God cannot be tasted, seen, or felt, being no longer distinct from ourselves, but one with us.  The soul has neither inclination nor taste for anything: in the period of death and burial it experienced this, but in a very different manner.  Then it arose from distaste and powerlessness, but now it is the effect of plenitude and abundance; just as if a person could live on air, he would be full without feeling his plenitude...

     The soul here is in God, as in the air which is natural to it, and it is no more sensible of its fullness than we are of the air we breathe.  Yet it is full, and nothing is wanting to it; therefore all its desires are taken from it.  Its peace is great, but not as it was before.  Formerly it was an inanimate peace, a certain sepulture, from which there sometimes escaped exhalations which troubled it.  When it was reduced to ashes [in ego-death] it was at peace; but it was a barren peace, like that of a corpse, which would be at peace in the midst of the wildest storms of the sea: it would not feel them, and would not be troubled by them, its state of death rendering it insensible.  But here the soul is raised, as it were, to a mountaintop, from which it sees the waves rolling and tossing, without fearing their attacks; or rather it is at the bottom of the sea, where there is always tranquility, even while the surface is agitated.  The senses may suffer their sorrows, but at the centre there is always the same calm tranquility, because He who possesses it is immutable.

     This, of course, supposes the faithfulness of the soul; for in whatever state it may be, it is possible for it to recede and fall back into itself.  But here the soul progresses infinitely in God; and it is possible for it to advance incessantly; just as, if the sea had no bottom, any one falling into it would sink to infinitude, and going down to greater and greater depths of the ocean, would discover more and more of its beauties and treasures.  It is even thus with the soul whose home is in God.

     But what must it do in order to be faithful to God?  Nothing, and less than nothing.  It must simply suffer itself to be possessed, acted upon, and moved without resistance, remaining in the state which is natural to it, ... and receiving it from Him, without either adding to or taking from it; letting itself be led at all times and to any place, regardless of sight or reason, and without thinking of either; letting itself go naturally into all things, without considering what would be best or most plausible; remaining in the state of evenness and stability in which God has placed it, without being troubled to do anything; but leaving to God the care of providing its opportunities, and of doing all for it; not making definite acts of abandonment, but simply resting in the state of abandonment in which it already is, and which is natural to it.  (DW 332-5)



Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton (1774-1821; foundress of American Sisters of Charity; U.S.A.):

My Father and my God, who by the consoling voice of his word builds up the soul in hope so as to free it even for hours of its incumbrance, confirming and strengthening it by the constant experience of his indulgent goodness; giving it a new life in him even while in the midst of pains and sorrows—sustaining, directing, consoling, and blessing thro’ every changing scene of its pilgrimage, making his Will its guide to temporal comfort and eternal glory—how shall the most unwearied diligence, the most cheerful compliance, the most most humble resignation ever enough express my love, my joy, Thanksgiving and Praise! (21) [26]


When I think of what I have and what I deserve, I can never be too grateful. (71)


Oh my God, forgive what I have been, correct what I am, and direct what I shall be.  From break of day I see thee till the dead of night—all is solitary where thou art not, and where thou art is fullness of joy. (340)


O Divine Love—O my Jesus—O my Eternity—be the music of my heart... (340)


Make the comparison—a simple unadorned blank Soul with LOVE and INNOCENCE—

and a most learned and elegant Soul without them. ONE IS an Angel—the other, a spirit in disgrace. One abides in the heavenly choirs, the other as yet in the dark abyss. (356)


[Elizabeth once said how she is] always looking beyond the bounds of time and desiring to quit the gift for the giver. (50)


How little is all that passes in this life. (22)


Mind not while in the body, what when out of the body you will have no need of. (353)


How much pain you will spare yourself if you will abandon yourself to God—never be hurried by anything whatever—nothing can be more pressing than the necessity for your peace before God—commit every thing to him that passes thro’ your hands, and you will help others more by the peace and tranquility of your heart than by any eagerness or care you can bestow on them. (344)


                       The sleep and dream of life,

                      —the awakening to another life

                          the horizon of futurity

                         the pure skies of heaven

                            dawning of Eternity

                         Rising sun of Immortality




                              angelic singing

                               views immense

                          Jesus—infinity itself

                              boundless light

                                all delight

                                 all bliss

                                  all God 

                         all this may be tomorrow

                          if only from the sleep

                                and dreams

                                  of life

                                   I may

                              through penance

                               and innocence

                          truly awake in Jesus!!! (339-40)


[On human woes:] You think them sacrifices—look at the Sacrifice of [Jesus on] Calvary and compare yours with it—You think life long and tedious—look at the Eternity of bliss to repay it. (48)


Eternity—in what light shall we view (if we think of such trifles in the company of God and the choirs of Blessed)—what will we think of the trials and cares, pains and sorrows we had once upon Earth; Oh what a mere nothing—let then they who weep be as tho’ they wept not—they who rejoice as tho’ they rejoice not—they who obtain as tho’ they possess not—this world passes away—Eternity! that voice is to be every where understood Eternity!—to love and serve him only—who is to be loved and eternally served and praised in Heaven. (352-3)


Oh, cross of my Saviour, may your image be ever imprinted on my heart, under your shade let me live die, labour, rest, act,  pray, suffer and be consoled.  Oh Love! love—my Jesus!  You shall not suffer alone, shall not love alone—I will—I will—even unto Death—Eternity!! (67)


Afflictions are the steps to heaven. (48)


I am the happiest of creatures in the thought that not the least thing can happen but by His will or permission; and all for the best. (28)


There are plenty of people in this world to mind [get involved with] planning and opinions, but how few to build in God [through prayer] and be silent like our Jesus. (44-5)


Remember the sure, the never failing Protector we have.  He will not divide your confidence.  Rely solely on Him.  From experience I can declare that it will produce the most peaceful sensation and most perfect enjoyment of which the heart is capable. ... Our best employment ... is to improve those sentiments which produce that temper of mind which inspires confidence in Him who has the guidance of our concerns: and without which confidence of a Friend and Father there can be no enjoyment of that intercourse with Him which is to form our greatest felicity. (41-2)


[Concerning the commandment:] “LOVE WITH THY WHOLE HEART.”

     By the heart we understand the most secret part of the Soul, Where joy, and sadness, fear, or desire, and whatever we call sentiments or affections is formed—then the love of God in the heart is that sweet attraction which draws us incessantly to him, which desires to enjoy him, delights to be busied with him, tastes always a new pleasure in him as the confident of its joys and its pains, it lives under the liveliest impressions of its sovereign Good and intimately enjoys his continual presence—

     To love him with the whole heart is all.  Also we must include our whole strength by doing all that we can for him, and referring to him whatever we do for others.  And with our whole mind by remembering him continually and filling it with him as much as we can.  Love is paid by love—and the tenderest Mother has not more delight in holding her little dear beloved in her arms that this child of divine love (the happy Soul...) delights to dwell in the bosom of this best and dearest of Fathers.

     What is this cry of the heart, this unceasing desire, attraction of the Soul—this secret hunger which calls it every moment after a happiness it can never reach on Earth

     O Divine Love Beneficent Mysterious Sun.  The flowers of every virtue take the liveliest colours under your benign aspect—humility, Peace, constancy, joy, faith hope and charity are your precious eternal fruits, you give to the soul your delight in her, the purest joys in foretaste of the torrents of your eternal inebriations ... while the happy soul in return would desire to melt like wax in presence of this beloved fire desiring to expand all its faculties to love him in time and Eternity... saying O my beloved when will you reign with power and Peace within, when will you rule with absolute sway over my whole life and being—

     He dwells within—our soul his palace!  We need no steps to reach his throne, no separation by space or distance... Converse with him is without bounds or limits—as often as we will enter within ourselves, and as long a time as we will remain, we may enjoy this heavenly commerce in perfect liberty—

     Many seek to love God by different methods but there is none so short and so easy as to do every thing for his love, to set this seal on all our actions, and keep ourselves in his presence by the commerce of our heart with him in full simplicity...

     Good Will, Simplicity, and Confidence, are the Keys of the Sanctuary of DIVINE LOVE. (356-7)


[On death:] The thought of going home called out by his will, what a transport [of bliss]. ... We must all be ready for this dear, dearest thief who is to come when least expected. (51)


Soul of Jesus sanctify me

Blood of Jesus wash me

Passion of Jesus comfort me ...

Heart of Jesus receive me

Spirit of Jesus enliven me

Goodness of Jesus pardon me

Beauty of Jesus draw me

Humility of Jesus humble me

Peace of Jesus pacify me

Love of Jesus inflame me

Kingdom of Jesus come to me

Grace of Jesus replenish me

Mercy of Jesus pity me

Sanctity of Jesus sanctify me

Purity of Jesus purify me... (337)


     St. Augustine’s Three Words[:] We shall see! see! O! We shall praise! We shall love!!! if on earth we so much delight to behold what is lovely what? a nothing—St. Paul warns us it passes it is fleeting and temporal—but the things unseen are ETERNAL. ...

     We will praise—even now we delight to praise the excellence we see—we call for the praise of all creatures, of all creation! but all Nothing—and our JESUS took on himself our humanity as if to unite all material creation to the Spiritual, to give Praise to his Father ...  WE SHALL LOVE! Now he escapes from our eyes while he lives in our heart—as a poor blind man speaks to his best and dearest friend but cannot see him, or a little child to its mother through a lattice or partition, so we to our JESUS—but in heaven! TORRENTS of LOVE!!!

     Oceans of LOVE to plunge in for Eternity, every faculty of our Soul dilated!!!!!—

     —Heavenly pure supernatural love undivided—God alone...

     Is it possible this Atom being I possess shall be eternally blessed without end or limitation... We talk of SACRIFICES.  Where, in What? when we think of heaven we smile at the word Sacrifice.  Yet in our miserable weakness we feel the whole weight—but all in him who strengthens—

     Now our love so cold—our communions so cold! bid him ... call us to LOVE better in our Eternal bliss with HIM. (327)


Therese of Lisieux (1873-97; Catholic Carmelite; France:) [From her autobiographical manuscript written under her superior’s orders:] [27]


Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be. (20)


To become a saint one must suffer a great deal [i.e., endure much], always seek what is best, and forget oneself. (26)


[Reflecting on her early childhood:]  I preferred to sit alone on the grass amid the flowers.  Then I used to think very deeply and though I knew nothing of meditation, my soul entered into a true state of prayer. ... Earth seemed a place of exile and I dreamt of heaven. (31)


I read innumerable books [as a child], but God never allowed me to read one which might have harmed me.  I read some tales of chivalry, but it wasn’t long before God made me realise that the true glory is that which is eternal and that, to achieve that, there is no need to perform outstanding deeds.  Instead, one must remain hidden and perform one’s good deeds so that the right hand knows not what the left hand does. (48-9)


At school one day a mistress asked me what I did when I was alone in the holidays.  I told her that I used to go into a space there was behind my bed which I could shut off with the bed curtain.  And there I used to think.  “But what do you think about?” she asked.  “I think about God, about life ... about eternity...”  I realise now that I was engaged in mental prayer without knowing it and that God was teaching me it in secret. (50-1)


I knew [as a child] that all is fleeting that we cherish here under the sun.  The only good thing is to love God with all one’s heart and to stay poor in spirit [i.e., detached]. (50)


[On the day of her first Communion:]  Oh, how sweet the first kiss of Jesus was!  It was a kiss of love. ... It was a union.  There were no longer two of us.  Therese had disappeared like a drop of water lost in the depth of the ocean.  Only Jesus remained... Her joy was too great, too deep to be contained.  She wept. (52)


It is quite impossible to describe the secrets of heaven in the words of earth. (151)


When I realised how trifling are the sacrifices of this life compared with the rewards of heaven, I wanted to love Jesus, to love Him passionately, and to give Him a thousand tokens of my love whilst I still could. (65)


Many, many souls would become most holy if they had been properly guided from the very start [by parents, teachers, et al]. (72)


It’s impossible for one bound by human affection to have intimate union with God. (56)


Happiness has nothing to do with the material things which surround us; it dwells in the very depths of the soul. (86)


[Around age 14:]  I myself was consumed with a thirst for souls [i.e., bringing them to God].  I was concerned not with the souls of priests but with those of great sinners which I wanted to snatch from the flames of hell.  God showed me He was pleased with these longings of mine.  I’d heard of a criminal who had just been condemned to death for some frightful murders.  It seemed that he would die without repenting.  I was determined at all costs to save him from hell. ... I knew that by myself I could do nothing, so I offered God the infinite merits of Our Lord... I was quite certain that my prayers would be answered, but to give me courage to go on praying for sinners I said to God: “I am sure You will forgive this wretched Pranzini.  I shall believe You have done so even if he does not confess or give any other sign of repentance, for I have complete faith in the infinite mercy of Jesus.  But I ask You for just one sign of his repentance to encourage me.  This prayer was answered. ... On the day after his execution I eagerly opened [the newspaper] La Croix and I had to rush away to hide my tears at what I read.  Pranzini had mounted the scaffold without confessing and was ready to thrust his head beneath the guillotine’s blade when he suddenly turned, seized the crucifix offered him by the priest, and thrice kissed the Sacred Wounds [of Christ].  I had been given my sign, and it was typical of the graces Jesus has given me to make me eager to pray for sinners. ... After this striking favour my longing for souls grew greater every day. (63-4)


[Upon going into the Carmelite convent at the unusually early age of 15:] I knew a deep and serene peace beyond description.  For eight and a half years this peace has been mine and it has never left me even in the midst of the most severe trials. (90)


[An old nun told her:]  The nearer one gets to God, the simpler one becomes. (92)


[On the day she professed her final vows in 1890 she thought to herself:]  Let me neither look for nor find anyone but You and You alone.  Let all creatures be as nothing to me and me as nothing to them. (101)


I know that without love all we do is worthless. (107)


I saw that He alone was unchanging and that He alone could satisfy the immensity of my desires. (107)


You know, Mother [she is writing all these words to her superior at the convent], that I have always wanted to become a saint.  Unfortunately when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by.  Instead of being discouraged, I told myself: God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint. ... I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new.  We live in an age of inventions.  We need no longer climb laboriously up flights of stairs; in well-to-do houses there are lifts.  And I was determined to find a lift to carry me to Jesus, for I was far too small to climb the steep stairs of perfection.  So I sought in Holy Scripture some idea of what this lift ... would be, and I read these words from the very mouth of eternal Wisdom, “Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me.”  I drew nearer to God, fully realising that I had found what I was looking for. ... It is Your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven.  And so there is no need for me to grow up.  In fact, just the opposite.  I must stay little and become less and less. (113-4)


You know, God, that I have never wanted anything but to love You alone.  I long for no other glory.  Your love has gone before me from my childhood, it has grown with me, and now it is an abyss whose depths I cannot plumb.  Love attracts love and mine soars up to You, eager to fill the abyss of Your love, but it is not even a drop of dew lost in the ocean.  To love You as You love me, I must borrow Your love—only then can I have peace. (147)


Jesus does not demand great deeds.  All He wants is self-surrender and gratitude. (150)


My vocation is love. ... I am only a weak and helpless child, yet it is my very weakness which has made me daring enough to offer myself to You, Jesus, as the victim of Your love. ... In order for love to be fully satisfied it must descend to nothingness and transform that nothingness to living fire. ... And so I have sought and I have found the way to ease my heart—by giving You love for love. (155)


My heart has no desire for riches or glory, even the glory of heaven. ... But what I demand is love.  I care now about one thing only—to love You, my Jesus! ... Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? ... Great deeds are forbidden me, I cannot preach the Gospel nor shed my blood [as a martyr]—but what does it matter? ... Well, I will scatter flowers, perfuming the divine Throne with their fragrance, and I’ll sweetly sing my hymn of love.  Yes, my Beloved, that is how I’ll spend my short life. ... These flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least of actions for love. (156)


I no longer want anything except to love until I die of love.  I am free and fear nothing.  I am not even afraid—and it used to be my greatest fear—that my illness [she was dying of tuberculosis] will drag out and make me a burden to the community.  If it pleases God, I am willing for my suffering, both bodily and spiritual, to last for years. (119)


For a long time I have not belonged to myself, but have completely abandoned myself to Jesus. (121)


My only aim ... [is] to do the will of God and to welcome every sacrifice...Suffering itself becomes the greatest of all joys when one seeks it like a precious treasure. (121)


[Jesus said,] “Love your enemies and pray for them that persecute you.”  In Carmel, of course, one has no enemies, but one certainly has natural likes and dislikes.  One feels attracted to a certain sister and one would go out of one’s way to dodge meeting another.  Jesus tells me that it is this very sister I must love, and I must pray for her even though her attitude makes me believe she has no love for me. (124)


Now I can say that I am no more attached to my own ideas or feelings than I am to material possessions.  If I think of something and speak about it and the other sisters like the idea, I find it quite natural that they grab it as if it belonged to them, for such a thought is the Holy Ghost’s, not mine. ... Besides, although I do not despise those fine thoughts which draw us nearer to God, I have realised for a long time that we must be very careful not to rely too much on them.  The noblest inspirations are worthless without good works. (129-30)


Being charitable has not always been so pleasant for me, and to prove it I am going to tell you a few of my struggles.  And they are not the only ones. At meditation I was for a long time always near a sister who never stopped fidgeting, with either her rosary or something else.  Perhaps I was the only one who heard her, as my ears are very sharp, but I could not tell you how it irritated me.  What I wanted to do was to turn and stare at her until she stopped her noise, but deep down I knew it was better to endure it patiently—first, for the love of God and, secondly, so as not to upset her.  So I made no fuss ... At last I tried to find some way of enduring this suffering calmly and even joyfully.  So I did my best to enjoy this unpleasant little noise.  Instead of trying not to hear it—which was impossible—I strove to listen to it carefully as if it were a first-class concert, and my meditation, which was not the prayer of quiet, was spent in offering this concert to Jesus.  Another time I was in the washhouse near a sister who constantly splashed me with dirty water as she washed the handkerchiefs.  My first impulse was to draw back and wipe my face so as to show her I would like her to work with less splashing.  Then I at once thought how foolish I was to refuse the precious gifts offered me so generously and I was very careful not to show my annoyance.  In fact, I made such efforts to want to be showered with dirty water that after half an hour I had genuinely taken a fancy to this novel kind of aspersion, and I decided to turn up as often as I could to that lucky spot where so much spiritual wealth was freely handed out. ... Ah! How happy God makes me!  It is so pleasant and easy to serve Him during this life.  Yes, I shall always go on saying that He has given me what I wanted, or rather, that He has made me want what He wished to give me. (142-3)


What peace pours over the soul once it soars above natural feelings!  There is no joy like that known by the truly poor in spirit. (125)


Don’t imagine that I’m overwhelmed with consolations.  I’m not.  My consolation is not to have any in this life.  Jesus never manifests Himself nor lets me hear His voice.  He teaches me in secret. ... I long for no other treasure but love, for it alone can make us pleasing to God. (150)


[The] revelation of my nothingness does me much more good than being enlightened on matters of faith. (128)


True love grows by sacrifice and ... the more thoroughly the soul rejects natural satisfaction, the stronger and more detached its tenderness becomes. (132)


[Therese reflects on her work in being assistant in charge of novices:]  I know it seems easy to help souls, to make them love God above all, and to mould them according to His will.  But actually, without His help it is easier to make the sun shine at night.  One must banish one’s own tastes and personal ideas and guide souls along the special way Jesus indicates for them rather than along one’s own particular way. ... I discovered that every soul has almost the same difficulties and that there is yet a vast difference between individual souls—a difference which means that each one must be dealt with differently. (133-4)


All my strength [in guiding souls] lies in prayer and sacrifice. ... I know, by experience, that they can soften the heart much better than words. ... The power of prayer is really tremendous. ... For me, prayer is an upward leap of the heart, an untroubled glance towards heaven, a cry of gratitude and love which I utter from the depths of sorrow as well as from the heights of joy.  It has a supernatural grandeur which expands the soul and unites it with God.  I say an Our Father or a Hail Mary when I feel so spiritually barren that I cannot summon up a single worthwhile thought.  These two prayers fill me with rapture and feed and satisfy my soul. (135-6)


[Regarding her manuscript:]  But why do I want to tell the secrets of Your Love, my Beloved?  You alone have taught me them and surely You can reveal them to others.  I know You can and I implore You to: I beseech You to cast Your divine glance upon a vast number of little souls.  I beg You to choose in this world a multitude of little victims worthy of Your LOVE!!! (159)



Mother Francesca Cabrini (1850-1917; foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart; Italy-U.S.):


[Counsels given to the daughter-members of her order:] [28]  The way to Heaven is so narrow, so rocky, so thorny, that no one can travel up it, except by flying.  No one can fly, except with wings, and wings do not attach to the body, but to the spirit. (178)


There are three degrees of perfection.  Of those of the first degree who say, “I would,” hell is full; of those of the second degree who say, “I will,” but with velleity, purgatory is overflowing; and of those of the third degree, who resolutely say, “I will at any cost!” Heaven is filled. (178)


The world today is going back to ... [materialism].  In spite of its gigantic progress in science and commerce, it has forgotten prayer, and hardly recognizes it any more.  ... Man makes a god of himself and creatures, and loses the idea of the relations that exist between himself and God.  Our good God, Who, as the child recites in the Catechism, has created heaven and earth, is almost banished from the world—there is no place for Him.  Man has made an idol of himself, which he worships, and so does not pray to, or adore, the true and only God.  No wonder, then, that after superhuman efforts for [obtaining] Aaron’s golden calf [wealth, fame, etc.], [human] nature, weak and impotent to fight any longer, or to attain what it seeks, abandons itself to despair, suicide, and crime.  Prayer would have obviated all this.  Prayer is like incense rising to Heaven, and draws exhilarating graces from Heaven.  It strengthens the strayed soul, giving it back peace and calm. (170)


The generation of the modern times is too miserable, unfortunate, and stunted of soul.  It lives and dies for vanity, spurious pleasures and shoddy goods; it studies anything and everything but religion, and meanwhile, runs with the velocity of a train toward a ruinous precipice.  Oh, dear Jesus, what a terrible ruin!  Daughters, pray with me for the modern world and say, “But in Thy mercy turn not Thy face away from them.  Arise, great giant of love, arise and redeem these children, O, my Beloved!” (127)


[On having her photograph taken:]  I am nobody, nothing.  As for my likeness, I wish it to be imprinted only upon the Sacred Heart of my Spouse. (153)


We have always to be content with whatever is sent to us by Jesus.  He is our Spouse and we are not to annoy Him with complaints about what He does. (151)


[On the lust for mining and buying gold:]  Man avidly seeks the wrong gold.  When will the children of God learn that the smallest act sanctified by a pure intention, is the richest gold, and deposited where thieves cannot steal?  (144)


Troubles should never frighten the Spouse of Christ, but render her steadfast. Do not be discouraged by repulses and contradictions, but always go forward with the serenity of the angels, keeping to your path despite every contrary influence.  ... Difficulties prove where there is fidelity and constancy. ... Let your lives be a perennial sacrifice of yourselves in behalf of the human race.  Oh! the law of love is so beautiful! (135)


I travel, work, suffer my weak health, meet with a thousand difficulties [in Mother Cabrini’s work, this was probably literally true], but all these are nothing, for this world is so small.  To me, space is an imperceptible [miniscule] object, as I am accustomed to dwell in eternity. (120)


Difficulties!  What are they, Daughters?  They are the mere playthings of children enlarged by our imagination, not yet accustomed to focus itself on the Omnipotent.  Dangers, dangers!  And what are dangers?  The spectres that surprise the soul, which, having given itself to God, or thinking it has done so, still retains the spirit of the world, or at least many sparks of it, which fly up from the ashes and flare at every gust of contrary wind.  “But I am weak!”  Who is not weak?  But with God’s help you can do everything.  He never fails the humble and faithful.  “Yes, but I am so fragile!”  We are all fragile, yet, when Christ is our strength, what shall we fear?  (121-2)


One whose soul is in disorder, whose mind is wandering with vain, useless thoughts, cannot pray.  To pray we must unite the flesh and its feelings to the soul with its imagination, memory, and will.  ... Pray much without tiring, because the salvation of Mankind does not depend on material success, nor on sciences that cloud the intellect.  Neither does it depend on arms and human industries, nor on sterile and diplomatic congresses, nor on worldly means.  Pray much, for the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of souls does not depend on human eloquence, or the grace of style and rhetoric, but upon our Spouse Jesus alone, Who enlightens the mind, moves the will, sows virtue, and animates us to undertake perfect works. (120-1)


May Jesus bless you and enclose you in His amorous Heart, where we will find the true Paradise, and may He make you always fervent in spirit, in the perfect abnegation of yourselves, and in detachment from all creatures and all passing fancies. (64)



Raïssa Maritain (1883-1960; Catholic laywoman-convert; France):

[From her journals:] [30]

A little more than thirteen years ago [that is, in 1906], before I even believed firmly in the existence of God, I heard in my sleep, just by my left ear, a voice so loud that it woke me up, and this voice said to me, a little impatiently: “You are always asking what you ought to do:  the only thing is to love God and serve him with all your heart.” (June 7, 1919) (104-5)


My God I am here before thee

I crumble into nothing before thee

I adore thy greatness

My need is immense

Have pity on me

Let thy spirit dwell in me

Let the Holy Spirit live in me

The love of the Father and the Son

So that I may love thee and thou me... (6/1906) (19-20)


Like a wandering sheep

Whose shepherd is seeking it

Seek me, merciful Mother [Mary]

Bring me safe to my Lord. (1909) (20)


God, my God, deliver me from evil, that is to say from myself.  Root out self-love.  Plant charity.  Give me strength and purity.  Intoxication of love. (5/23/1922) (129)


I love the saints because they are lovable; and the sinners because they are like me. (1/23/1918) (66)


Grace is not hereditary, it is not the patrimony of any one people. (268)


Accept all as coming from God. / Do all for God. / Offer all to God.

And seek perfection of Charity / And the love of the Cross. ...

Love of our neighbour will urge us above all / to unselfishness and mildness,

but also to sincerity and firmness. / We will make absolutely no concession

to worldly mindedness, either to please / or from false humility,

keeping the heart for God alone, / in purity and peace. ...

So let us set ourselves diligently to practise / a deep and universal humility,

to make constant acts of thanksgiving / for so many blessings received,

to live in utter trust, / wholly abandoned to God’s mercy.

Let us be kindly to all creatures. / Let us refrain from judging

the innermost of souls, / and let us open our heart wide enough

to admire everywhere, / and understand as much as possible,

the liberty, the breadth and the variety / of God’s ways. (1923) (152-4)



     Self-examination every day, at a set hour.

     Very frequent short and fervent prayer.

     Total abandonment to God.

     Free my heart from everything it clings to most...

     Consent to be completely inactive and useless better to allow God to work in me, and to desire only what He desires.

     Be attentive to divine impressions.

     Be attentive to all the movements of my heart.

     See to the purity of intention of all my acts, to perfect sincerity.

     Mortify all bad inclinations. ...

     Pray with confidence.

     Value only the love of God.

     Beseech Him every day to make me know and do His will.

     Offer all my actions to God.

     Do everything in union with Jesus. ...

     Beseech the Holy Spirit to make me humble, and very obedient to his promptings.

     Place all hope in divine mercy. (5/22/1919) (103-4)


Desire nothing... love everything. (1/6/1939) (270)


[What is needed is] not to see in my neighbour anything but the love with which God loves him, and [to see that ] his wretchedness as a creature ... is no greater than my own wretchedness...  [This] makes God himself pity us and draws down his mercy on us.  All the rest is vanity and pettiness. (8/31/1916) (38)


To love and understand one’s neighbour, one must forget oneself. (8/30/1917) (59)


A proud man envies the superiority which surpasses him.  A humble one, on the contrary, loves good wherever he finds it, and by this love, in some sense appropriates it to himself. (11/8/1919) (115)


[There is] a certain very simple prayer by which we take into our heart those for whom we wish to pray; and then we offer this heart, with all its desires and anxieties to God, in order that He may come into it with all his love, give Himself.  By this very meek aspiration, which demands only a little of one’s attention and which, in its simplicity, is a total gift of oneself to God—one attracts to oneself Him who wants above all to give Himself, and set everything on fire with His love, and make every obstacle to his bounty melt away in it.  This very simple prayer can be practised anywhere and at any time.  It brings great meekness into the soul... (12/21/1932) (229)


If someone despises me, I ought to think they do well to; if someone misjudges me, I ought to be convinced they are right.  And yet I ought always to be happy and at peace.  ... Oh! the good, the sweet repose, when one has left oneself along with all the rest [of worldly things], to remain at the Lord’s feet and to gaze at him, adoring his slightest wishes.  My God, I ask nothing of you but charity and humility.  You cannot refuse me them, they are necessary. (Whitsunday, 1917) (46)


In thinking oneself above some other soul, one thinks oneself something and therefore one lacks the humility due to God, which is to recognise our own nothingness. (12/10/1915) (29)


I enter into the presence of God with all my load of misery and troubles. And He takes me just as I am and makes me to be alone with Him. (6/4/1931) (225)


You have drawn my weary and weeping soul to You and you hold it in your peace and your silence, as a friend presses a friend to his heart without saying a word, because at that moment there is no need for speech—all is said inwardly. (n.d.) (220)


Realising our own wretchedness is not so discouraging.  We realise it under the merciful gaze of God. ... As the heart matures, it learns to see the wretchedness of men with the same gentleness that it sees our own, and to know that they stand, like us, before the fatherly eyes of God who is always ready to come to help.  [So,] if, at the outset, human experience is bitter, with the help of God it can become a source of sweetness. (10/9/1924) (170-1)


One gets the impression that in the first centuries of Christianity people believed more easily in the profusion of divine graces.  Since then, we have become so timid; always on our guard, to such an extent that one might wonder whether God still continues to act in men’s souls.  ... We do not believe enough, not effectively enough, not simply enough, in God’s love for us.  Nor in the profusion of his mercies, nor in the richness of his treasures... We do not believe enough in love. (10/21/1924) (171-2)


In certain exceptional vocations ... Providence does, it is true, appear, as it were, particularly favourable, granting extraordinary graces such as charisms and miracles.  But what is more frequent than these favours is, on the contrary, the apparent harshness with which God’s closest friends are treated.  There is not only visible martyrdom, there is the daily and hidden martyrdom of God’s faithful—of those who are called not only to the active imitation of Christ, but to be assimilated by Him to Himself... These are souls of singular generosity, and who have, indeed, been providentially prepared by divine grace for this redemptive vocation. (12/4/1934) (248-9)


I was plunged ... into a state of silent absorption, very profound and very sweet, very pacifying and very restful.  And it was as if I had been made to understand that everything is much simpler and happier than I thought. (1/31/1936) (257)


In annihilating oneself, one finds Him whom one loves.  The ego is an obstacle to vision and possession. (12/9/1915) (28)


In order to be united with perfect [Divine] Unity and Simplicity, the soul must itself become simple and unified. (7/20/1922) (131)


The straight way that leads to God is infinitely short, for He is as close to us as our own soul.  The straight way is the magnanimous way, without the errors and faint-heartedness of childhood, but with the simplicity and trust of a child. (11/10/1924) (175)


I feel that God leaves us free to choose between a measured love and a measureless one.  But it would be a great misfortune to choose spiritual mediocrity—yet there is nothing but that or total immolation of oneself. ...Our love for ... [God] ought to be an ecstasy.  Going out of ourselves, we ought to transport ourselves into Him, so that, no longer having any will but God’s will, we should always love it, whatever it does with us. ... This grace: to have no other will but that of God is the only one we can desire, demand unconditionally, seek with diligence—hope for without presumption.  As long as we remain capable of wishing something else obstinately, and of making anything whatsoever, even if it were the most precious graces, a kind of end in itself for our desires—we are imperfect, presumptuous or miserly.  We are not in an absolute heart-to-heart relation with God; from this comes the greater part of our depressions, our fears, and our failures. (9/5/1918) (79-80)


God is very indulgent to souls who run towards him, even if they happen to fall heavily on the way, and even if this happens to them often, provided they promptly get up again and cry out to him.  But he detests the deliberate and willing halt... [the] pleasure (no matter how small) without reference to God. ... The attachment which constitutes deliberate venial sin makes us behave, while it lasts, as if God did not exist. ... The soul has not referred its joy to God. ... [God] does not cease, if he loves us, to tear us away from it, and he hunts us down mercilessly until he has torn us away from this attachment which is too small for our soul... (7/3/1931) (225-6)


To walk on the waters, that is the vocation of the Christian.  With no human support, in pure faith, in hope and pure charity.  With no feeling, sometimes, simply keeping one’s eyes raised to God... (Sexagesima, 1918) (66)


I get nowhere by looking at myself; I merely get discouraged.  So I making the resolution to abandon myself entirely to God, to look only at him, to leave all the care of myself to him, to practise only one thing, confidence; my extreme wretchedness, my natural cowardice leaving me no other way open to go to God and to advance in good. ... I must not even worry about this extreme weakness, but devote myself only to praising and loving the very gentle hand which warms me ... a little fledgling bird in the hand of God... (9/16/1918) (83-4)


Obedience is good not because of the goodness of the one who commands... but because of the benefit of self-forgetfulness it procures for the one who obeys.  For someone who has nothing at heart but to concern himself with perfection, obeying is necessary, and it little matters whom (naturally it is assumed that he has sought a director with the necessary prudence) provided that he obeys, that he forgets himself and is thus turned towards God. (5/12/1919) (128)


Sacrifice is an absolutely universal law for the perfecting of the creature.  Everything which passes from a lower nature to a higher nature has to pass through self-sacrifice, mortification, and death. ... The man who yields up his whole soul to God through the obedience of faith finds it again in glory.  The angel who has renounced the natural light of his intelligence to plunge himself in the darkness of faith, has found the splendour of divine light. (8/25/1917) (59)


In the material world, energy is released by destruction.  In the spiritual world too. ... To release spiritual energy, one must be destroyed by love, consumed by the fire of divine charity.  (10/24/1931) (209)


Where purification has taken place, something has had to die.  And what remains is transformed, transfigured. (5/1934) (239)


Suffering brings forth spirit into the world. (n.d.) (222)


The eternal beatitude with which God rewards the renouncing of all things for his love reveals, in a sense, the worth of the things one must abandon.  Yet what they are is nothing compared with one atom of grace. (6/8/1917) (48)


At the moment I am paying, but when I shall be fully in possession of my treasure (like the mother whose labour in childbirth is over) I shall find that I have given nothing—that all I have given is nothing in comparison with what I shall have received. (10/24/1917) (61)


God is Love itself and essential Beatitude.  No, they cannot regret anything, those who have left all for Him. (6/16/1917) (49)


To be capable of receiving much from God, that is the whole of perfection. (332)


What must be removed from human love—to render it pure, beneficent, universal and divine—is not the love itself: no, what must be suppressed, or rather surpassed, is the limits of the heart.  Hence the suffering—in this effort to go beyond our narrow limits. ... But we have to go beyond these limits of the heart; we have, under the action of grace and through the travail of the soul, to leave our bounded heart for the boundless heart of God.  This is truly dying to ourselves.  It is only when one has accepted this death that one enters, resurrected, into the boundless heart of God... Death to ourselves makes free room for the love of God.  But at the same time it makes free room for the love of creatures according to the order of divine charity.  Tread one’s heart oneself in the winepress.  Lay one’s heart oneself on the Cross. (5/1934) (239)


Suffering is necessary in this world—as God has made it.  There are perhaps other worlds, answering to other ideas of the Creator. (331)


The saints do more than accept suffering—they ask it of God for the love of God and the salvation of souls. (332)


Identity of death and life—

... The road of death and the road of life

Are one road to the footsteps of love.

“He who wishes to keep his soul, shall lose it.”

He who shall give his life shall be reborn more living.

From stage to stage and from form to form

The whole creature is transformed...

At the core of holy death is a higher life.

In the darkness of human life

A faint life glimmers

Like a star sending down its rays

From unimaginable distance:

Only with footsteps of death

Can we mount the ladder of life. (11/11/1937) (263-4)


The night of the spirit is the sign of the maturity of the soul. ... One [is] on the brink of the abyss which separates the creature from the Uncreated.  Then one no longer lives on anything but the alms of unknown, inapprehensible grace. 

     All means have proved unavailing

     All ways stop too short.

     The divine night remains impenetrable... (n.d.) (264)


Souls familiar with the thought of God fly with a marvellous swiftness from the created to the Uncreated, if the perception of the created has been really profound, has reached the deepest foundations of being. (5/12/1919) (102)


Peace is impossible if one is not united to God and if one does not see all creatures in him.  In him they have the unction of the Holy Spirit and lose their bitterness; and the one who thus sees them in God loses his own bitterness.  ... The purer the soul is, the more it is united to God, the more it also becomes sweet and the more it tastes in all things the sweetness God pours into them by admitting them into the plan of his Providence. (4/30/1918) (72)


The mercantile civilisation which is the civilisation we have had since the fifteenth century is a pseudo-civilisation, lacking as it is in concern for the true good of the human [i.e., God-realization]... (7/11/1919) (107-8)


Among students [at schools] there is generally more curiosity than love of truth.  [They want] to know no matter what, to know as many things as possible.  [On the other hand,] the person who loves truth, seeks to know the first causes, an ultimate knowledge beyond which one cannot go. (7/16/1919) (109)


Sources of peace: God and trees. (328)


God, my God, I deceive myself perhaps about the degree of your love for me; but what I know very definitely is that your love is my only treasure. ...  (10/4/1924) (170)


In the last days of sitting on her eggs, when the hen felt the chickens stirring, she no longer moved, even to eat.  This humble creature has been a vivid image to me of the touching mercy of our God.  And surely if we could perceive for one single moment that infinite mercy [of God caring for His “young”] as it actually is, we should die of love, and we should enter into eternal Beatitude. (4/13/1919) (100-2)


God is in us by grace, it is enough to strip the soul of all other love to find oneself in the presence of God alone.  To love him solely.  That is the whole of my prayer and I know nothing else. ... [Such prayer tends] above all to love of our neighbour, to humility, to simplicity, to truthfulness, to silence, to nakedness of spirit—to the love of God. (6/6/1918) (75)


God envelopes us and penetrates us and [yet] his being is unknown to us. We know that he exists, and [yet] we do not know what his existence is. When, liberated by death, and transformed by Grace, we appear before God, we shall know his transcendence, but it will be a total, absolute discovery. ... Nevertheless this transcendence, this infinite omnipotence above us, far from making us distant from it, is what places us in It without distance. ... The transcendence of the Omnipresent knows no limitation.  Nothing shuts it in or encloses it.  What could create a distance between Him and us?  What could remove us from Him?  We are, in God, the fruit He bears and gives life to.  We are in the depths of God, whatever we make of our freedom.  Immersed in Him, and He in us.  If he were not Transcendence, there would be a distance between Him and the creature, a void between the One and the other.  Everything he has made subsists in him. (380-2)


Anyone who desires to know the depths of spirit, or, if you like, the spirituality of being, begins by entering into himself.  And it is also in the innermost core of life, of thought, of consciousness that he encounters Poetry, if he is destined to encounter her. ... At these depths, all is spirit and life. (11/21/1941) (373)


The soul drawn by God into its most intimate depths longs for a word, longs for a light which will increase the range of its love still more.  Then it realises that there is no human word precise enough, intimate enough, adequate enough, profound enough to express the depth and the intimacy of its union with God.  And then it aspires towards the Father, desiring of Him that he should engender in it His Word [Christ, the primal emanation] ...which alone can penetrate into the innermost recesses of the soul and illuminate it in a measure befitting that love which is charity. (3/1926) (195)


The soul’s repose in God is all the greater and more perfect as the number of images decreases.  The empty imagination allows God to draw up the soul to Him, and if there then remains any effort in the soul, it is a kind of aspiration towards union, towards the dissolving of all difference, towards the fusion in love (not in essence) of the created soul with the Uncreated, of the creature with the Deity. (382)


Contemplative prayer is not a question of making God descend from heaven! He is already there, in us, by grace.  It is a question of descending into ourselves, to the bottom of our soul, and that, once again, by sweeping away obstacles. (6/10/1918) (75)


In the mystical life God acts by a very special infusion of his grace which leads him sometimes to enlighten our mind, sometimes to kindle our will, sometimes to strengthen our heart, or to give us simultaneously supernatural light, ardour and strength, or to let us be aware only of the destruction of our human mode of acting, of our impotence, our nothingness. (8/1922) (358)


In this prayer the soul feels a radical distaste for its own impulses, its preferences, its desires, its sensibilities, its comprehensions.  It is entirely open to God and breathes in the incomprehensible light that comes from Him.  It reposes in the unknown will of God and lives on a wholly spiritual love. 

     All this is reassuring darkness

          insensible delight

          incomprehensible communion.

     The soul reposes more securely in this darkness than it did in the previous illuminations induced by some creature, image, symbol or sentiment. (3/21/1924) (161)


I have observed two quite distinct kinds of receuillement [prayerful absorption in God].  In the first, the eyes remain open, the intellect is enlightened and the soul is in a kind of ecstasy.  In the second, the eyes are closed, the intellect receives nothing, all the affections of the will are, as it were, focussed in a single point and united to God.  A union which is ardent, often delightful, but takes place in a kind of darkness. (3/26/1917) (42)


After two hours of peaceful oraison [prayer, “refuge in the Father”], [there comes] a wave of love, a real spiritual rapture, and that during nearly an hour, in successive waves.  It seems to me that one thing only is demanded of me, to love my God, to spend my life in loving him.  [I feel] immense gratitude for the mercy of God, for these graces of love he grants me and which he grants to other souls in contemplative prayer.  All good belongs to him, to him be all the praise. ... In me or in the saints, it is always he who acts; to him be the love of all hearts. (8/5/1918) (77)


The soul catches a glimpse of the rapturous, eternal love.  It goes forward to the nuptial rhythm of the angelic procession.  It has a foretaste of the joys of the spiritual nuptials.  Love!  It is indeed to love that it has been predestined from the beginning of the world.  Love! which is communication in joy and delights, with fullness of bliss in unending possession.  Love which is total and reciprocal giving; easy, joyous, gushing forth eternally as an eternal life. ... The essence of love is in the communication of oneself, with fullness of joy and delight in the possession of the beloved.

     The wedding of the soul and of God. —Delight—Music of the Angels—Exultation—Wedding procession—Celebration—Communion of spirits—Adoration.  Giving.  Love. (4/20/1924 Easter) (160-4)


Today the savour of the good God has hardly left me [after the morning period of “this prayer of passive absorption (oraison de recueillement passif)”].  From this dear presence, I have derived the deep conviction of the utility, the necessity of contemplation.  Not only for the (accidental) glory of God and our own joy—that is too obvious—but also for the spiritual life of other men.  If they lapse, is it not because they no longer remember the relish of God and of his Light?  To make them know them [God and his Light], such is the outward function of the contemplative: the uncreated Light, the eternal Wisdom which is Christ; the substantial Savour which is the Holy Spirit.  External works themselves, works of mercy, owe their excellence to the power they have of revealing God’s goodness.  There have to be souls solely occupied in drinking at this heavenly spring [of divine contemplation].  Through them, afterwards, the living water of love and its divine taste reach those whose vocation comprises more activity.  Contemplation is like a waterwheel which draws up the water and makes it flow into channels.  If contemplation ceased entirely, hearts would soon be dried up... Thus, love of one’s neighbour, as well as love of God, obliges the contemplative to remain close to the divine source.  So let no one whom God attracts to the quiet of contemplation, befog himself in the affairs of the world ... Contemplation must bear its fruit for one’s neighbour, even though it often dispenses from external works.  This fruit is the Relish of God which one makes known by loving every creature with a love of charity, by forgetting oneself so as to remember only God who is in all things—who despises nothing that he has made—who suffers patiently our offences, and who corrects us only in loving us.  No pettiness.  No turning in one oneself.  No defending oneself. ... No abandoning of contemplative prayer. (5/12/1917) (73-4)


If God does not call one to solitude, one must live with God in the multitude; make him known there, and make him loved. ... One must take part in the life of the city and try to “establish all things in Christ.” (3/10/1919) (92)


What one must first and foremost tell men, and go on telling them, is to love God—to know that he is Love and to trust to the end in his Love. ... Souls must be delivered from that feeling of enmity they experience (passively and actively) towards God if they see him in the apparatus of laws which to them is an image hostile to love—and which masks God’s true face. ... The law is necessary—with the very necessity of transformation [of human character] for salvation, that is to say, for eternal life with God.  But the law is not God.  And God is not the law.  —He is Love. ...Love creates trust—freedom of spirit—equality—familiarity. (393-4)


Let us accept trustfully the state of life in which Providence has placed us.  For God can sanctify us anywhere!  And we, we might remain just as mediocre if we left the world [for the strictly contemplative life].  To love.  To abandon oneself.  Nothing else is necessary to sanctification.  No, nothing, not even silence with God if that is rendered impossible by ... [demands for service, etc.]  The soul can be sanctified without, so to speak, realising it, and find itself at last united to God without having had the leisure to practise what it would have thought most necessary for this [e.g., undisturbed contemplation].  Avoid sin, humble oneself because of sin, never be discouraged.  Love God, love, love.  That is the one thing necessary.  All the rest can vary ad infinitum. (7/13/1921) (125-6)


There is a sanctity for each one of us, proportioned to our destiny and which God proposes to obtain by means which are not catalogued in any manual of perfection. (4/1/1946) (305)


All Christians are called to union with God, and, in consequence, are “called” to contemplation, in various degrees, according to the special exercise of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit in different individuals.  But it is indeed the will of God that this spiritual union should be realised in quite various forms of life, in lines of great or minimal solitude, of imperceptible or of immense activity.  The question for each one of us is to find, to implore God to make known to us the form of Christian life that should be ours.  It is in that form that God wishes us to find perfection and holiness, whatever this form of life may be externally. (1/2/1952) (324)


Catholics ought to possess a genuinely informed doctrine concerning everything which is human, a doctrine which conforms with truth, taste and intelligence.  No timidity.  No pharisaism [hypocrisy].  No ignorance.  No prudishness.  No Manicheism [regarding the body as evil].  But the full and luminous Catholic doctrine. (3/10/1919) (96)


Certain spiritual writers think that the highest contemplation, being free of all the images of this world, is that which does without images altogether, even that of Jesus, and into which, consequently, the Humanity of Christ does not enter.  That is a profound error, and the problem disappears as soon as one has grasped how truly and how deeply the Word has assumed human nature—in such a way that everything which is of this nature: suffering, pity, compassion, hope..., all these things have become, so to speak, attributes of God.—In contemplating them, it is therefore attributes of God which are contemplated; it is God himself who is contemplated. ... And the soul must not be afraid of passing through the human states and the human pity of Jesus, and of making requests of Him and of praying for the cure of a sick person, for example—all these things being participations in the desires and the compassion of Christ, which belonged to the divine Person itself. (385-6)


Looking at the photograph of a sculpture in Chartres Cathedral, God moulding Adam, [I was] drawn to recollection by the thought that our very loving Father continues to mould us like that right up to the day when our perfection is achieved in Heaven.  Ah! to stay like that under his gentle hand, one’s head abandoned on his maternal lap and let him do as he will with one, always. (4/14/1917) (43)



Dorothy Day (1897-1980; Catholic laywoman; U.S.):


We cannot live alone.  We cannot go to heaven alone.  Otherwise, as Peguy said, God will say to you, “Where are the others?”  ... We are working for a Christian social order.  We believe in the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God.  This teaching, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, involves today the issue of unions (where men call each other brothers); it involves the racial question; it involves cooperatives, credit unions; crafts; it involves Houses of Hospitality and farming communes.  It is with all these means that we can live as though we believe indeed that we are all members one of another, knowing that when “the health of one member suffers, the health of the whole body is lowered.” [30]


[Regarding the Catholic Worker movement started by herself and others:]  Cardinal Spellman [of New York City] did not ask us to undertake this work, nor did the Mayor of New York.  It just happened.  It is the living from day to day, taking no thought for the morrow, seeing Christ in all who came to us, trying literally to follow the Gospel, that resulted in this work.  [Quoting Jesus in Matthew 5:42-4:]  “Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away... Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute and calumniate you.” (87)


The spiritual works of mercy include enlightening the ignorant, rebuking the sinner, consoling the afflicted, as well as bearing wrongs patiently, and we have always classed picket lines and the distribution of [educational] literature among these works. (90)


Ours was a long-range program, looking for ownership by the workers of the means of production, the abolition of the assembly line, decentralized factories, the restoration of crafts and ownership of property.  This meant, of course, an accent on the agrarian and rural aspects of our economy and a changing of emphasis from the city to the land. (90)


If you want to know the kind of politics we seek, you can go to your history books and read about the early years of this country.  We would like to see more small communities organizing themselves, people talking with people, people caring for people, people coming together in order to make known what they believe and what they would like their nation to do. Apathy, like sloth, is a sin. ... We believe we are doing what our Founding Fathers came here to do, to worship God in the communities they settled.  They were farmers.  They were craftspeople.  They took care of each other.  They prayed to God, and they thanked Him for showing them the way—to America! ... Some of us are just plain Americans whose ancestors were working people and who belonged to small-town or rural communities or neighborhoods in cities.  We saw more and more of that community spirit disappear, and we mourned its passing, and here we are, trying to find it again, for ourselves and for any others who happen to come our way. (108)


You must know when to find your own, quiet moment of solitude.  But you must know when to open the door to go be with others, and you must know how to open the door. (130)


[Her politics:]  Pursuing a community life, a community life which would be loyal to the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. ... We try ... to speak up for his principles.  That’s a lifetime job. (109)


To be a witness [on behalf of the gospel life] does not consist in engaging in propaganda or even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery; it means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist. (160)


We feed the hungry, yes; we try to shelter the homeless and give them clothes, if we have some, but there is a strong faith at work; we pray.  If an outsider who comes to visit doesn’t pay attention to our praying and what that means, then he’ll miss the whole point of things.  We are here to bear witness to our Lord.  We are here to follow His lead. We are here to celebrate Him through these works of mercy.  We are here, I repeat, to follow His lead—to oppose war and the murder of our fellow human beings, to reach out to all we see and meet.  We are not here to prove that our technique of working with the poor is useful, or to prove that we are able to be effective humanitarians. (97)


Our pride, our vanity, responds to the interest of important people. People tell me we’re becoming important and a force in the church; they tell me the pope admires us; they tell me I’m going to be a saint one of these days, and I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.  I hear such talk and I feel sad, mostly.  I go to my room and read.  I’ll take the Bible and read it or one of my novels [e.g., by Dostoievski, Dickens, Tolstoy, Chekhov]; or I’ll try to sit and talk with someone in our community who needs a listener.  If I were really free of the worst sin of them all, pride, I would not be upset by such talk.  I’d forget it very quickly and get on with my work.  I’m here to help out with all my strength, until I die—help out in this house of hospitality, our community here.  I’m not here to spend my time being better and better known by people who like to applaud certain people and debunk others. (134)


The sin of pride, I keep repeating to myself, is the worst of all sins, and it lurks around every corner. (122)


A person can start out aiming to be righteous and end up self-righteous; we can become so earnestly the doers of works of charity that we think the Lord has given us a special blessing.  We walk around quite pleased with ourselves.  The sin of pride. ... I remember a nun who came to visit us [at the soup kitchen]. ... She was a fast one.  She went from table to table, arranging chairs and helping some of the men who really needed help.  She was tactful and modest, and of course, they took to her. ... As we sat and talked she said to me in a whisper, “This is dangerous work.”  I’ll remember her words until my dying day. At first I couldn’t understand her, she could see. ... she saw the blankness in my eyes. She kept speaking in a whisper, “It’s a grave temptation—to want to help people.”  ... She must have seen that the blankness hadn’t lifted, so she explained herself.  Still whispering, she confessed to me, “I think God knows when I help myself by helping others. I suppose there’s no way to escape that trap but prayer to Him: admit the sin and try to reserve a laugh or two for yourself, to laugh at yourself.”  She didn’t stop there.  I’m paraphrasing her, but the message was clear and pointed—that we run the risk of thinking we’re God’s gift to humanity, those of us who struggle in our soup kitchens and hospitality houses to be loyal to Him.  It is a message I hope none of us forgets, though we do; all the time we do. (115-6)


The worst sin is pride, and you can have a religious pride that is sinful. I didn’t see that for a long time—the way religion can be used to hurt people. ... I think the first clue I had about the Bible as a weapon was given me one day in Chicago when I heard a man preaching it, and he seemed without love, completely without love.  He was shouting away, cursing away, denouncing all of us “heathens,” and I felt sorry for him.  I listened to him; I kept standing there.  I think I wanted to see a smile cross his face.  I was hoping he would laugh, maybe.  If I had been praying then, as I do now, I would have prayed for him to relax and try to be friendly to people.  Maybe I was praying for him then, in my own way.  Does God have a set way of prayer, a way that He expects each of us to follow?  I doubt it.  I believe some people—lots of people—pray through the witness of their lives, through the work they do, the friendships they have, the love they offer people and receive from people.  Since when are words the only acceptable form of prayer?  I’m not finishing my thought.  I was trying to say that a person can be self-righteous about his own righteousness; a person can use the Bible to bring more fear and hate in the world.  That’s why I think we have to be very careful with the words secular and religious... The longer I live, the more I see God at work in people who don’t have the slightest interest in religion and never read the Bible and wouldn’t know what to do if they were persuaded to go inside a church. (28-9)


Everyone wants to understand the mind, but no one is interested in understanding the soul. ... There is a psychology to the soul.  Dostoievski [the Russian author] knew that and showed us how it all works.  His people, in those novels, are trying to find out why they’re here in the first place, or they’re not trying to find out.  I mean, they have said no to God, no to a search for understanding of our life here... I have been asking why all my life... My conversion [to Catholicism] was a way of saying to myself that I knew I was trying to go someplace and that I would spend the rest of my life trying to go there and try not to let myself get distracted by side trips, excursions that were not to the point. (62-3)


When you get older you remember with regret as well as nostalgia.  Many young people picture themselves to be immortal, so they are well along the road of arrogance.  Young bright people are even further along—all those smart thoughts to show others.  Young, bright, idealistic people are tempted in a special way by arrogance.  The ambition they have to change the world can turn into a bullying of others and a terrible habit of patronizing everyone but themselves.  I wasn’t all that bright, but I could write fairly good articles, and I was full of idealism, and I was a young, politically-conscious person—we thought ourselves to be liberated—and the result was a fairly swollen head, I’m afraid.  But there is no point dwelling on the past excessively. ... If you believe in the mission of Jesus Christ, then you’re bound to try to let go of your past, in the sense that you are entitled to His forgiveness.  To keep regretting what was is to deny God’s grace. (126-7)


When I see the church taking the side of the powerful and forgetting the weak, and when I see bishops living in luxury and the poor being ignored or thrown crumbs, I know that Jesus himself is being insulted, as He once was, and sent to his death, as He once was.  The church doesn’t only belong to officials and bureaucrats; it belongs to all its people, and especially its most humble men and women and children, the ones He would have wanted to go see and help, Jesus Christ.  I am embarrassed—I am sickened—when I see Catholics using their religion as a social ornament.  Peter [Maurin] used to tell me that a good Catholic should pray for the church as if it is a terrible sinner, in bad need of lots of prayers. ... I think the life of our Lord is constantly being lived out [today]: we are betraying Him as well as honoring Him—we in the church as well as those who are outside of it.  Back then [in Dorothy’s earlier years] I saw so many of my friends who were out-and-out atheists doing what I knew was the Lord’s work; they were trying to help the poor.  Meanwhile I would see the churches, Catholic and Protestant, not lifting a finger, or hedging their bets.  One dear friend of mine came up to me, ... and said ... “all the churches are anti-Christian,” that’s how she put it.  You know, I couldn’t get her words out of my head... The Church ... [may have] cared for the emigrant, it established hospitals, orphanages, day nurseries, houses of the Good Shepherd, homes for the aged, but at the same time, I felt that it did not set face against a social order which made so much charity in the present sense of the word necessary.  I felt that charity was a word to choke over.  Who wanted charity?  ... It was ... a strong sense of man’s dignity and worth, and what was due to him in justice, that made me resent, rather than feel proud of so mighty a sum total of Catholic institutions. (58-9)


I’m not saying things have totally changed, now, but I do believe the church in this country—and all over the world—is much more interested today in the poor, in the workers, and less the property of the wealthy and the politically influential.  I remember, years ago, walking past certain Catholic churches and cringing; I didn’t know whether I should start crying or scream with all my might, and I’ll say it, start picketing.  The sight of all that wealth—the buildings and the residences where the bishops or the priests lived. ... The cardinals here, so many of them, thought of themselves as God’s favorites—as princes not of that humble, humble Jesus, but that big company of theirs. ... I remember, after the Depression began, seeing hundreds of people on the street, begging and hungry and with a look of sadness in their faces that made me want to cry.  Then I would see well-dressed people coming out of Manhattan churches, with their furs and their English-style suits and overcoats and their shoes shined and their heads lifted high: as complacent as could be in their conviction that God was theirs—that an hour at Mass on Sunday had put Him in their corner.  Oh, who was I to criticize those people?  Who was I to try to tell them what they should do!  But I couldn’t stop myself.  I got angrier and angrier at what I saw.  I wanted the churches to open their doors, to let the poor and the hungry and the homeless come inside, to feed them, to give them shelter.  I wanted all the gold and the furs, all the fancy jewels worn by the princes of the church, the prelates—all that to be sold, so men and women and children could get a meal and not shiver and get sick on the streets, with no place to go. ... I was being told in sermons that atheistic communism was the worst possible thing, and all right, I said to myself, I can understand the Church standing up to communists who wanted to destroy it—I knew their arrogance—but how about the church living up to its own founder’s life, which wasn’t the life of a Henry For or a J.P. Morgan?  And how about our arrogance, the kind you can hear in church homilies, when you get the feeling the church is there to help those who have a lot to get even more by praying, while the millions of poor all over the world—including the ones living just outside the doors of so many Catholic churches—are forgotten? (67)


You can see that I’m caught in a bind here; I want the church to be less sinful, but I know we are all sinners, and I know I’m taking a chance on becoming one of the worst sinners by denouncing so many of the other sinners around. (70)


I love the church with all my heart and soul.  I never go inside a church without thanking God Almighty for giving me a home.  The church is my home, and I don’t want to be homeless.  I may work with the homeless, but I have had no desire to join their ranks. ... I have never wanted to challenge the church, only be part of it, obey it, and in return, receive its mercy and love, the mercy and love of Jesus. (82, 84)


[Yet] there are days when I want to stop all those poor people, giving their coins to the church, and tell them to march on the offices of the archdiocese—tell all the people inside those offices to move out of their plush rooms and share the lives of the hungry and the hurt.  Would Jesus sit in some big, fancy, air-conditioned room ... Would He let Himself be driven in big black limousines, while thousands and thousands of people who believe in Him and His church are at the edge of starvation?  Would he tolerate big mansions and fancy estates and luxurious traveling, while people come to church barefooted and ragged and hungry and sick, children all over the world?  In my mind, there is only one answer to questions like those: no!  I’m afraid that going to church puts many of us to sleep.  We become so pleased with ourselves—our virtue, for attending Mass—that we forget about how others are living, who don’t have the kind of lives we have.  Another of my non-Catholic friends once said to me, “Dorothy, Jesus never went to church on Sunday, so why do Catholics? ... Jesus wanted people to love others, to give of themselves to others, not to fall in love with buildings and altars and prelates and popes...” ... Once I asked a priest in confession if I was being out of line by thinking thoughts like the one my friend had, while sitting there in church.  He laughed, and said he was afraid too many people don’t have any thoughts in church; they just go through the motions. ... I’m excited by being so close to Jesus, but the closer I get, the more I worry about what He wants of us, what He would have us do before we die. (76-7)


How often we have failed in love, how often we have been brusque, cold, and indifferent. (116)


I don’t only think of the Passion [of Jesus] as the Crucifixion.  I think of His whole life as “the Passion.”  ... When I think of Jesus I think of someone who was constantly passionate; I think of all His experiences as part of His Passion: the stories He told, the miracles He performed, the sermons He delivered, the suffering He endured, the death He experienced.  His whole life was a Passion—the energy, the love, the attention He gave to so many people, to friends and enemies alike. (117)


The other day I was getting ready to serve some of our guests, and I didn’t feel very good-hearted, I’m sorry to say.  I had a bit of a stomachache, and I was worried about something, too. ... When the time came to serve the people, I wasn’t really noticing them, or paying any attention to what might be happening in that room.  I was lost in my own selfish world... Suddenly, I heard a man—one of our regulars—talking to me.  He was brusque, but he obviously wanted to be of help to me.  He said, “Can I do something for you?”  I was surprised, and I’m afraid the devil had taken over me, because I shot back at him, “No!  Why do you ask?”  I was annoyed, and he knew it.  He may have been drinking, but I was the one who was “out of it.”  I was all wrapped up in my own world; I was thinking of some poems I had read the night before, and I was ignoring the people who had come to us for some food.  I could feel my stomach hurting as I stood there, ready to find an excuse to move away from that man, but he wouldn’t let me go.  He told me he knew me—he’d been to us many times—and he was worried about me.  That’s when I really noticed my stomach was hurting, and that’s when I thought of Therese of Lisieux and all the pain she had to endure and how bravely she did so.  I couldn’t get her out of my mind for the rest of the day.  It was as if she were standing there, beside me, telling me to cheer up and smile and pray to God and my prayers would be answered.  I asked the man to sit down, and I got him some coffee and some for myself, and we started to talk.  It was a wonderful talk.  He really had been noticing my moods.  He had noticed all of us—our ups and downs.  I thought to myself, He is the one who is trying to be of help to others, and we are the ones who need that help.  People come and tell us that we’re doing a good job, but they don’t stop and think about who is enabling us to do that job.  I don’t mean by just being there; I mean by reaching out to us, the way that man reached out to me.  He sat there telling me how great it feels when one of our community offers a bowl of soup to him, looking right at him, smiling, and saying a friendly word or two, and how down in the dumps he feels when the soup or the coffee is dished out and we’re off in some other world while we’re doing the dishing out.  I remember Peter [Maurin] saying that any one of those people who come to see us might be Jesus Himself, or one of His disciples, or one of His saints, but at that moment I was truly convinced that the Lord had made that old man a deputy of His... (141-2)


I don’t think prayer for me has only been connected with sadness and misery.  I have prayed when I have felt low and tired and worried.  But when I have felt joy and fulfillment in this world I have always wanted to say thank you.  I just can’t believe there isn’t someone to thank. (43)


Sometimes I find myself in a strange church in a strange part of a strange city, and I feel God nearer than ever, as if He becomes our anchor most firmly when we’re least connected with the daily anchors of our lives. (158-9)


When I look at the sea I know that we are meant to stop our intellect dead in its tracks every once in a while or we’ll torture ourselves to death with it. (70)


There is so much beauty in this world. ... I just saw a mother with a baby on the bus... The way she held the child, spoke to the child, the way the child looked at her and beamed at her—God’s love was there... (158)


All my life I’ve wondered how God can keep track of everything that happens, because so much is going on, in everyone’s life, and there are hundreds of millions, billions of people, and they keep being born, and they die, and new people are born. ... It’s mind boggling, I know.  When my grandchildren were younger they would ask me about that, how the good Lord ever manages to keep track of so many of us, and I would tell them I didn’t know, and none of us will ever know, and that’s what God is, a mystery to us in so many ways.  I could see that I wasn’t satisfying them with my answer, so I’d tell them that, frankly I wasn’t satisfied with what I’d told them, but that there wasn’t anything else I knew to say, other than to suggest that we have faith in Him, in God, and hope that He’ll help us to answer the questions we want to put to Him.  And you know what, it was then, at moments like that, I’d pick up the Bible and read to them from [the first epistle of] John, the fourth chapter [verse 8]: “God is love.”  They knew what to make of that.  They knew how to understand that. (32-3)


I don’t think the moral life of a social activist is a separate matter; I think we are responsible for how we behave with each other—[when] making a protest, taking a political stand; and if we exploit each other personally and keep holding our placards and proclaiming our ideals to the world, then we’ve become hypocrites, and if we don’t see what has happened to us, we are blind hypocrites.  I’m afraid I was in that kind of trouble when I was young. ... I was caught in stormy love affairs or infatuations; there is no other way to put it.  I had no moral bearings—not enough of them, anyway.  I remember one woman telling me, in Chicago, that I’d grow up one day, and then I’d settle down and stop being so selfish.  I couldn’t understand, at the time, what she was talking about. ... But she had taken a good hard look, and she knew what she saw—some of us drifting and preventing ourselves from looking at ourselves squarely in the mirror by claiming that the world is a terrible place, and we were going to change it... A lot of the time we’d say these beautiful things about justice and fairness and equality, but we weren’t so nice to each other.  We’d be jealous and we’d gossip, and we’d be moody and difficult and rude and inconsiderate.  Why do I say “we”?  I mean I would be all that... (34-5)


Jesus practiced what He preached; the rest of us are always being tempted to be longer on preaching than practicing. (70)


People never mean half of what they say, ... it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions. (36)


[Dr. Robert Coles once asked Dorothy, his longtime friend, about the company she hoped to keep in the next world and about spiritual kinship she felt in this life:]

I know that we’re all educated to think highly of presidents and generals, actors and actresses, rich men and geniuses, all sorts of geniuses.  We’re educated to look up to people who have made a lot of money or who have become successful in some way—maybe written important novels or poems or composed music that people like a lot... I’m like everyone else: I admire people who have become outstanding. ... But if it’s the company I seek that you’re asking about, I’ll answer the question like this.  I’ll say that I’m no factory worker or farmer, but I think of factory workers and farmers when I write and when I read and when I’m in church.  Remember, we are called Catholic Workers.  We’re not called Catholic Intellectuals ... [Peter Maurin, her first spiritual mentor] helped pull me away from people who talk about working people so that I could spend my life with people who are working people.  I don’t think of myself as a leader of those people or as their teacher or as some important authority they should have in their lives.  I think of myself as—one of them.  I remember once, I was sitting and eating lunch, and several of the men we had served came up to me and asked me if they could sit and talk.  Certainly.  They asked me why we had crosses in the room, and religious stuff.  I explained that we prayed a lot to God, thanked Him for His kindness to us.  They weren’t convinced there is a God, and they said that if there is one, then He hasn’t done a very good job.  I asked them what they meant.  They said that He has let the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.  I didn’t know what to say about that.  Then one of the men said he didn’t care if that’s what has happened.  He said, “Look, here we are, and we’re together here, and we’ll be together in heaven, too, if there is a heaven.”  Then he asked me if I believed “that.”  I wasn’t sure what he was meaning, so I asked him what question he wanted me to answer.  I was hoping he would phrase the question so that I could say something sensible.  He asked me whether I thought that God would keep us together, all of us sitting there, then, and all the people who came to eat our food—would He send us to one part of His Kingdom, and send other people to some other part?  I didn’t know the answer to his question for a few seconds.  I just sat there, silent... Then another man answered for me; he said that God had already separated us here, and we would be sticking together up there as well, because we belong together.  I have never forgotten that moment.  I believe that as I die, I’ll be remembering that man’s words.  I believe God may have helped him speak to us that day. Peter once told me that he expected us all to be together in the next life; he was sure of it. ... We are relatives—kinfolk, some would say: those who receive, give; and those who give, receive. ... When I was young I would wake up and wonder about the new people I’d see or what new and interesting thing I might end up doing.  I would be full of new plans... I’d want to read everything “new and interesting”...  Then we got our Catholic Worker family going, and all of us have the same kind of lives.  We aren’t looking for new twists on this life.  We’re not hoping to meet so-and-so and then a new so-and-so.  We’ve already met everyone who counts—the Lord and those who followed Him, His disciples, and some of the saints of the church, who help remind us what He was really like.  And we’ve met one another here in St. Joseph’s House or in other hospitality houses, and we know that together we’re all that any of us could ever hope to find: a big bunch of “fools for Christ.”  We’re foolish kin, you might call us. (138-40)



Simone Weil (1909-43; “unofficial Catholic” laywoman; France-U.S.-England):


Love of God is pure when joy and suffering equally inspire gratitude. (416) [31]


Among men, a slave does not become like his master by obeying him.  On the contrary, the more he obeys the greater is the distance between them.  It is otherwise between man and God.  If a reasonable creature is absolutely obedient [in the renunciation of self-will], he becomes a perfect image of the Almighty as far as this is possible for him. (484)    


If the “I,” in the personal sense, fades away in proportion and in so far as man imitates God, how could it be sufficient to conceive of a personal God?  The image of a personal God is a hindrance to such an imitation. (420)


The term of person can only be rightly applied to God, and this is also true of the term impersonal. (490)


We must conceive of God as impersonal [probably better to say "Supra-personal," to avoid the danger of depersonalization syndrome], in the sense that he is the divine model of a person who passes beyond the self by renunciation. ... The renunciation of the personality makes man a reflection of God. (485)


God created me as a non-being which has the appearance of existing, in order that through love I should renounce what I think is my existence and so emerge from non-being. Then there is no [personal] “I.”  The “I” belongs to non-being. ... Other people are illusions of existence for themselves.  This way of regarding them makes their existence not less but more real for me.  For I see them as they are related to themselves, and not to me. (435)


God emptied himself of his divinity and filled us with a false divinity.  Let us empty ourselves of it.  This act is the purpose of the act by which we were created.  At this very moment God, by his creative will, is maintaining me in existence, in order that I may renounce it. (424)


The love within [the soul] ... is divine, uncreated, for it is the love of God for God which is passing through it.  God alone is capable of loving God.  We can only consent to give up our own feelings so as to allow free passage in our soul for this love.  That is the meaning of denying oneself.  We were created solely in order to give this consent. (451)


God is attention without distraction. (425)


The only thing in us that is unconditioned is [pure] desire.  It is appropriate that it should be directed towards the unconditioned being, God. (426-7)


God is present, Christ is present, wherever there is enacted between one man and another an act of supernatural virtue. (428)


It is not easy to give with the same humility that is appropriate for receiving.  To give in the spirit of one who begs. (436)


     The benefactor of Christ, when he meets an afflicted man, does not feel any distance between himself and the other.  He projects all his own being into him.  It follows that the impulse to give him food is as instinctive and immediate as it is for oneself to eat when one is hungry.  And it is forgotten almost at once, just as one forgets yesterday’s meals.  Such a man would not think of saying that he takes care of the afflicted for the Lord’s sake; it would seem as absurd to him as it would be to say that he eats for the Lord’s sake.  One eats because one can’t help it.  Christ will thank the people who give in the way they eat.

     They do for the afflicted something very different from feeding, clothing, or taking care of them.  By projecting their own being into those they help they give them for a moment—what affliction has deprived them of—an existence of their own.  Affliction is essentially a destruction of personality, a lapse into anonymity. ... He may be a pauper, a refugee, a negro, an invalid, an ex-convict, or anything of the kind; in any case, whether he is an object of ill usage or of charity he will in either case be treated as a cipher, as one item among many others in the statistics of a certain type of affliction.  ... So both good treatment and bad treatment will have the same effect of compelling him to remain anonymous.  They are two forms of the same offence.

     The man who sees someone in affliction and projects into him his own [deepest] being brings to birth in him through love, at least for a moment, an existence apart from his affliction. ... What these men give to the afflicted whom they succour, when they project their own being into them, is not really their own being, because they no longer possess one; it is Christ himself.

     Charity like this is a sacrament. (459)


Souls which are absorbed in God without feeling compassion for human misery are still climbing and have not reached the stage of descending again (even though they apply themselves to good works). (436)


     In order to feel compassion for someone in affliction, the soul has to be divided in two.  One part absolutely removed from all contamination and all danger of contamination.  The other part contaminated to the point of identification. ... Unless there is a point of eternity in one’s soul which is proof against any contagion by affliction, one cannot have compassion for the afflicted.  Either one is kept far away from them by difference of situation and lack of imagination, or else, if one really approaches them, pity is mixed with horror, disgust, fear, invincible repulsion.

     Every movement of pure compassion in a soul is a new descent of Christ upon earth to be crucified. (436)


It is the pride of the flesh to believe that it draws its life from itself. Hunger and thirst oblige it to feel its dependence on what is outside.  The feeling of dependence makes it humble. (437)


Humility is the root of love. (436)


In the old baptism by immersion the man disappeared under the water; this means to deny one’s self, to acknowledge that one is only a fragment of the inert matter which is the fabric of creation.  He only reappeared because he was lifted up by an ascending movement stronger than gravity; this is the image of the divine love in man.  Baptism contains the symbol of the state of perfection. (458)


God has provided that when his grace penetrates to the very centre of a man and from there illuminates all his being, he is able to walk on the water without violating the laws of nature.  But when a man turns away from God he simply gives himself up to the law of gravity.  He then believes that he is deciding and choosing, but he is only a thing, a falling stone.  If we examine human society and souls closely and with real attention, we see that wherever the virtue of supernatural light is absent, everything is obedient to mechanical laws as blind and as exact as the laws of gravitation. ... Those whom we call criminals are only tiles blown off a roof by the wind and falling at random.  Their only fault is the initial choice by which they became those tiles. (447)


     It is not the way a man talks about God, but the way he talks about the things of the world that best shows whether his soul has passed through the fire of the love of God.  In this matter no deception is possible.  There are false imitations of the love of God, but not of the transformation it effects in the soul, because one has no idea of this transformation except by passing through it oneself.

     In the same way, the proof that a child can do division is not that he can recite the rule, but that he can divide.  If he recites the rule, I don’t know whether he understands it. ... In the same way, I know that the author of the Iliad knew and loved God and the author of the Book of Joshua did not. ...

     When a man’s way of behaving towards things and men, or simply his way of regarding them, reveals supernatural virtues, one knows that his soul is no longer a virgin, it has slept with God; perhaps even without knowing it, like a girl violated in her sleep.  That has no importance, it is only the fact that matters. ...

     According to the conception of human life expressed in the acts and words of a man I know (I mean I would know if I possessed discernment) whether he sees life from a point in this world or from above in heaven.

     On the other hand, when he talks about God I cannot discern (and yet sometimes I can...) whether he is speaking from within or externally. 

     If a man says he has been in an aeroplane, and has drawn the clouds, his picture is not a proof for me; I may believe it is a fantasy.  If he brings me a bird’s eye view of the town, it is a proof. 

     The Gospel contains a conception of human life, not a theology. ...

     The value of a religious or, more generally, a spiritual way of life is appreciated by the amount of illumination thrown upon the things of this world.

     Earthly things are the criterion of spiritual things.  [“By their fruits ye shall know them.”]

     This is what we generally don’t want to recognize, because we are frightened of a criterion. ...

     If a man gives bread to a beggar in a certain way or speaks in a certain way about a defeated army, I know that his thought has been outside this world and sat with Christ alongside the Father who is in Heaven.

     If a man describes to me at the same time two opposite sides of a mountain, I know that his position is somewhere higher than the summit.

     It is impossible to understand and love at the same time both the victors and the vanquished, as the Iliad does, except from the place, outside the world, where God’s Wisdom dwells. (429-31)


     In ancient times the love of the beauty of the world had a very important place in men’s thoughts and surrounded the whole of life with marvelous poetry.  This was the case in every nation—in China, in India, and in Greece. ...

     The beauty of the world is almost absent from the Christian tradition [except for a few passages from Jesus and the sayings/poems of St. Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, and a few others]. ...

     The beauty of the world is Christ’s tender smile for us coming through matter.  He is really present in the universal beauty.  The love of this beauty proceeds from God dwelling in our souls and goes out to God present in the universe.  It also is like a sacrament. 

     This is true only of universal beauty.  With the exception of God, nothing short of the universe as a whole can with complete accuracy be called beautiful. ...

     All these secondary kinds of beauty [things in the world] are of infinite value as openings to universal beauty.  But, if we stop short at them, they are, on the contrary, veils; then they corrupt. ...

     Carnal love in all its forms, from the highest, that is to say true marriage or platonic love, down to the worst, down to debauchery, has the beauty of the world as its object.  The love we feel for the splendor of the heavens, the plains, the sea, and the mountains, for the silence of nature... for the breath of the winds or the warmth of the sun, this love which every human being has at least an inkling, is an incomplete, painful love, because it is felt for things incapable of responding, that is to say for matter.  Men want to turn this same love toward a being who is like themselves and capable of answering to their love, of saying yes, of surrendering.  When the feeling for beauty happens to be associated with the sight of some human being, the transference of love is made possible, at any rate in an illusory manner.  But it is all the beauty of the world, it is universal beauty, for which we yearn. 

     This kind of transference is what all love literature expresses...

     The longing to love the beauty of the world in a human being is essentially the longing for the Incarnation [of God]. ... The Incarnation alone can satisfy it.  It is therefore wrong to reproach the mystics, as has been done sometimes, because they use love’s language.  It is theirs by right.  Others only borrow it. ...

     It is not surprising that in temptation men so often have the feeling of something absolute, which infinitely surpasses them, which they cannot resist.  The absolute is indeed there.  But we are mistaken when we think that it dwells in pleasure. ...

     The mistake is the effect of this imaginary transference which is the principal mechanism of human thought. ...

     He who has located the absolute in pleasure cannot help being dominated by it. ... He who knows how to locate the absolute outside pleasure possesses the perfection of temperance. (471-80)


     Contact with God is the true sacrament. ...

     Our neighbor, our friends, religious ceremonies, and the beauty of the world do not fall to the level of unrealities after the soul has had direct contact with God.  On the contrary, it is only then that these things become real.  Previously they were half dreams.  Previously they had no reality. (490-1)


Compassion makes love equal for everybody.  Contempt for crime and admiration for greatness are balanced in compassion. (434)


     No pain, however great, up to the point of losing consciousness, touches that part of the soul which consents to a right orientation. It is only necessary to know that love is an orientation and not a state of the soul.  Anyone who does not know this will fall into despair at the first onset of affliction. 

     The man whose soul remains oriented towards God while a nail is driven through it finds himself nailed to the very centre of the universe; the true centre, which is not in the middle, which is not in space and time, which is God. ... [T]he nail has pierced through the whole of creation, through the dense screen which separates the soul from God. 

     In this marvellous dimension, without leaving the time and place to which the body is bound, the soul can traverse the whole of space and time and come into the actual presence of God. (452)


After a certain time the Cross of Christ should become the very substance of our life. ... Christ ... advised his friends to bear their cross each day, and not, as people seem to think nowadays, simply that one should be resigned about one’s little daily troubles—which, by an almost sacrilegious abuse of language, people sometimes refer to as crosses.  There is only one cross; it is the whole of that necessity by which the infinity of space and time is filled and which, in given circumstances, can be concentrated upon the atom that any one of us is, and totally pulverize it. ... It is possible for a perfectly happy man—if he recognizes, truly, concretely, and all the time, the possibility of affliction [to the point of extinguishing of the separate “I”]—to enjoy his happiness completely and at the same time bear his cross. (455)


The dogma of the Trinity is necessary so that there may not be dialogue between us and God, but between God and himself within us.  So that we may be absent. (434-5)


The Trinity and the Cross are the two poles of Christianity, the two essential truths: the first, perfect joy; the second, perfect affliction. It is necessary to know both the one and the other and their mysterious unity... (456-7)


     We dare not look affliction in the face; otherwise we should see after a little time that it is the face of love.... Affliction contains the truth about our condition.  They alone will see God who prefer to recognize the truth and die, instead of living a long and happy existence in a state of illusion.  One must want to go towards reality; then, when one thinks one has found a corpse [like the women disciples of Jesus on Easter morning], one meets an angel who says: “He is risen.” ...

     Any man, whatever his beliefs may be, has his part in the Cross of Christ if he loves truth to the point of facing affliction rather than escape into the depths of falsehood.  If God had been willing to withhold Christ from the men of any country or epoch, we should know it by an infallible sign; there would be no affliction among them.  We know of no such period in history. ...

     Conversely, there are many Christians who have no part in Christ because they lack the strength to recognize and worship the blessed Cross in every affliction [and die to the personal self thereby]. (463-4)


     God is joy, and creation is affliction; but it is an affliction radiant with the light of joy. (463)


     If he [the human soul] remains constant, what he will discover buried deep under the sound of his own lamentations is the pearl of the silence of God. (468)


     We live in a world of unreality and dreams.  To give up our imaginary position as the center, to renounce it, not only intellectually but in the imaginative part of our soul, that means to awaken to what is real and eternal, to see the true light and hear the true silence.  A transformation then takes place at the very roots of our sensibility, in our immediate reception of sense impressions and psychological impressions. ...

     To empty ourselves of our false divinity, to deny ourselves, to give up being the center of the world in imagination, to discern that all points in the world are equally centers and that the true center is outside the world, this is ... love. (470-1)


It is impossible to accept that death of soul [through emptying and/or affliction] unless one possesses another life in addition to the soul’s illusory life, unless one has placed one’s treasure and one’s heart elsewhere—and not merely outside one’s person but outside all one’s thoughts and feelings and outside everything knowable, in the hands of our Father who is in secret.  Of those who have done this one can say that they have been born of water and the Spirit; for they are no longer anything except a two-fold obedience—on the one side to the mechanical necessity in which their earthly condition involves them, and on the other to the divine inspiration.  There is nothing left in them which one could call their own will, their person, their “I.”  They have become nothing other than a certain intersection of nature and God. (458)   



Mother Catherine Thomas (20th century; Catholic Carmelite; U.S.):


     A Carmelite nun should be, by the very nature of her vocation, a specialist in prayer.  Besides the time we spend in private devotions, each day seven hours are spent in formal, community prayer, the greater part of which is devoted to the recitation of the Divine Office, the official prayers of the Church.  Each one of us tries to substitute herself for those who have no love for God, or very little; for those who do not pray, or pray very badly. ...

     Everyone’s problems, trials, and aspirations are the concern of Carmel; and the explicit confidence placed in the power of our prayer terrifies and humbles us.  Perhaps it is the faith others have in our prayers that enables us to pray with greater confidence. ...

     We pray for those who are in danger and for those who are sick.  We pray not only that they may get well quickly, but, what is more important, we pray they may have courage to see in their illness the hand of God and use their suffering for the purification of their own souls and the good of mankind.

     We pray for the virtuous and devout in offices and factories who are mocked and ridiculed for no other reason than that they are trying to follow the delicate dictates of their conscience.

     We pray for students, especially for those whose faith is exposed to the poisonous insinuations of godless professors; we pray that all searchers for the truth may find it ... and accept it completely.

     We pray for those suffering behind the Iron Curtain ...

     We pray for all those who have strayed from the path of virtue and are stumbling blindly along the alleys of sin; we pray that they may return to their Father’s house, where alone they can find peace and rest.  ...

     The first point of our holy rule states that we are to “pray without ceasing” [Luke 18:1].  This is our most important duty.  Penance and mortification will follow easily; for we shall not be self-indulgent when we are on our knees pleading for others.  The saintly Teresa [of Avila, founder of the Discalced Carmelites] warned all of those who were to follow her, “If ever we should fail to offer our prayers and sacrifices for souls we should cease to be Carmelites.  ...

     The first and most important step in our prayer or meditation is to recall to Whom we are speaking; we thereby recall to mind the presence of God.  We think of an attribute or aspect of God or Our Blessed Lord, and in this way we recollect ourselves.  We then dwell on the subject of our meditation, turn it over in our minds, and draw from it sentiments or affections of love and praise.  From these affections we may enjoy moments of contemplation, losing ourselves in adoration of the Beloved.  We end by resolving to remain close to Our Blessed Lord, to please Him and do something special for Him that day. ...

     When we are recollected, we are wide-awake to the essential object of our prayer, we are unhindered by any superficial diversion, we refuse to dwell on any trivial matter.  ...

     Even the saints had difficulty in recollecting themselves; but the reason they succeeded in reaching the heights is that they never became discouraged. 

     This effort to be recollected we try gently to carry over throughout the whole day in all our activities, all our prayers, all our thoughts—we try never to separate ourselves from God, the ultimate center of our being. ...We look at everything from God’s point of view.  The awareness of God’s presence ... forms the background for all our external acts and interests. ...

     This ideal condition in which the soul is always in a state of recollection is not easy to achieve; yet a surprising number of people—outside as well as within the cloister—do experience it.  Contemplatives can be found even in the din of our factories [in the outside world]. However, even in Carmel we do not let this recollected attitude interfere with the assigned duties of the nuns.  Jokingly we say, “Sister, if you can make the soup and at the same time keep in the presence of God, that is wonderful; but if in striving for recollection you let the soup burn, better for you to keep in the presence of the soup.” ...

     In the [cloistered] enclosure we have an advantage: we have fewer distractions; our seven hours of scheduled community prayers give us the practice and the atmosphere that is needed.  But I plead with you who do not have our advantage to make a place in your life for contemplation.  You do not have to be in vows to be a contemplative.  Don’t, we pray, let the uninterrupted tension of modern living sap the spiritual life from your soul. 

     Consecrate even a small part of an hour each day to mental prayer, to thinking about Our Blessed Lord, Who loves you so much and has done so much for you, and in Whose company you are to spend eternity.  Separate yourself for this short interval of silence from all the “weighty concerns” that seem to demand your attention.  Forget them for this moment, and think rather of the one thing that really matters, your soul, and its relationship to its Creator. ... Don’t, I plead, don’t permit your daily obligations to make you forget your chief purpose in life...

     The world needs the perfume of your prayers as much as it needs the help of uncloistered nuns; the unwholesome air of lust and avarice cannot be purified in any other way.  One faint spark from your heart burning with love could set the world on fire. [32]



Mother Angelica (contemporary; Catholic Poor Clare; U.S.):

[From an interview with Mother Angelica:]

When people ask me how I did it, how I built this cable TV empire [Eternal Word Television Network, EWTN] with a handful of unskilled nuns and $200 in the till, I respond by talking about the theology of risk.  The world today is filled with the theology of assurance.  This means that before you start any enterprise, you have to have everything you need.  You have to have competent people, you have to have enough money, you have to have the assurance of success. ... The theology of risk, on the other hand, is a total dependence on God’s providence.  That’s how I operate.  It is the theology of the Gospel.  Look at the Apostles.  When Jesus sent them out to preach, they had nothing in their pockets. ... Risk is the realization that God does it all.  You’re willing to step out, risk your neck with nothing for backing except God.  And you put forth a tremendous amount of effort, but the fruit, the fruit is the Lord’s.  Another important aspect of the theology of risk is the question “Does God want me to do this?”—the answer to which requires much prayer.  If the response is ascertained “Yes,” then you begin. ... My grandparents came from Italy and they couldn’t read or write.  To build a church in their little ghetto, they gathered people, neighbors who were skilled in bricklaying, and they began.  They didn’t wait for a committee to come along with $600,000 or $700,000.  They began.  You’ve got to put your hand to the plow and begin to sow your seed.  We’ve lost all this in the Church, I think, because we run everything on corporate methods.  And these don’t work with God.


I get a little confused when people say, “How do you do all you do?”  I’m not rushed, you know.  My blood pressure is very low.  It’s God’s work.  I’m just His steward.  He has to do it all.


The Positive Thinker ... attributes everything to himself, instead of emptying himself with the knowledge that God will replenish him because God does everything in our weakness.  The power and ability to work come from God, and the more one attributes that ability to oneself, the less accomplished he or she becomes.  God’s power is at best in one’s weakness. “I can accomplish all things,” says the Positive Thinker.  That’s not true.  Only God accomplishes all things. About four hours are spent praying [at the Poor Clare convent of which she is Prioress]; if I didn’t do that, the rest would be impossible.  You know, you wouldn’t have the wits.  These hours provide a mental respite that supplies energy to work more intensely the rest of the day. ... The more you can pray, the more intense your life becomes.


The average person, the common man, has no concept of spirituality.  My students [some Episcopalians and Methodists who wanted her to teach them Scripture] knew a lot about Jesus, but they didn’t know Jesus.  All the beautiful things we learn in contemplative life are hidden from average people.  And that’s when the Lord began giving me the books [spiritual pamphlets] to write.  I wrote fifty-seven of them and we printed them ourselves and started sending them to thousands of people in our effort to reveal the life of the Spirit.


If anyone sees any quality in me that is deemed to be saintly, I give glory to the Lord.  The Lord has said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” Sanctity, incidentally, should not be the unusual.  It’s for everybody—children, teenagers, the elderly, the rich, the poor, the middle class.  The trouble is that today we have become materialistic and we think of sanctity and religion in terms of how much money you give away, or of the physical help you can give.  The more you give and the more pain you relieve, then the more religious or saintly you are.  But that’s putting the cart before the horse.  Religion works from within.  Jesus worked on the inside of a man, and then the man had compassion, the kind of compassion that is drawn to others with words like “I want to help you.  I love you,” whether he’s a friend or enemy.  Although sanctity today is something unusual, it can be common. [33]



Mother Teresa of Calcutta (191097; Foundress of Missionaries of Charity; Albania-India):


I want very much people to come to know God, to love Him, to serve Him, for that is their true happiness. (D 158) [34]


The meaning of my life is the love of God.  It is Christ in his distressing disguise whom I love and serve.  Jesus has said, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was naked and you clothed me; I was homeless and you took me in...” (ML 95)


My secret is quite simple.  I pray and through my prayer I become one in love with Christ, and see that praying to him is to love him, and that means to fulfil his words [“I was hungry and you gave me to eat...”]. (LS 1)


“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Deut. 6.5)  This is the commandment of our great God, and he cannot command the impossible.  Love is a fruit in season at all times and within the reach of every hand.  Anyone may gather it and no limit is set.  Everyone can reach this love through meditation, the spirit of prayer and sacrifice, by an intense inner life.  Do we really live this life? (LS 35)


Heaven for me will be the joy of being with Jesus and Mary and all the other saints and angels, and all our poor—all of us going home to God.To me Jesus is my God.  Jesus is my Spouse.  Jesus is my Life.  Jesus is my only Love.  Jesus is my All in all.  Jesus is my Everything. (ML 107)


I have given him all, even my sins and he has espoused me to himself in tenderness and love. (ML 96)


God is purity himself... I don’t think God can hate, because God is love and God loves us in spite of our misery and sinfulness.  He is our loving Father and so we have only to turn to him.  God cannot hate; God loves because he is love, but impurity is an obstacle to seeing God.  This doesn’t mean only the sin of impurity, but any attachment, anything that takes us away from God, anything that makes us less Christlike, any hatred, any uncharitableness is also impurity.  If we are full of sin, God cannot fill us, because even God cannot fill what is full.  That’s why we need forgiveness to become empty and then God fills us with himself. (G 37-8)


The Mass is the spiritual food which sustains me, without which I could not get through one single day or hour in my life.  In the Mass we have Jesus in the appearance of bread, while in the slums we see Christ and touch him in the broken bodies and in the abandoned children. ... The Eucharist and the poor are but one love for me. (ML 96-7)


Let us thank God for all his love for us, in so many ways and in so many places.  Let us in return, as an act of gratitude and adoration, determine to love him. (LS 36)


We all want to love God, but how?  The Little Flower [St. Therese of Lisieux, after whom Mother Teresa took her name] is a most wonderful example.  She did small things with great love.  Ordinary things with extraordinary love.  That is why she became a great saint.  I think we can bring this beautiful thing into our lives. (W 74)


Have we played well? slept well? eaten well?  ... Each one of our actions done with and for and through Jesus Christ is a great success. (LS 45-6)


Our hearts must be separated from earthly motives and united to the will of God.  The more united we are to God, the greater will be our love and readiness to serve the poor wholeheartedly.  Much depends on this unison of hearts. (ML 8)


We all long for heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in heaven with him right now—to be happy with him at this very moment.  But being happy with him now means:


  loving as he loves,

  helping as he helps,

  giving as he gives,

  serving as he serves,

  rescuing as he rescues,

  being with him for all the twenty-four hours,

  touching him in his distressing disguise. (G 77-8)


Holiness is not the luxury of the few but a simple duty for you and me so let us be holy as our Father in heaven is holy. ... Our progress in holiness depends on God and on ourselves—on God’s grace and on our will to be holy.  We must have a real living determination to reach holiness. ... Give yourself fully to God.  He will use you to accomplish great things... If we really want God to fill us, we must empty ourselves through humility of all that is selfishness in us.  ... Make sure that you let God’s grace work in your souls by accepting whatever he gives you, and giving him whatever he takes from you.  True holiness consists in doing God’s will with a smile. (LS 24-5)


What is a saint but a resolute soul, a soul that uses power plus action. ...To resolve to be a saint costs much.  Renunciation, temptation, struggles, Persecutions, and all kinds of sacrifices surround the resolute soul.  One can love God only at one’s own expense.  “I will be a saint” means: I will despoil [purify] myself of all that is not God; I will strip my heart and empty it of all artificial things; I will live in poverty and detachment. I will renounce my will, my inclinations, my whims, and fancies and make myself a willing slave to the will of God. (LC 69)


What a wasted life is ours if it is so full of self instead of Him. (LC 72-3)


Let Him empty and transform you and afterwards fill the chalice of your hearts to the brim, that you in your turn may give of your abundance. (LC 75)


If we are Christian we must be Christlike. (G 29)


Put yourself completely under the influence of Jesus, so that he may think his thoughts in your mind, do his work through your hands, for you will be all-powerful with him to strengthen you. (G 37)


I need to give up my own desires in the work of my perfection.  Even when I feel as if I were a ship without a compass, I must give myself completely to Him. (LC 104)


Total surrender consists in giving ourselves completely to God... I give up my own self and in this way induce God to live for me.  Therefore to possess God we must allow Him to possess our souls. ... The more we surrender, the more we love God and souls.  If we really love souls, we must be ready to take their place, to take their sins upon us and expiate them. ... There is no limit to God’s love... Now reverse the picture.  There must be no limit to the love that prompts us to give ourselves to God... (LC 102)


We cannot be free unless we are able to surrender our will freely to the will of God. (LC 86)


Our Lord [Jesus] and our Lady [Mary] gave all the glory to God the Father; like them, in a very, very small way, I want to give all the glory to God the Father. (G 49)


I am nothing.  He is all.  I do nothing of my own.  He does it.  That is what I am, God’s pencil.  A tiny bit of pencil with which he writes what he likes. God writes through us, and however imperfect instruments we may be, he writes beautifully. (ML 95)


All of us are but his instruments, who do our little bit and pass by. (G 45)


We do nothing.  He does everything.  All glory must be returned to Him. (ML 98)


The more we empty ourselves, the more room we give God to fill us.  Let there be no pride nor vanity in the work.  The work is God’s work; the poor are God’s poor.  Work for Jesus and Jesus will work with you. ... The more you forget yourself, the more Jesus will think of you.  The more you detach yourself from self, the more attached Jesus is to you. (LS 48)


Knowledge of God gives love and knowledge of self gives humility. ... Humility is nothing but truth.  “What have we got that we have not received?” asks St. Paul. ... If we are convinced of this, we will never raise our head in pride.  If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace... If you are blamed you will not be discouraged.  If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal. ... Make it possible and even easy for your Superior [in the convent or a spiritual director elsewhere] to treat you and operate on you like the surgeon whose knife must cause pain in order to heal.  When a sculptor carves a statue, what has he in his hand?  A knife, and he cuts all the time. (LC 112-3 and LS 50)


The one way that will make us most Christlike is humility. (LC 79)


My Dearest Children, it is our emptiness and lowliness that God needs and not our plenitude.  These are a few of the ways we can practice humility: Speak as little as possible of oneself.  Mind one’s own business.  Avoid curiosity.  Do not want to manage other people’s affairs.  Accept contradiction and correction cheerfully.  Pass over the mistakes of others.  Accept blame when innocent.  Yield to the will of others.  Accept insults and injuries.  Accept being slighted, forgotten, and disliked.  Be kind and gentle even under provocation.  Do not seek to be specially loved and admired.  Never stand on one’s own dignity.  Yield in discussion even though one is right.  Choose always the hardest. (LC 82)


We learn humility through accepting humiliation cheerfully. (LC 75)


It is a great virtue to practice humility without our knowing that we are humble. (LC 78)


If we really want God to fill us we must empty ourselves through humility of all that is selfishness in us. (LC 85)


We must never think any one of us is indispensable.  God has ways and means.  He may allow everything to go upside down in the hands of a very talented and capable Sister.  God sees only her love.  She may exhaust herself, even kill herself with work, but unless her work is interwoven with love it is useless.  God does not need her work.  God will not ask that Sister how many books she has read, how many miracles she has worked, but He will ask her if she has done her best, for the love of Him... (LC 113-4)


If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride, because it shows that you trust in your own powers. ... Be humble and you will never be disturbed. (LC 114)


Let us from the beginning try to live the spirit of the Missionaries of Charity, which is one of total surrender to God, loving trust in each other, and cheerfulness with all. ... This spirit must radiate from your own heart to your family, neighbor, town, country, the world.  Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace.  Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God; the rest will be given. (G 33-4)


We take vows of chastity to love Christ with undivided love; to be able to love him with undivided love we take a vow of poverty that frees us from all material possessions, and with that freedom we can love him with undivided love, and from this vow of undivided love we surrender ourselves totally to him in the person who takes his place [e.g., one’s spiritual director or the Superior of the convent].  So our vow of obedience is another way of giving, of being loved.  And the fourth vow that we take is to give wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.  By this vow, we bind ourselves to be one of them, to depend solely on divine providence, to have nothing, yet possess all things in possessing Christ. (G 36)


A Missionary is a carrier of God’s love, a burning light that gives light to all... We have to carry Our Lord in places where He has not walked before.  The Sisters must be consumed with one desire: Jesus.  We must not be afraid to do the things He did—to go fearlessly through death and danger with Him and for Him.  A Missionary carries the interest of Christ continually in her heart and mind.  In her heart there must be the fire of divine love and zeal for God’s glory.  This love makes her spend herself without ceasing.  This becomes her real object in life and her joy. ... The Missionary must die daily [to self] if she wants to bring souls to God. (LC 101)


They say that God never gives you anything you cannot handle.  And that’s true.  I just wish he didn’t have such a high opinion of me. (Quoted in Arianna Stassinopoulos’ profile on Mother Teresa in “The Movement,” 1985, p. 10)


Suffering is a gift of God, a gift that makes us most Christlike.  People must not accept [construe] suffering as a punishment. (W 64)


Suffering is meant to purify, to sanctify, to make us Christlike. (W 68)


Suffering, if it is accepted together, borne together, is joy.  Remember that the passion of Christ ends always in the joy of the resurrection of Christ... Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the risen Christ. (LS 62-3)


May the joy of the risen Jesus Christ be with you. ... Joy was the password of the first Christians.  St. Paul—how often he repeated himself: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say rejoice.”  ... Joy is prayer—joy is strength—joy is love, joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. ... He gives most who gives with joy.  ... The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy.  A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love.  Happiness is the axle of our religious life.  ... Those who have the gift of happiness reach the peaks of perfection.  What we have—the faith, and being convinced that we are the sons of God—the people of the world do not have... Our joy is the surest means to announce Christianity to the world.  ... When people find in your eyes that habitual happiness, they will understand that they are the beloved children of God.  Jesus comes again and again in our hearts during Holy Communion.  He wants to give the same joy and peace.  May his coming bring to each one of us that peace and joy which he desires to give. (LS 68-9)


Charity is patient, is kind, feels no envy, is never perverse or proud or insolent; it has no selfish aims, cannot be provoked, does not brood over an injury; it takes no pleasure in wrong-doing but rejoices over the victory of the truth; it sustains, believes, hopes, endures to the last. ...The Missionary of Charity, in order to be true to her name, must be full of charity in her own soul and spread that same charity to the souls of Others, Christians and pagans alike. (LC 102)


Our purpose is to take God and his love to the poorest of the poor, irrespective of their ethical origin or the faith that they profess. ... We never try to convert those who receive to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists or agnostics become for this better men—simply better—we will be satisfied. (LS 81)


God has his own ways and means to work in the hearts of men and we do not know how close they are to him.  But by their actions we will always know whether they are at his disposal or not.  How you live your life is the proof that you are or not fully his, whether one is a Hindu or a Moslem or a Christian. (ML 99)


Maybe a person has never heard of Christianity.  We do not know what way God is appearing to that soul and what way God is drawing that soul, and therefore who are we to condemn anybody? (LS 81-2)


Some weeks back I heard there was a family who had not eaten for some days—a Hindu family—so I took some rice and I went to the family.  Before I knew where I was, the mother of the family had divided the rice into two and she took the other half to the next-door neighbors, who happened to be a Moslem family.  Then I asked her: “How much will all of you have to share?  There are ten of you with that bit of rice.”  The mother replied: “They have not eaten either.”  This is greatness. (G 55-6)


[Hindus] call him Ishwar, ... [Muslims] call him Allah, some simply God, but we all have to acknowledge that it is he who made us for greater things: to love and to be loved.  What matters is that we love.  We cannot love without prayer and so whatever religion we are we must pray together. (LS 82)


The way to holiness is prayer. (ML 103)


Prayer is joy, prayer is love, prayer is peace. ... God gives it for the asking.  “Ask and you shall receive.”  The father knows what to give his children—how much more our heavenly father knows. (W 39)


You should spend at least half an hour in the morning, and an hour at night in prayer.  You can pray while you work.  Work doesn’t stop prayer, and prayer doesn’t stop work.  It requires only that small raising of mind to Him. (D 166)


The more you pray, the easier it becomes.  The easier it becomes, the more you’ll pray. (ML 104)


St. Thomas [Aquinas] tells us: “Those who are called to the works of the active life would be wrong in thinking that their duty exempts them from the contemplative life.”  ... Thus these two lives [the active and contemplative], instead of excluding each other, call for each other’s help, implement and complete each other. (LC 100)


We need much prayer, which unites us with others.  Our works of charity are nothing but the overflow of our love for God from within. (LS 37)


The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life.  We need silence to be able to touch souls.  The essential thing is not what we say [in prayer or in words to others], but what God says to us and through us. (ML 101)


If we really want to pray we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart God speaks. ... Souls of prayer are souls of great silence. ... Practise internal and external silence.  God is the friend of silence. ... Interior silence is very difficult but we must make the effort.  In silence we will find new energy and true unity.  The energy of God will be ours to do all things well. (LS 19-20)


Prayer for me means becoming twenty-four hours a day at one with the will of Jesus to live for him, through him and with him. (LS 1)


Consider that you are in God, surrounded and encompassed by God, swimming in God. (LS 30)


It is not we who live, it is he who has to live in us.  Allowing him to live his life in us is prayer.  And the more we allow him the more we grow in likeness of Christ. (W 42)


It is very difficult to give Jesus to the people unless we have Jesus in our hearts.  We all should become the carriers of God’s love.  But to do this, we must deepen our life of love and prayer and sacrifice.  We must bring peace, love and compassion to the world today. ... We need deep love, deep union with Christ to be able to give him to others. Compassion and love have to grow from within, from our union with Christ. And from that union, love for the family, love for the neighbor, love for the poor is a natural fruit. So let us deepen our love for Jesus, ... and love will lead us to serve him as instruments of peace, of love, of compassion. (ML 100)


It is not possible to engage in the direct apostolate without being a soul of prayer.  We must be aware of oneness with Christ, as he was aware of oneness with his Father.  Our activity is truly apostolic only insofar as we permit him to work in us and through us with his power, with his desire, with his love. ... We must become holy, not because we want to feel holy, but because Christ must be able to live his life fully in us.  We are to be all love, all faith, all purity, for the sake of the poor we serve.  And once we have learned to seek God and his will, our contacts with the poor will become the means of great sanctity to ourselves and to others. (G 74-5)


Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself. ... Pray—pray for grace, pray that you may understand how Jesus has loved you so that you may love others... Call God your Father, praise and glorify his name. ... Perfect prayer does not consist in many words, but in the fervor of the desire which raised the heart of Jesus. (LS 17-18)


If we really fully belong to God, then we must be at his disposal and we must trust in him.  We must never be preoccupied with the future.  There is no reason to be so.  God is there.  There has not been one single day that we have refused somebody, that we did not have food, that we did not have a bed or something, and we deal with thousands of people. ... It is always there, though we have no salaries, no income, no nothing, we receive freely and give freely.  This has been such a beautiful gift of God.  In Calcutta alone we cope for 7,000 people every day... One Friday morning Sister came and told me, “Mother, Friday-Saturday, there is no food, we will have to tell the people we have nothing to give today and tomorrow.”  I had no words, I had nothing to say to her, but by nine o’clock the Government for some unknown reason closed all the schools, and all the bread that would have been given to the children was sent to us and our children and our 7,000 people ate bread and bread for two days.  They had never eaten so much bread in their lives.  Nobody in the whole city knew why the schools were closed, but I knew.  I knew the delicate thoughtfulness of God—such a delicate love. 

     Our dependence on Divine Providence is a firm and lively faith that God can and will help us.  That he can is evident, because he is almighty; that he will is certain because he promised it in so many passages of Holy Scripture...

     I don’t want the work to become a business but to remain a work of love.  I want you to have that complete confidence that God won’t let us down.  Take him at his word and seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all else will be added on. (LS 26-7)


Money?  I never give it a thought.  It always comes.  We do all our work for our Lord; he must look after us.  If he wants something to be done, he must give us the means.  If he does not provide us with the means, then it shows that he does not want that particular work.  I forget about it. (ML 105)


We depend solely on divine providence that comes through to us to the love of the people.  ... God is taking care of his poor people through us.  He has shown such thoughtfulness and kindness to our people in so many small details! ... If I wrote or spoke for hours and hours, I would be able to give thousands of proofs of the delicate kindness and thoughtfulness of God.We deal with thousands of people and yet there has not been one occasion when we have had to say to somebody, “Very sorry, we don’t have...” (ML 53-4)


Live simply.  Give example through simplicity.  The spirit of poverty is dependency on God.  Trust him. (ML 104)


Poverty makes us free.  That is why we can joke and smile and keep a happy heart for Jesus...  Keep to the simple ways of poverty, of repairing your own shoes, and so forth... Our Society will live as long as that real poverty exists. ... We must always try to be poorer still and discover new ways to live our vows of poverty. (LC 106)


People now are trying to prove that they can do things, that they don’t need God in their lives, that they are all-powerful.  And so, trying to do things without God, they are producing more and more misery and poverty. ... I find the poverty in the West much more difficult, much greater than the poverty I meet in India, in Ethiopia and in the Middle East, which is a material poverty. (ML 54-5)


I think people are so preoccupied with material difficulties.  In the industrial world where people are supposed to have so much, I find that many people, while dressed up, are really, really poor. ... [Whereas,] the Sisters are always smiling and happy.  We are so free... we are so free. ... By having nothing we will be able to give everything—through the freedom of poverty. (W 31)


It is not a sin to be rich.  There must be a reason why some people can afford to live well.  They must have worked for it.  But I tell you this provokes avarice, and there comes sin.  Richness is given by God and it is our duty to divide it with those less favoured. (LS 53)


I hope you are not giving only your surplus.  You must give what costs you, make a sacrifice, go without something you like, that your gift may have value before God.  Then you will be truly brothers and sisters to the poor who are deprived of even the things they need.  I want the gifts to be given not from the giver’s abundance, but rather they should be the spontaneous giving of those who are not afraid to love until it hurts. (ML 32)


Many factors in the industrial world suffocate the joy of loving.  People have too much and they want more.  They are discontent.  A family in Australia with six or seven children talked together and decided not to buy a new television.  They wanted to enjoy each other more completely.  They had enough of what they needed for each other in each other.  Instead of buying the television, they gave the money to me to do something for the poor Aborigines there.  They overcame something they thought divided them, an obstacle to the joy of loving.  And they recognized the sharing, the talking, the laughing, the loving, the teasing.  The whole family is simply delighted. (W 60)


Our Sisters are working around the world and I have seen all the trouble, all the misery, all the suffering.  From where did it come?  It has come from lack of love and lack of prayer.  There is no coming together in the family, praying together, coming together, staying together.  Love begins at home and we will find the poor even in our own home. ... It is easy to love the people far away.  It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home.  Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start. (LS 38-9)


If we can bring prayer into the family, the family will stay together.  They will love one another.  Just get together for five minutes.  Start with the Our Father, that’s all!  Or we can say,  “My Lord I love you; my God, I am sorry; my God I believe in you; my God I trust you.  Help us to love one another as you love us.”  That is where your strength will come from when you teach each other in prayer. (W 57)


It is very important for children to hear their parents talk about God. The children must be able to ask about God.  ... If the parent sets the example, the children will not forget how to pray... Children watch... they Watch, and they grow with that.  They will learn that it makes a difference how they live their lives by watching what the parents do. (W 56)


Today there is so much trouble in the world and I think that much of it begins at home.  The world is suffering so much because there is no peace.  There is no peace because there is no peace in the family... We must make our homes centres of compassion and forgive endlessly and so bring peace.  Make your house, your family another Nazareth where love, peace, joy and unity reign, for love begins at home. (LS 71)


If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive. (G 34)


Reconciliation begins not first with others but with ourselves.  It starts by having a clean heart within.  A clean heart is able to see God in others. The tongue [then] ... can become an instrument of peace and joy. ...Forgive and ask to be forgiven; excuse rather than accuse. (LC 95)


Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness. (ML 101)


Thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity.  If you learn this art of being thoughtful, you will become more and more Christlike, for his heart was meek and he always thought of the needs of others... The thoughtfulness of Jesus and Mary and Joseph was so great that it made Nazareth the abode of God most high.  If we also have that kind of thoughtfulness for each other, our homes would really become the abode of God most high.  (LS 33)


Just allow people to see Jesus in you

  to see how you pray

  to see how you lead a pure life

  to see how you deal with your family

  to see how much peace there is in your family

Then you can look straight into their eyes and say,

  “This is the way.”

You speak from life, you speak from experience. (W 15)


We tell people how kind, forgiving and understanding God is but are we the living proof?  Can they really see this kindness, this forgiveness, this understanding alive in us?  Be kind and merciful.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.  Be the living expression of God’s kindness... Because of God’s goodness and love every moment of our life can be the beginning of great things.  Be open, ready to receive and you will find him everywhere.  Every work of love brings a person face to face with God. (LS 42)


Be kind to each other.  I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness than work miracles in unkindness. (LC 67-8)


Some people came to Calcutta, and before leaving, they begged me: “Tell us something that will help us to live our lives better.”  And I said: “Smile at each other; smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other—it doesn’t matter who it is—and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.”  And then one of them asked me:  “Are you married?” and I said: “Yes, and I find it difficult sometimes to smile at Jesus.”  And it is true, Jesus can be very demanding also, and it is at those times when he is so demanding that to give him a big smile is very beautiful. (G 58)


Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world.  Let us use love and compassion.  Peace begins with a smile—smile five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile at at all—do it for peace.  Let us radiate the peace of God and so light his light and extinguish in the world and in the hearts of all men all hatred and love for power. (LS 85)


We have a home for homeless alcoholics in Melbourne, and one of the men was very badly hurt by another. ... A policeman came and asked this gentleman: “Who did that to you?”  The man started telling all kinds of lies, but he wouldn’t tell the truth; he wouldn’t give the name.  Then the policeman had to go away without doing anything.  We asked the man: “Why did you not tell the police who did that to you?”  And he looked at me and he said: “His suffering is not going to lessen my suffering.”  He hid the name of his brother to save him from suffering.  How beautiful and how great is the love of our people, and this is a continual miracle of love that spreads amongst our poor people. (G 59-60)


The poor do us the honor of allowing us to serve them. (ML 96)


All our actions ... must tend to advance our own and our neighbor’s perfection... (LC 98)


The spirit pours love, peace, joy into our hearts proportionately to our emptying ourselves of self-indulgence, vanity, anger and ambition, and to our willingness to shoulder the cross of Christ.  Without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the Redemption.  Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death... All the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed; and we must share it, for only by being with them can we redeem them, that is by bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God. (LS 62)


Those who ignore or reject the poor, ignore or reject Christ. (ML 96)


The poor are great people!  We must love them, not by feeling pity for them. We must love them because it is Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.  They are our brothers and sisters.  They are our people.  Those lepers, those dying, those hungry, those naked: they are Jesus! (ML 92)


I tell the sisters not to be ashamed when people praise them for what they do.  They must let people see what Christ does through us, his humble instruments.  It is all to his glory. (ML 28)


It is not how much we are doing but how much love, how much honesty, how much Faith, is put into doing it.  It makes no difference what we are doing. (D 158-9)


Wherever God has put you, that is your vocation. ... What we are doing in the slums, maybe you cannot do.  What you are doing in the level where you are called—in your family life, in your college life, in your work—we cannot do.  But you and we together are doing something beautiful for God. (ML 49, 41)


A few weeks back, one of our brothers came to me ... and said, “My vocation is to work for the lepers...”  I said to him, “You are making a mistake, brother.  Your vocation is to belong to Jesus.  He has chosen you for himself and the work is only a means of your love for him in action.  Therefore it does not matter what work you are doing, but the main thing is that you belong to him, that you are his and that he gives you the means to do this for him.”  So for all of us, it doesn’t matter what we do or where we are as long as we remember that we belong to him, that we are his, that we are in love with him.  The means he gives us, whether we are working for the rich or we are working for the poor, whether we are working with high-class people or low-class people, it makes no difference; but how much love we are putting into the work we do is what matters. (ML 87)


We must be able to radiate the joy of Christ, express it in our actions. If our actions are just useful actions that give no joy to the people, our poor people would never be able to rise up to the call which we want them to hear, the call to come closer to God.  We want to make them feel that they are loved.  If we went to them with a sad face, we would only make them much more depressed. (SB 73)


We are not social workers: we are trying to live a contemplative life by spreading the love and compassion of Jesus in the world by doing the work of salvation. (ML 16-17)


Government agencies accomplish many things in the field of assistance.  We must offer something else: Christ’s love. (G 44)


I never look at the masses as my responsibility.  I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time.  I can feed only one person at a time.  Just one, one, one.  You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other.  As Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.”  So you begin... I begin.  I picked up one [dying] person—maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person I wouldn’t have picked up 42,000.  The whole work is only a drop in the ocean.  But if I didn’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less.  Same thing for you, same thing in your family, same thing in the church where you go, just begin... one, one, one. (W 79)


When I see people suffer, I feel so helpless!  It’s difficult, but the only way I find is to say, “God loves you.” (ML 77)


The other day somebody asked me, “What would you advise the politicians?” I never mix up in politics, but it came from my heart, “They don’t spend enough time on their knees [in prayer and devotion].  I think they would be better politicians if they did...” (ML 73)


I have come to realize more and more that the greatest disease and the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everybody, to be just nobody to no one. (ML 96)


The spiritual poverty of the western world is much greater than the physical poverty of our people [in India].  You in the West have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness.  They feel unloved and unwanted.  These people are not hungry in the physical sense but they are in another way.  They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is.  What they are missing really is a living relationship with God. (LS 13-14)


Today Christ is in people who are unwanted, unemployed, uncared for, hungry, naked and homeless.  They seem useless to the state or to society and nobody has time for them.  It is you and I as Christians, worthy of the love of Christ if our love is true, who must find them and help them.  They are there for the finding.  Everywhere we find lonely people who are at times only known by the number of their room.  Where are we?  Do we really know that these persons exist at all?  Maybe next door to us there is a blind man who would be happy if we would be ready to read the newspaper for him; maybe there is a rich person who has no one to visit him. ... These are the people that we must know.  ... Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough.  They need our hands to serve them, they need our hearts to love them.  The religion of Christ is love, the spreading of love, and to be able to give love we must pray.  (LS 10-11)


The “shut-in,” the unwanted, the unloved, the alcoholics, the dying destitutes, the abandoned and the lonely, the outcasts and the untouchables, the leprosy sufferers—all those who are a burden to human society—who have lost all hope and faith in life—who have forgotten how to smile—who have lost the sensibility of the warm hand-touch of love and friendship—they look to us for comfort.  If we turn our back on them, we turn it on Christ ... Therefore, I appeal to every one of you—poor and rich, young and old—to give your own hands to serve Christ in his poor and your hearts to love him in them. (LS 14-15)


I think if we can spread this prayer, if we can translate it into our lives, it will make all the difference.  It is so full of Jesus.  It has made a great difference in the lives of the Missionaries of Charity.


     Dear Jesus,

     Help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go.

     Flood our souls with your spirit and life.

     Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly

          that our lives may only be a radiance of yours.

     Shine through us

     and be so in us

     that every soul we come in contact with

          may feel your presence in our soul.

     Let them look up and see no longer us    

     but only Jesus.

     Stay with us

     and then we shall begin to shine as you shine,

     so to shine as to be light to others.

     The light, O Jesus, will be all from you.

     None of it will be ours. 

     It will be you shining on others through us.

     Let us thus praise you in the way you love best

          by shining on those around us.

     Let us preach [to] you without preaching

          not by words, but by our example

          by the catching force

          the sympathetic influence of what we do

          the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you.  Amen.



You have a welfare state in England [and the United States], but I have walked at night and gone into your homes and found people dying unloved.  Here you have a different kind of poverty, a poverty of the spirit, of loneliness, and of being unwanted.  And that is the worst disease in the world today, not tuberculosis or leprosy.  I think England [and the U.S.] needs more and more for the people to know who the poor are.  People in England [and the U.S.] should give their hearts to love the poor, and also their hands to serve them.  And they cannot do that unless they know them, and knowledge will lead them to love, and love to service. (G 63-4)


People who love each other fully and truly—they are the happiest people in the world, and we see that with our very poor people.  They love their children, and they love their home.  They may have very little, they may have nothing, but they are happy people. (G 13)


The poorest of the poor are free, happy and without the aggression of those who aspire or can aspire to many things.  The poor of the third world can teach us contentment.  That is something that the West does not have much of. (LS 51)


In Calcutta our Sisters and Brothers work for the poorest of the poor, who aren’t wanted, aren’t loved, are sick and die, for the lepers and the little children, but I can tell you I have never yet in these twenty-five years heard a poor person grumble or curse or feel miserable. (G 56)


Why [are] these people [dying alone and uncared for, dying of leprosy, etc.] and not me?  That person picked up from the drain, why is he here, why not me?  That is the mystery.  Nobody can give that answer.  But it is not for us to decide; only God can decide life and death.  The healthy person may be closer to dying or even more dead than the person who is dying.  They might be spiritually dead, only it doesn’t show.  Who are we to decide? (D 162)


We have a great people among us, only we do not know it.  They are the poorest of the poor—the unwanted, the uncared for, the rejected, the alcoholics, the crippled, the blind, the sick, the dying—people who have nothing and have nobody.  Their very life is a prayer.  They continually intercede for us [for our sins] without knowing it.  That’s why I say that the Home for the Dying (in Calcutta) is a treasure house for the whole archdiocese.  There people intercede for us without knowing it. (W 67)


Death is going home, yet people are afraid of what will come so they do not want to die. ... Death is nothing but a continuation of life, ... the surrendering of the human body.  But the heart and soul live for ever.  They do not die.  Every religion has got eternity—another life; this life is not the end... (D 161)


Death is something beautiful... Naturally, we feel lonely for that person [who passed on].  But it is a very beautiful thing: a person has gone home to God. (ML 89)


Our best helpers are the 40,000 inmates of our homes for the dying who died with God after making an act of perfect love for him, surrendering fully to his holy will.  They now pray for us and for our work.  That is what brings so much grace to our apostolate. (ML 48)


This is the true reason for our existence:  to be the sunshine of God’s Love, to be the hope of eternal happiness.  That’s all. (W 73)



Briege McKenna (contemporary; Catholic Poor Clare charismatic; Ireland-U.S.:)


[In June, 1971, about six months after she had been spiritually healed of arthritis, the following transpired:]  [On] the eve of Pentecost Sunday in our convent in Tampa, I went into the chapel to make a Holy Hour for Pentecost.  So, I sat there in our little oratory, saying “Jesus, here I am.”  I had been in the chapel about five minutes when suddenly this extraordinary stillness descended on the chapel—it was like a cloud, like a fog.  A voice said, “Briege.”  I turned to look toward the door because the voice was so clear it sounded as though someone had come into the chapel.  No one was there, but I was very conscious that someone was present.  The voice said to me as I turned back to the tabernacle, “You have my gift of healing.  Go and use it.”  As soon as I heard this, a burning sensation went through my body.  I remember looking at my hands.  It felt as though I had touched an electrical outlet.  This burning sensation went through my hands and out of them.  And then the stillness lifted.  I found myself kneeling... and saying, “Jesus, I don’t want any gift of healing.  Keep it for yourself.” ... Then I said to him, “Jesus, I’ll make you a promise: I’ll never tell anybody about this.” ... I woke up on Pentecost morning and the voice was booming in my head, “You have my gift of healing: go and use it.”  That day, at a prayer meeting at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa ... I was invited to pray with a child. Years later, I found out that the child had been healed through that prayer.  [Various people with the gifts of the Holy Spirit approached her out of the blue over the next few months telling her that they had had revelations that Briege should take up the healing ministry, and so she finally did.] (5-6) [35]


[Concerned about her “reputation,” and not wanting to expose herself to ridicule for being involved in “faith healing,” Sr. Briege finally realized:] My religious life would never know fully the joy, the peace, the strength, and the courage—all that he [Jesus] wanted to give me—until I abandoned every part of my life and was willing to be a fool for him. (12)


For the first six months after that, I was the skeptic.  People were healed, but I still couldn’t believe that Jesus would work through me.  I thought that I would have to be completely changed and perfect before he would use me.  But the Lord still had more to teach me.  I had to learn about what he considered the most serious sickness of all. ... It is more important to be healed of sin.  That is the greatest sickness of all. (15-6)


The Lord showed me I can ask him for everything.  I also learned that many of our sicknesses can be rooted in the sickness of our soul. (42)


There is need for order and priority in our lives.  What is more important: physical healing of withered legs or spiritual healing?  For us, it is much more important to seek after healing of the soul.  You know, millions of dollars are spent on research to heal the body.  That is good.  The Lord wants us to use resources to find cures.  Yet it seems that we don’t have equal zeal getting rid of sin which causes sickness of the soul.  Many people come to me for physical healing and they have no interest in spiritual healing.  Once a man phoned me and told me he had a very bad leg.  I responded, “I’ll pray with you for spiritual healing and physical healing as well.”  He said, “On, no, that’s all right.  Don’t bother about the spiritual healing.  It’s just my leg that needs healing.”  I said to him, “You’ll not need your leg to get into heaven, but you’ll sure need a healthy soul.” (41)


[After an inspiring talk with Mother Angelica of Alabama:]

That day I made a commitment to spend two or three hours a day in personal prayer. ... If we make that commitment to prayer, he will not be outdone in generosity. ... Then the Lord started to teach me that I didn’t have to answer all the questions [her and other people’s questions regarding healing, etc.].  Not everybody was going to be healed physically, but that wasn’t my business.  My business was not to defend him, but to proclaim him. (20-1)


The Lord has shown me how true are the words the angel spoke to Mary at the annunciation, “Nothing is impossible with God.”  My response, like Mary’s, must be to say yes and to believe God’s words will come to pass. (119)


It is the Lord who does wonders.  I am convinced through his goodness that no one can do more than become a signpost that points to him. (111)


Jesus told the disciples they must take up their crosses and follow him.  That is true for us today.  In our commitment [to our God-inspired vocation], we will encounter sorrows.  We will encounter the cross.  Today, people want to make commitments on their terms.  Because they will not rely on Jesus and trust him, they fail to realize his protection and generosity. In all walks of life, we see this “qualified commitment” or “conditional commitment.”  Neither is really commitment.  It is especially noticeable and tragic in marriage. ... Some people misunderstand the place of the cross in Christian life.  Sometimes they believe Christianity promises escape from discomfort, displeasure, poverty, pain, and frustration.  This kind of spirituality ignores Jesus’ explicit statement that we will be persecuted and his direction that we take up our crosses if we want to follow him. (130-1)


There are times in all of our lives we must be willing to die to even the good desires, for the sake of the Lord’s will, for what is better in his sight. (126)


Jesus, as a human being, was totally committed to and obedient to the Father, he had the Father’s power.  He could heal.  He could bring the dead to life.  He could give sight to the blind and cure lepers and the lame.  Nothing was impossible to Jesus, because through obedience, he was vested with the full power and authority of the Father.  So it is with Christians who obey the Lord.  That is why the Lord can preach, teach, heal, comfort, and admonish through his people... Obedience [to God, to one’s spiritual director] is not something that smothers people.  Obedience frees people. It is not something that weakens people; it empowers them. (134-5)


As Christians we are called to be a sign of the presence of God.  Through faith and obedience, in the Spirit sent by Jesus, we have great power and the call and opportunity to do much good in the world and to bring souls to God. (137)



Bernadette Roberts (1931-2017; Catholic laywoman [ex-nun]; U.S.):


The usual theories, psychological speculations, and methods of studying the self ... begin with the assumption that self is a permanent entity, an indelible fixture of human nature.  My own point of departure was the sudden realization that this was not so. (167) [36]


I came upon a permanent state in which there was not self, not even a higher self, a true self, or anything that could be called a self. (10)


That which remains when there is no self is what Is.  There is no multiplicity of existences; only what Is has existence, an existence that can expand itself into an infinite variety of forms that constitute the movement and manifested aspect of itself. ... That which Is, continually observes the coming and going—the changing and movement—of its own form or acts, without participating in any essential change itself. ... That which acts, that which it acts upon, and the act itself are one without division. ... The unmanifested, the manifesting, and the manifested are One. (83)


[An] initial integration ... constituted the necessary preparation for the journey, and without it, I do not see how the passage [from self to no-self] could be made.  To have no-self, there must first be a self—a whole self. (174)


Ultimately ... self is not the thinker of thoughts; rather, at its most subtle, rock-bottom level, self is nothing more, yet nothing less, than the consciousness of “personal” energy. (172-3)


If someone wanted to go beyond the self, it would be useless to try to alter either the cognitive or affective systems.  As long as the brain persists with its automatic reflexive mechanism, it would only bring about another self no matter how we try to suppress or tamper with these systems. ... Nevertheless, when the time is ripe—a time no man knows of—this mechanism gives out, gives way to a life that is beyond any need of a self.  This does not mean we fall back into an infantile or bestial form of life. ... The disintegration of the self is a forward, not a backward, movement.  Once the mind has been appropriately conditioned to its human potential, it does not forfeit this in order to see “that” which lies beyond it.  (173)


I am convinced that the contemplative life is composed of two distinct and separate movements, well marked and defined by the nature of their experiences alone.  The first movement is toward self’s union with God... the still-point and axis of its being. ... Because the self at its deepest center is a run-on with the divine, I never found any true self apart from God, for to find the One, is to find the other. ... Following this first movement [of union with God] is an interval (twenty years in my case) during which this union is tested by a variety of exterior trials whereby this oneness is revealed in all its enduring depths of stability and toughness against all forces that would move, fragment, or disturb its center... This interval is actually the preparation for a great explosion—a quiet one, however—that ushers in another major turning-point. ... At this point the self has obviously outworn its function; it is no longer needed or useful and life can go on without it.  We are ready to move on, to go beyond the self, beyond even its most intimate union with God, and this is where we enter yet another new life—a life best categorized, perhaps, as a life without a self.  The onset of this second movement is characterized by the falling away of the self and a coming upon of “that” which remains when it is gone. ... The reflexive mechanism of the mind—or whatever it is that allows us to be self-conscious—is cut off or permanently suspended so the mind is ever after held in a fixed now-moment, out of which it cannot move in its uninterrupted gaze upon the Unknown. (10-13)


Of this second movement, wherein the union of two gives way to reveal the clear identity of the One... Here, the “who” of God and self have given place to the “what” of That which remains when they are gone. (198)


This identity can never be communicated because it is the one existent that is Pure Subjectivity, and can never be objectified.  This is the Eye seeing itself, and wherever it looks it sees nothing but itself. (81)


God cannot be seen with the relative mind or with a subject-object type of consciousness. (99)


In retrospect I now realize the full meaning of [the 16th century Spanish Carmelite mystic] John of the Cross’ continual statements to his students: that God can never truly be experienced by the faculties of man.  Therefore, what we experience of God is frankly ourselves—because it’s our only medium of doing so.  The mind, the emotions or feelings, in a word, all our experiences in the interior life are merely our own reactions to “that” which we cannot otherwise know, see, or experience.  How often, then, have we mistaken ourselves for God?  Or possibly, mistaken God for ourselves?  There’s only one way to find out, and that is to have no self at all.  Since the self cannot experience God as he truly Is, then the only way to do so is to be prepared to relinquish every last thing we know of as self. (74-5)


You cannot look at what Is, for it cannot become an object to the mind, nor for that matter, can it be a subject.  What Is is “that” which can never be a subject nor an object.  Thus, the moment you look with your relative (subject-object-oriented) mind, what Is is gone because you have tried to make it an object, and it won’t work.  The relative mind cannot apprehend this reality; only a non-relative mind sees because what Is is equally non-reflective or non-self-conscious.  Since what Is is all that Is, it has nothing to see outside itself nor within itself and thus, has no such thing as a relative, reflective, self-conscious mind.  Nor is it a mind at all, nor consciousness, for no man knows what it is, only that it Is.  Therefore, once we have been rid of a reflective, relative, self-conscious mind, then and only then can we come upon what Is: that which sees and is seen and the act of seeing itself are ONE. (67)


[Regarding the chronology of her breakthrough into no-self:]  Through past experience I had become familiar with many different types and levels of silence. ... On one occasion, however, ... I entered a silence from which I would never totally emerge.  [There followed nine days of silence, frequent absorption in absolutely nothing, and frequent disorientation relative to the material world.]  As the days went by, and I was once more able to function as usual, I noticed something was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Something, or some part of me, had not returned. ... Coming home ... [one] day, ... I turned my gaze inward, and what I saw, stopped me in my tracks.  Instead of the usual unlocalized center of myself, there was nothing there; it was empty; and at the moment of seeing this there was a flood of quiet joy and I knew, finally I knew what was missing—it was my “self.”  Physically, I felt as if a great burden had been lifted from me; I felt so light I looked down at my feet to be sure they were on the ground.  Later I thought of St. Paul’s experience, “Now, not I, but Christ lives in me,” and realized that despite my emptiness, no one else had moved in to take my place; so I decided that Christ WAS the joy, the emptiness itself; He was all that was left of this human experience. ... For me, this experience was the height of my contemplative vocation.  It was the ending of a question that had plagued me for years: where do “I” leave off and God begin? ... Now my quandary was over.  There was no “mine” anymore, there was only His.  I could have lived in this joyous state the rest of my life, but such was not in the Great Plan.  It was just a matter of days, a week perhaps, when my entire spiritual life ... suddenly exploded into a million irretrievable pieces and there was nothing, absolutely nothing left. (19-23)


When the joy of my own emptiness began to wane, I decided to rejuvenate it by spending some solitary time gazing into my empty self.  Though the center of self was gone, I was sure the remaining emptiness, the silence and joy, was God Himself.  Thus, on one occasion, with full hedonistic deliberation, I settled myself down and turned my gaze inward.  Almost immediately the empty space began to expand, and expanded so rapidly it seemed to explode; then, in the pit of my stomach I had the feeling of falling a hundred floors in a non-stop elevator... The moment of landing I know:  When there is no personal self, there is also no personal God.  I saw clearly how the two go together—and where they went, I have never found out. ... Around me there was only stillness, and in this complete stillness I waited and waited for some kind of reaction to set in, or something to happen next, but nothing ever did.  In me there was no sense of life, no movement and no feeling; finally I realized I no longer had a “within” at all. ... There was no more gazing within; from now on my eyes could only look outward. (24-5)


[One day] nature finally yielded its secret to me in a simple, still moment in which I saw how it all worked.  God or life was not in anything.  It was just the reverse; everything was in God.  And we were not in God like drops of water that could be separated from the sea, but more like... well, the only thing I could think of was the notion of trying to pinch out a spot on an inflated balloon... it can’t be done.  You can’t separate anything from God, for as soon as you let go of the notion of separateness, everything falls back into the wholeness of God and life. (27-8)


One thing is for sure: as long as we are caught up in words, definitions, and all that the mind wants to cling to, we can never see how it works. (28)


Among the many notions that had to be abandoned was my notion of abandonment itself.  It was not I, who had abandoned the self to God, rather it was God who had abandoned the self completely; and that once beyond the self, everything goes, even “that” which I had expected would remain. (29-30)


[One day while she was in one of her annual long retreats at the New Camoldoli Immaculate Heart Hermitage in Big Sur, California, watching a seagull flying:]  It was as if I was watching myself flying, for there was not the usual division between us. Yet, something more was there than just a lack of separateness, “something” truly beautiful and unknowable.  Finally I turned my eyes to the pine-covered hills behind the monastery and still, there was no division, only something “there” that was flowing with and through every vista and particular object of vision.  To see the Oneness of everything ... I thought to myself: for sure this is what they mean when they say “God IS everywhere.”  ... What I had taken as a trick of the mind was to become a permanent way of seeing and knowing... The obliteration of separateness is meaningless in itself.  What is important about this way of seeing is THAT into which all separateness dissolves. (30)


After discovering God was everywhere—or His Oneness, as I called it—I was compensated a thousandfold for the bewildering loss of a personal God within.  It seems I had first to move through the personal and then through the impersonal before I realized God was closer than either, and beyond them both.  The notions and the experiences of God as being personally within or impersonally without, are purely relative experiences, pertaining to the self and its particular type of consciousness.  God, however, is beyond the relativity of our minds and experiences; indeed, he is so close he can never be localized.  But to realize this closeness—to see it—is to discover that God is everywhere, and at the same time, to see how he is all that exists—because wherever we look there is nothing else to see.  In truth then, God is neither personal nor impersonal, neither within nor without, but is everywhere in general and nowhere in particular.  Simply put: God is all that Is—all, of course, but the self. (30-1)


[After some profound experiences of realizing the fundamental “nothingness” of things and events, especially the “Passageway” event on the hillside next to the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur,] I eventually came to look upon the body—as well as all visible form—as somewhat ethereal or illusive in nature; and because form itself is composed of an unknowable, untouchable substance that remains permanent throughout all change, it seemed to me it was this substance that remained in the absence of self. At any rate, the whole empirical argument of self-existence melted away once and for all ... and to this day remains irretrievable. (52)


Living in the now-moment there is no question of how we feel or should feel; there is no conflict, struggle, or practice of anything because this moment allows for no movements backward or forward... Somehow each moment contains within itself the appropriate action for each tiny event in life without the need for thought or feeling. (185)


One of the first lessons learned on this journey is that the passing of each experience leaves nothing in its wake, hardly a footprint and certainly not a vivid memory.  In a word, one learns to live without a past. (15)


You discover the highest wisdom is that you know nothing. (108-9)


Here ... there only remains the intensity of act, the act of sheer living, the living of a nature so intelligent as to be incomprehensible and inaccessible to the conscious mind. (106)


When there is no longer any separation between act and being, then there is doing. (105)


When the mind lives solely in the now-moment—which is akin to a state of unknowing—it becomes incapable of disorder and confusion, for the now-moment deals only with the real, the actual, and the practical.  In contrast, it is the continuous, unsettled movements of the mind in a state of knowing that are solely capable of giving rise to indecision, confusion, unreality, and so on. (102)


A silent mind is not a blank mind, rather it is a mind in which the [egocentric] reflex arc—or whatever it is that allows the self to become an object—has been broken in two, so that thinking goes right on, but now by-passes the synaptic self that continually colors incoming data before sending it out again.  When this break occurs, it naturally eliminates a great deal of thought and thinking, but only that which was constricting and irrelevant in the first place.  ... The thoughts that now come to mind do not arise from within, but originate “off the top,” so to speak, and then, only when dealing with the obvious data at hand at any given time. ... In this way the mind is always clear, but not clear of thought per se, only clear of thought that had been clouded and infected by the waters of self. (89-90)


One way to look at this journey is to see it as a process of acclimation to an unself-conscious mind, or as a transition from a relative to a non-relative way of knowing. (87)


It is only when we realize our oneness with the true Other that we come upon a unity and wholeness that can withstand the test of all encounters with other selves.  In athis way, no matter what happens in our relations with the outside world, we are not fragmented, we do not fall apart, become lost, dependent, or see problems where there are none.  It is only after we come upon the Other—the stillpoint at the center of our being—that we find the key to a powerful sense of security and independence that then allows us to go out to others, to be generous, to give them their freedom, to be open-minded and understanding.  If for some reason we do not find this inner resource, we have no choice but to grasp at what is without, and it is this premature movement outward instead of inward that gives rise to all problems in relationships.  The real problem in life is not between people, but between the individual and his true Other. (188)


Since what we see and love in others is only what we see and love in ourselves, it follows that having found God within, we can now love others as we love ourselves—love in them the same Other [“That”] we have found in ourselves.  And since love of God is beyond the affective [emotional] system ... so too is our love for others. ... Basically then, love for others is a strong will not to hurt them, as well as desiring for them the same good we desire for ourselves. ... Such a non-emotional basis of love will not be understood by everyone, yet it is easy to see how problems arise in relationships when love is based on our emotions.  Once seen, God is that quality in another that forever remains indefinable, untouchable, can never be possessed, or even adequately communicated. (189)


We cling to the affective system out of fear of what life would be like without it.  We’re afraid that without feelings we will be inhuman, cold, insensitive, robot-like creatures, so detached from this world that we might as well be dead.  Needless to say, there is no truth in this view at all; it is just another myth created out of fear of the unknown—where all myths come from.  Nevertheless, to explain what life is like without this [emotional] system is not easy because it must be lived to be understood... All that need be said here is that it is a dynamic, intense state of caring; caring for whatever arises in the now-moment. (179)


[Regarding how Bernadette perceives or apperceives “other” human beings:]

Instead of a self I see ideas, behaviors, decisions, struggles, and much more, but I do not see a self because it has paled, effaced by what is really there. Once again, we can only see in others what we see in ourselves; so when there is no self within, there is no self without—which is why there are no others and no relationships on a non-relative plane.  Empirically it may be true that no man is an island, but beyond this level, multiplicity fades away leaving only the One.  On the empirical level of differences, relations continue to exist, but exist without problems because even here, we are aware of an intrinsic bond between all that exists; so, although it is veiled, the non-relative Oneness exists on every level we know of.  My eldest son objects to the notion that beneath the facade of individual differences we are all the same.  His idea is that each individual is eternally unique despite his oneness with God.  I can understand this repugnance to the notion of sameness; it somehow gives the idea that God is boring, static, without variety, and that our individual differences don’t count for a thing.  But when saying that beyond the limitations of empirical form all things are essentially the same, I refer only to the fact that God is all that exists; I do not refer to what God is, what he does, or how he works.  To realize that all form is made of the same clay does not subtract from the variety of form or its individual nature and behavior; on the contrary, the sameness and difference, the one and the many is, itself, the uniqueness and very essence of God and all that exists.  This alone tells us that the self cannot possibly account for our individuality.  We have only to look at nature to see that the trees, the clouds, and animals do not have a self and yet are the very essence of variety and differentiation.  Self does not constitute true individuality because the essential uniqueness remains when the self is gone. (190)


The purpose of having a self is to eventually go beyond it. (174)


To be human, man must have a self because it is part of the subject-object type of consciousness necessary for survival.  It is a protective mechanism against physical death and a state of unknowing.  And for a time, at least, this is the way it was meant to be.  We did not fashion our own humanity any more than we fashioned air and water.  We are not of our own doing.  We did not give ourselves this consciousness nor fashion for ourselves an affective system [of feelings] or a self.  All considered, human responsibility for what we really are, is so small and the choices so limited, it amounts to little more than the effort to avoid colliding with other objects. ... All is being moved by an unknowable intelligence, moved in one sure direction, and changing as it goes, wherein the goal is nothing more than the movement itself.  Thus, we move in and out of a variety of existences, different ways of knowing and being, always changing, always moving, and this movement is our delight, our revelation, and our very life. ... As each step unfolds, we let go of the present and move into the new without clinging to what is passing. ... At one point in this journey, self comes forth, contributes what it can give, then fades forever beyond reach.  Self, then, is part of this movement, a part through which all men must pass, and the only aspect of the movement for which man alone is responsible.  But just as everything must change, the self too eventually disintegrates and dissolves into nothingness.  The only thing we know that never changes or passes away is the movement Itself.  As I see it, a contemplative is one who is aware of this movement, striving at first to go with it, but later, discovering he is being moved without effort.  He abandons himself to become part of it—one with it—until finally, he realizes he has never been anything other than this movement Itself. (190-2)


I am convinced we continually see this Reality all our lives but do not recognize it because it is so usual, common and ordinary that we go off in search of more tantalizing experiences—experiences more gratifying to the self.  Thus, when we can look in the mirror and not experience the great disappointment, but can say instead, “everything is as usual and nothing has changed” then, perhaps, we shall know the intense triumph of being common. (104)


The ultimate reality is not a passing moment of bliss, not a fleeting vision or transfiguration, not some ineffable, extraordinary experience or phenomenon but instead, is as close as our eyes, as simple as a smile, and as clear as the identity of “that” which remains when there is no self...The expectation of the grand finale being one of love and bliss is a failure to realize that such responses are the responses of a self to an object—the experiences of a self—while what Is does not respond to itself as an object or in similar fashion. (103)


It is well to remember that because the natural and the supernatural are equally of God’s own time and making, they are on the same continuum so that, ultimately, no true separation is possible. (196)


[In Christian theology] to speak of an “accidental” oneness with God (union) is orthodox; but to speak of an “essential” oneness with God (identity) is considered unorthodox.  And the problem is not merely one of description.  Rather, it is primarily one of experience, for these are two different experiences: union before the breakthrough [into selflessness]; identity, after the breakthrough.  But this latter experience is not recognized because it does not harmonize with the theological insistence on an essential separation between Creator and creature. ... Union [with God] depends on separateness ... but beyond the self this separateness no longer exists... (200-1)


There does indeed exist a theologically defined oneness or union with God; and at the same time, there is also an undefinable mystical oneness or identity for which theology has no words.  The difference depends on which side of the breakthrough we stand: whether the self remains, or whether it is dead and buried in the Godhead—as [Meister] Eckhart puts it. ... The only mystic I could find who speaks of this step beyond union, beyond self and God, is Meister Eckhart.  This is his “breakthrough,” his “bursting forth” into the Godhead, his “crashing through to that which is beyond the idea of God and truth, until it (the soul) reaches the in principio, the beginning of beginnings, the origin or source of all goodness and truth.” As I read [Meister] Eckhart, I read of one who has made the journey and crossed over. ... [I] find in Eckhart this lost dimension beyond union and self. ... The areas where theology is wont to are interpret and correct Eckhart, are the very areas of this lost dimension; and it is precisely because he is outspoken here, where theology becomes most sensitive, that Eckhart is unique and unlike any other Christian mystic.  Thus, where some are wont to draw the line on Eckhart—or to keep him in line—that is the point where he breaks through.  To keep him in line means to lose this dimension, to rob him of his uniqueness, and to cut short the contemplative experience for those who would follow. ... Having made this journey I now see, and see clearly, that a dimension unmistakably exists beyond anything that could be described as the self’s union with God—be it called Spiritual Marriage, transforming union, or whatever ... For the contemplative to regard such a union as the final or ultimate consummation of his spiritual life is a grave mistake.  He is setting his sight at a midway point which, I now see, is too low, to close-in, and too narrow.  At this point he may even be so centered in God that he is still subject to the illusion of personal deification, wherein his only feat is to unwittingly shortchange God. Whenever possible, it is best to get beyond such a point, even when letting go means surrendering this union with all its experiences and ensuing qualities of strength, love, certitude, [joy, fervor, etc.] and personal energies; for as long as there is any feeling, knowledge, or inkling that a self remains, he has not gone far enough.  Of our own accord, we cannot cross the line into the unknown.  Only God knows if we are ready for such a step; only he can take us across and see us through.  Nevertheless, it is vitally important to realize that such a step exists, that others have taken it, and to be prepared so there will be no illusions about what lies beyond the self. (198-203)


To me, the contemplative’s sole function in society is to shed light on this dimension beyond the self, and to tell us about the crossing over, which is a journey few can talk about, but a journey which many are destined to make. (198)


I now see a possible line of travel that may be of use before crossing the stream [into no-self].  It would be to start with the Christian experience of self’s union with God, whereby we lose the fear of ever becoming lost—since we can only get lost in God.  This is done with the help of Christ, the ever-present guru or master... But when the self disappears forever into this Great Silence, we come upon the Buddhist discovery of no-self, and learn how to live without anything we could possibly call a self, and without a frame of reference, as we come upon the essential oneness of all that is.  Then, finally, we come upon the peak of Hindu discovery, namely: “that” which remains when there is no self is identical with “that” which Is, the one Existent that is all that Is.  I am not a scholar of religion East or West, and though I know each religion feels it can ford the stream alone, I would think it far superior to ford it together, because it is a difficult stream to cross no matter how well the life-preservers are constructed.  Theoretically, such an eclectic approach may be impossible, but after taking this journey, I am convinced that on an experiential level this is the way it goes—this is the way the stream flows. (109-110).


A friend asked me, “Now really, would you honestly recommend this journey to others?”  I had to laugh... As it stands, of course, the choice to make this passage or not to make it, is not ours.  When it is time for departure—a time no man knows—this ship of life moves into new waters, and without a self, we have no say and no control. ... For now, I will only say: yes, I would recommend this journey; not mine, of course, but any man’s journey that would allow him to see “that” which lies beyond everything we can call a “self.” (112-3)


***  Women of the Eastern Orthodox Christian traditions  ***


Methodia of Kimolos (1865-1908; Greek Orthodox nun; Greece):

[From a letter to her sister:] [37]  We carnal humans do not turn our minds to death, and recall that God tells us: Prepare yourselves, for you do not know the hour and the moment [of your death].


This world is like a dream. 


It is best to have steadfastness, patience, love and humility.  Without humility no man is saved, no matter how many good deeds he performs.  Humility leads one to salvation.


My prayers brought to me the Lord Himself, and from that time I confined myself, for this world is like a furious sea.  Glory be to His grace, that He listened to my prayer, though I am a sinner. ... [Now] I no longer own my self, to do what I wish, but have surrendered it to His grace.  ...


Almighty God ... illumined me, a sinner, and did not turn away from me in aversion. ... Now, when His grace has illumined me, I hate the corruptible things of this world and its pleasures, and follow my Creator, for I was like the prodigal son.  Have you seen, Anna, what God says in the holy Book of the Gospels?  He says that whoever follows Him will not be allowed by Him ever to become unhappy, but will receive His grace abundantly. 


The All-Holy Virgin dispenses everything; for this reason I have given my self to her, that her grace direct it, not I.




Abbess Thaisia (1840-1915; Russian Orthodox; Russia):


[Counsel given to a new sister:]  Begin with love... Love is higher than all external podvigs [ascetic exploits]... Guard yourself against judging, serve all, consider yourself worse than all, preserve love for all in your heart and express it towards all. (311-2) [38]


It is truly a great deed: the tonsuring into the holy angelic order [of monasticism].  It is a great and mysterious power that is embodied in this sacred act, an act which is directed to the angelic order so that the man will become an angel in the image of his inward life; for angels are bodiless, and the material order cannot become like them. (312)


O faith, untainted and immortal,

Thou art a stream miraculous;

To heaven’s home thou art the portal,

The dawn of future life for us...(316)


Beside a river, in a spell / Of utter silence, there am I.

Alone I sit within a cell; / The midnight hours are passing by. ...

I gaze into the distance, staying / Focused on night’s formlessness;

The heart is begging to be praying— / In holy calm, how effortless!

All problems seem so far from me; / The world seems foreign and unreal.

Up in the heavens, God I see; / Within my heart, deep peace I feel. (319)


We have our wondrous moments, bringing / The holy solace that we seek;

Like heavenly lyres, resounding, ringing, / They sweetly to the spirit speak.

Our hearts are filled to saturation / With streams of otherworldly wine.

Our spirits broken in oblation, / Our souls, at awe, for Heaven pine.

Then soundless is all earthly sadness; / Sweet slumber comes.  Noetically

The soul sees God in silent gladness / And hearkens to eternity... (321)


Upon my graveyard plot / A small lampada glows,

And to a forlorn thought / The soul speaks what it knows:

“This is where you’ll sleep, / Forever your abode;

Sweet repose you’ll reap / From struggling with your load!

And through this prison cell / The sun will rise for you;

In the Upper Room you’ll dwell, / And light will fill your view.

And so endure, my dear— / Your cross you must put on;

For golden rays appear / From heaven’s gleaming dawn!” (325)




Nun Brigid (contemporary; Russian Orthodox; U.S.):


In Heaven, we are told, there will be neither male nor female.  The Holy Fathers also tell us that souls are neither male nor female; the souls of men and women are the same, with the same spiritual capacities and capabilities and needs. ... [So we ask,] “Why are some men and others women?” ... One can be sure that the state in which one finds himself [herself] in this world is not without the Providence of God, Who [in the person of Jesus] died for both women and men, desiring in His great love that all may be saved.  Our temporal life here is a time of trial and testing, to see whether or not our love for God is true. ... God calls each to salvation in different ways, through those differing circumstances in which God has placed one.  All are equal before God, Who is no respecter of persons, yet each has his own calling, his own special path to salvation, guided by God’s Providence.    

      What about women, then?  What is the special path given them by God? ... Women are to keep themselves aloof from worldly affairs. ... [Woman] is to be a living witness and reminder of the fact that our true life is not on this earth, but in Heaven.  She is to be in this world the special bearer and transmitter of the spirit of the next life, of “otherworldliness.” ... This calling finds particular expression in the rearing of children. ... To her lies the responsibility, in the child’s most impressionable and formative stage, to breathe into the new soul the breath of the next world, to fan the spark of the Spirit of God into flame...

     This calling to a spirit of otherworldliness finds its fullest and most perfect expression, of course, in monasticism. ... The monastic state, like that of marriage, is blessed by God through one of the Church’s rites, called a tonsuring. ... In a mysterious and mystical way the monastic becomes a bride of Christ—Otherworldliness Himself—and so [if the woman is a virgin] renounces any thought of an earthly marriage and childbearing...

     Monasticism could probably best be characterised by its call to silence... 

     The work of silence is the work of prayer.  The great Saint and worker of silence, St. Isaac of Syria, explains that silence “will make thee illuminated in God like the sun... Silence will ... unite thee with God...”

     This work of silence is a vast science, about which the Holy Fathers have written numerous volumes.  Its technical name is “hesychasm,” and its practicers are called “hesychasts.”  This impulse to be as free of the world as possible, so as to be free to devote oneself entirely to the love of God—to live for nothing but God alone—is absolutely fundamental to Orthodox monasticism.  It is the basis upon which all else is to be built. Outward missionary activity, hospitals, orphanages, and other such activities, where they appear at all, are secondary, and not, strictly speaking, any part of the monastic calling.  The same may also be said of the priesthood, which, because it is a public office and so bound up to a certain degree with the world, many monks have gone to great lengths to avoid, as being contrary to their calling. (WG) [39]


In traditional Christianity, the monastic life is seen as a “standard” or “norm” of the evangelical life, since it strives to fulfill not only those commandments of Christ that are common to all Christians, but also the various “counsels” He gave to those who are willing to accept them.  These counsels include the renunciation of earthly possessions: “If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” (Mt. 19:21); the renunciation of marriage and family life: “For there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Let him accept it who can” (Mt. 19:12).  “Everyone who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting” (Mt. 19:29); and the renunciation of all the business of the world (as far as possible) that might distract or hinder one from the search for that “one thing needful,” the salvation of one’s soul. ... Similar ideas can be found in many different places throughout the Gospels. (GC)


     The materialistic mind of our society has difficulty with this simple, yet profound Gospel call to reject the ways of the world—a call that takes its most perfect and radical form in monasticism [eremitic or cenobitic]. Faith in the reality of God, and the future Kingdom, and the fallenness of our world has been replaced with faith in “progress” and man’s “perfectability” through proper education, science, and appropriate social measures.  A real, living faith that is willing to sacrifice worldly security and comfort is rare in our wealthy country [the U.S.], even among Christians.  Though our society does not openly condemn Christianity, its materialism and wealth have killed faith more effectively than the direct persecution of Christianity by Communism.  Whereas monasticism in America is poor both in numbers and quality, it is thriving in Eastern Europe.

     One current thrust against traditional monasticism argues that monastics should return to the cities, because the cities are the “deserts” of the modern age.  Yet cities are still what they have always been—centers of commerce and culture, and learning and vice, full of magnificent buildings and other structures, the showcases of the best and worst men can produce.  Monastics seek to put behind them what is temporal and belongs to fallen man and have therefore always sought out the wildernesses of the world.  The wilderness is God’s own creation, where one can contemplate Him through His handiwork.  The confusion of what is man’s and what is God’s is a chief characteristic of modern secular thought.  ...

     [True] Christianity does not seek to create a future earthly Utopia; it strives to save souls now, by preparing them to live in the heavenly kingdom.  A rebellious non-acceptance, on the personal level, of the circumstances of our fallen world makes a Christian life nearly impossible. ... Of course, it is also our duty to replace outward evil with outward good where we can, so that those who are weak may not despair—but with the idea of saving souls, not of creating a worldly Utopia. (GC)


     The monastic’s renunciation of the world takes place on two levels... The first level of renunciation, when a man “crucifies the world to himself” [leaving behind possessions, relationships, etc.], is by far the easiest. ... Having crucified the world to himself, a man begins to realize that the world is still within him, in the form of passions.  Then he must try to “crucify himself to the world,” a far more difficult struggle. ...

     The essence of monastic life lies in cleansing the heart of the passions that separate man from God, and making it receptive to His grace, to the advent of His coming. (GC)



Mother Maria Skobtsova (1891-1945; Russian Orthodox nun; Russia-France):

[In her early days, when she was acting mayor of a small Russian town, she wrote:]

I bustle around for days on end, as if life ought to pass that way. ... Yet it is all more ephemeral than the most forgotten dream. ... I am in an endless flurry.  The stupid thing is that all this nonsense is described by the verb “to live.”  Whereas life proceeds on an altogether different plane and has no need for all this fuss.  In it everything is quiet and solemn. (88-9) [40]


[At the death of her infant daughter:]  Now I am aghast at my own insignificance... At Nastia’s side I feel that my soul has meandered down back alleys all my life.  And now I want an authentic and a purified road ... in order to justify, understand and accept death....

     People call this a visitation of the Lord.  A visitation which brings what?  Grief?  No, more than grief: for he suddenly reveals the true nature of things.  And on the one hand we perceive the dead remains of one who was alive..., the mortality of all creation, while on the other hand we simultaneously perceive the life-giving, fiery, all-penetrating and all-consuming Comforter, the Spirit. ...     Eventually, they say, time heals—would it not be more accurate to say “deadens”?—all.  Normality is gradually restored.  The soul reverts to its blindness.  The gates to eternity are closed once more...

     [Nevertheless] a person may maintain himself on the plane of eternity by acceptance of the new order [revealed].  There is no binding necessity to relapse into everyday life, into the untroubled management of everyday affairs.  ...

     I am convinced that anyone who has shared this experience of eternity, if only once; who has understood which way he is going, if only once; who has perceived the One who precedes him, if only once; such a person will find it hard to deviate from this path, to him all comforts will appear ephemeral, all treasures valueless, all companions superfluous if in their midst he fails to see the one Companion, bearing his cross. (4-6)


[A few years later, the remains of Nastia were transferred to another cemetery; Mrs. Skobtsova had a new insight during this time:]  I became aware of a new and special, broad and all-embracing motherhood.  I returned from that cemetery a different person.  I saw a new road before me and a new meaning in life... [to be] a mother for all, for all who need maternal care, assistance, or protection. ...


     You led me up to them [the needy] and said:

     Adopt these, each with his concern.

     Let them become your life blood,

     bone of your bones, flesh of your flesh.

     When I adopted them, I took upon myself

     their aimlessness and pride,

     their endless scuffs and bruises,

     their stubborn childish whims.

     Lord, let them no longer blunder

     along these paths where death prevails.

     I speak for them as mother (by your will)

     and their temptations I shoulder as my own. (16)



[After a visit to some of the “bourgeois” women’s monasteries of Latvia and Estonia, she perceived that the traditional monastic life was not for her:]

     The desire to create a family is more than an urge to satisfy physical instincts, more than an earthly yearning for love or even for parenthood. A family is also based on another instinct, one which is extremely potent in the human psyche: the urge to build a nest, to organize and shape a private life which can be shut off from the outside world behind walls and locked in by strong bolts. ...

     Those [monastics] who in all sincerity take the vow of chastity reject one element that would normally impel them towards the establishment of a family: they accept everything else that is basic to the establishment of family life.  They want an organized and separate life, a household in common, high walls through which the filth and misery of the world will not penetrate.  They establish a kind of spiritual family and shield it from any interference as something sacred. ...

     Hard as it is to protest against the magnificent and beautiful principle of a loving monastic family, separated from the world, ... yet the protest must be made.  An inner voice insists that covetousness be rejected in this sphere as in any other. ...

     Open your gate to homeless thieves, let the outside world sweep in to demolish your magnificent liturgical system, abase yourself, empty yourself, make yourself of no account.  However much [you do so], can your self-abasement and degradation ever compare to Christ’s?  Accept the vow of poverty in all its devastating severity: destroy all comfort, even monastic comfort...

     Seek no rule, but rather anarchy, the anarchic life of Fools for Christ’s sake, seeking no monastic enclosure, but the complete absence of even the subtlest barrier which might separate the heart from the world and its wounds. ...

     The more we go out into the world, the more we give ourselves to the world, the less we are of the world.  For the worldly do not give the world an offering of themselves. (25-7)  [Of course, there is a different kind of monasticism than the kind about which Mother Maria is writing here, as lived and described by various saintly Russian Orthodox monastics.]


We are required to be worthy of our freedom, which means that we have to impregnate it with the maximum creative energy, to fire it with the most genuine spiritual zeal, and to transform it into action, into the ceaseless work of love. (43-4)


Unless we engage in intense spiritual endeavours, traverse untrodden paths and sternly dismiss spiritually facile or practically tempting ways, we shall not be able to achieve anything at all. (50)


Everyone is always faced ... with the necessity of choosing between the comfort and warmth of an earthly home, well protected from winds and storms, and the limitless expanse of eternity, which contains only one sure and certain item.  And this one sure and certain item is a cross. (24)


Although we are called to spiritual poverty, to folly for Christ’s sake, to persecution and vilification, we know this to be the only vocation given by Christ, who made himself of no account and is himself persecuted, vilified and impoverished. (46-7)


     We must be honest and severe to the end.  We must liberate the real and authentic even from layers to which we are most accustomed and which we hold most dear.  ... We must scrupulously distinguish Orthodoxy from all its decor and its costumes.  In some sense we are called to early Christianity. ...

     We must not allow Christ to be overshadowed by any regulations, any customs, any traditions, any aesthetic considerations, or even any piety. Ultimately Christ gave us two commandments: on love for God and love for people. ... Christ ... is not testing us [the Russian emigrés] at present by our deprivations, by our exile, or by the loss of our accustomed framework.  He is testing us—when we find ourselves deprived of our previous living conditions and our way of life, when we are granted our awe-inspiring freedom—to see whether we can find him there, where earlier we had never thought to seek him. (72-3)


     We need to understand the meaning of mobilization.  If a soldier on being mobilized must leave his well-loved family, his normal work, even his vocation ..., if all is taken from the mobilized soldier and all demanded, then our mobilization as Christians must involve personal demands which are in no way milder.  At this present moment Christ and the life-giving Spirit make demands on the whole person in all his totality. ... To my way of thinking, the fate of mankind depends on whether such volunteers will come forward, and if they do, on the degree of their self-sacrifice and dedication. ...

     Whether it will prove possible to realize our hopes we do not know. Essentially, this depends on God’s will.  But apart from God’s will, support and grace, demands are also made on each of us: to exert all our strength, to be fearless in the face of even the most daunting task, to generate the spirit of discipline, self-limitation, sacrifice and love, to lay down our lives for our friends, and to follow in Christ’s footsteps to the Golgotha appointed for us. (74)


It is particularly difficult to realize that each person is only potentially a messenger of God, whereas to realize this potential, it is necessary to proceed via the most prosaic and determined work. (88)


There can be no question but that a Christian is called to social work. ... He is called to organize the personal life of working people, to provide for the aged, to build hospitals, to care for children, to combat exploitation, injustice, need and lawlessness... The ascetical rules are simple in this respect, they make no allowance ... for flights of mysticism, they often limit themselves merely to everyday tasks and responsibilities. (89)


[Commenting about her first home for the needy, which she initially leased without the least amount of secure financial backing:]

     We need to walk on the waters.  The apostle Peter did so, after all, and he didn’t drown.  Of course it is safer to go round by land, but you may never reach your destination. ...

     There are two ways to live.  Completely legitimately and respectably it is possible to walk on dry land: to measure, to weigh and to plan ahead.  But it is also possible to walk on the waters.  Then it becomes impossible to measure or to plan ahead, the one thing necessary is to believe all the time.  An instant of doubt, and you begin to sink. (31)


The only ones to make no mistakes are those who do nothing. (54)


[Yet,] I believe we shall succeed, since an enterprise founded on authentic Christian love cannot but succeed. (55)


The way to God lies through love of people, and there is no other way. (29)


At the Last Judgement I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, how many bows and prostrations I made [in the course of prayer].  I shall be asked, Did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners.  That is all I shall be asked.  About every poor, hungry, and imprisoned person the Saviour says “I”: “I was hungry and thirst, I was sick and in prison.”  To think that he puts an equal sign between himself and anyone in need.... I always knew it, but now it has somehow penetrated to my sinews.  It fills me with awe. (29-30)


It is not enough to give, we must have a heart that gives. ... For if we give out of duty, if we are charitable only in our actions, the recipient receives humiliation and sorrow and pain together with our gift. (54)


No amount of thought will ever result in any greater formulation than the three words, “Love one another,” so long as it is [love] to the end and without exceptions.  And then the whole of life is illumined, which is otherwise an abomination and a burden. (4)


If someone turns with his spiritual world to the spiritual world of another person, he encounters an awesome and inspiring mystery ... He comes into contact with the true image of God in man, with the very icon of God incar-nate in the world, with a reflection of the mystery of God’s incarnation and divine manhood.  And he needs to accept this awesome revelation of God unconditionally, to venerate the image of God in his brother.  Only when he senses, perceives and understands it will yet another mystery be revealed to him—one that will demand his most dedicated efforts ... He will perceive that this divine image is veiled, distorted and disfigured by the power of evil... And he will want to engage in battle with the devil for the sake of the divine image. (13)


Man ought to treat the body of his fellow human being with more care than he treats his own.  Christian love teaches us to give our fellows material as well as spiritual gifts.  We should give them our last shirt and our last piece of bread.  Personal almsgiving and the most wide-ranging social work are both equally justified and needed. (14)


The world thinks, if I gave my love, then I am less well off in respect of such and such a quantity of love, while if I were to give the whole of my soul, then I would be left utterly bankrupt and there would be no point in trying to save anyone at all.  But the laws of spiritual life in this area are diametrically opposed to material laws.  In accordance with these, whatever of one’s spiritual wealth is given away not only reverts to the donor like the rouble which can’t be changed [“However much you try to spend it you always receive a rouble’s worth change in return”], but is increased and consolidated.  Whoever gives, receives; whoever impoverishes himself, gains in wealth. (39)


[She spoke in 1937 of “the joys of self-surrender”:]

Not only do we know the beatitudes, but at this hour, this very minute, surrounded though we are by a dismal and despairing world, we already savour the blessedness they promise whenever—with God’s help and by God’s will—we deny ourselves, when we muster the strength to lay down our lives for our neighbours, when we seek nothing for ourselves in love. (40)


[During the time of the Nazi occupation of France:]

I am not afraid to suffer... and I love death. (98)


We believe.  And in accordance with the strength of our belief we sense that death ceases to be death, that it becomes birth into eternity, and that our earthly torments are transformed into birth pangs.  There are times when we become so aware of the approach of the hour for this grace-endowed birth that we are prepared to say even to our torments, “Grow stronger, pulverize me, be unbearable, merciless and swift, because my spiritual body wishes to arise, because I wish to be born into eternity, because I already feel constricted in this sub-heavenly womb, because I want to go home to my Father and I am prepared to give up everything and to pay with any torments whatsoever for admission to my paternal and eternal home. (134-5)


     I know ... with all my being, with all my faith... that at this very moment [of Nazi terrors] God is visiting his world.  And the world can accept this visitation, it can open its heart... and then our temporal, fallen life will be immediately assimilated to the depths of eternity, then our human cross will take on the features of the cross which is both human and divine, and in the very midst of our mortal sorrow... then will mankind enter into the paschal [Easter] joy of the resurrection.

     Alternatively: perhaps things will be no worse than before, only the same.  Yet once again, and not for the first time, men will have fallen and failed to accept or discover any way towards transfiguration. ...

     Lifeless mankind may continue to be gladdened by minor achievements and disappointed by minor failures.  It may reject its vocation.  Scrupulously and conscientiously it may drag the lid of its coffin up over its own head. (102)


[In the Nazi camps, Mother Maria wrote:]

I often suspect that hell is here on earth. ... Beyond the confines of this life there is no such thing.  Eternal evil cannot exist. (132-3)


[Commenting to her camp inmates about the everpresent flaming smoke from the Nazi-camp crematoria:]  It is only here, immediately above the chimneys, that the billows of smoke are oppressive... But when they rise higher they turn into light clouds before being dispersed altogether in limitless space.  In the same way our souls, once they have torn themselves away from this sinful earth, move by means of an effortless unearthly flight into eternity, where there is life full of joy. (134)


[A message from Mother Maria relayed to her relatives and friends:]

My state at present is such that I completely accept suffering in the knowledge that this is how things ought to be for me, and if I am to die I see in this a blessing from on high. (135)


[Mother Maria would voluntarily take her place among some prisoners ordered to death, the day before all French prisoners were liberated.]