In order, then, to obey this sweet law of the doves, we must, like them, allow ourselves to be deprived by our Sovereign Master of our little doves—that is to say, of the means of fulfilling our desires—whenever it pleases Him to take them away, however good they may be, without lamenting or ever complaining of Him as if He were doing us a wrong.
We ought rather to apply ourselves to redouble, not indeed our desires or our exercises, but the perfection with which we make them, trying by this means to gain more by one single act, as undoubtedly we shall, than we should by a hundred others made according to our own fancy and inclination.
Our Lord does not wish us to carry His Cross except by one end; He desires to be honoured as are great ladies, who will have the train of their dress carried for them; but He would have us carry the cross which He lays upon our shoulders, and which is our very own.
Alas! we do nothing of the kind; for when His Goodness deprives us of the consolation which He has been accustomed to give us in our exercises, it seems to us that all is lost, and that He has taken from us the means of carrying out what we had undertaken to do.
Look, I pray you, at this soul; see how well she hatches her eggs in the time of consolation, and leaves all care of herself to her dearest partner.
If she is praying or meditating, what holy desires she entertains in order to please Him! She is full of emotion in His presence; she is wholly absorbed in her Beloved; she leaves herself absolutely in the arms of His divine Providence.
And the eggs are so excellent, and all goes so well, and the little doves which are the effects of her love never fail, for what does she not do? Her works of charity are so numerous! Her modesty shines forth before all the sisters; she edifies each one of them by her conduct; she is the admiration of all who see and know her.
“Mortifications,” she says, “cost me nothing then; they were actually consolations to me; obedience was a joy. I no sooner heard the first sound of the bell than I was up; I did not neglect a single opportunity of practising virtue, and I did all this with the greatest peace and calmness.
“Now all is changed; full of disgust with myself, and almost always dry and cold in my prayers, I have no courage, it seems to me, for my amendment; I have none of that fervour which I used to feel in my exercises; in a word, frost and cold have seized upon my soul.”
Alas! I can well believe it. Look at the poor soul as she laments and bewails her misfortunes; see what discontent is expressed in her face, and in her downcast and melancholy demeanour; she walks sorrowful and is utterly confounded.“
“Whatever is the matter with you?” we are constrained to say. “What is the matter with me? Oh, I am so miserable! Nothing pleases me; everything disgusts me, and now I feel so confounded!”
“But what kind of confusion do you feel?—for there are two kinds: one which leads to humility and to life, the other to despair, and consequently to death.” *
“I assure you,” she replies, “I feel so confounded that I almost lose courage to persevere in my struggle after perfection.” Alas! what weakness! because consolation fails, courage fails also!
Ah! this must not be; for the more God deprives us of consolation, the more we ought to labour, to show our fidelity to Him. One single act done with dryness of spirit is worth more than many done with great fervour and sensible devotion; because, as I have already said in speaking of Job, it is done with a love which is stronger, although it is not so tender and pleasant to ourselves.
The more, then, they take away from me, the more I produce: this is the second law which I greatly desire to see you observe.