To relieve myself a little from the fatigue of continual conversation, I desired Father La Combe to allow me a retreat. It was then that I let myself be consumed by love all the day long. Also I perceived the quality of a spiritual mother; for the Lord gave me what I cannot express for the perfection of souls. This I could not hide from Father La Combe. It seemed to me as if I entered into the inmost recesses of his heart. Our Lord showed me he was His servant, chosen among a thousand, singularly to honor Him; but that He would lead him through total death, and the entire destruction of the old man. He would have me contribute thereto and be instrumental to cause him to walk in the way in which He had led me first; in order that I might be in a condition to direct others, to tell them the way through which I have passed. The Lord would have us to be conformed, and to become both one in Him; though my soul was more advanced now, yet he should one day pass beyond it, with a bold and rapid flight. God knows with what joy I would see my spiritual children surpass their mother.
In this retreat I felt a strong propensity to write, but resisted it till I fell sick. I had nothing to write about, not one idea to begin with. It was a divine impulse, with such a fulness of grace as was hard to contain. I opened this disposition of mine to Father La Combe. He answered that he had a strong impulse to command me to write, but had not dared to do it yet, on account of my weakness. I told him, that "weakness was the effect of my resistance," and I believed it would, through my writing, go off again. He asked, "But what is it you will write?"
I replied, "I know nothing of it, nor desire to know, leaving it entirely to God to direct me."
He ordered me to do so. At my taking the pen I knew not the first word I should write; when I began, suitable matter flowed copiously, nay, impetuously. As I was writing I was relieved and grew better. I wrote an entire treatise on the interior path of faith, under the comparison of torrents, or of streams and rivers.
As the way, wherein God now conducted Father La Combe, was very different from that in which he had formerly walked (all light, knowledge, ardor, assurance, sentiment) now the poor, low, despised path of faith, and of nakedness; he found it very hard to submit thereto. Who could express what it has cost my heart before he was formed according to the will of God?
Meanwhile, the possession which the Lord had of my soul became every day stronger, insomuch that I passed whole days without being able to pronounce one word. The Lord was pleased to make me pass wholly into Him by an entire internal transformation. He became more and more the absolute master of my heart, to such a degree as not to leave me a movement of my own. This state did not hinder me from condescending to my sister, and the others in the house. Nevertheless, the useless things with which they were taken up could not interest me. That was what induced me to ask leave to make a retreat, to let myself be possessed of Him who holds me so closely to Himself after an ineffable manner.
I had at that time so ardent a desire for the perfection of Father La Combe, and to see him thoroughly die to himself, that I could have wished him all the crosses and afflictions imaginable, that might conduce to this great and blessed end. Whenever he was unfaithful, or looked at things in any other light than the true one—to tend to this death of self—I felt myself on the rack, which, as I had till then been so indifferent, very much surprised me. To the Lord I made my complaint; He graciously encouraged me, both on this subject and on that entire dependence on Himself which He gave me, which was such that I was like a new born infant.
My sister had brought me a maid, whom God was willing to give me to fashion according to His will, not without some crucifixion to myself. I believe it never is to fall out, that our Lord will give me any persons without giving them wherewith to make me suffer, whether it be for the purpose of drawing them into a spiritual life, or never to leave me without the cross. She was one on whom the Lord had conferred very singular graces. She was in high reputation in the country, where she passed for a saint. Our Lord brought her to me, to let her see the difference between the sanctity conceived and comprised in those gifts, with which she was endowed, and that which is obtained by our entire destruction, even by the loss of those very gifts, and of all that raised us in the esteem of men. Our Lord had given her the same dependence on me, as I had in regard to Father La Combe.
This girl fell grievously sick. I was willing to give her all the assistance in my power, but I found I had nothing to do but to command her bodily sickness, or the disposition of her mind; all that I said was done. It was then that I learned what it was to command by the Word, and to obey by the Word. It was Jesus Christ in me equally commanding and obeying.
She, however, continued sick for sometime. One day, after dinner, I was moved to say to her, "Rise and be no longer sick." She arose and was cured. The nuns were very much astonished. They knew nothing of what had passed, but saw her walking, who in the morning had appeared to be in the last extremity. They attributed her disorder to a vivid imagination.
I have at sundry times experienced, and felt in myself, how much God respects the freedom of man, even demands his free concurrence; for when I said, "Be healed," or, "Be free from your troubles," if such persons acquiesced, the Word was efficacious, and they were healed. If they doubted, or resisted, though under fair pretexts, saying, "I shall be healed when it pleases God, I will not be healed till He wills it;" or, in the way of despair, "I cannot be healed; I will not quit my condition," then the Word had no effect. I felt in myself that the divine virtue retired in me. I experienced what our Lord said, when the woman afflicted with the issue of blood touched him. He instantly asked, "Who touched me?" The apostles said, "Master, the multitude throng thee, and press thee; and sayest thou, Who touched me?" He replied, "It is because virtue hath gone out of me" (Luke 8:45, 46). Jesus Christ had caused that healing virtue to flow, through me, by means of His Word. When that virtue met not with a correspondence in the subject, I felt it suspended in its source. That gave me some pain. I should be, as it were, displeased with those persons; but when there was no resistance, but a full acquiescence, this divine virtue had its full effect. Healing virtue has so much power over things inanimate, yet the least thing in man either restrains it, or stops it entirely.
There was a good nun much afflicted and under a violent temptation. She went to declare her case to a sister whom she thought very spiritual, and in a condition capable of assisting her. But far from finding succor, she was very much discouraged and cast down. The other despised and repulsed her, and treating her with contempt and rigor, she said, "Don't come near me, since you are that way." This poor girl, in a frightful distress, came to me thinking herself undone on account of what the sister had said to her. I consoled her and our Lord relieved her immediately. But I could not forbear telling her that assuredly the other would be punished, and would fall into a state worse than hers. The sister who had used her in such a manner came also to me, highly pleased with herself in what she had done, saying, she abhorred such tempted creatures. As for herself, she was proof against such sorts of temptations, and that she never had a bad thought. I said to her, "My sister, from the friendship I have for you I wish you the pain of her who spoke to you, and even one still more violent."
She answered haughtily, "If you were to ask it from God for me, and I ask of Him the contrary, I believe I shall be heard at least as soon as you."
I answered with great firmness, "If it be only my own interests which I ask, I shall not be heard; but if it be those of God only, and yours too, I shall be heard sooner than you are aware." That very night she fell into so violent a temptation that one equal to it has seldom been known. It was then she had ample occasion to acknowledge her own weakness, and what she would be without grace. She conceived at first a violent hatred for me, saying that I was the cause of her pain. But it served her, as the clay did to enlighten him who had been born blind. She soon saw very well what had brought on her so terrible a state.
I fell sick even to extremity. This sickness proved a means to cover the great mysteries which it pleased God to operate in me. Scarce ever was a disorder more extraordinary, or of longer continuance in its excess. Several times I saw in dreams Father La Mothe raising persecutions against me. Our Lord let me know that this would be and that Father La Combe would forsake me in the time of persecution. I wrote to him, and it disquieted him greatly. He thought his heart was united to the will of God and too desirous of serving me, to admit such desertion; yet it has since been found quite true. He was now to preach during Lent, and was so much followed, that people came five leagues, to pass several days for the benefit of his ministry. I heard he was so sick that he was thought to die. I prayed to the Lord to restore his health, and enable him to preach to the people, who were longing to hear him. My prayer was heard, and he soon recovered, and resumed his pious labors.
During this extraordinary sickness, which continued more than six months, the Lord gradually taught me that there was another manner of conversing among souls wholly His, than by speech. Thou madest me conceive, O divine Word, that as Thou art ever speaking and operating in a soul, though therein thou appearest in profound silence; so there was also a way of communication in thy creatures, in an ineffable silence. I heard then a language which before had been unknown to me. I gradually perceived, when Father La Combe entered, that I could speak no more. There was formed in my soul the same kind of silence toward him, as was formed in it in regard to God. I comprehended that God was willing to show me that men might in this life learn the language of angels. I was gradually reduced to speak to him only in silence. It was then that we understood each other in God, after a manner unutterable and divine. Our hearts spoke to each other, communicating a grace which no words can express. It was like a new country, both for him and for me; but so divine, that I cannot describe it. At first this was done in a manner so perceptible, that is to say, God penetrated us with Himself in a manner so pure and so sweet, that we passed hours in this profound silence, always communicative, without being able to utter one word. It was in this that we learned, by our own experience, the operations of the heavenly Word to reduce souls into unity with itself, and what purity one may arrive at in this life. It was given me to communicate this way to other good souls, but with this difference: I did nothing but communicate to them the grace with which they were filled, while near me, in this sacred silence, which infused into them an extraordinary strength and grace; but I received nothing from them; whereas with Father La Combe there was a flow and return of communication of grace, which he received from me, and I from him, in the greatest purity.
In this long malady the love of God, and of Him alone, made up my whole occupation, I seemed so entirely lost to Him, as to have no sight of myself at all. It seemed as if my heart never came out of that divine ocean, having been drawn into it through deep humiliations. Oh, happy loss, which is the consummation of bliss, though operated through crosses and through deaths!
Jesus was then living in me and I lived no more. These words were imprinted in me, as a real state into which I must enter, (Matt. 8:20) "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head." This I have since experienced in all its extent, having no sure abode, no refuge among friends, who were ashamed of me, and openly renounced me, when universally decried; nor among my relations, most of whom declared themselves my adversaries, and were my greatest persecutors; while others looked on me with contempt and indignation. I might as David say, "For thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face; I am become a stranger to my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children; a reproach to men, and despised of the people."
He showed me all the world in a rage against me, without anyone daring to appear for me and assured me in the ineffable silence of His eternal Word, that He would give me vast numbers of children, which I should bring forth by the cross. I left it to Him to do with me whatever He pleased, esteeming my whole and sole interest to be placed entirely in His divine will. He gave me to see how the Devil was going to stir up an outrageous persecution against prayer, yet it should prove the source of the same prayer, or rather the means which God would make use of to establish it. He gave me to see farther how He would guide me into the wilderness, where He would cause me to be nourished for a time. The wings, which were to bear me thither, were the resignation of my whole self to His holy will. I think I am at present in that wilderness, separated from the whole world in my imprisonment. I see already accomplished in part what was then shown me. Can I ever express the mercies which my God has bestowed on me? No; they must ever remain in Himself, being of a nature not to be described, by reason of their purity and immensity.
I was often to all appearance at the point of death. I fell into convulsions from violent pains which lasted a long time with violence. Father La Combe administered the sacrament to me, the Prioress of the Ursulines having desired him to do it. I was well satisfied to die, as was he also in the expectation of my departure. For, being united in God after a manner so pure, and so spiritual, death could not separate us. On the contrary it would have more closely united us. Father La Combe, who was on his knees at my bedside, remarking the change of my countenance, and how my eyes faded, seemed ready to give me up, when God inspired him to lift up his hands, and with a strong voice, which was heard by all who were in my room, at that time almost full, to command death to relinquish its hold. Instantly it seemed to be stopped. Thus God was pleased wonderfully to raise me up again; yet for a long time I continued extremely weak, during all of which our Lord gave me new testimonies of His love. How many times was He pleased to make use of His servant to restore me to life, when I was almost on the very point of expiring! As they saw that my sickness and pain did not entirely end, they judged that the air of the lake on which the convent was situated, was very prejudicial to my constitution. They concluded that it would be necessary for me to remove.
During my indisposition, our Lord put it into the heart of Father La Combe to establish a hospital in this place for the poor people seized with maladies, to institute also a committee or congregation of ladies to furnish such as could not leave their families to go to the hospital with the means of subsistence during their illness, after the manner of France, there having been yet no institution of this kind in that country. Willingly did I enter into it; and without any other fund than Providence and some useless rooms which a gentleman of the town gave us, we began it. We dedicated it to the holy Child Jesus, and He was pleased to give the first beds to it from my pension. He gave such a blessing that several other persons joined us in this charity. In a short time there were nearly twelve beds in it and three persons of great piety gave themselves to this hospital to serve it, who, without any salary, consecrated themselves to the service of the poor patients. I supplied them with ointments and medicines, which were freely given to such of the poor people of the town as had need of them. These good ladies were so hearty in the cause, that, through their charity, and the care of the young women, this hospital was very well maintained and served. These ladies joined together also in providing for the sick who could not go to the hospital. I gave them some little regulations such as I had observed when in France, which they continued to keep up with tenderness and love.
All these little things, which cost but little, and which owed all their success to the blessing which God gave them, drew upon us new persecutions. The Bishop of Geneva was offended with me more than ever, especially in seeing that these small matters rendered me beloved. He said that I won over everybody. He openly declared, "he could not bear me in his diocese," though I had done nothing but good, or rather God by me. He extended the persecution to those good religious women who had been my assistants. The prioress in particular had her own share to bear, though it did not last long. As I was obliged, on account of the air, to remove, after having been there about two years and a half, they were then more in peace and quietness. On another side, my sister was very weary of this house; and as the season for the waters approached, they took occasion from thence to send her away with the maid which I brought with me, who had molested me exceedingly in my late illness. I only kept her whom Providence had sent me by means of my sister. I have ever thought that God had ordered my sister's journey only to bring her to me, as one chosen of Him and proper for the state which it was His pleasure to cause me to bear.
While I was yet indisposed, the Ursulines, with the Bishop of Verceil, earnestly requested the Father-general of the Barnabites, to seek among the religious, a man of merit, piety and learning, in whom he might place confidence, and who might serve him for a prebend and a counselor. At first he cast his eyes on Father La Combe; yet before he absolutely engaged him with the said bishop, he wrote to him, to know whether he had any objection thereto. Father La Combe replied that he had no other will but that of obeying him, and that he might command him herein as he should think best in the case. He gave me an account of this, and that we were going to be entirely separated. I was glad to find that our Lord would employ him, under a bishop who knew him, and would be likely to do him justice. Yet it was some time before he went, matters not being all arranged.
I then went off from the Ursulines and they sought for a house for me at a distance from the lake. There was but one to be found empty which had the look of the greatest poverty. It had no chimney but in the kitchen, through which one was obliged to pass. I took my daughter with me and gave up the largest room for her and the maid who was to take care of her. I was lodged in a little hole on straw, to which I went up by ladder. As we had no other furniture but our beds, quite plain and homely, I brought some straw chairs and some Dutch earthen and wooden ware. Never did I enjoy a greater content than in this little hole, which appeared so very conformable to the state of Jesus Christ. I fancied everything better on wood than on plate. I laid in all my provisions, hoping to stay there a long time; but the Devil did not leave me long in such sweet peace. It would be difficult for me to tell the persecutions which were stirred up against me. They threw stones in at my windows which fell at my feet. I had put my little garden in order. They came in the night, tore it all up, broke down the arbor, and overturned everything in it, as if it had been ravaged by soldiers. They came to abuse me at the door all night long, making such a racket as if they were going to break it open. These persons have since told who the person was that put them on such work.
Though from time to time I continued my charities at Gex, I was not the less persecuted for it. They offered one person a warrant to compel Father La Combe to stay at Tonon, thinking he would otherwise be a support to me in the persecution, but we prevented it. I knew not then the designs of God, and that He would soon draw me from that poor solitary place, in which I enjoyed a sweet and solid satisfaction, notwithstanding the abuse. I thought myself happier here than any sovereign on earth. It was for me like a nest and a place of repose and Christ was willing that I should be like Him. The Devil, as I have said, irritated my persecutors. They sent to desire me to go out of the diocese. All the good which the Lord had caused me to do in it was condemned, more than the greatest crimes. Crimes they tolerated, but me they could not endure. All this while I never had any uneasiness or repentance for my having left at all; not that I was assured of having done the will of God therein. Such an assurance would have been too much for me. But I could neither see nor regard anything, receiving everything alike from the hand of God, who directed and disposed of these crosses for me either in justice or in mercy.
The Marchioness of Prunai, sister of the chief Secretary of State to his Royal Highness (the Duke of Savoy) and his prime minister, had sent an express from Turin, in the time of my illness, to invite me to come to reside with her; and to let me know that, "being so persecuted as I was in this diocese, I should find an asylum with her; that during that time things might grow better; that when they should be well disposed she would return with me and join me with a friend of mine from Paris, who was willing also to come to labor there, according to the will of God." I was not at that time in a condition to execute what she desired and expected to continue with the Ursulines till things should change. She then wrote to me about it no more. This lady is one of extraordinary piety, who had quitted the splendor and noise of the Court, for the more silent satisfaction of a retired life, and to give herself up to God. With an eminent share of natural advantages, she has continued a widow twenty-two years; has refused every offer of marriage to consecrate herself to our Lord entirely and without any reserve. When she knew that I had been obliged to leave the Ursulines, yet without knowing anything of the manner in which I had been treated, she procured a letter to oblige Father La Combe to go to pass some weeks at Turin, for her own benefit, and to bring me with him thither, where I should find a refuge. All this she did unknown to us. As she has told us since, a superior force moved her to do it, without knowing the cause. If she had deliberately reflected on it, being such a prudent lady, she probably would not have done it; because the persecutions, which the Bishop of Geneva procured us in that place, cost her more than a little of humiliations. Our Lord permitted him to pursue me, after a surprising manner, into all the places I have been in, without giving me any relaxation. I never did him any harm, but on the contrary, would have laid down my life for the good of his diocese.
As this fell out without any design on our part, we, without hesitation, believed it was the will of God; and thought it might be the means of His appointment to draw us out of the reproach and persecution we labored under, seeing myself chased on the one side, desired on the other. It was concluded that Father La Combe should conduct me to Turin, and that he should go from thence to Verceil.
Beside him, I took with me a religious man of merit, who had taught theology for fourteen years past, to take away from our enemies all cause for slander. I also took with me a boy whom I had brought out of France. They took horses, and I hired a carriage for my daughter, my chambermaid and myself. But all precautions are useless, when it pleases God to permit them to be frustrated. Our adversaries immediately wrote to Paris. A hundred ridiculous stories were circulated about this journey; comedies were acted on it, things invented at pleasure, and as false as anything in the world could be. It was my brother, Father de la Mothe, who was so active in uttering all this stuff. Had he believed it to be true, he ought out of charity to have concealed it; much more, being so very false. They said that I was gone all alone with Father La Combe, strolling about the country, from province to province, with many such fables, as weak and wicked as they were incoherent and badly put together. We suffered all with patience, without vindicating ourselves, or making any complaint.
Scarcely were we arrived at Turin, but the Bishop of Geneva wrote against us. As he could pursue us no other way, he did it by letters. Father La Combe repaired to Verceil, and I staid at Turin, with the Marchioness of Prunai. But what crosses was I assaulted with in my own family, from the Bishop of Geneva, from the Barnabites, and from a vast number of persons besides! My eldest son came to find me on the death of my mother-in-law, which was an augmentation of my troubles. After we had heard all his accounts of things and how they had made sales of all the moveables, chosen guardians, and settled every article, without consulting me. I seemed to be there entirely useless. It was judged not proper for me to return, considering the rigor of the season.
The Marchioness of Prunai, who had been so warmly desirous of my company, seeing my great crosses and reproaches, looked coldly upon me. My childlike simplicity, which was the state wherein God at that time kept me, passed with her for stupidity. For when the question was to help anyone, or about anything which God required of me, He gave me, with the weakness of a child, the evident tokens of divine strength. Her heart was quite shut up to me all the time I was there. Our Lord, however, made me foretell events which should happen, which since that time have actually been fulfilled, as well to herself as to her daughter, and to the virtuous ecclesiastic who lived at her house. She did not fail, at last, to conceive more friendship for me, seeing then that Christ was in me. It was the force of self-love, and fear of reproach, which had closed up her heart. Moreover, she thought her state more advanced than in reality it was, by reason of her being without tests; but she soon saw by experience that I had told her the truth. She was obliged for family reasons to leave Turin, and go to live on her own estate. She solicited me to go with her; but the education of my daughter did not permit. To stay at Turin without her seemed improper, because, having lived very retired in this place, I made no acquaintance in it. I knew not which way to turn. The Bishop of Verceil, where Father La Combe was, most obligingly wrote to me, earnestly entreating me to come, promising me his protection, and assuring me of his esteem, adding, "that he should look upon me as his own sister; that he wished extremely to have me there." It was his own sister, one of my particular friends, who had written to him about me, as had also a French gentleman, an acquaintance of his. But a point of honor kept me from it. I would not have it said that I had gone after Father La Combe, and that I had come to Turin only for the purpose of going to Verceil. He had also his reputation to preserve, which was the cause that he could not agree to my going thither, however importunate the Bishop was for it. Had we believed it to be the will of God, we would both of us have passed over these considerations. God kept us both in so great a dependence on His orders, that He did not let us foreknow them; but the divine moment of His providence determined everything. This proved of very great service to Father La Combe, who had long walked in assurances, to die to them and to Himself. God by an effect of His goodness, that he might thus die without any reserve, took them all from him.
During the whole time of my residence at Turin, our Lord conferred on me very great favors. I found myself every day more transformed into Him, and had continually more knowledge of the state of souls, without ever being mistaken or deceived therein, though some were willing to persuade me to think the contrary. I had used my utmost endeavors to give myself other thoughts, which had caused me not a little pain. When I told, or wrote to Father La Combe about the state of some souls, which appeared to him more perfect and advanced than the knowledge given to me of them, he attributed it to pride. He was angry with me, and prejudiced against my state. I had no uneasiness on account of his esteeming me the less, for I was not in a condition to reflect whether he esteemed me or not. He could not reconcile my willing obedience in most things, with so extraordinary a firmness, which in certain cases he looked upon as criminal. He admitted a distrust of my grace; he was not yet sufficiently confirmed in his way, nor did he duly comprehend, that it did not in any wise depend on me to be one way or another. If I had any such power I should have suited myself to what he said, to spare myself the crosses which my firmness caused me. Or, at least, I would have artfully dissembled my real sentiments. I could do neither. Were all to perish by it, I was in such a manner constrained, that I could not forbear telling him the things, just as our Lord directed me to tell them to him. In this he had given me an inviolable fidelity to the very last. No crosses or pains have ever made me fail a moment therein. These things then, which appeared to him to be the strong prejudice of a conceited opinion, set him at variance against me. Though he did not openly show it, on the contrary tried to conceal it from me; yet how far distant soever he were from me, I could not be ignorant of it. My spirit felt it, and that more or less, as the opposition was stronger or weaker; as soon as it abated or ended, my pain, occasioned thereby, ceased. He also, on his side, experienced the same. He has told me and written to me many times over, "When I stand well with God, I find I am well with you. When I am otherwise with Him, I then find myself to be so with you also." Thus he saw clearly that when God received him, it was always in uniting him to me, as if He would accept of nothing from him but in this union.
While he was at Turin, a widow who was a good servant of God, all in the brightness of sensibility, came to him to confess. She uttered wonderful things of her state. I was then at the other side of the confessional. He told me, "He had met with a soul given up to God; that it was she who was present; that he was very much edified by her; that he was far from finding the like in me; that I operated nothing but death upon his soul." At first I rejoiced at his having met with such a holy soul. It ever gives me the highest joy to see my God glorified. As I was returning, the Lord showed me clearly the state of that soul, as only a beginning of devotion mixed with affection and a little silence, filled with a new sensation. This and more, as it was set before me, I was obliged to write to him. On his first reading of my letter he discovered the stamp of truth in it; but soon after, letting in again his old reflections, he viewed all I wrote in the light of pride. He still had in his mind the ordinary rules of humility conceived and comprised after our manner. As to me, I let myself be led as a child, who says and does, without distinction, whatever it is made to say and do. I left myself to be led wheresoever my heavenly Father pleased, high or low; all was alike good to me.
He wrote to me, that, at his first reading of my letter there appeared in it something of truth; but that on reading it over again, he found it to be full of pride, and of preference of my own discernments to that of others. Some time after he was more enlightened in regard to the state I was in. He then said, "continue to believe as you have done; I encourage and exhort you to do it." Some time after he sufficiently discovered, by that person's manner of acting, that she was very far from what he had thought. I give this as only one instance. I might give many others, but this may suffice.
One night in a dream our Lord showed me, that He would also purify the maid whom He had given me, make her truly enter into death to herself. I freely resolved to suffer for her, as I did for Father La Combe. As she resisted God much more than he, and was much more under the power of self-love, she had more to be purified from. What I could not tolerate in her was her regard for herself. I saw clearly that the devil cannot hurt us only so far as we retain some fondness for this corrupt self. This sight was from God. He gave me the discerning of spirits, which would ever accept what was from Him, or reject what was not; that not from any common methods of judging, not from any outward information, but by an inward principle which is His gift alone.
It is needful to mention here that souls which are yet in themselves, whatever degree of light and ardor they have attained, are unqualified for it. They often think they have this discernment, when it is nothing else but sympathy or antipathy of nature. Our Lord destroyed in me every sort of natural antipathy. The soul must be very pure, and depending on God alone, that all these things may be experienced in Him. In proportion as this maid became inwardly purified, my pain abated, till the Lord let me know her state was going to be changed, which soon happily ensued. In comparison of inward pain for souls, outward persecutions, though ever so violent, scarce gave me any.
The Bishop of Geneva wrote to different persons. He wrote in my favor to such as he thought would show me his letters, and quite the contrary in the letters which he thought I would never see. It was so ordered that these persons, having showed each other their letters received from him, were struck with indignation to see in him so shameful a duplicity. They sent me those letters that I might take proper precautions. I kept them two years, and then burned them, not to hurt the prelate. The strongest battery he raised against me was what he did with the Secretary of State, who held that post in conjunction with the Marchioness of Prunai's brother. He used all imaginable endeavors to render me odious. He employed certain abbots for that purpose, insomuch that, though I appeared very little abroad, I was well known by the description this bishop had given of me. This did not make so much impression as it would have done, if he had appeared in a better light at Court. Some letters of his, which her royal highness found after the prince's death, written to him against her, had effect on the princess, that, instead of taking any notice of what he now wrote against me, she showed me great respect. She sent her request to me to come to see her. Accordingly I waited on her. She assured me of her protection, and that she was glad of my being in her dominions.
It pleased God here to make use of me to the conversion of two or three ecclesiastics. But I had much to suffer from their repugnances and many infidelities—one of whom had vilified me greatly—and even after his conversion turned aside into his old ways. God at length graciously restored him.
As I was undetermined whether I should place my daughter at the Visitation of Turin, or take some other course; I was exceedingly surprised, at a time I least expected it, to see Father La Combe arrive from Verceil. He told me that I must return to Paris without any delay. It was in the evening, and he said, "set off the next morning." I confess this sudden news startled me. It was for me a double sacrifice to return to a place where they had cried me down so much; also toward a family which held me in contempt, and who had represented my journey, caused by pure necessity, as a voluntary course, pursued through human attachments. Behold me then disposed to go off, without offering a single word in reply, with my daughter and my maid, without anybody to guide and attend us. Father La Combe was resolved not to accompany me, not so much as passing the mountains. The Bishop of Geneva had written on all sides that I was gone to Turin to run after him. But the Father Provincial, who was a man of quality, and well acquainted with the virtue of Father La Combe, told him, that it was improper and unsafe to venture on these mountains, without some person of acquaintance; the more as I had my little daughter with me. He therefore ordered him to accompany me. Father La Combe confessed to me that he had some reluctance to do it, and only obedience, and the danger to which I should have been exposed, made him surmount it. He was only to accompany me to Grenoble, and from thence to return to Turin. I went off then, designing for Paris, there to suffer whatever crosses and trials it should please God to inflict.
What made me go by Grenoble was the desire I had to spend two or three days with a lady, an eminent servant of God, and one of my friends. When I was there Father La Combe and that lady spoke to me not to go any farther. God would glorify Himself in me and by me in that place. He returned to Verceil, and I left myself to be conducted as a child by Providence. This lady took me to the house of a good widow, there not being accommodations at the inn. As I was ordered to stop at Grenoble, at her house I resided. I placed my daughter in a convent, and resolved to employ all this time in resigning myself to be possessed in solitude by Him who is the absolute Sovereign of my soul. I made not any visit in this place; no more had I in any of the others where I had sojourned. I was greatly surprised when, a few days after my arrival, there came to see me several persons who made profession of a singular devotion to God. I perceived immediately a gift which He had given me, of administering to each that which suited their states. I felt myself invested, all of a sudden, with the apostolic state. I discerned the conditions of the souls of such persons as spoke to me, and that with so much facility, that they were surprised at it, and said one to another, that I gave every one of them "the very thing they had stood in need of." It was thou, O my God, who didst all these things; some of them sent others to me. It came to such excess, that, generally from six in the morning till eight in the evening, I was taken up in speaking of the Lord. People flocked on all sides, far and near, friars, priests, men of the world, maids, wives, widows, all came one after another. The Lord supplied me with what was pertinent and satisfactory to them all, after a wonderful manner, without any share of my study or meditation therein. Nothing was hid from me of their interior state, and of what passed within them. Here, O my God, Thou madest an infinite number of conquests known to Thyself only. They were instantly furnished with a wonderful facility of prayer. God conferred on them His grace plentifully, and wrought marvelous changes in them. The most advanced of these souls found, when with me, in silence, a grace communicated to them which they could neither comprehend, nor cease to admire. The others found an unction in my words, and that they operated in them what I said. Friars of different orders, and priests of merit, came to see me, to whom our Lord granted very great favors, as indeed He did to all, without exception, who came in sincerity.
One thing was surprising; I had not a syllable to say to such as came only to watch my words, and to criticize them. Even when I thought to try to speak to them, I felt that I could not, and that God would not have me do it. Some of them in return said, "The people are fools to go to see that lady. She cannot speak." Others of them treated me as if I were only a stupid simpleton. After they left me there came one and said, "I could not get hither soon enough to apprize you not to speak to those persons; they come from such and such, to try what they can catch from you to your disadvantage." I answered them, "Our Lord has prevented your charity; for I was not able to say one word to them."
I felt that what I spoke flowed from the fountain, and that I was only the instrument of Him who made me speak. Amid this general applause, our Lord made me comprehend what the apostolic state was, with which He had honored me; that to give one's self up to the help of souls, in the purity of His Spirit, was to expose one's self to the most cruel persecutions. These very words were imprinted on my heart: "To resign ourselves to serve our neighbor is to sacrifice ourselves to a gibbet. Such as now proclaim, 'Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord,' will soon cry out, 'Away with him, crucify him.'" When one of my friends speaking of the general esteem the people had for me, I said to her, "Observe what I now tell you, that you will hear curses cut of the same mouths which at present pronounce blessings." Our Lord made me comprehend that I must be conformable to Him in all His states; and that, if He had continued in a private life with His parents, He never had been crucified; that, when He would resign any of His servants to crucifixion, He employed such in the ministry and service of their neighbors. It is certain that all the souls employed herein by apostolic destination from God, and who are truly in the apostolic state, are to suffer extremely. I speak not of those who put themselves into it, who, not being called of God in a singular manner, and having nothing of the grace of the apostleship, have none of its crosses; but of those only who surrender themselves to God without any reserve, and who are willing with their whole hearts to be exposed, for His sake, to sufferings without any mitigation.
Among so great a number of good souls, on whom our Lord wrought much by me, some were given me only as plants to cultivate. I knew their state, but had not that near connection with, or authority over them, which I had over others. It was then that I comprehended the true maternity beyond what I had done before; for those of the latter kind were given me as children, of whom some were faithful. I knew they would be so; they were closely united to me in pure charity. Others were unfaithful; I knew that of these some would never return from their infidelity, and they were taken from me. Some, after slipping aside, were recovered. Both of them cost me much distress and inward pain, when, for want of courage to die to themselves, they gave up the point; and revolted from the good beginning they had been favored with.
Our Lord, among such multitudes as followed Him on earth, had few true children. Wherefore He said to His Father, "Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition," showing that He lost not any beside of His apostles, or disciples, though they sometimes made false steps.
Among the friars who came to see me, there was one order which discovered the good effects of grace more than any other. Some of that very order had before this, in a little town where Father La Combe was in the exercise of his mission, been actuated with a false zeal, and violent in persecuting all the good souls which had sincerely dedicated themselves to God, plaguing them after such a manner as can scarce be conceived. They burned all their books which treated of silence and inward prayer, refusing absolution to such as were in the practice of it, driving into consternation, and almost into despair, such as had formerly led wicked lives, but were now reformed, and preserved in grace by means of prayer, becoming spotless and blameless in their conduct. These friars had proceeded to such an excess of wild zeal as to raise a sedition in that town, in which a father of the oratory, a person of distinction and merit, received strokes with a stick in the open street, because he prayed extempore in the evenings, and on Sundays made a short fervent prayer, which insensibly habituated these good souls to the use and practice of the like.
I never had so much consolation as to see in this little town so many pious souls who with a heavenly emulation gave up their whole hearts to God. There were girls of twelve or thirteen years of age, who industriously followed their work almost all the day long, in silence, and in their employments enjoyed a communion with God, having acquired a fixed habit. As these girls were poor, they placed themselves two and two together, and such as could do it read to the others who could not. One saw there the innocence of the primitive Christians revived. There was in that town a poor laundress who had five children, and a husband paralytic, lame in the right arm, and yet worse distempered in mind than in body. He had little strength left for anything else than to beat her. This poor woman bore it with all the meekness and patience of an angel, while she by her labor supported him and his five children. She had a wonderful gift of prayer, and amid her great suffering and extreme poverty, preserved the presence of God, and tranquility of mind. There was also a shopkeeper, and one who made locks, very much affected with God. These were close friends. Sometimes the one and sometimes the other read to this laundress; and they were surprised to find that she was instructed by the Lord Himself in all they read to her, and spoke divinely of it.
Those friars sent for this woman, and threatened her much if she did not leave off prayer, telling her it was only for churchmen to pray, and that she was very bold to practice it. She replied, that "Christ had commanded all to pray," that He had said, "What I say unto you I say unto all" (Mark 13:33, 37), without specifying either priests or friars; that without prayer she could not support her crosses and poverty; that formerly she had lived without it, and then was very wicked; that since she had been in the exercise of it, she had loved God with all her soul; so that to leave off prayer was to renounce her salvation, which she could not do. She added that they might take twenty persons who had never practiced prayer, and twenty of those who were in the practice of it. Then, said she, "Inform yourselves of the lives of both sorts, and ye will see if ye have any reason to cry out against prayer." Such words as these, from such a woman, one would think might have fully convinced them; but instead of that, it only irritated them the more. They assured her that she should have no absolution till she promised them to desist from prayer. She said that depended not on her, and that Christ is master of what He communicates to His creatures, and of doing with it what He pleases. They refused her absolution; and after railing at a good tailor, who served God with his whole heart, they ordered all the books without exception, which treated on prayer to be brought to them. They burned them with their own hands in the public square. They were very much elated with their performance; but all the town presently arose in an uproar. The principal men went to the Bishop of Geneva, and complained to him of the scandals of these new missionaries, so different from the others. Speaking of Father La Combe, who had been there before them on his mission, they said that these seemed as if they were sent to destroy all the good he had done. The bishop was forced to come himself to that town, and there to mount the pulpit, protesting that he had no share in it, and that these fathers had pushed their zeal too far. The friars, on the other side declared, they had done all they did, pursuant to the orders given them.
There were also at Tonon young women who had retired together, being poor villagers, the better to earn their livelihood and to serve God. One of them read from time to time, while the others were at work, and not one went out without asking leave of the eldest. They wove ribbands, or spun, the strong supporting the weak. They separated these poor girls, and others beside them, in several villages, and drove them out of the church.
It was the friars of the very order whom our Lord made use of to establish prayer in (I know not how) many places. Into the places where they went, they carried a hundred times more books of prayer than those which their brethren had burned. The hand of God appeared to me wonderfully in these things.
One day when I was sick, a brother who had skill in curing diseases, came for a charitable collection, but hearing I was ill, came in to see me, and gave me medicines proper for my disorder. We entered into a conversation which revived in him the love he had for God, which he acknowledged had been too much stifled by his occupations. I made him comprehend that there was no employment which should hinder him from loving God, and from being occupied within himself. He readily believed me, as he already had a good share of piety, and of an interior disposition. Our Lord conferred on him many favors, and gave him to be one of my true children.
I saw at this time, or rather experienced the ground on which God rejects sinners from His bosom. All the cause of God's rejection is in the will of the sinner. If that will submits, how horrible soever he be, God purifies him in his love, and receives him into his grace; but while that will rebels, the rejection continues. For want of ability seconding his inclination, he should not commit the sin he is inclined to, yet he never can be admitted into grace till the cause ceases, which is this wrong will, rebellious to the divine law. If that once submits, God then totally removes the effects of sin, which stain the soul, by washing away the defilements which he has contracted. If that sinner dies in the time that his will is rebellious and turned toward sin, as death fixes forever the disposition of the soul, and the cause of its impurity is ever subsisting, such soul can never be received into God. Its rejection must be eternal, as there is such an absolute opposition between essential purity and essential impurity. And as this soul, from its own nature necessarily tends to its own center, it is continually rejected of the Lord, by reason of its impurity, subsisting not only in the effects, but in their cause. It is the same way in this life. This cause, so long as it subsists, absolutely hinders the grace of God from operating in the soul. But if the sinner comes to die truly penitent, then the cause, which is the wrong will, being taken away, there remains only the effect or impurity caused by it. He is then in a condition to be purified. God of his infinite mercy has provided a laver of love and of justice, a painful laver indeed, to purify this soul. And as the defilement is greater or less, so is the pain; but when the cause is utterly taken away, the pain entirely ceases. Souls, are received into grace, as soon as the cause of sin ceases; but they do not pass into the Lord Himself, till all its effects are washed away. If they have not courage to let Him, in His own way and will, thoroughly cleanse and purify them, they never enter into the pure divinity in this life.
The Lord incessantly solicits this will to cease to be rebellious, and spares nothing on His side for this good end. The will is free, yet grace follows it still. As soon as the will ceases to rebel, it finds grace at the door, ready to introduce its unspeakable benefits. O, the goodness of the Lord and baseness of the sinner, each of them amazing when clearly seen!
Before I arrived at Grenoble, the lady, my friend, saw in a dream that our Lord gave me an infinite number of children all uniformly clad, bearing on their habits the marks of candor and innocence. She thought I was coming to take care of the children of the hospital. But as soon as she told me, I discerned that it was not that which the dream meant; but that our Lord would give me, by a spiritual fruitfulness, a great number of children; that they would not be my true children, but in simplicity, candor and innocence. So great an aversion I have to artifice and disguise.
The physician of whom I have spoken, was disposed to lay open his heart to me. Our Lord gave him through me all that was necessary for him; for though disposed to the spiritual life, yet for want of courage and fidelity he had not duly advanced in it.
He had occasion to bring to me some of his companions who were friars; and the Lord took hold of them all. It was at the very same time, that the others of the same order were making all the ravages I have mentioned, and opposing with all their might the Holy Spirit of the Lord. I could not but admire to see how the Lord was pleased to make amends for former damages, pouring out His Spirit in abundance on these men, while the others were laboring vehemently against it, doing all they could to destroy its dominion and efficacy in their fellow-mortals. But those good souls instead of being staggered by persecutions, grew the stronger by it. The Superior, and the master of the novices of the house in which this doctor was declared against me, without knowing me. They were grievously chagrined that a woman, as they said, should be so much flocked to, and so much sought after. Looking at things as they were in themselves, and not as they were in the Lord, who does whatever pleases Him, they had contempt for the gift which was lodged in so mean an instrument, instead of esteeming the Lord and His grace. Yet this good brother at length got the superior to come to see me, and thank me for the good which he said I had done. Our Lord so ordered, that he found something in my conversation which reached and took hold of him. At length he was completely brought over. He it was, who some time after, being visitor, dispersed such a number of those books, bought at their own charge, which the others had tried utterly to destroy. Oh, how wonderful art Thou, my God! In all Thy ways how wise, in all Thy conduct how full of love! How well Thou canst frustrate all the false wisdom of men, and triumph over their vain pretensions!
There were in this noviciate many novices. The eldest of them grew so very uneasy under his vocation, that he knew not what to do. So great was his trouble that he could neither read, study, pray, nor do scarcely any of his duties. His companion brought him to me. We spoke awhile together, and the Lord discovered to me both the cause of his disorder and its remedy. I told it to him; and he began to practice prayer, even that of the heart. He was on a sudden wonderfully changed, and the Lord highly favored him. As I spoke to him grace wrought in his heart, and his soul drank it in, as the parched ground does the gentle rain. He felt himself relieved of his pain before he left the room. He then readily, joyfully, and perfectly performed all his exercises, which before were done with reluctance and disgust. He now both studied and prayed easily, and discharged all his duties, in such a manner, that he was scarce known to himself or to others. What astonished him most was a remarkable gift of prayer. He saw that there was readily given him what he could never have before, whatever pains he took for it. This enlivening gift was the principle which made him act, gave him grace for his employments, and an inward fruition of the grace of God, which brought all good with it. He gradually brought me all the novices, all of whom partook of the effects of grace, though differently, according to their different temperaments. Never was there a more flourishing noviciate.
The master and superior could not forbear admiring so great a change in their novices, though they did not know the cause of it. One day, as they were speaking of it to the collector, for they esteemed him highly on account of his virtue, he said, "My fathers, if you will permit me, I will tell you the reason of it. It is the lady against whom you have exclaimed so much without knowing her, whom God has made use of for all of this." They were very surprised; and both the master, though advanced in age, and his superior then submitted humbly to practice prayer, after the manner taught by a little book, which the Lord inspired me to write, and of which I shall say more hereafter. They reaped such benefit from it, that the superior said to me, "I am become quite a new man. I could not practice prayer before, because my reasoning faculty was grown dull and exhausted; but now I do it as often as I will, with ease, with much fruit, and a quite different sensation of the presence of God." And the master said, "I have been a friar these forty years, and can truly say that I never knew how to pray; nor have I ever known or tasted of God, as I have done since I read that little book."
Many others were gained to God, whom I looked on to be my children. He gave me three famous friars, of an order by which I have been, and still am, very much persecuted. He made me also of service to a great number of nuns, of virtuous young women, and even men of the world; among the rest a young man of quality, who had quitted the order of the knights of Malta, to take that of the priesthood. He was the relation of a bishop near him, who had other designs of preferment for him. He has been much favored of the Lord, and is constant in prayer. I could not describe the great number of souls which were then given me, as well maids, as wives, priests and friars. But there were three curates, one canon, and one grand-vicar, who were more particularly given me. There was one priest for whom I suffered much, through his not being willing to die to himself, and loving himself too much. With a sad regret I saw him decaying, falling away. As for the others there are some of them who have continued stedfast and immovable, and some whom the tempest has shaken a little, but not torn away. Though these start aside, yet they still return. But those who are snatched quite away return no more.
There was one true daughter given me, whom our Lord made use of to gain many others to Him. She was in a strange state of death when I first saw her, and by me He gave her life and peace. She afterward, fell extremely ill. The doctors said she would die; but I had an assurance of the contrary, and that God would make use of her to gain souls, as he has done. There was in a monastery a young woman confined in a state of distraction. I saw her, knew her case, and that it was not what they thought it was. As soon as I had spoken to her she recovered. But the prioress did not like that I should tell her my thoughts of it, because the person who had brought her thither was her friend. They plagued her more than before, and threw her back again into her distraction.
A sister of another monastery had been for eight years in a deep melancholy unrelieved by anyone. Her director increased it, by practicing remedies contrary to her disorder. I had never been in that monastery; for I did not go into such places, unless I was sent for, as I did not think it right to intrude, but left myself to be conducted of Providence. I was very much surprised that at eight o'clock at night one came for me from the prioress. It was in the long days of summer, and being near, I went. I met with a sister who told me her case. She had gone to such excess, that seeing no remedy for it, she had taken a knife to kill herself. The knife fell out of her hand and a person coming to see her had advised her to speak to me. Our Lord made me know at first what the matter was; and that He required her to resign herself to Him, instead of resisting Him as they had made her do for eight years. I was instrumental to draw her into such a resignation, that she entered at once into a peace of paradise; all her pains and troubles were instantly banished; and never returned again. She has the greatest capacity of any in the house. She was presently so changed as to be the admiration of the whole community. Our Lord gave her a very great gift of prayer and His continual presence, with a faculty and readiness for everything. A domestic also, who had troubled her for twenty-two years past, was delivered from her troubles. That produced a close tie of friendship between the prioress and me, as the wonderful change and the peace of this sister surprised her, she having so often seen her in her terrible sorrow. I also contracted other such ties in this monastery, where there are souls under the Lord's special regard, whom He drew to Himself by the means He had been pleased to make choice.
I was specially moved to read the Holy Scriptures. When I began I was impelled to write the passage, and instantly its explication was given me, which I also wrote, going on with inconceivable expedition, light being poured in upon me in such a manner, that I found I had in myself latent treasures of wisdom and knowledge which I had not yet known of. Before I wrote I knew not what I was going to write. And after I had written, I remembered nothing of what I had penned; nor could I make use of any part of it for the help of souls. The Lord gave me, at the time I spoke to them (without any study or reflection of mine) all that was necessary for them. Thus the Lord made me go on with an explanation of the holy internal sense of the Scriptures. I had no other book but the Bible, nor ever made use of any but that, and without even seeking for any. When, in writing on the Old Testament, I made use of passages of the New, to support what I had said, it was without seeking them, they were given me along with the explication; and in writing on the New Testament, therein making use of passages of the Old, they were given me in like manner without my seeking anything. I had scarce any time for writing but in the night, allowing only one or two hours to sleep. The Lord made me write with so much purity, that I was obliged to leave off or begin again, as He was pleased to order. When I wrote by day, often suddenly interrupted, I left the word unfinished, and He afterward gave me what He pleased. If I gave way to reflection I was punished for it, and could not proceed. Yet sometimes I was not duly attentive to the divine Spirit, thinking I did well to continue when I had time, even without feeling His immediate impulse or enlightning influence, from whence it is easy to see some places clear and consistent, and others which have neither taste nor unction; such is the difference of the Spirit of God from the human and natural spirit. Although they are left just as I wrote them, yet I am ready, if ordered, to adjust them according to my present light.
Didst thou not, O my God, turn me a hundred ways, to prove whether I was without any reserve, through every kind of trial, or whether I had not yet some little interest for myself? My soul became hereby readily too pliable to every discovery of the divine will, and whatever kind of humiliations attended me to counterbalance my Lord's favors, till everything, high or low, was rendered alike to me.
Methinks the Lord acts with His dearest friends as the sea with its waves. Sometimes it pushes them against the rocks where they break in pieces, sometimes it rolls them on the sand, or dashes them on the mire, then instantly it retakes them into the depths of its own bosom, where they are absorbed with the same rapidity that they were first ejected. Even among the good the far greater part are souls only of mercy; surely that is well; but to appertain to divine justice, oh, how rare and yet how great! Mercy is all distributive in favor of the creature, but justice destroys everything of the creature, without sparing anything.
The lady, who was my particular friend, began to conceive some jealousy on the applause given me, God so permitting if for the farther purification of her soul, through this weakness, and the pain it caused her. Also some confessors began to be uneasy, saying that it was none of my business to invade their province, and to meddle in the helps of souls; that there were some of the penitents which had a great affection for me. It was easy for me to observe the difference between those confessors who, in their conducting of souls, seek nothing but God, and those who seek themselves therein. The first came to see me, and rejoiced greatly at the grace of God bestowed on their penitents, without fixing their attention on the instrument. The others, on the contrary, tried underhand to stir up the town against me. I saw that they would be in the right to oppose me, if I had intruded of myself; but I could do nothing but what the Lord made me do. At times there came some to dispute and oppose me. Two friars came, one of them a man of profound learning and a great preacher. They came separately, after having studied a number of difficult things to propose to me. Though they were matters far out of my reach, the Lord made me answer as justly as if I had studied them all my life; after which I spoke to them as He inspired me. They went away not only convinced and satisfied, but affected with the love of God.
I still continued writing with a prodigious swiftness; for the hand could scarcely follow fast enough the Spirit which dictated. Through the whole progress of so long a work I never altered my manner nor made use of any other book than the Bible itself. The transcriber, whatever diligence he used, could not copy in five days what I wrote in one night. Whatever is good in it comes from God only. Whatever is otherwise from myself; I mean from the mixture which I have made, without duly attending to it, of my own impurity with his pure and chaste doctrine. In the day I had scarcely time to eat, by reason of the vast numbers of people which came thronging to me. I wrote the canticles in a day and a half, and received several visits besides.
Here I may add to what I have said about my writings, that a considerable part of the book of Judges happened by some means to be lost. Being desired to render that book complete, I wrote again the places lost. Afterward when the people were about leaving the house, they were found. My former and latter explications, on comparison, were found to be perfectly conformable to each other, which greatly surprised persons of knowledge and merit, who attested the truth of it.
There came to see me a counselor of the parliament, a servant of God, who finding on my table a tract on prayer, which I had written long before, desired me to lend it. Having read it and liked it much, he lent it to some friends, to whom he thought it might be of service. Everyone wanted copies of it. He resolved therefore to have it printed. The impression was begun, and proper approbations given to it. They requested me to write a preface, which I did, and thus was that little book printed. This counselor was one of my intimate friends, and a pattern of piety. The book has already passed through five or six editions; and our Lord has given a very great benediction to it. Those good friars took fifteen hundred of them. The devil became so enraged against me on account of the conquest which God made by me, that I was assured he was going to stir up against me a violent persecution. All that gave me no trouble. Let him stir up against me ever so strange persecutions. I know they will all serve to the glory of my God.
A poor girl of very great simplicity, who earned her livelihood by her labor, and was inwardly favored of the Lord, came all sorrowful to me, and said, "Oh my mother, what strange things have I seen!" I asked what they were, "Alas" said she, "I have seen you like a lamb in the midst of a vast troop of furious wolves. I have seen a frightful multitude of people of all ranks and robes, of all ages, sexes and conditions, priests, friars, married men, maids and wives, with pikes, halberts and drawn swords, all eager for your instant destruction. You let them alone without stirring, or being surprised and without offering any way to defend yourself. I looked on all sides to see whether anyone would come to assist and defend you; but I saw not one."
Some days after, those, who through envy were raising private batteries against me, broke forth. Libels began to spread. Envious people wrote against me, without knowing me. They said that I was a sorceress, that it was by a magic power I attracted souls, that everything in me was diabolical; that if I did charities, it was because I coined, and put off false money, with many other gross accusations, equally false, groundless and absurd.
As the tempest increased every day, some of my friends advised me to withdraw, but before I mention my leaving Grenoble, I must say something farther of my state while here.
It seemed to me that all our Lord made me do for souls, would be in union with Jesus Christ. In this divine union my words, had wonderful effect, even the formation of Jesus Christ in the souls of others. I was in no wise able of myself to say the things I said. He who conducted me made me say what He pleased, and as long as He pleased. To some I was not permitted to speak a word; and to others there flowed forth as it were a deluge of grace, and yet this pure love admitted not of any superfluity, or a means of empty amusement. When questions were asked, to which an answer were useless, it was not given me. It was the same in regard to such as our Lord was pleased to conduct through death to themselves, and who came to seek for human consolation. I had nothing for them but what was purely necessary, and could proceed no farther. I could at least only speak of indifferent things, in such liberty as God allows, in order to suit everyone, and not to be unsociable or disagreeable to any; but for His own word, He Himself is the dispenser of it. Oh, if preachers were duly careful to speak only in that spirit what fruits would they bring forth in the lives of the hearers! With my true children I could communicate best in silence, in the spiritual language of the divine Word. I had the consolation some time before to hear one read in St. Augustine a conversation he had with his mother. He complains of the necessity of returning from that heavenly language to words. I sometimes said, "Oh, my Love, give me hearts large enough to receive and contain the fulness bestowed on me."
After this manner, when the Holy Virgin approached Elizabeth, a wonderful commerce was maintained between Jesus Christ and St. John the Baptist, who after this manifested no eagerness to come to see Christ, but was drawn to retire into the desert, to receive the like communications with the greatest plenitude. When he came forth to preach repentance, he said, not that he was the Word, but only a Voice which was sent to make way, or open a passage into the hearts of the people for Christ the Word. He baptized only with water, for that was his function; for, as the water in running off leaves nothing, so does the Voice when it is past. But the Word baptized with the Holy Ghost, because He imprinted Himself on souls, and communicated with them by that Holy Spirit. It is not observed that Jesus Christ said anything during the whole obscure part of His life, though it is true that not any of His words shall be lost. Oh Love, if all thou hast said and operated in silence were to be written, I think the whole world could not contain the books that should be written. John 21:25.
All that I experienced was shown me in the Holy Scripture. I saw with admiration that there passed nothing within my soul which was not in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Scriptures. I must pass over very many things in silence, because they cannot be expressed. If they were expressed they could not be understood or comprehended.
I often felt much for Father La Combe, who was not yet fixed in his state of interior death, but often rose and fell into alternatives. I was made sensible that Father La Combe was a vessel of election, whom God had chosen to carry His name among the Gentiles, and that He would show him how much he must suffer for that name. A carnal world judges carnally of them, and imputes to human attachment what is from the purest grace. If this union by any deviation be broken, the more pure and perfect it is, the more painfully will it be felt; the separation of the soul from God by sin being worse than that from the body of death. For myself I may say I had a continual dependence on God, in every state; my soul was ever willing to obey every motion of His Spirit. I thought there could not be anything in the world which He could require from me, to which I would not give myself up readily and with pleasure. I had no interest at all for myself. When God requires anything from this wretched nothing, I find no resistance left in me to do His will, how rigorous soever it may appear. If there is a heart in the world of which Thou art the sole and absolute master, mine seems to be one of that sort. Thy will, however rigorous, is its life and its pleasure.
To resume the thread of my story, the Bishop of Grenoble's Almoner persuaded me to go for some time to Marseilles, to let the storm pass over. He told me that I would be well received there, it being his native soil, and that many people of merit were there. I wrote to Father La Combe for his consent. He readily gave it. I might have gone to Verceil; for the Bishop of Verceil had written me very obliging letters, earnestly pressing me to come. But a human respect, and fear of affording a handle to my enemies, gave me an extreme aversion thereto.
Beside the above, the Marchioness of Prunai, who, since my departure from her, had been more enlightened by her own experience, having met with a part of the things which I thought would befall her, had conceived for me a very strong friendship and intimate union of spirit, in such a manner that no two sisters could be more united than we. She was extremely desirous that I would return to her, as I had formerly promised her. But I could not resolve upon this, lest it should be thought that I was gone after Father La Combe. There had been no room given to anybody to accuse me of any indirect attachment to him; for when it depended on myself not to continue with him, I did not do it. The Bishop of Geneva had not failed to write against me to Grenoble, as he had done to other places. His nephew had gone from house to house to cry me down. All this was indifferent to me; and I did not cease to do to his diocese all the good in my power. I even wrote to him in a respectful manner; but his heart was too much closed to yield to anything.
Before I left Grenoble, that good girl I have spoken of came to me weeping, and told me that I was going, and that I hid it from her, because I would have nobody know it; but that the Devil would be before me in all the places I should go to; that I was going to a town, where I would scarce be arrived, before he would stir up the whole town against me, and would do me all the harm he possibly could. What had obliged me to conceal my departure, was my fear of being loaded with visits, and testimonies of friendship from a number of good persons, who had a very great affection for me.
I embarked then upon the Rhone, with my maid and a young woman of Grenoble, whom the Lord has highly favored through my means. The Bishop of Grenoble's Almoner also accompanied me, with another very worthy ecclesiastic. We met with many alarming accidents and wonderful preservations; but those instant dangers, which affrighted others, far from alarming me, augmented my peace. The Bishop of Grenoble's Almoner was much astonished. He was in a desperate fright, when the boat struck against a rock, and opened at the stroke. In his emotion looking attentively at me, he observed that I did not change my countenance, or move my eyebrows, retaining all my tranquillity. I did not so much as feel the first emotions of surprise, which are natural to everybody on those occasions, as they depend not on ourselves. What caused my peace in such dangers as terrify others, was my resignation to God, and because death is much more agreeable to me than life, if such were His will, to which I desire to be ever patiently submissive.
A man of quality, a servant of God, and one of my intimate friends had given me a letter for a knight of Malta, who was very devout, and whom I have esteemed since I have known him, as a man whom our Lord designed to serve the order of Malta greatly, and to be its ornament and support by his holy life. I had told him that I thought he should go thither, and that God would assuredly make use of him to diffuse a spirit of piety into many of the knights. He has actually gone to Malta, where the first places were soon given him. This man of quality sent him my little book of prayer and printed at Grenoble. He had a chaplain very averse to the spiritual path. He took this book, and condemning it at once, went to stir up a part of the town, and among the rest a set of men who called themselves the seventy-two disciples of St. Cyran. I arrived at Marseilles at ten o'clock in the morning, and that very afternoon all was in a noise against me. Some went to speak to the bishop, telling him that, on account of that book, it was necessary to banish me from the city. They gave him the book which he examined with one of his prebends. He liked it well. He sent for Monsieur Malaval and a father Recollect, who he knew had come to see me a little after my arrival, to inquire of them from whence that great tumult had its rise, which indeed had no other effect on me than to make me smile, seeing so soon accomplished what that young woman had foretold me. Monsieur Malaval and that good father told the bishop what they thought of me; after which he testified much uneasiness at the insult given me. I was obliged to go to see him. He received me with extraordinary respect, and begged my excuse for what had happened; desired me to stay at Marseilles, and assured me that he would protect me. He even asked where I lodged, that he might come to see me.
Next day the Bishop of Grenoble's Almoner went to see him, with that other priest who had come with us. The Bishop of Marseilles again testified to them his sorrow for the insults given me without any cause; and told them, that it was usual with those persons to insult all such as were not of their cabal, that they had even insulted himself. They were not content with that. They wrote to me the most offensive letters possible, though at the same time they did not know me. I apprehended that our Lord was beginning in earnest to take from me every place of abode; and those words were renewed in my mind, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
In the short time of my stay at Marseilles, I was instrumental in supporting some good souls, and among others an ecclesiastic, who till then was unacquainted with me. After having finished his thanksgiving in the church, seeing me go out, he followed me into the house in which I lodged. Then he told me that the Lord had inspired him to address me, and to open his inward state to me. He did it with as much simplicity as humility, and the Lord gave him through me all that was necessary for him, from whence he was filled with joy, and thankful acknowledgments to God. Although there were many spiritual persons there, and even of his intimate friends, he never had been moved to open his mind to any of them. He was a servant of God, and favored by Him with a singular gift of prayer. During the eight days I was at Marseilles, I saw many good souls there. Through all my persecutions, our Lord always struck some good stroke of His own right hand, and that good ecclesiastic was delivered from an anxiety of mind, which had much afflicted him for some years.
After I had left Grenoble, those who hated me, without knowing me, spread libels against me. A woman for whom I had great love, and whom I had even extricated from an engagement which she had continued in for several years, and contributed to her discarding the person to whom she had been attached, suffered her mind to resume its fondness for that pernicious engagement. She became violently enraged against me for having broken it off. Although I had freely been at some expense to procure her freedom, still she went to the Bishop of Grenoble, to tell him that I had counseled her to do an act of injustice. She then went from confessor to confessor, repeating the same story, to animate them against me. As they were too susceptible of the prejudices infused, the fire was soon kindled in all quarters. There were none but those who knew me, and who loved God, that took my part. They became more closely united to me in sympathy through my persecution. It would have been very easy for me to destroy the calumny, as well with the Bishop of Grenoble. I needed only to tell who the person was, and show the fruits of her disorder. I could not declare the guilty person, without making known at the same time the other who had been her accomplice, who now, being touched of God, was very penitent, I thought it best for me to suffer and be silent. There was a very pious man who knew all her history, from the beginning to the end of it, who wrote to her, that if she did not retract her lies, he would publish the account of her wicked life, to make known both her gross iniquity and my innocence. She continued some time in her malice, writing that I was a sorceress, with many other falsehoods. Some time after she had such a cruel remorse of conscience on this account, that she wrote both to the bishop and others to retract what she had said. She induced one to write to me, to inform me that she was in despair for what she had done; that God had punished her. After these recantations the outcry abated, the bishop disabused, and since that time he has testified a great regard for me. This creature had, among other things, said that I caused myself to be worshiped; also other unparalleled follies.
From Marseilles I knew not how or whither I should turn next. I saw no likelihood either of staying or of returning to Grenoble, where I had left my daughter in a convent. Father La Combe had written to me that he did not think I ought to go to Paris. I even felt a strong repugnance to the idea of going, which made me think it was not yet the time for it. One morning I felt myself inwardly pressed to go somewhere. I took a conveyance to go to see the Marchioness of Prunai, which was, I thought, the most honorable refuge for me in my present condition. I thought I might pass through Nice on my way to her habitation, as some had assured me I might. But when I arrived at Nice, I was greatly surprised to learn that the conveyance could not pass the mountain. I knew not what to do, nor which way to turn, alone, forsaken of everybody, and not knowing what God required of me. My confusion and crosses seemed to increase. I saw myself, without refuge or retreat, wandering as a vagabond. All the tradesmen, whom I saw in their shops, appeared to me happy, in having a dwelling of their own in which to retire. Nothing in the world seemed harder than this wandering life to me, who naturally loved propriety and decorum. As I was in this uncertainty, not knowing what course to take, one came to tell me that next day a sloop would set off, which used to go in one day to Genoa; and that if I chose it, they would land me at Savona, from whence I might get myself carried to the Marchioness of Prunai's house. To that I consented, as I could not be supplied with any other way.
I had some joy at embarking on the sea. I said in myself, "If I am the dregs of the earth, the scorn and offscouring of nature, I am now going to embark on the element which above all others is the most treacherous; if it be the Lord's pleasure to plunge me in the waves, it shall be mine to perish in them." There came a tempest in a place dangerous for a small boat; and the mariners were some of the wickedest. The irritation of the waves gave a satisfaction to my mind. I pleased myself in thinking that those mutinous billows might probably supply me with a grave. Perhaps I carried the point too far in the pleasure I took, at seeing myself beaten and bandied by the waters. Those who were with me, took notice of my intrepidity, but knew not the cause of it. I asked some little hole of a rock to be placed in, there to live separate from all creatures. I figured to myself, that some uninhabited island would have terminated all my disgraces, and put me in a condition of infallibly doing Thy will. Thou designedst me a prison far different from that of the rock, and quite another banishment than that of the uninhabited island. Thou reservest me to be battered by billows, more irritated than those of the sea. Calumnies proved to be the unrelenting waves, to which I was to be exposed, in order to be lashed and tossed by them without mercy. By the tempest we were kept back, and instead of a short day's passage to Genoa, we were eleven days making it. How peaceable was my heart in so violent an agitation! We could not land at Savona. We were obliged to go on to Genoa. We arrived there in the beginning of the week before Easter.
While I was there I was obliged to bear the insults of the inhabitants, caused by the resentment they had against the French because of the havoc of a late bombardment. The Doge was newly gone out of the city, and had carried off with him all the coaches. I could not get one, and was obliged to stay several days at excessive expenses. The people there demanded of us exorbitant sums, and as much for every single person as they would have asked for a company at the best eating place in Paris. I had little money left, but my store in Providence could not be exhausted. I begged with the greatest earnestness for a carriage at any price, to pass the feast of Easter at the Marchioness of Prunai's house. It was then within three days of Easter. I could scarce any way get myself to be understood. By the force of entreaty, they brought me at length a sorry coach with lame mules, and told me that they would take me readily to Verceil, which was only two days journey, but demanded an enormous sum. They would not engage to take me to the Marchioness of Prunai's house, as they knew not where her estate lay. This was to me a strong mortification; for I was very willing to go to Verceil; nevertheless the proximity of Easter; and want of money, in a country where they used every kind of extortion and tyranny, left me no choice. I was under an absolute necessity of submitting to be thus conveyed to Verceil.
Thus Providence led me whither I would not. Our muleteer was one of the most brutal men; and for an increase of my affliction, I had sent away to Verceil the ecclesiastic who accompanied us, to prevent their surprise at seeing me there, after I had protested against going. That ecclesiastic was very coarsely treated on the road, through the hatred they bore to the French. They made him go part of the way on foot, so that, though he set off the day before me, he arrived there only a few hours sooner than I did. As for the fellow who conducted us, seeing he had only women under his care, he treated us in the most insolent and boorish manner.
We passed through a wood infested with robbers. The muleteer was afraid, and told us, that, if we met any of them on the road, we should be murdered. They spared nobody. Scarcely had he uttered these words, when there appeared four men well armed. They immediately stopped us! The man was exceedingly frightened. I made a light bow of my head, with a smile, for I had no fear, and was so entirely resigned to Providence, that it was all one to die this way or any other; in the sea, or by the hands of robbers. When the dangers were most manifest, then was my faith the strongest, as well as my intrepidity, being unable to wish for anything else than what should fall out, whether to be dashed against the rocks, drowned, or killed in any other way; everything in the will of God being equal to me. The people who used to convey or attend me said that they had never seen a courage like mine; for the most alarming dangers, and the time when death appeared the most certain, were those which seemed to please me the most. Was it not thy pleasure, O my God, which guarded me in every imminent danger, and held me back from rolling down the precipice, on the instant of sliding over its dizzy brow? The more easy I was about life, which I bore only because Thou wast pleased to bear it, the more care Thou tookest to preserve it. There seemed a mutual emulation between us, on my part to resign it, and on thine to maintain it. The robbers then advanced to the coach; but I had no sooner saluted them, than God made them change their design. Having pushed off one another, as it were, to hinder each of them from doing any harm; they respectfully saluted me, and, with an air of compassion, unusual to such sorts of persons, retired. I was immediately struck to the heart with a full and clear conviction that it was a stroke of Thy right hand, who had other designs over me than to suffer me to die by the hand of robbers. It is Thy sovereign power which takes away their all from Thy devoted lovers; and destroys their lives with all that is of self without pity or sparing anything.
The muleteer, seeing me attended only with two young women, thought he might treat me as he would, perhaps expecting to draw money from me. Instead of taking me to the inn, he brought me to a mill, in which there was a woman. There was but one single room with several beds in it, in which the millers and muleteers lay together. In that chamber they forced me to stay. I told the muleteer I was not a person to lie in such a place and wanted to oblige him to take me to the inn. Nothing of it would he do. I was constrained to go out on foot, at ten o'clock at night, carrying a part of my clothes, and to go a good way more than a quarter of a league in the dark, in a strange place, not knowing the way, crossing one end of the wood infested with robbers, to endeavor to get to the inn. That fellow, seeing us go off from the place, where he had wanted to make me lodge, hooted after us in a very abusive manner. I bore my humiliation cheerfully, but not without feeling it. But the will of God and my resignation to it rendered everything easy to me. We were well received at the inn; and the good people there did the best in their power for our recovery from the fatigue we had undergone. They assured us the place we had left was very dangerous. Next morning we were obliged to return on foot to the carriage for that man would not bring it to us. On the contrary, he gave us a shower of fresh insults. To consummate his base behavior, he sold me to the post, whereby I was forced to go the rest of the way in a post-chaise instead of a carriage.
In this equipage I arrived at Alexandria, a frontier town, subject to Spain, on the side of the Milanese. Our driver took us, according to their custom, to the posthouse. I was exceedingly astonished when I saw the landlady coming out not to receive him, but to oppose his entrance. She had heard there were women in the chaise, and taking us for a different sort of women from what we were, she protested against our coming in. On the other hand, the driver was determined to force his entrance in spite of her. Their dispute rose to such a height, that a great number of the officers of the garrison, with a mob, gathered at the noise, who were surprised at the odd humor of the woman in refusing to lodge us. With earnestness I entreated the post to take us to some other house, but he would not; so obstinately was he bent on carrying his point. He assured the landlady we were persons of honor and piety too; the marks whereof he had seen. At last, by force of pressing entreaties, he obliged her to come to see us. As soon as she had looked at us, she acted as the robbers had done; she relented at once and admitted us.
No sooner had I alighted from the chaise, than she said, "Go shut yourselves up in that chamber hard by, and do not stir, that my son may not know you are here; as soon as he knows it he will kill you." She said it with so much force, as did also the servant maid, that, if death had not so many charms for me, I should have been ready to die with fear. The two poor girls with me were under frightful apprehensions. When any stirred, or came to open the door, they thought they were coming to kill them. In short they continued in a dreadful suspense, between life and death, till next day, when we learned that the young man had sworn to kill any woman who lodged at the house. A few days before, an event had fallen out, which had like to have ruined him; a woman of a bad life having there privately murdered a man in some esteem, that had cost the house a heavy fine; and he was afraid of any more such persons coming, not without reason.
After these adventures, and others which it would be tedious to recite, I arrived at Verceil. I went to the inn, where I was badly received. I sent for Father La Combe, who I thought had been already apprised of my coming, by the ecclesiastic whom I had sent before, and who would be of so much service to me. This ecclesiastic was only a little while arrived. How much better on the road should I have fared, if I had him with me! For in that country they look upon ladies, accompanied with ecclesiastics, with veneration, as persons of honor and piety. Father La Combe came in a strange fret at my arrival, God so permitting it. He said that every one would think I was come after him, and that would injure his reputation, which in that country was very high. I had no less pain to go. It was necessity only which had obliged me to submit to such a disagreeable task. The father received me with coolness, and in such a manner as let me sufficiently see his sentiments, and indeed redoubled my pain. I asked him if he required me to return, adding, if he did, "I would go off that moment however oppressed and spent, both with fatigues and fastings." He said that he did not know how the Bishop of Verceil would take my arrival, after he had given over all his expectations of it, and after I had so long, and so obstinately, refused the obliging offers he had made me; since which he no longer expressed any desire to see me.
It seemed to me then as if I were rejected from the face of the earth, without being able to find any refuge, and as if all creatures were combined to crush me. I passed that night without sleep, not knowing what course I should be obliged to take, being persecuted by my enemies, and a subject of disgrace to my friends.
When it was known at the inn, that I was one of Father La Combe's acquaintance, they treated me with greatest respect and kindness. They esteemed him as a saint. The father knew not how to tell the bishop of my arrival, and I felt his pain more than my own. As soon as that Prelate knew that I was arrived, he sent his niece, who took me in her coach, and carried me to her house. These things were only done out of ceremony; and the bishop, not having seen me yet, knew not what to think of a journey so very unexpected, after I had thrice refused, though he sent expresses on purpose to bring me to him. He was out of humor with me. Nevertheless, as he was informed that my design was not to stay at Verceil, but to go to the Marchioness of Prunai's house, he gave orders for me to be well treated. He could not see me till Easter Sunday was over. He officiated all the eve and all that day. After it was over, he came in a chaise to his niece's house to see me. Though he understood French hardly any better than I did Italian, he was very well satisfied with the conversation he had with me. He appeared to have as much favour for me as he had of indifference before.
He conceived as strong a friendship for me as if I had been his sister; and his only pleasure, amid his continual occupations, was to come and pass half an hour with me in speaking of God. He wrote to the Bishop of Marseilles to thank him for having protected me in the persecutions there. He wrote to the Bishop of Grenoble; and he omitted nothing to manifest his regard for me. He now seemed to think alone of finding out means to detain me in his diocese. He would not hear of my going to see the Marchioness of Prunai. On the contrary, he wrote to her to come and settle with me in his diocese. He sent Father La Combe to her, on purpose to exhort her to come; assuring her that he would unite us all to make a congregation. The Marchioness entered into it readily, and so did her daughter. They would have come with Father La Combe, but the Marchioness was sick. The bishop was active and earnest in collecting and establishing a society of us, and found several pious persons and some very devout young ladies, who were all ready to come to join us. But it was not the will of God for fix me thus, but to crucify me yet more.
The fatigue of traveling made me sick. The girl also whom I brought from Grenoble fell sick. Her relations, who were covetous took it in their heads that, if she should die in my service, I would get her to make a will in my favor. They were much mistaken. Far from desiring the property of others, I had given up my own. Her brother, full of this apprehension, came with all speed; the first thing he spoke to her about, although he found her recovered, was to make a will. That made a great noise in Verceil. He wanted her to return with him, but she refused. I advised her to do what her brother desired. He contracted a friendship with some of the officers of the garrison, to whom he told ridiculous stories, as that I wanted to use his sister badly. He pretended she was a person of quality. They gave out what I was still afraid of,—that I was come after Father La Combe. They even persecuted him on my account. The bishop was much troubled, but could not remedy it. The friendship he had for me increased every day; because, as he loved God, so he did all those whom he thought desired to love God. As he saw me so much indisposed, he came to see me with assiduity and charity, when at leisure from his occupations. He made me little presents of fruits and other things. His relations were jealous. They said that I was come to ruin him, and to carry off his money into France, which was farthest from my thoughts. The bishop patiently bore these affronts, hoping still to keep me in his diocese, when I should be recovered.