I continue today with more excerpts from "Fenelon's Spiritual Letters" by Francois Fenelon (1651 - 1715). To read the first article in this series, click here. As I read these true nuggets of spiritual truth, I find myself having to go back and re-read them many times. I hope these are as helpful to you in your spiritual walk as they are to me.
On The Necessity and Benefit of Suffering
A cross borne simply, without the additions of…self-love, is only half a cross. Those who suffer with this loving simplicity are not only happy in spite of the cross, but they are even happy because of it; for love delights in suffering on behalf of the beloved, and the cross which likens them to their Beloved One is a consoling bond of love.
On Caring For An Aged Person
Bear the heavy burden of a very aged person who can no longer bear her own. Reason becomes weak at so great an age; goodness itself, unless very deeply rooted, seems to grow slack; temper and restlessness acquire all the strength which the mind loses…
(As a caretaker) take care of your health, and relieve your mind by intervals of repose, of joy, and of innocent freedom.
As age advances, less and less must be expected of a person who has no resources. You must expect almost nothing of her, and you must not expect too much of yourself.
On Forbearance To Others
…Suffering (at the hands of others) is needful for us. We are sent into the world only to be purified by dying to our inclinations and to all of our own will. Let self die in you then; you have excellent opportunities for so doing; what a pity to let them be lost!...
(In your conversations with others) you must learn at times to slip quietly over certain little matters, while you need all your firmness in those (matters) which you believe essential. But remember that true firmness is gently, humble, and tranquil. Anything like sharp, haughty, and restless firmness is unworthy of God’s work. We are told that Wisdom “sweetly ordereth all things.”…act in the same manner; and, if ever you are betrayed into acting harshly, humble yourself immediately without reserve.
On Possessing A Calm Spirit
What I most desire for you is a certain calmness, which comes from recollection (collecting yourself, composure), detachment (not being attached to the world), and love of God.
Occupy yourself as little as possible about external matters. Give at proper seasons a quiet, calm attention to those things assigned to your care by Providence: leave the rest. We do much more by quiet, tranquil labor in the presence of God, than by the greatest eagerness and over-activity of a restless nature.
On Carrying the Spirit of Prayer Into All Our Actions
Do not be discouraged at your faults; bear with yourself in correcting them, as you would with your neighbor. Lay aside this ardor (eagerness) of mind which exhausts your body, and leads you to commit errors. Accustom yourself gradually to carry prayer into all your daily occupations. Speak, act, work in peace, as if you were in prayer, as indeed you ought to be.
Do everything without eagerness, in the spirit of grace. As soon as you perceive your natural impetuosity gliding in, retire quietly within, where is the kingdom of God. Listen only to the leadings of grace, then say and do nothing but what the Holy Spirit shall put in your heart.
You will find that you will become more tranquil, that your words will be fewer and more effectual, and that, with less effort, you will accomplish more good…
I entreat you to try to train yourself to this dependence on the inner voice, then all your life will gradually become a prayer. You may suffer, but a peaceful suffering is only half a suffering.
You must stifle your restlessness, renounce your self-will, retrench (cut off, pare back) petty curiousity, your longings after success, and your eagerness to attract what gratifies self-conceit. Silence, (when used) to cultivate the presence of God, is the best remedy for our troubles; it is the way to deny ourselves continually in the most ordinary life.
Make good use of your period of repose by calming yourself, softening your temper, fostering (nourishing) charity, humbling presumption… (and) cultivating…the presence of God. God has given you a great treasure in your (sensitive) temperament, by making it liable to suffer a slow martyrdom every hour of the day. Things which would scarcely rouse other people touch you to the very core….
On Gaining The Spirit of Composure
…Avoid whatever dissipates (scatters your attention) and excites you, whereby you cut off the source of dangerous distractions, which dry up prayer. You cannot expect to find interior nourishment if you live only for what is exterior. Faithfulness in renouncing (abandoning) whatever makes you too eager and (temperamental in your conduct) is absolutely necessary, if you would win the spirit of recollection (composure) and prayer. No one can have a relish for God and the world at the same time; and you will carry to your hours of prayer the same spirit which you have during all the rest of the day.
On Love and Prayer
Let us not bargain with God with a view to what will cost us least and bring us in most comfort. Let us seek only self-denial and the cross. Let us love, and live by love alone. Let Love do whatsoever He will to root out self-love. Let us not be content to pray morning and evening, but let us live in prayer all day long. Let this prayer, this life of love, which means death to self, spread out from our seasons of prayer as from a center over all that we have to do. All should become prayer, that is, a loving consciousness of God’s presence, whether it be social intercourse or business. Such a course as this will insure you a profound peace.
On True Fidelity
It seems to me that true fidelity consists in obeying God in all things, and in following the light which points out our duty, and the grace which guides us; taking as our rule of life the intention to please God in all things, and to do always not only what is acceptable to Him, but, if possible, what is most acceptable; not trifling with petty distinctions, between sins great and small, imperfections and faults; for, although it may be very true that there are such distinctions, they should have no weight with a soul which is determined to refuse nothing it possesses to God.
And if, besides this sincere desire always to do what is best in God’s sight, you also do it with joy, are not depressed when you fail, but begin again a hundred times over, hope to the end for success, bear with yourself in your involuntary frailties as God bears, wait patiently for His appointed time of complete deliverance, and meanwhile go on quietly and according to your strength in the path before you… not looking upon God as a spy watching to surprise you, or an enemy laying snares for you, but as a Father who loves, and would (desire to) save you…such you will find to be the path towards true liberty…
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God Bless You!
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