The Best of Fenelon

Words of wisdom from a "friend of God"

-ongoing -

   "Strict as God seems to be in his dealings with us, he never inflicts any suffering solely to give us pain. He always has purification of the soul in view. The severity of the operation is caused by the depth of the malady to be cured. God would not cut if there were no sore. He only probes the ulcerated flesh. So, after all, it is our own destructive self-will that is the cause of what we suffer, and God's hand deals as gently as possible with us. But how deep our malady, how malignant our souls must be, since all the time he spares us so tenderly, yet puts us to such grievous pain."

   "In his love, he takes away even his purest gifts if we are using them wrongly; and the purer those gifts the more jealous he is that we should not reckon them as our own or take credit to ourselves for them."

   "And so all our good things need purifying, so that they will not foster a merely natural life in us. Our corrupt nature finds a very subtle food in the graces that are most opposed to nature. Self-love is fed, not merely by humiliation and austerities, by fervent prayer and mortification - but even by the fullest self-renunciation and utter sacrifice. There is an infinite amount of moral strength in the thought that we have no strength at all and that amid such a horrible trial we are still yielding ourselves up unreservedly. And so, to make the sacrifice real, we must give up even our satisfaction in our sacrifice."

   "The only way to find God truly is in this readiness to part with all his gifts, this through sacrifice of self and of all inward resources. God's exceeding jealousy exacts it, and you can easily see how we never lose ourselves in him until all else fails. A man who is falling into an abyss is not completely cast down as long as he can clutch hold of the sides. And self-love, even when God overthrows it, clutches in its despair at every gleam of hope, like a drowning person grasping at straws."

   "You must learn to realize the necessity of this deprivation of all God's gifts, which he gradually works out. There is no gift, however precious, that, after having been a help, will not become a snare and a hindrance to the soul that rests in it; and so God often takes away what he has given. However, he does not take it away completely. He often deprives us of something only in order to restore it more fully and without the evil spirit of self-satisfaction that had unconsciously gained possession of us. The self-satisfaction is overthrown by the loss, and then he restores the gift a hundred times over. Then the soul loses sight of the gift and sees only God."

   "I cannot help admiring the goodness of the cross. We are worth nothing without it. It makes me tremble and convulses me as soon as I begin to feel it. All that I have said of its helpful operations vanishes away before the agony it brings to my inmost heart. But as soon as it gives me time to breathe, I open my eyes again and I see that it is worthy of praise. Then I am ashamed to have been overwhelmed by it. The experience of this inconsistency is a deep lesson for me."

   "The love of God is full of consideration, forbearance, voluntary descent from one's rank, and tenderness. It adapts itself, waits, and never moves more than one step at a time. The less self-love we have, the more we know how to adapt ourselves to curing our neighbor's failings of that kind; we learn better never to lance without applying plenty of healing ointment to the wound, never to purge the patient without feeding him, never to risk an operation except when nature indicates its safety. We learn to wait years before giving a beneficial warning. We learn to wait till providence prepares suitable external circumstances, and grace opens the heart. If you persist in gathering fruit before it is ripe, you simply waste your labor."

   "God, in his desire to strip the soul for its own perfection, causes it really to pass through these trials of self, and never leaves it alone until he has put an end to its love of self-concern and support. There is nothing so jealous, so exacting, and so searching as this pure love of God. It cannot abide a thousand things that were unnoticed in our previous state. What other Christians might consider insignificant seems a vital point to the soul that is intent on the death of the old self. As with gold in the furnace, the fire consumes all that is not gold, so it seems necessary that the heart should be melted with fervent heat in order for the love of God to be rendered pure. Those being purified in this way are thankful to God for whatever he does in them solely because he does it for his own glory.
   God does not pursue every soul in this way in the present life. There are many truly good persons whom he leaves in some degree under the sway of self-love. These remainders of self support them in the practice of virtue and serve to purify them to a certain degree. There would be almost nothing more harmful or dangerous than to deprive such persons of the contemplation of the grace of God in them as leading to their own personal perfection. This second group is also grateful, but partly because their own perfection is secured at the same time. If the first group should try to deprive the second of this interior comfort they have in reference to grace, they would cause them as much injury as they would an infant by weaning it before it was able to eat. To take away the breast would be to destroy it. We must never seek to deprive a soul of the food that still contains nourishment for it, and that God allows to remain as a stay to its weakness. To forestall or hinder grace would be to destroy it."
   On the other hand, the second group should not condemn the first because they do not see them as much concerned as they themselves are about their own perfection. God works in everyone as he pleases. The wind blows wherever it pleases, and as it pleases. Forgetfulness of self is a state in which God can do with us whatever most pleases him.