The Practice of the Presence of God – Letters

FIRST LETTER — undated

My Reverend Mother: Since you desire so earnestly that I should communicate to you the method by which I arrived at that habitual sense of God’s presence, which our Lord, of His mercy, has been pleased to vouchsafe to me, I must tell you that it is with great difficulty that I am prevailed upon by your importunities; and now I do it only upon the terms that you show my letter to nobody.  If I knew that you would let it be seen, all the desire that I have for your perfection would not be able to determine me to it.

The account I can give you is this.

Having found in many books different methods of going to God, and diverse practices of the spiritual life, I thought this would serve rather to puzzle me than facilitate what I sought after, which was nothing else than how to become wholly God’s.  This made me resolve to give the all for the all; so after having given myself wholly to God, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not His, and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world.  Sometimes I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his judge; at other times I beheld Him in my heart as my Father, as my God.  I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence and recalling it as often as I found it wandering from Him.  I found no small trouble in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that I encountered, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily.  I made this my business as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of God.

Such has been my common practice ever since I entered monastic life; and, although I have done it very imperfectly, yet I have found great advantages by it.  These, I well know, are to be imputed solely to the mercy and goodness of God, because we can do nothing without Him, and I still less than any.  But, when we are faithful to keep ourselves in His holy presence and set Him always before us, this not only hinders our offending Him and doing anything that may displease Him, at least wilfully, but it also begets in us a holy freedom and, if I may so speak, a familiarity with God, wherewith we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of.  In short, by often repeating these acts, they become habitual, and the presence of God is rendered as it were natural to us.  Give Him thanks, if you please, with me, for His great goodness toward me, which I can never sufficiently marvel at, for the many favors He has done to so miserable a sinner as I am.  May all things praise Him.  Amen.  I am, in our Lord,

Yours, —-

SECOND LETTER — 1 June 1682

(apparently not authored by Brother Lawrence but by another in his monastery)

My Reverend Mother: I have taken this opportunity to communicate to you the sentiments of one of our Society concerning the wonderful effects and continual succor which he receives from the presence of God.  Let you and me both profit by them.

You must know during the forty years and more that he has spent in religion, to be always with God; and to do nothing, say nothing, and think nothing which may displease Him, and this without any other view than purely for the love of Him, and because He deserves infinitely more.

He is now so accustomed to that divine Presence that he receives from it continual succor upon all occasions.  For above thirty years his soul has been filled with joys so continual, and sometimes so transcendent, that he is forced to use means to moderate them, and to prevent their appearing outwardly.

If sometimes he is a little too much absent from the divine Presence, which happens often when he is most engaged in his outward business, God presently makes Himself felt in his soul to recall him.  He answers with exact fidelity to these inward drawings, either by an elevation of his heart toward God, or by a meek and loving regard to Him; or by such words as love forms upon these occasions, as for instance, My God, behold me, wholly Thine: Lord, make me according to Thy heart.  And then it seems to him (as in effect he feels it) that this God of love, satisfied with such few words, reposes again, and rests in the depth and center of his soul.  The experience of these things gives him such an assurance that God is always deep within his soul, that no doubt of it can arise, whatever may betide.

Judge from this what contentment and satisfaction he enjoys, feeling continually within him so great a treasure.  No longer is he in anxious search after it, but he has it open before him, free to take of it what he pleases.

He complains much of our blindness, and exclaims often that we are to be pitied who content ourselves with so little [of what God has to bestow].  God’s treasure, he says, is like an infinite ocean, yet a little wave of feeling, passing with the moment, contents us.  Blind as we are, we hinder God and stop the current of His graces.  But when He finds a soul permeated with a living faith, He pours into it His graces and favors plenteously; into the soul they flow like a torrent which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads with impetuosity its pent-up flood.

Yes, we often stop this torrent by the little value we set upon it.  But let us stop it no longer; let us enter into ourselves and break down the barrier which holds it back.  Let us make the most of the day of grace; let us redeem the time that is lost, for perhaps we have but little left.  Death follows us close; let us be well prepared for it, for we die but once; and a miscarriage then is irretrievable.

I say again, let us enter into ourselves.  Time presses, there is no room for delay; our souls are at stake.  You, I believe, have taken such effectual measures that you will not be surprised.  I commend you for it; it is the one thing needful.  We must, nevertheless, always work at it, for, in the spiritual life, not to advance is to go back.  But those whose spirits are stirred by the breath of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.  If the vessel of our soul is still tossed with winds and storms, let us awake the Lord, who reposes in it, and He will quickly calm the sea.

I have taken the liberty to impart to you these good thoughts, that you may compare them with your own.  It will serve again to rekindle and inflame them, if by misfortune (which God forbid, for it would be indeed a great misfortune) they should be, although never so little, cooled.  Let us then both recall our early fervor.  Let us profit by the example and the thoughts of this brother, who is little known of the world, but known of God, and abundantly blessed by Him.  I will pray for you; do you pray instantly for me.  I am, in our Lord,

Yours, —-

THIRD LETTER — undated

My Reverend and Greatly Honored Mother: I have received today two books and a letter from Sister —-, who is preparing to make her “profession,” and upon that account desires the prayers of your holy Community, and yours in particular.  I perceive that she reckons much upon them; pray do not disappoint her.  Beg of God that she may make her sacrifice in the view of His love alone, and with firm resolution to be wholly devoted to Him.  I will send you one of these books, which treat of the presence of God; a subject which in my opinion contains the whole spiritual life; and it seems to me that whoever duly practices it will soon become spiritual.

I know that for the right practice of it the heart must be empty of all else, because God wills possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone unless it be empty of all besides, so He cannot work in it what He would, unless it be left vacant to Him.

There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual walk with God.  Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive.  It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from the motive of love, and because God would have us so walk.

Were I a preacher, I should, above all other things, preach the practice of the presence of God; and, were I a “director,” I should advise all the world to do it, so necessary do I think it, and so easy too.

Ah! knew we but the need we have of the grace and assistance of God, we should never lose sight of Him — no, not for a moment.  Believe me; this very instant, make a holy and firm resolution nevermore wilfully to stray from Him, and to live the rest of your days in His sacred presence, for love of Him surrendering, if He think fit, all other pleasures.

Set heartily about this work, and if you perform it as you ought, be assured that you will soon find the effects of it.  I will assist you with my prayers, poor as they are.  I commend myself earnestly to yours and those of your holy Community, being theirs, and more particularly

Yours, —-

FOURTH LETTER — 3 November 1685

To the Same: I have received from Mdlle. —- the things which you gave her for me.  I wonder that you have not given me your thoughts on the little book I sent to you, and which you must have received.  Pray, set heartily about the practice of it in your old age; it is better late than never.

I cannot imagine how religious people can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of God.  For my part, I keep myself retired with Him in the very center of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing, but the least turning away from Him is to me insupportable.

This exercise does not much fatigue the body; yet it is proper to deprive it sometimes, nay often, of many little pleasures which are innocent and lawful, for God will not permit that a soul which desires to be devoted entirely to Him should take other pleasures than with Him: that is more than reasonable.

I do not say that therefore we must put any violent constraint upon ourselves.  No, we must serve God in a holy freedom: we must do our business faithfully, without trouble or disquiet, recalling our mind to God meekly and with tranquility as often as we find it wandering from Him.

It is, however, necessary to put our whole trust in God, laying aside all other cares, and even some particular forms of devotion, although very good in themselves, yet such as one often engages in unreasonably, because these devotions are only means to attain to the end.  So when by this practice of the presence of God we are with Him who is our end, it is then useless to return to the means.  Then it is that, abiding in His holy presence, we may continue our commerce of love, now by an act of adoration, of praise, or of desire; now by an act of sacrifice or of thanksgiving, and in all the manners which our mind can devise.

Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find to it from nature; you must do yourself violence.  Often, at the onset, one thinks it is lost time; but you must go on, and resolve to persevere in it until death, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur.  I commend myself to the prayers of your holy Community, and to yours in particular. I am, in our Lord,

Yours, —-

FIFTH LETTER — undated

Madame: I pity you much.  It will be of great importance if you can leave the care of your affairs to M. and Mme. —-, and spend the remainder of your life only in worshipping God.  He lays no great burden upon us: a little remembrance of Him from time to time; a little adoration; sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sorrows, and sometimes to return Him thanks for the benefits He has given you, and still gives you, in the midst of your troubles.  He asks you to console yourself with Him the oftenest you can.  Lift up your heart to Him even at your meals and when you are in company; the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him.  You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we think.

To be with God, there is no need to be continually in church.  We may make an oratory of our heart wherein to retire from time to time to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love.  Everyone is capable of such familiar conversation with God, some more, some less.  He knows what we can do.  Let us begin, then.  Perhaps He is just waiting for one generous resolution on our part.  Have courage.  We have but little time to live; you are near sixty-four, and I am almost eighty.  Let us live and die with God.  Sufferings will be sweet and pleasant to us while we are with Him; and without Him, the greatest pleasures will be anguish to us.  May He be blessed for all.  Amen.

Accustom yourself, then, by degrees thus to worship Him, to beg His grace, to offer Him your heart from time to time in the midst of your business, even every moment, if you can. Do not scrupulously confine yourself to fixed rules, or particular forms of devotion, but act with faith in God, with love and humility.  You may assure M. and Mme. and Mdlle. —- of my poor prayers, and that I am their servant, and particularly

Yours in our Lord, —-

SIXTH LETTER — undated

My Reverend Father: Not finding my manner of life in books, although I have no difficulty about it, yet, for greater security, I shall be glad to know your thoughts concerning it.

In a conversation some days since with a person of piety, he told me the spiritual life is a life of grace, which begins with servile fear, which is increased by hope of eternal life, and which is consummated by pure love; that each of these states has its different stages, by which one arrives at last at that blessed consummation.

I have not followed all these methods. On the contrary, from I know not what instincts, I found they discouraged me. This was the reason why, at my entrance into religion, I resolved to give myself up to God as the best satisfaction I could make for my sins, and for the love of Him to renounce all besides.

For the first year I commonly employed myself during the time set apart for devotion with the thought of death, judgment, heaven, hell, and my sins.  Thus I continued some years, applying my mind carefully the rest of the day, and even in the midst of my business, to the presence of God, whom I considered always as with me, often as in me.

At length I came insensibly to do the same thing during my set time of prayer, which caused in me great delight and consolation. This practice produced in me so high an esteem for God that faith alone was capable to satisfy me in that point.

Such was my beginning; and yet I must tell you that for the first ten years I suffered much.  The apprehension that I was not devoted to God as I wished to be, my past sins always present to my mind, and the great unmerited favors which God bestowed on me, were the matter and source of my sufferings.  During this time I fell often, yet as often rose again.  It seemed to me that all creation, reason, and God Himself were against me, and faith alone for me.  I was troubled sometimes with thoughts that to believe I had received such favors was an effect of my presumption, which pretended to be at once where others arrive with difficulty; at other times that it was a wilful delusion, and that there was no salvation for me.

When I thought of nothing but to end my days in these trouble and disquiet (which did not at all diminish the trust I had in God, and which served only to increase my faith), I found myself changed all at once; and my soul, which, till that time, was in trouble, felt a profound inward peace, as if it had found its center and place of rest.

Ever since that time I walk before God in simple faith, with humility and with love, and I apply myself diligently to do nothing and think nothing which may displease Him.  I hope that, when I have done what I can, He will do with me what He pleases.

As for what passes in me at present, I cannot express it.  I have no pain nor any doubt as to my state, because I have no will but that of God, which I endeavor to carry out in all things, and to which I am so submissive that I would not take up a straw from the ground against His order, or from any other motive than purely that of love to Him.

I have quitted all forms of devotion and set prayers but those to which my state obliges me.  And I make it my only business to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention and an absorbing passionate regard to God, which I may call an actual presence of God; or, to speak better, a silent and secret conversation of the soul with God . . .

If sometimes my thoughts wander from it by necessity or infirmity, I am soon recalled by inward emotions so charming and delightful that I am confused to mention them.  I beg you to reflect rather upon my great wretchedness, of which you are fully informed, than upon the great favors which God does me, all unworthy and ungrateful as I am.

As for my set hours of prayer, they are only a continuation of the same exercise.  Sometimes I consider myself there as a stone before a carver, whereof he is to make a statue; presenting myself thus before God, I desire Him to form His perfect image in my soul, and make me entirely like Himself.

At other times, when I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit and all my soul lift itself up without any trouble or effort of mine, and it remains as it were in elevation, fixed firm in God as in its center and its resting place.

I know that some charge this state with inactivity, delusion, and self-love.  I confess that it is a holy inactivity, and would be a happy self-love were the soul in that state capable of it; because, in fact, while the soul is in this repose, it cannot be troubled by such acts as it was formerly accustomed to, and which were then its support, but which would now rather injure than assist it.

Yet I cannot bear that this should be called delusion, because the soul which thus enjoys God desires herein nothing but Him.  If this be delusion in me, it belongs to God to remedy it.  May He do with me what He pleases; I desire only Him and to be wholly devoted to Him.  You will, however, oblige me in sending me your opinion, to which I always pay a great deference, for I have a singular esteem for your Reverence, and am, in our Lord, my Reverend Father,

Yours, —-

SEVENTH LETTER — undated

My Reverend and Greatly Honored Mother: My prayers, of little worth though they be, will not fail you; I have promised it, and I will keep my word.  How happy we might be, if only we could find the treasure of which the Gospel tells us – – all else would seem to us nothing.  How infinite it is!  The more one toils and searches in it, the greater are the riches that one finds.  Let us toil therefore unceasingly in this search, and let us not grow weary and leave off, until we have found . . .

I know not what I shall become: it seems to me that peace of soul and repose of spirit descend on me, even in sleep.  To be without the sense of this peace would be affliction indeed; but with this calm in my soul even for purgatory I would console myself.

I know not what God purposes with me or keeps for me; I am in a calm so great that I fear nought.  What can I fear when I am with Him?  And with Him, in His presence, I hold myself the most I can.  May all things praise Him.  Amen.

Yours, —-

EIGHTH LETTER — 12 October 1688

Madame: We have a God who is infinitely gracious and knows all our wants.  I always thought that He would reduce you to extremity.  He will come in His own time and when you least expect it.  Hope in Him more than ever; thank Him with me for the favors he does you, particularly for the fortitude and patience which He gives you in your afflictions.  It is a plain mark of the care He takes of you.  Comfort yourself, then, with Him, and give thanks for all.

I admire also the fortitude and bravery of M. —-.  God has given him a good disposition and a good will; but there is in him still a little of the world and a great deal of youth.  I hope the affliction which God has sent him will prove a wholesome medicine to him and make him take stock of himself.  It is an accident which should engage him to put all his trust in Him who accompanies him everywhere.  Let him think of Him as often as he can, especially in the greatest dangers.  A little lifting up of the heart suffices.  A little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship, although upon a march, and a sword in hand, are prayers, which, however short, are nevertheless very acceptable to God; and far from lessening a soldier’s courage in occasions of danger, they best serve to fortify it.

Let him think then of God the most he can.  Let him accustom himself, by degrees, to this small but holy exercise.  No one will notice it, and nothing is easier than to repeat often in the day these little acts of inward worship.  Recommend to him, if you please, that he think of God the most he can, in the manner here directed.  It is very fit and most necessary for a soldier, who is daily in danger of his life.  I hope that God will assist him and all the family, to whom I present my service, being theirs and in particular, Yours, —-

NINTH LETTER — undated

(Concerning wandering thoughts in prayer)

My Reverend and Greatly Honored Mother: You tell me nothing new; you are not the only one that is troubled with wandering thoughts.  Our mind is extremely roving; but, as the will is mistress of all our faculties, she must recall them, and carry them to God as their last end.

When the mind, for lack of discipline when first engaged in devotion, has contracted certain bad habits of wandering and dissipation, such habits are difficult to overcome and commonly draw us, even against our wills, to the things of the earth.

I believe one remedy for this is to confess our faults, and to humble ourselves before God.  I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer; many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering.  Hold yourself in prayer before God, like a poor, dumb, paralytic beggar at a rich man’s gate.  Let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord.  If it sometimes wander and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that: trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to recall it; the will must bring it back in tranquility.  If you persevere with your whole strength, God will have pity on you.

One way to recall the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in tranquility, is not to let it wander too far at other times.  You should keep it strictly in the presence of God; and being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings.

I have told you already at large, in my former letters, of the advantages we may draw from this practice of the presence of God.  Let us set about it seriously, and pray for one another.

Yours, —-

TENTH LETTER — 28 March 1689

To the Same: The enclosed is an answer to that which I received from our good Sister —-; pray deliver it to her.  She seems to me full of good will, but she wants to go faster than grace.  One does not become holy all at once.  I commend her to you; we ought to help one another by our advice, and still more by our good examples.  You will oblige me by letting me hear of her from time to time, and whether she be very fervent and very obedient.

Let us thus think often that our only business in this life is to please God, and that all besides is but folly and vanity.  You and I have lived a monastic life more than forty years.  Have we employed those years in loving and serving God, who by His mercy has called us to this state and for that very end?  I am filled with shame and confusion when I reflect, on the one hand, upon the great favors which God has bestowed and is still bestowing upon me; and, on the other, upon the ill use I have made of them, and my small advancement in the way of perfection.

Since by His mercy He gives us still a little time, let us begin in earnest; let us repair the lost time; let us return with a whole-hearted trust to that Father of mercies, who is always ready to receive us into His loving arms.  Let us renounce and renounce generously, with single heart, for the love of Him, all that is not His; He deserves infinitely more.  Let us think of Him perpetually.  Let us put all our trust in Him.  I doubt not but that we shall soon find the effects of it in receiving the abundance of His grace, with which we can do all things, and without which we can do nothing but sin.

We cannot escape the dangers which abound in life without the actual and continual help of God.  Let us then pray to Him for it continually.  How can we pray to Him without being with Him?  How can we be with Him but in thinking of Him often?  And how can we often think of Him unless by a holy habit of thought which we should form?  You will tell me that I am always saying the same thing.  It is true, for this is the best and easiest method I know; and as I use no other, I advise all the world to do it.  We must know before we can love.  In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.  This is an argument which well deserves your consideration.  I am,

Yours, —-

ELEVENTH LETTER — 29 October 1689

Madame: I have had a good deal of difficulty to bring myself to write to M. —-, and I do it now purely because you and Mme. —- desire me.  Pray write the directions and send it to him.  I am very well pleased with the trust which you have in God; I wish that He may increase it in you more and more.  We cannot have too much confidence in so good and faithful a Friend, who will never fail us in this world nor in the next.

If M. —- knows how to profit by the loss he has had and puts all his confidence in God, He will soon give him another friend, more powerful and more inclined to serve him.  He disposes of hearts as He pleases.  Perhaps M. —- was too much attached to him he has lost.  We ought to love our friends, but without encroaching upon our chief love, which is due God.

Remember, I pray you, what I have often recommended, which is, to think often on God, by day, by night, in your business, and even in your diversions.  He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone.  You would think it rude to leave a friend alone who came to visit you; why, then, must God be neglected?  Do not, then, forget Him but think on Him often, adore Him continuously, live and die with Him; this is the glorious employment of a Christian.  In a word, this is our profession; if we do not know it, we must learn it.  I will endeavor to help you with my prayers, and am, in our Lord,

Yours, —-

TWELFTH LETTER — 17 November 1690

My Reverend and Greatly Honored Mother: I do not pray that you may be delivered from your troubles, but I pray God earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases.  Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross.  He will loose you when He thinks fit.  Happy those who suffer with Him.  Accustom yourself to suffer in that manner, and seek from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He shall judge to be necessary for you.  The men of the world do not comprehend these truths, nor is it to be wondered at, since they suffer as lovers of the world and not as lovers of Christ.  They consider sickness as a pain of nature and not as from God: and seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress.  But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of God, as the effect of His mercy, and the means which He employs for their salvation — such commonly find in it great consolation.

I wish you could convince yourself that God is often nearer to us, and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health.  Rely upon no other physician; for, according to my apprehension, He reserves your cure to Himself.  Put, then, all your trust in Him, and you will soon find the effects of it in your recovery, which we often retard by putting greater confidence in medicine than in God.

Whatever remedies you make use of, they will succeed only so far as He permits.  When pains come from God, He alone can cure them.  He often sends diseases of the body to cure those of the soul.  Comfort yourself with the sovereign Physician both of the soul and body.

I foresee that you will tell me that I am very much at my ease, that I eat and drink at the table of the Lord.  You are right: but think you that it would be a small pain to the greatest criminal in the world to eat at his king’s table and to be served by his king’s hands, without however being assured of pardon?  I believe that he would feel exceeding great uneasiness, and such as nothing could moderate, save only his trust in the goodness of his sovereign.  So I can assure you that whatever pleasures I taste at the table of my king, my sins, ever present before my eyes as well as the uncertainty of my pardon, torment me: although in truth that torment is pleasing.

Be satisfied with the state in which God places you: however happy you may think me, I envy you.  Pains and sufferings would be a paradise to me while I should suffer with my God, and the greatest pleasures would be hell to me if I could relish them without Him.  All my joy would be to suffer something for His sake.

I must, in a little time, go to God.  What comforts me in this life is that I now see Him by faith; and I see Him in such a manner as might make me say sometimes, I believe no more, but I see. I feel what faith teaches us, and in that assurance and that practice of faith I will live and die with Him.

Continue, then, always with God: it is the only support and comfort for your affliction.  I shall beseech Him to be with you.  I present my service to the Reverend Mother Superior and commend myself to your prayers, and am, in our Lord,

Yours, —-

THIRTEENTH LETTER — 28 November 1690

My Good Mother: If we were well accustomed to the exercise of the presence of God, all bodily diseases would be much alleviated thereby.  God often permits that we should suffer a little to purify our souls and oblige us to continue with Him.

Take courage: offer Him your pains unceasingly; pray to Him for strength to endure them.  Above all, acquire a habit of conversing often with God, and forget Him the least you can.  Adore Him in your infirmities, offer yourself to Him from time to time, and in the very height of your sufferings beseech Him humbly and affectionately (as a child his good father) to grant you the aid of His grace and to make you comfortable to His holy will. I shall endeavor to help you with my poor, halting prayers.

God has many ways of drawing us to Himself.  He sometimes hides Himself from us, but faith alone, which will not fail us in time of need, ought to be our support and the foundation of our confidence, which must be all in God.

I know not how God will dispose of me.  Happiness grows upon me.  The whole world suffers; yet I, who deserves the severest discipline, feel joys so continual and so great that I can scarce contain them.

I would willingly ask of God a share of your sufferings, but that I know my weakness, which is so great that if He left me one moment to myself I should be the most wretched man alive.  And yet I know not how He can leave me alone, because faith gives me as strong a conviction as sense can do that He never forsakes us until we have first forsaken Him.  Let us fear to leave Him.  Let us be always with Him.  Let us live and die in His presence.  Do you pray for me as I for you.  I am,

Yours, —-

FOURTEENTH LETTER — undated

To the Same: I am in pain to see you suffer so long.  What gives me some ease and sweetens the sorrow I have for your griefs is that I am convinced that they are tokens of God’s love for you.  Look at them in this light and you will bear them more easily. As your case is, it is my opinion that you should leave off human remedies, and resign yourself entirely to the providence of God.  Perhaps He stays only for that resignation and a perfect trust in Him to cure you. Since, notwithstanding all your cares, medicine has hitherto proved unsuccessful, and your malady still increases, it will not be tempting God to abandon yourself into His hands and expect all from Him.

I told you in my last that He sometimes permits the body to suffer to cure the sickness of the soul.  Have courage then; make a virtue of necessity.  Ask of God, not deliverance from the body’s pains but strength to bear resolutely for the love of Him all that He should please and as long as He shall desire.

Such prayers, indeed, are a little hard to nature, but most acceptable to God, and sweet to those that love Him.  Love sweetens pain; and when one loves God, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage. Do you so, I beseech you; comfort yourself with Him, who is the only physician of all our ills.  He is the Father of the afflicted, always ready to help us.  He loves us infinitely more than we imagine.  Love Him, then, and seek no other relief than Him.  I hope you will soon receive it.  Adieu.  I will help you with my prayers, poor as they are, and shall always be, in our Lord,

Yours, —-

FIFTEENTH LETTER — 22 January 1691

To the Same: I render thanks to our Lord for having relieved you a little, according to your desire.  I have been often near expiring, but I never was so much satisfied as then.  Accordingly, I did not pray for any relief, but I prayed for strength to suffer with courage, humility, and love.  Ah, how sweet it is to suffer with God!  However great the sufferings may be, receive them with love.  It is paradise to suffer and be with Him; so that if even now in this life we would enjoy the peace of paradise, we must accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble, affectionate conversation with Him.  We must prevent our spirits’ wandering from Him upon any occasion.  We must make our heart a spiritual temple, wherein to adore Him unceasingly.  We must watch continually over ourselves, that we may not do nor say nor think anything that may displease Him.  When our minds are thus filled with God, suffering will become full of sweetness and silent joy.

I know that to arrive at this state the beginning is very difficult, for we must act purely in faith. But although it is difficult, we know also that we can do all things with the grace of God, which He never refuses to them who ask it earnestly.  Knock, keep on knocking, and I answer for it that He will open to you in His due time and grant you all at once what He has deferred many years.  Adieu.  Pray to Him for me as I pray to Him for you.  I hope to see Him very soon.  I am,

Yours, —-

SIXTEENTH LETTER — 6 February 1691

To the Same: God knoweth best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for our good.  If we knew how much He loves us, we should always be ready to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter.  All would please that came from Him.  The sorest afflictions never appear intolerable, except when we see them in the wrong light.  When we see them as dispensed by the hand of God, when we know that it is our loving Father who abases and distresses us, our sufferings lose all their bitterness, and our mourning becomes all joy.

Let all our business be to know God; the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him.  And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love; and if our love of God be great, we should love Him equally in grief and in joy.

Let us not content ourselves with loving God for the mere sensible favors, how elevated soever, which He has done, or may do us.  Such favors, although never so great, cannot bring us so near to Him as faith does in one simple act.  Let us seek Him often by faith.  He is within us; seek Him not elsewhere.  If we do love Him alone, are we not rude and do we not deserve blame if we busy ourselves about trifles which do not please and perhaps offend Him?  It is to be feared these trifles will one day cost us dear.

Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest.  Let us cast everything besides out of our hearts.  He would possess them alone.  Beg this favor of Him.  If we do what we can on our parts, we shall soon see that change wrought in us which we aspire after.  I cannot thank Him sufficiently for the relief He has vouchsafed you.  I hope from His mercy the favor of seeing Him within a few days.  Let us pray for one another.  I am, in our Lord, Yours, ——

Brother Lawrence took to his bed two days after the date of this letter and died within the week.

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