I have been reading and enjoying the letters of Francois Fenelon for several years now….I have always found his writings so encouraging and so helpful, but most of his works are out of print and hard to find (he lived during the 1600’s), or not in english (he was french). But this morning I felt led to do a quick search on him and found this. It is his letters to women, with lots of good advice pertaining to the unique spiritual difficulties that encompass the domestic sphere of a wife and mother. I have been perusing it most of the morning, the below excerpt really fed my spirit this morning 🙂
(pictures were added by me, of course)
I QUITE understand that all your troubles come from excessive self-consciousness, and from letting yourself be too much guided by feeling. Directly that you do not find prayer a downright solace to you, you then become depressed. Would you be at rest? then try to be less occupied with yourself, and more with God.
Do not dissect and judge yourself, but leave yourself to be judged by The Spiritual Guide you have chosen. Of course we are sometimes engrossed with ourselves without meaning it, and imagination causes many relapses into this unprofitable occupation; but I do not ask what is impossible, — I shall be content if you are not voluntarily absorbed in self and do not deliberately aim at judging yourself by your own lights.
Directly that you find yourself beginning to do this, turn away as from a temptation, and do not let that become intentional which was at first unconscious. Nevertheless, do not suppose that this course which I advise is intended anywise to interfere with that vigilance over yourself which Jesus Christ teaches in the Gospel.
The best possible vigilance is to watch as in God’s Sight against the delusions of self-love. Now, one of the most dangerous of all these delusions is when we grow sentimental over ourselves, are perpetually self-engrossed, and feed upon ourselves with a restless, anxious care which withers and disables the heart, keeps us from realising God’s Presence, and ends by hopelessly depressing and discouraging us.
Say with S. Paul, ” Yea, I judge not mine own self : ” and you will watch all the better for the real correction of your faults, and the fulfilment of your duties, because of the absence of all this restless self-willed fidgetiness. Then it will be out of love of God that you will simply and quietly repress whatever you see by that clear penetrating Light to be faulty and unworthy of The Beloved; you will work at conquering your failings without impatience or pettishness; you will tolerate yourself without flattery; you will accept reproof and be ready to obey. Such a line of conduct tends far more to self-renunciation than yielding to all the impatience and vexation and fancies of your own willfulness.
Moreover, when we attempt to judge ourselves by our own feelings, we take an altogether wrong standard. God only requires that which it is in our power to give, and that happens to be our will. Feeling is not in our own power — we can neither win nor lose it as we please. The most hardened sinners have at times better feelings in spite of themselves, and the greatest saints have been horribly tempted by evil feelings which they abhorred, but such feelings have tended to humble, mortify, and purify them.
S. Paul tells us that ‘our strength is made perfect in weakness.’ So it is not feeling but consent which makes us guilty. Why should you suppose God is afar off because you cannot perceive Him? He is always, you may be sure, near to those whose hearts are blank and sorrowful. No pains of yours will win the conscious sweetness of His Presence. What do you seek to love? your own pleasure or the Beloved One? If the first only, then it is yourself, not God, that you seek.
People often deceive themselves as to the hidden life, fancying that they are aiming at God, when self-pleasing is their real aim; and when they cease to find delight or consolation in their religious exercises, they turn from Him in disappointment. Assuredly it is never right to sacrifice that highest delight for the sake of mere earthly pleasures; but if it fails you, go on in love, and serve God in spite of weariness and disappointment. Love is of the purest when not stimulated by reward, and we often make most progress just when we think all is lost!
Love suffering on Calvary is far higher than love glowing with excitement on Mount Tabor. I don’t care about seeing you a very great or very wise and good woman. I want everything on a small scale. Be a good little child. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Cor. xii. 9.