First Notebook – Paragraphs 111-120
111. When, in the midst of these interior torments, I tried to accuse myself in confession of the smallest trifles, the priest was surprised that I had not committed graver faults, and he said to me, “If you are as faithful as this to God during these sufferings, this in itself is evidence to me that God is sustaining you, Sister, with a special grace, and it is a good thing that you do not understand this.” It is a strange thing, nevertheless, that confessors could neither understand me nor set my mind at peace concerning these matters, until I met Father Andrasz and, later on, Father Sopocko.
112. + A few words about confession and confessors. I shall speak only of what I have experienced and gone through within my own soul. There are three things which hinder the soul from drawing profit from confession in these exceptional moments.
The first thing: when the confessor has little knowledge of extraordinary ways and shows surprise if a soul discloses to him the great mysteries worked in it by God. Such surprise frightens a sensitive soul, and it notices that the confessor hesitates to give his opinion; and if it does notice this, it will not be set at peace, but will have even more doubts after confession than before, because it will sense that the confessor is trying to set it at peace while he himself is uncertain. Or else, as has happened to me, a confessor, unable to penetrate some of the soul’s mysteries, refuses to hear the confession, showing a certain fear when the soul approaches the confessional.
How can a soul in this state obtain peace in the confessional when it has become so oversensitive to every word of the priest? In my opinion, at times of such special trials sent by god to a soul, the priest, if he does not understand the soul, should direct it to some other experienced and well-instructed confessor. Or else he himself should seek light in order to give the soul what it needs, instead of downrightly denying it confession. For in this way he is exposing the soul to a great danger; and more than one soul may well leave the road along which God wanted it to journey. This is a matter of great importance, for I have experienced it myself. I myself began to waver; despite special gifts from God, and even though God Himself reassured me, I have nevertheless always wanted to have the Church’s seal as well.
The second thing: the confessor does not allow the soul to express itself frankly, and shows impatience. The soul then falls silent and does not say everything [it has to say] and, by this, profits nothing. It profits even less when the confessor, without really knowing the soul, proceeds to put it to the test. Instead of helping the soul, he does it harm. The soul is aware that the confessor does not know it, because he did not allow it to lay itself open fully as regards both its graces and its misery. And so the test is ill-adapted. I have been submitted to some tests at which I have had to laugh.
I will express this better thus: The confessor is the doctor of the soul, but how can a doctor prescribe a suitable remedy if he does not know the nature of the sickness? Never will he be able to do so. For either the remedy will not produce the desired effect, or else it will be too strong and will aggravate the illness, and sometimes – God forbid – even bring about death. I am speaking from my own experience because, in certain instances, it was the Lord himself who directly sustained me.
The third thing: it also happens sometimes that the confessor makes light of little things. There is nothing little in the spiritual life. Sometimes a seemingly insignificant thing will disclose a matter of great consequence and will be for the confessor a beam of light which helps him to get to know the soul. Many spiritual undertones are concealed in little things.
A magnificent building will never rise if we reject the insignificant bricks. God demands great purity of certain souls, and so He gives them a deeper knowledge of their own misery. Illuminated by light from on high, the soul can better know what pleases God and what does not. Sin depends upon de degree of knowledge and light that exists within the soul. The same is true of imperfections. Although the soul knows that it is only sin in the strict sense of the term which pertains to the sacrament of penance, yet these petty things are of great importance to a soul which is tending to sanctity, and the confessor must not treat them lightly. The patience and kindness of the confessor open the way to the innermost secrets of the soul. The soul, unconsciously as it were, reveals its abysmal depth and feels stronger and more resistant; it fights with greater courage and tries to do things better because it knows it must vie an account of them.
I will mention one more thing regarding the confessor. It is his duty to occasionally put to the test, to try, to exercise, to learn whether he is dealing with straw, with iron or with pure gold. Each of these three types of souls needs different kinds of training. The confessor must – and this is absolutely necessary – form a clear judgment of each soul in order to know how heavy a burden it can carry at certain times, in certain circumstances, or in particular situations. As for myself, it was only later on, after many [negative] experiences, that, when I saw that I was not understood; I no longer laid bare my soul or allowed my peace to be disturbed. But this happened only when all these graces had already been submitted to the judgment of a wise, well-instructed and experienced confessor. Now I know what to go by in certain cases.
113. And again, I would like to say three words to the soul that is determined to strive for sanctity and to derive fruit; that is to say, benefit from confession.
First [word] – complete sincerity and openness. Even the holiest and wisest confessor cannot forcibly pour into the soul what he desires if it is not sincere and open. An insincere, secretive soul risks great dangers in the spiritual life, and even the Lord Jesus Himself does not give Himself to such a soul on a higher level, because He knows it would derive no benefit from these special graces.
Second word – humility. A soul does not benefit as it should from the sacrament of confession if it is not humble. Pride keeps it in darkness. The soul neither knows how, nor is it willing, to probe with precision the depths of its own misery. It puts on a mask and avoids everything that might bring it recovery.
Third word – obedience. A disobedient soul will win no victory, even if the Lord Jesus himself, in person, were to hear its confession. The most experienced confessor will be of no help whatsoever to such a soul. The disobedient soul exposes itself to great misfortunes; it will make no progress toward perfection, nor will it succeed in the spiritual life. God lavishes His graces most generously upon the soul, but it must be an obedient soul.
114. + Oh, how pleasing are the hymns flowing from a suffering soul! All heaven delights in such a soul, especially when it is tested by God. It mournfully sings out its longing for Him. Great is its beauty, because it comes from God. The soul walks through the jungle of life, wounded by God’s love. With one foot only it touches the ground.
115. + When a soul has come out of these tribulations, it is deeply humble. Its purity of soul is great. It knows better without need of reflecting, as it were, what it ought to do at a given moment and what to forbear. It feels the lightest touch of grace and is very faithful to God. It recognizes God from afar and continuously rejoices in Him. It discovers God very quickly in other souls and in its environment in general. The soul has been purified by God Himself. God, as Pure Spirit, introduces the soul to a life which is purely spiritual. God Himself has first prepared and purified the soul; that is, He has made it capable of close communion with Himself. The soul, in a state of loving repose, communes spiritually with the Lord. It speaks to God without the need of expressing itself through the senses. God fills it with his light.
The enlightened mind sees clearly and distinguishes the various degrees of the spiritual life. It recognizes [that state] when its union with God was imperfect: where the senses were involved, and the spirit was linked with the senses in a manner – exalted and special, to be sure – but not yet perfect. There is a higher and more perfect union with God; namely, intellectual union. Here, the soul is safer from illusions; its spirituality is purer and more profound. In a life where the senses are involved, there is more danger of illusion. Both for the soul and for its confessor, prudence must play a greater part. There are moments when God introduces the soul to a purely spiritual state. The senses dim and are seemingly dead. The soul is most closely united to God; it is immersed in the Deity; its knowledge is complete and perfect, not sporadic as before, but total and absolute. It rejoices in this. But I want to say more about those moments of trial; at those times the confessor must have patience with such a soul. But the soul must have even greater patience with itself.
116. My Jesus, You know what my soul goes through at the recollection of these sufferings. I have often marveled that the angels and saints hold their peace at the sight of a soul suffering like that. Yet they have special love for us at such moments. My soul has often cried out after God, as a little child who cries as loudly as he can when his mother covers her face and he cannot recognize her. O my Jesus, honor and glory to You for these trials of love! Great and incomprehensible is your mercy. All that You intended for my soul, O Lord, is steeped in Your mercy.
117. I will mention here that those who live with such a person should not add external sufferings; for indeed, when the soul’s cup is full, the little drop we may add to it may be the one drop too much, and the cup of bitterness will overflow. And who will answer for such a soul? Let us beware of adding to the suffering of others, because that is displeasing to the Lord. If the sisters of the superiors knew or even suspected that a soul was suffering such trials, and they nevertheless added still other sufferings, they would be sinning gravely, and God Himself would demand an account of them on behalf of such a soul. I am not speaking here of instances which of their very nature are sinful, but of things which in other circumstances would not be sinful. Let us be on our guard against having the weight of such a soul on our conscience. This is a grave and common defect in religious life; namely, that when one sees a suffering soul, one always want to add even more suffering. I do not say that everyone acts like this, but there are some. We take the liberty of passing all sorts of judgments, and we repeat them when we would do better to remain silent.
118. The tongue is a small member, but it does big things. A religious who does not keep silence will never attain holiness; that is, she will never become a saint. Let he not delude herself – unless it is the Spirit of God who is speaking through her, for then she must not keep silent. But, in order to hear the voice of God, one has to have silence in one’s soul and to keep silence; not a gloomy silence, but an interior silence; that is to say, recollection in god. One can speak a great deal without breaking silence and, on the contrary, one can speak little and be constantly breaking silence. Oh, what irreparable damage is done by the breach of silence! We cause a lot of harm to our neighbor, but even more to our own selves.
In my opinion, and according to my experience, the rule concerning silence should stand in the very first place. God does not give Himself to a chattering soul which, like a drone in a beehive, buzzes around but gathers no honey. A talkative soul is empty inside. It lacks both the essential virtues and intimacy with God. A deeper interior life, one of gentle peace and of that silence where the Lord dwells, is quite out of the question. A soul that has never tasted the sweetness of inner silence is a restless spirit which disturbs the silence of others. I have seen many souls in the depths of hell for not having kept their silence; they told me so themselves when I asked them what was the cause of their undoing. These were souls of religious. My God, what an agony it is to think that not only might they have been in heaven, but they might even have become saints! O Jesus, have mercy!
119. I tremble to think that I have to give an account of my tongue. There is life, but there is also death in the tongue. Sometimes we kill with the tongue: we commit real murders. And we are still to regard that as a small thing? I truly do not understand such consciences. I have known a person who, when she learned from someone that a certain thing was being said about her, fell seriously ill. She lost a good deal of blood and she many tears, and the outcome was very sad. It was not the sword that did all this, but the tongue. O my silent Jesus, have mercy on us!
120. I have wandered onto the subject of silence. But this is not what I wanted to speak about, but rather about the soul’s life with God and about its response to grace. When a soul has been cleansed, and the Lord is on intimate terms with it, it begins to apply all its inner force in striving after God. Yet the soul cannot do anything of itself. God alone arranges everything. The soul knows this and is mindful of it. It is still in exile and understands well that there may yet come cloudy and rainy days, but it must now look upon things differently from what it had up to now. It does not seek reassurance in a false peace, but makes ready for battle. It knows it comes from a warrior race. It is now much more aware of everything. It knows that it is of royal stock. It is concerned with all that is great and holy.