BY BRIAN CLEEVE
For Dearest Patricia and
all who are dear to her
with much love
In everyday speech we use the word soul as a mildly poetic synonym for a person. “I didn’t meet a soul all day”, or “She’s a good soul” or “Poor soul, she’s had a hard life.”
But in reality, spiritual reality, “soul” is a technical term which needs to be clearly understood before anything useful can be said about a particular soul, yours, or mine, or anyone else’s.
As you well know, we are made in God’s image. This does not mean that God looks like us, or even that we look like God. It means that just as God is a Trinity, consisting of three Persons, so is each one of us a trinity, consisting of three elements. The first of those elements is our mind, the equivalent or reflection of God the Father. It is not simply, or even principally the mind you use for earning your living, reading books, or playing chess. It includes, and is centered in the mind we call our “sub-conscious”, that vast, ill-understood area we blame for all our mental ills and mysteries.
The second element of course is our self, the reflection of the second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son. But whereas God the Son is perfect, our own self is far from that, and the general agreement of people is that the best thing to do with a self is to get rid of it. The highest praise we offer to anyone is to say that he or she is selfless – meaning that that person lives without a thought of self, an atom of selfishness. And the phrase “without a thought of self” is absolutely accurate and appropriate, because it is our thoughts that create our selves. Selfish thoughts, desires, demands, create a selfish, unpleasant person – and eventually a truly bad, even a wicked or evil person. They have become all self. Whereas the unselfish, and finer still the selfless person has become the opposite of evil. They have turned away from self, from their own selfish desires, and have concentrated on God’s desires. They have become Holy.
But for a mind to have thoughts, whether selfish or selfless, a third element is needed, and that is life, A mind that is not alive cannot think. A mind that thinks is clearly alive. As the philosopher said, “I think, therefore I am,” So, the third element in our trinity is that force or energy which allows us to think. But it is not simply what a scientist calls life, any more than our true mind, is our physical brain. The life force which allows our true mind to function is our soul, the reflection of the Holy Spirit.
In a sense it is the Holy Spirit, a tiny particle of the Divine Energy given to us to keep us in existence. Another name for it is Grace, God’s Grace. But this Grace, this energy, or life, this soul, is not a thing, like a battery in a torch. It is a flow, like the electricity which lights a lamp, or the oxygen which feeds a flame. Or again, the flow of water that turns the wheel of a watermill. If we are to remain alive that flow must continue.
In our physical lives this is so obvious we never question it. We depend on a continuous flow of air, of water, and of food. We consume them, are nourished by them, and pass them back into the environment when we have used them.
All this is true of our deeper, spiritual reality. We take in Grace, use it, and pass it back into the Real environment. And this whole process, this complex of mind fed by Grace, by its soul, to create or destroy its self, reflects the Oneness of God that embraces the Trinity. It is our spirit. All of which lengthy preamble is to explain that our souls are not us. Are not our spirits. They are the life force that allows our spirits to live. Or – is that exactly true?
Which brings me to the question of whether one can speak sensibly, or write sensibly, about the teaching of a soul. Can energy be taught? Or simply harnessed, or increased, or decreased? Surely only one’s mind can be taught, just as one might say that one’s mind can be taught to demand a sensible diet, but could not say that one’s diet, one’s food could be taught to be a good diet, or to be beneficial.
Yet you, dear friend, have been told to demand from me the “story” or “journal” of a soul, and I have been told to call the result the “Teaching of a Soul”, so that the phrase must have a meaning. Which in turn requires that the soul must be more than simple energy, “Food for the true mind.” It must in some way have a mind of its own.
As soon as I write this, it immediately gains meaning. To return to the fact that we are made in the image of God – our souls reflect the Holy Spirit. And another name for the Holy Spirit is the Holy Wisdom, the Hagia Sophia in Greek, the Spiritus Sanctus in Latin. Sophia and Spiritus both mean “breath” originally, the Holy Breath, and the Holy Wisdom.
This Breath is also the Breath of Life as we are told in the second chapter of Genesis, (verse seven if you want to look it up.) “Yahweh, God, fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then He breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.”
Now the Holy Spirit or Holy Wisdom is one of the three Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, and is not simply a part of God, one third of God – but is God. In a mysterious way It is one with God and is the whole of God, just as the Father is and the Son is. Therefore the Holy Spirit not only gives life, energy to the Divine Mind, the Father, it is the Divine Mind.
In the same way your soul not only is the energy that allows your true, “sub-conscious” mind to think and create its self. It is your mind. And is your self. So that by this roundabout road we arrive at the possibility of saying that one’s soul can be taught, have a story that could be told in a journal. To say that one is “a soul” just as sensibly as one may say one is a “person”, or “a spirit” or a “spiritual being” is possible.
So, taking a deep breath, here is some sort of an account of the teaching of a soul. What soul? Whose? It does not matter. What matters is the teaching, the taking of a soul that was useless, as all untaught beings are, and transforming it by slow, painful stages into a being that may have some use. If you were to ask a gardener, say, to explain how he trained a particular rose bush, because its appearance caught your attention as you walked around his garden, what would be interesting in what he told you would not really be the story of that individual bush, but the revelation of the gardener’s methods and skill with all rose bushes. That individual bush would simply be the excuse for the starting point of his own story, his love affair with roses.
That is exactly the case here. This is not to be an account of the teaching of one particular soul, but of how all souls can be taught, no matter how unpromising their original state. And if the experiences of one individual soul as it has been taught are used in what follows as examples of teaching, that has no more significance than a gardener choosing one rosebush rather than another to illustrate his method of pruning. “Look” he says “see – I prune them all this way, here, and down there, and again up there, the cuts just so.”
That does not mean that the rose bush is an especially important or valuable one. It simply happens to be to hand. Accordingly, let’s take an individual soul that happens to be to hand – or else create an imaginary one that will serve our purpose.
Imagine then a soul that is not only unimportant, but uneducated, in the deepest sense. And not only uneducated but undeveloped, ill fed, ill nourished. Unaware even of its own existence.
The consequence of this is that its “owner”, the person to whom the soul gives existence, consists entirely of self. This does not mean “selfish”, in the sense of the greedy child who refuses to share his sweets or toys. It does mean the concentration of one’s mind on one’s physical life, on one’s own desires and ambitions.
Some of these desires and ambitions can even be “unselfish” in worldly terms. The self may desire to give, even give everything it has. But the accent of this giving lies on giving its self, on what its self can give. It is like a torch that gives light from its battery, rather than a light bulb connected to the mains electricity supply. What little light the torch battery has to give will be quickly exhausted.
There is even a common expression that describes this state – “She has worn herself out giving” – to her family, or her patients, or whatever you wish. And in general such a person is considered to be “a saint” and selfless, while in actual fact she is, in the best possible way, selfish, Rather than being selfless, she has been self-destructive, self-exhausting.
One can see this self-destructiveness, this “virtuous selfishness” in many people, and admire it, and be saddened by its self-defeating effects. The wonderful doctor or nurse, the devoted worker for charity, even the good communist killing himself with overwork to make a doomed system succeed – unless such people have a true understanding of reality, if they are simply using their own efforts to do good, they will simply kill themselves and in the end achieve nothing. They may, for a moment or two have alleviated physical distress, “cured” patients’ bodies, fed hungry stomachs, “improved society” – but the moment they relax, retire, die, or even sooner, they will see their efforts come to nothing, have no permanent result.
Even if the devoted doctor – scientist has invented, a cure for a disease, he will see two new diseases take its place, or the “cure” cease to be effective against new germs. The charity worker who has fed thousands will see millions starve in their place, in part because those he did feed have lived to have many children. His efforts have in a true sense been self-defeating.
But for the world at large, such efforts are the only ones worthwhile, and such people are the only saints worth admiring. One might call them “saints of the self” or “humanist saints.” Something is missing from their efforts, but the world is unaware of it, and so are they. That element of course is God.
But if one were to say such a thing in public there would be a storm of protest. “Look at that wonderful person. She has the greatest sense of God! And him! And her! And – They may go to daily Mass. Or be priests or nuns. Or sincere members of any other religion. They may have deep convictions about an after-life. They may pray every day, “Please God help me in my charitable works, guide me and sustain me.” But although they ask God to do these things, in fact they do not allow Him to do it. They may even believe He is doing it. They may say humbly, in moments of self-exposure, “of course I couldn’t do anything without God. It’s He who does it all.”
Yet this is entirely and tragically untrue. They are operating entirely from the self, and not at all from the soul. In moments of exhaustion and despair they may, they certainly will if they are intelligent, realise this, and complain that God has abandoned them. But He hasn’t. Long long ago they abandoned Him. They simply closed the door of the soul that children keep open because they thought it ought to be kept closed. Or it closed under the stresses of growing up and they never opened it again. They never realised it could be opened.
I realise as I write all this that it is likely to be unintelligible to anyone who doesn’t already know what I mean. Perhaps some physical analogies will help a little.
In wrestling two equally strong men strain against one another until a trifle of extra skill or weight or size gives one the victory. They rely, each of them, entirely on their own strength. But in the Japanese methods of Judo and Ju Jitsu, the wrestlers rely not on their own strength, but on their opponents momentum, so that a smaller and even weaker wrestler can by his skill defeat a much bigger man. The victor relies not on himself, but on something outside himself, in this case his opponent.
To take another example, there is a limit to the weight even the strongest man can lift. If he tries to go beyond that limit he will hurt himself. But if he takes a lever and a fulcrum he can lift weights that would be impossible for many men together to lift. As Archimedes, the discoverer of this principle, said long ago – “Give me a fulcrum and I will lift the world.”
In the matters that concern us, the lever is God and the fulcrum is the soul, or rather, God’s Grace is the lever, and God is the Archimedes who uses it.
We accordingly have two kinds of “saint” or “good man” or “good woman”. The one, the humanist kind, uses bare hands to lift the world out of its morass of evil, and inevitably fails. The second kind is the true saint, who allows her self, or him self, to be used by God as an instrument. And these true saints are the only hope the world has. But all too often the world disregards them, despises them for not being “doers”, or for doing “impractical” things, or is completely unaware of their existence. It’s almost an accident (although in reality there are no “accidents”) when one such saint, a Padre Pio, or a Saint Therese of Lisieux, becomes known to the world at large, and all too often it is even then for wrong reasons, or in a wrong way.
But the soul we have chosen as an example of Divine methods of teaching and “pruning” was neither kind of saint, nor likely or capable of becoming either kind. As we agreed earlier, it is a small, mediocre, ill nourished one, really unaware that it is a soul. Its only advantages, given to it by God to save it from final self destruction, are a vague, ill formed conviction that God exists, and a deep rooted, almost panic stricken fear of evil, that lies dormant mostly but occasionally wakens to abject terror.
There is no generosity or goodness in this terror. It is simply an awareness of being surrounded by invisible malice, “bad luck” waiting to strike at any moment, like a hunted creature in a dark jungle who knows it is being hunted without being able to see the hunters.
Beyond this vague awareness of some sort of God, and an acute awareness of threatening evil, the soul we are talking about has only one generous impulse, not motivated by fear. It is the impulse, the desire, to serve that undefined, unknown God – if such a God truly exists. A desire to “be of some use” beyond the ordinary obligations of raising a family and looking after it.
We are not looking at a monster of selfishness. This is a soul that would do anyone a good turn rather than a bad one. It also despises itself for its terrors of unseen evil that threaten it with misfortune, “bad luck”. It feels that such fears are beneath the dignity of a man, or a woman, of education. And this self-contempt, allied to its desire to serve its “unknown God”, are its only hope of escape from the kind of self-centred life, self-destructive life we have been considering.
It is not a bad life, a wicked one. Far from it. The unwise might even call it a moderately good one. But it is the life of a self, and not of a soul. Its desires are for its self, even if they are to make that self better. Its fears are for its self, to preserve it from evil, rather than to defeat evil. It is, bluntly, an empty life, empty of all that is not belonging to this world, the world of the self. The good it wishes to do is worldly good, done by the self.
Now, imagine two incidents in the existence of this dormant soul that in combination begin to awaken it. Both seem to be “accidents”, but clearly both are intended by God to serve His purposes with this wretched being. The first concerns remembering past sins. It happens for no apparent reason, the memory idly considering the past, when suddenly, without warning or intention, it focuses on one, two, perhaps three events, actions, failures, and recoils in horror like a man meeting a poisonous snake that is reared up to strike at him.
How could he have done these things, failed in that way? How could he ever hope to make amends, be forgiven? Amends to whom? Forgiven by whom? God? These things are surely beyond amendment or forgiveness? Seek excuses? So and so has done much worse? “Everyone has done such and such? Oh surely, it was so long ago! And after all, in the circumstances – or indeed, what would anyone do in such a situation?”
But by God’s mercy all such excuses are seen for what they are, false friends. It does not matter what “everyone” does, or what anyone else has done. We are concerned, this dormant wretched soul, is concerned with what it has done. Did do, all these years ago, so carelessly, so self-forgivingly. No tears can be enough.
We won’t imagine that the agony of mind remained in the forefront of the soul’s thinking for ever after, but it certainly remained, and remains, in the background of its thoughts.
The second incident in the wakening of this soul, occurs some time later. It is one of these climaxes, crises of terror already mentioned, striking suddenly from nowhere, convincing the soul that it is surrounded by horrors. None of the details matter. But this is the worst crisis of all that has ever occurred and forces the soul for the first time to recognise the folly of submitting to such terrors.
It is not that these terrors have been frequent, or even severe until now. They have been more like a background of occasional, irrational depressions, an awareness of malice that lies in wait for us. But this incident is exceptional, and could easily become damaging if allowed to continue.
The soul recognises this and feels deeply ashamed of its superstition, its irrationality. It determines to resist, to oppose reason to unreason. But unreason is always stronger than reason, just as chaos is always stronger than order – unless God intervenes. But it is, or so the soul thinks, as shameful to appeal to God for help and protection as it is to be afraid of unseen malice. And is God interested? Why Should He be? Does He even exist? Perhaps the world is in the power of Malice?
And so the soul came to a conclusion. If malice rules us, and there is no redress or protection possible, the only decent attitude is one of indifference, a stoic dignity. And if God does exist, then He must be superior to evil, whether or not He cares about men and women. Eventually, all must be in His hands and will come about as He wishes. If He wishes for this small soul!s destruction by evil, merited or unmerited, it will come about, and no amount of weeping or grovelling will make the least difference.
God’s wishes must be of far more importance than ours – His plans of more value than ours – so, if God allows evil to capture this soul then in some way that must serve God’s cause, and the soul should not wish to escape. “All is in God’s hands” it repeated to its self, and as it did so, all fear fell away, and the soul felt a contempt for the prowling and threats of evil, even though they might be destined to devour it. “Let it be so. It is either God’s Will, or not. If it is, nothing can avoid it. If it is not, nothing can bring it about”.
It’s even possible that this poor little soul was quite pleased with its self at achieving such a dignified attitude, although if a real evil spirit had appeared to it one night, one is free to wonder how long its “dignity” would have lasted.
But it was saved from such a danger of deflation by a new event. It so happens that all its life, it had a mild degree of psychic awareness – which as you know is very different from spiritual awareness, but is at least an opening of the mind to something beyond this material world. Its psychic awareness was, one can suppose, allied to or part and parcel with its psychic fears.
There was nothing extraordinary about its ability in this direction. A great many people have a similar gift and are either unconscious it exists or take it for granted. It consists of occasional premonitions of the future, an ability to know things that in a purely “scientific” system it could not know. For example to look at an antique wedding ring and holding it in one’s hand to “see” the wedding at which long ago it was used. And then to have the description verified by the present owner of the ring.
It is gift like dowsing, which can also be described as psychic, and which three out of four people can do if they set out to try.
But just as dowsers are vague as to the source of the information they receive from their hazel rods or pendulums, so was the soul we are discussing. Until a moment came when it asked the simple, obvious question. “Where does such information come from?” The dowsers speak of “vibrations”, of becoming aware of a “force”, of pulses of energy.” But some dowsers work not on the ground under which they hope to find water, but from a map. And such dowsers are often successful, and highly paid. Not only do they dowse for water in this way, but for oil, minerals and lost objects, even missing people.
Now one can grasp the idea of water or minerals under the ground creating some kind of “vibration” over the ground, but when it comes to a map, the idea becomes impossible to accept. And yet it works.
How? How does a map convey information to a dowser that under this or that area lies gold. Or oil, or water? How could an antique gold ring convey an accurate picture of a wedding that took place seventy or eighty years earlier? Of the bride and groom, their clothes, unusual in the groom’s case since he was, it transpired, a sea captain and was married in his uniform, a fact quite unknown to the soul we are discussing until afterwards. And a picture too of the place where the wedding was celebrated, the town hall of the city as it turned out, because the available churches were none of them large enough for the number of guests invited.
One can imagine – just – a gold wedding ring becoming “impregnated” with happiness or unhappiness. But a detailed picture, portraits, of people long dead, a building long ago demolished? No. Yet the soul we are discussing received this information, “saw it” was “shown” it. How?
And from this obvious question sprang all that followed, because it was answered. “Information of that kind can only come from another mind.”
Imagine the soul receiving this answer, and immediately asking “who are you?
A good spirit?”
“I try to be”
“Do you love and serve God?”
“I try to.”
“Why have you come to me, suddenly answering questions?” “Because if you wish to, you also can try to serve God. You have often said you wanted to be of use to God, if He existed. Well, He does exist. Do you still wish to serve Him?”
“Of course, yes. How?”
“There are many ways. But first you would have to make a great many changes in your life, and learn a great many things.”
“What changes? What things?”
“As to the changes, first of all, return to the Church, to Confession, Communion, prayer, the Rosary. Then your diet – to become a vegetarian of a particular kind. And the things to learn – and unlearn – we’ll see.”
“Will it be you who teaches me?”
“Have you a name, one I can know?”
“You can know me as Mara.”
“The one whom the Buddha believed to be an evil spirit?” “Yes.”
“Are you evil?”
“I have told you, no.”
“Then was the Buddha wrong to reject you?”
Such questions may seem strange at such a moment – but they did not seem so then. And of course there were many other questions. To return to the Church? Confession? Communion? Prayers – well yes, easily enough since even an agnostic may pray, as this soul had done, “Let me serve You, if You exist.”
But the Rosary? All the things the soul had so long despised and smiled at?
If the spirit, Mara, had said, “You will find the Truth in a hidden valley in Tibet.” Or “Among a lost tribe of Red Indians”, why then, yes, it would have seemed easy enough to the soul to believe it. But the Church? That cruel, stupid, greedy organisation of fat bishops and narrow minds?
Afterwards, when again and again – and yet again, daily, the soul asked its self in all the tumult of its new interior existence, “Can this be true? Is it not all my own invention, self-delusions, myself talking to myself?” – When it asked its self this question one of the rocks it clung to was the certainty that if it had been its own imaginings they would have taken an entirely different form. As I have just said, the soul would have imagined the Truth to lie in Tibet, or Mexico among Indian sorcerers, or in a secret society of adepts – but in the Church! Never!
Yet this is what the soul was told to accept, and swallowing hard did accept. And so began the long process of learning, and almost equally important, of unlearning. Unlearning all the liberal, humanist prejudices the soul had accumulated in an already long enough lifetime.
That most people are good, and bad people are bad because they were deprived in childhood of a good environment. That religion is superstition and the hope of mankind lies in science. That the world is slowly getting better, and mankind more moral, that – but you can complete the list for yourself, very easily. It is one shared and devoutly believed by millions of “modern minded” men and women. What is more interesting is what the soul was now taught, and by whom, and how.
It would be a waste of your time and mine to set out to tell you what our “example soul” learned. You have learned it too and so have many others. It consists of two elements One is an account of the reality of existence, the Fall, the Real World of spirits, Heaven and Hell and Purgatory and Limbo and this physical world in which for a brief time we live.
The other element is how we should behave, what we should strive to become and achieve in this Reality; to repent, experience true remorse, amend our lives, try to become good, to obey and serve God.
Along with these essentials there are all the other matters that you know as well as I do and which don’t need to be described to you all over again.
The interest here may lie not in what this soul we are discussing has been taught, but how it has been taught. And who, or Who, has been and is the Teacher.
It is best to begin with this last question first, because each teacher, human or Divine, has his or her own method of teaching – not necessarily because each is convinced that his method, her method is the most successful, but because it is the method that that teacher can best apply.
If this is true of human teachers it is infinitely more true of Divine ones. And here for a moment we need to return to an examination of how God, the One, can be also be many, so that we can speak of several teachers, each with a different method of teaching, yet all of them being God, and One.
This is true not only of the Holy Trinity, but also: of the four great “aspects” of God, His Glory, His Mercy, His Love and His Will or Justice. Each is separate and distinct from all the others, as it is from God as Jesus, God as the Father, and God as the Holy Spirit, Our Lady – and yet It is one with all of Them, and each embraces, includes all of Them.
An analogy exists in every human being, as it does for the Trinity – and not only an analogy, but an actual reflection. What is true of God is true of man. You for example have different “aspects”, each of which is distinct from your other aspects, yet each is the whole of you and embraces all your other aspects. You are first of all a woman. Next, you are a daughter to your mother. You are a wife to your husband, a mother to your children. You are someone who works, and you are someone who relaxes, walking on the beach or playing tennis.
Each of these is you, but in distinct ways a different you. You do not behave or think or speak in the same way with your mother as you do with your husband, nor with him in the same way as you do with your children, nor with them as you do with your fellow workers – yet in each relationship your actions and thoughts and words are moulded, shaped, impregnated by the existence of those other relationships. And of course, with you as with every human being, your relationships with those near you develop and change as you grow older. That is the difference between humanity and God. God is unchanging. And each aspect of God is as it is from the Beginning.
Yet even this “unchangingness” can be qualified – for while God’s essential Oneness does not change – God as the Source of all Being is changeless, His Glory is changeless, yet in their contact with Creation some of God’s aspects seem to change.
For example, the Holy Spirit in the form of Our Lady changes and must change – mankind’s sins, indifference, blasphemies cause Her to weep, to suffer agony for Her Son – and experience the most tender joy at any sinner’s repentance. When, if, with the aid of God’s Mercy and Love all sinners have repented, all Creation is restored to Perfection, Our Lady’s sorrow will cease to exist, will change into ecstatic Love.
God’s Mercy, now extended to sinners, will change, become God’s Gentleness. God’s Will, God’s Justice which, or rather Who, is now the Divine Law by which all Creation is ruled, and judged, will become God’s Royalty,
Indeed, in God is changeless Majesty and Glory, They already are there, but because of the Fall we perceive them as something other than the fullness of their splendour.
This is the case with the Will of God, God’s Justice, the Law of God, Who is in fact the true subject of this memoir.
Most people who have a direct experience of God understand it as an experience of Our Lady, or of Jesus, The old peasant at Guadeloupe in Mexico, the children of La Salette, the children of Fatima and countless other visionaries have seen and heard Our Lady as She appeared to them. Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Padre Pio, the authoress of He and I, Josefa, Therese Neumann, Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity, St. Therese of Lisieux, and a host of others experience God in the form of Jesus.
This seems natural, that in appearing to men and women and children, God should adopt a human form. But of course God has adopted other realities to appear to people. As a burning bush in the desert, for Moses. As a gentle breeze for Elijah. As a dove, hovering above the head of Jesus at His baptism. As flames of fire on the heads of the Apostles. As the “angel of God” speaking to Abraham, on the mountain, and again as a man, visiting Abraham in his tent.
In brief, God can and does appear to or approach us in any form and in any way, in any aspect of His Being that serves the occasion. For the soul we have taken as an illustration of God’s dealings with us, God chose to make Himself known as God’s Will.
The Reason for this is that God wishes to explain to certain other souls the exact nature of God’s Justice, the Divine Law – because at some future time, if they prove capable, God wishes them to serve His Justice.
One might think at first that this is unnecessary. Surely the nature of God’s Will and Law and Justice is very well known, and has been taught and explained by the Church since the Resurrection. Certainly it has been taught and explained often. But it has been explained by men, and while they have had God’s Revelation of Himself to help them their explanations have varied a great deal, changing as society has changed. What was considered good by one generation of theologians is discarded or even considered evil by another. And what was once thought evil may now be thought good. While aspects of God’s Law once believed to be essential are now forgotten or ignored.
For example, it was once believed that unbaptised babies went to Hell. Then, with the growth of tolerance and pity as ideals, such babies were believed to go not to Hell, but to Limbo. Next, the very concept of Limbo was discarded and these unbaptised babies were tacitly admitted into Heaven.
Again, until recently, all Jews were believed to Share in the guilt of the Crucifixion. Now they are absolved. At one time it was the firmest dogma of the Church that “outside the Church there is no Salvation.” In other words, if a man or woman had not been baptised into the Church with water, by a priest, he or she was damned for eternity, no matter how good a life they might have led.
Until less than a century ago, this was held to be the Law of God, God’s Divine Justice and Will. The elect would receive baptism. All others would be damned. Early in the present century this began to seem unjust, and the doctrine of Baptism of Desire was formulated and accepted. If a person sincerely desired to love and serve God, but through unavoidable circumstances was unaware of the need for formal baptism into the Church, or was unable to obtain it, then their sincere desire to serve God became in itself a true baptism, and they would be saved.
A few centuries ago, it was considered to be God’s Will that witches and heretics should be burned alive, that Jews should be persecuted and Mohammedans slaughtered in Crusades. It was considered to serve God’s Law that pagans should be converted by force, that slaves should remain slaves, that women should be beaten by their husbands (the thickness of the rod being specified) and children by their fathers.
It was God’s Law that a women should not wear trousers or enter a church without covering her head. It was His Law that no one should eat meat during Lent or on Fridays and that a man might not marry even a remote relation without a dispensation from the Church.
It was considered to be God’s Law that while bad men and women must go to Purgatory, they could immediately be got out again if enough masses were bought and paid for on their behalf. The Protestant Reformation began over that very point.
It was declared by a Pope in the 16th century in the most formal and explicit manner possible that for ever after the Mass should be said in Latin, in the form to be known as Tridentine, after the city of Trent where that law was promulgated. And this was not simply the Pope’s “Law”. Being infallible in such matters of Faith, the Pope’s Law was held to be God’s Law. The notion of saying Mass in the vernacular, in the languages of ordinary men and women, was anathema, and to propose it was heresy, and a cause for damnation. Twenty five years ago what had been a cause for damnation became the new “Law of God.”
One could fill a book with such examples of “God’s unchanging Law” being changed by succeeding generations of men. And our present generation has seen more changes than all the other generations put together. The Church of John Paul II would be next to unrecognisable to Pius X who reigned less than a hundred years ago. Still earlier Popes would imagine they had returned to a Church fallen into the hands of madmen and infidels. “Liberation Theology.” “Gay Priests.” “Lesbian nuns.” “Ordination for women.” “Altar girls.” “Receiving the Host in the hand.” “Lay ministers of the Eucharist.” “Married priests.” “An end to personal, private Confession.” Arguments over contraception, divorce, abortion. Arguments over the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Divinity of Jesus. Over God as a Person. Over euthanasia. Over the “equal value” of other religions.
There are arguments over details and over fundamentals, and more arguments over which things are fundamental and which are mere details. Is celibacy for priests a fundamental doctrine or a matter of temporary discipline, that could be changed next year? Is the Pope really infallible as to faith and morals, or is that untrue, and is he merely the “Chairman of the Board”?
And so on and so on almost endlessly. None of which is to say that argument is wrong, and change never to be tolerated. It is clearly good that the Church no longer thinks that heretics should be burned, or women beaten by their husbands, or slaves owned by their masters. It may be good that we are no longer obliged to fast on Fridays, or believe that Hell does not really exist. But equally clearly it would be better if we knew, instead of relying on arguments and prejudices and counter-prejudices and the clamour of pressure groups.
For this reason, in this moment of confusion and uncertainty God has decided to make His Divine Will known, and describe His Law as it is, not as men would like it to be, or fear it may be, or hope it may be. And to achieve His aim, God instructed that aspect of His Being which we call His Will, or Justice, to explain the Law to a soul living a human life on earth.
The immediate question that we will ask, and that certainly the soul selected by God will have asked, is “why this soul? It is of no importance in the world. It has no religion, no piety, no understanding of theology. Why would God not choose a priest, a bishop, a cardinal – best of all, the Pope? Or at the very least someone with a reputation for Catholic devoutness, a great writer or philosopher to whom people would listen with respect. There are writers on religion, priest-authors, whose books sell by the million in many languages, who draw audiences of thousands when they lecture, who speak to tens of millions on radio and television. There, surely, is where God would look for someone to describe His Will, His Law, to the world?”
To which God replies, “I choose as I choose. Were any of the prophets great men before I chose them? Or recognised as anything but foolish nuisances and blasphemers after I had done so? When My Son chose His followers, did He choose princes, High Priests, learned men? When My Son’s Mother appears in your world, does She do so to bishops, Popes, Cardinals? No. She appears to children in remote places. Children who can scarcely read or write, who know nothing, sometimes not even their prayers. When My Son chooses souls to instruct in Love or in Suffering He chooses the humblest men and women. If they are priests or nuns they are of the humblest sort, scorned by the worldly.
And in this present case I desired someone who was educated, literate, and yet had no prejudices, no deep rooted convictions about Me or religion that could not be overcome without violence to his mind. I wished, as it were, to find a blank sheet of paper on which I could write as I wished.
Nor was it necessary that what I might write on it should reach millions. The “millions” have the Gospels. They know all they need to know to reach Heaven. It does not matter if they have no clear ideas about Purgatory or Limbo or women priests, or if they should accept Communion from a lay person. Of course it would be better if they did know, but the fact is that on such matters they are no longer teachable. No Pope, no theologian can any longer teach them anything that does not suit their wishes. The present Pope is trying as best he can, with no success. Those believe him who already believe what he is saying. Everyone else ignores him. If he were to announce that I had appeared to him to reveal the whole Law to him in a vision, his cardinals would put it about that he was ill, that the assassination attempt of ten years ago had finally unhinged his mind.
As for the people, as I have already said, only those would believe him who already believed. And if he were to announce the real Truth, as My Divine Will has indeed revealed it to you, no one would believe him, and he would be denounced as a heretic and forced to step down from his throne. He has in reality been told many things that he has not dared to tell the world, although he has been asked to do so. He has been granted visions of the end of your “civilization.” He has received the Third Secret of Fatima. He has been shown its reality. And has remained silent. He has been asked again and again to consecrate Russia to Me, and has failed to do so, and prevaricated and pretended – and even obliged Sister Lucia to say that he has done it. I have remonstrated with him and he has wrung his hands and said “I cannot.”
And that is the tragic truth. He cannot if he is to remain Pope. And what is true of him is ten times over true of any cardinal or bishop or theologian. And what priest would dare come forward and say to his bishop, “God has told me that half the things you believe are wrong! And that you misunderstand the other half!”
And even if he did where would it lead? Who would believe him? Another mad priest! For the message he would have to give would not be at all to the world’s taste – offering a relaxation of all rules, a tolerance for all errors. It would, as you well know, have been quite the contrary.
So, to whom could I give this message, this revelation – not a new revelation, but a renewed revelation of old, eternal Truth? Only to someone who would and could pass it on to those few who would receive it and act on it. The vital matter was and is that those few should know the Truth and not be misled and paralysed in spirit by all the false arguments and lies and confusions that now infest the Church and bewildered Catholics. If all could have received and accepted My Truth, how wonderful that would have been, but I have explained to you the impossibility of that. And so a few at least must know it and act on it.
Which few? Those souls from many backgrounds, ranging from holiness to profound evil not yet fully rejected, who as spirits, before their birth as human beings in your world offered, volunteered to obey and serve Me in a particular way. You know how many promised to do so. You know how few have kept their promise. And of those few how small a number who have yet reached any real understanding of My Law.”
But you are asking what is the particular way in which they – and you – promised to serve? “Why, to serve My Law. To bring a true, full knowledge of it into Hell and Purgatory and to tell the spirits there – this is your way of release. This is the Law of Repentance, of Remorse, of Love, of Mercy. This is My Justice. This is My Will which you must obey if you wish to come to Me, be one with Me.”
You have asked often, “why us? Why such pitiful little creatures as we are? How can we serve Almighty God Who has His saints and angels and seraphim to serve Him?”
Here is the answer. I have told you elsewhere that My saints and angels are employed in gathering Grace, in restoring Paradise, restoring Fallen Creation to its Perfection, suffering great pain of heart so that there may be Grace to save all the souls in Hell, to pay the ransom for all the souls in Purgatory, to transform the Limbo of Nature Spirits into park land for the joy of Heaven.
Someone spoke lightly of this sacrifice my angels and saints make, the agonies they suffer as they watch over man’s horrors and blasphemies, greeds and cruelties; as they are choked by the stench of Hell rising up to Heaven.
“I tell you, you would not endure what they endure for one single moment as century after century they share My Son’s Crucifixion, My agony for Him, with Him, being One with Him.
No. What I ask of you is a great thing but not so great as their service. I ask you only to bring My Law, My Love, My Mercy, to those who were once your companions in evil. To explain to them how repentance is born and brought to fruition. How remorse cleanses the stained soul. How obedience to My Law lifts the soul on wings to find Me.
Who better than you could do all this, you who were once evil, who lived and shared with evil, who know the ways of evil?”
But why must you know the Law in its reality? Is not Love, is not Mercy enough?
No, for they are governed by My Law, My Will, My Justice. I judge each soul, and My Judgements are just and must be obeyed. Each judgement says to the soul judged – this and this must you do to be saved. There is no other way.
“But why?” The soul might cry, “all these fine Laws of God have been changed. What I did then on earth is no longer a sin Or soon will not be! Release me now; away with all this ancient nonsense of repentance and remorse. Even this Hell in which I burn has become illegal, if you want to lecture me about legalities! Do you think we are so ignorant down here that we do not know how the Church has progressed and is progressing? I was a priest and fornicated with altar boys – look, see the sign over my head in letters of fire, “Sodomite and failed priest.”
“What arrogance of God! If I were alive now, I should be supported by a million, ten million eager friends – “Gay rights for priests! For practicing homosexuals! Down with discrimination!”
And see that man over there? He raped and abused little girls and murdered his adopted son. “Why” he cries, “it was all society’s fault, not mine!” And there is a nun beside him, recently dead, who is sympathising with him, and agreeing that all sins are social sins. She is amazed to find herself here and is convinced there is a grave error in the bureaucracy. All she did was to support the rights of women to have abortions on demand. She too is sure that Hell no longer has any legal right to exist, and hopes to turn it into a clinic for abortionists and a rest home for Lesbians.
You think I am speaking lightly, joking? My child, you know nothing – less than nothing of the effects of the Church’s growing errors and weakness.
I turn it into almost humorous examples, into anecdotes that you can easily grasp. But behind the almost humour, the anecdotes, lies a terrible reality, terrible beyond explaining to you. The Church is falling into ruin, the shepherds are in league with the robbers, the sheep are without protection.
Imagine a country fallen into anarchy, during and at the end of a terrible war that has destroyed all law and order, all tranquil decency. The buildings, roads, hospitals, schools are no more than rubble. Corpses lie everywhere, disease is rampant, starvation the common rule. The weak are dominated by the strong, the would-be good citizens robbed and murdered by villains. And now the war ends, the victors enter the ruins. A thousand things are needed. Doctors, nurses, teachers, administrators – and also servants of the Law. Law must be taught again. Order must be admired again. Criminals must be reformed, taught that crime no longer pays. Children must be taught that violence is wrong, that theft must be punished, that the Law is above all else, for without it there can be no peace or happiness.
This is what I have wanted of you, those of you who kept your promise and came to learn My Law, My Justice. It has not suited all of you, and that is not to be wondered at, for My Law, My Will, is a stern Mistress who demands much of Her pupils. All that She demands may not be in a pupil’s character or capacity to give. In such cases She teaches them all they can receive and then hands them on to one of Her great sisters. My Love, or My Mercy, to complete their education and become teachers or nurses or doctors of souls – but ones with a basic, essential knowledge of the Law.
Do you understand all this? Now you see it in terms of your own world, of earthly law courts, policemen, bailiffs, judges, lawyers; of earthly schools with their classrooms and noisy children; of hospitals with their rows of beds and uniformed nurses, the smell of disinfectant and the constant presence of death. But when the time comes you will be able to transform all you have learned into Reality, into spiritual truths. You will have been taught and prepared to serve Me.
But in explaining these things to you we have set aside the method of My Law’s teaching, the ways in which My Divine Will teaches Obedience to souls. Let that be the subject of the next portion of this book.
The methods used by My Will to teach the soul we are discussing are very simple. They consist of allowing it to make mistakes – not moral mistakes – but mistakes of judgement – and then to prompt it to recognise it has been mistaken and to seek correction.
An example will serve to make this clear. At an early stage the small soul, newly begun its repentance and remorse, full of tears and emotions, set out to pray. It found the Rosary intensely boring, but struggled on in obedience, saying it several times a day, and once, under My Will’s command, all night without sleeping. But its preferred method of prayer was informal – long promises of amendment, pleas for help and strength, expressions of gratitude.
And having some sense of literary forms the soul attempted to make its prayers works of literature, however ephemeral, and even poetic. In all innocence it wished to impress My Will not only with its devotion, but with a certain elegance of devotion, like a courtier of the Ancient Regime setting out to please the King with the elegance of his bow and his compliments and wishes for the King’s good health.
My Will allowed this to continue for a little while, hoping that the little soul would stay quiet and give up its efforts to please. When this failed to happen My Will told it, in the silent, interior words the little soul had learned to hear, that this was not the way to pray
A little alarmed, the soul asked how it should pray? Not with words. My Will told it. At that the soul, whose worldly trade was with words, grew more distressed. Then with images? it asked. Pictures in my mind? Not with images, nor pictures in your mind, My Will answered. The soul stayed on its knees in bewilderment – it was in a church at the time – and then asked as a brilliant idea struck it, You mean with thoughts? One should pray with thoughts only? Abstract thoughts, without words or pictures in the mind?
No, said My Will, not abstract thoughts either. At that the soul fell into a near despair of incomprehension. How can one pray at all then, it cried in its silence. No words! No pictures! No thoughts? How, how on earth then, is one to pray at all?
By listening, My Will said. And in those two words all the lesson was contained. What reason is there for you, or any soul, to talk to me? To tell Me what 1 already know? Plead with Me for gifts, favours, helps, reprieves that are already decided by Me, long before you ask for them? If they are for your benefit, or the benefit of the one for whom you pray, you will receive your favour. If it is not for your true benefit, or his, or hers, you will not, and no begging, no Novenas or Litanies will make me change My Mind – How should I give you what I know will be to your eternal harm?
You believe it will be good if your dear nephew passes his exams. But he has done no work for them. Should his laziness be encouraged? You beg me to cure your sister’s rheumatism. But suppose the pain of it is needed to bring her to repentance? You pray for a promotion in your work – how much good you will do with the extra money! with the additional authority! But suppose it will tempt you into extravagance and pride? Suppose someone else deserves it more than you do? Suppose you are not yet equipped to undertake the tasks involved?
A wise man has told you that the worst that can happen to a man or woman is to have their prayers answered. Dear God, only let Jim propose to me and marry me! I shall be happy and good for ever! And I instead see her future, cowed, beaten, betrayed, exhausted by child bearing, neglected, degraded, old before she is thirty. While Tom, whom she despises a little would be her devoted lover and partner all their lives together.
Or look at that athlete, praying to Me that he may win a gold medal. And over there another athlete praying to me with equal fervour that he may win the same medal. Am I to weigh up their prayers in a scales, and give the race to the one who says most Our Fathers in the shortest time? Or leave them to battle it out between them and let the swiftest win?
And there is a priest, a good pious old man, and his pious congregation, praying for peace. “Almighty God, grant us peace in the world.”
What does he, what does his congregation, imagine they are asking? That I force every weapon to drop from every hand? That I paralyse the generals, render the tyrants deaf and dumb, abolish wickedness by decree? That overnight, or at least by next Sunday, oblige everyone in the world to become good? Turn them from human beings with free will into robots programmed to sing hymns?
Men like to be bad. They desire the profits and pleasures to be gained by wickedness, the power to be won by surrendering to evil. And all the Novenas, all the Novenas imaginable will not change that.
Ah! I hear you saying that again and again Our Lady has asked for the recitation of Rosaries, of First Friday devotions, and all the similar prayers. If She were heeded, you ask, would that not make a difference? Surely She has told us, often, that it would?
Yes. But pay closer attention to what She asks. Not simply the recitation of words, of formulae. But a life of repentance that will serve as the foundation of those prayers. That is not how that old priest’s congregation see the matter as they “pray for peace.” They think the words are enough. And after they are said they go home to their Sunday lunch, and golf, or television and the Sunday newspapers, their lives unchanged. Next day, and all the coming week, they will live as they are used to living, lukewarm in piety, passionate for worldly things. Is that the kind of prayer Our Lady desires? Do they imagine such prayers will mount to Heaven, envelop the world in an aura of remorse, change the hearts and minds of evil men, win over evil spirits to repent and obey Me?
They will no more do that than winter glimpses of the sun will melt a glacier in the mountains. And this was another simple lesson My Will taught that soul. She told him to say many rosaries, day after day, while he tried to believe that he enjoyed it, found a value in it – decade after decade, every day an hour kneeling in this empty church or that. And as I said to you, once he had to spend the entire night reciting decades, hour after hour.
Then one day She told him to stop. Stop? he asked Her amazed, suspicious. You Who love God, You Who are God’s Will, tell me to stop saying the Rosary?
Yes. Stop. You have recited enough of them.
Oh, God have mercy on me! It must be an evil spirit tempting me! Are You evil? Do You love God, believe Jesus to be the Son of God?
The answers are no, and yes, and yes, My Will told him. Stop reciting the Rosary and begin to live it. Let the story of My Son’s Life – for that is what the Rosary is. His Life and His Mother’s – let their story be part of you, let it guide you in all things. Measure all your thoughts, all your words, all your actions, against theirs. Know that They see you, are present beside you, that They hear your every word, know your every thought, accompany you at every step – you take.
As you lie in your bed, think that He had no bed, nowhere to lie down and rest. As you endure your small discomforts think that He hung on the Cross for you. As you sit down in weariness, think how His Mother watched over His cradle, watched Him grow to manhood, watched Him dying, saw the blood run from His Wounds. That is the Rosary.
For some it is good to say the words, visualise the scenes. But for others, like this small soul, repetition brings boredom, irritation, a loss of all meaning. For such souls the only purpose of repetition is to quieten and empty their minds, so that I can enter them, speak to them. The Rosary, its recitation, trains them to empty their minds of all other thoughts, to purify them. And when they have learned to do that, then its purpose is achieved.
Along with these lessons on prayer, and listening with a quiet mind to My Voice, My Will was teaching – and still does teach – the way of obedience to the soul. She did this with endless patience, and unswerving firmness. The soul must learn to practise obedience in every detail of its life, even the smallest. In the street, should it give money to that beggar, or not? How could it know? Only by listening to My Voice, My Will, yes or no?
Now cross the street? Yes. In front of or behind that parked car? Behind? Yes. But next time with equal lack of reason it might be in front of some similarly parked car. Not that it mattered which. Only to ask, to wait to be told, to obey. When to go to bed, when to get up, what to eat, how much to eat. Two slices of bread? Three? No, two and a half. Which half, the smaller? No. This time the larger. Like a tiny gift of tenderness, those extra crumbs of bread.
Not yeast bread of course? Unleavened bread. And not all vegetables. Obedience. Obedience. Sometimes with an obvious reason. Sometimes with none. Sometimes involving small hardships, fasting, discomfort. Sometimes small gifts like those crumbs of bread, of no value in themselves but revealing Love behind the severity.
And humour, moments of laughter, shared with the soul as it recognised its own ridiculousness, the madness of this small being listening to God’s Will, being told truths that no theologian had ever stumbled on, no Pope had known. (Although Popes know a great deal more than they dare to tell. They are not as other men are.)
There was also the lesson that there must be a bridle on obedience. That is conscience. That no matter what the soul thought My Will was commanding, or allowing, it must meet the test of conscience.
But for this to be always as it should be the conscience must be informed by wisdom, must have a clear grasp of morality, of right and wrong. And so there were lessons in morality, moral tests and puzzles, until the right answer was as obvious always as a simple problem in arithmetic.
What painful progress the soul made! Conquering impatience, the impulse to say too much, speak too quickly, act in haste, become angry. Above all others to be impatient, angry, in what it thought was the defence of the truth, against attacks from those it felt ought to be most eager to understand, to share its marvellous experience of God. How could its closest companion, its own family, not accept these truths that were so clearly true? How could they call it evil? Look for exorcisms, turn away from it in fury, attack it as an enemy? Oh, surely another attempt to explain it all must set things right?
Until slowly, slowly, the little soul learns the value, the wisdom of silence, the impossibility of converting anyone by arguments.
It did not need to be taught tolerance. That at least it possessed already, if not much else. And now out of obedience, like a rose tree out of good soil, it needed to learn love. To love My Will. My Justice. My Divine Law. But how can a soul “love” such concepts, such aspects of God? Only if it can visualise them as a Person in human form, a man, a woman. And since this soul was a man, My Will revealed Herself to him as a woman, beautiful in Her severity, Her wonderful authority, so that he longed to kneel in front of Her, put his forehead to the ground before Her, afraid even to imagine touching Her feet. But She made him stand in front of Her, look at Her stern face, see the affection behind the sternness, the gentleness.
And then told him he was no longer to serve Her, be Her pupil, Her student, but was to go to the Father, to Me. It was like parting from a lover. I have not told you a hundredth part of his adventures with Her, all they had shared together. And now he was to come to Me, remote, unknown, unknowable. Who is there who knows the Father, except the Son?
But the soul came to Me, and I taught it more, and it learned to love Me, in so far as such a small creature can love God, when its nature is made for obedience rather than for Love or Suffering.
Then, when I had taught it to love Me, I sent it back to My Will. How pleased it was to return to its Beloved Mistress. How ashamed, how embarrassed to be so pleased to leave Me, the Father!
Step by step I tempted it into believing that its love for the Beloved Divine Will was truly love, that the love its heart felt for Her was what is meant by the Love of God, by “Loving God.”
It was the love of a man for a woman. A man of very humble rank for a Woman of the highest; the love of a page for his Queen. Yet nevertheless, the love of a man for a woman. But he would not understand this, see the false road he was following, until at last I revealed it to him in a vision, tempted him with the consummation of this human kind of love.
And by My Mercy he recoiled from it at the last moment. His reasons for recoiling are unimportant here. Not the best ones, not perfect understanding. But at least he recoiled, renounced this love and began to question it. Is She truly a woman as She has told me She is? Shall I truly see Her in human form? Touch Her hands? Love Her? I know I must not, I am married, I know I must not love even God’s Will in that human way. But how hard it is to renounce love? The hope of love answered.Worse still, to reject it when it is answered, to cling to the cold righteousness of conscience when such ecstasy is offered.
Then I took pity on the soul and showed it, reminded it of what it already knew with its intellect, but had refused to understand with its heart, that I am One. That I and My Will are one, neither man nor woman, but God. That We are One as I am One with the Son and with the Holy Spirit, One with My Love and My Mercy and My Glory.
Already, long before, I had told it of the Source, of God as the Source of all things, even of the Trinity, of the Four Aspects of My Divinity. I had made it aware of Me in My Infinite Being, changeless, without desires, without needs. I had shown the soul that to be one with Me, with My Reality as the Source of all that is, is like a fish swimming in the depths of the ocean, a bird flying in the immensity of the Heavens, floating with stilled wings on the wind. It is to be one drop of water in a river, one leaf in a forest.
I reminded it too that no human love can reach God. Human love is desiring. It desires reward. Even when it strives to give, it desires the gift to be recognised.
But God’s Love and the Love of God desire nothing, no reward, no recognition. Only to give. Only the other’s joy and holiness.
You will think that this is wrong, that I desire your love in return for Mine. No. All I desire is that you accept My Love. But wait! That is far from being as easy as it sounds. Very far. To accept My Love you must sacrifice all else. My Love will not enter a soul where it has a rival – even if that rival is human love of Me.
For human love is the wrong kind of love, as by My Mercy that soul discovered. To accept My Love the soul must be not like a purse into which a gift of money can be put, but like a mirror, that reflects My Love as it would reflect the sun.
What is the virtue of a mirror? That it is empty. Empty of all but what stands before it to be reflected in it. And in the soul’s mirror I must see My Self, with nothing else there to distort Perfection. There must be no desires there, no human distortions of Love, like imperfections in the glass. Only acceptance of My Glory, My Love, My Tenderness for My Creation that obeys My Law.
How can you come to this purity of acceptance? This perfection of mirror brightness? Only by perfect Obedience, perfect submission to My Will, perfect acceptance of such suffering as I may give to you.
The soul must learn how to raise obedience to higher and higher levels of devotion, of selflessness, of selfless love, of sacrifice. In the beginning it thought that at once it knew what obedience to My Will meant. It knelt behind a pillar in the church at Mass, hiding its self because it knew that tears would come, of emotion, of a shallow ecstasy in its love for My Will, for Me.
It did not think then of the ecstasies as shallow. It thought “this is devotion, this is true religion, this is the love of God.” But after a time these small ecstasies died away and left not dryness, not the dark night of the soul of which great mystics write, but quietness, the beginnings of resolution, determination to serve Me without cheap rewards.
There was no “dryness”, meaning My absence, because if the soul was to learn all it had to, as quickly as was needed, I must remain with it constantly. But the moments of laughter ended, easy tenderness deepened into severity, and the soul began to understand the value of that withdrawn sternness. That the time of “religious childhood” was over and the soul must grow up a little, enter school no longer in the infant class where the teacher laughs and plays with the tiny children and gives them sweets or rewards for sitting still. Now it must begin its true education, learn its tables, fill its copy book with well drawn words.
There is a pride in that for the soul – “How much I am learning? How many secrets of God I know!” And so I overturn these new, childish certainties, reduce the soul to frustrated tears, show it that it knows nothing, that the certainties of yesterday are like wisps of smoke, blown away by My Breath. It learns new certainties, more solid, and feels less pride in them.
But now it is being shown its future work, to pass on its new learning to other souls. And here is a greater danger of pride. “Look how they believe me? Of course I know I am nothing, a pencil to write down God’s words, but -” And I explain to it what a special kind of pencil it is!
Not at all like other pencils. I tell it, it was not made in the pencil factory, but by hand, by Me, for this sole purpose of writing My words, giving My Laws to the waiting souls.
“Really? It cannot be true! It would at the very least be made of gold or silver, and I know that I am made of wood. Cheap wood at that, with the paint worn and the end chewed?”
“Oh yes, it is true, for what it is worth. But you are right not to be proud of that. It is no merit of yours – if you are handmade. Now, turn away from that and take down these prophecies. See what is about to happen, wars, disasters, earthquakes, floods – tell them quickly, so that they too know what is to happen. Then they will believe beyond all doubt that you are My pencil, writing down My Laws.”
The poor little soul obeys; how easy it is to be a prophet, to astonish other souls?
“Really?” they whisper in awe. “It will happen on such a date?”
“So He says?”
And the date goes by and the prophecy has failed.
“What a fool,” the other souls complain. “What a charlatan, him and his wars and earthquakes – how we were taken in by him?”
And the soul turns to My Will and says, trying not to complain, “Why did You deceive me, and make me deceive them? I did not want to believe You, but yet I obeyed – ”.
“You say you did not want to believe?”
“No. Some sort of instinct warned me – but why? Why? Look how that one and that other one has turned away, is lost to You.”
“Never mind. All those things I foretold to you, they will happen next month without fail. Tell them to store food in preparation for the horrors to come.”
“Really? Truly? On Your Word as God?”
“Yes. My Hand on My Heart.”
“Very well, but I am filled with doubts.”
“Do not be. And I will tell you more. You yourself will die on such a date and come to Me. Tell them that too.”
And the soul tells, and again the prophecies come to nothing, the little soul lives on in embarrassment. “You are tormenting me,” it cries. “And my death that does not happen! Why that? You know I am not afraid of death, that I long to come to You – what purpose does such a deception serve?”
“Ah! But in My deeper reality these things did happen!
Even your “death”. A spiritual death. Your physical death is to come next week.”
“Next week? Truly?”
“Yes. On Friday at three o’clock. Be sure you are ready.” And again it does not happen, nothing happens, Saturday comes. How many times must I do this to the soul before it understands? That I desire souls who will obey Me because what I teach them is good, not because prophecies come true, an earthquake happens, a Pope dies, a war begins. I desire faith in My Glory, not belief in Me forced by foretold events.
The devil, Satan, can foretell the future after a fashion. Not well or far. or he would foresee his own defeat. But he foresees earthquakes and wars and famines and warns his followers so that they can make use of them to create despair and anger against Me. Prophecies are nothing by themselves.
And here of course you want to know if all prophecies are false, if every event foretold to this soul and told by him to you is untrue?
No. All of them are true. All will happen. But I use the disappointments to test My chosen ones. Should they be “disappointed” – that World War has not begun? That earthquakes have not devastated America? That millions have not yet died by the hour, as Our Lady has foretold in Her Third Secret of Fatima? Should these souls need such supports for their faith? If they do they cannot serve Me as I wish to be served. I will not buy obedience with prophecies. I want you to “watch and pray”, be ready, be patient yet vigilant, never knowing the hour when these things will come.
And that soul, that has been told so often it is about to die and come to Me? If it was afraid, fearful of death, I would not treat it in this way. But it must learn not to concern its self with its death, the ending of this part of its work. It must learn to live day by day, night by night, knowing that each may be its last, and also that it may live years more, in patience.
And it is learning that lesson, that it must not be eager to leave “here” for “there”, to leave behind its responsibilities of a human kind no matter what seemingly greater responsibilities await it. Yet at the same time it must be ready – as you must be ready – to leave them behind without an instant’s notice. To leave behind all it loves, all that depend on it, just as you must be ready, and everyone else must be ready – trusting in Me to see that all that you leave behind will be saved by Me from true harm.
Not saved from hardships, dangers, hunger, sorrow – but saved from damnation, because when I choose even the smallest, most worthless soul to serve Me I am generous to those around it. No matter how they have scorned Me, turned away from Me, I will give them a thousand opportunities to be saved.
But you want to know more about this soul we have been considering, My “chewed pencil”? There is not much more to tell. It is like any other soul that sets out to find Me. I draw it on and on, tearing aside one veil over My face only to reveal another. You have often walked in the hills. Do you remember how each time you imagine you have reached the crest, at last you are at the top, you see further, higher crests ahead of you?
That is how it is on the journey to find Me. But with each new summit there is the possibility of a more splendid view. Yet you will not always see it. At times I bring mist to conceal all that lies below and ahead I bring rain to soak you to the bone, winds to buffet the breath out of your throat. And then, just as you are about to fall to the ground in despair I bring back the warmth and light of My Sun to revive you, to impel you to go on. You can look down at the valleys far below, and up to the next summit. There it is at last? The true summit! Only an hour more!
But My clouds still hide the Truth from you. These summits, these hills up which you are struggling are no more than footstools to My Infinity. The true mountains lie beyond, far, far above you. For a moment I let you see their outlines, a white glimmer of snow peaks. Then the clouds fold round them again before their Majesty can dishearten you.
Now you are walking on pleasant grass, scrambling among smooth rocks and rock pools. There are wild flowers, and cattle grazing, cow bells ringing. There are shelters for travellers. Wait until all these things lie behind you, far below you – and there is no comfort, no shelter – only the snow and ice, naked splinters of stone, avalanches and crevasses lying in wait for you. What then?
Then you will thank Me for all the small hardships I inflicted on you, that prepared you a little for this climb to reach Me, the sternness that drew you out of babyhood into adolescence and adulthood, that strengthened your spirit, taught it to endure.
And when you reach the true summit at long last, the peak of Mount Everest? What then? Is that where I am? Or are you to go down again, on the far side of the mountain range, into the valleys of Paradise?
Be patient. Wait. Trust Me. All will be well, as I told Julian long ago, and all things will be well.
There is a Postscript to this teaching as there is to all stories – what comes afterwards?
In another Postscript you were told of the first Heaven – that Heaven where the Garden of Eden is rediscovered, where men and women, man and woman, can walk with God in the evening in perfect love and innocence, innocence no longer ignorant of evil, but the innocence of evil known, experienced to its depths and once and for ever rejected, all self, all greed, all pride and cruelty rejected and God chosen in their place.
But is even that enough, that first Heaven, with its perfect happiness? It is still human happiness, the joy of mornings, skies, sunlight, trees and flowers and animals and water. Is it enough, the Garden of Eden? Maybe for some, but you – is it enough for you? What would you find, what will you find, if you leave the Garden and go on? Go on to the second Heaven, and the third, and fourth, on to the seventh? How will you get there? Is there a price to pay?
First of all your body, your perfect, beautiful, glorified body, instrument of human happiness, of love, of tenderness. How can you sacrifice it? Never to walk hand in hand with the Beloved, lie with Her, with Him, never to know that human love again? Never to run through the woods, swim in the sea, float in the air like a bird, climb the hills. Never taste again the wine of Paradise, never be one with the tiger, or the gazelle, or the salmon leaping. How could you leave all that behind?
At first you might say impossible! Never! Here there is everything the heart desires. The heart yes. But the mind? Why that too. All the knowledge that there is without the need of books. To look at a tree and know its essence, its tree-secrets, that no earthly scientist has ever known. To be one with every creature, spider spinning webs in the tall grasses, eagle drifting among the crags. Your mind filled to ecstasy with knowledge. Only – only perhaps your soul unfulfilled? There is no challenge here. This is the land of the Lotus Eaters. Go on! Go on! Lay down your new gained beauty, leave the Garden.
To go where? Go how? Bodiless? Only the soul remaining? There are no words to describe the journey, because all our descriptions are of physical things – and those are the things that you must sacrifice – even that perfect joy of walking hand in hand with God, Loving Her, loving Him, gazing on His Face, Her Beauty. To go out into emptiness, nothingness, like leaping from a cliff top into darkness, like the new fledged eaglet falling from its nest into the depths of the sky. And then its wings spreading, feeling the strength of the air, sweeping in a great circle round the mountain top. Is that how it will be for you? Who can tell you? Deeper and deeper, higher and higher, into the purity of God. Level after level, Heaven beyond Heaven. All that you ever understood to be of Heaven left far, far behind, below – the Heavens of Fire, of Colour, of Music, the Heaven of pure thought – The Heaven of the Holy Trinity, Mystery beyond Mystery – and still drawn on by a passion to find the Ultimate, the Word, the Truth; the I am that I am, the Source of All.
There are no maps for the journey, no guides for the soul, no teachings – only the promise that those who seek will find, those who give all that they have, even their happiness, even the Heaven they have gained, will be rewarded beyond all imagining.
But dearest God, are You telling me that there will be differences among rewards, inequalities in Heaven, in Union with You?
Little soul, look at the flowers in a field, are there inequalities among them? Daisy and dandelion, buttercup and woodbine – is one jealous of the other? Look at the mountains – do the valleys envy them? All things will be as they should be, each soul will find her perfect place, her perfect happiness. Look inside a watch. Are all the wheels and jewels equal in size and in what they do? Each piece has its function, it is their differences that make the perfection of the watch.
Nevertheless, dearest God, anyone who may read what is written here will believe that for one soul there is a greater, finer destiny than for another. This soul will stay in the Garden of Eden with its joys that any human being can understand. That soul will seek for more, receive more, in higher, other Heavens. Is that not inequality?
If you wish, child, but between perfections of happiness equality and inequality have no meaning. Between a white rose and a red, is there inequality? Between an eagle and a dove? Look at what human beings call success. Forget for the moment about envies, disappointments, that worm in the bud of all human happiness that comes from being exiled from me – think only of that sense that some fortunate human beings have, perhaps only once in their lives – “I have achieved my goal!” – and the flood of happiness that overwhelms them in such moments.
A woman holds her longed for child in her arms. A man receives an honour he has longed and striven for. An author sees his first book published. An athlete stands on the Olympic podium to receive his gold medal, and hears his country’s anthem played. A couple hold each other on their marriage night. A woman looks at a little house and says in wonder, “This is my new home.” Multiply such cases a thousand times. A general given command of an army, a king inheriting his throne, a traveller returning from a long journey, a girl singing, hearing the beauty in her own voice; tell me, are these things equal or unequal?
They are equal all of them.
So it is in Heaven. There are no inequalities of happiness. Only different ways of finding it, achieving it. Look at those children trying to play tennis. They have no idea of the game. They run about the courts and laugh when they miss the ball. But they are as happy as kittens. Now look at that child there – serious as a grown man, practising with all his strength. He is no happier than the others, It is only that he seeks his happiness in a different way. The differences lie not in what you receive from Me but what you seek.
But surely we all seek the same?
Do you? One seeks My Love – here, stretch out your hand and feel it burning. One seeks to share My Suffering for the evil of mankind – and I grant a fraction of their desire. You, small one, ask to obey My Will, and I bind your hands with My Law.
But those gifts are only three.
Three, yes, but within each of them there is an infinite variety. How far does that loving soul want to be consumed by My Love? How much of My Pain will that other soul accept? How far will you obey My Law?
To the end, if You give me strength.
There is no end. No end to My Love, no end to My suffering, no limit to the burden of My Law.
Beloved God, how can Your suffering exist in Heaven? How can Your Law be a burden there? How can Your Love burn a holy soul? Does the ecstasy of Union with You include pain?
Oh My Lord, My Love, My Master, how can I understand?
Heaven is now. Heaven is always.
Is there no pain?
But must it last for ever?
No. But Union with Me is emptying Heaven of pain, recreating Paradise. You have often asked what are the angels doing, what are the saints doing in their Communion? This is what they are striving at – to empty Heaven of suffering, of burdens. This is what I invite My chosen souls to do, to join in this labour. This is the Vineyard. This is My Garden. Filled with evil. Heaven is to be called by Me to work in it.
But one day, Lord, the work will be done?
That depends on you, on each soul I have made. But Heaven will not wait for that. Heaven is now. Satan is in it, here with Me. And all his fallen angels, his wicked servants, his poor slaves. All are with Me here. Hell is his illusion. He has closed his eyes to me and cried out “There is darkness! It is mine!” And so it is. His darkness. He is My Suffering.
And we, beloved God, must help You to capture him by Love, bear the Suffering he causes you, bring Your Law to his angels, persuade them to bow down and obey it?
And our Heaven is to do those things?
Yes. Satan is My first born child, the Son of My Morning. He stands in his fallen hatred at the centre of Heaven, and believes it to be Hell, his kingdom. Look and see. His ruined Majesty.
And we must carry Your love to him, like burning coals in our bare hands?
We must lift his suffering from him like a poisoned cloak of darkness?
And all this in Obedience to Your Law, Your Divine Will, Your Justice?
Is this all Your teaching?
No. But it is enough for such a little soul.
And now to begin again describing lessons – what God desires of the soul He teaches. I have said to you, you who asked for all this to be written, that you know His lessons as well as I do and maybe better, but if as you tell me other people may want to read these pages then there are things they may wish to know, no matter how obvious they are.
The first lesson is repentance. How could it be anything else? At some moment, granted us by God, to see our lives as they have truly been – like walking in the fields and coming on the dead body of an animal, rotting, crawling with maggots, stinking, surrounded by a black cloud of flies feeding on the decay. It is a vision of such horror that the soul could die of seeing it – wants to die, as the only escape from shame and remorse.
The foolish may think, oh, that could not happen to me, I have done nothing in my life so serious as to feel like that about it. No? Have there been no cruel words? No betrayals of friendship? No ugly thoughts? No greed? No cowardice? No cruelty? No lust? No meanness? And for each of us has there not been at least one vileness so horrible that we have hidden it even from ourselves, covered it over with excuses, striven to forget it? Told ourselves, “Everyone does such things! God doesn’t care about anything so ordinary and small!”
He does. Of all we have ever done that is the one Thing He most wants us to examine, to recognise in its full shame-fulness.
The next lesson is to show that shame to God, as if it was something He did not already know about us. I am embarrassed to write such obvious things to you – but perhaps there is one person who may read this and find something new and valuable in it. And realise that while we must experience repentance and remorse, the shame of displaying our vileness to God, as if we were dying, we must also recover. We cannot stay in that state. It becomes, it can become, a kind of luxury of despair. “Oh my God! what a sinner I am! There was never such a wretched creature in all the world!”
That is rubbish. There are millions like us, alas, and a great many of them far worse and certainly more interesting. All we can say of ourselves is how small we are, how mean and petty in our sins. We have not massacred thousands or burned cities or even murdered anyone. All we have done is rolled in the mud, made our souls filthy. And we have to believe that God can make us clean again. Can even condescend to use us, to allow us to learn to become His servants.
But naturally in that process of cleaning we have to help. There has to come a moment when we stop weeping about what we have been, cease to think of ourselves at all, and begin to think only of God, of His wishes, His Will – which, as I was describing earlier, expresses Itself as a Divine Lady, Divine Justice. It is not by accident that mankind visualises even human Justice as a woman, blindfolded and holding scales and a sword. It is true. That is how God’s Justice is.
Now to serve even the human law or merely to obey it, one must be prepared to surrender one’s own interests in the cause of Justice. You would like to have this or that advantage, have some freedom denied your neighbour, some benefit other people don’t enjoy – but theses things must be sacrificed if Justice is to be obeyed.
This is a thousand times true with God’s Justice. The lesson that follows repentance and remorse is sacrifice. In the same way that the criminal who is convicted by human Justice, or who confesses his crimes, must be ready to pay the penalty, so must we. The convicted criminal goes to prison or pays his fine unwillingly, and would like to escape. We must be willing, eager for the sacrifices. And the first of those sacrifices is freedom. The freedom to follow our own will. Instead we follow His, submit to His Justice, to Her sternness.
And within this general sacrifice of our freedom there is always one central vital sacrifice, just as in our repentance and remorse there is likely to have been one central crime against God that we need to identify and confess to Him. When a criminal goes to prison, within the general punishment of losing his liberty there is always a particular loss that is his real punishment. He must leave behind a wife, or a lover, or some thing that he loves, and for which, perhaps he committed his crimes. The loss he really regrets most as he serves his term in prison might seem unimportant to another prisoner, but for him it was really the whole world.
For the soul surrendering its freedom to God’s Will it is the same. For each one of us there is some human desire, some human ambition, some possession, that is almost dearer than life itself – that often is dearer than our lives. Without it we feel that life would not be worth living. And it is that one thing, that dearest, most intimate love of ours, that God desires from us. That is the one vital sacrifice we must make.
The Bible illustrates this for us in two striking, unforgettable stories. One of Abraham, called on to sacrifice his son. The other, in the Gospels, of the rich young man, called on by Jesus to sacrifice his wealth. Both stories need to be understood. The first of them is likely to fill a modern reader with horror. How could Abraham be willing to kill his son? How could he think it virtuous? What kind of God could demand such a sacrifice, even in pretence, even when the sacrifice was never meant to be carried out?
It’s necessary to remember that in the period when the story was written a man’s son was in a real sense his property (just as until very recently in this country a man’s wife was considered to be in a real sense his property, that could be damaged or stolen, and that had a monetary value.) It would have seemed to Abraham terrible, heart-wrenching, tragic to be asked to sacrifice his son to God, but not unjust. God had given him his longed for son, his heir. Now God demanded him back. Let God’s Will be done. And when Abraham submitted and bound his child on the altar and raised the knife to kill him, the Angel of God cried “No! Stop! Now I know that you love Me!” It was the supreme test of love and submission to God’s Will that God could have demanded of Abraham, and Abraham passed the test.
The rich young man failed – turning away from the sacrifice Jesus asked of him, “because he had great possessions.”
From each soul that repents God asks a similar sacrifice. Even a son? A daughter? A wife? A mother? A husband? Even all your possessions? Even that one thing you love above all other things? That dearest ambition? To sing? To paint? To write? To be famous? To be secure? To win that prize? To be respected? Admired? Envied? To travel?
But again, like those two stories from the Old and the New Testaments these sacrifices need to be understood – and the actual meaning of the word sacrifice has to be understood. It is not simply a matter of “giving something up.” It is giving something to God. Abraham was not merely preparing to kill his son, extinguish his life. He was giving him to God, because his son was the most precious possession he had, and therefore the only worthy gift he could make.
The young man who asked Jesus what he could do to be saved was not asked simply to walk away from his possessions and become a poor man – he was asked to give his wealth to the poor, as a means of giving it to God – because for him his wealth was the dearest, most precious love that he had. And unlike Abraham he could not make the sacrifice. And when he could not make it no other sacrifice that he made was of any value at all.
God says to each repentant soul “Give Me your most precious possession. I want nothing less from you.” The soul may say to Him, “Take this! Take that.’ Look! I am willing to live on bread and water! To suffer any pains You send me, to give up my sleep, my comfort, my family even – to live as a hermit – only leave me this one thing that I love, that is my very self, my heart’s choice. It is such a small thing! Why do You want it from me?”
And God answers the soul, “Give it to Me! It is that, and that alone, that I want from you.”
How can all this be explained to someone who does not already understand it? It seems impossible. A painter to give up painting, a writer his writing, a man his ambition, a woman her love, or her ambition, you your dearest wish, to give up family, wife, husband, mother, son?
No! No! Not give up. Give to God. Do you ask “Where is the difference?” There is all the difference in the world. It is the difference between burying a treasure in the ground and giving it to feed the hungry. Give something up and it ceases to exist, have any use or value. Give it to God and it becomes ten thousand times more precious, infinite in its value.
But how? How for example can one “give God” one’s family, son, daughter, wife, husband?
Think how we speak of them. “My son. My wife. My husband. My mother, father, daughter, parents, children. My. Mine.” How can they be yours? Did you create them? Give them life? of course not. God gave them to you – but not to be your possessions. What God asks of us is to give them back to Him, recognise that they are His, not ours. Behave to them as pleases Him, not as pleases us.
And this may seem to us even to threaten that we lose them, lose their love. It can happen in more than one way. First of all, easiest of all, through the very act of repentance, the effects on the penitent’s soul of remorse. “You have changed!” the husband, the wife, the family accuses. “You are no longer the person we loved and who loved us. Now you love God more than you love us. And you have become strange, not like ordinary, healthy minded people. You have morbid fancies, fanatic beliefs. You have become ill, or mad.”
The soul tries to explain. “Because I love God more, I love you more. But in a different, deeper, more real way.”
“No” they complain. “That is all part of your illness. We want you to come and dance with us, play, sing, drink wine, be jolly – be like everyone else as you used to be. We don’t want your prayers, we preferred your sins.”
You, you who have lived through this sorrow can understand it. But could anyone who has not?
Then there is another way to lose a family’s love – by becoming wiser, stronger. “You used to give me everything, give in to my least wishes, you really loved me. Now you say “No”, that is bad for you, I will not give into your demands. You no longer love me.”
“I love you more, not less. I was your slave, not your true wife, your true mother, your father, your husband. I did you harm by giving in to your wrong demands, your selfishness. Now, late as it is, I must try to make amends.”
How many mothers, fathers, are praised as “saints” for ruining their children. “Look at all they gave them. And look at the thanks they’ve got.” They have reaped what they sowed – selfishness. The love they gave was selfish love – the love they received in return was bought love, buying the love of their children with follies, destroying them with stupidity. “Oh, I want them to love me!” At any cost. At the cost of their salvation.
How many wives have earned the name of “saint” in the same way, pandering to a husband’s wrong demands – submitting to evil for the sake of his “love”, or even, in her folly “for God’s sake!” As if God wanted her to submit to drunken violence, give him money to gamble away, see him drink the family into ruin without a word of protest.
How many husbands have indulged stupid wives in their extravagance for the sake of “love”? Turned a blind eye to worse than extravagance? Shrugged away dirt, neglect, sluttish idleness, for the sake of “love”?
In all these cases the soul who has given everything to God, even family, husband, wife, children – says “They are Yours, Lord, not mine. Let me be to them as You will me to be. Let me give them Your wise love, not my foolish possessive love. Even if they turn away from me, hate me for it, let me do everything that will help to bring them closer to You.”
Arrogance? “How holy I am, how my poor family needs my example? How good I am to risk their love in order to bring them salvation”. Of course that is a temptation. There is no step towards God, no sacrifice for God, that does not bring with it its own temptations. “Look! I have repented!” Fool! You have not even begun! “Look again at me beating my breast! See my remorse, my shame!” “Fool ten times over! You are worse than you were, making a display of your vileness, calling attention to your “virtues”, believing in your withered little heart that you are already a saint.”.
“Look now! I am bringing my poor family to God. I gave up jam and cakes for them, and forced them to say the Rosary!”
Imbecile? If God were not so gentle He would kick you into the gutter. Your family may not have made any show of repentance, but before you knew how to spell the word, maybe they were far advanced towards God, without letting anyone know about it.
Wisdom – that is what you are seeking. To combine tolerance with firmness as to what is right – gentleness and strength, courtesy and resolution. Every one of these words requires a thousand lessons. A whole book could fail to explain them. All that the soul can do is ask God at every moment – “What should I do now Lord? My Lady of God’s Justice, of God’s Will? In this moment, faced with this choice, what is, Your Will? To say “Yes”? To say “No”? To give? To withhold? To submit? To resist? Only You, God, in Your perfect knowledge of hearts, know what is right in every instance. Tell me, help me to obey You.”
But perhaps for you who read this there need be no sacrifice of family harmony. You have a partner who shares your longing to serve God, children, parents, already far advanced towards Him, longing for you to follow, eager to help you? Thank God for that every day of your life. But there will still be sacrifices – and one sacrifice as if God were drawing out the heart from your body.
What kind of sacrifice? Your dearest hobby? Your diamond ring? It would be easy enough to give those to Him. But say He asked for your career? Your whole ambition in life to become someone – important, famous, successful? How could you give that up? Not only you but your family depends on it. How could God ask that of you? But if He did?
Again – He would not ask you to give it up, but to give it to Him. To work not for your ambitions, but for His. Not in your way, but in His way. How? Perhaps in some way that would seem to you like the ruin of all your hopes, all the efforts you had made till then. Suppose – suppose you were on the point of gaining a longed for, striven for promotion – well-deserved – and suppose He were to say to you – “No. Turn away from it. Make this sacrifice for Me.” Imagine your desolation. “But Lord! It is not only my ambition, my own satisfaction. Those I would gladly give You. But my family – the extra money – the things I could give them – ”
“What things, child? Luxuries? An expensive holiday? Do they need them? Have they the rights to demand them from you? Do they not have enough already – all that is good for them? Or are you making them the excuse for your reluctance to give Me what I ask of you? If I asked you to plunge them into poverty, cause them hardship – then no, it would be your duty to refuse, to refuse even Me, should I ask you such a thing. But that is not what I am asking – choose now, between Me and your promotion.”
Why should God ask such a thing? A hundred reasons, all His own. That you might have more time to spend with Him. Or because as He knows, but you cannot, the promotion would lead you into temptations that would overcome you, and destroy you. Or so that you could be more peaceful with your family, see to the upbringing of your children with more care than before. He asks for nothing without a reason.
Or suppose you were a singer, or a painter, a writer, an actress – popular, a darling of the critics and the crowds – and God were to say to you – sing for Me, not for the crowds who wave their arms for you in shallow praise. Act for Me. Paint for Me. Write for Me. What would you say to Him? “Lord, everyone will abandon me. My small success will come to an end. I will be despised.”
“Shall I despise you?” God would answer. “Whose praise do you value? Theirs? Or Mine?”
And there lies the heart of sacrifice. God? Or this world? The crowd shouting for Bar Abbas? Mammon? Riches? Fame? Or holiness?
Then surely it’s time to come to an end of this book, or else no one would have the patience to read it. Dearest Lord, dearest Lady, Divine Justice, God’s Holy Will, I dare not ask if all that is written here is as You wished it to be – but does it contain errors that You wish removed?
“No”. And have I told enough about Your teaching of a soul? “Yes. You have told enough for now.”