FAMILIAR DISCOURSE,

At the reception of a Nun.

Devout sister, you should have constantly in mind this day on which you have the happiness of being espoused to Jesus Christ, that you may continually thank him for so great a favour. Do not imagine that you place Jesus Christ under an obligation to you by leaving the world for his sake ; you ought on the contrary to feel yourself under an everlasting obligation to him for the grace which he has given you, in calling you to leave the world.

To-day you leave the world ; you think perhaps you make a great sacrifice. What is this world ? a land of thorns, of tears, of sorrow. The world promises great things to its votaries, pleasure, peace, contentment ; but all turn into deceit, bitterness, and vanity. Even when the world bestows its riches, honours, and pleasures, they end in suffering and grief : ” Extrema gaudii luctus occupat.” And God grant that for the many blind creatures who love the world, this grief may not become eternal, since in the world the dangers are many and great, and end, all but inevitably, in the ruin of the soul, in the loss of Paradise and God.

Those poor maidens, who, deceived by the false promises of the world, leave Jesus Christ for the secular life, hope to find therein pleasure and contentment, but what the poor creatures experience shews that they find in it nought but thorns and gall. Their subordination to their husbands, the care of children and servants, the wants of the family and the other duties to which a woman living in the world is subjected, render her life so full of straits, and fear, and disgust, that it is if one may so speak, a continual martyrdom.

Enquire of married women whether they enjoy contentment. For my own part I know that as many as I have asked, I have found to be discontented, and full of trouble. On the other hand, ask those nuns who have left everything for God, whether they are satisfied with their condition, and they will answer you that they shall ever have to thank the Lord for having called them from the world. It is but too true what Cardinal Petrucio says, of the delights of those who love the world : ” they have the semblance of joy, and are actually torments.” But of the troubles of those who love God, he says, that ” they have the semblance of torments, while they are actually joys.” And, if that be the case in this life, how shall those maidens fare who have left the world, and how those who have remained in it ? Those who love the world will say, we shall be able to be holy in the world. To be holy? Hear me, daughter, lest the devil should think to disturb you afterwards upon this point : in order to be holy, it is not sufficient to desire holiness, you must employ the means conducive to it. You must every day spend some time in mental prayer, because salvation is very difficult for the soul that does not often think of God. You must frequent the sacraments by which God communicates himself to the soul ; you must be totally detached from all earthly affections and vanities. But, speaking practically, how much time can be devoted to mental prayer by the mother of a family, who has her head filled with anxiety for children, servants, and all the occasions of the house? She shall scarce have time to say the rosary. How can she frequent the sacraments, if she can scarce afford to hear Mass upon a festival ? How can she live detached from the world, while she lives in the midst of it ? How then ? some persons will say, is it impossible for a married person to be saved ? We read of many married persons who became holy. Yes, even in the world a married person can become holy, provided she take care to practise as much as she possibly can, the devout exercises before mentioned, and above all to fortify herself with great patience, because she cannot become holy without great labour aild fatigue ; I say that all holy married women, even princesses and queens, are martyrs of patience.

On the other hand, a religious who has abandoned the world to give herself wholly to God, how many helps and opportunities has she not of leading a well-regulated life, and becoming holy ? If she do nothing more than the little which the rule prescribes, and the community practices ; if she meditate every morning, communicate often in the week, hear mass every day, hear frequently the word of God, together with going through the spiritual exercises which are annually made during eight days, and the various other devotions which are practised in the convent ; this alone would suffice to make her a saint. Remember, daughter, when the devil shall tempt you with regard to your vocation to the religious state, that in the world few are saved, and that in religion, few, very few, are lost.

In a word, if you were to leave the convent, what spouse could you hope for beyond a gentleman, a nobleman, or a monarch ; but now you are espoused to the King of Heaven, and of all the kingdoms of the earth. How many holy virgins have renounced the most exalted earthly nuptials for Jesus Christ? St. Agnes was sought by many noble Romans, but she was content to have her head cut off rather than have any other spouse than Jesus Christ. The blessed Agnes refused the hand of the Emperor Frederick the Second, and shut herself up in a convent. St. Domatilla refused to marry a great lord the Count Aurelian, and therefore died a martyr, having been burned alive. St. Susanna was offered the hand of the Emperor Maximin ; but she, in order to retain Jesus Christ, chose rather to lose her head by the axe of the executioner, and died a martyr.

Leave, 0 daughter, leave to those maidens who love the world, all these pleasures and vanities, their dresses, their balls, and their plays ; enjoy you your Jesus. He, in your cell, will give you more content than all the pleasures, pomp, and riches, which are at the command of the princes of the earth. Here, in your lonely cell, you shall enjoy a Paradise, and a continual peace. If you love Jesus Christ, you will love the solitude which you will find in your cell. In it your crucified spouse will speak familiarly to your heart; from that cross he will send rays of light into your soul, and darts of love into your bosom. Alone with him in your cell, you shall manifest to him the love you bear him, and continually make to him the offering of yourself, and all that you have ; you shall seek from him the graces which you stand in need of ; you shall make him acquainted with the difficulties and fears which afflict you, and he will console you.

Do not doubt that the divine spouse will console you during life, and more especially at the hour of your death. Then it will not be matter of regret to you, that you do not die in the world, surrounded by children, relations, and servants, not one of whom will say a word to you for your soul’s good ; but you will have the happiness of dying in the house of God, surrounded by your holy sisters in religion, who will all comfort you by pious conversation, and animate you to appear full of confidence before your loving spouse, who shall come to meet you with a crown in his hand to make you queen of his blessed kingdom, in recompense for the love which you have borne I have said that the religious who are given entirely to God enjoy continual peace. I mean thereby, such peace as can be tasted in this vale of tears. God has prepared for us in Heaven, a full and perfect peace, free from every labour. This earth, on the contrary, is a place of merit, and therefore of suffering, where by crosses we become entitled to the joys of Paradise.

The spouse whom you have chosen this morning, my daughter, although the most noble, the greatest and the richest whom you could choose, him is called, and is, a bloody spouse : ” A bloody spouse art thou to me. w A bloody spouse, whose blood has been drained by dint of scourges, thorns and nails, for the salvation of your soul and of all mankind. Behold him then advancing, not crowned with flowers but with thorns, not adorned with gold and gems, but with blood and with wounds ; mark well his royal throne, and see if it be not a hard cross, on which he agonizes and dies, in a sea of ignominies and grief, through love of you. Hear hoy he invites you to follow him, and what you have to do if you follow him. “If any one wish to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” The first thing he asks of you is, that you deny yourself. He wishes that you detach your heart from all creatures. He, your spouse, will never be satisfied with you, unless he see you all his own ; and you, in order to be all his, must divest yourself of every earthly affection, for parents, friends, vanity, dress, self-esteem, and self-will. Above all, you must guard your heart from any personal affection. When any creature wishes to deprive Jesus Christ of any portion of your love, all which he claims from you, answer it in the words of St. Agnes : ” Depart from me, food of worms ! I belong to another lover.” Depart from me, food of death ! Jesus Christ is my spouse ; he has been the first to love me — he has gained my entire heart ; go away, because there is no room for you in that heart. And, beyond all things, my daughter, remember my warning when taking the sacred veil that shall be given you, which signifies that you are to hide yourself from the eyes of the world, and love no other lover on this earth than Jesus Christ, and when you shall say, “posuit signum in faciem meam ut nullum praeter eum amatorem admittam.”

For the following reason, do you on this morning change your dress and name : first, you change your dress, you put off the dress of the world and take that of religion, in order that you may totally forget the world and all its vanities ; and secondly, you change your name, that the world may forget you, and that you being dead to the world, may be so wholly separated from it, that every person may look upon you as if you had ceased to live.

The second thing which Jesus requires of you, is, that you carry with resignation the cross which has been assigned you. Your cross shall be the observance of the rules of the convent, and obedience to the will of your superioress; it is impossible for a nun who does not perfectly obey the rule of the community, and the commands of her superiors, to be a good religious. Your cross shall be to suffer patiently, all the contradictions and mortifications, and humiliations which you shall meet with. Whoever cannot endure humiliations, shews that she is not humble, and whoever is not humble cannot become holy, and is in great danger of being lost. In a word, there is no other way to Paradise than the way of the cross, which must be borne with patience. And God finds in every place for those souls whom he loves, a cross to afflict them, and render them his real spouses.

I next conjure you, after you shall have taken the holy habit, to renew every day the promise which you shall have made to Jesus Christ, of being ever faithful to him. Love and fidelity are the chief qualities of a spouse. It is to this end that the ring shall afterwards be given you, in token of the fidelity with which you are to preserve the love which you have promised to Jesus Christ, But in order to be faithful to him, you must not rely solely on your promise, you must pray to Jesus Christ, and to his holy mother, for the gift of perseverance ; and you must endeavour to acquire a great confidence in Mary, who is the mother of perseverance. And should you feel the divine love growing cold within you, and your heart drawn to earthly objects, bethink you of this my other advice, and in order that you may not abandon yourself to tepidity, enquire of yourself, wherefore have I left the world, my home, and my kinsfolk ? is it to damn myself ? This thought was wont to renew St. Bernard in fervour, and cause “him to tread more steadily the path of perfection : ” Bernarde ad quid venisti. Bernard, said he to himself, why have you left the world, and entered the monastery ? to become a saint. Why, then, do you not set about sanctifying yourself ? And thus he succeeded in dying a saint. You, my daughter, by acting thus, may hope to become a saint, and see yourself amongst the many other virgins who reign in heaven a queen in that blessed kingdom. But I must have done speaking, since I am so commanded by him, who is eager to see you enter at once into his house. Behold him from this spot ; see with what joy he expects you, with what affection he calls you to enter at once his royal palace, which is no other than this convent. Come on, then, and enter joyfully ; for the reception which your spouse shall give you this morning in his house, is a foretaste of the reception which you shall meet from him after death in his heavenly kingdom.