Letters to a 17th century woman....
BE sure that humility, frequent silence and recollection, will do you more good than any amount of anxiety and self-chosen austerities. Silence is, above all, important for you. Even when you cannot withdraw from society, you might often practise silence, and let others take the lead in conversation. There is no way by which you can so effectually subdue your haughty, disdainful, contemptuous spirit, as by bridling it with silence. Keep a strict watch upon your tongue. The presence of God, which restrains your words, will likewise keep all your thoughts and wishes in check. But this work must be accomplished gradually. Be patient with yourself, as well as with others.
I THINK, Madame, that you should try hard now to practise silence, so far as general courtesy will permit. Silence promotes the presence of God, prevents many harsh and proud words, and suppresses many dangers in the way of ridiculing or harshly judging our neighbor. Silence humbles the mind, and gradually weans it from the world; it makes a kind of solitude in the heart like that which you desire: it will supply all that you need under your present difficulties. If you retrenched all useless talk, you would have many available moments even in the midst of society, where you are obliged to stay against your will....Often lift up your heart to Him, without making any outward sign; talk only when it is necessary; and bear patiently with what crosses you. You have more need of self-denial than of light. If you are faithful in keeping silence when it is not necessary to speak, God will preserve you from evil when it is right for you to talk.
Your portion is to love, to be silent, to suffer, to sacrifice your inclinations, in order to fulfil the will of God, by moulding yourself to that of others. Happy indeed you are thus to bear a cross laid on you by God's own hands, in the order of His Providence. The discipline which we choose for ourselves does not destroy our self-love like that which God assigns us Himself each day. All we have to do is to give ourselves up to God day by day, without looking further. He carries us in His arms as a loving mother carries her child. Let us believe, hope, love, with all the simplicity of children. In every need let us look with love and trust to our Heavenly Father.
- Fenelon, Selections