I continue today with a letter from Thy Will Be Done!, a collection of letters written by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) to ordinary people like you and me striving to live in holiness. The letter I pass along to you today is from St. Francis to “a pregnant woman suffering lassitude and discouragement.” Much of what he writes can be applied to anyone who suffers physical ailments, but I would ask you today to join me in praying for all pregnant women – for those who are open to life, yet struggle with its demands, that fortitude and faith will support them; for those who find themselves in crisis pregnancies that they will give life to their unborn children; and for those who struggle with horrible morning sickness and the aches and pains of pregnancy, that God will grant them relief.
“We must not ask of ourselves what we don’t have“
To a pregnant woman suffering lassitude and discouragement
My dearest daughter,
I am not at all surprised that your heart seems a little heavy and torpid, for you are pregnant, and it is an evident truth that our souls generally share in their inferior part the qualities and conditions of our bodies – and I say in the inferior part, my dearest daughter, because it is this that immediately touches the body, and which is liable to share in the troubles of it.
A delicate body that is weighed down by the burden of pregnancy, weakened by the labor of carrying a child, and troubled with many pains, does not allow the heart to be so lively, so active, so ready in its operation; but this in no way injures the acts of that higher part of the soul, which are as agreeable to God as they would be in the midst of all the gladnesses in the world. Yea, to God these acts are even more agreeable in truth, for they are done with more labor and struggle; but they are not so agreeable to the person who does them, since – not being in the sensible part of the soul – they are not so much felt, nor are they so pleasant to us.
My dearest daughter, we must not be unjust and require from ourselves what is not in ourselves. When troubled in body and health, we must not exact from our souls anything more than acts of submission and the acceptance of our suffering, and holy unions of our will to the good pleasure of God, which are formed in the highest region of the spirit. And as for exterior actions, we must manage and do them as well as we can, and be satisfied with doing them, even if without heart, languidly, and heavily. To raise the languors, heavinesses, and torpors of heart, and to make them serve toward divine love, you must profess, accept, and love holy abjection. Thus shall you change into gold the lead of your heaviness, and into gold finer than would be the gold of your most lovely gladnesses of heart. Have patience then with yourself. Let you superior part bear the disorder of the inferior; and often offer to the eternal glory of our Creator the little creature in whose formation He has willed to make you His fellow worker.
My dearest daughter, we have here at Annecy a Capuchin painter who, as you may think, only paints for God and His temple. And although while working he has to pay so close an attention that he cannot pray at the same time, and although this occupies and even fatigues his spirit, still he does this work with good heart for the glory of our Lord, and with the hope that these pictures will excite many faithful to praise God and to bless His goodness.
My dear daughter, the child who is taking shape in your womb will be a living image of the divine majesty; but while your soul, your strength, and your natural vigor is occupation with this work of pregnancy, it must grow weary and tired, and you cannot at the same time perform your ordinary exercises so actively and so gaily. But suffer lovingly this lassitude and heaviness, in consideration of the honor that God will receive from your work. It is your image that will be placed in the eternal temple of the heavenly Jerusalem, and that will be eternally regarded with pleasure by God, by angels, and by men. The saints will praise God for it, and you also will praise Him when you see it there.
And so in the meantime have patience, although feeling your heart a little torpid and sluggish, and with the superior part attach yourself to the holy will of our Lord, who has so arranged for it according to His eternal wisdom.
I do not know of anything that my soul fails to think and to desire for the perfection of yours, which, as God has willed and wills it so, is truly in the midst of mine. May it please His divine goodness that both your soul and mine may be according to His most holy and good pleasure, and that all your dear family may be filled with His sacred benedictions, and especially your very dear husband, of whom, as of you, I am invariably
Your very humble and most obedient servant,