The following very remarkable passage is taken from Dom Vitalis Lehodey's book Holy Abandonment.
Let us speak now of our own actual faults. And first of all, though we should always be most zealous in the avoidance of sin, we must nevertheless maintain ourselves in peaceful resignation to the order of Providence. For, as St. Francis de Sales remarks, "whilst God hates sin with a sovereign hatred, He yet in His wisdom permits it, in order to allow His rational creatures to act according to their natures, and to render the good more commendable for that, having the power to transgress the law, they do not actually transgress it. Let us therefore adore and bless this holy permission. But because Providence, though permitting sin, hates it infinitely, we, too, must detest and hate it. We must desire with all the ardour of which we are capable that the evil permitted - in this sense - should not be committed. Consequently we should employ every possible means to prevent its birth, its growth, and its dominion. Let us imitate Our Lord, Who never ceases exhorting, promising, threatening, forbidding, commanding, inspiring within us, in order to turn our wills from evil without depriving them of their liberty."21 If we persevere without flagging in prayer, vigilance, and fighting, our faults as we advance will become less frequent, less voluntary, and more easily repaired; and our souls will be established in a progressive purity. However, apart from a very special grace, such as was bestowed on the Blessed Virgin, it is impossible in this life to avoid all venial sins. The Saints themselves have acknowledged as much.
Whenever we have the misfortune to commit a fault, "let us do what we can to repair it: Our Lord assured Carpus that He was ready, if necessary, to suffer death again in order to deliver one single soul from sin. But our repentance should be strong, resolute, constant, tranquil, not turbulent, uneasy, or despondent."22 "It is not because I have been preserved from mortal sin," says St. Therese of the Child Jesus, "that I raise myself to God in confidence and love. Ah, no! I feel that even if I had on my conscience all the crimes that could possibly be committed, I should still lose nothing of my confidence. I should simply go, my heart breaking with repentant sorrow, and throw myself into the arms of my Saviour. I know how He cherished the poor prodigal son. I have heard His words to St. Magdalen, and to the woman taken in adultery, and to the Samaritan woman. No, nothing could shake my confidence, because I know the love and compassion of Him on Whom I rely. I know that all the sins of the world would be instantly lost in the infinity of His mercy, as a drop of water thrown into a blazing furnace."23 Let us not, therefore, imitate those to whom a peaceful repentance seems always a paradox. Is there not a golden mean between the indifference dreaded by their spirit of faith and the chagrin and despondency which throw them into impatience? We cannot be too much on our guard against the agitation excited in us by our sins. Instead of being a remedy, it is a new evil. Furthermore, bad as our faults may be in themselves, they become still worse in their consequences, when they give rise to uneasiness, discouragement, or perhaps even despair. On the contrary, peace in repentance is a thing very desirable. "St. Catherine of Sienna committed certain faults. When in consequence she afflicted herself before the Lord, He made her understand that by a repentance, simple, prompt, fervent, and trustful, she pleased Him more than if she had never transgressed at all. All the Saints had their shortcomings. Some amongst them, as David and St. Peter, were great sinners, and perhaps they would never have become great Saints if they had not first been great sinners. As St. Paul teaches us: all things co-operate into good for the elect - even their sins, adds St. Augustine."24
There is, indeed, an art of utilising our faults. The great secret is to accept humbly, not, of course, the fault itself or the injury done to God, but the interior humiliation and the confusion inflicted on our self-love, so as to establish ourselves in humility, confident and peaceful. Is not pride the principal cause of our failings? Now, it is a powerful remedy against this pest to accept the shame as something we have only too well deserved. We can escape easily enough from other kinds of humiliation by persuading ourselves that they are unjust. But how avoid the confusion and the cruel lesson of our own faults? They exhibit in full light both our native depravity and our cowardice in the combat. Humiliations, properly accepted, lead to humility. Humility, in its turn, by constantly reminding us of the lost time we have to redeem and the faults we have to expiate, nourishes compunction of heart, stimulates our spiritual activity, and teaches us to be merciful to others.
On this point, De Caussade has some very wise reflections: "God permits our little infidelities in order to convince us more intimately of our weakness, and to make us die gradually to this unhappy self-esteem, this presumption, and this secret confidence in ourselves which prevent us from acquiring true humility of heart. We know well that nothing can be more agreeable to God than a complete contempt of self, accompanied with absolute confidence in Him alone. The God of goodness does us, consequently, a singular favour when He obliges us to drink, often against our wills, this bitter chalice so dreaded by our self-love and our corrupt nature. Without that, we should never be cured of our secret presumption, and our proud self-confidence. We should never understand how all the evil in us comes necessarily from ourselves, and all the good from God alone. A million personal experiences of another kind would be required to give us an habitual hold on this double truth. And the number should be doubled where the vices of pride and presumption, hidden in the soul, have acquired greater vigour and struck deeper root. These faults are therefore very salutary, inasmuch as they serve to keep us always little and confounded before the Divine Majesty, always distrustful of ourselves, always annihilated in our own eyes. Nothing, indeed, is easier than to avail ourselves of each of our infidelities in order to acquire a new degree of humility and to dig deeper in our hearts, so to speak, the necessary foundation of all true sanctity. Should we not admire and bless the infinite goodness of God Who can thus draw our greatest advantage from our very short-comings? And for this He only requires that we should not love our shortcomings, that we should gently humble ourselves on their account, that we should rise again with unwearied constancy after each of our falls, and that we should assiduously labour to correct them."25
With regard to the penal consequences of our sins, if God wills that we cannot lawfully escape them, we must accept them with humble conformity to His good-pleasure. It may be, for example, the shame we feel before our brethren, or the loss of our reputation, or the harm done to our health. Perhaps our negligence, our indiscretions, our detractions, our displays of ill-temper, or our peevish character, has brought upon us unpleasantnesses, humiliations, mortifications, prejudice to our interests. Our faults will leave behind them an evil legacy of trouble, preoccupation of mind, and painful anxiety. Now, God has not willed the fault, but He does will the consequences of it. He makes us suffer in order to cure us. He punishes us in time so that He may not have to punish us in eternity. "Lord," let us say to Him, "I have richly deserved this chastisement. Thou hast permitted it, even in a sense positively willed it. May Thy holy will be done! I adore it and humbly submit to its ordinances." Let us thus humble ourselves, yet without trouble, bitterness, disquietude, or discouragement, remembering that God, whilst hating the fault, employs it nevertheless as a useful instrument to keep us in abjection and self-contempt.
It is with the same filial and peaceful conformity we must accept the penal consequences of our simple imprudences. According to De Caussade: "There is hardly a trial more mortifying to self-love, and consequently more sanctifying, than that which results from some inculpable imprudence. It does not cost us nearly as much to accept the humiliations which come from outside, and which we have not brought upon ourselves in any way. We resign ourselves also much more easily to the confusion caused by faults graver in themselves, provided they do not appear externally. But a simple imprudence which has vexatious consequences, visible to every eye: this assuredly is the most humbling of all humiliations. And therefore it gives us an excellent occasion for dealing the death-blow to self-love. We must never fail to profit by such an opportunity. What one has to do then is to take one's heart in both hands, and despite its resistance oblige it to make an act of complete resignation. That is the moment when it is necessary to say and to repeat the fiat of perfect abandonment. We must even force ourselves forward as far as an act of thanksgiving, and add to our fiat a Gloria Patri. One single trial thus accepted will bring the soul farther on the road to perfection than numerous acts of virtue."26
St. Francis de Sales "was never impatient with himself, or even with his own imperfections. The hatred he entertained for his faults was peaceful, calm, and strong. He considered that we punished ourselves better by a tranquil and constant repentance than by a repentance that is bitter, impatient, and choleric; because the latter with its impetuosity is more in accordance with our inclinations than with the gravity of the faults. 'As for me,' he said, 'if I had the unhappiness to fall into great sin, I should not reproach my heart in this fashion: Are you not utterly miserable and abominable to allow yourself, after so many resolutions, to be thus carried away by vanity? You should die of shame, and never again raise up your eyes to Heaven, blind and impudent as you are, a traitor and a rebel against your God. No, I should prefer to correct it reasonably and with compassion, like this: Cheer up, now, poor heart of mine! See! We have fallen into the pit which we had so firmly resolved to avoid. Well, let us rise again and quit this place for ever. Let us implore the mercy of God, let us hope that it will help us to be stronger for the future, and let us humbly resume our road. Courage! We must be henceforth more vigilant, and God will assist us. And on this reprehension I would establish a solid and firm resolution never again to commit that fault, and to employ the requisite means for carrying out my resolution.' "27 De Caussade, on his side, counsels us to offer unceasingly this interior prayer to God: "O Lord, preserve me, I beseech Thee, from all sin, especially of this or that kind. But as for the pain which serves to cure my inordinate self-love, the humiliation and confusion, which wound and should crush my self-esteem, I accept these for as long as Thou willest, and I thank Thee for them as for a signal favour. Grant, O Lord, that these bitter remedies may produce their effect, that they may cure my pride, and help me to acquire true humility, which is the solid foundation of the interior life and of all perfection."28
In spite of prayer and our best efforts, new faults will infallibly be committed. The one remedy is to humble ourselves always more profoundly, to return to God with the same confidence, and to resume the fight without ever yielding to discouragement. "If we once learn to humble ourselves sincerely for our least faults and to rise again promptly with confidence in God, tranquillity and meekness: that will be an assured remedy for the past, a powerful support and an efficacious preservative for the future. But holy abandonment, rightly understood, should set us free from that impatience which makes us desire to reach the summit of sanctity at a bound, and only succeeds in removing us further from it. The only way thereto is the way of humility; impatience is one of the forms of pride. Let us apply ourselves with all our power to the correction of our shortcomings; but let us resign ourselves to the fact that we shall not succeed in extirpating them all in a single day. Let us ask of God in fervent and persevering prayer, and with the most filial confidence, to grant us the decisive grace that will withdraw us completely from ourselves to make us live henceforward solely in Him; but let us leave it to Him, with an abandonment equally filial, to determine the day and the hour when this grace shall be given us."29
21. Op. cit., c. vii et viii.
22. Id., op. cit. I, ix, c. viii.
23. Histoiré, c. xi.
24. De Lombez, Paix inter., 4e P., c. vii.
25. Abandon, 2e P., iii, 15.
26. Abandon, 2e P., I, vi; Lettre, 24.
27. Vie, I,v.
28. Op. cit., 2e P., I, iii; Lettre, 3.
29. Id., Ibid., Lettre. 19.