St FRANCIS DE SALES
(1567 - 1622)
There are some who are too ready to double and bend back upon themselves, who love to feel what they are doing, who wish to see and scrutinise what is happening in them, turning their eyes ever on themselves to discover the progress they are making. And there are yet others who are not content to be content unless they feel, see, and relish their contentment. These are like people who, being well protected against the cold, would not believe it if they did not know the number of garments they had on; or who, seeing their coffers full of money, would not consider themselves rich unless they knew what the exact sum of money was.
Usually all these people are likely to be troubled in prayer, for if God grants them an experience of his presence, they voluntarily forsake it in order to take note of their own reaction to it, and to examine whether they are really content – upsetting themselves, wondering whether their tranquillity is really tranquil, and their quietude quiet. Instead of occupying their will in tasting the sweetness of the divine presence, they busy their minds with thinking about the feelings they have. They are like a bride who keeps her attention on her wedding-ring, never looking at the bridegroom who gave it to her. There is an equally great difference between being occupied with the God who gives us peace of soul, and being occupied with the peace of soul that God gives us.
The soul, then, to whom God gives holy, loving quiet in prayer, must abstain as far as she is able from looking upon herself or her repose – which, if it is to be preserved must not be stared at with curiosity. For the one who loves it too much loses it, and the right way to love it is not to love it too anxiously.