Here is another excerpt from the letter that Mother Mectilde wrote in 1665 to the same Mother Saint–François–de–Paule Charbonnier. This is spiritual direction of the most vigourous and clear–sighted sort. There is nothing here of the sentimental, self–indulgent revery that is all too common among pious souls of a certain predisposition. Mother Mectilde is kind, but her spiritual counsel is straight and tough. Reading her spiritual correspondence, I often think that this is the very sort of thing that people looking for “spiritual direction” need. Mother Mectilde wastes no time in cutting to the essential:
It was necessary that the hand of God turn everything upside down in order to open your eyes and force you to get out of yourself.
This little word, my very dear daughter, is just to assure you that I received your dear letters with much consolation. […] The more you are poor and abject in yourself, the more do I inwardly feel confidence in the goodness of Our Lord. It was absolutely necessary, my dear child, that the all–good God lead you along this way, otherwise you would never have come to know yourself, nor emerged from your own rot. Your beautiful thoughts, your fine sentiments and all the rest that you were receiving in such abundance, were nourishing your self–love. While it seemed to you that you were tending towards God with ardour and loving Him with all your heart, your interior nature was growing fat at Our Lord’s expense. May He be forever blessed for having turned all this upside down!
You will be able to say in truth that your loss is your gain, and that you are infinitely happy in your misery and in what your self–love calls misfortune on account of its ruin, and on account of the loss it sustains of its own complacency and satisfaction. Know for certain that the state in which you find yourself is of God; it is His all–merciful way of treating you. If I were with you, my dear daughter, for even an hour, I would hope, with His grace, to point out and convince your reason of the advantages of your present state. It was necessary that the hand of God turn everything upside down in order to open your eyes and force you to get out of yourself.
What I can say, all the same, is that I thank Him for you and beg Him very humbly to continue [what He is doing] and, in spite of the natural self–absorption that makes you reflect incessantly on yourself, make you enter into the holiness of His designs on your soul. I beg Him to give you the strength and grace to adhere to His designs and submit your natural sense to His divine decrees, and this by a simple abandonment of your whole self. Stop trying to figure out what perfection is and how to attain it. Leave yourself altogether to the power of Jesus Christ, attaching your fortune and your perfection to the sincere surrender of yourself to His good pleasure […]
Be faithful in everything, without becoming upset or troubled by your falls and imperfections. You may well say that, according to the lights you have, there remain many things for you to do, and I, my dear child, I tell you that you have to die much. Take heart. God does not command you all of a sudden to have all the virtues, but He wants you to experience your own indigence, weakness, and unworthiness, and so, by losing all trust in yourself, you may hope for all things from His goodness. Write to us during Advent and at any time you wish. You know that in Jesus I am all yours.