Advancing in perfection

We can never say, “it is enough,” for the greatest saints give us this maxim: that we ought every day to consider we are commencing anew our advancement in perfection, and if we reflected well upon this, we would not be surprised at finding much misery in ourselves, and something to retrench.


The rewards of zealous service

We may feel confident that Jesus Christ keeps an exact account of all we do for His poor, that He listens to every word we speak to them, to recompense each with God-like liberality. This should encourage us to love this duty, and to devote ourselves unreservedly to the acquisition of everything that would fit us for its fulfillment. It will lead us to undergo, with sweetness, all the labor and fatigue attendant on the care and instruction of children, and it will animate us with a burning zeal for their advancement in every virtue.


Service of the poor

By our vocation to the Order of Mercy, and by a most sacred vow at our Holy Profession, we are engaged to comfort and instruct the sick poor of Christ. This is the principal reason why we are called “Sisters of Mercy,” and why, to the faithful discharge of this duty, so many graces are annexed. Remark the words of our Blessed Lord, quoted in the first section of this Rule: “Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” Oh! What an ineffable consolation to serve Christ Himself, in the person of the poor, and to walk in the very same path which he trod! And this happy vocation is ours, all unworthy as we are of such a grace.


Recitation of the office

The recital of the Office is one of our most sacred duties, therefore we should endeavor to say it with all possible attention and devotion. Our attention should be threefold: First, attention to the words — that is, great care in pronouncing them.

Second, attention to the meaning of the words when we understand them, and when we do not we should keep our minds fixed upon God.

Third, attention to the presence of God. If, according to our holy Rule, before commencing we reflect on the infinite majesty of that God we are about to praise, we shall scarcely fail in the first disposition requisite for the faithful discharge of this holy exercise, namely, attention.

Let us now consider the devotion we should bring to the recital of the Office. It consists in a sweet movement or tendency of the heart towards God: a desire of honoring, loving and praising Him, for the sake of His own infinite goodness and perfection.


Spiritual retreat

The great importance and utility of spiritual retreats are so well known by experience that it appears almost a waste of words to dwell at length on them.

The Saints, who knew that value of spiritual exercises, considered a retreat as one of the most special graces in the treasury of God; and many of them are now in glory, bright with the effulgence of the ever-blessed Deity, who owe their state of bliss to a well made retreat.

For our instruction and example, our Divine Lord, Himself, spent forty days in the silence and solitude of the desert, before entering upon his public ministry. The necessity and advantages of retreat are equally clear and obvious: the greatest fervor is relaxed by time, and the most heroic virtue stands in need of frequent supplies of strength, which are obtained by means of retreat.


Renewal of vows

On the first day of every year, as our holy Rule prescribes, we should make renewal of our Vows, to excite in our hearts an increase of fervor in the service of our heavenly Spouse. How acceptable to God is this renewal of Vows, we learn from Sr. M[ary] M[agdalen] de Pazzi, who says: “As often as promises made to God are renewed, a renewal of union with God takes place, and the soul acquires more or less of this divine union, according to the state of perfection in which it is at the time, and to the degree of charity it possesses.


Reflection on the sufferings of Christ

“Nothing conduces more to sanctity,” says St. Bonaventure, “than frequent consideration on the sufferings of Jesus.” While our Lord Himself declared to St. Gertrude that there is no remedy on earth so efficacious against sin, as a devout recollection of His Passion, joined with true repentance and a right faith.

Let us then often fly to the foot of the cross, and repose in the wounds of Jesus. He has written us in His hands — shall we not write His wounds on our minds and hearts? Shall we not say with St. Augustine: “These wounds are my refuge, my hope, my salvation, my life, my resurrection.”


Devotion to Mary

In keeping with our holy Rule, we are to have unbounded confidence in the Blessed Virgin, we are to fly to her in all our difficulties and spiritual needs; and as a most efficacious means of securing her protection, we are to labor in earnest to imitate her virtues — her universal charity, her untiring patience, her profound humility, her unlimited obedience, her perfect conformity.

Another practice, our holy Rule mentions, is, that we are to celebrate her Feasts with joy and devotion, congratulating her on her exalted privileges, exulting in her glory, which is ever increasing, by the devotion of her children on earth, rejoicing that she has won the heart of God Himself, so that in her He takes delight.



Silence is elegantly styled in this Rule, “As the ornament of religious souls, and the faithful guardian of interior recollection.” Let us study well this inspired encomium, and we shall eventually come to admire, to love, and finally to practice, in all its perfection, this most heavenly virtue. Now, what does an ornament mean? It implies an embellishment, an adornment, a something added, which heightens the value and beauty of an article. Wherefore, the unmistakable ornament of a religious soul is holy silence: it is that which attracts the heavenly Spouse to take up His dwelling in her interior — where no voice save His own is heard — where all is joy and peace in the Holy Ghost.


Union with God

In order to ensure salvation, all Christians are bound to cultivate some degree of union of heart with God, but for us Religious it is absolutely indispensable, especially, as by our vocation to this Order, we are destined to labor for souls.

We are formed by God for Himself alone, to be united with Him here, by love and fidelity; and hereafter, by enjoyment and beatitude. In proportion then to our union with God, will be our advancement in perfection; and in proportion to our perfection here, will be our glory hereafter. Of each of us Christ says: “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” That is, unless we live in Jesus Christ by holy recollection, we can never draw souls to His love and service. And as the Apostle expresses it: “Paul may plant and Apollo water, but it is God who giveth the increase,” therefore, God will give success only to those who are united with Him by love.


Love one another

The first words of this chapter: “Love one another as I have loved you,” should be engraved on our inmost souls, and shown forth in our whole conduct.

The great St. Francis de Sales beautifully explains the import of these words, thus: “As our Lord has always preferred us to Himself, and has done so as often as He has given Himself to us in the Most Holy Sacrament, making Himself our food, so He wills us to have a love like His, one for another, and that we should even prefer our neighbor to ourselves.” The rule of perfection then requires that we do all that we possibly can for one another.

Again, our love ought to be so firm, so cordial and so solid that we should never refuse to do or to suffer anything for the good of our Sisters. In this manner did Jesus Christ love us. He did not content Himself with assurances of His love, but gave effectual proofs of it by sufferings and labor. It was His favorite virtue, His dying bequest, and the mark He chose for the characteristic of His disciples; and so perfectly does our Divine Master wish to have charity reign amongst us that He gives us for our model the union that subsists between Himself and His Heavenly Father. . . .

Let charity then be our badge of honor, our highest glory, the seal of our election to the dignity of Christ’s spouses, and therefore, we must — to use the words of the Apostle, “Clothe ourselves, as the elect and beloved of God, with mercy, compassion, kindness, humility, affability, modesty and patience,” cherishing and maintaining this virtue more by acts than words, so that it may truly be said, there is in us but one heart and one soul in God. . . .


Relationships among the sisters

Our holy Rule then reminds us that we are to help and assist one another, on all occasions; that we are to bear with patience each other’s defects, weaknesses and imperfections; that all subjects of dispute are to be banished from amongst us, and that, should our opinion differ from that of others, we are to propose our reasons with moderation and charity. Attention to these points will secure our own and others’ peace — in fine, it will cause our convent to be an earthly paradise.


Sick and deceased sisters

By this rule we see that at no time is our charity towards our Sisters to be more tender and manifest, than when they are, as it were, fastened to the Cross with Jesus, and need all the comfort and consolation which we can possibly offer them, to enable them to suffer with merit to their souls, and to give glory to God. When they are ill, it is our sweet duty to visit them frequently, as in keeping with our holy Rule, and also to practice charity. There are many little ways in which we can alleviate the sufferings of our dear Sisters, and which a tender, compassionate charity will suggest. Our holy Rule remarks that we should piously console our sick Sisters. To comply with this injunction, a few words suffice to show how much we consider they are honored in receiving a share of the Cross. This, and similar little remarks, should be made with great humility and simplicity — not as if we were speaking to the sick on the Visitation, for it is to be supposed that Religious know all that is necessary for sanctifying their sufferings and rendering them pleasing to God. . . . Our dear, deceased Sisters have a special claim on our Prayers. If we hope to be remembered in the Prayers of others after our death, we ought now to extend our charity to those beloved spouses of Christ. . . .


The example of Jesus

The study of a Religious should be the life and maxims of Jesus Christ. This Divine model should be, in her regard, like a book continually open before her, from which she is to learn what she is to think, say, and do; in what manner, at what time; and this maxim should be engraved on her mind, that, although she possessed a knowledge of all the sciences which have ever been known to man, and was distinguished for sense, prudence, and elegance, so as to gain the admiration of everyone, yet, if she had not studied Jesus Christ, and formed her mind on His example, she is as nothing in His eyes, and wants all, in wanting the science of the Saints.