TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF MONSEIGNEUR DE LA BOUILLERIE, Archbishop of Perga, Coadjutor of Bordeaux.
THE EUCHARIST AND SOLITUDE.
"The wilderness shall rejoice and flourish like the lily."— Isaias xxxv. 1.
Fear not to enter into solitude, O Christian soul, for it is there that the Lord calls you in order to speak to your heart.
Solitude is as the band, and the habitual dwelling-place, of the Christian life; the world for it is only the exception. But what, then, is this solitude to which I invite you ? Ah! if a more sublime vocation has for ever separated you from the world; if you have listened to the voice which whispered into your ear, " Forget thy people and thy father's house: and the king shall greatly desire thy beauty." (Psalm xliv. 11.) If, in fact, you have chosen the solitary life of the cloister, I congratulate you heartily. This solitude will be for you a tranquil haven. Many storms will rage around you without ever touching you; it will be for you a refuge and a shelter. Many perils will surround you without ever reaching you. It will in fact be like a fertile field, where your sterile and withered soul will not fail to blossom again. All the same, O Christian soul, this absolute retreat is not that which I have now in view: and even if your life should pass in the world; even if your station, your position, your surroundings, or your labours exact of you many duties, I would still tell you to love solitude, and to practise it with care.
Two kinds of solitude are necessary to the Christian soul.
The first, which is none other than the Retreat, properly so called, will consist for you in your retirement for a few days in the year; then to occupy yourself only with the business of your salvation; to search into your conscience more deeply; to listen more attentively to, it may be, the Word of God, or the advice of a wise director; to form, finally, the holy resolutions which both your past and your future will suggest to you.
But the second, which I would call the solitude of. the heart, should be prolonged throughout your whole life. It is of it that S. Gregory said: " Of what use is the solitude of the body if that of the heart is wanting? This latter consists, O Christian soul, in isolating, at least, our heart from the vain rumours, the vain appearances, the vain agitations which multiply themselves around us. This makes of our heart a sanctuary closed against all idols, and where we may every hour worship God, love Him, and serve Him. This also, need I add it, will alter nothing of your ordinary life; it will easily accord with the duties of your station, with your duty to your family, and even with certain duties to the world.
It is this, O Christian soul, which I have now chiefly in view. If you love not this solitude, I shall in vain seek to instruct you and make you better. Solitude, once more, is necessary to the Christian soul. " It is not, it is true, the essence of perfection," says, on this subject, S. Thomas Aquinas, "but it is the necessary instrument of it."