To Juana Gratias: Lérida
Barcelona, March 5, 1853
My dear daughter: I would like to profit one of those good moments that the spirit gives to write you these lines in an orderly manner.
I dare to say that these days you had mustered your strength and courage to resume with new fervour your relationship and union with God. On my part, I have not forgotten to recommend you to God, waiting for this occasion to write you. Once again I repeat as in other times I have said and written.
In your meditations and prayers you have to keep vividly in mind that you are not going on nor fighting alone; with these ties you are not free; these chain the sacred bonds of charity and obedience. There are three instruments in the work of the spirit: God, man and you. God will not fail. It is important that his work do not go astray because of you nor of me. In relation to me, there are various duties I have to fulfil as a director, guide, teacher, father and pastor. I will do what is my part; at least I will try. Let us do whatever is for each one. I will consult God, try to discover his will; look for ways you have to go and in due time I let you know what you have to do and practice. In serious matters I will not fail you, and to those that do not concern you neither will I advice you but prudence will guide you. In serious matters I will be present in your spirit and in all the dangers I will not cease to warn you. I will try to fulfil my duty because I am responsible before God and his Church of all your ways and undertakings. When I examine my conscience I will not forget this part because it is a duty of my ministry and I will strive to correct myself in what is deficient in the manner of direction.
You too must do your part. Put in order, direct and muster all your strengths on these two points; 1st to obey: great combats have to suffer the direction. All directions are exposed to great trials. The bond of charity receives great blows and it could not sustain a true direction but only when preceded by charity on the part of the director, and of justice and obedience on the part of the directed. But efforts have to be done, consulting God and searching ways in direction and in return to examine obedience. Put these in order, then order and peace will strengthen the direction, by the union of charity and obedience; the spirit will direct your virtues, your strength, your actions, your life and your time, in moving towards the way that obedience has indicated, to assault those enemies that the sentinel had discovered, to work in that part of the garden that the Director had shown, to do that which God had commanded. Once the direction is placed in order, what tranquility, what peace and what happiness!
These days I have examined my conscience regarding your direction. In this as in all other things that we do, we could at least see many faults; but I will take care to correct the imperfect. You, my dear daughter, have to do the same, if you have not done it yet. Look into the faults that you had committed in the direction. God will make you see what is imperfect. Ask God for light and it will be given to you. Wait with humility the counsel, and God will not fail you. Examine yourself on these two points: 1st regarding obedience; 2nd regarding fulfillment. These examinations must be done frequently. Defend yourself with fervour against the assaults that hell directs against the bond of Direction, for they will be strong all throughout life.
It will not take long to write you again. These days I recommended you very much to God and I still have many things to tell you. Let us profit these good moments that I have. Now I do not know if I could say that I am miserable and unfortunate to be obliged to communicate with men. I do what I do not have the heart to do; but I fear to offend God which I believe commands me to stay in this city. Hope consoles me. I hope that God seeing how much I go against the rife on what he ordains me, will have pity on me and perhaps will take me from this world.
Goodbye. Commend me to God.
WHAT WAS HAPPENING?
Father Palau continues in Barcelona. The success of the School of Virtue and its impact in whole city is great, but also the attacks of the enemies are getting stronger. The situation must have been difficult for Palau. We can sense from his words that he felt tired, like he was losing his heart, his motivation and courage. Only faith sustained him. He remained because he believed that God commanded him to. But in reality he wouldn’t mind to be any other place; even to die would be better…
In spite of being low, he found time to write some words of encouragement to Juana. Their relationship of spiritual direction had some tough moments. Palau felt invited to examine his part, where did he fail. And he invited Juana to do the same. Where did it go wrong?
THEMES OF LETTER
- Interdependence: it means that we depend on one another. It means that each one of us has obligations towards others. It means that noone could be left alone, and that each one has to do his/her part to build this complicated world of mutual relationships.
- Obedience in spiritual direction: those who have the privilege of having spiritual director know that it is not easy to find one, especially if you want to choose a “good one”, in a sense of having someone who will really understand you and guide you. The danger is when one looks for a director who will tell hm/her what he/she wants to hear. This kind of direction is not challenging at all. And by the other hand, if one finally agreed to be directed by other, the first and basic thing is to listen and obey, even though you are not convinced or you do not agree with direction. If you don’t like, just break the relation.
- Importance of the examination: “God will make you see what is imperfect”. That’s true. But the problem is to follow the lights we see. One thing is to see what is wrong; other thing is to make amendments, changes, to make it better.
Relationships is a dynamic thing. It rarely stays the same for a long time. It grows, it shrinks, it changes. It is made out of listening, welcoming, following, desiring the best, humbling oneself. It is also made out of mistakes and amendments. It won’t work if we are not ready to see what is imperfect, or if we see it but don’t like to do anything about it. The truth is that we depend on each other. The current situation of pandemic has shown to us clearly how much we do. We cannot travel alone through this life, or travel believing that it is always someone else’s fault.
Simon Sinek tells this story: there was a time when thousands of mothers were dying right after giving birth. They called it “black death”. One of the doctors discovered the reason: it was happening because the doctors who were receiving babies, were not washing their hands properly. In the morning they would go to morgue to make autopsies on dead bodies, in the afternoon they would come directly to assist with the births. “Guys, the problem is you”, he said. But noone believed him. And the women kept dying, until such a time that there was a serious research that confirmed his words, and doctors began to wash their hands, and the instruments began to be sterilized etc.
The moral? Sometimes we are the problem. Our governments (not only in the Philippines, it is happening all over the world) very seldom like to be accounted for their failures. But the sames happens with each one of us. We don’t really know how to manage our faults, how to take responsibility for our failed actions. Maybe that’s why so often we don’t like to take any responsibility at all, just in case something goes wrong. Let us live this time of a “new normal” more conscious of the interdependence and of the responsibility, for good and for worse, that we have with each other.