Letter from Rodriguez

St. Gregory, being desirous to write some spiritual instructions for the conduct of certain religious houses, excuses himself in his Sixth Book and Twenty-seventh Epistle in these terms. “The exercises of mortification and prayer practised by religious produce such a source or foun­tain of wisdom in their hearts that they stand not in need of being watered with those few drops our aridity is able to impart to them. For, as the fountain in the midst of the terrestrial Paradise watered all parts thereof and kept it continually fresh and green without the help of rain, which it needed not, so those who are in the paradise of religion have no need of being watered from without, because prayer and mortification produce in them such a source or fountain of grace as is always sufficient to main­tain their virtues in their full splendor and beauty.”

I might, Reverend Fathers, upon this account, with far more reason than St. Gregory, excuse myself after the same manner he did to those faithful souls our Lord has planted in the garden of the Society of Jesus—souls He has culti­vated and watered by the help of that mental prayer they daily make. But though this excuse would doubtless be a very just one if I imagined you expected anything new from me, yet I am prevented from making it, as I propose to myself nothing else in this work than to revive in your memories what you already know and daily practice. In

doing this, I shall pay obedience to our holy founder, who in one of his constitutions ordains that “once a week, or at least once a fortnight, there shall be one appointed to lay before our eyes the obligations of a spiritual life, lest human frailty, which daily inclines us to relax in our duties, might cause us to forget, and to discontinue them.”   This constitution, God be praised, is exactly observed through­out the whole Society, and produces great fruit therein. Having, therefore, above these forty years been employed in the function of exhorting the novices or other religious, and having gathered divers things together for this pur­pose, my superiors and many other persons to whom I owe a deference were of opinion that I might render great serv­ice to God and to religion, and that the advantage drawn from my labors would be more lasting, if I should take care to review and put in order what I had already composed.

I considered, also, that in the constitution before cited, St. Ignatius puts this alternative:—”Let there be,” says he, “one appointed to deliver these spiritual exhortations to the religious, or at least let the religious be obliged to read them.”    I was still more encouraged in my undertaking when I reflected that it is a practice established in the Society and very much recommended by saints, to read something  every  day  that  may promote  our  spiritual advancement.   This being the principal design of the fol­lowing work, I have for this reason laid before you, as clearly and briefly as I was able, such things as are more essential and more common to our profession.    These, I trust, will serve as a mirror wherein, if we daily view our­selves, we shall be enabled to correct our imperfections and decorate our souls in such manner as will render them most pleasing to the eyes of His Divine Majesty.

Moreover, though my principal intention was to fulfill the particular obligation I have to serve those whom religion has constituted my fathers and brethren in Jesus Christ;

yet because we ought to extend as far as we can the effects of charity, and being particularly obliged to it by our insti­tute, I have endeavored to dispose this work after such a manner as that it may be useful not only to our Society in particular, but to all other religious, and even to all persons in general who aspire to Christian perfection. Wherefore, that the title may correspond to the work, I have entitled it practice of perfection and christian virtues. I call it Practice because things are treated in it after such a man­ner as may render the practice very easy.

I hope by the mercy of our Lord that my labors will not be unprofitable; and that this grain of seed of the word of God, being sown in the good soil of souls aspiring to per­fection, will render not only thirty or sixty, but even a hun­dred, fold.

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