Reading Abigail’s latest post on her struggles with finding peace and joy during the trials of morning sickness reminded me that I never posted this. It’s from a letter of spiritual direction from St Francis de Sales to a pregnant woman and I found it particularly comforting when I was pregnant with Anthony. I’d previously posted a shorter excerpt from a different letter, but I’d not typed up this much longer passage. So I thought I’d share it now. And just to forestall any speculation, no, this is in no way any kind of round about announcement about our own expectations.
My dearest daughter,
I am not at all surprised that your heart seems a little heavy and torpid, for you are pregnant, and it is an evident truth that our souls generally share in their inferior part the qualities and conditions of our bodies–and I say in the inferior part, my dearest daughter, because it is this that immediately touches the body, and which is liable to share in the troubles of it.
A delicate body that is weighed down by the burden of pregnancy, weakened by the labor of carrying a child, and troubled with many pains, does not allow the heart to be so lively, so active, so ready in its operations; but this in no way injures the acts of that higher part of the soul, which are as agreeable to God as they would be in the midst of all the gladnesses in the world. Yea, to God these acts are more agreeable in truth, for they are done with more labor and struggle; but they are not so agreeable to the person who does them since–not being in the sensible part of the soul–they are not so much felt, nor are they so pleasant to us.
My dearest daughter, we must not be unjust and require from ourselves what is not in ourselves. When troubled in body and health, we must not exact from our souls anything more than acts of submission and the acceptance of our suffering, and holy unions of our will to the good pleasure of God, which are formed in the highest region of the spirit. And as for exterior actions, we must manage and do them as well as we can, and be satisfied with doing them, even if without heart, languidly and heavily. To raise these languors, heavinesses and torpors of the heart, and to make them serve toward divine love, you must profess, accept, and love holy abjection. Thus shall you change into gold the lead of your heaviness, and into gold finer than would be the gold of your most lively gladnesses of heart. Have patience then with yourself. Let your superior part bear the disorder of your inferior; and often offer to the eternal glory of our Creator the little creature in whose formation He has willed to make you His fellow worker.
My dearest daughter, we have here at Annecy a Capuchin painter who, as you may think, paints only for God and His temple. And although while working he has to pay so close an attention that he cannot pray at the same time, and although this occupies and even fatigues his spirit, still he does this work with good heart for the glory of our Lord, and with the hope that these pictures will excite many faithful to praise God and to bless His goodness.
My dear daughter, the child who is taking shape in your womb will be a living image of the divine majesty; but while your soul, your strength, and your natural vigor is occupied with this work of pregnancy, it must grow weary and tired, and you cannot at the same time perform your ordinary exercises so actively and so gaily. But suffer lovingly this lassitude and this heaviness, in consideration of the honor that God will receive from your work. It is your image that will be placed in the eternal temple of the heavenly Jerusalem, and that will eternally be regarded with pleasure by God, by angels, and by men. The saints will praise God for it and you also will praise Him when you see it there.
And so in the meantime, have patience. Although feeling your heart a little torpid and sluggish, and with the superior part attach yourself to the holy will of our Lord, who has so arranged for it according to His eternal wisdom.
~from a letter of spiritual direction, found in the book Francis De Sales, Jane De Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction