Autobiography of Madam Guyon


THE FIRST RELIGIOUS PERSON that God made use of to draw me to Himself, to whom (according to his desire) I had written from time to time, wrote to me in the depth of my distress, desiring me to write to him no more, signifying his disapprobation of what came from me, and that I displeased God greatly. A father, a Jesuit, who had esteemed me much, wrote to me in like manner. No doubt, it was by Thy permission, they thus contributed to complete my desolation. I thanked them for their charity, and commended myself to their prayers. It was then so indifferent to me to be decried of everybody, even of the greatest saints, that it added but little to my pain. The pain of displeasing God, and the strong propensity I felt in myself to all sorts of faults, caused me most lively and sensible pain.

I had been accustomed from the beginning to dryness and privation. I even preferred it to the state of abounding, because I knew that I must seek God above all. I had even at the first beginnings, an instinct of my inmost soul to pass over every manner of thing whatsoever, and to leave the gifts to run after the Giver. But at this time my spirit and senses were in such a manner struck, by Thy permission, O my Lord, who wert pleased to destroy me without mercy, that the farther I went, the more everything appeared to me a sin; even crosses appeared to me no more crosses but real faults. I thought I drew them all on myself by my imprudent words and actions. I was like those, who, looking through a colored glass, behold everything of the same color with which it is stained. Had I been able to perform any exterior acts as formerly, or penances for my evil, it would have relieved me. I was forbidden to do the latter, besides I grew so timorous, and felt in myself such a weakness, as made it appear impossible for me to do them. I looked on them with horror, I found myself now so weak and incapable of anything of the kind.

I omit many things, both of providences of the Lord in my favor, and of rugged paths through which I was obliged to pass. But as I have only one general view, I leave them in the knowledge of the Lord only. Afterward, being forsaken of my director, the coldness toward me which I remarked in the persons conducted by him, gave me no more trouble, nor indeed the estrangement of all the creatures, on account of my inward humiliation. My brother also joined with those who exclaimed against me, even though he had never seen them before. I believe it was the Lord who conducted things in this way, for my brother has worth, and undoubtedly thought he did well in acting thus.

I was obliged to go about some business to a town where some near relations of my mother-in-law lived. How did I find things changed there! When I was there before, they entertained me in a most elegant and obliging manner, regaling me from house to house with emulation. Now they treated me with the utmost contempt, saying, they did it to revenge what I made their relation suffer. As I saw the thing went so far, and that notwithstanding all my care and endeavors to please her, I had not been able to succeed, I resolved to come to an explanation with her. I told her that there was a current report that I treated her ill, though I made it my study to give her every mark of my esteem. If the report were true, I desired her to allow me to remove from her; for that I would not choose to stay to give her pain, but only with a quite contrary view. She answered very coldly, "I might do what I would; for she had not spoken about it, but was resolved to live apart from me." This was fairly giving me my discharge, and I thought of taking my measures privately to retire. As I had not, since my widowhood, made any visits but such as were of pure necessity, or charity, there were found too many discontented spirits, who made a party with her against me. The Lord required of me an inviolable secrecy of all my pains, both exterior and interior. There is nothing which makes nature die so much, as to find neither support nor consolation. In short I saw myself obliged to go out, in the middle of winter, with my children and my daughters' nurse. At that time there was no house empty in the town, so the Benedictines offered me an apartment in theirs.

I was now in a great strait; on one side fearing lest I was shunning the cross, on the other side thinking it unreasonable to impose my stay on one to whom it was only painful. Besides what I have related of her behavior, which still continued, when I went into the country to take a little repose she complained that I left her alone. If I desired her to come thither she would not. If I said, "I dare not ask her to come, for fear of incommoding her by changing her bed," She replied, "It was only an excuse, because I would not have her go; and that I only went to be away from her." When I heard that she was displeased at my being in the country, I returned to the town. Then she could not bear to speak to me, or to see me. I accosted her without appearing to notice how she received it. Instead of making me any answer, she turned her head another way. I often sent her my coach, desiring her to come and spend a day in the country. She sent it back empty, without any answer. If I passed some days there without sending it, she complained aloud. In short, all I did to please her soured her, God so permitting it. She had in the main a good heart, but was troubled with an uneasy temper: And I do not fail to think myself under much obligation to her.

Being with her on Christmas day, I said to her with much affection: "My mother, on this day was the King of peace born, to bring it to us; I beg peace of you in His name." I think that touched her, though she would not let it appear. The ecclesiastic, whom I had met with at home, far from strengthening and comforting me, did nothing but weaken and afflict me, telling me that I ought not to suffer certain things. I had not credit enough to discharge any domestic, however defective or culpable. As soon as any of them were warned to go away, she sided with them, and all her friends interfered. As I was ready to go off, one of my mother-in-law's friends, a man of worth, who had always an esteem for me, without daring to show it, having heard it, was much afraid lest I should leave the town; for the removal of my alms, he thought, would be a loss to the country. He resolved to speak to my mother-in-law in the softest manner he could for he knew her. After he had spoken to her, she said, that she would not put me away, but if I went, she would not hinder me. After this he came to see me, and desired me to go and make an excuse to her, in order to content her. I told him, I should be willing to make a hundred, although "I did not know about what; that I did it continually about everything, which made her uneasy. But that was not now the matter, for I make no complaint of her, but thought it not proper for me to continue with her, to give her pain; that it was but just that I should contribute to her ease." However, he went with me into her room. Then I told her, that I begged her pardon, if ever I had displeased her in anything, that it had never been my intention to do it; that I desired her, before this gentleman, who was her friend, to tell me wherein I had given her any offense. Here God permitted; she made a declaration of the truth in his presence. She said, "She was not a person to suffer herself to be offended; that she had no other complaint against me but that I did not love her, and that I wished her dead." I answered her that these thoughts were far from my heart, so far from it, that I should be glad, by my best care and attendance on her, to prolong her days; that my affection was real, but that she never would be persuaded to believe it, whatever testimonies I could give, so long as she hearkened to people who spoke to her against me; that she had with her a maid, who, far from showing me any respect, treated me ill, so far as to push me when she wanted to pass by. She had done it at church, making me give way to her with as much violence as contempt, several times, also, in my room grating me with her words: that I had never complained of it, because such a temper might one day give her trouble." She took the girl's part. Nevertheless we embraced and it was left so. Soon after, when I was in the country, this maid, having me no more to vent her chagrins on behaved in such a manner to my mother-in-law that she could not bear it. She immediately put her out of doors. I must say here on my mother-in-law's behalf, that she had both sense and virtue, and except certain faults, which persons who do not practice prayer are liable to, she had good qualities. Perhaps I caused crosses to her without intending it, and she to me without knowing it. I hope what I write will not be seen by any who may be offended with it, or who may not be in a condition to see these matters in God.

That gentleman who had used me so ill, for breaking off my acquaintance with him, among his penitents had one who, for affairs which befell her husband, was obliged to quit the country. He himself was accused of the same things which he had so liberally and unjustly accused me, and even things much worse, and with more noise and outcry. Though I well knew all this, God granted me the favor never to make his downfall the subject of my discourse. On the contrary, when any spoke to me of it, I pitied him, and said what I could in mitigation of his case. And God governed my heart so well, that it never offered to go into any vain joy at seeing him overtaken, and oppressed, with those kind of evils which he had been so assiduous in endeavoring to bring upon me. Though I knew that my mother-in-law was informed of it all, I never spoke to her about it, or about the sad confusions he had caused in a certain family.