Autobiography of Madam Guyon


OUR LORD TOOK PITY on the lamentable condition of my daughter, and so ordered it, that the Bishop of Geneva wrote to Father La Combe, to come as speedily as possible to see us, and to console us. As soon as I saw that father, I was surprised to feel an interior grace, which I may call communication; such as I had never had before with any person. It seemed to me that an influence of grace came from him to me, through the innermost of the soul; returned from me to him, in such a way that he felt the same effect. Like a tide of grace it caused a flux and reflux, flowing on into the divine and invisible ocean. This is a pure and holy union, which God alone operates, and which has still subsisted, and even increased. It is an union exempt from all weakness, and from all self-interest. It causes those who are blessed with it to rejoice in beholding themselves, as well as those beloved, laden with crosses and afflictions -- an union which has no need of the presence of the body. At certain times absence makes not more absent, nor presence more present; a union unknown to men, but such as are come to experience it. It can never be experienced but between such souls as are united to God. As I never before felt a union of this sort with any one, it then appeared to me quite new. I had no doubt of its being from God; so far from turning the mind from Him, it tended to draw it more deeply into Him. It dissipated all my pains, and established me in the most profound peace.

God gave him at first much openness of mind toward me. He related to me the mercies God had shown him, and several extraordinary things, which gave me at first some fear. I suspected some illusion, especially in such things as flatter in regard to the future; little imagining that God would make use of me to draw him from this state and bring him into that naked faith. But the grace, which flowed from Him into my soul, recovered me from that fear. I saw that it was joined with extraordinary humility. Far from being elevated with the gifts which God had liberally conferred upon him, or with his own profound learning, no person could have a lower opinion of himself than he had. He told me as to my daughter, it would be best for me to take her to Tonon, where he thought she would be very well situated. As to myself, after I had mentioned to him my dislike to the manner of life of the New Catholics, he told me, that he did not think it would be my proper place to be long with them. It would be best for me to stay there, free from all engagements, till God, by the guidance of His Providence, should make known to me how he would dispose of me, and draw my mind to the place whither he would have me remove. I had already begun to awake regularly at midnight, in order to pray. I awoke with these words suddenly put in my mind, "It is written of me, I will do thy will, O my God." This was accompanied with the most pure, penetrating, and powerful communication of grace that I had ever experienced. Though the state of my soul was already permanent in newness of life; yet this new life was not in that immutability in which it has been since. It was a beginning life and a rising day, which goes on increasing unto the full meridian; a day never followed by night; a life which fears death no more, not even in death itself; because he who has suffered the first death, shall no more be hurt of the second. From midnight I continued on my knees till four o'clock in the morning, in prayer, in a sweet intercourse with God, and did the same also the night following.

The next day, after prayers, Father La Combe told me, that he had a very great certainty, that I was a stone which God designed for the foundation of some great building. What that building was he knew no more than I. After whatever manner then it is to be, whether His divine Majesty will make use of me in this life, for some design known to himself only, or will make me one of the stones of the new and heavenly Jerusalem, it seems to me that such stone cannot be polished, but by the strokes of the hammer. Our Lord has given to this soul of mine the qualities of the stone, firmness, resignation, insensibility, and power to endure hardness under the operations of His hand.

I carried my little daughter to the Ursulines at Tonon. That child took a great fondness for Father La Combe, saying, "He is a good father, one from God." Here I found a hermit, whom they called Anselm. He was a person of the most extraordinary sanctity that had appeared for some time. He was from Geneva; God had miraculously drawn him from thence, at twelve years of age. He had at nineteen years of age taken the habit of hermit of St. Augustine. He and another lived alone in a little hermitage, where they saw nobody but such as came to visit their chapel. He had lived twelve years in this hut, never eating anything but pulse with salt, and sometimes oil. Three times a week he lived on bread and water. He never drank wine, and generally took but one meal in twenty-four hours. He wore for a shirt a coarse hair cloth, and lodged on the bare ground. He lived in a continual state of prayer, and in the greatest humility. God had done by him many signal miracles.

This good hermit had a great sense of the designs of God on Father La Combe and me. But God showed him at the same time that strange crosses were preparing for us both; that we were both destined for the aid of souls. I did not find, as I expected, any suitable place for my daughter at Tonon. I thought myself like Abraham, when going to sacrifice his son. Father La Combe said, "Welcome, daughter of Abraham!" I found little encouragement to leave her and could not keep her with myself, because we had no room. The little girls, whom they took to make Catholics, were all mixed and had contracted habits as were pernicious. To leave her there I thought not right. The language of the country, where scarce anyone understood French, and the food, which she could not take, being far different from ours, were great hardships. All my tenderness for her was awakened, and I looked on myself as her destroyer. I experienced what Hagar suffered when she put away her son Ishmael in the desert that she might not be forced to see him perish. I thought that even if I had ventured to expose myself, I ought at least to have spared my daughter. The loss of her education, even of her life, appeared to me inevitable. Everything looked dark in regard to her.

With her natural disposition and fine qualities, she might have attracted admiration, if educated in France, and been likely to have such offers of marriage, as she could never hope to meet with in this poor country; in which, if she should recover, she would never be likely to be fit for anything. Here she could eat nothing of what was offered her. All her subsistence was a little unpleasant and disagreeable broth, which I forced her to take against her will. I seemed like a second Abraham, holding the knife over her to destroy her. Our Lord would have me make a sacrifice to Him, without any consolation, and plunged in sorrow, night was the time in which I gave vent to it. He made me see, on one side the grief of her grandmother, if she should hear of her death, which she would impute to my taking the child away from her; the great reproach, it would be accounted among all the family. The gifts of nature she was endowed with were now like pointed darts which pierced me. I believe that God so ordered it to purify me from too human an attachment still in me. After I returned from the Ursulines at Tonon, they changed her manner of diet, and gave her what was suitable; in a short time she recovered.