Autobiography of Madam Guyon


AFTER FATHER LA COMBE returned from Rome, well approved, and furnished with testimonials of life and doctrine, he performed his functions of preaching and confessing as usual. I gave him an account of what I had done and suffered in his absence, and what care God had taken of all my concerns. I saw his providence incessantly extended to the very smallest things. After having been several months without any news of my papers, when some pressed me to write, and blamed my neglect, an invisible hand held me back; my peace and confidence were great. I received a letter from the ecclesiastic at home, which informed me that he had orders to come and see me, and bring my papers. I had sent to Paris for a pretty considerable bundle of things for my daughter. I heard they were lost on the lake, and could learn no further tidings about them.

I gave myself no trouble; I always thought they would be found. The man who had taken charge of them made a search after them a whole month, in all the environs, without hearing any news. At the end of three months they were brought to me, having been found in the house of a poor man, who had not opened them, nor knew who brought them there. Once I had sent for all the money which was to serve me a whole year; the person who had been to receive cash for the bill of exchange, having put that money in two bags on horseback, forgot that it was there, and gave the horse to a little boy to lead. The money fell from the horse in the middle of the market at Geneva. That instant I arrived, coming on the other side, and having alighted from my litter, the first thing I found was my money. What was surprising, a great throng was in this place and not one had perceived it. Many such things have attended me. These accounts may suffice to show the continual protection of God.

The Bishop of Geneva continued to persecute me. When he wrote, it was with politeness and thanks for my charities at Gex; while at the same time he said to others that I "gave nothing to that house." He wrote against me to the Ursulines with whom I lived, charging them to hinder me from having any conferences with Father La Combe. The superior of the house, a man of merit, and the prioress, as well as the community, were so irritated at this, that they could not forbear testifying it to him. He then excused himself with a pretended respect, saying, he did not mean it that way. They wrote to him that "I did not see the Father but at the confessional, and not in conference; that they were so much edified by me, as to think themselves happy in having me, and to esteem it a greater favor from God." What they said out of pure charity was not pleasing to the Bishop, who, seeing they loved me in this house, said, that I won over everybody to myself and that he wished I were out of the diocese. Though I knew all this, and these good sisters were troubled at it, I could have no trouble by reason of the calm establishment which I was in. The will of God rendering everything equal to me. The creatures, however unreasonable or passionate they appear, not being regarded in themselves but in God; an habitual faith causes everything to be seen in God without distinction. Thus, when I see poor souls so ruffled for discourses in the air, so uneasy for explanations, I pity them. They have reasons, I know, which self-love causes to appear very just.

To relieve myself a little from the fatigue of continual conversation, I desired Father La Combe to allow me a retreat. It was then that I let myself be consumed by love all the day long. Also I perceived the quality of a spiritual mother; for the Lord gave me what I cannot express for the perfection of souls. This I could not hide from Father La Combe. It seemed to me as if I entered into the inmost recesses of his heart. Our Lord showed me he was His servant, chosen among a thousand, singularly to honor Him; but that He would lead him through total death, and the entire destruction of the old man. He would have me contribute thereto and be instrumental to cause him to walk in the way in which He had led me first; in order that I might be in a condition to direct others, to tell them the way through which I have passed. The Lord would have us to be conformed, and to become both one in Him; though my soul was more advanced now, yet he should one day pass beyond it, with a bold and rapid flight. God knows with what joy I would see my spiritual children surpass their mother.

In this retreat I felt a strong propensity to write, but resisted it till I fell sick. I had nothing to write about, not one idea to begin with. It was a divine impulse, with such a fulness of grace as was hard to contain. I opened this disposition of mine to Father La Combe. He answered that he had a strong impulse to command me to write, but had not dared to do it yet, on account of my weakness. I told him, that "weakness was the effect of my resistance," and I believed it would, through my writing, go off again. He asked, "But what is it you will write?"

I replied, "I know nothing of it, nor desire to know, leaving it entirely to God to direct me."

He ordered me to do so. At my taking the pen I knew not the first word I should write; when I began, suitable matter flowed copiously, nay, impetuously. As I was writing I was relieved and grew better. I wrote an entire treatise on the interior path of faith, under the comparison of torrents, or of streams and rivers.

As the way, wherein God now conducted Father La Combe, was very different from that in which he had formerly walked (all light, knowledge, ardor, assurance, sentiment) now the poor, low, despised path of faith, and of nakedness; he found it very hard to submit thereto. Who could express what it has cost my heart before he was formed according to the will of God?

Meanwhile, the possession which the Lord had of my soul became every day stronger, insomuch that I passed whole days without being able to pronounce one word. The Lord was pleased to make me pass wholly into Him by an entire internal transformation. He became more and more the absolute master of my heart, to such a degree as not to leave me a movement of my own. This state did not hinder me from condescending to my sister, and the others in the house. Nevertheless, the useless things with which they were taken up could not interest me. That was what induced me to ask leave to make a retreat, to let myself be possessed of Him who holds me so closely to Himself after an ineffable manner.