WE mean by interior life that constant duty to which the servant of God so thoroughly applied himself to remove from his soul every imperfection, for the one object of becoming completely agreeable to God. This holy exercise he called his interior life, because he labored with pious ingenuity to conceal it from the eyes of others. He had himself traced out its plan shortly after his arrival in Rome. The following were the rules which he proposed to observe faithfully the whole time of his life :
“I. In the morning, as soon as I awake, I will excite myself to holy joy at the thought that God grants me another day to do penance for my sins and merit heaven, drawing hence many devout affections.
“2. While celebrating Mass, studying, or taking my meals, I will conduct myself in a spirit of sacrifice, universal abnegation and entire submission to God, as if I were in the very act of offering him a perfect holocaust.
“3 On those days in which I have to undergo the greatest humiliations, contempt and suffering, I will exult interiorly with transports of holy joy, striving to excite them by motives of pure love.
“4 But, when everything has gone on smoothly, I will humble myself and strive to awaken within my heart feelings of sorrow; this also through motives of pure love. To this interior exercise I will add the following regulations respecting my exterior conduct.
“5 I must endeavor, on every occasion, to make myself all unto all, seeking, without waiting to be asked, to console, assist and serve others, always acting and speaking in such a way that all this may proceed from a solid foundation of humility, charity and meekness : disregarding, in every circumstance, all repugnance, self-love, or coldness ; waiting until I am alone, to subdue any interior trouble and revolt that this manner of acting may occasion me. I must do this the more earnestly, as it is what God requires of me. It shall be the object of the present retreat, and the end of all my meditations, examinations, reading, and other spiritual exercises. I will, for this purpose, read attentively the life and works of St. Vincent de Paul and of St. Francis de Sales.
“It cannot be denied that the exercise now proposed will require stronger virtue than that which I have hitherto, though imperfectly, practised. What virtue I possessed, was comprised in silence and inaction, in refraining from following the impulse of my passions, in practices of a merely negative nature such as to avoid bringing myself forward, to refrain from excusing myself, from complaining, and many other similar acts, the minute detail of which would be too lengthy. Now that something more positive is proposed, I shall have to fight continually, and shall never be able to flatter myself that I have obtained the state of pure love, if I do not begin from this point ; to expect it by any other means would be mere rashness.
“I acknowledge that too frequently I have been guilty of this rashness, from neglecting to follow the advice of our Divine Redeemer : Recumbe prius in novissimo loco, and go not higher until it be said to thee : ascende superius. I blush for having, too often, been presumptuous enough to aspire to a kiss from the divine lips ; namely to the state of pure love, whereas I have not, as yet, sufficiently practiced the kissing of the feet namely, the virtues of humility and affability. I ask pardon for my presumption, and will devote myself to this practice, acknowledging that the repulses which I have received are very well deserved. He who wishes to mount higher, deserves to be sent back to the lowest seat, and I should indeed have known this after reading so many lives and words of the saints. I will then learn to humble myself, and never think that I am too much lowered. I will endeavor to parry the specious arguments of self-love by this golden advice of St. Francis de Sales ‘Excuse and bear with thy neighbor, with much meekness of heart ; do not philosophize on the contradictions thou mayest meet with ; look not at them but on God, in all things, without any expectation ; and acquiesce with simplicity in all his designs.”‘
Father De Andreis frequently examined himself on this rule of life, and, as he perceived that he did not always follow it exactly, he formed new and vigorous resolutions of putting it more perfectly into practice. On February 24th, 1808, he took the following determination :
“This morning a faint glimmer of light pierced the thick darkness and anguish of mind which had oppressed me. It revealed to me, in my conduct, an excessive tenderness of self, which, almost imperceptibly gaining ground, makes me forget, under various artful pretexts, the holy practices of meekness, mortification and humility, and is in a fair way of reducing me to a merely animal life. I strive to avoid, as much as possible, suffering of any kind. I yield to weariness, and grow angry, at least interiorly, at the smallest offence that I seem to receive. Without being aware of it, I have nourished a certain amount of self-esteem. Meditation and examination of conscience have become a mere exercise of the mind ; and hence it is that I am so molested by scruples and interior pains. I pray to be freed from them, but my prayer is not heard. I therefore acknowledge this to be an admirable arrangement of the love of Divine Providence, who permits me to remain in these and similar infirmities, that they may serve to counterbalance my pride, which otherwise would grow to a frightful extent ; and, though it seems to me that I refer all to God, I unconsciously and too frequently, become vain in prosperity, and let this be seen in my intercourse with others. It is true that, Our Lord might remedy this evil in some other way, but who am I to dare prescribe laws to the Almighty? May his most holy will be done in all and everywhere. I therefore resolve to be more vigilant and faithful, remembering : Tantum proficies, quantum tibi ipsi vim intuleris.” (Kempis.)
“I copied to-day, March i5th, 1808, a most useful passage from the Life of rather Peter Consolini, a beloved disciple and perfect imitator of Saint Philip Neri. I fail very often in one of his fundamental maxims which is this : ‘True humility teaches us to avoid as much as possible, all scientific or spiritual conversations, because such topics generally increase our vanity and raise us in the esteem of others. Our self-love feeds on this, and though some may say, that in order to benefit our neighbor we should discourse on spiritual things, it may be replied that it is at the foot of the crucifix, by means of prayer, tears, and penance, not with fine words, that we can do good to the soul of our neighbor.’ And this he said especially for the young. Any one who is truly humble, will speak little of himself or of anything that might gain him public esteem.
“In the present retreat of i8o8, I have by the grace of God and with much trouble discovered in the hidden recesses of my heart, lurking beneath a thousand folds of plausible reasoning, a secret spirit of ambition, which tries to gain the ascendancy and very often makes me utter words which are calculated to draw upon me esteem and consideration. It also causes me to aspire after distinctions, and makes me feel disturbed when I am not gratified. In spite of my full conviction that whatever good I have is entirely the gift of God, and that of myself I am but a miserable wretch unworthy of anything but contempt, still I wish to be thought much of and am sad if I do not obtain what I desire ! 0 miseria! praesumptio nequissima uncle creata. es! `Surd multa fusis illita, quae luce purgentur tua: to vera lux celestium vultu sereno illumina.’ Hymn Laud. fer. IV.
“Besides this, I have noticed several times that, when an opportunity of performing an act of humility presents itself, I feel that I am deprived of the courage that I need in order to overcome myself. It appears as if all would be lost were I to perform that act ; so that I not only abstain from it, but even sometimes yield to the opposite vice. I have, however, found two reasons for my want of fidelity in practising the holy resolutions which I took in my former retreats.
“The first is want of light in the understanding to discover the subterfuges of pride ; the second, want of fortitude in the will, to overcome my repugnances. Full of confidence in God, I now feel inspired to resolve upon the ten following articles:
“1 To show great respect, both in word and action, towards every one, according to his position.
“2 To humble myself sincerely in everything, and rejoice when I see myself despised by others.
“3 To approve of everything in our Lord, praise every one, especially the absent, and be sincerely benevolent and kind to all.
“4 To forget myself and be silent on all things that concern me ; however, if necessary, I will speak of them as matters of no consequence and not worth mentioning.
“5 To be sincerely compassionate and merciful towards others ; for true justice shows compassion, but false justice only indignation.
“6 Ever to be rigid and austere towards myself.
“7 To excuse others, and never accuse them but in cases where prudence requires that superiors should know their faults in order to admonish them.
“8 Always to accuse, but never to excuse myself, unless my conscience tells me that it is necessary, in order to remove a cause of scandal ; and then I will do it with moderation.
“9. Should I happen to experience great reluctance in the practice of any of these acts, I will have recourse to God, and continue to pray and supplicate until I become entirely victorious.
“10. In order that these resolutions may never escape my memory, I will frequently meditate upon them, especially when I do not rise at the usual hour, or for any other reason I make my meditation privately. These ten points shall then be the subject on which I will meditate.
“I should frequently consider that man’s esteem is nothing ; that if it were something, I do not deserve it ; and even should I deserve it, I ought to renounce it for God. Por unless I do so, whatever good I may effect, being tainted with such venom, my unbridled pride would snatch it out of my hands.”
“To overcome this pride,” adds the servant of God in another place, “I must be well convinced that those who blame me, rather flatter me because they do not know the whole extent of my malice ; they are perhaps mistaken with regard to some things which they lay to my charge, but if they knew how many and how much worse things there are within me ; if they knew that in spite of so many lights and graces, I still remain in the midst of my infidelities, they could not do otherwise than consider me as a monster of ingratitude, as one unworthy to live in the house of God in the midst of his servants, and they would even do me a favor by expelling me from it as I deserve ; because a raven should not dwell with doves, nor a wretched ass among steeds richly caparisoned. Oh ! how great is my misery. The more abundant the talents and gifts that a person receives from God, the greater the difficulty which he finds in bridling his self-love, which imputes these heavenly presents to itself, appropriates them and even makes of them a bulwark, wherein it fortifies itself and holds out against every attack. If it be vanquished on one side, it defends itself on the other ; if it cannot conquer in one way, it tries new artifices, and, making trophies of its defeats, endeavors to convert into gains its very losses themselves, determined not to die until it compels the soul to bend to its will ; or, at least it continues to weary and harass her in such a way as to leave her completely worn out and enervated. How much, then, do we not need patience and the mercy of God.”
It was in these trials or rather conflicts that the whole interior life of the servant of God consisted. It was completely veiled from the eye of man, and we should know nothing of it, had he not, for his own guidance, described some of the divine operations which God performed in his soul, to detach him from the smallest affection to sin, and thus lead him through the most painful trials, to the pure love of his Creator.