X.-HOW TO CONVERSE CONTINUALLY AND FAMILIARLY WITH GOD
The heavens and the earth and all things in them, says St. Augustine, tell me to love Thee, O my God! St. Teresa used to say that when she saw beautiful hills and slopes they seemed to reproach her for her ingratitude to God.
When your eye rests on scenes in the country or along the sea-shore, on flowers or fruits, and you are delighted by the sight and scent of all, say: Behold, how many are the beautiful creatures that God has created for me in this world, in order that I may love Him; and what further enjoyments does He not keep prepared for me in Paradise? St. Teresa used to say that when she saw any beautiful hills or slopes, they seemed to reproach her for her own ingratitude to God. And the Abbot de Rance, Founder of La Trappe, said that the beautiful creatures around him reminded him of his own obligation to love God. St. Augustine also said the same thing, crying out aloud: “Heaven and earth and all things tell me to love Thee.” It is related of a certain holy man that in passing through the fields he would strike with a little stick the flowers and plants along his way, saying: “Be silent! Do not reproach me any longer for my ingratitude to God. I have understood you; be silent I say no more!” When St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi held in her hand any beautiful fruit or flower, she used to feel herself smitten by divine love, saying to herself: “Behold, my God has thought from eternity of creating this fruit, this flower, in order to give it me as a token of the love He bears towards me.”
When you see the rivers and brooks, reflect that as the water which you behold keeps running on to the ocean without ever stopping, so ought you to be ever hastening on to God, Who is your only Good. When you happen to be in a vehicle drawn by beasts of burden, say: See what labour these innocent animals go through for my service; and how much pains do I myself take in order to serve and please my God? When you see a little dog, which for a miserable morsel of bread is so faithful to its master, reflect how much greater reason you have to be faithful to God Who has created and preserved and provided for you, and heaps upon you so many blessings. When you hear the birds sing, say: Hearken, O my soul, to the praise these little creatures are giving to their Creator; and what are you doing? Then do you also praise Him with acts of love. On the other hand, when you hear the cock crow, recall to your memory that there once was a time when you also, like Peter, denied your God; and then renew your contrition and your tears. So, likewise, when you see the house or place where you have sinned, turn yourself to God and say: The sins of my youth and my ignorance remember not, O Lord-(Ps. xxiv. 7).
When you behold the valleys, consider that as their fertility is due to the waters that run down from the mountains, so from Heaven do graces descend upon the souls of the humble, and pass by the proud. When you see a beautifully ornamented church, consider the beauty of a soul in a state of grace, which is a real temple of God. When you behold the sea, consider the immensity and the greatness of God. When you see fire, or candles lighted on an altar, say: How many years is it since I ought to have been cast into hell to burn! But since Thou, O Lord, hast not sent me there, make this heart of mine burn with love for Thee, as that wood and those candles burn. When you look up at the sky, all studded with stars, say with St. Andrew of Avellino: “O my feet, you will one day have those stars beneath you.”
In order frequently to recall to mind the Mysteries of our Saviour’s love, when you see hay, a manger, or a cave, let the Infant Jesus in the Stable of Bethlehem be present in your recollection. When you see a saw, a hammer, a plane, or an axe, remember how Jesus laboured like a mere working boy in the shop at Nazareth. Then if you see ropes, thorns, nails, or pieces of wood, reflect on the Passion and death of our Redeemer. St. Francis of Assisi, on seeing a lamb, would begin to weep, saying, “My Lord, like a lamb, was led to death for me.” Again, when you see altars, chalices, or patens, recall to mind the greatness of the love which Jesus Christ has borne us in giving us the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.