A few of the letters St. Alphonsa wrote to Fr. Louis C.M.I her Novitiate Director
(1) 30. 11.1943
I am fully convinced that the pleasures of this world are not meant for me. Nor do I long for them. I don’t allow pain or misfortunes to robe me of the peace of my mind. However, as I am a little too sensitive by nature, I get easily flustered when confronted by hardship. But I become all right again when I listen to words of counsel from someone. On his part, God has given me the strength to suffer pain. I think I would have been guilty of pride but for the present illness. When my mind returns to normalcy, I get a true picture of myself. That realization makes me happy. Will that detract from the merit of my suffering? As far as my life is concerned, everything that happens to me is the providence of God. Therefore I must rejoice in my sufferings. Jesus of ineffable sweetness, make worldly pleasure taste bitter in my mouth-that is my constant prayer to God. So why should I complain when, as prayed for, bitterness becomes my portion? You told us once that if a rich man married a poor woman, she would become heiress to his possession and a sharer in both his sorrow and happiness. I always remember that. The share I have received from my Lord is woes and suffering. I am prepared to embrace all that so my soul exists in peace. I don’t belong to myself; I have offered myself as a sacrifice to my divine Bride groom. It has been so for the past seven years and it is known to you. The Lord may be pleased to do what ever he likes with me. I do not yearn for recovery. It is my prayer that everything may happen according to the Lord’s will; + yet I feel that I will get over this illness partially and become well enough to walk so that the Lord may make me shoulder more crosses. I welcome everything. It seems my sacrifice is being consumed rather slowly. It is my hope and prayer that others will not come to know my likes and dislikes. But my present illness may adversely affect this desire of mine. But nothing happens according to my wishes. I have often felt that if God gave me some other illness, equally painful, in the place of the present nervous complaint, others would not some to- know about my lot.
I feel that God might hear my prayer if I asked him for some other illness. I do not know what I should do …..My poor mother is torn by cares and worries. My being ill adds to her worries….. Sometimes I feel a strong temptation to see the mother so that I could say a word of consolation to her. But I do not yield to that temptation for fear that my love for her would prove stronger than it should be. You know very well how deeply I love the mother But I am prepared to give up this love even today so that it does not deflect me from my love of God. I should like to know what you think of this situation. But I do not know If I have that feeling because of my own selfish love.
There is one more thing I should like to tell you. Whatever I pray for, the good. God has never refused it, but always granted it to me (italics mine) That gives me immense pleasure. I want to know something from you. Can I say that? Have I offended God by processing a loving nature? I am through. Because of the nervous agitation I had this morning, I opened myself up. Father too frankly. Excuse me
In the eyes of others I do not appear to suffer any pain or hardship, but how much I suffer and in how many different ways I suffer is known only to Lord Jesus. Yet considering the great love Good Jesus has far me, I sincerely wish to suffer lying in bed, far more than I do now, or as much as the Lord apportions to me, and to remain so even to the end of the world. I now feel that God wants my life to end as a sacrificial offering to him. Otherwise I would have died long since. The Lord, it seems, is accepting my sacrifice rather slowly. When I think about it, my mind is filled with joy. Therefore, Father, please join me in thanking God. These days I feel considerable relief but my mind is not all that well. I am suffering great pain day in and day out. It is with great difficulty that I make the minutes slide past. The thought that God is just, however, restores peace to my mind.
3. My present condition is needed pitiable Who knows what I will turn out to be in the end? The Lord has been behaving very ruthlessly towards me. I am constrained to think that he is turning a blind eye towards me. I have been making great efforts but to no avail. I have not experienced such a dreary joylessness as I do now since my novitiate days. Could it be that God has distanced himself from me so as to punish me for the sins I committed through my words and deeds? The Lord does not appear to be pleased however much I may suffer or howsoever I may try to please him through good works. I do not feel God’s love in my heart. It could be the punishment for my failure to live in accordance with the blessings he has lavished on me. I do not know what I should do. I have surrendered myself entirely to God. Let him do with me as he pleases. When I examined my conscience, I did not find any sin that I committed with the knowledge of my mind. I no longer feel like taking food. Physically I am quite unwell. I joined the convent for the sake of my Lord after renouncing everything. What the future has in store for me is my only concern now. I was already suffering from sleeplessness; my depressed slate of mind has come as an added affliction; my only wish now is that I regain my lost peace of mind before I die. Since I had this affliction, I have not left anything to my own choice. I suffer a lot and nurse no ill will towards others, yet it seems that there is a frown on the Lord’s face.
4. I want to become my Lord’s most beloved bride and I am seeking your help for it. May I tell you in all sincerity that I am so weak by myself that I need your help today. You have told me that I should not wish for anything that my Lord does not want. I am constantly thinking about that instruction. I am making sincere efforts, and praying too, to carry out your counsel. It is my faith that the good God will forgive me my shortcomings which are due to my weakness. I am praying to God asking him to grant me recovery from the present illness, but it is always as God wills. So I am not disturbed in the mind. Compared to what I was in the past, I think there is less of sacrifice, suffering and patience. During my novitiate days I never let anyone guess what my likes and dislikes were. It is not so now
Yesterday I received a letter from Muttuchira. A certain portion of that letter distracted me a great deal. It is still agitating my mind. I am reproducing it below. “When we think about your childhood days, only happy thoughts come to our minds. It is my humble wish and opinion that you should not out grow that child like cast of mind, though you have become a nun. If you do, you might come to grief. Besides, you must take care not to taint the spotless heart God has given to you.” Have I not told you that it was after I became a nun that I lost the innocence of my soul? May God forgive me for my lapses.
I have surrendered myself entirely to Jesus. It will be my privilege to suffer whatever he is pleased to do to me. My only desire here on earth is to suffer my afflictions patiently for the sake of my love of God and to find delight in that suffering. For a long time now I have had to suffer a lot of afflictions both physical and mental. Sometimes when I feel that my afflictions exceed my strength to endure them tears course down my cheeks. But so far nobody has ever seen my crying It is my desire to suffer every woe without complaining or showing any sign of my suffering to the others. I hope that God who sends me these sufferings will give me also the power to suffer them. In the eyes of others I am always cheerful. So they think that my mind is free from all kinds of sufferings and that I remain happy because of the affectionate treatment I receive from the authorities and the other sisters. It would seem that they think this of me because I have sacrificed myself to God so completely that it is impossible for others to find out my likes and Dislikes. Others think that I have no problem whatsoever because they do not see me complaining about my ailments. Sometimes I feel that it would be more sensible if I also complain to others about my hard lot. But so far I have not yielded to this temptation. Since I saw you last, I have felt a strong compulsion to unburden my owes before you. But I have refrained from doing so because I hopped that the good God who gave me the strength to hold my own against my sufferings all these years, would continue to care for me in the future too. Another consideration that weighed with me not to relate my suffering to you was the fear that you might find the account painful, though only slightly so. But now I find my suffering more difficult to bear because I missed that chance of taking you into confidence about my afflictions. Please do not think that I did not speak to you about it, because I lacked trust in you. My condition now is similar to that of an insect writhing in pain in the midst of flames; it made me feel even desperate. But immediately I repented of having slide into despair and sought forgiveness of God. I got back the peace of mind I had lost. My good God is watching me and he is not unaware of my suffering, he will extend his consolation to me. God lets me suffer so many afflictions such as I have never felt before. But in spite of that, I have not lost the peace of my mind and so I rejoice and offer my thanks to you for having helped me to retain it. Once when my mind remained upset, I took up a book an opened it at random; the sentence I saw in the book is given below. “People lose their lives in pleasure seeking and commit countless sins. That way they give grief to my heart. Whence will I obtain surcease of this sorrow? Is there any other heart that loves you as much as my heart does? But there is no other heart that receives so little in return as mine does. I have come seeking asylum in the hearts of my chosen few. Let them heal through their faithful service the wounds that sins inflict on my heart. I need such souls as will alleviate the pain I feel owing to men’s sins.” I cannot describe the thoughts that arose in my heart when I read these sentences. I took a vow that I would embrace gladly any amount of afflictions if that would serve to diminish my Lord’s sorrow. Loving father, I have been endeavoring not to commit even a venial sin willfully.
Yet there have been several lapses on my part and that might adversely affect my spiritual progress. Hitherto, through I have had to suffer both physical and mental afflictions, the former always exceeded the latter. Now I suffer them in equal measure. Besides, hateful and disgusting thoughts keep coming to my mind in great numbers. I continue to feel miserable even after I have cleared my mind of them. I know I will be offered worldly consolation if I narrate my woes to other people. But what does it avail? I have reserved all such narration for the Lord’s own ears. I have been trying not to make any obstruction to this process.
I am willing to suffer far move than I suffer now for the sake of my Divine spouse. I have let slip several opportunities of suffering largely by my weakness. But my good God is watching me and that is my consolation. It is indeed a soothing thought that the pain I suffer is dealt out by the Lord himself, who has his abode in my own heart. Sometimes I think wrongly about the authorities (their actions and words). But I do not entertain such thoughts. It may be a test by God to see if I make myself humble. Father, please pray for me and offer me your words of consolation. For quite some time I have not been able to keep my thoughts under control. I manage to keep going, thanks to God’s providence. I have been writing on and on setting down whatever comes to my mind in the hope that I will be able to find some peace that way.
Dear father I have written this letter with great effort and so please have the patience to read this letter in full. My mind is agitated and so this letter might strike you as lacking logical thinking; more than ever before I need consolation now.
6. All these days I endured my pain and made sacrifices, determined to suffer everything without receiving comfort or consolation. It is as if the Lord is not taking his eyes off me but is watching me as a silversmith does his silver which he is melting it down to purify it.
For a few days now my boy and mind alike have been burning with the fire of pain. The skin on my body from the neck down to the knees is peeling off and a watery secretion is oozing out from the affected part. But there is no pus. My face and my forearms are not affected. Yet I do not think this will suffice to bring my sacrifice to its completion. I am undergoing treatment, plenty of it. May the Lord himself bring me comfort and relief. I do not mind my body being afflicted with worse things but my only prayer to God is that my suffering should not cause me to lose the peace of my mind. So far I have not lost it but I fear that in course of time God might take it away from me. For about a month now, I have not had the attack of restlessness. That is great kindness on the part of God. I have been suffering off and on from malaria since paschal Wednesday. Now I have fever only on alternate days. God carefully weighs and calculates everything before he sends them to me. What would I have done if God had sent me both the fever and the fit of pain at one stroke? I hope you will pray for me so that I do not let slip any of these opportunities of suffering. It may not be a deliberate act on anybody’s part but God is making others instrumental in helping me to perfection. That is my firm faith. One day while I was thinking about the circumstances of my life a letter was received from the mother Superior (Sr.Ursula) of the Kozhuvanal convent. In the letter the mother instructs that a certain portion of that letter should be read out to me. I have given it below: “We must let ourselves be chiseled and carved into the semblance of Christ.” It was timely advice the one I got from the Mother. I shed tears of joy when I realized-that it was an act of the providence.
I do not know how to describe to state of my soul accurately to you. I hope God will forgive me of my shortcomings there of Dear father, please turn me into a saint. I am not sparing any effort to realize this ambition. I am aware of a lot of short comings on my part. Sometimes I find it extremely difficult to endure even slight sufferings. I am trying not to give others the impression that I have a lot to suffer but my efforts are not successful always. The good God gave me the boon not to lose the grace I received at baptism.
If God had placed others in my situation, they would have loved God much more than I do. This thought makes me sad. I find consolation in the hope that God’s hand will continue to support me and guide me through my life as he has always done in the past. If there is any love left in me that distracts us from any love that is due to God, may God be pleased to remove it from me, that is my only prayer now.
One day, last week, I felt an indescribable sense of indisposition coupled with heaviness and exhaustion. It lasted for half an hour. While I had this fit, I felt inpatient that I could be still alive…. I prayed ardently to God that he pleased to remove this feeling. A little later the feeling passed off and I felt happy and cheerful again. That night I prayed to God begging forgiveness for my sin of despair. The great feeling of happiness I felt then is beyond my power to describe. You have told us that if God administered the bitter medicinal concoction, he is sure to give the sugar also with which to remove the bitterness from the mouth. Usually when I have any problems, Sr. Gabriel is sure to find it out. This time, however, nothing aroused her suspicion. That was to my advantage.