Between the first awaking from sin or infidelity to the final resolution of a perfect belief, there often runs a good deal of time in which we are able to pray, as we have seen S. Pachomius did, and as that poor lunatic's father, who, as S. Mark relates, giving assurance that he believed, that is, that he began to believe, knew at the same time that he did not believe sufficiently; whence he cried out: I do believe, Lord help my unbelief, as though he would say: I am no longer in the obscurity of the night of infidelity, the rays of your faith already enlighten the horizon of my soul: but still I do not yet believe as I ought; it is a knowledge as yet weak and mixed with darkness; Ah! Lord, help me. And the great S. Augustine solemnly pronounces these remarkable words: |But listen, O man! and understand. Art thou not drawn? pray, in order that thou mayest be drawn.| In which words his intention is not to speak of the first movement which God works in us without us, when he excites and awakens us out of the sleep of sin: for how could we ask to be awakened seeing no man can pray before he be awakened? But he speaks of the resolution which we make to be faithful, for he considers that to believe is to be drawn, and therefore he admonishes such as have been excited to believe in God, to ask the gift of faith. And indeed no one could better know the difficulties which ordinarily pass between the first movement God makes in us, and the perfect resolution of believing fully, than S. Augustine, who having had so great a variety of attractions by the words of the glorious S. Ambrose, by the conference he had with Politian, and a thousand other means, yet made so many delays and had so much difficulty in resolving. For more truly to him than to any other might have been applied that which he afterwards said to others: Alas! Augustine, if thou be not drawn, if thou believe not, pray that thou mayest be drawn, and that thou mayest believe.
Our Saviour draws hearts by the delights that he gives them, which make them find heavenly doctrine sweet and agreeable, but, until this sweetness has engaged and fastened the will by its beloved bonds to draw it to the perfect acquiescence and consent of faith, as God does not fail to exercise his greatness upon us by his holy inspirations, so does not our enemy cease to practise his malice by temptations. And meantime we remain in full liberty, to consent to the divine drawings or to reject them; for as the sacred Council of Trent has clearly decreed: |If any one should say that man's freewill, being moved and incited by God, does not in any way co-operate, by consenting to God, who moves and calls him that he may dispose and prepare himself to obtain the grace of justification, and that he is unable to refuse consent though he would,| truly such a man would be excommunicated, and reproved by the Church. But if we do not repulse the grace of holy love, it dilates itself by continual increase in our souls, until they are entirely converted; like great rivers, which finding open plains spread themselves, and ever take up more space.
But if the inspiration, having drawn us to faith, find no resistance in us, it draws us also to penitence and charity. S. Peter, as an apode, raised by the inspiration which came from the eyes of his master, freely letting himself be moved and carried by this gentle wind of the Holy Ghost, looks upon those life-giving eyes which had excited him; he reads as in the book of life the sweet invitation to pardon which the divine clemency offers him; he draws from it a just motive of hope; he goes out of the court, considers the horror of his sin, and detests it; he weeps, he sobs, he prostrates his miserable heart before his Saviour's mercy, craves pardon for his faults, makes a resolution of inviolable loyalty, and by this progress of movements, practised by the help of grace which continually conducts, assists, and helps him, he comes at length to the holy remission of his sins, and passes so from grace to grace: according to what S. Prosper lays down, that without grace a man doos not run to grace.
So then to conclude this point, the soul, prevented by grace, feeling the first drawings, and consenting to their sweetness, as if returning to herself after a long swoon, begins to sigh out these words: Ah! my dear spouse, my friend! Draw me, I beseech thee, and take hold of me under my arms, for otherwise I am not able to walk: but if thou draw me we run, thou in helping me by the odour of thy perfumes, and I corresponding by my weak consent, and by relishing thy sweetnesses which strengthen and reinvigorate me, till the balm of thy sacred name, that is the salutary ointment of my justification be poured out over me. Do you see, Theotimus, she would not pray if she were not excited; but as soon as she is, and feels the attractions, she prays that she may be drawn; being drawn she runs, nevertheless she would not run if the perfumes which draw her and by which she is drawn did not inspirit her heart by the power of their precious odour; and as her course is more swift, and as she approaches nearer her heavenly spouse, she has ever a more delightful sense of the sweetnesses which he pours out, until at last he himself flows out in her heart, like a spread balm, whence she cries, as being surprised by this delight, not so quickly expected, and as yet unlooked for: O my spouse, thou art as balm poured into my bosom; it is no marvel that young souls cherish thee dearly.
In this way, my dear Theotimus, the divine inspiration comes to us, and prevents use moving our wills to sacred love. And if we do not repulse it, it goes with us and keeps near us, to incite us and ever push us further forwards; and if we do not abandon it, it does not abandon us, till such time as it has brought us to the haven of most holy charity, performing for us the three good offices which the great angel Raphael fulfilled for his dear Tobias: for it guides us through all our journey of holy penitence, it preserves us from dangers and from the assaults of the devil, and it consoles, animates, and fortifies us in our difficulties.