doubts and difficulties for the more thoughtful ones !
How he helped and advised them in every way, and
how warmly and womanly they all loved him !
But he was very sharp with them sometimes, so
much so that Angelique (who, as we shall see, had
some spirit of her own) one day said to him, *' My
father, it seems to me you are only gentle toward
those who abuse your confidence and deceive you."
When Marie-Claire, another of the Arnauld sisters,
who had been very unjust to St. Cyran in a certain
matter, cam^, at last, almost broken-hearted in her
penitence, to make her humble confession, he stop-
'' We must find out," he said, " whether you exag-
gerate your faults, and whether in the sight of God they
are as great as you think them. We must look care-
fully into this matter God is a Spirit, and
spiritual sins grieve Him more than any others.
Beware of exaggeration. We do not need any close
scrutiny to remind us of our sins. Kneel before God
without words, without anxious self-scrutiny. He
will understand you."
70 Sister and Samt.
Another day when she was mourning over her sins,
he said : " You must forget the past. If we were
always obHged to think of our past sins, no one
could be happy. He who has commanded us not to
look back when we have put our hand to the plow,
knows what is for our good."
When Marie-Claire begged that she might as a
penance, and in proof of her humility, be made a lay
sister* for life, St Cyran sharply rebuked her.
" You wish the future to be settled for you," he
said. " I do not like that request. Those who be-
long to God ought to have nothing absolutely settled
and decided For myself, I do not want to
know what I shall do when I leave this place. We
are told to ask God for our bread (that is, for His
grace), day by day ; but I should like to ask for it
hour by hour It is contrary to the spirit of
true humility to seek to do extraordinary things.
There is no greater pride than in seeking to humil-
iate ourselves beyond measure ; and sometimes there
is no truer humility than to attempt great works for
Many a word of wisdom taken direct from the
good man's lips, and many a delightful anecdote of
him or his distinguished friends, is recorded for us in
Lancelot's charming " Memoires de St. Cyran." The
* A lay-sister is one who performs the menial services of the
The Director of Consciences. 71
pen is tempted to linger over them, but we must
content ourselves with a very few.
Notwithstanding his ordinarily cool and dignified
demeanor, the good father had a very tender spot in
his heart, especially toward the little ones. One day
he bought a pot of preserved quinces for a little girl
among the novices at Port Royal, a daughter of his
particular friend, d'Andilly. But on the way to the
convent, scruples overcame him lest " the sweets of
earth should destroy her taste for the sweets of
heaven." He resolved not to offer the gift, and hid
it under the folds of his mantle. But when he
reached the house and was told that the little girl ,
was not feeling well that day, love overcame his
caution, and the quinces were sent to her room at
A conscientious nun once came to him very much
exercised in regard to the faults of a certain sister
nun. Surely these were very wrong proceedings.
Should she speak of them ? " Be silent for three
months," said the director of consciences. At the
end of three months she reminded him that the time
had elapsed. Might she tell now? "No," said he,
" be silent for the rest of your life."
De Sericourt, who had been a military man, after
his conversion asked St. Cyran to teach him how to
pray. " You know soldiers are not much instructed
on this point," he said.
72 Sister and Saint.
St. Cyran placed his hands together, bowed his
head, and then Hfted his eyes to heaven. " This, sir,
is all we have to do," he said. " We have only to
appear humbly before God, and remember that He
is looking down upon us." De Sericourt says that
his master's devout look and these simple words were
better than all the books of devotion in the world.
To his learned body of " Recluses," all of them, in
spite of their religious ardor, more or less ambitious
of literary fame, St. Cyran one day said: "Jesus
Christ has written nothing ; and He shows us there-
by that the sublimity of godliness can only be
worthily represented by living acts. "
As may easily be seen, a man teaching such pure
and undefiled religion as this, and exercising such a
powerful and wide-spread influence, was an element
not very desirable to a corrupt Church.
The Jesuits hated him as heartily as Richelieu did,
and that not merely on doctrinal grounds, but also
from a very natural feeling of jealousy and envy.
Up to this time the schools of the Jesuits had
enjoyed great celebrity. The education of the higher
classes had been almost entirely in their hands. But
now, among St. Cyran's friends there were many per-
sons of rank and fortune who wished equal advan-
tages for their children without the contamination of
They consulted St. Cyran, and, under his personal
The Director of Consciences. 73
direction, a number of little schools in and about
Paris were opened.
There were plenty of men of talent among his
disciples to take the place of teachers. Nicole,
Lancelot, and Fontaine, all of whom have written
long and intensely interesting histories of these
times, were among them. " The great Arnauld,"
foremost of a remarkable family, was a writer of
text-books for these schools, and so was De Saci, the
author of that beautiful, " pure, limpid translation
of the Bible " still in use among French Protestant
A few years later we shall find Blaise Pascal adding
to the fame of these schools by his novel and suc-
cessful theories of education, and Racine, the poet,
entering one of them as a pupil.
The " Port Royal Grammars " (Greek and Latin),
the " Greek Primitives," and the ** Elements of Logic
and of Geometry," were soon famous, not only
throughout France, but throughout Europe.
Learned treatises on many subjects, but chiefly on
theology, were published by those connected with
these schools, and "//j sont marquh au coin de Port
RoyaV"^ came to be the fashionable phrase of condem-
nation, or favor, as the case might be.
* From the fact that a large number of St. Cyran's followers who
called themselves "the recluses," but were bound by no vows,
established themselves at the gates of the convent of Port Royal
74 Sister and Samt.
Clearly, as we have said, this state of things was no
longer to be borne, and we are not surprised to learn
that after seventeen years in Paris, St. Cyran was one
day arrested by order of the cardinal. Nineteen
separate charges Richelieu averred that he found
against this seditious priest, but the charges were
never specified, for there was no trial, and, until he
had been a year in prison, no show even of examina-
tion. At midnight, May 14, 1638, twenty-two arch-
ers surrounded St. Cyran's little dwelling and waited
until morning, hoping to find some pretext for attack-
ing the house ; but nothing of the kind occurring, at
six o'clock they knocked and demanded admission.
St. Cyran was reading St. Augustine with his nephew,
and they had just come to a passage on humility.
" That is just what we want," he said. " Here is
something to defend ourselves with." The ofificer
then coming into his room informed him that he had
orders to conduct him to a carriage standing at the
gate. " Sir," said St. Cyran, kindly taking his hand,
" it is my duty and my pleasure to obey the King."
They drove at once to the fortress of Vincennes.
Many a traveler of our day has taken the same road
through the grand old park and forest to the chateau,
and climbed the x\\vs\&6i ^donjon for the magnificent
des Champs, eighteen miles from Paris, the whole party were often
called Port Royalists, though after the death of Jansen, from their
defense of his book, they were frequently called Jansenists.
The Director of Consciences, 75
view of the surrounding country and the distant city.
As they went through the park they met M.
d'Andilly, that friend whom St. Cyran called his
" friend par excellence^ Lancelot tells us that the
guard had received orders to turn back the facings of
their regimentals so as to excite no suspicion. Con-
sequently d'Andilly, with no thought of trouble, rode
gaily up to the side of the coach and said : " My
father, where are you taking all these people ? " "It
is not I who take them ; they take me," answered St.
Cyran. " But," he added, " I look upon myself as
the prisoner of God, not of man."
The friends were allowed a few moments' conversa-
tion, when St. Cyran mentioned his regret that he
could not have had time to bring a book with him.
D'Andilly had with him a copy of the confessions of
St. Augustine. " You first taught me the value of
this book," he said. " Now I am thankful to give it
back to you." " They then embraced," says the
touching story, " as those who expect to see each
other's face no more till the resurrection of the just."
The same morning Richelieu called to him one of
his attendant ecclesiastics. ** Beaumont," said he, " I
have done a thing which will raise a great outcry. I
have had the Abbot of St. Cyran arrested. Learned
people and pious people, too, will make a great piece
of work about it. But I am sure I have done a good
thing. A great many calamities would have been
Sister and Saint.
averted if Luther and Calvin had been shut up as
soon as they began to dogmatize."
And some time later, when Prince Henry of Bour-
bon ventured to plead for St. Cyran, the cardinal an-
swered, " You don't know the man for whom you are
â€¢ interceding. He is more dangerous than six armies. '
"THE OBSTACLE BECOMES THE
"THE OBSTACLE BECOMES THE INSTRUMENT."
IN the prison of Vincennes, at the time of St.
Cyran's arrest, was a certain learned priest named
Guillebert. He was released soon afterward, but
not till he had heartily adopted St. Cyran's views and
begun to seek the truth in his spirit.
When he was set free he was appointed to the
parish of Rouville, a suburb of Rouen, And thus
we come around â€” the circle of circumstance and in-
fluence being complete â€” to the Pascals once more.
For as soon as Guillebert began to preach he be-
came famous in all the region round about. "A great
religious awakening " â€” the phrase has an oddly con-
strained and " not at home " look in the French â€”
took place throughout the whole diocese of Rouen.
Father Guillebert was eloquent as well as learned,
and this fact, added to the novelty and force of his
teachings, brought all sorts of people, from far and
from near, to hear him. Rouville was crowded with
8o Sister and Saint,
guests, and members of the parliament of Rouen were
accustomed to hire lodgings in the village of a Satur-
day so as to be ready for the Sabbath services. Sun-
day travehng was, apparently, not so fashionable then
as it has since become.
The new doctrines became the town talk of Rouen,
and, whatever their opinion concerning them, the
Pascals must have shared in the general interest, and
very possibly were sometimes among Guillebert's
hearers. But, for a year or two after Madame Perier's
marriage, we lose her graphic family narrative, and
have no record of the details of their life.
Sainte-Beuve thinks he can trace in Corneille's
writings after this time the influence of the truths
preached at Rouville, though the poet, educated by
the Jesuits, and closely connected with them in many
ways, remained through life attached to that party.
However this may be, no intelligent person living at
this time in Rouen could have failed to be more or
less affected by these things, and the Pascals had
doubtless before this watched with interest the cardi-
nal's proceedings against St. Cyran.
It was at last, however, by one of those seeming
accidents on which so often human destinies are
hinged, that these solemn questions of truth and
duty became vital realities to our friends. Up to this
time they had been upright, conscientious, devout,
but not, as they expressed it, " eclaire."
''The Obstacle becomes the Ijistrtimcntl'' 8i
One day, in the winter of 1646, M. Pascal slipped
and fell on the ice, seriously spraining or dislocating
his thigh. One account mentions that it was " while
absent from home on a charitable errand " that the
accident took place.
Now there were living in the neighborhood of
Rouen two wealthy gentlemen, brothers, named
Deslandes and De la Bouteillerie,* who seem to
have been surgeons by nature, and who were often
called upon to remedy such accidents.
These gentlemen had become, under the preaching
of Guillebert, humble and active Christians. Each of
them had erected a small hospital in his own park,
Deslandes, who had ten children, furnishing his
building with ten beds and De la Bouteillerie, who
â€¢was childless, providing for twice that number of
patients. Both spent most of their time in attend-
ance on the sick, and they were always ready at any
call to exercise their remarkable skill in setting broken
or dislocated bones.
M. Pascal " placed no confidence in any one else,"
his daughter tells us, and sent at once for these good
brothers, who not only came, but, both of them, re-
mained in the family three months in order to insure
This was the turning point in Jacqueline Pascal's
* Brothers in French families are often known by different names
according to their estates.
82 Sister and Saiiit.
life. These three months were the quick, warm sum-
mer sent to ripen the character we have seen already
in its fragrant flower. True, conscientious, enthusias-
tic â€” much that was right and lovely and pure â€” she
had been before. She now becomes (and recognizes
herself as such) a loving child of God. She now
seeks first His kingdom and His righteousness, and
all these other things are added unto her.
Just when the change came we can not know.
" Who ever saw the earliest rose
First open her sweet breast ?
Or, when the summer sun goes down,
The first soft star in evening's crown
Light up her gleaming Erest 1 "
But at some time during this period the influences
of all her past life, gracious and merciful, and leading
always up to this point, culminated in the influences
of the moment, and she stepped into a larger life â€” â–
she became partaker of the Eternal Life.
"Toward the end of the year 1646, about ten
months after the accident," writes Gilbertej "when
M. Bellay, the bishop of the diocese, was holding an
ordination at Rouen, my sister, who had not yet been
confirmed, wished to receive this sacrament. She
prepared for it according to instructions which she
found in some little treatises of M. de St. Cyran, and
we have reason to believe that she then truly received
"The Obstacle becomes the Instrumenty 2>t,
the Holy Spirit, for, from that time, she was greatly
The residence of these two physicians with the
Pascals did not affect Jacqueline alone. The whole
household p'rofited by their presence. Their improv-
ing conversation and the simple goodness of their
lives, we are told, first attracted the hearts of all, and
then there came the natiiral curiosity to see the books
which they mentioned as having been helpful and in-
spiring to them.
" Thus they became acquainted," says Madame
Perier, "with the works of M. Jansen, M. de St.
Cyran, M. Arnauld, and with other writings by which
they were greatly edified."
Blaise, with his eager, searching mind, was not long
in investigating the truths now brought so near to
him. And, once carefully considered, he honestly
and heartily adopted them, and gave up his life to the
service of God. " He comprehended perfectly," says
his sister, " that the Christian religion obliges us to
live for God alone, and to have no other object, and
this truth appeared to him so evident, so necessary,
and so practical, that he brought to an end all his re-
searches, and from that time renounced all other
knowledge to apply himself alone to that ' one thing '
which Jesus Christ calls needful."
In " giving up all other knowledge and terminating
all his researches," Blaise Pascal went through, as we
84 Sister a7id Saini.
shall see, a terrible struggle â€” it may seem to us a
needlessly violent one. But one temptation he did
not have. Skepticism, which has troubled so many
minds before his day and since, seems never to have
attacked him. He had no doubts in regard to the
vital and eternal truths of Christianity. His grasp of
mind was so large and his intellect so clear that he
did not confuse, as so many have done, the different
realms of truth. He recognized that spiritual things
can not be discerned as material things are discerned,
or judged as material things are judged. His wise
father had "taught him from infancy that .that
which is the object of faith can not be the object
of reason, much less can it be submitted to reason."
"This maxim, often reiterated by a father for whom
he had great respect, and in whom he saw great
knowledge, accompanied with a very clear and
powerful reason, made so great an impression on his
mind that, whatever discourse he may have heard
which tended to free-thinking, he was in no way
moved by it ; and even when he was very young, he
regarded skeptics as men who were acting on a false
principle, viz, that the human reason is above every-
thing else, and as men who did not understand the
nature of faith."
" Thus," continues Madame Perier, " this mind, so
large, so grasping, and so full of curiosity, which
searched with so much care for the cause and the
" The Obstacle becomes' the Instrument." 85
reason of everything, was, at the same time, in mat-
ters of religion, trustful as a little child.
"This simplicity governed his whole life, so that, in
after-years, when his whole heart was engrossed with
spiritual realities, he never busied himself with curi-
ous questions of theology, but applied the full
strength of his mind to understand and to practice
Christian holiness, dedicating to this all his talents,
and meditating day and night on the law of his God."
What a Christian character was that ! Happy Jac-
queline, who could walk hand in hand with such a
brother in the way which, though they found it nar-
row, they also found a way of exceeding pleasant-
ness ! Happy father, who now, " not ashamed to
become the child of his children," followed after them
in this way of life !
In the course of the winter M. and Madame Perier
visited Rouen and became the subjects of a like
change. And thus the whole family rejoiced together
in the love of God, and entered with enthusiastic de-
votion on the highest service possible to human souls.
During the years immediately preceding the con-
version of the Pascals, great changes had taken place
In December, 1642, Cardinal Richelieu died, and a
few months afterward, the king, Louis XIIL, leav-
ing the kingdom in the hands of Anne of Austria as
Regent, with Cardinal Ma^arin for Prime Minister.
86 Sister and Saint.
The young king, Louis XIV., was but five years of
age at the time of his father's death.
When Richeheu died, many a prison-door was
opened, and among those hberated was St. Cyran.
His years in prison had been fruitful ones. As is
so often the case in the Hves of good men, ''the
obstacle became the instrument," and the letters
written from his cell and circulated with enthusiastic
industry by his friends and disciples, probably did
more good than he, in his own person, could have
effected. Especially was religious interest quickened
among the nobility by Richelieu's violent measure.
The Duchess d'Aiguillon interceded with her uncle
for St. Cyran, but without the success which had at-
tended her efforts for M. Pascal during Jacqueline's
childhood. She obtained permission, however, to
visit the prisoner and to take d'Andilly with her, and
through this latter faithful friend St. Cyran was kept
supplied with pencils and paper. The duchess also
visited Port Royal, and the convent became, we are
told, " a fashionable resort of the court," much to the
discomfort of the good abbesses Angelique and
Agnes. They were willing, however, to do what they
could for human souls, whatever their station in this
life. They showed infinite patience, tenderness, and
charity toward the Princess de Guemene, for exam-
ple, who was one of their most constant visitors, but
a woman of light and frivolous character. Her fre-
''The Obstacle becomes the Btstrument!' 87
quent '* retreats " to the convent, and her long con-
versations with them on spiritual matters gave them
great hope of her. But St. Cyran, to whom all these
things were faithfully reported, knew the world better
than they did. " The grace of God in that woman's
soul," he wrote, "is like a spark kindled on an icy
pavement with the winds blowing on it from every
quarter." And so it proved.
But in some seemingly unpromising spots the well-
tended spark increased to a flame both warm and
bright. Among the " illustrious women of the seven-
teenth century " (of whom Cousin has given us some
delightful studies, and first of whom, by the way, he
places our own Jacqueline Pascal), we find many
whose hearts have caught, in greater or less degree,
the gracious warmth and light.
A beautiful example of thorough and sincere con-
version was Madame de St. Ange, a member of the
household of Anne of Austria. This lady, we are
told, " was soon promoted by St. Cyran from the
rank of disciple to that of friend," and she became
one of the most faithful of his agents in the distribu-
tion of charity.
Pleasant stories are told of St. Cyran's thoughtful
kindness for others while in prison. At one time he
bestows a wedding dowry on a poor maiden. Again,
he sends for a black coat for a poor mad prisoner who
can not endure the sight of the gray clothes he wears.
88 Sister and Saint.
Among the prisoners were a Baron and Baroness de
Beausoleil, who were very destitute and poorly clad.
St. Cyran sent directions to have clothing bought for
them, and added : " Pray let the cloth be good and
fine, such as befits their rank. I do not know what is
proper, but I think I have heard somewhere that
gentlemen and ladies of their condition can not ap-
pear without gold lace for the men and black lace for
the women. If so, pray get the best, and, in short,
let all be done modestly, but yet handsomely, that, in
looking at each other, they may for a few minutes
forget that they are captives."
Against this waste his almoner remonstrated.
("Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred
pence and given to the poor?") But St. Cyran an-
swered : "I do not believe that the Lord, who com-
mands me to give unto Csesar that which is Caesar's,
will account me a bad steward for giving modestly to
each according to that rank in which He placed them."
Let us ponder this lesson â€” all of us active philan-
thropists who are so much inclined to give to the
needy not what they wish, but what we think they
ought to wish â€” who willingly " bestow our goods to
feed the poor, and have not charity."
As we have seen in the case of Guillebert, St. Cy-
ran's influence on his fellow-prisoners often produced
wide-spread results. All were, at least, impressed by
his character, if not convinced by his teachings.
''The Obstacle becomes the Instrument^ 89
John de Wert, a Spanish nobleman and prisoner of
war, who was also at Vincennes, was once released
for a few days on parole, and invited to a magnifi-
cent ballet given by Richelieu for the express purpose
of impressing the foreign ministers and prisoners with
French wealth and magnificence. The cardinal
seated his noble guest next to him, and, somewhat
chagrined by his unbroken silence through the entire
spectacle, at last asked what had most impressed him
of all the remarkable things he had seen in France.
"My lord," answered John de Wert at once, "noth-
ing has so much astonished me in the dominion of his
Most Christian Majesty, as to see ecclesiastics amusing
themselves at theaters while saints languish in prison."
Great and general was the joy when, shortly after
Richelieu's death, St. Cyran obtained his release.
D'Andilly went to bring him away in his carriage,
and they drove once more through the forest of Vin-
cennes. " No captive," says Mrs. Schimmelpen-