Such were these two years of inward labour, which I cannot compare to anything better than a violent attack of encephalitis, during which all my other functions of life were suspended. With a certain amount of Hebraic pedantry, I called this crisis in my life Naphtali, and I often repeated to myself the Hebrew saying: “Napktoule elohim niphtali (I have fought the fight of God).” My inward feelings were not changed, but each day a stitch in the tissue of my faith was broken; the immense amount of work which I had in hand prevented me from drawing the conclusion. My Hebrew lecture absorbed my whole thoughts; I was like a man holding his breath. My director, to whom I confided my difficulties, replied in just the same terms as M. Gosselin at Issy: “Inroads upon your faith! Pay no heed to that; keep straight on your way.” One day he got me to read the letter which St. Francois de Sales wrote to Madame de Chantal: “These temptations are but afflictions like unto others. I may tell you that I have known but few persons who have achieved any progress without going through this ordeal; patience is the only remedy. You must not make any reply, nor appear to hear what the enemy says. Let him make as much noise at the door as he likes without so much as exclaiming, ‘Who is there?’”
The general practice of ecclesiastical directors is, in fact, to advise those who confess to feeling doubts concerning the faith not to dwell upon them. Instead of postponing the engagements on this account, they rather hurry them forward, thinking that these difficulties will disappear when it is too late to give practical effect to them, and that the cares of an active clerical career will ultimately dispel these speculative-doubts. In this regard, I must confess that I found my godly directors rather deficient in wisdom. My director in Paris, a very enlightened man withal, was anxious that I should be at once ordained a sub-deacon, the first of the holy orders which constitutes an irrevocable tie. I refused point-blank. So far as regarded the first steps of the ecclesiastical state, I had obeyed him. It was he himself who pointed out to me that, the exact form of the engagement which they imply is contained in the words of the Psalm which are repeated: “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup; thou maintainest my lot.” Well, I can honestly declare that I have never been untrue to that engagement. I have never had any other interest than that of the truth, and I have made many sacrifices for it. An elevated idea has always sustained me in the conduct of my life, so much so that I am ready to forego the inheritance which, according to our reciprocal arrangement, God ought to restore to me: “The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly inheritance”
My friend in the seminary of St. Brieuc had decided, after much hesitation, to take holy orders. I have found the letter which I wrote to him on the 26th of March, 1844, at a time when my doubts with regard to religion were not disturbing my peace of mind so much as they had done.