The Abbe Henri de Tourvile (1842 - 1903) trained in philosophy and religion and became a priest in 1873. Having struggled with poor health, he developed the inner spiritual resources which would make him an exceptional director of souls.

In this collection of letters selected and translated by Robin Waterfield, the Abbe de Tourville explores the ups and downs of the spiritual life with many observations and insights on grace, faith, and meaning. He sees the purpose of spiritual direction "not to introduce you to a ready-made interior life complete in all its parts, but rather to direct and encourage those natural gifts and enthusiasms which it has pleased God to endow you with, and which come from Him alone."

Although these missives were written in the nineteenth century, there is an evergreen quality to the topics covered and de Tourville's Christian responses. To a question of how we assess how far we have gone on the spiritual journey, he counsels us to keep on the path and to accept whatever comes our way as a training in spiritual maturity:

"You should in no way be disturbed by the ups and downs in your spiritual life of which you speak. We could never love seriously and solidly if our love depended on these inevitable fluctuations in our feelings. You should pay no more attention to them than our Lord does; He does not take offence, keep that firmly in mind."

At one point de Tourville compares Jesus to an alpine guide who supports us by a rope which He has tied us to Himself: "Do not be afraid, believe simply and firmly that God is perfection in His handling of the souls who have put their trust in Him — that is to say, in his dealings with you. . . . Abandon yourself in loving confidence to God who loves you. Be brave enough to hold on firmly to the fact that God's care for you is a masterpiece of His loving choice — rest always in this unalterable conviction."

The letters also contain advice on matters such as humility, living without fuss, and handling worries, preoccupations, and fears. The Abbe of Tourville is a sagacious spiritual director who knows how to lift the spirits of those he is advising. Here is a practice he suggests that will serve you well: "Say to yourself, God loves me beyond all I can imagine or put into words. Let this be at the heart of your being and become the whole of your devotion and never let go of it. You will soon find that this is the way to find God."