The Wisdom of St. Francis de Sales



Saint Francis De Sales was a Bishop ofthe Church in the early Seventeenth Century.At a time of great upheaval and divisionsin the Church, he worked tirelesslyto restore unity and brought many peopleback to the Catholic Faith.In addition to his duties as a Bishop, hefound time for writing and is considered tobe one of the greatest writers in the historyof the Church. So great has been hisinfluence that he was named a Doctor ofthe Church, a title which the Church hasgiven to only a small number of saints.This book is an attempt to make theteachings of Saint Francis De Sales moreeasily attainable and widely known. Itscontents are taken from his classic work,An Introduction to the Devout Life. It ishoped that readers will find in it a usefulsummary of these teachings and, as aresult, be better able to practice them intheir own lives.

Transcript of The Wisdom of St. Francis de Sales

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PART ONE: PRAYER AND THE SACRAMENTSSection One: The Word of God 7Section Two: Devotion to Mary,

the Angels, and the Saints 7Section Three: The Confession

of Sins 9Section Four: The Holy Eucharist 10Section Five: Other Public Devotions 12Section Six: The Spirit

of Recollection 13Section Seven: Consolations

in Prayer 13

PART TWO: THE VIRTUESSection One: The Selection of Virtues 16Section Two: Patience 17Section Three: Humility 20Section Four: Obedience 22Section Five: Chastity 23Section Six: Poverty of Spirit 25


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Section Seven: Self-Denial 28Section Eight: Modesty 30Section Nine: Faithfulness to Duty 32Section Ten: Social Virtues 34

PART THREE: OBSTACLES TO VIRTUESection One: Opposition from

the World 39Section Two: Temptations 40Section Three: Harmful Desires 42Section Four: Dangerous

Amusements 44Section Five: Anger 46Section Six: Rash Judgment

and Detraction 48Section Seven: Anxiety 51Section Eight: Sadness 53

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Saint Francis De Sales was a Bishop ofthe Church in the early Seventeenth Cen-tury. At a time of great upheaval and divi-sions in the Church, he worked tirelesslyto restore unity and brought many peopleback to the Catholic Faith.

In addition to his duties as a Bishop, hefound time for writing and is considered tobe one of the greatest writers in the his-tory of the Church. So great has been hisinfluence that he was named a Doctor ofthe Church, a title which the Church hasgiven to only a small number of saints.

This book is an attempt to make theteachings of Saint Francis De Sales moreeasily attainable and widely known. Itscontents are taken from his classic work,An Introduction to the Devout Life. It ishoped that readers will find in it a usefulsummary of these teachings and, as aresult, be better able to practice them intheir own lives.


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1. THE WORD OF GODAlways pay careful attention to the

word of God, whether you hear or read it inprivate, or listen to it when publicly pro-claimed. Listen with attentiveness andreverence; seek to profit by it; and do notlet the precious words fall unheeded; . . .imitate the Blessed Virgin, who “kept allthe sayings” concerning her Son “in herheart.” And remember that according tothe way in which we listen to and receiveGod’s words, so will He listen to andreceive our prayers.

2. DEVOTION TO MARY, THEANGELS, AND THE SAINTSHonor, reverence, and love the glorious

Virgin Mary, for she is the mother of ourLord, and therefore our mother also. Fly toher as her child, and cast yourself at herknees with a perfect confidence at alltimes, and on all occasions. Call on this


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dear mother, appeal to her maternal love,and strive to imitate her virtues.

* * *

Familiarize yourself with the thought ofthe holy angels and honor especially theguardian angel of the diocese in which youlive, those of your neighbors, and above allyour own. Call on them and honor themoften, and ask their help in all your affairs,temporal as well as spiritual.

* * *

Choose as your patrons some saints inparticular, to whose life and imitation youare most drawn, and in whose intercessionyou have a special confidence. The saintwhose name you bear is already assignedyou from your baptism.

* * *

The Rosary is a most helpful form ofprayer, if you know how to say it properly;for this purpose, use one of the bookletswhich explain it. The litanies of our Lord,of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints,

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and all the other prayers which you find inthe authorized prayer books are helpful.

3. THE CONFESSION OF SINSOur Savior has left in His Church the

Sacrament of Penance and Confession, inorder that as often as our souls are stainedby sin we may cleanse and purify them.Since then you have so sure and simple aremedy at hand, never permit your heartto remain long sullied by sin.

* * *

Always have a sincere hatred of the sinsyou confess, even if they are small, and aheartfelt resolution to amend. Some rou-tinely and from mere habit confess theirvenial sins without thinking of correctingthem, and continuing in them, lose muchspiritual good. If, therefore, you make aninsincere confession through want ofthought, hasty words, or self-indulgence,repent heartily and firmly resolve toamend, for it is an abuse of the confessionalto confess any sins, either mortal or venial,without resolving to discontinue them.

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* * *

Be sure also to mention those detailswhich explain the nature of your fault,such as the cause which excited youranger, or led you to encourage what waswrong . . . By this means, your confessorobtains a more perfect knowledge of theheart he has to deal with, and of the treat-ment to be adopted. But, as far as possible,avoid naming any third persons in yourconfessions.

4. THE HOLY EUCHARISTAttempt, if possible, to be present daily

at the Holy Mass, that, together with thepriest, you may offer the sacrifice of yourRedeemer to His Divine Father in yourbehalf and that of the whole Church. Theholy angels are always present in greatnumbers to honor this holy mystery,according to Saint John Chrysostom, andwe may hope to be made partakers of theirholiness when we are gathered togetherwith them to the same intent; and thechoirs of the Church Triumphant as well

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as the Church Militant join themselves toour Lord in this divine action, thatthrough Him, with Him, and in Him, wemay as it were take God by storm, andobtain His mercy and love. What a privi-lege to be united in so blessed and mightyan action!

* * *

After receiving Communion, offer yourdevout homage to the King of our salva-tion, reveal to Him all of your inmostthoughts and concerns, and cherish Hispresence within you for your exceedingbenefit. In short, give Him the best wel-come you can, and prove by the holiness ofall your actions that God is with you.When you are unable to receive Him in theHoly Eucharist, unite yourself by desire tothis life-giving flesh of the Savior, andmake a spiritual communion in yourheart.

* * *

Your chief aim in Holy Communionshould be to advance, strengthen, and

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comfort yourself in the love of God, receiv-ing for love’s sake what love alone cangive. There is nothing in which the love ofChrist is set forth more tenderly or touch-ingly than in this Sacrament, by which He,so to speak, annihilates Himself for us andassumes the form of bread, in order to feedus and unite Himself closely to the bodiesand souls of the faithful.

5. OTHER PUBLIC DEVOTIONSTake advantage of the societies (or con-

fraternities) which exist where you are,especially those whose rules abound mostin good works and example. This obedienceis pleasing to God, for though the Churchdoes not require such ties, she highly rec-ommends them, as shown by the fact thatshe grants indulgences and other privi-leges to confraternities; and it is alwaysprofitable to be joined to others and coop-erate in good works. And although youmight perform equally pious exercises byyourself, and perhaps with more self-grat-ification, yet God is more glorified by ourbeing united to our friends and neighbors.

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6. THE SPIRIT OF RECOLLECTIONRemember then to retire often into the

solitude of your heart, even while you areexternally occupied in business or society.This mental solitude can take place eventhough many persons are around you, forthey only surround your body and not yourheart, which should remain alone in thepresence of God. This was what KingDavid did throughout his many cares, andwe find him in the Psalms continuallyexclaiming, “My God, You are ever beforeme! The Lord is ever on my right hand! ToYou, O Lord, I lift up my eyes! O You whodwell in the heavens! My eyes are alwayslooking to the Lord!”

7. CONSOLATIONS IN PRAYERI would say, then, that devotion does not

consist in that sweetness, consolation, andvisible tenderness which provokes tearsand sighs, and gives us a certain agreeablesavor and satisfaction in our spiritualexercises. No, this is not the same thing asdevotion; for there are many souls whoexperience these enjoyments and consola-

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tions, and nevertheless have many vices,and thus have no true love of God, muchless any true devotion.

* * *

These emotions and affections are, how-ever, at times good and useful, for theyexcite the soul’s appetite, comfort themind, and add to the earnestness of devo-tion a holy joy and gladness which renderseven our outward actions nice and pleas-ant.

* * *

If we enjoy much sweetness and conso-lation, we must humble ourselves pro-foundly before God, and beware of sayingon account of such favors, “How good Iam!” No, for such advantages do not proveus good, nor, as I have said, does devotionconsist in them. Let us rather say, “Oh howgood God is to those who love Him, and tothe soul that seeks after Him!”

* * *

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Blessed Angela of Foligno says that theprayer most acceptable to God is thatwhich is made with difficulty and con-straint; that is, which we undertake notfrom our own taste or inclination, butsolely in order to please God, to which weare as it were driven by our will, conquer-ing and doing violence to the repugnanceand dryness which we feel. It is the samein regard to all other good works, for themore reluctance we feel towards their per-formance (be it external or internal), somuch the more precious and estimablethey are in the sight of God. The less self-interest we have in the pursuit of virtue,the greater therein will be the purity andbrightness of our love for God.

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1. THE SELECTION OF VIRTUESWe should always concentrate more on

those virtues which are most required ofus rather than those which are most to ourliking. . . . Thus, the apostles, who werecommissioned to preach the Gospel and tofeed souls with the Bread of Life, rightlyjudged that they should not forsake thisduty in order to minister to the bodilyneeds of the poor, even though this in itselfis such a sacred duty. Every state of lifeimposes some special duty; differentvirtues are required of a bishop, a prince,or a soldier—the wife has her duties, thewidow hers, and although all should prac-tice every virtue, still they should seek toadvance mainly in those virtues especiallyrequired by the state of life to which Godhas called them.

* * *

But there are some virtues of universalapplication, which should infuse their


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spirit into everything. We rarely haveopportunities for the practice of courage,magnanimity, and great sacrifices; butevery action of our daily lives should beinfluenced by gentleness, moderation,humility, and purity. Some qualities maybe more eminent, but these are the mostneeded. . . . Therefore, we should be rich inthese everyday virtues, of which we are insuch constant need.

* * *

If we are hindered by some particularvice, we should strive as far as possible tocultivate the opposite virtue in all that wedo; for by this means we shall subdue theenemy and continue to advance in allvirtue. If I am especially tempted by prideor anger, I must seek above all to practicehumility and gentleness, and call in all myother devout acts of prayer, the sacra-ments, prudence, perseverance, and tem-perance to my aid.

2. PATIENCECall to mind frequently that it was by

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suffering and endurance that our Lordsaved us, and that it is appropriate that wetoo must do our part to work out our salva-tion by sufferings and afflictions, bearinginjuries, contradictions, and annoyanceswith the greatest calm and gentleness.

* * *

Do not limit your patience to this or thatkind of injury or trouble, but let it embraceevery sort of trial that God sends or per-mits to come upon you. There are somepersons who are willing to suffer, providedthe sufferings are of a kind that bringhonor with them. . . . The truly patient ser-vant of God bears the troubles that bringcontempt no less willingly than those thatare esteemed honorable.

* * *

When you are overtaken by some mis-fortune, seek the remedies which Godaffords you, for not to do so would betempting His divine providence; but hav-ing done so, await the result with perfectresignation. If He sees fit to permit the

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remedies to overcome the evil, thank Himhumbly; but if, on the other hand, He per-mits the evil to overcome the remedies,patiently bless His Holy Name and sub-mit.

* * *

As far as possible, do not complain of theinjuries done to you, for as a general rule,he who complains errs, since our self-lovealways exaggerates our injuries; but,above all, do not complain to those who areeasily excited to anger and ready to thinkill of others. If it is necessary to complainat all, either for redress or to relieve yourmind, let it be to someone of a peaceful dis-position who truly loves God; for others,instead of soothing you, will only exciteyou still more: instead of removing thethorn from your foot, they will drive it indeeper.

When you are sick, offer to Christ ourLord all your pains, your suffering, andyour weakness, and ask Him to unite themto those He bore for you. . . . Be willing tosuffer in obedience to His will, and be pre-

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pared to die when He calls you, that youmay be with Him and praise Him forever.Remember that when the bee makeshoney it often feeds upon bitter juices, andwe have no better opportunity of makingacts of patience and gentleness than whenwe are eating the bread of bitterness andliving in the midst of sufferings.

3. HUMILITYThe desire and pursuit of virtue tend to

make us virtuous, but the desire and pur-suit of honors tend to make us hateful anddespicable. A truly noble mind will notwaste itself on such empty goods as rank,honor, and form. It has higher pursuits,and leaves these for the weak and vain. Hewho can procure pearls will not be satis-fied with shells, and those who aim atvirtue do not trouble themselves abouthonors.

* * *

True humility does not pretend to behumble and makes few lowly speeches, forshe not only desires to hide other virtues

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but, above all, to hide herself. . . . Myadvice, therefore, is that you do not aboundin expressions of humility or, at least, let adeep inward belief agree with whateveryou say outwardly. Never cast down youreyes without humbling your heart, and donot pretend that you wish to be among thelast unless you truly desire it in yourheart.

* * *

Some people will not even dare to con-sider and dwell upon the graces which Godhas conferred upon them for fear of vanityand conceit, but they are mistaken. . . . Onthe contrary, a lively consciousness of mer-cies received makes us humble, for suchknowledge gives birth to gratitude. . . .Thus the Blessed Virgin declared whatgreat things God had done for her, but onlyin order to humble herself and exalt Him.“My soul” she says, “magnifies the Lord.. . . For He who is mighty has done greatthings for me.” (St. Luke 1:46-49)

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4. OBEDIENCEThere are two kinds of obedience, one

required and the other voluntary. By thefirst, you are bound to humbly obey yourecclesiastical superiors; that is the Pope,your bishop, your pastor and those whorepresent them. You are further bound toobey your temporal superiors; that is yourgovernment leaders and those officialsappointed by them. Finally, you owe obedi-ence to your domestic superiors, whetherparents or employers. This is required obe-dience, and no one can be exempt from theduty of obeying his superiors, since theirduty to govern and command, according totheir various positions, has been given tothem by God.

* * *

Of necessity, then, you must obey theirorders; but if you would seek perfection,follow also their counsels, and even theirwishes and inclinations, as far as charityand prudence will permit. Obey themwhen they command what is agreeable,such as to eat or rest, for, although there

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seems to be little merit in obeying suchcommands, there is blame in disobedience.. . . Obey them in hard, difficult, displeas-ing things, and that will be perfect obedi-ence. And, last of all, obey meekly withoutanswering back, speedily without delay,cheerfully without brooding, and above all,obey in a loving spirit for love of Him whofor our sake became obedient even untothe death of the Cross, and who, says SaintBernard, preferred losing His life to beingdisobedient.

5. CHASTITYChastity is the lily of the virtues. It ren-

ders humans almost equal to the angels.Nothing is beautiful except through purity,and the purity of human beings is chastity.

* * *

Chastity has its origin in the heart, butits substance is in the body; wherefore it islost by means of the external senses of thebody and by the thoughts and desires ofthe heart. It is impurity to behold, to hear,to speak of, to breathe, to touch impure

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things, if the heart takes delight in them.Saint Paul says, “Let not fornication be somuch as mentioned among you.”

* * *

As the first step to this virtue, beware ofadmitting any kind of bodily pleasure thatis forbidden and prohibited, such as thoseoutside of marriage, or within it if contraryto its rules. As the second step, limit as faras possible all useless and unnecessarypleasures even if they are lawful and per-mitted. Thirdly, do not fix your affectionson the pleasures which are ordained andpermitted, for even if they follow from theend and purpose of holy matrimony, youmust not attach your heart and mind tothem.

* * *

Be extremely prompt in turning awayfrom all that leads and lures to impurity,for this evil works insensibly, and by smallbeginnings progresses to great mischief. Itis always easier to avoid than to cure this.. . . Never permit anyone to trifle with you,

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either from folly or vanity, for althoughchastity may be preserved amidst suchactions if they are light rather than mali-cious, still the flower and freshness ofchastity suffer some hurt and damage; butall impure contact is the utter ruin ofchastity.

* * *

Do not associate with immodest per-sons, above all if they are forward, which isusually the case. . . . On the contrary, asso-ciate with chaste and virtuous persons;read and often think about sacred things,for the word of God is chaste, and rendersthose who take delight therein chaste also.. . . Abide ever near to Jesus Christ cruci-fied, spiritually in meditation and actuallyin Holy Communion.

6. POVERTY OF SPIRIT“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs

is the kingdom of Heaven.” (St. Matthew5:3) Woe then to those who are rich inspirit, for their portion will be Hell. He isrich in spirit whose heart is in his riches,

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and whose riches fill his heart. He is poorin spirit who has not riches in his heart,nor his heart in riches.

* * *

No one will admit to being greedy;everyone repudiates this despicable nar-rowness of heart. People excuse them-selves on the claim of providing for theirchildren, or on that of prudence and fore-sight; they never have too much, butalways find some excuse for seeking more;and even the greatest misers not only willnot admit to their greed, but in theirhearts do not believe themselves to begreedy, for it is like a burning fever which,as it grows stronger, is less noticed by itsvictim.

* * *

Therefore, do not form desires for thosethings which you do not have, and do notfix your heart on that which you do have;do not be overpowered by such losses asyou may incur, and then although you arerich in fact, you are not in spirit, but that,

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being poor in spirit, you are blessedbecause the kingdom of Heaven is yours.

* * *

If you are really poor, then above all bepoor in spirit, and make a virtue of neces-sity by using that precious stone poverty tothe best advantage. We do not see its gloryin this world, and yet it is of the greatestbeauty and value. Have patience; you arein good company. Our Lord, our BlessedLady, the apostles, and countless saintswere poor, and despised the riches whichthey might have enjoyed.

* * *

Do not, then, complain of your poverty,for we complain only of that which dis-pleases us; and if poverty displeases you,you are no longer poor in spirit, for yourheart would rather be otherwise; neitherbe troubled because you have less securitythan you need, for therein lies the excel-lence of poverty. To wish to be poor withoutsuffering any inconvenience is to be veryambitious, for then you aim at the honor of

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poverty and the convenience of wealth.

7. SELF-DENIALIf you are able to fast, you will do well to

observe something beyond what isrequired by the Church; for in addition tothe ordinary benefits of fasting, namelylifting up the mind, subduing the flesh,strengthening virtue, and earning an eter-nal reward, it is important to be able tocontrol our tastes and inclinations, and tokeep the body and its appetites subject tothe law of the spirit.

* * *

I am inclined to say as Saint Jeromesaid to the good lady, Leta, “I disapprove oflong and immoderate fasting, especiallyfor the young.” I have learned from experi-ence that when the young colt wearies ofhis trip, he tries to stop; that is to say, thatwhen young people are weakened byexcessive fasting, they are easily led intoself-indulgence and luxury. The horse runsbadly both when it is too fat and when it istoo thin, and we are exposed to temptation

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when the body is over-indulged and whenit is over-subdued; for as the one makes itlazy and inactive, so the other makes itweak and despondent; and just as we can-not control it when it is over-fed, neithercan it serve us when it is under-fed. . . . Acontinual, habitual temperance is far bet-ter than occasional, rigid abstinence alter-nating with great relaxation.

* * *

Everyone should take that appropriateamount of sleep in the night which theyrequire for being usefully awake in theday. The Holy Bible, the example of thesaints, and our own natural reason allteach us that the morning is the best andmost profitable part of the day. OurBlessed Lord Himself is called the RisingSun and His mother the Morning Star. Irecommend to you, therefore, to go to restearly at night, so that you may awake andrise early in the morning, which is themost pleasing and least troubled time ofthe day; the very birds call us to awaken tothe praise of God; and early rising is prof-

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itable for both health and holiness.

8. MODESTYSaint Paul desires Christian women

(and he undoubtedly includes men) toadorn themselves in decent apparel withmodesty and sobriety. (1st Timothy 2:9)Now propriety in dress and its appear-ances consists in material, fashion, andcleanliness. As to the latter, it should beinvariable, and as far as possible youshould avoid all dirt and sloppiness. Out-ward purity is as it were a sign of thatwhich is within; and God Himself espe-cially required personal cleanliness ofthose who ministered at His altars andtook the chief part in devotion. As to thematerial and fashion of clothes, proprietyin these respects depends upon various cir-cumstances such as time, age, rank, thosewith whom you associate; and it varieswith different occasions. . . . Learn to beneat, and let nothing about you be slovenlyor disorderly. It is an affront to those withwhom you associate to be unsuitablydressed, but avoid all conceits, vanities,

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finery, and affectation. Adhere as far aspossible to modesty and simplicity which,undoubtedly, are the best ornaments ofbeauty and the best remedies for its defi-ciency.

* * *

Saint James says, “If any man does notoffend in word, the same is a perfect man.He is also able with a bridle to lead aboutthe whole body.” (St. James 3:2) Beware ofever using any impure expressions, foreven if you have no bad intention, thosewho hear you may receive them differ-ently. Impure words fall on a weak heartlike oil on a cloth, spreading all around,and may fill it with evil thoughts anddefile it. As bodily poison enters in by themouth, so that of the heart enters by theear, and the tongue that utters it is a mur-derer. . . . If any foolish person speaks toyou in unbecoming language, show thatyour ears are offended, either by turningaway from him or by whatever means maybe most discreet at the time.

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9. FAITHFULNESS TO DUTYIn reading in the life of Saint Catherine

of Siena of all her visions and raptures, hersacred wisdom and discourses . . . at thesame time I delighted to find her attendingto the lowly household cares in her father’shouse, turning the roast, lighting the fire,cooking and baking, with a heart full oflove and yearning towards God. Nor do Ivalue the humble meditations which occu-pied her while engaged in such lowlychores less than the ecstasies and raptureswhich she so often enjoyed. . . .

* * *

Hence, I would have you learn howimportant it is that all our actions, how-ever small, be offered to God. And to thisend, imitate the virtuous woman describedby King Solomon (Proverbs 31), who, whileshe stretched out her hand to great andhonorable things, did not neglect her spin-dle and distaff. Apply yourself to great andhonorable things in prayer and medita-tion, in the sacraments, in telling of God’slove and spreading His knowledge in all

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hearts, and in all such important works asbefit your vocation. But do not neglect yourspindle and distaff, that is to say practicethose lowly, hidden virtues which springlike flowers from the foot of the cross, suchas visiting the poor, ministering to thesick, household cares and the laborsinvolved in them, and then you will neverbe idle; meanwhile, intersperse all suchoccupations with pious reflections afterthe example of Saint Catherine.

* * *

Great occasions for serving God rarelyoffer themselves. Small ones constantlyoccur, and Christ Himself has said: “Hewho is faithful in that which is least, isalso faithful in that which is greater.” (St.Luke 16:10) If then you do all in the nameof God, you will do all well, whether youeat or whether you drink, whether yousleep or rest from labor, whether you areengaged in honorable or menial tasks. Ifyou conduct them rightly, you may greatlyadvance your salvation, doing all thingsbecause such is the will of God.

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10. SOCIAL VIRTUESTo seek society and to avoid it are alike

blamable extremes for those who are liv-ing in the world, and it is to them I amspeaking. By avoiding it, we indicate dis-like and contempt for our neighbor; and byseeking it, we imply idleness and inactiv-ity. . . . If then you are not called upon toreceive or enter society, remain by yourselfand hold converse with your own heart.But if you are rightly called on to join insociety, then go as in God’s sight and mixwith a free and loving heart among yourcompanions.

* * *

It is a bad society which has a bad objectas its aim, or which is composed of evildo-ers; from indiscreet or extravagant per-sons turn away, just as the bee turns awayfrom all that is foul and impure. . . . As tothe society of virtuous and pious persons,the more often you seek such, the better.The vine that is planted amidst olive treesbears the richest fruit, and the soul that isconstantly associated with holy people

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must receive their good qualities. . . . It isa great advantage to be associated withthe truly devout.

* * *

Always be impartial and just in yourdeeds. Put yourself into your neighbor’splace, and him in yours, and then you willjudge fairly. When you buy, act as thoughyou were the seller, and when you sell, actas though you were the buyer, and you willbuy and sell with justice. . . . Frequently,therefore, examine your heart, whether itis so disposed towards your neighbor asyou would have his disposed towards you ifyou were to change places, for this is thetrue test.

* * *

Let your speech be gentle, frank, sin-cere, clear, simple, and truthful. Avoid allduplicity, deception, and pretense; for,although it is not expedient to tell every-thing which is true, it is never permissibleto tell what is not. Never allow yourself totell a lie in the way of excuse or otherwise,

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remembering that God is a God of truth. Ifyou accidentally say what is untrue, and itis possible to correct yourself at once byexplanation or reparation, do so. A sincereexcuse is far more useful and more power-ful than a lie.

Although there may be occasions inwhich we may prudently and discreetlyhide and withhold the truth, we should notdo so except in matters of importancewhere it is necessary for the glory andservice of God. In truth, all deception isdangerous, for the Holy Spirit will notdwell with the double-minded. No art is sovaluable as simplicity.

* * *

Saint Louis, the king, gave it as a coun-sel never to contradict anyone unless therewas some harm in consenting, in order toavoid altercation and dispute. But when itis necessary to contradict someone, or givean opposite opinion, it should be done gen-tly and skillfully, so as not to irritate ourneighbors; and besides, we gain nothing bybeing harsh. . . . Saint Louis condemned

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private discussion or conversation in gen-eral society, especially at meal times. “Ifanyone has something good to say,” heremarked, “let him give all present thebenefit of it; but let him be silent on pri-vate and important subjects.”

* * *

A spirit of mockery is one of the worstimperfections of the mind, and displeasesGod greatly, so that He has often punishedit most severely. Nothing is more harmfulto charity, and even more to devotion, thancontempt and derision of our neighbor, andsuch is inevitably found in mockery. Forthis reason, it has been said that mockeryis the greatest insult someone can offer tohis neighbor, inasmuch as in other offenseshe does not altogether cease to respect theperson whom he offends, but in this hedespises and condemns him.

* * *

Our hand is quickly raised to the spotwhere we are wounded, and our tongueturns just as quickly to the subject in

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which we delight. If, then, you have a sin-cere love of God, you will often speak ofHim with your family, friends, and neigh-bors. . . . Thus it is said of Saint Francisthat, when he mentioned the Holy Name ofthe Lord, his mouth seemed to be filledwith the sweetest of delicacies. But whenyou speak of God, remember of whom it isyou speak. And let it be with reverence anddevotion, not pompously or as it werepreaching, but with the spirit of gentle-ness, charity, and humility . . . silently ask-ing God to grant that this heavenly dewmay reach the hearts of those who are lis-tening.

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1. OPPOSITION FROM THE WORLDAs soon as worldly people see that you

are trying to lead a holy life, they will heapupon you all their ridicule and slander; themost ill-tempered will accuse you ofhypocrisy, pretense, or intolerance; theywill say that you turned to God only afterbeing rejected by the world; and yourfriends will overwhelm you with a flood ofwhat they consider to be prudent andcharitable objections. . . . “If you had beenof the world,” said our Savior, “the worldwould love its own; but because you arenot of the world, but I have chosen you outof the world, therefore the world hatesyou.” (St. John 15:19)

* * *

Never heed this blind world, then; let itcry out as it will, like a bat that would dis-turb the birds of day. Let us be firm in ourplans, unchanging in our resolutions; per-severance will show that we are sincere in


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offering ourselves to God and leading adevout life. . . . We are crucified to theworld, and the world should be crucified tous.

* * *

Be open in professing your desire to bedevout. I do not refer to being devout, butof desiring to be so. And never be ashamedof the ordinary and necessary actionswhich lead us towards the love of God. . . .For God, who will have no one ashamed ofHim or of the cross, is well pleased withthis readiness to confess that we desire toserve Him and have dedicated ourselves toHis love with special affection.

2. TEMPTATIONSWhenever you feel the approach of

temptation, imitate a little child who seesa wolf or bear in the plain. He instantlyflees into his father’s or mother’s arms, orat least calls on them for help and protec-tion. In a similar way, you should turn toGod, seeking His mercy and help. This isthe remedy taught to us by our Lord Him-

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self: “Pray that you do not enter into temp-tation.” (St. Matthew 26:41)

* * *

But while thus protesting and strug-gling, turn your mind away from yourtemptation and call to mind your Savior;for if you dwell upon the temptation, itmay shake your courage, especially if it isof a violent nature. Divert your mind bysome useful, praiseworthy work, for as thisenters and occupies your heart, it will ban-ish temptations and evil thoughts. . . . Ifafter all this, our temptation still contin-ues to weary and persecute us, we have nofurther remedy except to persevere inprotesting that we will not consent. Forjust as a maiden cannot be married as longas she refuses her consent, in like mannerthe soul, however troubled, cannot beinjured while it refuses its consent.

* * *

Although we must struggle with invinci-ble might against great temptations, andthe victories gained against them are most

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useful; yet, on the whole, we gain more bystruggling against the lesser temptationswhich assault us. For although the greaterones are of a more important nature, thenumber of lesser temptations is so muchmore that the victory over them is worthyto be measured against that over greaterbut less frequent ones. . . . Therefore, whilewe are prepared to contend bravely andwell against great temptations wheneverthey assail us, let us in the meantime bediligent in resisting these lesser, more tri-fling attacks.

3. HARMFUL DESIRESEveryone knows that we must avoid evil

desires, for by indulging in them we toobecome evil; but I would urge you also toavoid desires for those things which aredangerous to the soul, such as dances andsimilar dangerous amusements, honors,titles, visions, raptures, etc.. In all suchthings there is great risk of vanity anddelusion. Do not indulge in longings afterevents which are as yet far distant, forthey only distract and weary the heart,

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often disturbing it seriously. . . . If, when Iam ill, I desire to minister or preach, visitother sick persons, or perform the duties ofthe healthy, are not my wishes fruitlesssince it is not in my power to carry themout? And meanwhile, these useless wishesimpede others which I should have—thewish to be very patient, very resigned, obe-dient, mortified, and gentle during my suf-ferings, which is what for the time beingGod requires of me.

* * *

No person who has an appointed duty orvocation should indulge in wishing forsome manner of life different from thatwhich is suitable to it and its indispensa-ble conditions; for such indulgence dis-turbs the mind and weakens it in theperformance of its necessary duties. If Iwish for the solitude of a Carthusianmonk, I waste my time and allow thisdesire to take the place of that whichought to occupy me, namely, to perform mypresent duty faithfully.

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* * *

Variety and excess of food always over-load the digestion and, if it is weak, ruin it.Do not overload your soul with desires,either worldly ones, which are harmful, orspiritual ones, which will hinder you.When the soul is cleansed and set freefrom evil desires, it experiences a greathunger for spiritual things and eagerlydesires all types of pious exercises in self-denial, penitence, charity, and prayer. Suchan appetite is a good sign, but take carethat you are able to digest all that youwould eat. With the help of your spiritualfather select from among all such practicesthose which are suitable to you and, for thepresent, follow and make the most of them;then God will supply you with others indue season, and you will not waste time inuseless desires.

4. DANGEROUS AMUSEMENTSSometimes we need to relax the mind

and give the body some recreation. . . . It isa defect to be so harsh and rigid that we

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will not allow ourselves or others toindulge in any recreation.

* * *

You must, of course, guard againstexcess either in the time they occupy, orthe importance given to them; for if youdevote too much time, they cease to berecreations and become occupations; youdo not refresh the mind or body—on thecontrary, you overpower and stun both.After playing for five or six hours at chess,the mind is tired and exhausted, and along time spent in any active game wea-ries the body instead of invigorating it. Ifthe interest in a game is too deep, it pro-duces over-anxiety; moreover, it is not wellto attach great importance to such thingsas dexterity and skill in any mere game.Especially avoid attaching yourself tothem, for however allowable such thingsare as amusements, they become evils assoon as they absorb the heart. I do notmean that you may not lawfully takepleasure in your amusement, otherwise itwould not be a recreation, but you must

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not be devoted to it, or anxious andabsorbed in it.

5. ANGERWhen we feel ourselves stirred with pas-

sion,we must imitate the apostles amidstthe raging storm and tempest, and callupon God to help us; then He will bid ourangry passions to be still, and great shallbe our peace. But I would have you remem-ber that when we pray to be delivered fromthe anger with which we are struggling,we should pray gently and calmly, withoutexcitement. . . . Furthermore, as soon asyou are conscious of having committed ahasty action, lose no time in repairing theerror by an act of gentleness towards theperson with whom you have been irritated.. . . Moreover, when you are at peace andwithout any cause for anger, try to lay up astock of gentleness and meekness, alwaysspeaking and acting both in great andsmall things as gently as possible.

* * *

One of the ways in which we should

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practice gentleness has to do with our-selves, in never growing irritable with our-selves because of our imperfections; for,although we have reason to be upset andangry with ourselves when we commitfaults, yet we should guard against a bit-ter, fretful displeasure, or spiteful angerwith ourselves. Some make a great mis-take in being angry because they havebeen angry, hurt because they have beenhurt, and annoyed because they have beenannoyed. Thus, while they think they areridding themselves of anger and that theirsecond passion remedies the first, in truththey are preparing the way for fresh angeras soon as the occasion presents itself.Besides this, all this indignation and vexa-tion and irritation with ourselves tends tofoster pride and springs entirely from self-love, which is displeased at finding that weare not perfect. We should attempt then tolook upon our faults with a calm, collected,firm displeasure.

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6. RASH JUDGMENT AND DETRACTION“Judge not, so that you will not be

judged,” were our Savior’s words; “Con-demn not, and you will not be condemned;”and Saint Paul says, “Judge not before thetime of the Lord, who will both bring tolight the hidden things of darkness andreveal the inner thoughts of the heart.”(1st Corinthians 4:5) Rash judgments aremost displeasing to God, and the judg-ments of men are rash because men arenot each others judges but therein assumethe office of our Lord. They are rash alsosince the chief guilt of sin depends uponthe intention and thought of the heart,which are the hidden things of darkness tous; and they are rash because everyonehas enough to do in judging himself, with-out presuming to judge his neighbor.

* * *

The Blessed Virgin was with child, andSaint Joseph knew it, but he also knewthat she was holy, pure, and angelic, andcould not imagine her to be guilty of sin;

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therefore, he left her to the judgment ofGod. Why did he do this? Scriptureexpressly says because “he was a justman.” (St. Matthew 1:19) The just man,when he can find no excuse for the actionor intention of one whom he has held inhigh esteem, still refuses to condemn him,but rather leaves the judgment to God.

* * *

Whoever unjustly deprives his neighborof his good name is guilty of sin, and is fur-ther obliged to make reparation for hisslander; no one can enter Heaven withanother’s goods, and of all worldly goodsnone is equal to a good reputation. . . . Ibeseech you, therefore, never to speak ill ofanyone, either directly or indirectly.Beware of falsely imputing crimes andsins to your neighbor, of disclosing hissecret faults, of exaggerating those whichare obvious, of badly interpreting goodactions, of denying the good which youknow of, or maliciously concealing or less-ening it, for all these things grievouslyoffend God: above all of falsely accusing

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another or denying the truth to his harm,which involves the double sin of falsehoodand injury.

* * *

But while you are careful to speak noevil regarding your neighbor, beware offalling into the opposite extreme, as somedo who, seeking to avoid slander, praisevice. If you come across a downright slan-derer, do not defend him by calling himfrank and truthful; do not misrepresentdangerous freedoms as simplicity and eas-iness, or call disobedience zeal, or arro-gance self-respect; do not fly from slanderinto flattery and indulgence of vice. . . .

* * *

We may speak freely of notorious andinfamous sinners, but still with charityand compassion, avoiding arrogance andpresumption, and not rejoicing inanother’s ill, which is the sure sign of anevil, cruel heart. Of the enemies of Godand His Church, we must speak openly,since in charity we are bound to give the

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alarm whenever the wolf is found amongthe sheep.

7. ANXIETYAnxiety is the soul’s greatest enemy

besides sin. Just as internal disturbanceand seditions ruin a nation and make itunable to resist external aggression, sowhen the heart is anxious and disquietedit loses the power to preserve those virtueswhich are already acquired and also themeans of resisting the temptations ofSatan, who does not fail (as the sayinggoes) to fish in troubled waters.

* * *

Anxiety proceeds from an ill-regulateddesire to be delivered from the evil weexperience, or to acquire the good to whichwe aspire; nevertheless, nothing aggra-vates evil and hinders good as much asanxiety and worry. When birds are caughtin a trap or net, they cannot escapebecause they flutter and make all kinds ofdisorderly attempts to get free, by meansof which they only entangle themselves

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the more. Therefore, if you sincerely desireto be delivered from some evil, or to attainsome good, above all calm your mind andcompose your judgment and will; then qui-etly and gently pursue your goal, adoptingsuitable means in an orderly way.

* * *

If you can disclose your anxiety to theguide of your soul, or at least to some piousand trustworthy friend, without doubt youwill be speedily relieved. . . . Thus SaintLouis counselled his son, “If your heart istroubled, hasten to reveal it to your confes-sor or to some pious person, and by meansof his compassion, you will be able to eas-ily bear your affliction.”

* * *

Be very careful and diligent in all suchbusiness as pertains to you, for God whohas allotted it to you would have you do itwell. But if possible, avoid solicitude—thatis to say, do not undertake your affairswith disquietude, anxiety, and worry; anddo not hurry and excite yourself about

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them, for all excitement hinders reasonand judgment, and prevents us from doingwell that very thing about which we areexcited.

* * *

In all your undertakings, rely totally onGod’s providence, through which alonethey can succeed; but seek steadily on yourpart to co-operate with it, and then restassured that if you are trusting all to God,whatever happens will be best for you,whether it seems in your own judgment tobe good or bad.

8. SADNESS“The sorrow that is according to God,”

says Saint Paul, “brings forth repentanceand leads to salvation; but the sorrow ofthe world leads to death.” (2nd Corinthi-ans 7:10) Therefore, sorrow may be eithergood or bad, according to its results uponus. . . . It is only towards the good that theenemy uses sorrow as a temptation, forjust as he seeks to make sinners delight intheir sins, so he seeks to make good works

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bitter for the good; and as he can only leadthe one to evil by making it seem agree-able, so can he only deter the other fromwhat is good by making it seem disagree-able. Satan delights in sadness and melan-choly since he himself is sad andmelancholy, and will be so for all eternity,a condition which he would like to have allto share with him.

“Is any among you sad?” asks SaintJames, “let him pray.” (St. James 5:13)Prayer is a sovereign remedy, for it raisesthe soul to God, who is our only joy andconsolation; but in prayer let your emo-tions and words, whether inward or out-ward, lead to trust and love of God, such asO God of mercy, merciful and good God,loving Savior, God of my heart, my Joy, myHope, my beloved Spouse, Beloved of mysoul, and such as these. . . . Refresh your-self with spiritual songs, which have oftencaused the tempter to cease his wiles; as inthe case of Saul, whose evil spirit departedfrom him when David played his harpbefore the king. (1st Samuel 16:23) . . . fre-quent communion is an excellent remedy,

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for that heavenly food strengthens theheart and gladdens the spirit.

* * *

Vigorously oppose the inclination to sad-ness, and although you seem to do every-thing coldly, sadly, and without fervor,persevere anyway; for the enemy wouldlike to weaken our good works throughsadness, and when he finds that we willnot discontinue them, and that they areeven more meritorious because of ourresistance, he will cease to annoy us. . . . Itis also useful to keep busy as far as possi-ble in a variety of activities, so as to divertthe mind from the cause of its sadness andto purify and enliven it, for sadness is acold, withering passion.

Faithfully and humbly reveal to yourconfessor and counselor all the emotions,cares, and suggestions which result fromyour sadness; seek, as much as possible,the company of devout persons; and aboveall place yourself in God’s hands, resolvingto endure with patience your bitter sad-ness, as fitting reparation for your vain

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pleasures; and never doubt that when Godhas sufficiently tried you, He will set youfree from this trial.

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