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THE SPIRIT OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES
+ F. THOS. BERGH, O.S.B,
E. CANONICUS SURMONT
die 27th Maii 1910
THE SPIRIT OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES
BY HIS FRIEND
JEAN PIERRE CAMUS
BISHOP OF BELLEY
NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION
WITH A PREFACE BY HIS GRACE THE
ARCHBISHOP OF WESTMINSTER.
TRANSLATED BY J. S.
Preface by the Archbishop of Westminster
Sketch of Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley
The French Publisher to the reader in 1639
Upon perfect virtue
Blessed Francis' estimate of various virtues
Upon the lesser virtues
Upon increase of Faith
Upon temptations against Faith
Upon the same subject
Upon confidence in God
Our misery appeals to God's mercy
Upon self distrust
Upon the justice and mercy of God
On waiting upon God
On the difference between a holy desire of reward and a mercenary spirit
Continuation of the same subject
God should suffice for us all
Charity the short road to perfection
Upon what it is to love God truly
Upon the Love of God in general
All for Love of God
The same subject continued
Upon the Love of God called love of benevolence
Disinterested Love of God
Upon the character of a true Christian
Upon not putting limits to our Love of God
Upon the law and the just man
How Charity excels both Faith and Hope
Some thoughts of Blessed Francis on the Passion
Upon the vanity of heathen philosophy
Upon the pure love of our neighbour
Upon bearing with one another
Upon fraternal correction
Upon finding excuses for the faults of our fellow-men
Upon not judging others
Upon judging ourselves
Upon slander and detraction
Upon hasty judgments
Upon ridiculing one's neighbour
Upon contradicting others
Upon loving our enemies
Upon forgiving our enemies
Upon the virtue of condescension
How he adapted himself to times, places and circumstances
Upon the deference due to inferiors and dependents
On the way to treat servants
Another instance of his gentleness with his servants
His never refusing what was asked of him
His hopefulness in regard, to the conversion of sinners
His solicitude for malefactors condemned to death
Upon the small number of the elect
To love to be hated; and to hate to be loved
Upon the obedience that may be practised by Superiors
An instance of his obedience
Upon the Love of Holy Poverty
Upon the same subject
Upon poverty of spirit
His love of the poor
Upon the Christian view of Poverty
Upon Chastity and Charity
Upon purity of heart
Upon Chastity and Humility
The contempt he felt for his body
Upon his Humility
Upon humbleness in speech only
Upon various degrees of Humility
Humility with regard to perfection
Upon our good name
Upon despising the esteem of men
Upon the virtues we should practice when calumniated
Upon some spiritual maxims
How to profit by bearing with insults
Upon bearing with importunities
That he who complains sins
His calmness in tribulations
His test of patience in suffering
Upon long illnesses
His holy indifference in illness
Upon the shape of the Cross
A diamond Cross
Holy Magdalen at the foot of the Cross
Upon the power of gentleness and patience
A rejoinder both striking and instructive
His favourite beatitude
His gravity and affability
How he dealt with a criminal who despaired of salvation
Upon the same subject
Doubts solved as to soldiers fasting
The golden mean in dispensations
Upon the words "Eat of anything that is set before you"
Upon the state of perfection
Marks of progress in perfection
Upon the perfection aimed at in Religious Houses
His esteem of the virtue of simplicity
His love of exactitude
The test of Religious Vocation
Upon following the common life
Upon Prudence and Simplicity
The same subject continued
Upon mental prayer
Upon interior recollection and ejaculatory prayers
Upon doing and enduring
Upon Mortification and Prayer
Upon the Presence of God
His unity of spirit with God
His gratitude to God for spiritual consolations
Upon the shedding of tears
Upon joy and sadness
On the degrees of true devotion
The test of true devotion
What it means to be a servant of God
That devotion does not always spring from Charity
Upon perfect contentment in the privation of all content
Upon the Will of God
His resignation to the Will of God
That we must always submit ourselves to God's holy Will
His sublime thoughts on holy indifference
Nothing save sin happens to us but by the Will of God
Upon the same subject
Upon abandoning ourselves to God
Upon interior desolation
Upon the presence in our souls of the Grace of God
Upon our wish to save our soul
Upon good natural inclinations
How to speak of God
Upon eccentricities in devotion
Upon intercourse with the world
Upon the same subject
Upon liberty of spirit
Upon nature and grace
Upon exaggerated introspection
Upon interior reformation
His vision of the Most Holy Trinity
His devotion to our Blessed Lady
His devotion to the Holy Winding Sheet of Turin
Upon good will and good desires
Against the making of rash vows
Upon the pro-passions of Our Lord
His victory over the passions of love and anger
Upon our passions and emotions
How he came to write his Philothea
Upon the example of the Saints
Upon the love of God's word
His love of retirement
How he sanctified his recreations
What he drew from lines of poetry
Upon being content with our condition in life
Upon self-sufficiency and contentedness
His reverence for the sick
Upon the care of the sick
Upon speaking well of the dead
Upon wishing to die
Upon the desire of Heaven
What it is to die in God
Upon length of life
Upon penitent confusion
Upon interior peace amidst anxieties
Upon rising after a fall
Upon kindliness towards ourselves
The just man falls seven times in the day
Upon the purgative way
Upon venial sin
Upon complicity in the sins of another
Upon the knowledge which puffs up
Upon the same subject
Thoughts on the Incarnation
Upon Confession and Communion
Upon a change of confessor
Upon different methods of direction
Advice upon having a Director
Upon true and mistaken zeal
Upon the institution of the Visitation Order
His defence of his new Congregation of the Visitation
Upon the odour of sanctity
He rebukes Pharisaism
Upon religious Superiors
Upon unlearned Superiors
Upon the founding of Convents
Upon receiving the infirm into Communities
Upon self pity
Upon the government of Nuns by religious men
That we must not be wedded to our own plans
His views regarding Ecclesiastical dignities
His promotion to the Bishopric of Geneva and his refusal of the
Archbishopric of Paris
A Bishop's care for his flock
Upon the first duty of Bishops
Upon the pastoral charge
Upon the care of souls
Upon learning and piety
Advice to Bishop Camus as to resigning his See
The joyous spirit of Blessed Francis
Upon daily Mass. His advice to a young Priest
A Priest saying Mass should be considerate of others
Blessed Francis encourages the Bishop of Belley
Upon a compassionate mind
Upon doing one's duty without respect of persons
The honour due to virtue
Upon memory and judgment
A Priest should not aim at imitating in his sermons some particular
Upon short sermons
Upon preaching and preachers
Blessed Francis and the Bishop of Belley's sermon
The same subject continued
Upon reason and reasoning
Upon quoting Holy Scripture
Upon political diplomacy
Upon courts and courtiers
Upon the Carnival
An instance of his compassion for animals
Upon the fear of ghosts
Upon his true charity
The Spirit of a Saint we may, perhaps, regard as the underlying
characteristic which pervades all his thoughts, words, and acts. It is the
note which sounds throughout the constant persevering harmony which makes
the holiness of his life. Circumstances change. He grows from childhood to
boyhood; from youth to manhood. His time of preparation is unnoticed by the
world until the moment comes when he is called to a public activity which
arrests attention. And essentially he remains the same. In private as in
public, in intimate conversation as in writings or discourses, in the
direction of individual consciences as in the conduct of matters of wide
importance, there is a characteristic note which identifies him, and marks
him off apart even from other heroes of sanctity.
We owe to a keen and close observer a knowledge of the spirit of St.
Francis de Sales for which we cannot be too grateful. Let it be granted
that Mgr. Camus had a very prolific imagination; that he had an unconscious
tendency to embroider facts; that he read a meaning into words which their
speaker had no thought of imparting to them. When all such allowances have
been made, we must still admit that he has given to us a picture of the
Saint which we should be loath to lose; and that his description of what
the Saint habitually thought and felt has made Saint Francis de Sales a
close personal friend to many to whom otherwise he would have remained a
mere chance acquaintance.
The Bishop of Belley, while a devoted admirer, was at the same time a
critical observer of his saintly friend. He wanted to know the reasons of
what he saw, he did not always approve, and he was sufficiently indiscreet
to put questions which, probably, no one else would have dared to frame.
And thus we know more about St. Francis than about any other Saint, and we
owe real gratitude to his very candid, talkative, and out-spoken episcopal
Many years ago a brief abridgment of the "Spirit of St. Francis de Sales"
was published in English. It served its purpose, but left unsatisfied
the desire of his clients for a fuller work. To-day the Sisters of
the Visitation, now established at Harrow-on-the-Hill, give abundant
satisfaction to this long-felt desire. Inspired by the purpose of the late
Dom Benedict Mackey, O.S.B., which his premature death prevented him from
accomplishing, and guided by the advice which he left in writing, these
Daughters of St. Francis of Sales, on the occasion of their Tercentenary,
give to the English-speaking world a work which, in its wise curtailment
and still full detail, may be called the quintessence of the Spirit of
their Master, the Founder of their Institute. We thank them for their
labour; and we beg God's blessing upon this book, that it may be the means
of showing to many souls that safe and easy way of sanctification and
salvation, which it was the special mission of the saintly Bishop of Geneva
to make known to the world.
FRANCIS, ARCHBISHOP OF WESTMINSTER.
May 18th, 1910.
SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF
JEAN PIERRE CAMUS,
BISHOP OF BELLEY.
Jean Pierre Camus came of an illustrious, and much respected family of
Auxonne in Burgundy, in which province it possessed the seigneuries of
_Saint Bonnet_ and _Pont-carre_.
He was born in Paris, November 3rd, 1584.
His grandfather was for some years Administrator of the Finances under King
Henri III. Though he had had the management of the public funds during
a period when fraud and dishonesty were as easy as they were common, he
retired from office without having added a single penny to his patrimony.
On one occasion having received from Henri III. the gift of a sum of 50,000
crowns, which had been left by a Jew who had died intestate, and without
children, this upright administrator sent for three merchants who had lost
all their property in a fire, and distributed it among them.
The father of our Prelate, inheriting this integrity, left an honourable
name, but few worldly goods to his children.
Faithful, and devoted to the interests of his king, Henri IV., he gave part
of his fortune to the support of the good cause, the triumph of which he
had the happiness of witnessing. He died in 1619.
The mantle of paternal loyalty and patriotism undoubtedly descended upon
the young J. P. Camus, for second only to his love for God, and His Church,
was his devotion to France, and its king.
On his mother's side, as well as on his father's, he was well connected.
Her family had given to France chancellors, secretaries of state, and other
distinguished personages, but noble as were the races from which he sprang
their chief distinction is derived from the subject of this sketch.
"This one branch," says his panegyrist, "bore more blossoms and more fruit
than all the others together. In John Peter the gentle rivulet of the
Camus' became a mighty stream, yet one whose course was peaceful, and
which loved to flow underground, as do certain rivers which seem to lose
themselves in the earth, and only emerge to precipitate themselves into the
waters of the ocean."
Books and objects of piety were the toys of his childhood, and his youth
was passed in solitude, and in the practices of the ascetic life. His
physical strength as it increased with his years, seemed only to serve to
assist him in curbing and restraining a somewhat fiery temperament. His
wish, which at one time was very strong, to become a Carthusian, was not
indeed fulfilled, it being evident from the many impediments put in its
way, that it was not a call from God.
Nevertheless, this desire of self-sacrifice in a cloistered life was only
thwarted in order that he might sacrifice himself in another way, namely,
by becoming a Bishop, which state, if its functions are rightly discharged,
assuredly demands greater self-immolation than does that of a monk, and is
indeed a martyrdom that ceases only with life itself.
If he did not submit himself to the Rule of the Carthusians by entering
their Order, he nevertheless adopted all its severity, and to the very end
of his life kept his body in the most stern and rigorous subjection.
This, and his early inclination towards the religious life, will not a
little astonish his detractors, if any such still exist, for it is surely
a convincing proof that he was not the radical enemy of monasticism they
pretend. In his studies he displayed great brilliancy, being especially
distinguished in theology and canon law, to the study of which he
consecrated four years of his life.
After he had become a Priest his learning, piety, and eloquence not only
established his reputation as a preacher in the pulpits of Paris, but soon
even crossed the threshold of the Louvre and reached the ears of Henry IV.
That monarch, moved by the hope of the great services which a prelate might
render to the Church even more than by the affection which he bore to the
Camus family, decided to propose him for a Bishopric, although he was but
twenty-five, and had not therefore reached the canonical age for that
The young Priest was far too humble and also too deeply imbued with a sense
of the awful responsibility of the office of a Bishop to expect, or to
desire to be raised to it. When, however, Pope Paul V. gave the necessary
dispensation, M. Camus submitted to the will both of the Pontiff and of the
King, and was consecrated Bishop of Belley by St. Francis de Sales, August
The fact that the two dioceses of Geneva and Belley touched one another
contributed to further that close intimacy which was always maintained
between the Bishops, the younger consulting the elder on all possible
occasions, and in all imaginable difficulties.
Bishop Camus had already referred his scruples regarding his youth at the
time of his consecration to his holy director. The latter had, however,
reminded him of the many reasons there were to justify his submission,
viz., the needs of the diocese, the testimony to his fitness given by so
many persons of distinction and piety, the judgment of Henry the Great, in
fine the command of His Holiness. In consecrating Mgr. Camus, St. Francis
de Sales seems to have transmitted to the new Prelate some of the treasures
of his own holy soul. Camus was the only Bishop whom he ever consecrated,
and doubtless this fact increased the tender affection which Francis bore
him. John Peter was, what he loved to call himself, and what St. Francis
loved to call him, the latter's only son. There was between the two holy
Prelates a community of intelligence and of life. "Camus," says Godeau, the
preacher of his funeral discourse, "ever sat at the feet of St. Francis de
Sales, whom he called his Gamaliel, there to learn from him the law of God:
full as he himself was of the knowledge of Divine things."
We must bear this in mind if we wish to know what Camus really was, and
to appreciate him properly. He was by nature ardent, impetuous, and
imaginative, eager for truth and goodness, secretly devoted to the austere
practices of St. Charles Borromeo, but above all fervently desirous to
imitate his model, his beloved spiritual Father, and therefore anxious to
subdue, and to temper all that was too impetuous, excitable, and hard in
himself, by striving after the incomparable sweetness and tenderness which
were the distinguishing characteristics of St. Francis de Sales.
Mgr. Camus was endowed with a most marvellous memory, which was indeed
invaluable to him in the great work to which both Bishops devoted
themselves, that of bringing back into the bosom of the Church those who
had become strangers, and even enemies to her.
His chief defect was that he was over hasty in judging, and of this he
was himself perfectly well aware. He tells us in the "Esprit" that on one
occasion when he was bewailing his deficiency to Francis, the good Prelate
only smiled, and told him to take courage, for that as time went on it
would bring him plenty of judgment, that being one of the fruits of
experience, and of advancing years.
Whenever Mgr. Camus visited the Bishop of Geneva, which he did each year
in order to make a retreat of several days under the direction of his
spiritual Father, he was treated with the greatest honour by him.
St. Francis de Sales gave up his own room to his guest, and made him
preach, and discharge other episcopal functions, so as to exercise him in
his own presence in these duties of his sublime ministry.
This was the school in which Camus learnt to control and master himself, to
curb his natural impetuosity, and to subjugate his own will, and thus to
acquire one, in our opinion, of the most certain marks of saintliness.
The Bishop of Geneva was not contented with receiving his only son at
Annecy. He often went over to Belley, and spent several days there in
his company. These visits were to both Prelates a time of the greatest
consolation. Then they spoke, as it were, heart to heart, of all that they
valued most. Then they encouraged one another to bear the burden of the
episcopate. Then they consoled each other in the troubles which they met
with in their sacred ministry.
It never cost the younger Bishop anything to yield obedience to the elder,
and no matter how great, or how trifling was the occasion which called for
the exercise of that virtue, there was never a moment's hesitation on the
part of the Bishop of Belley.
The latter, indeed, considered the virtue of obedience as the one most
calculated to ensure rapid advance in the spiritual life. He tells us that
one day at table someone having boasted that he could make an egg stand
upright on a plate, a thing which those present, forgetting Christopher
Columbus, insisted was impossible, the Saint, as Columbus had done, quietly
taking one up chipped it a little at one end, and so made it stand. The
company all cried out that there was nothing very great in that trick.
"No," repeated the Saint, "but all the same you did not know it."
We may say the same, adds Camus, of obedience: it is the true secret of
perfection, and yet few people know it to be so.
From what we have already seen of the character of John Peter Camus, we
may imagine that gentleness was the most difficult for him to copy of the
virtues of St. Francis de Sales; yet steel, though much stronger than iron,
is at the same time far more readily tempered.
Thus, in his dealings with his neighbour he behaved exactly like his model,
so much so, that for anyone who wanted to gain his favour the best plan was
to offend him or do him some injury.
I have spoken of his love of mortification, and a short extract from the
funeral discourse pronounced over his remains will show to what extent he
Godeau says: "Our virtuous Bishop up to the very last years of his life,
slept either on a bed of vine shoots, or on boards, or on straw. This
custom he only abandoned in obedience to his director, and in doing so I
consider that he accomplished what was far more difficult and painful than
the mortifications which he had planned for himself, since the sacrifice of
our own will in these matters is incomparably more disagreeable to us than
the practising of them."
This austerity in respect to sleep, of which, indeed, he required more than
others on account of his excitable temperament, did not suffice to satisfy
his love for penance, without which, he said, the leading of a Christian
and much more of an episcopal life was impossible. To bring his body into
subjection he constantly made use of hair-shirts, iron belts, vigils,
fasting, and the discipline, and it was not until his last illness that
he gave up those practices of austerity. He concealed them, however,
as carefully as though he had been ashamed of them, knowing well that
such sacrifices if not offered in secret, partake more of the spirit of
Pharisaism than of the gospel. This humility, notwithstanding, he was
unable to guard against the pardonable curiosity of his servants. One of
them, quite a young man, who was his personal attendant during the first
years of his residence at Belley, observing that he wore round his neck the
key of a large cupboard, and being very anxious to know what it contained,
managed in some way to possess himself of this key for a few moments, when
his master had laid it aside, and was not in the room.
Unlocking the cupboard he found it full of the vine shoots on which he was
accustomed to sleep. The bed which everyone saw in his apartment was the
Bishop's; the one which he hid away was the penitent's. The one was for
appearance, the other for piety. He used to put into disorder the coverings
of the bed, so as to give the impression of having slept in it, while he
really slept, or at least took such repose as was necessary to keep him
alive, on the penitential laths he had hidden.
Having discovered that through his valet the rumour of his austerity had
got abroad, he dismissed the young man from his service, giving him a
handsome present, and warning him to be less curious in future. But for
his failing, however, we should have lost a great example of the Bishop's
mortification and humility.
The latter virtue John Peter Camus cultivated most carefully, and how well
he succeeded in this matter is proved by the composure, and even gaiety and
joyousness, with which he met the raillery heaped upon his sermons, and
Camus, like the holy Bishop of Geneva, had throughout his life a special
devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and never failed in his daily recital of
the Rosary. Every evening it was his habit to read a portion of either _The
Spiritual Combat_, or the _Imitation of Jesus Christ_; two books which he
recommended to his penitents as next in usefulness to the gospels.
Following him in his Episcopal career we find that as the years rolled
on his reputation passed beyond the confines of France, and reached the
Pope Paul V., who knew him intimately, held him in high esteem, and all the
Cardinals honoured him with their friendship.
Had it not been for his own firm resistance to every proposal made to him
to quit his poor diocese of Belley, Mgr. Camus would assuredly have been
transferred to some much more important See.
And here we may again quote the words of his panegyrist, to indicate the
fruits produced by his zeal in the little corner of the vineyard of the
Divine Master, which had been confided to his skilful hands.
Godeau says, "The interior sanctity which he strove to acquire for himself
by prayer, by reading holy books, by the mortification of his senses,
by the putting aside of all secular affairs when engaged in prayer, by
humility, patience, and charity, were the inexhaustible source whence
flowed all his external works, and whence they derived all their purity and
As regarded the poor and needy in his diocese, Mgr. Camus was no less
generous in ministering to their temporal than to their spiritual wants.
He looked upon himself as simply a steward of the goods of the Church. He,
indeed, drew the revenues of his diocese, but only as rivers draw their
waters from the sea, to pay them back again to it with usury.
More than once in years of famine he gave all his corn to the poor, not as
Joseph did in Egypt by depriving them of their liberty, but by depriving
himself of what was necessary for his support, and treating himself no
better than the rest of the poor.
One day he was told that the dearness of wine was the cause of great
distress among working people. He immediately gave orders that his own wine
should be sold, but after a most curious and unusual fashion. He would not
have any fixed price set upon it, but only desired that an open bag should
be held, at the door of the cellar so that purchasers might throw in what
they pleased. You may be sure that the bag was not very full and that the
buyers availed themselves to the utmost of his liberality.
What, however, do you think he did with the small amount of money which he
found in the bag? Even that he forthwith distributed among the poor! Surely
if anything can approach the miraculous transformation of water into wine
it is Bishop Camus' mode of selling it!
After having established in his diocese that order and peace which are
the fruits of the knowledge and observance of the duties of religion, and
having formed a body of clergy remarkable for their piety and learning,
Mgr. Camus thought he ought to advance even a step further.
He felt that it was his duty to have in his Episcopal city a community of
Religious men who by their example should assist both clergy and laity in
their spiritual life. He did this by building, at his own expense, in 1620,
a Capuchin Monastery.
For a long time he supplied these Friars with all that they needed, and
finally gave them his own library, which was both choice and extensive.
He was equally cordial in his relationship with other Orders, welcoming
them gladly to his own house, and often making retreats in their
Camus was too intimately connected with Francis de Sales not to have with
him a community of spirit.
Knowing how useful the newly-formed Order of the Visitation would be to the
Church, he also founded at Belley, in 1662, a Convent, to which he invited
some nuns of the New Congregation. This Institution of the holy Bishop
of Geneva was vigorously attacked from its very beginning. It was called
in derision, _the Confraternity of the Descent from the Cross_, because
its pious founder had excluded from this order corporal austerities, and
had adapted all his rules to the reforming of the interior. The Bishop
of Belley declared himself champion of this new Institution. Indeed, his
ardent soul was always on fire to proclaim and to maintain the glory of the
Church. At whatever point She was attacked or threatened there Camus was to
be found armed _cap-a-pie_ to defend her.
As for his own temporal interests, they were to him matters of absolute
indifference when weighed in the balance of that beloved Church. His own
words, however, speak best on this subject.
On one occasion, when a Minister of State wrote to ask him something
contrary to those interests, backing up his request with the most liberal
promises, the Bishop of Belley, after courteously excusing himself from
complying with the request, wound up his answer to the statesman with these
remarkable words: _This is all that can be said to you by a Bishop who, as
regards the past, is under no obligation to anyone; as regards the present
without interest; and as regards the future has no pretentions whatever._
We have said that the Bishop of Belley was indefatigable in labouring for
the sanctification of his people, but this did not in any way prevent him
from bestowing due care upon the interests of his own soul.
With this object in view he considered that after long years of toil for
his flock he ought to retire from the world, so as to have more time to
devote to himself. To live in solitude had been the desire of his youth, as
we know it was ever his desire through all the period of his Episcopate;
but his spiritual guide, the holy Bishop of Geneva, always succeeded in
dissuading him from laying down the pastoral staff to take refuge in the
However, after the death of his illustrious friend and counsellor, this
desire returned to Camus with redoubled force. For seven years, out of
respect for the advice of his dear dead friend, he abstained from carrying
out his purpose, and during that time of waiting, relaxing nothing in the
ardour of his love for his people and his zeal for the Church, he devoted
himself to the work of repairing and restoring his Cathedral, which was
accomplished in the year 1627.
When in 1837 this ancient edifice was pulled down in order to be rebuilt,
an inscription was discovered stating this fact, which is not otherwise
mentioned in any extant writings, probably because those in which it was
recorded were among the rich archives of the Chapter destroyed by the fury
of the vandals of 1793.
At last, in 1628, Camus finally decided to give up his Episcopal charge to
one who was indeed worthy of such a dignity.
This was Jean de Passelaigne, Abbot of Notre Dame de Hambic, Prior of St.
Victor of Nevers, and of La Charite-sur-Loire, Vicar-General of the Order
Then, having obtained the King's consent, Camus retired from the diocese
of Belley, which he had ruled so happily and so well for twenty years, to
the Cistercian Abbey of Annay, there to exercise in the calm of solitude
all those virtues to the practice of which he said the stir and bustle
inseparable from the episcopal functions had not allowed him to devote
himself. This he did, it would seem, towards the end of 1628, or the
beginning of 1629.
The Abbey of Annay, which the King gave to him on receiving his resignation
of the See of Belley, was situated in Normandy, near Caen. There Camus
dwelt for some time, not, however, leading an idle life, for we find that
a great many of his works were printed at Caen. He also succeeded in
introducing into this Religious House, and into the neighbouring one of
Ardaine, that reform which it was the desire of his heart to bring back to
all the Monasteries of France. It was while in Normandy that he made the
acquaintance of Pere Eudes, and between these two holy Priests the closest
friendship sprang up, founded on a mutual zeal for the salvation of souls.
The Bishop of Belley was not long allowed to enjoy his quiet retreat at
Annay. Francois de Harlay, Archbishop of Rouen, being unable at that time,
owing to ill health, to exercise his duties as a Bishop, felt convinced
that Providence had sent Mgr. Camus into his diocese on purpose that he
might share his labours. His earnest entreaties prevailed upon the good
Bishop to emerge from his retreat and help to bear the burden which pressed
so heavily upon a sick and failing Prelate.
At Belley he had been accountable to God alone for the discharge of those
duties which he had for a time laid aside; now at the call of charity
he did not hesitate to take up the burden again to ease another. He was
appointed Vicar-General to the Archbishop of Rouen, renouncing, like St.
Paul, his liberty in order to become the servant of all men, and thus gain
more souls to Jesus Christ.
Although in this new sphere Camus laboured with the utmost devotion and
untiring energy, living a life of ascetic severity, fasting, sleeping on
straw, or spending whole nights in prayer, while his days were given to
preaching, confirming, hearing confessions, visiting the sick, consoling
the afflicted, advising, exhorting, patiently listening to the crowds who
flocked to consult him, yet he still felt certain that the voice of God
called him to solitude and to a perpetual retreat.
Desiring to spend the rest of his days among the poor whom he loved
so well, he came to Paris, and took up his abode in the Hospital for
Incurables, situated in the Rue de Sevres. He reserved for himself out of
his patrimony and benefices only 500 livres, which he paid to the hospital
for his board and lodging, distributing the remainder among the needy.
In this hospital he passed his time in ministering to the sick, dressing
their wounds, consoling, and instructing them, and performing for them all
the functions of an ordinary Chaplain.
Even if he went out to visit friends in the vicinity of Paris, he never
returned later than five o'clock in the evening. Occasionally he preached
in the chapel of the Duke of Orleans before His Royal Highness, and at
such times denounced vehemently the luxury and indolence of Princes and
There was at this time a diocese in a no less pitiable condition than was
Belley when Mgr. Camus was, at the King's desire, placed in charge of
it. This diocese was that of Arras, and on the 28th of May, 1650, he was
appointed by Louis XIV., acting under the advice of the Queen-Regent, to
administer all the affairs of the diocese until such time as a new Bishop
should be nominated to the vacant See by His Majesty and our Holy Father
the Pope. Into this laborious task of sowing, ploughing, cultivating a vast
weed-grown, and unpromising field, Camus threw himself with all his old
ardour and energy. He did so much in a very short time that his name will
long be remembered among the descendants of those from whom the troubles
of the times snatched him so suddenly, but not before he had bound them to
France while leading them to God by bands of love stronger than citadels or
Political disturbances and the calamities of war having prevented this
indefatigable servant of God from carrying on his work at Arras, he
withdrew again in the following year to the Hospital of the Incurables at
Paris, there to await better times, and also doubtless the expected Bull
from the Sovereign Pontiff. However, the great Rewarder called Camus to
Himself before the Pope had sanctioned his appointment to the Bishopric of
But ere we close this slight sketch of the life of the good Bishop, and
speak of its last scenes, we must say a word about the gigantic literary
labours which occupied him more or less from the time of his retirement to
the Abbey of Annay, in 1628, till his death, in 1652.
It was his great love for the Church which made him take pen in hand.
Varied as were the subjects on which he wrote, his writings, whether
controversial, dogmatic, devotional or even light and entertaining, had but
one single aim and end--the instruction of mankind and the glorification of
If we bear this in mind we shall be ready to forgive the bitterness and
harshness which we may admit characterised many of his writings. To reform
the Monasteries of France, and to deal a death blow to the abuses which had
crept into some of them, was the passionate desire of his heart.
This, and not a personal hatred of monks, as his enemies have averred, was
the moving spring of his actions in this crusade of the pen. At the same
time we do not deny that his natural impetuosity and keen sense of humour
made him too often, in accordance with the bad taste of the day, present
the abuses which he wished to reform, in so ridiculous and contemptible a
light, as to provoke and irritate his enemies, perhaps unnecessarily.
Yet, if in this he showed the lack of judgment which he had years before
lamented in himself, can anyone who knows what those times were, and who is
as jealous for the honour of God as he was, blame him? There was another
evil of the day which the good Bishop witnessed with grief and indignation,
and set himself zealously to reform. This was the publishing of romances,
or novels, which, as then written, could only poison the minds of their
readers, inflame their passions, and weaken their sense of right and wrong.
He pondered the matter, and having made up his mind that it would be
absolutely useless to endeavour to hinder their being read, as this would
only increase the obstinacy and perversity of those who took pleasure in
them, he decided on adopting another method altogether, as he himself said,
he "tried to make these poor diseased folk, with their depraved taste and
morbid cravings, swallow his medicine under the disguise of sweetmeats."
That is to say, he himself began to write novels and romances for them;
romances which, indeed, depicted the profligacy of the age, but in such
odious colours as to inspire aversion and contempt. Vice, if described, was
held up to ridicule and loathing. The interest of the story was so well
kept up as to carry the reader on to the end, and that end often showed
the hero or heroine so entirely disabused of the world's enchantment as to
retire voluntarily into convents, in order, by an absolute devotion of the
heart to God, to repair the injury done to Him, by giving to the creature
the love due to Him alone.
These books passed from hand to hand in the gay world, were read, were
enjoyed, and the fruit gathered from them by the reader was the conviction
that God being Himself the Sovereign God, all other love but that of which
He is the object and the end, is as contrary to the happiness of man as it
is opposed to all the rules of justice.
Let us hear what Camus himself says as to his motive and conduct in the
matter of novel writing.
"The enterprise on which I have embarked of wrestling with, or rather
contending against those idle or dangerous books, which cloak themselves
under the title of novels, would surely demand the hands of Briareus to
wield as many pens, and the strength of Hercules to support such a burden!
But what cannot courage, zeal, charity, and confidence in God accomplish?"
He goes on to say that though he sees all the difficulties ahead, his
courage will not fail, for he holds his commission from a Saint, the holy
Bishop of Geneva, in whose intercessions, and in the assistance of the God
of Saints, he trusts, and is confident of victory.
He tells us in several of his works, and especially in his "Unknown
Traveller," that it was St. Francis de Sales who first advised him to use
his pen in this manner, and that for twenty-five years the Saint had been
cogitating and developing this design in his brain.
In the same little pamphlet Camus points out the methods he followed as a
"It consists," he says, "in saying only good things, dealing only with good
subjects, the single aim of which is to deter from vice, and to lead on to
He was an extraordinarily prolific and rapid writer, scarcely ever
correcting or polishing up anything that he had put on paper. This was a
defect, but it was the natural outcome of his temperament, which was a
curious combination of lightness and solidity, gaiety and severity.
Few people really understood him. He was often taken for a mere man of the
world, when in truth he was one of the stoutest champions of the Church,
and in his inner life, grave and ascetic, macerating his flesh like a
monk of the desert. He wrote in all about 200 volumes, 50 of these being
In the latter, which drew down upon him such storms of bitter invective,
owing to his freedom of language in treating of the vices against which
he was warning his readers, we do not pretend to admire his work, but
must remind readers that his style was that of the age in which he lived,
and that Camus was essentially a Parisian. We have said that he wrote at
least fifty novels; we may add that each was cleverer than that which had
preceded it. Forgotten now, they were at the time of their appearance
eagerly devoured, and it is morally impossible but that some good should
have resulted from their production.
And now old age came upon the busy writer--old age, but not the feebleness
of old age, nor its privileged inaction. As he advanced in years he seemed
to increase in zeal and diligence, and it was not till suddenly stricken
down by a mortal malady that his labours ceased.
Then on his death-bed in a quiet corner of the Hospital for Incurables in
humility, patience, and a marvellous silence, only opening his lips to
speak at the desire of his confessor, calm and peaceful, his eyes fixed
upon the crucifix which he held in his hands, Jean Pierre Camus gave up his
soul to God. This was on the 25th of April, 1652. He was 67 years old.
He had in his will forbidden any pomp or display at his funeral, and his
wishes were strictly obeyed.
Some time after his death a stone was placed by the Administrators of
the Hospital over the tomb of the good Bishop, who had been so great a
benefactor to that Institution, and who rests beneath the nave of its
Church in the Rue de Sevres.
When he felt the first approach of illness, about six weeks before his
death, he made his will, in which he left the greater part of his money to
the Hospital, founding in it four beds for the Incurables of Belley.
And now our work is done.... The object has been to make John Peter Camus
known as he really was, and to cleanse his memory from the stains cast upon
it by the jarring passions of his contemporaries.
If we have succeeded in this the reader will recognise in him a pious
Bishop, armed with the scourge of penance, an indefatigable writer in the
defence of good morals, of religion, and of the Church--a reformer, and not
an enemy of the Monastic Orders; finally a Prelate, who laboured all his
life to copy the Holy Bishop of Geneva, whom he ever regarded as his
father, his guide, and his oracle.
One word more. Those pious persons who wish to know better this true
disciple of the Bishop of Geneva have nothing to do but to read the _Spirit
of Saint Francis de Sales_. There they will see the Bishop of Belley as
he really was. There they can admire his ardent piety, the candour of his
soul, the fervour of his faith and charity; in a word, all that rich store
of virtues which he acquired in the school of that great master of the
spiritual life who was for fourteen years his Director.
[Footnote 1: In the preface of his book, entitled "Strange Occurrences."]
THE FRENCH PUBLISHER TO THE READER, 1639.
Since the holy death of Blessed Francis de Sales, Prince and Bishop of
Geneva, which took place on December 28th, the Feast of the Holy Innocents,
in the year 1622, many writers have taken up the pen to give the public the
knowledge of the pious life and virtuous conversation of that holy Prelate,
whom some have very fitly called the St. Charles of France.
The writer, however, with whom we are most concerned is Monseigneur Jean
Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley, whose work we are now introducing to our
readers. After the death of Blessed Francis this faithful friend and
devoted disciple was entreated, urged, conjured, in season and out of
season, by an infinity of persons, to employ the literary faculty given to
him by God in communicating to the world the many rare things which he had
had the opportunity of observing in the life and conversation of Blessed
Francis, under whose direction and discipline he had been for fourteen
M. Camus constantly excused himself under the plea that many had already
taken the work in hand, and that he did not care to put his sickle into
another man's crop, nor to make books by simply transcribing those of
others, as is done by many writers of our day. At last, however, he allowed
himself to be persuaded by some members of the Order of the Visitation,
founded by the holy Bishop, to write the life, or, more properly speaking,
to delineate the spirit of his beloved Master.
Having promised to do this, he considered that he had, at least partially,
fulfilled his promise by publishing some pious Treatises conformable to the
spirit of the holy Prelate. It was, however, afterwards thought better to
gather up, and, as it were, glean from M. Camus' own sermons, exhortations,
conferences, conversations, books, and letters, that Spirit of Blessed
Francis which he had imbibed, in common with all the holy Bishop's
disciples and spiritual children.
To make this collection was not difficult, because there was scarcely
a sermon, conference, or spiritual lesson given by him in which he did
not say something about the Saint, so deeply imbued was he with his
One of the most intimate and familiar friends of the Bishop of Belley,
having given his attention to the matter, now lays before you as the
result, this book to which he has given the title: _The Spirit of Blessed
Francis de Sales, represented in his most remarkable words and actions._
This holy Bishop was mighty in works and in words; he was not one of those
who say much that is good but who do not practise it. To say and to do was
with him the same thing, or rather, his doing surpassed his saying....
In this collection offered to you, there is but little formal arrangement,
the component parts were gathered up as they fell from the lips or the pen
of Monseigneur Camus. It is a piece of mosaic work, a bouquet of various
flowers, a salad of divers herbs, a banquet of many dishes, an orchard of
different fruits, where each one can take what best suits his taste.
_Note.--In this translation an endeavour has been made to group together
the sections treating of the same subject. These are scattered, without
order, through the three volumes of the French edition._
THE SPIRIT OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES
UPON PERFECT VIRTUE.
Blessed Francis de Sales thought very little of any virtue unless it was
animated by charity; following in this the teaching of St. Paul, who
declares that without charity the greatest virtues are as nothing. Thus,
even the faith which works miracles, the almsgiving which leads a man to
sell all his goods to feed the poor, the spirit of martyrdom which impels
him to give his body to be burned, all, if without charity, are nothing.
That you may clearly understand the distinction which he drew between the
natural excellence of certain virtues, and the supernatural perfection
which they acquire by the infusion of charity, I will give you his exact
words on the subject, as they are to be found in his Treatise on the Love
He says: "The light of the sun falls equally on the violet and the rose,
yet will never render the former as fair as the latter, or make a daisy as
lovely as a lily. If, however, the sun should shine very clearly upon the
violet, and very mistily and faintly upon the rose, then without doubt
it would make the violet more fair to see than the rose. So, Theotimus,
if with equal charity one should suffer death by martyrdom, and another
suffer only hunger by fasting, who does not see that the value of this
fasting will not, on that account, be equal to that of martyrdom? No, for
who would dare to affirm that martrydom is not more excellent in itself
than fasting.... Still, it is true that if love be ardent, powerful,
and excellent, in a heart, it will also more enrich and perfect all the
virtuous works which may proceed from it. One may suffer death and fire for
God, without charity, as St. Paul supposes, and as I explain elsewhere.
Still more then may one suffer them with little charity. Now, I say,
Theotimus, that it may come to pass that a very small virtue may be of
greater value in a soul where divine love fervently reigns, than martyrdom
itself in a soul where love is languishing, feeble, and dull. Thus, the
least virtues of our Blessed Lady of St. John, and of other great Saints,
were of more worth before God than the most exalted perfections of the rest
of His servants."
[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. xiii. 1-3.]
[Footnote 2: 1 Cor. xiii. 3.]
[Footnote 3: Bk. xi. chap. v.]
BLESSED FRANCIS' ESTIMATE OF VARIOUS VIRTUES.
1 deg.. He preferred those virtues the practice of which is comparatively
frequent, common, and ordinary, to others which we may be called upon to
exercise on rare occasions.
2 deg.. He considered, as we have seen, that the degree of the supernatural
in any virtue could not be decided by the greatness or smallness of the
external act, since an act in itself altogether trivial, may be performed
with much grace and charity, while a very brilliant and dazzling good work
may be animated by but a very feeble spark of love of God, the intensity of
which is, after all, the only rule by which to ascertain its true value in
3 deg.. The more universal a virtue, the more, he said, it is to be preferred
before all others, charity only excepted. For instance, he valued prayer as
the light which illumines all other virtues; devotion, as consecrating
all our actions to God; humility, which makes us set but little value on
ourselves and on our doings; meekness, which yields to all; patience, which
includes everything besides. He valued these, I say, more than magnanimity,
or liberality, because such virtues can be more rarely practised and they
affect fewer subjects.
4 deg.. He was always on his guard against showy virtues, which of their very
nature encourage vainglory, the bane of all good works.
5 deg.. He blamed those who measure virtues by the standard set up by the
world, who prefer temporal to spiritual alms; haircloth, fasting, and
corporal austerities to sweetness, modesty, and the mortification of the
heart; virtues by far the more excellent.
6 deg.. He greatly condemned those who select the virtues most agreeable to
their taste, and practise these alone, quite regardless of those which are
specially adapted to their state of life. These people, indeed, serve God,
but after a way of their own, not according to His will: a by no means
uncommon mistake, which leads many, otherwise devout-minded, far out of the
UPON THE LESSER VIRTUES.
He had a special affection for certain virtues which are passed over by
some as trivial and insignificant. "Everyone," he used to say, "is eager to
possess those brilliant, almost dazzling virtues which cluster round the
summit of the Cross, so that they can be seen from afar and admired, but
very few are anxious to gather those which, like wild thyme, grow at the
foot of that Tree of Life and under its shade. Yet these are often the most
hardy, and give out the sweetest perfume, being watered with the precious
Blood of the Saviour, whose first lesson to His disciples was: _Learn of Me
because I am meek and humble of heart._"
It does not belong to every one to practise the sublime virtues of
fortitude, magnanimity, endurance unto death, patience, constancy, and
courage. The occasions of exercising these are rare, yet all aspire to them
because they are brilliant and their names high sounding. Very often, too,
people fancy that they are able, even now, to practise them. They inflate
their courage with the vain opinion they have of themselves, but when put
to the trial fail pitiably. They are like those children of Ephrem, who
distinguished themselves wonderfully by, in the time of peace, hitting the
target with every arrow, but in the battle were the first to fly before the
enemy. Better had their skill been less and their courage greater.
Opportunities of acquiring offices, benefices, inheritances, large sums
of money, are not to be met with every day, but at any moment we may earn
farthings and halfpence. By trading well on these small profits, many have
in course of time grown rich. We should become spiritually wealthy and lay
up for ourselves much treasure in Heaven did we employ in the service of
the holy love of God, the small opportunities which are to be met with at
every hour of our lives.
It is not enough to practise great virtues; they must be practised with
great charity, for that it is which in the sight of God forms the basis of
and gives weight and value to all good works. An act of lesser virtue (for
all virtues are not of equal importance) done out of great love to God is
far more excellent than a rarer and grander one done with less love.
"Look at this good soul, she gives a cup of cold water to the thirsty with
such holy love that it is changed into the water of life, life eternal. The
Gospel which makes light of the weightiest sums cast into the treasury,
reckons of the highest value two mites offered out of a great and fervent
"These little homely virtues! How seldom is mention made of them! How
lightly they are esteemed! Kindly concessions to the exacting temper of our
neighbour, gentle tolerance of his imperfections, loving endurance of cross
looks, peevish gestures, cheerfulness under contempt and small injustices,
endurance of affronts, patience with importunity, doing menial actions
which our social position impels us to regard as beneath us; replying
amiably to some one who has given us an undeserved and sharp reproof,
falling down and then bearing good humouredly the being laughed at,
accepting with gentleness the refusal of a kindness, receiving a favour
graciously, humbling ourselves before our equals and inferiors, keeping
on kindly and considerate terms with our servants. How trivial and poor
all this appears to those who have their hearts lifted up with proud
aspirations. We want, they seem to say, no virtues but such as go clad in
purple, and to be borne by fair winds and spreading sails towards high
reputation. They forget that those who please men are not the servants
of God, and that the friendship of the world and its applause are worth
nothing and less than nothing in His sight."
[Footnote 1: Matt. xi. 29.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. _Treatise on the Love of God_. Bk. iii. c. ii.]
[Footnote 3: Cf. _The Devout Life_. Part iii. c, i., ii., and vi.]
UPON INCREASE OF FAITH.
_Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!_ Lord, increase the Faith in us!
And how is this increase of Faith to be brought about? In the same way,
assuredly, as the strength of the palm tree grows with the load it has to
bear, or as the vine profits by being pruned.
A stoic philosopher remarked very truly that virtue languishes when it has
nothing to overcome. What does a man know until he is tempted?
Our Blessed Father when visiting the bailiwick of Gex, which adjoins
the city of Geneva, in order to re-establish the Catholic religion in some
parishes, declared that his Faith gained new vigour through his intercourse
with the heretics of those parts, who were sitting in darkness and in the
shadow of death.
He expresses his feelings on this subject in one of his letters: "Alas! in
this place I see poor wandering sheep all around me; I approach them and
marvel at their evident and palpable blindness. O my God! the beauty of
our holy Faith then appears by comparison so entrancing that I would die
for love of it, and I feel that I ought to lock up the precious gift which
God has given me in the innermost recesses of a heart all perfumed with
devotion. My dearest daughter, I thank the sovereign Light which shed
its rays so mercifully into this heart of mine, that the more I go among
those who are deprived of Faith, the more clearly and vividly I see its
magnificence and its inexpressible, yet most desirable, sweetness."
In order to make great progress in the spirit of Faith, which is that of
Christian perfection, Blessed Francis was not satisfied with simple assent
to all those truths which are divinely revealed, or with submission to the
will of God as taught in them, he wanted more than this. It was his desire
that we should be actuated in all our dealings by the spirit of Faith, as
far at least as that is possible, so as to arrive at last at that summit
of perfect charity which the Apostle calls the more excellent way, and of
which he says that _he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit_.
[Footnote 1: St. Francis de Sales was spoken of as _Our Blessed Father_,
not only by the Visitation Nuns, but in the whole neighbourhood of Annecy.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. _The Depositions of St. Chantal_. Point 24th.]
UPON TEMPTATIONS AGAINST FAITH.
_He who is not tempted what knows he?_ says Holy Scripture. God is
faithful, and will not permit us to be tempted beyond our strength; nay, if
we are faithful to Him, He enables us to profit by our tribulation. He not
only helps us, but He makes us find our help in the tribulation itself, in
which, thinking we were perishing, we cried out to Him to save us.
Those who imagine themselves to be in danger of losing the Faith, when the
temptations suggested to them by the enemy against this virtue, harass and
distress them, understand very little of the nature of temptations. For,
besides that temptation cannot harm us, as long as it is displeasing to us,
which is the teaching of one of the early Fathers, it actually, in such
case, produces an absolutely contrary effect to what we fear, and to the
aim of our adversary, the devil. For just as the palm tree takes deeper and
stronger root, the more it is tossed and shaken by the winds and storms,
so the more we are tossed by temptation, the more firmly are we settled in
that virtue which the temptation was striving to overthrow.
As we see from the lives of the Saints, the most chaste are those who
oppose the greatest resistance to the goad of sensuality, and the most
patient are those who struggle the most earnestly against impatience. It
is for this reason that Holy Scripture says: _Happy is he who suffers
temptation_, since, _after his trial, the crown of life awaits him_.
In this way the more violent are the temptations against Faith with which
a soul is troubled, the more deeply does that virtue bury itself in the
heart, and is there held all the more tightly and closely, because of our
fear lest it escape.
Blessed Francis provides us in one of his letters with three excellent
means of resisting and overcoming temptations against Faith. The first, is
to despise all the suggestions of the Evil One. They are outside and before
our heart rather than within it, for there peace maintains its hold, though
in great bitterness. This so exasperates our proud enemy, who is king over
all the children of pride, that, seeing himself disdained, he withdraws.
The second is not to fight against this temptation by contrary acts of
the understanding, but by those of the will, darting forth a thousand
protestations of fidelity to the truths which God reveals to us by His
Church. These acts of Faith, supernatural as they are, soon reduce to ashes
all the engines and machinations of the enemy.
Our Saint gives us his third means, the use of the discipline, saying that
this bodily suffering serves as a diversion to trouble of mind, and adds
that the devil, seeing the flesh, which is his partisan and confederate,
thus maltreated, is terrified and flies away. This is to act like that
King of Moab, who brought about the raising of the siege of his city, by
sacrificing his son on the walls, in the sight of his enemies, so that,
panic-stricken, with horror at a sight so appalling, they took at once to
[Footnote 1: James i. 12.]
UPON THE SAME SUBJECT.
When the tempter sees that our heart is so firmly established in grace that
we flee from sin as from a serpent, and that its very shadow, which is
temptation, frightens us, he contents himself with disquieting us, seeing
that he cannot make us yield to his will.
In order to effect this, he stirs up a heap of trivial temptations, which
he throws like dust into our eyes, so as to make us unhappy, and to render
the path of virtue less pleasant to us.
We must take up shield and sword to arm ourselves against great
temptations; but there are many trivial and ordinary ones which are better
driven away by contempt than by any other means.
We arm ourselves against wolves and bears; but who would condescend to do
so against the swarms of flies which torment us in hot weather? Our Blessed
Father, writing to one who was sorrowful and disquieted at finding herself
assailed by temptations against Faith, though these were most hateful and
tormenting to her, expresses himself thus:
"Your temptations against Faith have come back again, even though you never
troubled yourself to answer them. They importune you again, but still you
do not answer.
"Well, my daughter, all this is as it should be: but you think too much
about them; you fear them too much; you dread them too much. Were it not
for that, they would do you no harm. You are too sensitive to temptations.
You love the Faith, and would not willingly suffer a single thought
contrary to it to enter your mind; but the moment one so much as occurs to
you you are saddened and troubled by it.
"You are too jealous of your purity of Faith. You fancy that everything
that touches it must taint it.
"No, my daughter, let the wind blow, and do not think that the rustling of
the leaves is the clash of arms. A little while ago I was standing near
some beehives, and some of the bees settled on my face. I wanted to brush
them off with my hand. 'No,' said a peasant to me, 'do not be afraid, and
do not touch them, then they will not sting you at all; but if you touch
them they will half devour you.' I took his advice, and not one stung me.
"Believe me, if you do not fear these temptations, they will not harm you;
pass on and pay no heed to them."
UPON CONFIDENCE IN GOD.
On this subject I must relate a charming little instance of our Blessed
Father's perfect confidence in God, of which he told me once with his
accustomed simplicity, to the great consolation of my soul, and one which
I was delighted afterwards to find related in a letter addressed to one of
his most intimate friends.
"Yesterday," he said, "wishing to pay a visit to the Archbishop of Vienne,
I went on the lake in a little boat, and felt very happy in the thought
that my sole protection, besides a thin plank, was Divine Providence. The
wind was high, and I was glad, too, to feel entirely under the command of
the pilot, who made us all sit perfectly still; and, indeed, I had no wish
to stir! Do not, however, my daughter, take these words of mine as proofs
of my being very holy. No, they are only little imaginary virtues which I
amuse myself by fancying I possess. When it comes to real earnest, I am by
no means so brave."
The simplicity of the Saint's thoughts when on the water, and of his way
of mentioning them, shows how childlike was his trust in God. It reminds
one of the happiness with which St. John leaned upon the Saviour's breast.
A saying, too, of Saint Teresa which I have read in her life comes to my
mind. She declared she was never more absolutely content than when she
found herself in some peril which obliged her to have recourse to God;
because then it seemed to her that she was clinging more closely to His
holy presence, and saying to Him, as did Jacob to the Angel, that she would
not let Him go until He had blessed her.
OUR MISERY APPEALS TO GOD'S MERCY.
To a soul overwhelmed by the consideration of its infidelities and miseries
he wrote these words of marvellous consolation.
"Your miseries and infirmities ought not to astonish you. God has seen
many and many a one as wretched as you, and His mercy never turns away
the unhappy. On the contrary, by means of their wretchedness, He seeks to
do them good, making their abjection the foundation of the throne of His
glory. As Job's patience was enthroned on a dung-hill, so God's mercy is
raised upon the wretchedness of man; take away man's misery, and what
becomes of God's mercy?"
Elsewhere he writes: "What does our Lord love to do with His gift of
eternal life, but to bestow it on souls that are poor, feeble, and of
little account in their own eyes? Yes, indeed, dearly beloved children,
we must hope, and that with great confidence, to live throughout a happy
eternity. The greater our misery the greater should be our confidence."
These, indeed, are his very words in his second conference.
Again in one of his letters he says: "Why? What would this good and
all-merciful God do with His mercy; this God, whom we ought so worthily to
honour for His goodness? What, I say, would He do with it if He did not
share it with us, miserable as we are? If our wants and imperfections did
not serve as a stage for the display of His graces and favours, what use
would He make of this holy and infinite perfection?"
This is the lesson left us by our Blessed Father, and we ought, indeed,
to hope with that lively hope animated by love, without which none can
be saved. And this lively hope, what is it, but a firm and unwavering
confidence that we shall, through God's grace and God's mercy, attain to
the joy of heaven, which, being infinite, is boundless and unmeasurable.
Distrust of self and confidence in God are the two mystic wings of the
dove; that is to say, of the soul which, having learnt to be simple, takes
its flight and rests in God, the great and sovereign object of its love, of
its flight, and of its repose.
_The Spiritual Combat_, which is an excellent epitome of the science of
salvation and of heavenly teaching, makes these two things, distrust of
self and confidence in God, to be, as it were, the introduction to true
wisdom: they are, the author tells us, the two feet on which we walk
towards it, the two arms with which we embrace it, and the two eyes with
which we perceive it.
In proportion to the growth of one of these two in us is the increase of
the other; the greater or the less the degree of our self-distrust, the
greater or the less the degree of our confidence in God. But whence springs
this salutary distrust of self? From the knowledge of our own misery and
vileness, of our weakness and impotence, of our malice and levity. And
whence proceeds confidence In God? From the knowledge which faith gives us
of His infinite goodness, and from our assurance that He is rich in mercy
to all those who call upon Him.
If distrust and confidence seem incompatible with one another, listen to
what our Blessed Father says on the subject: "Not only can the soul which
knows her misery have great confidence in God, but unless she has such
knowledge, it is impossible for her to have true confidence in Him; for it
is this very knowledge and confession of our misery which brings us to God.
Thus, all the great Saints, Job, David, and the rest, began every prayer
with the confession of their own misery, and unworthiness. It is a very
good thing to acknowledge ourselves to be poor, vile, abject, and unworthy
to appear in the presence of God. That saying so celebrated among the
ancients: _Know thyself_, even though it may be understood as referring
to the knowledge of the greatness and excellence of the soul, which ought
not to be debased or profaned by things unworthy of its nobility, may
also be taken as referring to the knowledge of our personal unworthiness,
imperfection, and misery. Now the greater our knowledge of our own misery
the more profound will be our confidence in the goodness and mercy of God;
for between mercy and misery there is so close a connection that the one
cannot be exercised without the other. If God had not created man, He would
still, indeed, have been perfect in goodness; but He would not have been
actually merciful, since mercy can only be exercised towards the miserable.
You see, then, that the more miserable we know ourselves to be the more
occasion we have to confide in God, since we have nothing in ourselves in
which we can trust."
He goes on to say: "It is a very good thing to mistrust ourselves, but at
the same time how will that avail us, unless we put our whole confidence
in God, and wait for His mercy? It is right that our daily faults and
infidelities should cause us self-reproach when we would appear before
our Lord; and we read of great souls, like St. Catherine of Siena and St.
Teresa, who, when they had been betrayed into some fault, were overwhelmed
with confusion. Again, it is reasonable that, having offended God, we
should out of humility and a feeling of confusion, hold ourselves a little
in the background. When we have offended even an earthly friend, we feel
ashamed to meet him. Nevertheless, it is quite certain that we must not
remain for long at a distance, for the virtues of humility, abjection, and
confusion are intermediate virtues, or steps by which the soul ascends to
union with her God.
"It would be no great gain to accept our nothingness as a fact and to strip
ourselves of self (which is done by acts of self-humiliation) if the result
of this were not the total surrender of ourselves to God. St. Paul teaches
us this, when he says: _Strip yourselves of the old man and put on the
new_. For we must not remain unclothed; but clothe ourselves with God."
Further on our Saint says: "I ever say that the throne of God's mercy is
our misery, therefore the greater our misery the greater should be our
As regards the foundation of our confidence in God, he says in the same
conference: "You wish further to know what foundation our confidence ought
to have. Know, then, that it must be grounded on the infinite goodness of
God, and on the merits of the Death and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ
with this condition on our part that we should preserve and recognise in
ourselves an entire and firm resolution to belong wholly to God, and to
abandon ourselves in all things and without any reserve to His Providence."
He adds that, in order to belong wholly to God, it is not necessary to
_feel_ this resolution, because feeling resides chiefly in the lower
faculties of the soul; but we must recognise it in the higher part of the
soul, that purer and more serene region where even in spite of our feelings
we fail not to serve God in spirit and in truth.
[Footnote 1: Col. iii. 9.]
[Footnote 2: Conference ii.]
UPON THE JUSTICE AND MERCY OF GOD.
You ask me a question which would be hard for me to answer had I not the
mind of our Blessed Father to guide and assist me in the matter.
You say: Whence comes it that Almighty God treated the rebel Angels with so
much severity, showing them no mercy whatever, and providing for them no
remedy to enable them to rise again after their fall; whereas to men He is
so indulgent, patient towards their malice, waiting for them to repent,
long suffering, and magnificent in His mercy, bestowing on them the copious
Redemption of the Saviour?
Well, He tells us in his _Treatise on the Love of God_ that: "The
angelic nature could only commit sin from positive malice, without
temptation or motive to excuse, even partially. Nevertheless, the far
greater part of the Angels remained constant in the service of their
Saviour. Therefore God, who had so amply glorified His mercy in the work
of the creation of the Angels, would also magnify His justice; and in His
righteous indignation resolved for ever to abandon that accursed band of
traitors, who in their rebellion had so villainously abandoned Him."
On man, however, He took pity for several reasons. First, because the
tempter by his cunning had deceived our first father, Adam; secondly,
because the spirit of man is encompassed by flesh and consequently by
infirmity; thirdly, because his spirit, enclosed as it is in an earthly
body, is frail as the vessel which enshrines it, easily overbalanced by
every breath of wind, and unable to right itself again; fourthly, because
the temptation in the Garden of Eden was great and over-mastering; fifthly,
because He had compassion on the posterity of Adam, which otherwise would
have perished with him; but the sixth, and principal cause was this:
Almighty God having resolved to take on Himself our human nature in order
to unite it to the Divine Person of the Word, He willed to favour very
specially this nature for the sake of that hypostatic union, which was
to be the masterpiece of all the communications of Almighty God to His
Do not, however, imagine that God so willed to magnify His mercy in the
redemption of man that He forgot the claims of His justice. No, truly; for
no severity can equal that which He displayed in the sufferings of His Son,
on whose sacred Head having laid the iniquities of us all, He poured out a
vengeance commensurate with His Divine wrath.
If, then, we weigh the severity displayed by God towards the rebel Angels
against that with which He treated His Divine Son when redeeming mankind,
we shall find His justice more abundantly satisfied in the atonement made
by the One than in the rigorous punishment of the others. In fine here, as
always, His mercy overrides His judgments, inasmuch as the fallen Angels
are punished far less than they deserve, and the faithful are rewarded far
beyond their merits.
[Footnote 1: Bk. ii c. iv.]
WAITING UPON GOD.
On this subject of waiting upon God I remember hearing from Blessed Francis
two wonderful explanations. You, my dear sisters, will, I am sure, be glad
to have them, and will find them of great use, seeing that your life,
nailed as it is with Jesus Christ to the Cross, must be one of great
He thus interpreted that verse of the Psalmist: _With expectation have I
waited on the Lord, and He was attentive to me._
"To wait, waiting," he said, "is not to fret ourselves while we are
waiting. For there are some who in waiting do not wait, but are troubled
Those who have to wait soon get weary, and from weariness springs that
disturbance of mind so common amongst them. Hence the inspired saying that
_Hope that is deferred afflicteth the soul_. Of all kinds of patience
there is none more fitting to tedious waiting than longanimity. Strength is
developed in dangers; patience drives away the sadness caused by suffering;
constancy avails for the bearing of great evils; perseverance for the
carrying out a good work to its completion; but longanimity has to do with
sufferings which are painful because they are long enduring.
Such pains are tedious, but not often violent, for violent sufferings
are, as a rule, not lasting; either they pass away, or he on whom they
are inflicted, being unable to bear them, is set free by death. To wait,
indeed, for deliverance from evils quietly, but without any anguish or
irritation, at least in the superior part of the soul, is to wait, waiting.
Happy are those who wait in this manner, for their hope shall not be
confounded. Of them the Psalmist says that God will remember them, that
He will grant their prayers, and that He will deliver them from the pit
of misery. Those who act otherwise, and who in their adversity give
themselves up to impatience, only aggravate their yoke, instead of
They are like the bird which beats its wings against the wrist or perch on
which it is poised, but cannot get free from its chain.
Wise Christians making a virtue of necessity and wishing what God wishes,
make that which is necessary voluntary, and turn their suffering to their
[Footnote 1: Psalm xxxix, i.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm xiii. 13.]
[Footnote 3: Psalm xxxix. 3.]
UPON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HOLY DESIRE OF REWARD AND A MERCENARY SPIRIT.
I am asked if there is not something of a mercenary spirit in these words
of our Blessed Father: "Oh, how greatly to be loved is the eternity of
Heaven, and how contemptible are the fleeting moments of earth! Aspire
continually to this eternity, and despise heartily this decaying world."
You will observe, if you please, that there is a great deal of difference
between a proper desire of reward and a mercenary habit of mind. The proper
desire of recompense is one which looks principally to the glory of God,
and to that glory refers its own reward. A habit of mind which, according
to the teaching of the Holy Council of Trent, is most excellent.
But a mercenary habit of mind is shown when we stop short voluntarily,
deliberately, and maliciously at our own self-interest, neglecting and
putting on one side the interests of God, and when we look forward only
to the honours, satisfactions, and delights given to the faithful, and
exclude, as it were, the tribute of glory and homage which they render for
them to God.
As regards these words of our Blessed Father's, I am perfectly certain
that, whatever they may at first sight seem to mean, they are assuredly the
expression of thoughts, utterly unselfish, and totally devoid of the spirit
of self-seeking. He had written just before: "Take good heed not to come to
the feast of the Holy Cross, which is a million times fuller of exquisite
pleasures than any wedding feast, without having on the white robe,
spotless, and pure from all intentions save that of pleasing the Lamb."
Again, I should like to read to you an extract from one of his letters, in
which you will see that he knew how to distinguish, even in Paradise, our
interests from those of God: So pure and penetrating was his sight that it
resembled that single eye of which the Gospel speaks, which fills us
with light and discernment in things spiritual and divine. He speaks thus
in his letter: "I have not been able to think of anything this morning save
of the eternity of blessings which awaits us. And yet all appear to me as
little or nothing beside that unchanging and ever-present love of the great
God, which reigns continually in Heaven. For truly I think that the joys of
Paradise would be possible, in the midst of all the pains of hell, if the
love of God could be there. And if hell-fire were a fire of love, it seems
to me that its torments would be the most desirable of good things. All
the delights of Heaven are in my eyes a mere nothing compared with this
triumphant love. Truly, we must either die or love God. I desire that my
heart should either be torn from my body or that if it remains with me it
should hold nothing but this holy love. Ah! We must truly give our hearts
up to our immortal King, and thus being closely united to Him, live solely
for Him. Let us die to ourselves and to all that depends on ourselves. It
seems to me that we ought to live only for God. The very thought of this
fills my heart once more with courage and fervour. After all, that our Lord
_is_ our Lord is the one thing in the world that really concerns us."
Again, in his Theotimus, he says:
"The supreme motive of our actions, which is that of heavenly love, has
this sovereign property, that being most pure, it makes the actions which
proceed from it most pure; so that the Angels and Saints of Heaven love
absolutely nothing for any other end whatever than that of the love of the
Divine goodness, and from the motive of desiring to please God. They all,
indeed, love one another most ardently; they also love us, they love the
virtues, but all this only to please God. They follow and practise virtues,
not inasmuch as these virtues are fair and attractive to them; but inasmuch
as they are agreeable to God. They love their own felicity, not because it
is theirs, but because it pleases God. Yea, they love the very love with
which they love God, not because it is in them, but because it tends to
God; not because they have and possess it, but because God gives it to
them, and takes His good pleasure in it."
[Footnote 1: _De Justificat_, cap. 12.]
[Footnote 2: Matt. vi. 22.]
[Footnote 3: Bk. xi. 13.]
CONTINUATION OF THE SAME SUBJECT.
There are some gloomy minds which imagine that when the motive of charity
and disinterested love is insisted upon all other motives are thereby
depreciated, and that it is wished to do away with them. But does he who
praises one Saint blame the others? If we extol the Seraphim, do we on that
account despise all the lower orders of Angels? Does the man who considers
gold more precious than silver say that silver is nothing at all? Are we
insulting the stars when we admire and praise the sun? And do we despise
marriage because we put celibacy above it?
It is true that, as the Apostle says, charity is the greatest of all
virtues, without which the others have neither life nor soul; but that does
not prevent these others from being virtues, and most desirable as good
habits. In doing virtuous actions the motive of charity is, indeed, the
king of all motives; but blessed also are all those inferior motives which
are subject to it. We may truly say of them what the Queen of Sheba said of
the courtiers of Solomon: _Happy are thy men who always stand before thee
and hear thy wisdom._
Nay, even servile and mercenary motives, although interested, may yet
be good, provided they have nothing in them that cannot be referred to
God. They are good in those who have not charity, preparing them for the
reception of justifying grace. They are also good in the regenerate, and
are compatible with charity, like servants and slaves in the service and
households of the great. For it is right, however regenerate we may be, to
abstain from sin, not only for fear of displeasing God, but also for fear
of losing our souls. The Council of Trent tells us that we are not doing
ill when we perform good works primarily in order to glorify God; and also,
as an accessory, with a view to the eternal reward which God promises to
those who shall do such in His love and for His love. In great temptations,
for fear of succumbing, the just may with advantage call to their aid the
thought of hell, thereby to save themselves from eternal damnation and the
loss of Paradise. But the first principles of the doctrine of salvation
teach us that, to avoid evil and do good, simply from the motive of pure
and disinterested love of God, is the most perfect and meritorious mode of
What! say some:--Must we cease to fear God and to hope in Him? What, then,
becomes of acts of holy fear, and of the virtue of hope? If a mother were
to abuse the doctor who had restored her child to life, would it not excite
a strong suspicion that it was she herself who had attempted to smother it?
Did not she who said to Solomon: _Let it be divided_, show herself to be
the false mother? They who are so much attached to servile fear can have no
real desire to attain to that holy, pure, loving, reverent fear which leads
to everlasting rest, and which the Saints and Angels practise through all
Let us listen to what Blessed Francis further says on this subject.
"When we were little children, how eagerly and busily we used to collect
tiny scraps of cloth, bits of wood, handfuls of clay, to build houses and
make little boats! And if any one destroyed these wonderful erections, how
unhappy we were; how bitterly we cried! But now we smile when we think how
trivial it all was.
"Well," he goes on to say, "let us, since we are but children, be pardoned
if we act as such; but, at the same time, do not let us grow cold and dull
in our work. If any one knocks over our little houses, and spoils our small
plans, do not let us now be unhappy or give way altogether on that account.
The less so because when the evening comes, and we need a roof, I mean when
death is at hand, these poor little buildings of ours will be quite unfit
to shelter us. We must then be safely housed in our Father's Mansion, which
is the Kingdom of His well-beloved Son."
[Footnote 1: 2 Paral. ix. 7.]
[Footnote 2: 1 Kings iii. 26.]
GOD SHOULD SUFFICE FOR US ALL.
A person of some consideration, and one who made much profession of living
a devout life, was overtaken by sudden misfortune, which deprived her of
almost all her wealth and left her plunged in grief. Her distress of mind
was so inconsolable that it led her to complain of the Providence of God,
who appeared, she said, to have forgotten her. All her faithful service and
the purity of her life seemed to have been in vain.
Blessed Francis, full of compassionate sympathy for her misfortunes, and
anxious to turn her thoughts from the contemplation of herself and of
earthly things, to fix them on God, asked her if He was not more to her
than anything; nay, if, in fact, God was not Himself everything to her;
and if, having loved Him when He had given her many things, she was not
now ready to love Him, though she received nothing from Him. She, however,
replying that such language was more speculative than practical, and
easier to speak than to carry into effect, he wound up by saying, with St.
Augustine: _Too avaricious is that heart to which God does not suffice._
"Assuredly, he who is not satisfied with God is covetous indeed." This word
_covetous_ produced a powerful effect upon the heart of one who, in the
days of her prosperity, had always hated avarice, and had been most lavish
in her expenditure, both on her own needs and pleasures and on works of
mercy. It seemed as if suddenly the eyes of her soul were opened, and she
saw how admirable, how infinitely worthy of love God ever remained, whether
with those things she had possessed or without them. So, by degrees, she
forgot herself and her crosses; grace prevailed, and she knew and confessed
that God was all in all to her. Such efficacy have a Saint's words, even if
CHARITY THE SHORT ROAD TO PERFECTION.
Blessed Francis, in speaking of perfection, often remarked that, although
he heard very many people talking about it, he met with very few who
practised it. "Many, indeed," he would say, "are so mistaken in their
estimate of what perfection is, that they take effects for the cause, the
rivulet for the spring, the branches for the root, the accessories for the
principle, and often even the shadow for the substance."
For myself, I know of no Christian perfection other than to love God with
our whole heart and our neighbour as ourselves. All other perfection is
falsely so entitled: it is sham gold that does not stand testing.
Charity is the only bond between Christians, the only virtue which unites
us absolutely to God, and our neighbour.
In charity lies the end of every perfection and the perfection of every
end. I know that mortification, prayer, and the other exercises of virtue,
are all means to perfection, provided that they are practised in charity,
and from the motive of charity. But we must never regard any of these means
towards attaining perfection as being in themselves perfection. This would
be to stop short on the road, and in the middle of the race, instead of
reaching the goal.
The Apostle exhorts us, indeed, to run, but so as to carry off the
prize, which is for those only who have breath enough to reach the end
of the course.
In a word, all our actions must be done in charity if we wish to walk in
a manner, as says St. Paul, worthy of God; that is to say, to hasten on
Charity is the way of true life; it is the truth of the living way; it is
the life of the way of truth. All virtue is dead without it: it is the very
life of virtue. No one can reach the last and supreme end, God Himself,
without charity; it is the way to Him. There is no true virtue without
charity, says St. Thomas; it is the very truth of virtue.
In conclusion, and in answer to my repeated question as to how we were to
go to work in order to attain to this perfection, this supreme love of God
and of our neighbour, our Blessed Father said that we must use exactly the
same method as we should in mastering any ordinary art or accomplishment.
"We learn," he said, "to study by studying, to play on the lute by playing,
to dance by dancing, to swim by swimming. So also we learn to love God and
our neighbour _by loving_ them, and those who attempt any other method are
You ask me, my sisters, how we can discover whether or not we are making
any progress towards perfection. I cannot do better than consult our
oracle, Blessed Francis, and answer you in his own words, taken from his
eighth Conference. "We can never know what perfection we have reached, for
we are like those who are at sea; they do not know whether they are making
progress or not, but the pilot knows, knowing the course. So we cannot
estimate our own advancement, though we may that of others, for we dare
not assure ourselves when we have done a good action that we have done it
perfectly--humility forbids us to do so. Nay, even were we able to judge of
the virtues of others, we must never determine in our minds that one person
is better than another, because appearances are deceitful, and those who
seem very virtuous outwardly and in the eyes of creatures, may be less so
in the sight of God than others who appear much more imperfect."
I have often heard him say that the multiplicity of means proposed for
advancement towards perfection frequently delays the progress of souls.
They are like travellers uncertain of the way, and who seeing many roads
branching off in different directions stay and waste their time by
enquiring here and there which of them they ought to take in order to
reach their journey's end. He advised people to confine themselves rather
to some special spiritual exercise or virtue, or to some well-chosen
book of piety--for example, to the exercise of the presence of God, or
of submission to His will, or to purity of intention, or some similar
Among books, he recommended chiefly, _The Spiritual Combat_, _The Imitation
of Jesus Christ_, _The Method of Serving God_, _Grenada_, _Blosius_,
and such like. Among the virtues, as you know well, his favourites
were gentleness and humility, charity--without which others are of no
value--being always pre-supposed.
On this subject of advancement towards perfection, he speaks thus in the
ninth of his Conferences:
"If you ask me, 'What can I do to acquire the love of God?' I answer,
_Will_; i.e., _try_ to love Him; and instead of setting to work to find out
how you can unite your soul to God, put the thing in practice by a frequent
application of your mind to Him. I assure you that you will arrive much
more quickly at your end by this means than in any other way.
"For the more we pour ourselves out the less recollected we shall be, and
the less capable of union with the Divine Majesty, who would have all we
are without reserve."
He continues: "One actually finds souls who are so busy in thinking how
they shall do a thing that they have no time to do it. And yet, in what
concerns our perfection, which consists in the union of our soul with the
Divine Goodness, there is no question of knowing much; but only of doing."
Again, in the same Conference, he says: "It seems to me that those of whom
we ask the road to Heaven are very right in answering us as those do who
tell us that, in order to reach such a place, we must just go on putting
one foot before the other, and that by this means we shall arrive where we
desire. Walk ever, we say to these souls so desirous of their perfection,
walk in the way of your vocation with simplicity, more intent on doing than
on desiring. That is the shortest road." "And," he adds, "in aspiring to
union with the Beloved, there is no other secret than to do what we aspire
to--that is, to labour faithfully in the exercise of Divine love."
[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. ix. 24.]
UPON WHAT IT IS TO LOVE GOD TRULY.
In connection with this subject of the love of God and of our neighbour,
I asked our Blessed Father what _loving_ in this sense of the word really
was. He replied: "Love is the primary passion of our emotional desires,
and a primary element in that emotional faculty which is the will. So that
to will is nothing more than to love what is good, and love is the willing
or desiring what is good. If we desire good for ourselves we have what
is called self-love; if we desire good for another we have the love of
To love God and our neighbour, then, with the love of charity, which is
the love of friendship, is to desire good to God for Himself, and to our
neighbour in God and for the love of God. We can desire two sorts of good
for God: that which He has, rejoicing that He is what He is, and that
nothing can be added to the greatness and to the infinity of His inward
perfection; and that which He has not, by wishing it for Him, either
effectively, if it is in our power to give it to Him, or by loving and
longing, if it is not in our power to give it. For, indeed, there is a good
which God desires and which is not His as it should be in perfection. That
external good, as it is called, is the good which proceeds from the honour
and glory rendered to Him by His creatures, especially by those among
them endowed with reason. This is the good which David wishes to God in
so many of his Psalms. Among others, in the _Praise ye the Lord from the
heavens_, and in the _Bless the Lord, O my soul_.
The three children also in the fiery furnace wish this good to God by their
canticle: _All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord._
If we truly love God we shall try to bring this good to Him through
ourselves, surrendering our whole being to Him, and doing all our actions,
the indifferent as well as the good, for His glory.
Not content with that, we shall also strive with all our might to make our
neighbour serve and love God, so that by all and in all things God may be
To love our neighbour in God is to rejoice in the good which our neighbour
possesses, provided, indeed, that he makes use of it for the divine glory;
to render him in his need all the assistance which lies within our power;
to be zealous for the welfare of his soul, and to work for it as we do
for our own, because God wills and desires it. That is to have true and
unfeigned charity, and to love God sincerely and steadfastly for His own
sake and our neighbour for the love of Him.
[Footnote 1: Psalm cxlviii. 1.]
[Footnote 2: Id. ciii. 1.]
[Footnote 3: Dan. iii. 57.]
UPON THE LOVE OF GOD IN GENERAL.
A whole mountain of virtues, if destitute of this living, reigning, and
triumphant love, was to Blessed Francis but as a petty heap of stones. He
was never weary of inculcating love of God as the supreme motive of every
The whole of his Theotimus (_The Treatise on the Love of God_) breathes
this sentiment, and he often told me that it was impossible to insist upon
it too strongly in our teaching and advice to our people. "For, in fact,"
he used to say, "what is the use of running a race if we do not reach the
goal, or of drawing the bow if we do not hit the target?" Oh! how many good
works are useless as regards the glory of God and the salvation of souls,
for want of this motive of charity! And yet, this is the last thing people
think of, as if the intention were not the very soul of a good action, and
as if God had ever promised to reward works not done for His glory, and not
applied to His honour.
ALL FOR LOVE OF GOD.
You know very well how Blessed Francis valued charity, but I will give you,
nevertheless, some more of his teaching on this great subject.
To a holy soul who had placed herself under his direction, he said: "We
must do all things from love, and nothing from constraint. We must love
obedience rather than fear disobedience. I leave you the spirit of liberty:
not such as excludes obedience, for that is the liberty of the flesh, but
such as excludes constraint, scruples, and over-eagerness. However much you
may love obedience and submission, I wish you to suspend for the moment the
work in which obedience has engaged you whenever any just or charitable
occasion for so doing occurs. This omission will be a species of obedience.
Fill up its measure by charity."
From this spirit of holy and Christian liberty originated the saying so
often to be met with in his letters: "Keep your heart in peace." That is to
say: Beware of hurry, anxiety, and bitterness of heart. These he called the
ruin of devotion. He was even unwilling that people should meditate upon
the great truths of Death, Judgment and Hell, unless they at the same time
reassured themselves by the remembrance of God's love for them. Speaking to
a holy soul, he says: "Meditation on the four last things will be useful to
you provided that you always end with an act of confidence in God. Never
represent to yourself Death or Hell on the one side unless the Cross is on
the other; so that when your fears have been excited by the one you may
with confidence turn for help to the other." The one point on which he
chiefly insisted was that we must fear God from love, not love God from
fear. "To love Him from fear," he used to say, "is to put gall into our
food and to quench our thirst with vinegar; but to fear Him from love is to
sweeten aloes and wormwood."
Assuredly, our own experience convinces us that it is difficult to love
those whom we fear, and that it is impossible not to fear with a filial and
reverent fear those whom we love.
You find some difficulty, it seems, my sisters, in understanding how all
things, as St. Paul says, whether good, bad, or indifferent, can in the
end work together for good to those who love God.
To satisfy you, I quote the words of Blessed Francis on this subject in one
of his letters. "Since," he says, "God can bring good out of evil, will He
not surely do so for those who have given themselves unreservedly to Him?
Yes; even sins, from which may God in His goodness keep us, are by His
Divine Providence, when we repent of them, changed into good for those who
are His. Never would David have been so bowed down with humility if he had
not sinned, nor would Magdalene have loved her Saviour so fervently had He
not forgiven her so many sins. But He could not have forgiven them had she
not committed them."
Again: "Consider, my dear daughter, this great Artificer of mercy, who
changes our miseries into graces, and out of the poison of our iniquities
compounds a wholesome medicine for our souls. Tell me, then, I beseech
you, if God works such wonders with our sins, what will He not effect with
our afflictions, with our labours, with the persecutions which we have to
endure? No matter what trouble befalls you, nor from what direction it may
come, let your soul be at peace, certain that if you truly love God all
will turn to good. And though you cannot see the springs which work this
marvellous change, rest assured that it will take place.
"If the hand of God touches your eyes with the clay of shame and reproach,
it is only to give you clearer sight, and to cause you to be honoured.
"If He should cast you to the ground, as He did St. Paul, it will only be
to raise you up again to glory."
[Footnote 1: Rom. viii. 28.]
[Footnote 2: Rom. viii. 28.]
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
"All by love, nothing by constraint." This was his favourite motto, and the
mainspring of his direction of others. He has often said to me that those
who try to force the human will are exercising a tyranny which is hateful
to God and man. This was why he had such a horror of those masterful and
dominant spirits which insist on being obeyed, _bon gre mal gre_, and would
have every one give way to them. "Those," he often said, "who love to make
themselves feared, fear to make themselves loved; and they themselves are
more fearful than anyone else: for others only fear _them_, but they are
afraid of every one."
I have often heard him say these striking words: "In the royal galley of
divine love there is no galley-slave; all the oarsmen are volunteers." And
he expresses the same sentiment in Theotimus, when he says: "Divine love
governs the soul with an incomparable sweetness; for no one of the slaves
of love is made such by force, but love brings all things under its rule,
with a constraint so delightful, that as nothing is so strong as love,
nothing also is so sweet as its strength." And in another part of the
same book he makes a soul, attracted by the delicious perfume shed by the
divine Bridegroom on his path, say:
"Let no one think that Thou draggest me after Thee like an unwilling
slave or a lifeless load. Ah! no. Thou drawest me by the _odour of Thine
ointments_; though I follow Thee, it is not that Thou draggest me, but that
Thou enticest me. Thy drawing is mighty, but not violent, since its whole
force lies in its sweetness. Perfumes draw me to follow them in virtue
only of their sweetness. And sweetness, how can it attract but sweetly and
pleasantly?" Following out this principle, he never gave a command even
to those who were bound to obey him, whether his servants or his clergy,
save in the form of a request or suggestion. He held in special veneration,
and often inculcated upon me the command of St. Peter: _Feed the flock of
God which is among you, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy
lucre's sake, neither as lording it over the clergy, but being made a
pattern of virtue to the flock._
And here, my sisters, I feel that if will be for your profit, although the
story is not to my own credit, to relate a circumstance which occurred in
the early years of my episcopate. I was young, impetuous, and impatient;
eager to reform the abuses and disorders which from time to time I met with
in my pastoral visitations. Often, too, I know, I was bitter and harsh when
Once in a despairing mood because of the many failures I noticed in myself,