ST. FRANCIS DE SALES.
I. LETTERS TO PERSONS IN THE WORLD.
C. K. OGDEN
LIBRARY OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES.
WORKS OF THIS DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH.
VERY REV. HENRY BENEDICT MACKEY, O.S.B.
UNDER THE DIRECTION AND PATRONAGE OF
HIS LORDSHIP THE
RIGHT REV. JOHN CUTHBERT HEDLEY, O.S.B.
Bishop of Newport and Mcnevia.
I -LETTERS TO PERSONS IN THE WORLD.
WITH PREFACE BY BISHOP HEDLEY.
" The Perfection of Charity is the Perfection of Life." Book vi. c. 52.
LONDON: BURNS & GATES, LIMITED.
NEW YORK, CINCINNATTI, CHICAGO: BENZIGER BROTHERS.
MANY besides myself will have heard with great
satisfaction that it is in contemplation to prepare a
complete and careful English translation of the works
of St. Francis de Sales. The position of St. Francis, as a
teacher of the Universal Church, has long been assured.
But the recent Pontifical decree, which has enrolled
him among those who are formally called Doctors of
the Church, has directed the attention of all devout
Christians to a more exhaustive examination of all
that he has written. Those who use the English tongue
may well desire to have an adequate English edition
of a Saint who is one of the great devotional teachers
of the Church during the time which has elapsed since
the Council of Trent.
The two opposite rocks which threaten the soul
which aspired to devotion used to be put down as
Jansenism on the one hand, and laxity on the other.
Jansenism is not perhaps a living danger in these days.
The winter of its bitter reign has gradually given way
before the warmth of the teachings of St. Alphonsns.
No more powerful element can be found in modern
spiritual activity than the devotion to the Sacred
Humanity of Our Lord which is enforced by this great
Saint. Besides bringing back the children of the
Church out of the cold into the warmth and familiarity
of their Father's house, it has done much to preserve
devotion from degenerating into mere duty, or the
worship of principle, or love of one another, or self-
respect developments to which the advance of self-
consciousness has given great prominence. It has
encouraged the simple by the thought that the highest
form of religious worship is easily within their reach,
and it has. reminded the learned and the educated that
child-like devotion to the Incarnation and Passion of
our Saviour is for the vast majority the only safe path.
St. Francis de Sales, it is needless to say, wrote before
Jansenism had infected devotion. Neither did he write
and preach against laxity of morals, or licentiousness.
He made war against sin, without doubt, as other
preachers have done. But his special work was not
denunciation of evil or the threatening of the fires of
hell. He was like some serene and clear-eyed mes-
senger from heaven who alights upon a confusion and
chaos, and whose gentle look and magic voice bring
back order and a new harmony. His task was the
simplification of Christian devotion. In other words,
it was the shortening of the Christian's path to his
Nothing is gained by exaggerating the state into
which devotion had fallen at the appearance in the
world of St. Francis de Sales. The Church never
grows old, and the influence of the Holy Spirit reigns
and rules in every age. When Francis was writing
those fugitive letters to Madame de Charrnoisy which
he afterwards expanded into the Introduction d la vie
devote, the writings of great modern spiritual teachers
were already known to the world. The works of Louis
of Granada, of St. Theresa, and of Blessed John of
Avila circulated, at least on this side of the Alps.
In the preface to the treatise De I' Amour de Dieu,
he himself gives a list of a dozen authors who had
written devoutly and learnedly on the very subject
he was going to treat. The names of more "than half
of these are almost unknown at the present day ; but
the mere enumeration proves that spiritual subjects
were understood, and well understood, in the early
years of the seventeenth century. Not to speak of
the " Imitation of Christ," we must not forget that the
" Spiritual Combat" was at that very time coming into
use in every part of Europe from Spain to Southern Italy.
The special evil of the time was not that devotion was not
correctly understood by those whose office it was to teach
it ; it was this that, in French countries at least, few
understood what to say about the ordinary lives of the
noble and the gentle. On the one hand, there was a
feeling among the best ecclesiastics that Court life was
beyond redemption or improvement. On the other
hand, the Catholic religion was upheld by the State ;
its Bishops were great personages, its festivals were
honoured, its functions and ceremonies were largely
attended, and many of its preachers were followed by
a fashionable crowd. The noble gentleman or lady
therefore, who wished to " follow the Court," and yet
to be a good Christian, had great difficulty in knowing
how to behave. Many confessors would hardly give
them absolution ; whilst others were too easy and let
them do as they pleased. Court life or in other
words, a life of ease, wealth, distinction and refine-
ment was, and is, a necessity. No doubt such a life
is full of danger. But the worst possible result that
could ensue would be to drive a whole class into reck-
lessness by telling them they could not possibly be
saved. And hardly better could it be to encourage
worldly men and women, who merely went to Mass
and to fashionable sermons, in the idea that such ex-
ternal practices were real religion. It was to prevent,
or put a stop to, these two nearly related evils that
St. Francis de Sales wrote and preached. He has been
slightingly called the Apostle of the " upper classes."
The phrase sounds odious enough; but in his days it
was very significant. And when we remember that it
was chiefly to make a gentleman a true and humble
Christian that he exercised his Apostolate, we need not
object to giving him the title. Christianity is a great
leveller of class distinctions ; and no one has shown
men more clearly that they are all brothers in God and
in Christ than St. Francis.
There is a letter of his,* addressed to a young gen-
tleman who was about to enter upon " Court life/'
which contains all St. Francis's mind on this subject.
It was written in 1610, that is, about two years after
the publication of the Introduction, when his thought
* See Book IV. 2.
was mature and his idea had been well thought
" Sir/' he begins, " you are about to hoist sail and
venture on the high seas of this world ; you are going
to Court I am not so frightened as some people
are. I do not consider such a state of life as abso-
lutely the most dangerous of any, for persons of mag-
nanimity and true manliness." Then, after giving him
various points of advice, he brings in (as he almost
inevitably does on such occasions) the example of his
model and hero, St. Louis of France : " Imagine that
you were a courtier of St. Louis. Well did the holy
king like a man to be brave, courageous, generous,
good-humoured, courteous, polite, candid, and refined;
but he liked him to be a Christian far better. Had
you been near him you would have seen him laugh
amiably when there was occasion for it, and speak out
boldly when it was needful ; he would have taken care
that all his surroundings were noble and dignified, like
a second Solomon, in order that the royal dignity
might be kept up ; and a moment afterwards he would
have been seen serving the poor in the hospital ; in a
word, he joined civil virtue with Christian virtue, and
allied majesty with humility. The truth is, one must
understand that no one should be less manly because
he is a Christian, or less Christian because he is a man.
But to be this he must be a really good Christian
that is to say, very devout, very pious, and, if possible,
a spiritual man; for, as St. Paul says, the spiritual
man discerneth all things; he knows when, and in
what order, and in what way to practise each different
virtue as required." This short extract seems to con-
tain, not an abridgment of St. Francis's spiritual
teaching, but the very spirit and essence of it all.
Few, perhaps, have well considered what the benefits
are which it has conferred upon Christianity in Europe.
Christianity is intended to sanctify the world, and not
to abolish the world ; and the world is not, and can
never be, the cloister. For the generality of men of
the world the true apostle is he who makes the way
of perfection as easy and as smooth as it can be made
without sacrificing safety. This is what St. Francis
has, by the testimony of the Church herself, done
better than any other writer. It is true that both
his language, his form, and his method have a history
and a pedigree. His language seems to be modelled
on Joinville's life of St. Louis. His form is that of
the " Spiritual Combat." His method, with its four
qualities of familiarity, clearness, unction, and illus-
tration, is to a very great extent the reflex of his own
most original and happy genius ; but, if it had a pre-
decessor, I should be disposed to look for him among
the Italian Humanists of the sixteenth century.
Humanism, as far as it affected general literature,
mainly consisted in the bringing back into philosophy
the flowing and conversational method of Plato and
Cicero in the place of the formal argument of Aris-
totle and the Schoolmen. It was the substitution of
talk for proof; easy, polished serious talk, if you
please, but still talk. One need merely recall the
familiar names of Erasmus, of Sir Thomas More, of
Fisher (who in happier times might himself have been
a Francis de Sales), and then recollect that the models
of these writers flourished in Italy, from Bessarion to
Angelo Poliziani. When St. Francis, at the end of
the sixteenth century, studied in Padua, he lived in
the very midst of a society which made it its pride
and its boast to model its own literary efforts on the
wit, the polish, and the gracefulness of the ancient
Greeks and Romans. There is no doubt that the
style and method of our holy Doctor was affected by
these surroundings. But he remained himself, amidst
all the seductions of humanistic literature. If any
one takes the trouble to compare the draft of pious
resolutions which he drew up at Padua with his latest
spiritual letters, he will see that the youthful and
studied elaboration of the former have given way to
a style equally polished, but strong in that native
force and mother- wit which were the Saint's own. He
writes, even in his Amour de Dieu, which is the
most philosophical of his works, with an ease, a grace,
and a polish which leave his favourite Seneca far be-
hind. But the strong, earnest and serious purpose
which pervades every line prevents the least suspicion
of fine writing; whilst the intense devotion which
flames out from his elaborated thought, like the glow
of mighty furnaces in the night, gives his words that
precious quality of penetration which is peculiar to the
words of the Saints.
This English translation of the works of St. Francis
de Sales will form an admirable library of devotion for
all who live in the world. I do not forget how much
he has written for cloistered souls; the sweet sim-
plicity of his teaching is just as admirably fitted to
sanctify the religious as the man of the world. Whilst
" devotions" abound and multiply, we are safe in fol-
lowing the guiding hand of the Vicar of Christ, and
in taking St. Francis as our master and teacher in
whatever relates to real " devotion."
J. C. H.
IT is scarcely necessary to say that the " Letters" of
St. Francis de Sales were published after his death,
and that therefore the following selection from them
was not made by the Saint himself. It has been
made for the benefit of those who have not leisure to
study the whole body of his correspondence, which
extends to many volumes. Various editions have ap-
peared under the title " Letters to Persons in the
World " we have adopted that of Eugene Veuillot,*
which is founded on the recent and authentic texts,
and is further recommended by his personal piety and
well-known literary taste. His principle of division,
according to the class of persons addressed, we accept
when carried out in his broad spirit. The two books
of " Various Letters" might have been somewhat better
arranged, and here and there a letter might have pro-
fitably been substituted for the one actually chosen.
But we have not let the question of such slight pos-
sible improvements weigh against the great advantage
the reader will enjoy of being able to consult with
* "Lettres de S. Francois de Sales a des Gens du Monde."
Par M. Eugene Veuillot. Paris : Palme. 1865. Prices*. ( Of
Messrs. Burns and Gates.)
xiv Translator s Notice.
facility that original text, every word of which is pene-
trated with the unction of the Saint's style. The only
aim of our translation is to bring readers as close to this
as the differences of the two languages will allow, and in
this view we have not hesitated to risk occasionally the
sacrifice of some minor propriety of English expression.
This may be considered the first appearance in our
language of the letters of St. Francis. A few of them
may be found forming part of an excellent little work
called " Practical Piety " but they are condensed and
curtailed. We mention, only to condemn, a book pro-
fessing to be "A Selection from the Spiritual Letters
of St. Francis de Sales/' published by Riviugtons.
This does not contain true letters of a grand Doctor
of the Catholic Church, but what an Anglican lady
thinks proper to give after exercising her private
theological and literary judgment upon them. They
are utterly untrustworthy.* Our own translation has
* Here are a few examples, chosen at hazard, of the misrepresenta-
tions that abound in thi& volume. She makes St. Francis utter
the absurdity and heresy that, " Even in good actions or in faults
one should strive to remain passive" (p. 356). She translates
' (Passages of Scripture) necessary for the establishment of the
faith;" by "important for the confirmation of the faith" (186).
Where he speaks of " that infame Rabelais," she says simply
" Rabelais." So she omits the word " infallible" in a most im-
portant passage. She always omits the lists of spiritual authors
given by St. Francis, and his teaching on many points of the
spiritual life (such as the use of the discipline, devotion to the
Saints, &c.). She shortens at her own fancy ; reducing, for instance,
by two-thirds the last letter of Book III., on a rule of life, and
liberty of spirit, which is perhaps the grandest of all the Saint's letters.
Translator s Notice. xv
been executed under the close correction of eminent
We venture to refer such of our readers as desire
information concerning some of the persons addressed
in the letters, and the place these writings hold in the
teaching of the Saint, to an article on the " Works"
of St. Francis in the Dublin Review for July, 1882.
Fuller information will be found in the "Vie de S,
Francois de Sales," by M. Hamon, Cure of S. Sulpice.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
LETTERS TO YOUNG LADIES.
I. To A YOUNG LADT. Advice for acquiring
true sweetness I
II. To A YOUNG LADY GOING TO LIVE IN SOCIETY.
We must despise the judgments, contempt
and raillery of worldly people ... 2
III. To A YOUNG LADY. The Saint invites her to
despise the world. She is not to show too
much wit 4
IV. To A COUSIN. Danger of vain and worldly
conversation ...... 6
V. To A YOUNG LADY. On Perfection . . 6
VI. To A YOUNG LADY. On friendships founded
in charity 13
VII. To A YOUNG LADY. On the cooling of piety.
(Danger of lawsuits.) ..... 13
VIII. To A YOUNG LADY WHO WAS THINKING OF
MARRIAGE. The married state requires
more virtue and constancy than any other 16
IX. To MADEMOISELLE DE TRAYES. The Saint
engages her not to marry, and courageously
to support family trouble . . . .18
X. To A YOUNG LADY. The Saint exhorts her
not to go to law, and recommends the
method of accommodation. (Pernicious
effects of lawsuits.) . . . . .19
xviii Table of Contents.
XL To A YOUNG LADY. The Saint endeavours to
turn her away from a suit which she
thought of instituting against one who
had promised to marry her and broken his
XII. To THE SAME. Fresh counsels on the same
XIII. To A YOUNG LADY. The gift of prayer comes
from heaven, and we must prepare our-
selves for it with care ; by it we put our-
selves in the presence of God. How a
young person should behave when her
parents oppose her desire of becoming
a religious 30
XIV. To A YOUNG LADY. Whom we are to consult
about entering religion .... 33
XY. To A YOUNG LADY. The Saint invites her to
follow God's inspiration, and to conseci'ate
herself to him 36
XVI. To A YOUNG LADY. The Saint exhorts her
to give herself entirely to God ... 37
XVII. To A YOUNG LADY. The Saint exhorts her
to keep her good resolutions. The best
afflictions are those which humble us.
Means to acquire fervour in prayer . . 38
XVIII. To A YOUNG LADY WHO FOUND OBSTACLES TO
HER DESIRE TO BE A EELIGIOUS. "We UJUSt
be always able to say to God : " Thy will be
XIX. To A POSTULANT. He praises her for wishing
to enter the Order of the Visitation . . 41
7 'able of Contents. xix
LETTERS TO MARRIED WOMEN.
I. To A YOUNG MARRIED LADY. The Saint con-
gratulates her on her marriage, and gives
her advice on the duties of her state . . 45
II. To A MARRIED LADY. Advantages of a holy
marriage ; how we ought to live in that
III. To A MARKIED LADY. The Vintage. Sweet,
peaceful, and tranquil love ... 49
IV. To MADAME, WIFE OF PRESIDENT BRULART.
True devotion and the practice of it . . 51
V. To THE SAME. Means to arrive at perfection
in the state of marriage . . . .60
VI. To THE SAME. On the rules which we must
know how to impose upon our devotion . 64
VII. To A LADY. He points out to her remedies
against impatience in the accidental
troubles of a household .... 68
VIII. To A LADY. Advice on the choice of a
confessor. Practice for preserving peace
and gentleness in domestic affairs . . 70
IX. To ONE OF HIS NIECES. Rules of Life . . 73
X. To ONE OF HIS COUSINS. On the way we are
to act when living with our parents . . 76
XI. To A LADY. Distance of place can put no
obstacle to the union of God's children.
How to behave in uncharitable company.
Gentleness towards all . . .78
XII. To A LADY, THE WIFE OF A SENATOR. He ex-
horts her to give herself entirely to God,
assuring her that it is the only happiness. 80
XIII. To A LADY. On the way to correct human
xx Table of Contents.
XIV. To TWO SISTERS. The Saint exhorts them to
peace, gentleness, and concord ... 84
XV. To M. AND MADAME DE FORAX. The Saint
congratulates them on the termination of
law-suits, and exhorts them to a perfect
XVI. To A LADY. Duty of a Christian -wife.
Counsels during pregnancy ... 86
XVII. To A LADY. Counsels during pregnancy . 89
XVIII. To A LADY IN PREGNANCY. We must, each in
our own state, make profit of the subjects
of mortifications which are therein . . 92
XIX. To A LADY. Counsels during pregnancy . 94
XX. To THE SAME. Counsels on the same subject 94
XXT. To A LADY. The Saint consoles her on her
XXII. To A LADY. The Saint gives her advice on
the marriage of her daughter, congratulates
her on the virtues of her husband, and
speaks of balls. Distant pilgrimages not
suitable for women ..... 96
XXIII. To A LADY. Whose husband had intended to
fight a duel loc
XXIV. To A LADY. On the folly of persons in the
world about duels 101
XXV. To A LADY. The Saint consoles her in the
illness of he? daughter, and blames the
excessive love of mothers for their children 102
XXVI. To A EELIGIOUS OP THE VISITATION. Same
XXVII. To A LADY. Parents ought to bless God
when their children consecrate themselves
to his service ...... 104
XXVIII. To A LADY. The Saint congratulates her on
her daughter entering the Carmelites . ictf
XXIX. To A LADY. Consolations on the illness of
her husband io/
XXX. To A LADY. Same subject as the preceding . io
Table of Contents. xxi
XXXL To A LADY. Same subject . . . .109
XXXII. To A RELIGIOUS WHO HAD BEEN MARRIED.
The Saint prepares her to accept with
submission the death of her child . . 1 1 1
XXXIII. To A LADY. Consolation to a mother on the
death of her son in childhood . . .113
XXXIV. To A LADY. On the death of her son . . 115
XXXV. To A LADY. Consolation on the death of her
son. Example of our Lady at the foot of
the Cross 116
XXXVI. To MADAME, WIFE OF PRESIDENT BRULART.
Consolation on the death of a son who
died in the Indies, in the King's service . 1 18
XXXVII. To A LADY. We must not stretch our
curiosity so far as to wish to know what
is, after death, the fate of a person we
have much loved 121
XXXVIII. To A LADY. On the too great fear of death . 122
LETTERS TO WIDOWS.
I. To A COUSIN. He tells her of her husband's
death, and gives her spiritual consolations 127
II. To AN AUNT. Consolations on the death of
her husband. The perfection of true friend-
ship is only found in Paradise . .129
III. To MADAME EIVOLAT, WIDOW. The Saint
consoles her in the death of her husband . 130
IV. To A LADY. Consolation on the death of
her husband. He speaks of her children . 131
V. To MADAME DE CHANTAL. Duties of widows
relatively to their salvation ; means of
gaining that end . . . . .134
xx ii Table of Contents.
VI. To THE SAME. He sends a picture repre-
senting the little Jesus with Our Lady
and St. Anne 137
VII. To THE SAME. Humility is the virtue proper
for widows ; in what it consists. The great
utility of meditating on the life and death
of our Lord. Remedies for temptations
against faith. Advice on the exercise of
VIII. To MADAME THE COUNTESS DE DALET. Duties
of a widow towards her parents and
children. The love of parents has great
IX. To THE SAME. "What assistance children
who are masters of their fortune and have
a family owe to their parents . . .148
X. To A LADY. The virtues which spring in the
midst of afflictions are the most solid . 151
XI. To MADAME DE CHANTAL. On the choice of a
Director. Remedies fortemptations against
faith. Rules of conduct for the use of a
Christian widow. Liberty of spirit . . 152
LETTERS TO MKN OF THE WORLD.
I. To A FRIEND. Way to live in peace . . 175
II. To A GENTLEMAN WHO WAS GOING TO LIVE AT
III. To A MAN OF THE WORLD. To speak too
much is the worst kind of ill-speaking
IV. To AN AUTHOR. A magistrate who had sent
him a book of Christian poetry
Table of Contents. xxiii
V. To A LORD OF THE COURT. The Saint re-
joices that he preserves piety in the midst
of the Court 186
VI. To A MAN OF THE WORLD. We cannot have
the true intelligence of the Holy Scriptures
outside the Church 188
VII. To A GENTLEMAN WHO WISHED TO LEAVE THE
VIII. To A DOCTOR. That we must resign ourselves
to God's will in the death of our parents . 196
IX. To MONSIEUR DE EOCHEFORT. Consolations
on the death of his son . . . . 19?
X To A MAN OF THE WORLD. Consolations on
the death of his wife 199
XI. To A FRIEND. He consoles him on the death
of his brother 201
XII. To A MAX OF THE WORLD. The Saint tells
him what eternal life is, and that we must
practice the love of God to aspire to it . 202
XIII. To A MAN OF THE WORLD. On the fear of
death and of the judgments of God . . 205
XIV. To THE PRESIDENT FREMIOT. The Saint en-
gages him to prepare for death .... 208
I. To A LADY. Consolations and advice to a
person who had a lawsuit . . .215
II. To A LADY. Advice during an illness. We
must obey the doctor . . . .217
III. To A LADY. Sickness may purify the son!
as well as the body 218
IV. To A YOUNG LADY WHO WAS SICK. Consola-
tions ........ 219
xxiv Table of Contents.
V. To A LADY. How to behave in great suffer-
VL To A LADY. In this letter and the following