pretended Reform, remain in irreconcilable contradic-
tion on the meaning of the words of institution of the
Blessed Eucharist. While both sides boast of having
carefully and faithfully examined the sense of these
works by comparing other passages of Holy Scripture,
and adjusting the whole to the analogy of faith, they
still remain opposed in their way of understanding
words of such great importance. Scripture, then, is
plain in its words, but the heart of man is dim-sighted,
and, like a night-owl, cannot see this brightness.
The above-mentioned method is very good, but the
human spirit knows not how to use it. It is the
Spirit of God, sir, which gives the true sense of it to
us, and gives it only to his Church, the column and
support of the truth ; the Church, by whose ministry
this Divine Spirit keeps and maintains his truth, that
is, the true sense of his word ; the Church, which
alone has the infallible assistance of the Spirit of
Truth to find the truth clearly, surely, and infallibly
in the Word of God. So that he who seeks the
truth of this celestial word outside that Church which
is the guardian of it, never finds it. And he who
wants to know it otherwise than through the Church's
ministry, instead of truth, will only embrace vanity,
and instead of the certain clearness of the sacred word
will follow the illusions of that false angel, who trans-
forms himself into an angel of light.
Thus acted formerly all heretics, who have all
i go St. Francis de Sales.
professed to have the better understanding of the
Scripture, and to wish to reform the Church; vainly
seeking truth outside the bosom of the spouse.
Whereas the heavenly Spouse confided it to her as
to a faithful depositary and guardian, who would
distribute it to the dear children of the nuptial bed,
which is, and will be for ever, without stain.
This, then, is the substance of what I have to say,
sir, and it is neither by little nor by much contrary
to the doctrine of the holy Fathers, which M. de
Mornay gives in the book which you pleased to send
me yesterday evening. This I send back to-day, with
thanks, and declaring that I shall continually desire
to be able, by some happy opportunity, to testify, sir,
that I am yours, &c.
To A GENTLEMAN WHO WISHED TO LEAVE THE WORLD.
SIR, Go and bless our Lord for the favourable inspira-
tion he has given you to withdraw yourself from this
great and wide road which those of your age and pro-
fession are accustomed to follow, and by which they
ordinarily arrive at a thousand kinds of vices and
inconveniences, and very often at eternal damnation.
Meanwhile, to make this Divine vocation fruitful, to
realize more clearly the state which you are about to
choose, and to better satisfy this infinite mercy, which
Letters to Men of the World. 191
invites you to his perfect love, I counsel you to prac-
tise these exercises for the three months following.
Firstly, to cut off some satisfactions of the senses,
which you might take without offending God ; and for
this purpose always to rise at six, whether you have
slept well or badly, provided you are not ill (for in that
case you would have to condescend to the sickness) ;
and to do something more on Fridays, rise at five.
This arrangement will give you more leisure to make
your prayer and reading.
Also, to accustom yourself to say every day, after
or before prayer, fifteen Our Fathers, and fifteen Hail
Marys, with your arms extended in the form of a
Moreover, to renounce the pleasures of the taste,
eating those meats at table which may be less agree-
able to you, provided they are not unwholesome, and
leaving those to which your taste may have more in-
Further, I would wish you sometimes in the week
to sleep clothed.
For these little light austerities will serve you to a
double end ; the one, to impetrate more surely the
light required for your spirit to make its choice (for
the lowering of the body in those who have entire
strength and health marvellously raises the spirit) ;
the other, to try and to feel austerity, in order to see
if you could embrace it, and what repugnance you
will have to it. This experiment is necessary to test
the slight inclination you have to leave the world ; and
1 92 St. Francis de Sales.
if you are faithful in the practice of the little which
I propose to you, you will be able to judge what you
would be in the much, which is practised in religious
Pray earnestly to our Lord to illuminate you, and
say often to him the word of St. Paul : Lord, what
would you have me to do ?* and that of David : Teach
me to do thy will, for thou art my Gorf.t Above all, if
you awake during the night, employ well this time in
speaking to our Lord on your choice ; protest often to
his majesty that you resign to him, and leave in his
hands the disposition of all the moments of your life,
and that he must please dispose of them at his will.
Fail not to make your prayer morning and evening,
when you can ; with a little retreat before supper, to
lift up your heart unto our Lord.
Take pastimes which are of the more vigorous kind,
such as riding, leaping, and the like; and not the soft
ones, such as cards and dancing. But if you are
touched with some vainglory about those others,
alas ! you must say, what does all this profit one for
Go to communion every Sunday, and always with
prayers to beg the light you need : and on feast-days
you may well visit, as an exercise, holy places the
Capuchins, St. Bernard's, the Carthusians. May God
grant you his peace, his grace, his light, and his most
If you feel the inspiration towards religion gather
* Acts ix. 6. Ps. cxlii. n.
Letters to Men of tlie World. 193
strength, and your heart urged by it, take counsel
with your confessor; and in case you make a resolu-
tion, gradually dispose your grandfather towards it,
that the annoyance and pain of your leaving may
fall as little as possible on religion, and that you only
may be burdened with it. Oh ! how good is God to
his Israel / How good to the right of heart*
CONSIDERATIONS PROPER FOR A PERSON WHO HAS AN
INSPIRATION TO QUIT THE WORLD.
I. Consider, first, that our Lord, being able to
oblige his creatures to all sorts of services and obe-
diences towards him, has not, however, willed to do
so, but is satisfied with obliging us to the keeping of
his commandments. So that, if he had pleased to
ordain that we should fast all our life, that we should
all live the life of hermits Carthusians, Capuchins,
still it would be nothing to the great duty we owe
him ; and yet he is content that we simply keep his
II. Consider, secondly, that though he has not
obliged us to any greater service than we pay him in
keeping his commandments, still he has invited and
counselled us to live a very perfect life, and to observe
an entire renouncement of the vanities and concu-
piscences of the world.
III. Consider, thirdly, that whether we embrace
the counsels of our Lord, giving ourselves to a stricter
life, or whether we live in the common life, and in the
* Ps. IxiiL i.
1 94 S/. Francis de Sales.
mere observance of the commandments, in each we
shall have some difficulty. If we leave the world we
shall have labour to keep our appetites continually
guarded and subject, to renounce ourselves, give up
our own will, and live in a very absolute subjection,
under the laws of obedience, chastity, and poverty.
If we stay in the common path, we shall have a per-
petual labour in fighting the world which will sur-
round us, in resisting the frequent occasions of sin
which beset us, and in keeping our bark safe amid the
IV. Consider, fourthly, that in both one life and
the other, serving our Lord well, we shall have a
thousand consolations. Out of the world, the mere
satisfaction of having left all for God is worth more
than a thousand worlds ; the satisfaction of being con-
ducted by obedience, of being preserved by laws, and
of being, as it were, under protection from the chief
snares of life, are sweet satisfactions. I leave out the
peace and tranquillity found there, the pleasure of
being occupied night and day in prayers and Divine
things, and a thousand such deliciousnesses (delices).
And as to the common life, the liberty, the variety of
the service we can pay our Lord, the ease of having
only to observe the commandments of God, and a
hundred other such considerations, make it very
On all this you will say to God : Ah ! Lord, in
what state shall I serve you ? Ah ! my soul, wherever
thy God calls thee, thou shalt be faithful to him.
Letters to Men of the World. 195
But on which side do you think you \vill do best?
Examine your spirit, to know if it does not feel more
inclination to one side than the other; and having
ascertained this, still do not as yet resolve, but wait
till you are told.
I. Imagine you see St. Joseph and our Lady, just
before our Lord's birth, arrive in Bethlehem, and
seek a lodging everywhere, without finding any one
willing to receive them. O God ! what contempt
and rejection of heavenly and holy persons does the
world show, and how willingly do these two holy
souls embrace this abjection ! They do not set
themselves up, they make no remonstrances about
their quality, but quite simply receive these refusals
and this harshness with an unequalled sweetness. Oh!
miserable that I am, the least forgetfulness of the
punctilious honour which is my due, or which I think
my due, troubles me, disquiets me, excites my arro-
gance and pride, everywhere I force myself into the
front rank. Alas ! when shall I have that virtue,
the contempt of myself and of vanities !
II. Consider how St. Joseph and our Lady enter
the hollow and shed which sometimes served for a stable
to strangers, to effect the glorious bringing-forth of
the Saviour. Where are the proud edifices which
the ambition of the world raises for the habitation of
vile and detestable sinners ? Ah ! what contempt of
the grandeurs of the world has this Divine Saviour
1 96 St. Francis de Sales.
taught us ! How happy are those who know how to
love holy simplicity and moderation ! A miserable
wretch like me must have palaces ; and is not satisfied
then : and behold my Saviour under a broken roof,
and on straw, poorly and pitifully lodged !
III. Consider this Divine baby, born naked, shiver-
ing in a manger, in swaddling-clothes. Alas ! how
poor all is, how vile and abject, in this birth ! How
soft are we, and slaves to our comforts, and in
love with sensualities ! We must strongly excite in
ourselves the contempt of the world, and the desire of
suffering for our Lord abjections, discomforts, poverty
and need. If you are sometimes a little difficult to
treat in your temporal infirmities, little by little this
will pass. The human spirit makes so many turns
and doubles, without our thinking of it, that we must
make some wry faces : he who makes the least is the
To A DOCTOR.
That we must resign ourselves to God's mill in the death
of our parents.
MY DEAR SON, The true science of God teaches us,
above all things, that his will ought to bring our
heart to his obedience, and make us find good, as
indeed it is most good, all that it ordains for the
children of his good pleasure.
Letters to Men of the World. 197
You will be, I am sure, of these, and on this
principle you will acquiesce, gently and humbly,
though not without a feeling of sorrow, in the
mercy he has granted to your good mother, whom
lie has withdrawn into the bosom of his blessed
eternity. Thus do the preceding circumstances give
us every reason to believe, with as much certainty as
we may rightly have in such a matter. Well then,
it is done, this is what I had to say to you. Weep
now, but moderate your tears and bless God ; for this
mother will be good to you, as you must hope, much
more where she is, then she could have been where
she was. Behold her then there with the eyes of
your faith, and so calm your soul.
Your good father is well in health and better in
spirits. For about a month now he has worn his
mourning, of mixed sorrow and consolation, accord-
ing to the two parts of his soul. Study ever harder
and harder in a spirit of diligence and humility; and
I am all yours.
To MONSIEUR DE ROCHEFORT.
Consolations on the death of his son.
2Oth January, 1614.
SIR, Knowing what you have felt about your son by
what I have felt myself, I realize that your pain has
198 6V. Francis de Sales.
been extreme; for truly, remembering the content-
ment which you took in speaking to me the other day
about this child, I felt a great compassion, when I
reflected how painful would be your sorrow at the news
of his decease ; but still I did not dare to express to
you my sympathy, not knowing whether the loss was
certain, nor whether it had been announced to you.
And now, sir, I come too late to contribute towards
ihe consolation of your heart, which will already, I
im sure, have received much relief, so as no longer
io remain in the grief which so sensible an affliction
iiad caused it.
For you will have well known how to consider that
this dear child was more God's than yours, who had it
only as a loan from that sovereign liberality. And if
his Providence judged that it was time to withdraw it
to himself, we must believe that it was for the child's
good, in which a loving father like you must quietly
acquiesce. Our age is not so delightsome that those
who quit it should be much lamented. This son has,'
I think, gained much by leaving it almost before pro-
perly entering it.
The word " dead" is terrifying, as it is spoken to us :
for some one comes to you and says : your dear father is
dead, and your son is dead : but this is not a fit way
of speaking among us Christians, for we should say :
your son or your father has gone into his and your
country; and because it was necessary he has passed
through death, not stopping in it. I know not, in-
deed, how we can in right judgment esteem this world
Letters to Men of the World, 199
to be our country, in which we are for so short a
time, in comparison with heaven, in which we are to
be eternally. We are on our way, and are more
assured of the presence of our dear friends there above
than of these here below ; for those are expecting us,
and we go towards them; these let us go, and will
delay as long after us as they can, and if they go with
us, it is against their will.
But if some remains of sorrow still oppress your
mind for the departure of this sweet soul, throw your
heart before our Lord crucified, and ask his help ; he
will give it you, and will inspire into you the thought
and the firm resolution to prepare yourself well to make
in your turn, at the hour he has fixed, this terrifying
passage, in such way that you may happily arrive at
the place in which we hope already is lodged our poor
or rather, our happy departed. Sir, if I am heard
in my continual desire, you will be filled with all holy
prosperity; for it is with all my heart that I cherish
and honour yours, and in this occasion, and in every
other, I name myself and make myself, sir, your, &c.
To A MAN OF THE WORLD.
Consolations on the death of his wife.
Annccy, jth August. 1621.
SIR, I have just learnt from Doctor Grandis the pain-
ful yet happy decease of Madam, your dear spouse.
2oo St. Francis de Sales.
Truly, my heart has been as much touched by it as any
loss I have experienced for a long time ; for the good-
ness, the piety, and the virtue which I had seen in
that beautiful soul had so far obliged me to honour
her, that I had made a solemn profession to do so
henceforward. How happy she is, this dear lady, to
have preserved, amid so many pains and labours, the
fidelity she owed to her God ! And what a consola-
tion has it been to me, to have known some of the
words of charity which her spirit ejaculated with her
last sighs into the bosom of the Divine mercy !
But, sir, ought I not to have an immortal obliga-
tion for the favour she did me, when in this extremity
of her mortal life she so often testified that she had
memory of me, as of him whom she knew to be alto-
gether devoted to her in our Lord ? Never will this
remembrance depart from my soul ; and not being able
to offer her the very faithful service I had sworn to her
virtue and devotion, I beg you, sir, to accept it, and
receive it with that which the honour of your goodness
had 'already demanded from my affections. Meantime,
on this occasion employ the greatness of your heart in
moderating the greatness of the pain which the great-
ness of your loss has given you. Let us acquiesce, sir, in
the decrees of the sovereign Providence, decrees which
are always just, always holy, always adorable, although
obscure and impenetrable to our understanding.
This beautiful and devout soul has died in a state
of conscience, in which, if God gives us the grace to
die, we shall be too blessed to die, at whatever time it
Letters to Men of the World. 201
may be. Let us acknowledge this grace which God
has shown her, and quietly have patience for the
little time we have to live here below without her,
since we have hope of living with her eternally in
heaven, in an indissoluble and invariable society.
Sir, I will pour out blessings ail my life on Madam,
your dear departed, and I will be invariably yours, &c.
To A FRIEND.
He consoles Mm on the death of his brother.
MY DEAR BROTHER (for I am in the place of the
one whom our good God has withdrawn to himself),
I am told that you weep continually over this truly
very painful separation. This must not be ; either
you weep for him or for yourself; if for him, why
weep that our brother is in Paradise, where tears have
no more place ? but if for yourself, is there not
therein too much self-love ?
I speak with you quite frankly ; for one would think
that you love yourself more than his happiness, which
is incomparable. And do you wish that, for your
sake, your brother should not be with him who gives
all of us life, movement, and being, so long as we
acquiesce in his holy pleasure and Divine will ?
But come and see us, and often, and we will turn
tears into joy* recalling together that joy which our
* John xvi. 2O.
202 ,5V. Francis de Sales.
good brother is enjoying, and which shall never more
be taken from him ; and in general, think often on it
and on him. Thus you will live joyful, as, with all
my heart, I wish you to be. I heartily recommend
myself to your prayers, and assure you that I am
To A MAN OF THE WORLD.
The Saint tells him what eternal life is, and that we must practice
the love of God to aspire to it.
Annecy, 2 ^th August, 1613.
SIR, Amid the lassitudes and other inconveniences
which illness has left behind, I have prepared the
document which you pleased to desire of me, and I
have added to it an abridgment, that it might be
more easy to carry and look at in your confessions.
The large one is, as it were, in reserve for you, to
have recourse to in your difficulties, and to find in it
the illustration of what might be obscure in the
abridgment. The whole is in good faith, without art
or colour ; for these matters want none, simplicity
being their beauty, as in God who is the author of
them. You will find, sir, marks of my illness ; for if
I had written this little work in full health, I would,
without doubt, have taken stricter care to make it less
unworthy of your acceptance. Neither have I been
Letters to Men of the World. 203
able to write it myself; but those who have written
it have no notion of the use for which I meant it.
Blessed be God eternally for the goodness which he
shows towards your soul, sir, inspiring it so power-
fully to the resolution of consecrating the rest of your
mortal life to the service of the eternal life. Eternal
life, which is no other thing than the Divinity itself,
in so far as it will vivify our souls with his glory and
felicity; a life which is the only true life, and for
which alone we ought to live in this world, since all
life which has not its term in a living eternity, is
rather death than life.
But, sir, if God has so lovingly inspired you to
aspire to the eternity of glory he has just so far forth
obliged you to receive humbly, and carry out carefully
his inspiration, under pain of being deprived of this
grace and glory. And the mere name of this loss
fills with terror a heart which has the least degree of
"Wherefore, in the simplicity of my soul, I conjure
you, sir, to be very attentive to preserve well what you
have, that you may not lose your crown. You are
undoubtedly called to a masculine, courageous, valiant,
invariable devotion to serve as a mirror to many in
favour of the truth of celestial love, in reparation of
past faults, if ever you have been a mirror of the
vanity of terrestial love.
See, I beg you, sir, with what liberty I let my
spirit act towards yours, and how this name of father,
with which it has pleased you to honour me, carries
2O4 -SV. Francis de Sales.
me away. For it has entered into my heart, and my
affections have set themselves to the laws of love
which the name father signifies, the greatest, the
liveliest, and the strongest of all loves. In harmony
with which I must beg you again, sir, to practise
diligently the exercises which I mark in chapters
x, xi, xii, xiii, of the Second part of the Introduction,
for the morning and the evening, for the spiritual
retreat, and for aspirations to God. The goodness of
your soul, and the noble courage which God has given
you, will serve you greatly for this practice, which will
be so much the more easy to you as it is only neces-
sary to employ in it moments which are stolen or
justly detached, on occasion, here and there, from
other affairs. The tenth part of an hour, or even less,
will suffice for the morning, and the same for the
Oh ! if you could gently deceive your dear soul, sir,
and instead of undertaking to communicate every
month during a year, a year of twelve months, would,
when you have finished the twelfth, add the thirteenth,
then the fourteenth, then the fifteenth, and go on thus
continuing from month to month ! What a happiness
to your heart, which, in proportion as it would receive
its Saviour oftener, would also convert itself more
perfectly into him ! And this, sir, could well be done
without noise, without injury to your affairs, and
without giving the world anything to say. Experience
has made me realize in my twenty-five years of
serving souls, the all-powerful virtue of this Divine
Letters to Men of the World. 205
Sacrament, to strengthen hearts in good, exempt them
from evil, ^onsolejthernj. and in a word deify them in
this world, if it be frequented with faith, purity, and
But enough is said, sir; heavenly influences, your
good angel and your generosity, will supply what my
insufficiency does not permit me to propose to you.
Also, I pray our Lord to make you more and more
abound in his favours, and I am, without end, &c.
To A MAN OP THE WORLD.
On the fear of death and of the judgments of God.
SIR, I am truly in a great trouble to know how
much you have suffered in this severe and painful
illness, from which, as I hope, you will recover. I
should have had very much more pain if on every
hand I had not been assured that, thanks to God, you
have been in no sort of danger, and that you begin
to take up your strength, and are in the way of health
But what gives me more apprehension now is that
besides the evil you suffer through corporal infirmities,
you are overcharged with a violent melancholy : for I
know how much this will retard the return of your
health, and indeed work in the opposite direction.
It is here, sir, that my heart is greatly oppressed ;
and according to the greatness of the lively and ex-
206 St. Francis de Sales.
treme affection with which it cherishes you (beyond
what can be said), it has an extraordinary compassion
for yours. If you please, sir, tell me, I beg you,
what reason have you for nourishing this sad humour
which is so prejudicial to you? I fancy your mind
is still embarrassed with some fear of sudden death,
and of the judgments of God. Alas ! what a dread-
ful torment is this ! My soul, which endured it for
six weeks, is very capable of compassionating those