co-operating with it, by simple suggestions. The
similitude brought forward to explain the mystery of
the Holy Trinity is very pretty, but is not beyond the
capacity of a soul which takes complacency in its own
To MADAME DE CHANTAL.
Considerations on the Feast of the Conception of the Holy Virgin.
and on a Cape which he had received.
O TRULY this cope is lovely in the extreme, which the
dearest mother that lives sends to her dearest father :
for it is all in the name of Jesus and of Mary, and
represents perfectly the heaven of the blessed where
Jesus is the sun, and Mary the moon, a luminary pre-
seut to all the stars of this heavenly abode ; for Jesus
there is all to all ; and there is no star in this heavenly
Various Letters. 243
day in which he is not reflected as in a mirror ; and
the double phi's * signify, as capital letters, philotheyt
and philanthropy, love of God and love of our neigh-
bour; and the ss closed, with their arrows, which
ascend on one side and descend on the other, show the
exercise of these Divine loves, one of which ascends to
God, and makes philotheists ; the other descends to
our neighbour, and makes philanthropists, both being
the one good of charity, which makes us true servants
of the Divine Majesty. Over all flows out the Holy
Spirit, and makes appear a great variety of flowers
and all sorts of virtues.
Blessed be for ever the dear hand of the mother
who was able so skilfully to make so beautiful a work.
May her hand be fit to do strong things, and equally to
manage the spindle. % May it be adorned with the
ring of fidelity, and her arm with the bracelet of
charity; may the right hand of the Saviour be for
ever joined to it, and may it appear full in the day of
judgment ; may the heart which animates it be ever
clothed with Jesus, with Mary, with philothey, phi-
lanthropy, sanctity ; with stars, with flying darts of
heavenly love, and with all sorts of flowering virtues ;
may the Holy Spirit shine on it always. Good-night,
my very dear daughter, my mother.
But I must say this further. It is written of
the strong woman that all her people have double
* Letters of the Greek alphabet which some ornament on the
f To coin a word. J Prov. xxxi.
244- S Francis de Sales.
garments : * one, I think, for the feasts, the other for
vorking days ; and here I am clothed with an admir-
able cope for feasts ; a lovely cope, and of Easter
colour, and also with a robe for every day, of the
colour of the robe which our Saviour wore on the
Mount of the Passion. May God our Lord clothe you
with his passion and with his glory !
I will do for your daughter of St. Catherine all I
can; and believe me I will do it with all the more
sweetness because you wish it. For I have an ex-
treme sweetness in doing your will. Alas ! what a
heart should we have to do that of the most loved
Creator, since we have so much for the creature loved
and united to us in him !
Yes, my dearest mother, put your soul quite into
the hands of our dear Mistress, who will be conceived
this night in the commemoration we make of her, and
I will ask it from her ; for, my dear mother, I am quite
resolved to have no heart but what she gives me, this
sweet Mother of hearts, this Mother of holy love, this
Mother of the heart of hearts. Ah ! God, what a
great desire have I to keep my eyes on this beautiful
star of our voyage ! Good-by, my dearest mother,
be all joyous on the occasion of this coming feast.
May Jesus be our heart. Amen.
* Prov. mi.
To MADAME DE CHANTAL.
On the Feast of our Lord's Nativity.
MAY the great and little infant of Bethlehem be for
ever the darling and the love of our hearts, my dearest
mother, my child ! Ah ! how lovely he is, this dear
baby. I seem to see Solomon on his grand throne of
ivory, gilded and worked, which had no equal in the
kingdoms, as the Scripture says ; and this King had
no equal in glory and in magnificence. But I love a
hundred times better to see this- dear little babeling
(enfnn^on) in the crib, than to see all kings on their
But if I see him on the knees of his sacred mother,
or in her arms, having his tiny mouth (bouchette) like
a little rosebud, attached to the lilies of her holy
breasts, O God ! I find him more magnificent on
this throne, not only than Solomon on his of ivory,
but more even than ever this eternal Son of the
246 St. Francis de Sales.
Father was in heaven, for if indeed heaven is more
glorious in visible being, the holy Virgin has more of
invisible virtues and perfections ; and a drop of milk
which flows virgin ally from her sacred breasts is
worth more than all the affluences of the heavens.
May the great St. Joseph impart to us of his con-
solation, the sovereign Mother of her love, and the
Child deign to pour his merits into our hearts for
I pray you, repose as quietly as you can near this
little child : he will not cease loving your well-beloved
heart, as it is, without tenderness and without feeling.
See you not that he accepts the breath of this great
ox, and of this ass, which have no sentiment nor any
movement of love whatever ; how will he not receive
the inspirations of our poor heart, which, though not
tenderly at present, still solidly and firmly, sacrifices
itself at his feet, to be for ever the faithful servant of
his heart, and of that of his holy Mother, and of the
great governor of the little King.
My dearest mother, this is the truth, I have quite
a special light which makes me see that the unity of
our hearts is a work of this grand uniter, and hence I
desire for the future not only to love, but to cherish
and honour this unity as sacred.
May the joy and consolation of the Son and the
Mother, be for ever the gladness of our soul ! I come
from preaching all clothed by the hand of my loving
and amiable mother, and I have been very delighted.
Ah ! mv dearest mother has covered me all over with
Various Letters. 247
Jesus, Maria* May this sweet Jesus and this sacred
Mary long preserve her to me, and all the nuptial
vestment of our heart ! Amen. Your, &c.
To THE SAME.
On Temptations and Drynesses. Means to repel them,
and guard ourselves against them.
2 ist November, 1604.
MADAM, MY DEAREST SISTER, May our glorious and
holiest mistress and queen, the Virgin Mary, the feast
of whose Presentation we celebrate to-day, present our
hearts to her Son, and give us his. Your messenger
reached me at the most troublesome and hardest place
I can come across during the navigation which I make
on the tempestuous sea of this diocese. It is incre-
dible what consolation your letters brought me. I
am only in pain as to whether I shall be able to draw
from the press of my affairs the leisure required to
answer you as soon as I desire, and as well as you
expect. I will say in haste what I can, and if any-
thing remains after that, I will write it in a very short
time by an acquaintance, who goes to Dijon and
I. thank you for the trouble you have taken to
detail me the history of your gate of St. Claude, and
I pray this blessed saint, witness of the sincerity and
* Keferring to some vestments she had made for him.
248 St. Francis de Sales.
integrity of heart with which I cherish you in our Lord
and common Master, to impetrate from his goodness
the assistance of the Holy Spirit which is necessary to
enter properly into the repose of the tabernacle of the
Church. It is sufficiently said once for all : yes, God
has given me to you, I say singularly, entirely, irre-
I come to your cross, and know not whether God
has quite opened my eyes to see all its four ends.
I extremely desire and beg of him, that I may be
able to say to you something thoroughly appropriate.
It is a certain powerlessness, you tell me, of the facul-
ties or parts of your understanding, which hinders it
from taking contentment in the consideration of what
is good : and what grieves you the most is, when you
wish to form a resolution, you feel not the accustomed
solidity, but encounter a certain barrier, which brings
you up short, and thence come the torments of temp-
tations against the faith. It is properly described,
my dear daughter ; you express yourself well ; I am
not sure whether I understand you properly.
You add that yet the will by the grace of God
intends nothing but simplicity and stability in the
Church, and that you would willingly die for the
faith thereof. Oh, God be blessed, my dear child!
This sickness is not unto death, but that God may be
glorified in it*
You have two peoples in the womb of your spirit, as
was said to Rebecca : the one fights against the other,
* John xi. 4.
Various Letters. 249
but at last the younger will supplant the elder* Self-
love never dies till we die ; it has a thousand ways of
entrenching itself in our soul, we cannot dislodge it ;
it is the eldest-torn of our soul, for it is natural, or,
at least, co-natural : it has a legion of carabineers
with it, of movements, actions, passions ; it is adroit,
and knows a thousand subtle turns. On the other
side, you have the love of God, which is conceived
afterwards, and is second-born ; it also has its move-
ments, inclinations, passions, actions. These two
children in one womb fight together like Esau and
Jacob ; whence Rebecca cried out : Was it not better
to die than to conceive with such pains ? From these
convulsions follows a certain disgust, which causes
you to relish not the best meats. But what imports
it whether you relish or relish not, since you cease
not to eat well ?
If I had to lose one of my senses, I would choose
that it should be the taste, as less necessary even than
smell, it seems to me. Believe me, it is only taste
which fails you, not sight : you see, but without
satisfaction : you chew bread, but as if it were tow,
without taste or relish. It seems to you that your
resolutions are without force, because they are not
gay nor joyous ; but you mistake, for the Apostle
St. Paul very often had only that kind.
You do not feel yourself firm, constant, or very
resolute. There is something in me, thus say you,
which has never been satisfied ; but I cannot say
* Gen. xxv. 22, 23.
2 so St. Francis de Sales.
what it is. I should very much like to know it, my
dear child, to tell it you ; but I hope that some day,
hearing you at leisure, I shall learn it. Meanwhile,
might it not be a multitude of desires, which obstructs
your spirit, I have been ill with that complaint.
The bird fastened to the perch only knows itself to be
fastened, and feels the shocks of its detention and
restraint, when it wants to fly; and in the same way,
before it has its wings, it knows its powerlessness only
by the trial of flight.
For a remedy, then, my dear child, since you have
not yet your wings for flight, and your own power-
lessness puts a bar to your efforts, do not flutter, do
not make eager attempts to fly : have patience till
you get your wings, like the doves. I greatly fear
that you have a little too much ardour for the quarry,
that you are over-eager, and multiply desires a little
too thickly. You see the beauty of illuminations, the
sweetness of resolutions, you seem almost to grasp
them, and the vicinity of good excites your appetite
for it, and this appetite agitates you, and makes you
dart forth, but for nothing ; for the master keeps you
fastened on the perch, or perhaps you have not your
wings as yet ; and meanwhile you grow thin by this
constant movement of the heart, and continually lessen
your strength. You must make trials, but moderate
ones, and without agitating yourself, and without
putting yourself into heat.
Examine well your practice in this matter; perhaps
you will see that you let your spirit cling too much to
Various Letters. 2 5 1
the desire of this sovereign sweetness which the sense
of firmness, constancy, and resolution brings to the
soul. You have firmness, for what else is firmness but
to will rather to die than sin, or quit the faith ? But
you have not the sense of it ; for if you had you would
have a thousand joys from it. So, then, check yourself,
do not excite yourself; you will be all the better, and
your wiugs will thus strengthen themselves more easily.
This eagerness then is a fault in you, and there is a
something, I do not know what, which is not satisfied ;
for it is a fault against resignation. You resign
yourself well, but it is with a but ; for you would
much like to have this or that, and you agitate your-
self to get it. A simple desire is not contrary to
resignation, but a panting of heart, a fluttering of
wings, an agitation of will, a multiplying of dartings
out, this, undoubtedly, is a fault against resignation.
Courage, my dear sister, since our will is God's,
doubtless we ourselves are his. You have all that is
needed, but have no sense of it ; there is no great
loss in that.
Do you know what you must do ? You must be
pleased not to fly, since you have not yet your wings.
You make me think of Moses. That holy man,
having arrived on Mount Pisgah, saw all the land of
promise before his eyes, the land which for forty
years he had aspired after and hoped for, amid the
murmurs and seditions of his people, and amid the
rigours of the deserts ; he saw it and entered it not,
but died while looking at it. He had your glass of
252 5V. Francis de Sales.
water at his lips, and could not drink. O God, what
sighs this soul must have fetched ! He died there
more happy than many did in the land of promise,
since God did him the honour of burying him him-
self. And so, if you had to die without drinking of
the water of the Samaritan woman, what would it
matter, so that your soul was received to drink
eternally in the source and fountain of life ? Do
not excite yourself to vain desires, and do not
even excite yourself about not exciting yourself; go
quietly on your way, for it is good.
Know, my dear sister, that I write these things to
you with much distraction, and that if you find them
confused it is no wonder, for I am so myself; but,
thank God, without disquiet. Do you want to know
whether I speak the truth, when I say that there is
in you a defect of entire resignation ? You are quite
willing to have a cross, but you want to have the
choice ; you would have it common, corporal, and of
such or such sort. How is this, my well-beloved
daughter ? Ah ! no, I desire that your cross and
mine be entirely crosses of Jesus Christ ; and as to
the imposition of them, and the choice, the good God
knows what he does, and why he does it : for our
good, no doubt. Our Lord gave to David the choice
of the rod with which he would be scourged, and,
blessed be God ; but I think 1 would not have chosen :
I would have let his Divine Majesty do all. The more
a cross is from God the more we should love it.
Well now, my sister, my daughter, my soul (and
Various Letters. 253
this is not too much you well know), tell me, is not
God better than man ? is not man a true nothing in
comparison with God ? And yet here is a man, or
rather the merest nothing of all nothings, the flower
of all misery, who loves no less the confidence you
have in him, though you may have lost the sense and
taste of it, than if you had ail the sentiments in the
world ; and will not God hold your good will agreeable,
though without any feeling ? / am, said David, like
a bottle in the frost* which is of no use. As many
drynesses, as much barrenness as you like, provided
we love God.
But, after all, you are not yet in the land in which
there is no light, for you have the light sometimes,
and God visits you. Is he not good, think you ? It
seems to me this vicissitude makes you very agreeable
to God. Still, I approve your showing to our sweet
Saviour, but lovingly and without excitement, your
affliction ; and, as you say, he at least lets your soul
find him; for he is pleased that we should tell him
the pain he gives us, and lament to him, provided it
be amorously and humbly, and to himself, as little
children do, when their mother has whipped them.
Meanwhile, there must be a little suffering, with sweet-
ness. I do not think there is any harm in saying to
our Lord : Come into our souls. This Lord knows
whether I have ever been to communion without you
since my departure from your town.
No, that has no appearance of evil; God wishes
* Ps. cxviii. 83.
254 $* Francis de Sales.
that I should serve him in suffering dry ness, anguish,
temptations, like Job, like St. Paul, and not in
Serve God as he wishes, you will see that one day
he will do all you wish, and more than you know how
The books which you read for half an hour are
Granada, Gerson, the Life of Christ, turned into
French from the Latin of Ludolph the Carthusian,
Mother (St.) Teresa; the Treatise on Affliction*
which I have mentioned in a former letter.
Ah ! shall we not one day be all together in heaven
to bless God eternaUy? I hope so and rejoice in it.
The promise which you made to our Lord never to
refuse anything which might be asked you in his
name, could not oblige you except to love him pro-
perly ; I mean, that you might get to understand it in
such a fashion that the practice of it would be vicious,
as you might give more than you ought and indis-
creetly. This then is understood with the condition
of observing true discretion ; and in this case, it is no
more than to say that you will love God entirely, and
will accommodate yourself to live, speak, act and give
according to his pleasure.
I keep the books of psalms, and thank you for the
music, of which I know nothing at all, though I love it
extremely when applied to the praise of our Lord.
Truly, when you want me to hurry, and to find
leisure without leisure to write to you, send me this
* By F. Kibadaneira, S.J.
Various Letters. 255
good man N . for, to tell the truth, he has urged
me so extremely that more could not be, and has not
been willing to give me time, not even a day ; and I
tell you fairly I should not like to be judge in a cause
in which he was counsel.
I cannot drop the word Madam : for I do not wish
to think myself more affectionate than St. John the
Evangelist, who still, in the sacred epistle which he
wrote to the lady Electa, called her madam, nor wiser
than St. Jerome, who calls his devout Eustochium,
madam. I desire, however, to forbid you to call me
Monseigneur, for though it is the custom on this side
to call Bishops so, it is not the custom on your side,
and I love simplicity.
The Mass of our Lady you may vow for every week,
as you desire ; but I want it to be only for a year, at
the end of which you will vow again, if so be; and
begin on the Conception of our Lady, the day of my
consecration, on which I made the great and terrific
vow to care for souls, and to die for them if needed.
I ought to tremble in remembering it. I say the same
of the Chaplet, and the Ave, marts stella.
I have observed neither order nor measure in an-
swering you; but this bearer has taken away my
I await, with quiet foot, a great tempest (as I wrote
to you at the beginning) about my personal revenue.
I await it joyously and looking at the Providence of
God ; I hope it will be for his greater glory and my
repose, and many other good ends. I am not sure it
256 St. Francis de Sales.
will come, I am only threatened with it. But why do
I tell you this ? Eh ! because I cannot help it : my
heart must dilate itself with yours in this way; and
since in this expectation I have consolation and hope
of happiness, why should I not tell it you ? But only
for yourself, I beg you.
I pray earnestly for our Celse-Benigue, and all the
little troop of girls. I also recommend myself to their
prayers. Kemember to pray for my Geneva, that God
may convert it.
Also remember to behave with a great respect and
honour in all that regards the good spiritual father you
know of; and again, treating with his disciples and
spiritual children, let them acknowledge only true
sweetness and humility in you. If you receive some
reproaches, keep yourself gentle, humble, patient, and
with no word save of true humility: for this is neces-
sary. May God be for ever your heart, your spirit,
your repose ; and I am, Madam, your very devoted ser-
vant in our Lord, &c. To God be honour and glory !
I add, this morning, St. Cecily's Day, that the proverb
drawn from our St. Bernard, hell is full of good inten-
tions, must not trouble you at all. There are two sorts of
good wills. The one says : I would do well, but it gives
me trouble, and I will not do it. The other : I wish
to do well, but I have not as much power as will ; it
is this which holds me back. The first fills hell, the
second, Paradise. The first only begins to will aiid
desire, but it does not finish willing : its desires have
not enough courage, they are only abortions of will :
Various Letters. 257
that is why it fills hell. But the second produces entire
and well-formed desires ; it is for this that Daniel was
called man of desires. May our Lord deign to give us
the perpetual assistance of his Holy Spirit, my well-
beloved daughter and sister !
To THE SAME. (Madame de Chautal.)
Patience in interior troubles. Looking at God. Not to be pre-
cipitate in the choice of a state. Advice on Confession.
i&th February, 1605.
I PRAISE God for the constancy with which you support
your tribulations. I still see in it, however, some little
disquiet and eagerness, which hinders the final effect
of your patience. In your patience, said the Son of
God, you shall possess your souls* To fully possess
our souls is then the effect of patience ; and in pro-
portion as patience is perfect, the possession of the soul
becomes more entire and excellent. Now, patience is
more perfect as it is less mixed with disquiet and
eagerness. May God then deign to deliver you from
these two troubles, and soon afterwards you will be
Good courage, I beseech you, my dear sister; you
have only suffered the fatigue of the road three years,
and you crave repose ; but remember two things : the
* Luke xii. 19.
258 St. Francis de Sales.
one, that the children of Israel were forty years in the
desert before arriving in the country of rest which was
promised them, and yet six weeks might easily have
sufficed for all this journey ; and it was not lawful for
them to inquire why God made them take so many
turns, and led them by ways so rough, and all those
who murmured died before their arrival. The other
thing is, that Moses, the greatest friend of God in all
that multitude, died on the borders of the laud of
repose, seeing it with his eyes, and not able to have
the enjoyment of it.
O might it please God that we should little regard
the course of the way we tread, and have our eyes
fixed on him who conducts us, and on the blessed
country to which it leads ! What should it matter to
us whether it is by the deserts or by the meadows we
go, if God is with us and we go into Paradise ? Trust
me, I pray you, cheat your trouble all you can ; and if
you feel it, at least regard it not, for the sight will
give you more fear of it, than the feeling will give you
pain. Thus are covered the eyes of those who are
going to suffer some painful application of the iron. I
think you dwell a little too much on the consideration
of your trouble.
And as for what you say, that it is a great burden
to will and to be unable, I will not say to you that
we must will what we can do, but I do say it is a
great power before God to be able to will. Go fur-
ther, I beg you, and think of that great dereliction,
which our Master suffered in the Garden of Olives ;
Various Letters. 259
and see how this dear Son, having asked consolation
from his good Father, and knowing that he willed not
to give it him, thinks of it no more, strives after it
: no more, seeks it no more ; but, as if he had never
, thought of it, executes valiantly and courageously the
work of our redemption.
After you have prayed the Father to console you,
if it does not please him to do it, think of it no more,
and stiffen your courage to do the work of your salva-
tion on the Cross, as if you were never to descend from
it, and as if you would never more see the sky of
your life clear and serene. What would you ? You
must see and speak to God amid the thunders and
the whirlwinds ; you must see him in the bush, and