only to the love of God : if this same God wills to give
it another love, he may ; if he does not will to give it
another, he does as he pleases. I am sure, however,
that this good daughter will not keep her heart back.
I should be greatly grieved, for I love her, and she
would commit a great fault.
Ah! my dear daughter, how falsely do we call courage,
what is haughtiness and vanity ! Christians call these
cowardice and faint-heartedness : as, on the contrary,
they call courage, patience, gentleness, mildness, hu-
mility, the acceptance and love of contempt and abjec-
tion. For such has been the courage of our Captain,
of his Mother, of his Apostles, and of the most valiant
soldiers of this heavenly army ; a courage with which
they have overcome tyrants, conquered kings, and
gained over the whole world to the obedience of the
crucified. Be equal-minded, my dearest daughter,
towards all these good young persons : salute them,
honour them ; do not avoid them, yet neither seek them,
except in so far as they seem to wish it. Do not speak
about all this unless with an extreme charity. Try to
bring that soul which you are going to visit to some
sort of excellent resolution. I say excellent, because
little resolutions not to do wrong are not sufficient;
we must also do all the good we can, and cut off not
only what is wrong, but all that is not of God and for
Well, now we shall see one another, please God,
before Easter. Live entirely for him who died for us,
278 St. Francis de Sales.
and be crucified with him. May he be blessed eternally
by you, my dearest daughter, and by me, who am,
without end, your, &c.
To MADAME DE CHANTAL.
Means of' passing Lent well.
Chambery, 2ist February, 1606.
THIS can only be a short letter, for I am just going
into the pulpit, my dearest child. You are now at
Dijon, and I wrote thither a few days ago ; there you
abound, by the grace of God, in many consolations,
which I share in spirit. Lent is the autumn of the
spiritual life, in which we should gather the fruits, and
store them for the whole year. Enrich yourself, I beg
you, with those precious treasures which nothing can
deprive you of or spoil. Remember what I am accus-
tomed to say : we shall never spend one good Lent, as
long as we expect to make two. Let us then make
this as the last, and we shall make it well. I know
that at Dijon there will be some excellent preacher;
holy words are pearls, and pearls of the true Eastern
ocean, the abyss of mercy ; get together many round
your neck, hang plenty from your ears, encircle your
arms with them ; these ornaments are not forbidden
to widows : for they do not make them vain, but
Various Letters. 279
As for me, I am here, where, as yet, I see no rnorf
than a slight movement of souls towards true devotion.
God will increase it, if he please, for his holy glory.
I am going now to tell my audience that their souls
are the vineyard of God : the cistern is faith, the tower
is hope, and the press holy charity; the hedge is the
law of God which separates from other people who are
infidels. To you, my dear child, I say that your good
will is your vineyard; the cistern is the holy inspirations
of perfection which God rains down from heaven ; the
tower is holy chastity, which, as is said of David's
should he of ivory ; the press is obedience, which pro-
duces great merit in the actions it squeezes out ; the
hedge is your vows. Oh ! may God preserve this vine-
yard which he has planted with his hand ! May God
make more and more abound the salutary waters of
grace in his cistern ! May God be for ever the pro-
tector of his tower ! May God will to give all the
turns to the press which are necessary for squeezing
out good wine, and keep always thick and close that
beautiful hedge with which he has environed this
vineyard, and may he make the angels its immortal
Adieu, my dear child, the bell urges me ; I am going
to the wine-press of the Church, to the holy altar,
where distils perpetually the sacred wine of the blood
of those delicious and unique grapes which our holy
Abbess, as a heavenly vine, has happily brought forth
for us. There, and you know I cannot do otherwise,
I will present and represent you to the Father, in the
2 So St. Francis de Sales.
union of his Son, in whom, for whom, and by whom
I am solely and entirely your, &c.
To MADAME DE CHANTAL.
On troubles of spirit.
jth March, 1608.
AT last I write to you, by Monsieur Fabre, my dear
child, and still without full leisure, for I have had to
write many letters, and though you are the last to
whom I write, I have no fear of forgetting. I was
sorry, the other day, to have written you so many
things on this trouble of mind which you had. For
since it was nothing in real truth, and since when yon
had communicated it to Father Gentil, it all vanished,
I had only to say Deo Gratias. But, you see, my
soul is liable to outpourings with you, and with all
those whom I love. O God ! my child, what good
your hurts do me ! For then I pray with more atten-
tion, I put myself before our Lord with more purity
of intention, I place myself more wholly in indifference.
But, believe me, either I am the most deluded man
in the world, or our resolutions are from God and
unto his greater glory. No, my child, look not either
to left or right; and I do not mean look not at all,
but look not so as to occupy yourself, to examine
anxiously, to hamper and entangle your spirit in con-
Various Letters. 281
siderations from -which you can find no outlet. For
if, after so much time, after so many petitions to
God, we cannot resolve without difficulty, how can we
expect by considerations, some coming without any
reflection, others from simple feelings and taste, how
can we expect, I say, to decide well ? So then, let
us leave that alone, let us speak of it no more. Let
us speak of a general rule that I want to give you :
it is, that in all I say to you, you must not be too
particular : all is meant in a large sense (grosso modo),
for I would not have you constrain your spirit to any-
thing, save to serve God well, and not to abandon,
but to love our resolutions. As for me, I so love
mine, that whatever I see seems to me insufficient to
take away an ounce of the esteem I have of them, even
though I see and consider others more excellent and
Ah ! my dear child, that also is an entanglement
which you write to me about by Monsieur de Sauzea.
This dreadful din .... which makes you afraid of
. . . . O God, my child, can you not prostrate your-
self before God when it happens to you, and say to
him quite simply : Yes, Lord, if you will it, I will
it, and if you wish it not, I wish it not : and then
pass on to some little exercise or act which may serve
as a distraction.
But, my child, what you do is this : wheu this
trifling matter presents itself, your mind is grieved,
and does not want to look at it : it fears that this may
check it; this fear draws away the strength of your
282 St. Francis de Sales.
mind, and leaves the poor thing faint, sad, and trem-
bling ; this fear displeases it, and brings forth another
fear lest this first fear, and the fright which it gives,
be the cause of the evil; and so you entangle your-
self. You fear the fear ; then you fear the fear of
the fear ; you are vexed at the vexation, and then you
are vexed for being vexed at the vexation. So I have
seen many, who, having got angry, are afterwards
angry for getting angry : and all this is like to the
rings which are made in water, when a stone is thrown
in : a little circle is formed, and this forms a greater,
and this last another.
What remedy is there, my dear child ? After the
grace of God, the remedy is not to be so delicate.
Look you (here is another pouring-out of my spirit,
but there is no help for it), those who cannot suffer
the itching of a cinm,* and expect to get rid of it
by dint of scratching, flay their hands. Laugh at
the greater part of these troubles; do not stop to
think about throwing them off; laugh at them ; turn
away to some action ; try to sleep well. Imagine, I
mean think, that you are a little St. John, who is
going to sleep and rest on the bosom of our Lord, in
the arms of his providence.
And courage, my child, we have no intention ex-
cept for the glory of God; no, no, at least certainly
not any known intention ; for if we knew it, we would
instantly tear it from our heart. And so, what do
* Ciron, a little insect ; here, apparently, under the skin of the
hand. Cotgrave gives hand-worm.
Various Letters. 283
we torment ourselves about ? Vive Jesus ! I think
sometimes, my child, that we are full of Jesus : at
least we have no deliberate contrary will. It is not
in a spirit of arrogance I say this, my child ; it is in
a spirit of trust and to encourage ourselves. I find
it is nine o'clock of the night ; I must make my colla-
tion, and I must say Office so as to be able to preach at
eight to-morrow, but I seem to be unable to tear myself
from this paper. And now I must tell you, in addi-
tion, this little folly, it is that I preach finely to my
liking in this place ; I say something, I scarce know
what it is, which these good people understand so
well that they would willingly almost answer me.
Adieu, my child, my dearest child. I am, how truly,
To MADAME DE CHANTAL.
V/e must work with courage at our salvation and perfection,
whether in consolations or in tribulations. What abjection
is ; its difference from humility. Action which parents
should take with regard to the vocation of their children.
Advice on temptations. God wishes to be loved rather
6th August, 1606.
MAY GOD assist me, my dearest daughter, to answer
properly your letter of the 9th July. I greatly desire
to do so ; but I foresee clearly I shall not have leisure
284 St- Francis de Sales.
enough to arrange my thoughts ; it will be much if I
can express them.
You are right, my child, speak with me frankly,
as with me, that is with a soul which God, of his
sovereign authority, has made all yours.
You begin to put your hand to the work a little,
you tell me. Ah ! my God, what a great consolation
for me ! Do this always ; always put hand to work a
little ; spin every day some little, either in the day,
by the light of interior influences and brightness, or
in the night, by the light of the lamp, in helplessness
The Wise Man praises the valiant woman because :
Her fingers have taken hold of the spindle* I
willingly say to you something on this word. Your
distaff is the heap of your desires ; spin each day a
little, draw out your plans into execution and you will
certainly do well. But beware of eager haste ; for
you would twist your thread into knots, and stop your
spindle. Let us always be moving ; how slowly so-
ever we advance, we shall make plenty of way.
Your helplessnesses hurt you much, for, say you,
they keep you from entering into yourself and
approaching God. This is wrong, without doubt;
God leaves them in us for his glory and our great
benefit. He wants our misery to be the throne of his
mercy, and our powerlessness the seat of his all-power.
Where did God place the Divine strength which he
gave to Samson but in his hair, the weakest place in
* Prov. xxxi. 19.
Various Letters. 285
him ? Let me no more hear these words from a
daughter who would serve her God according to his
Divine pleasure, and not according to sensible taste and
attraction. Although he should kill me, says Job,
yet will I trust in him* No, my child, these help-
lessnesses do not hinder you from entering into
yourself, though they do hinder you from taking
complacency in yourself.
We are always wanting this and that ; and, though
we may have our sweet Jesus on our breast, we are
not content ; yet this is all we can desire. One thing
is necessary for us, which is to be with him.
Tell me, my dear child, you know well that at the
birth of our Lord the shepherds heard the angelic and
divine hymns of those heavenly spirits, the Scrip-
ture says so; yet it is not said that our Lady and
St. Joseph, who were the closest to the child, heard the
voice of the angels, or saw that miraculous light ; on
the contrary, instead of hearing these angels sing they
heard the child weep, and saw, by a little light
borrowed from some wretched lamp, the eyes of this
Divine child all filled with tears, and faint under the
rigour of the cold. Well, I ask you, in good sooth,
would you not have chosen to be in the stable, dark
and filled with the cries of the little baby, rather than
to be with the shepherds, thrilling with joy and
delight in the sweetness of this heavenly music, and
the beauty of this admirable light ?
Lord, said St. Peter, it is good for us to be here,-f
* Job xiii. 15. f Mat. xvii. 4.
286 St. Francis de Sales.
to see the Transfiguration ; and this is the day on
which it is celebrated in the Church, the 6th August;
hut your Abbess (the Blessed Virgin) is not there, but
only on Mount Calvary, where she sees nought but
the dead, but nails, thorns, helplessness, darkness,
abandonment, and dereliction.
I have said enough, my child, and more than I
wished, on a subject already so much discussed
between us : no more, I beg you. Love God cru-
cified amid darkness ; stay near him ; say : It is good
for me to be here : let us make here three tabernacles,
one to our Lord, another to our Lady, the other to
St. John. Three crosses, and no more; take your
stand by that of the Son, or that of the Mother, your
Abbess, or that of the disciple ; everywhere you will
be well received with the other daughters of your
order, who are there all round about.
Love your abjection. But, you will say, what does
this mean, love your abjection ? for my understanding
is dark, and powerless for any good. Well, my child,
that is just the thing, if you remain humble, tranquil,
gentle, confiding amid this darkness and powerlessness ;
if you do not grow impatient, do not excite yourself,
do not distress yourself, on this account ; but with
good heart, I do not say gaily, but I do say sincerely
and firmly, embrace this cross, and stay in this dark-
ness, then you love your own abjection.
My child, in Latin, abjection is called humility
and humility abjection, so that when our Lady says :
Because he hath had regard to the humility of his
Various Letters, 287
handmaid* she means, because he hath had regard to
my abjection and vileness. Still there is some differ-
ence between humility and abjection, in that humility
is the acknowledgment of one's abjection. Now the
highest point of humility is not only to know one's
abjection, but to love it ; and it is this to which I
have exhorted you.
In order that I may make myself better understood,
know that amongst the evils that we suffer, there are
evils abject, and evils honourable ; many accept the
honourable ones, few the abject.
Example : look at that Capuchin, in rags, and
starved with cold ; everybody honours his torn habit,
and has compassion on his suffering ; look at a poor
artisan, a poor scholar, a poor widow, who is in the
same state; they are laughed at, and their poverty is
A religious suffers patiently a rebuke from his
superior, everybody calls this mortification and obe-
dience : a gentleman will suffer such for the love of
God, it will be called cowardice ; here is an abject
virtue, suffering despised. One man has a cancer on
his arm, another on his face : the one hides it, and
only has the evil; the other cannot hide it, and with
the evil he has the contempt and abjection. Now, I
am saying that we must love not only the evil, but
also the abjection.
Further, there are abject virtues and honourable
virtues. Ordinarily patience, gentleness, mortifica-
* Luke i. 48.
288 St. Francis de Sales.
tion, simplicity, are, among seculars, abject virtues:
to give alms, to be courteous, to be prudent, are
Of the actions of one same virtue some may be
abject, others honourable. To give alms and to
pardon injuries, are actions of charity; the first is
honourable, and the other is abject in the eyes of the
I am ill among people who make it a burden to them:
here is an abjection joined with the evil. Young married
ladies of the world, seeing me in the fashion of a true
widow, say that I act the devote, and seeing me laugh,
though modestly, they say that I still wish to be
sought after ; they cannot believe but that I want
more honour and rank than I have, that I do not love
my vocation without regret : all these are points of
abjection. Here are some of another kind.
We go, my sisters and I, to visit the sick; my
sisters send me off to visit the more miserable ; this is
an abjection, according to the world ; they send me to
visit the less miserable, this is an abjection, according
to God ; for the latter is the less worthy before God,
and the other before the world. Now, I will love the
one and the other as the occasion comes. Going to
the more miserable, I will say it is quite true
that I am worthless. Going to the less miserable :
it is very right, for I do not desire to make the holier
I commit some folly, it makes me abject, good ;
I slip down, and get into a violent passion ; I am
Various Letters. 289
grieved at the offence to God, and very glad that this
should show me vile, abject and wretched.
At the same time, my child, take good heed of
what I am going to say to you. Although we may
love the abjection which follows from the evil, still
we must not neglect to remedy the evil. I will do
what I can not to have the cancer in the face ; but if
I have it, I will love the abjection of it. And in
matter of sin again, we must keep to this rule. I
have committed some fault ; I am grieved at it, though
I embrace with good heart the abjection which follows
therefrom ; and if one could be separated from the
other, I would dearly cherish the abjection, and would
take away the evil and sin.
Again, we must have regard to charity, which
requires sometimes that we remove the abjection for
the edification of our neighbour ; but in that case, we
must take it away from the eyes of our neighbour,
who would take scandal at it, but not from our own
heart, which is edified by it. I have chosen, says the
prophet, to be abject in the house of God, rather than
to dwell in the tents of sinners*
In fine, my child, you want to know which are the
best abjections. I will tell you that they are those
which we have not chosen, and which are less agree-
able to us; or, to say better, those to which we have
not much inclination ; or, to speak out, those of our
vocation and profession.
How, for example, would this married woman choose
* Ps. Ixxxiii. 12.
290 6V. Francis de Sales.
every sort of abjections rather than those of the married
state ; this religious obey anybody but her superior ;
and I how I would suffer rather to be domineered
over by a superior in religion, than by a father-in-law
I say that to each one his own abjection is the best,
and our choosing takes from us a great part of our virtues.
Who will grant me the grace greatly to love our abjec-
tion, my dear child ? Only he, who so loved his that
he willed to die to preserve it. I have said enough.
Finding yourself absorbed in the hope and idea of
entering religion, you are afraid of having gone
against obedience ; yet no, I had not told you to have
no hope and no thought of it, but simply not to
occupy yourself with it ; for it is a certain thing that
there is nothing which so much hinders us from
perfecting ourselves in our profession as to aspire to
another; for instead of working in the field where we
are, we send our oxen with the plough into our
neighbour's field, where, however, we shall not be able
to make harvest this year. All this is a loss of time :
and it is impossible that keeping our thoughts and our
hopes in another place, we should properly strengthen
our heart to acquire the virtues required in the place
where we are. No, my child, never did Jacob love
Lia properly so long as he wanted Rachel. Cherish
this maxim, for it is very true.
But, look, I do not say that we may not think and
* Madame de Chantal lived with her father-in-law, and had
much to suffer from his ways and humours.
Various Letters, 291
hope ; but I say that we must not occupy ourselves with
it, or employ much of our thoughts therein. We are
allowed to look towards the place we want to get to,
but on condition we always look straight in front
of us. Trust me, the Israelites could never sing
in Babylon, because they were thinking of their
country; and for my part, I wish that we should
But you ask me to tell you whether I do not think
that one day you may quit, entirely and for ever,
everything of this world for our God; and you ask
me not to hide from you, but to leave you this dear
hope. O sweet Jesus ! what shall I say to you, my
dear child ? His all-goodness knows that I have very
often thought on this subject, and that I have
implored his grace in the holy sacrifice and elsewhere,
and not only that, but I have employed in it the
devotion and the prayers of better people than I am.
And what have I learnt up to this ? That one day,
my daughter, you are to quit all, that is, (for I want
you to understand just what I mean) I have learnt
that I am one day to counsel you to quit all. I say
all: but whether this shall be to enter religion, is a great
matter ; I have not yet arrived at a conclusion on this,
I am still in doubt, and see nothing before my eyes
which persuades me to desire it. Understand properly,
for the love of God : I do not say no, but I say that
my spirit has not yet been able to find ground for
saying yes. I will beseech our Lord more and more,
that he may give me more light on this subject, that
292 5V. Francis de Sales.
I may be able clearly to see the yes, if it is more for
his glory, or the no, if it is more to his good pleasure.
And let me tell you that iu this inquiry I have in
such way placed myself in the indifference of my own
will to seek the will of God, that never have I done
it so perfectly ; and still the yes has never been able
to stay in my heart, so that up to now I could not
say it or pronounce it : and the no, on the contrary,
has always been there with a great deal of steadfastness.
But because this point is of great importance, and
there is nothing which urges us, give me yet some
leisure and time to pray more, and get prayers for
this intention, and further, I must, before forming my
resolution, talk to you at leisure; this will be next
year, God aiding; and after all this, I would still not
wish you, in this point, to take a full resolution on
my opinion, unless you have a great tranquillity and
interior correspondence in it. I will detail it to you
at full length, when the time comes ; and if it does
not give you interior repose, we will take the advice
of some one else, to whom God will perhaps more
clearly communicate his good pleasure.
I do not see that it is necessary to hurry, and
meantime you can yourself think about it, without
making it an occupation, or losing time about it.
Although, as I said, up to now the idea (avis) of
seeing you in religion has not been able to take its
place in my mind, yet I am not entirely resolved
about it, and if I were quite resolved, still I should
not like to oppose or prefer my opinion, either to
Varioiis Letters. 293
yonr inclinations, if they were strong in this particular
subject (for everywhere else I will keep my word to
you to conduct you according to my judgment and
not according to your desire,) or to the counsel of
some spiritual person which we might take.
Remain, my child, quite resigned in the hands of
our Lord : give him the rest of your years, and
beseech him to employ them in the kind of life that
will be most agreeable to him. Do not preoccupy
your mind with vain promises of tranquillity, of self-
satisfaction, of merit ; but present your heart to
your spouse, quite empty of all affections except his
chaste love ; and beg him to fill it purely and simply
with the movements, desires and wills which are in his,
that your heart, like a mother-pearl, may conceive
nothing save the dew of heaven, and not waters of
this world ; and you will see that God will aid you
and that we shall do well both in the choice and in
As to our little ones, I approve that you should