I shall write, but having begun I write what comes
to me, provided that it be something of God ; for I
know that all is agreeable to you; having much
strengthened during the last journey the entire con-
fidence which my heart had in yours. I saw clearly,
methinks, that you had complete trust in me.
I am writing to that good D. N., who writes to ask
me to advise her about her future life ; which I find
hard, having scarcely seen her spirit, and mine being
too common and trivial to consider a singular life
like hers : all the same I tell her simply what I think.
May God keep you in his holy protection, and load
you with his graces. .
To A LADY.
"We must bear our own infirmities with patience. God acts tn
different mays towards his servants. Advice on dryncsses in
prayer. The will of God.
MADAM, Your letter of the 2oth January has given me
aa extreme satisfaction, because in the midst of your
Various Letters. 3 1 1
miseries which you describe to me, I remark (I think)
some progress and profit which you have made in the
spiritual life. I shall be briefer in answering you
than I could wish, because I have less leisure, and
more hindrance than I expected. I will however say
quite enough for this time, awaiting another chance
of writing to you at full length.
You say then that you are afflicted because you
do not discover yourself to me perfectly enough, as
you think ; and I say to you that though I do not
know what you do in my absence, for I am no prophet,
I think all the same, that for the little time I have
seen and heard you, it is not possible to know your
inclinations and their sources better than I do, and I
fancy you have few folds into which 1 do not penetrate
quite easily : and however little you open to me the
door of your spirit, I seem to see in quite openly : it
is a great advantage for you, since you wish to use
me for your salvation.
You complain that many imperfections and defects
occur in your life, in opposition to the desire you
have of the perfection and purity of love for our God.
I answer you that we cannot quit ourselves altogether
while we are here below; we must always bear
ourselves until God bears us to heaven ; and as long
as we bear ourselves we shall bear nothing of any
worth. So we must have patience, and not expect to
be able to cure ourselves in a day of so many bad
habits, which we have contracted, by the little care
we have had of our spiritual health.
312 6V. Francis de Sales.
God has cured some suddenly, without leaving any
trace of their former maladies, as he did in the case of
Magdalen, "who in an instant, from a sink of the water
of corruption was changed into a spring of the water
of perfections, and was never muddied from that
moment. But also has this same God left in some of
his dear disciples many marks of their bad inclinations,
for some time after their conversion, and all for their
greater profit; witness the blessed St. Peter, who
after his first calling stumbled several times into
imperfections, and once fell down altogether, and very
miserably, by his denial.
Solomon says that the handmaid who suddenly
becomes mistress is a very insolent animal.* There
would be great danger that the soul which had long
served its own passions might become proud and vain,
if in a moment she became entirely mistress of them.
It needs that little by little, and foot by foot, we
obtain this dominion, which has cost the saints many
decades of years. It needs if you please, to have
patience with all the world, but first with yourself.
You do nothing, you say, in prayer. But what
would you do, except what you do, which is to present
and represent to God your nothingness and your
It is the best harangue beggars make us when they
expose to our sight their ulcers and needs.
But sometimes again you do nothing of all this, as
you tell me, but remain there like a phantom or a
* Prov. six. 23-
Various Letters. 3 1 3
statue. Well, and that is not a little thing. In the
palaces of princes and kings, statues are put which
are only of use to gratify the prince's eyes ; be satis-
fied then with serving for that purpose, in the pre-
sence of God ; he will give life to this statue when he
The trees only fructify through the presence of the
sun, some sooner, others later, some every year, and
others every three years, and not always equally. We
are very happy to be able to stay in the presence of
God, and let us be satisfied that he will make us bear
our fruit, sooner or later, always, or sometimes, ac-
cording to his good pleasure, to which we must entirely
The word which vou said to me contains wonders :
let God put me in what sauce he likes provided that
I serve him. But take care to masticate it again and
again in your spirit ; make it melt in your mouth and
do not swallow it in a lump. Mother (St.) Teresa,
whom you so love (for which I am glad), says some-
where that very often we say such words by habit,
and with a slight attention. We think we say them
from the bottom of our soul, but it is not so at all,
as we discover afterwards in practice.
Well ! you say that in whatever sauce God puts
you it is all one. Now you know well in what sauce
he has put you, in what state and condition ; and tell
me is it all one ? You know also that he wants you
to satisfy this daily obligation of which you write to
me, and yet it is not all one to you. My God ! how
314 St' Francis de Sales.
subtly self-love insinuates itself into our affections,
however devout they seem and appear.
This is the grand truth ; we must look at what
God wants, and when we know it we must try to do
it gaily, or at least courageously; and not only that,
but we must love this will of God, and the obligation
which comes from it, were it to keep pigs all our life,
and to do the most abject things in the world ; for in
what sauce God puts us it should be all one : it is
the bull's-eye of perfection at which we must all aim ;
and he who gets nearest gets the prize.
But courage, I beseech you; accustom your will
little by little to follow that of God, whithersoever
it leads you. Make your will very sensitive to the
voice of conscience saying : God wills it ; and little
by little these repugnances which you feel so strongly
will grow weaker, and soon will cease altogether. But
particularly you ought to struggle to hinder the ex-
terior manifestations of the interior repugnance you
have, or at least to make them gentler. Among those
who are angry or discontented some show their dis-
pleasure only by saying : My God, what is this ?
And others say words which show more irritation and
not only a simple discontent, but a certain pride and
spleen ; what I mean to say is that we must little by
little amend these demonstrations, making them less
As to the desire you have to see your friends very
far advanced in the service of God and the desire of
Christian perfection, I praise it infinitely, and as you
Various Letters. 3 1 5
wish I will add my weak prayers to the supplications
you make about it to God. But, madame, I must tell
you the truth ; I ever fear in these desires which are
not of the essence of our salvation and perfection, that
there may mingle some suspicion of self-love and our
own will. For instance, I fear that we may so much
occupy ourselves in these desires which are not neces-
sary to us, as not to leave room enough in our soul
for desires which are more necessary and useful, as
of our own humility, resignation, sweetness of heart,
and the like : or again that we may have so much
ardour in these desires as to make them bring us dis-
quiet and eagerness, or in fine, I fear that we may
not submit them so perfectly to the will of God as is
Such things do I fear in such desires ; whence I
pray you to take good care of yourself that you fall
not into them, as also to pursue this desire quietly
and sweetly, that is, without importuning those whom
you want to persuade to this perfection, and even
without showing your desire ; for, believe me, this
would throw back the affair instead of advancing it.
You must then by example and words sow amongst
them quite quietly things which may induce them to
your design ; and, without making appearance of wish-
ing to instruct or gain them, you must throw little
by little holy inspirations and thoughts into their
minds. Thus will you gain much more than in any
other way, above all if you add prayer.
3 1 6 ,5V. Francis de Sales.
To A LADY.
Piety must be solid. We must be faithful to it everywhere and in
everything without failing.
MADAM, I praise God with all my heart, seeing in
your letter the great courage you have to conquer
your difficulties in order to be truly and holily de-
vout in your vocation. Do so, and expect from God
great blessings ; more, without doubt, in one hour of
such a devotion, well and justly regulated, than in a
hundred days of a devotion, odd, eccentric, melancholy,
and springing from your own brain. Keep firm in this
course, and let nothing shake you in this resolution.
You have, you tell me, a little relaxed from your
exercise in the country. Well ! we must stretch the
bow again, and recommence with proportionately more
care : but another time the country must not cause
you this loss ; no, for God is there as well as in the
You have now my little writing about meditation,
practise it in peace and repose. Pardon me, my dear
lady, if I cut my letter a little shorter than you would
wish ; for this good man Rose holds me so by the
collar to make me despatch him, that he does not
give me leisure to be able to write.
I pray our Lord to give you a singular assistance
in his Holy Spirit, that you may serve him with heart
and mind according to his good pleasure. Pray to
Various Letters. 317
him for me, for I need it, and never do I forget you
in my weak prayers.
If your husband does not hold me for his servant
he is very wrong ; for I am such very assuredly, and
of all who belong to you. God be ever with you and
in vour heart. Amen.
To A LADY.
We must labour to perfect ourselves in our state. Advice on
Confession and Communion.
MADAM MY DEAR SISTER, The confidence you have in
me gives me continual consolation, and still I am
grieved not to be able to correspond so well by letter
;is I would wish : but our Lord, who loves you,
makes up by the great helps you have there.
I approve that in prayer you keep yourself still a
little to method, preparing your mind by studying
and disposing points, though without further use o/"
the imagination than is necessary to concentrate the
I know well, indeed, that when by good hap we find
God, it is good to occupy ourselves in looking at him,
and to rest in him ; but, my dear daughter, to expect
always to find him thus unsought and without pre-
paration, I do not think that this is yet good for us,
who are still novices, and who have need rather to
3 1 8 6V. Francis de Sales.
consider the virtues of the Crucifix one after the other
and in detail than to admire them wholesale and
But if, after having applied our spirit to this
humble preparation, God still gives us no sweetnesses
and savours, then we must keep patiently eating our
bread dry, and pay our duty without present reward.
I am consoled to know the chance you have
of confessing to the good father Gentil. I know
him well by reputation, and know what a good and
careful servant he is of our Lord ; you will then do
well to continue your confessions to him, and to take
the good counsels he will give you according to your
I would not wish you, madam, to train your
daughter to so frequent communion, unless she is
able properly to understand what this frequent com-
munion is. To discern communion from other par-
ticipations is different from discerning between
frequent communion and rare communion. If this
little soul fully discerns that to frequent holy com-
munion she must have great purity and fervour, and
if she aspires after these and is careful to cultivate
them, in that case I consider that she may be let
approach often, that is, every fortnight. But if she
has ardour only for communion, and not for the
mortification of the little imperfections of youth,
I think it would suffice to let her confess every week,
and communicate once a month. My dear child, I
think communion is the great means for attaining
Various Letters. 319
perfection, but it must be received with the desire and
the care to take away from the heart all that dis-
pleases him whom we wish to lodge there.
Persevere in thoroughly conquering yourself in
these small daily contradictions you receive ; make
the bulk of your desires about this ; know that God
wishes nothing from you at present but that. Busy
not yourself then in doing anything else : do not sow
your desires in another's garden, but cultivate well
your own. Do not desire not to be what you are, but
desire to be very well what you are ; occupy your
thoughts in making that perfect, and in bearing the
crosses, little or great, which you will meet. And,
believe me, this is the great truth, and the least
understood in spiritual conduct.
Every one loves according to his taste ; few love
according to their duty and the taste of our Lord.
What is the use of building castles in Spain, when we
have to live in France ? It is my old lesson, and you
know it well ; tell me, my dear child, if you practise
I pray you, regulate your exercises, and have in
them a great regard for the inclinations of your head.
Laugh at those frivolous attacks whereby your enemy
represents to you the world as if you were to return
to it ; laugh at them, I say, as nonsense ; there must
be no answer to them, but that of our Saviour : Get
thee behind me, Satan! Thou shall not tempt the Lord
thy God.* My dear child, we are in the way of the
* Matt. iv.
32o St. Francis de Sales.
saints, let us -walk courageously, in spite of the
difficulties which are therein.
I think I have satisfied all you want to know from
me, who have no stronger desire than to serve you
faithfully in this point.
I should much desire to see you ; but it was not
convenient that I should will it. God will perhaps
dispose some means more proper for this : yes, I pray
him so to do, if it is for his glory, for which I will to
May he ever live and reign in our souls ! I am,
madam, my dearest daughter and sister, your, &c.
To ONE OF HIS RELATIVES.
He wishes her the Love of God.
MADAM MY DEAR COUSIN, I cannot, and would not,
refrain from writing to you, having so safe a bearer.
But it is only to tell you that I ask continually in
Holy Mass many graces for your soul, but chiefly and
as everything, divine love ; for, indeed, it is our all ;
it is our honey, my dear cousin, within which and by
which all the affections and actions of our hearts must
be preserved and sweetened.
My God, how happy is the interior kingdom, when
this holy love reigns therein ! How blest are thf
Various Letters. 32 /
powers of our soul which obey a king so holy and 86.
wise ! No, my dear cousin, under his obedience and
in this state, he allows not great sins to dwell, nor
even any affection for the very least. It is true that
he lets the frontiers be approached, in order to
practise the interior virtues in war, and to make them
valiant ; and he allows spies, which are venial sins and
imperfections, to run here and there in his kingdom ;
but it is only to make known that without him
we should be a prey to all our enemies.
Let us greatly humble ourselves, my dear cousin,
my daughter; let us confess that unless God be
cuirass and buckler to us, we shall be instantly
pierced and transpierced with all sorts of sins. There-
fore let us keep ourselves close to God, by the con-
tinuance of our exercises ; let this be the main point
of our carefulness, and the rest accessories.
Meantime, we must ever have courage, and if some
weakness or enfeeblement of spirit occurs, let us run
to the foot of the cross, and place ourselves amid
those holy odours, those heavenly perfumes, and
without doubt we shall be comforted and invigorated
by them. I present every day your heart to the
eternal Father with that of his Son, our Saviour, in
the Holy Mass. He cannot refuse it, on account of
that union in virtue of which I make the offer ; but
I take for granted that you do as much on your
side. May we ever, with soul, with heart, and with
body, be to him a sacrifice and holocaust of praise.
Live joyous and brave, with Jesus on your breast.
322 6V. Francis de Sales.
Madame, my dearest cousin, I am one whom he
has made your, &c.
To THE SAME.
The Saint exhorts her to be faithful to God.
MADAM MY VERY DEAR COUSIN, Rightly do you find
God good, and relish his paternal solicitude in your
regard, in that, as you are now in a place where you
cannot get time to exercise yourself in meditation,
he gives himself more frequently to your heart, to
strengthen it with his sacred presence. Be faithful
to this divine spouse of your soul; and more and
more you will see that hy a thousand means he will
make clear to you his dear love towards you.
I am not then amazed, my dear cousin, if God,
giving you the taste of his presence little by little,
disgusts you with the world. There is no doubt, my
daughter, that nothing makes one think colocynth so
bitter as eating honey. When we come to relish
divine things, it will be impossible for the earthly
again to give us appetite. And could we, after having
considered the goodness, the stability, the eternity of
God, love this miserable vanity of the world ? We
must indeed support and tolerate this vanity of the
world ; but we must love and affect only the truth of
our good God, and may he be ever blessed for leading
us to this holy contempt of earthly follies.
Various Letters. 323
Alas ! It is true, raadarae my dear cousin, the
poor Madame de Moiron is dead : we should not have
expected it last Lent. And truly we all shall die
some future day, we know not which. My God !
dear daughter, shall we not be blessed if we die with
our gentle Saviour in the midst of our heart? So
then, we must always hold fast to this, continuing our
exercises, our desires, our resolutions, our protesta-
tions. It is a thousand times better to die with our
Lord than to live without him.
Let us live gaily in him and for him, and let us
not frighten ourselves about death ; I do not say let
us not fear it at all, but I say let us not disturb
ourselves. If the death of our Lord is gracious
(propice) to us, ours will be good for us. Wherefore
let us often think on his : let us greatly cherish his
cross and his passion.
You say right, my well beloved daughter, when
we see our friends die, let us mourn them a little, let
us regret them a little, with compassion and tenderness,
but with tranquillity and patience ; and let us profit
of their translation to prepare ourselves quickly and
joyously for ours.
I have praised God for that this poor deceased had
given herself, I think, a little more to devotion this
last year ; for it is a great sign of the mercy of God
on her. It is just a year since she entered into our
confraternity, which has well done its duty to her.
324 6V. Francis de Sales.
To ONE OF HIS SISTERS.
To avoid eagerness in devotion, and to practise mortifications
which come of themselves.
2Qth July, 1607.
MADAM MY DEAREST SISTER, It is impossible for me to
restrain myself from writing to you at all opportunities
which present themselves. Do not worry yourself;
no, believe me, practise serving our Lord with a
gentleness full of strength and zeal : that is the true
method of this service. Wish not to do all, but only
something, and without doubt you will do much.
Practise the mortifications which oftenest present
themselves to you; for this is the thing we must do
first ; after that we will do others. Often kiss in
spirit the crosses which our Lord has himself placed
on your shoulders. Do not look whether they are of
a precious or fragrant wood ; they are truer crosses,
when they are of vile, abject, worthless wood. It is
remarkable that this always comes back to my mind,
and that I know only this song. Without doubt, my
dear sister, it is the canticle of the Lamb : it is a little
sad, but it is harmonious and beautiful. My father y
be it not as I will but as thou wilt*
Magdalen seeks our Lord while she has him : she
demands him from himself. Wherefore she is not
content to see him thus, and seeks him to find him
* Matt. xxvi. 39.
Various Letters. 325
otherwise : she wanted to see him in his glorious
dress, and not in a gardener's vile dress ; but still at
last she knew it was he, when he said : Mary.
Look now, my dear sister, my child, it is our Lord
in gardener's dress that you meet here aud there
every day in the occasions of ordinary mortifications,
which present themselves to you. You would like
him to offer you other and finer mortifications. O
God, the finest are not the best. Do you not think
he says Mary, Mary ? No : before you see him in his
glory, he wishes to plant in your garden many flowers,
little and lowly, but to his liking : that is why he is
dressed so. May our hearts be ever united to his
and our wills to his good pleasure. I am, without end
and without measure, my dear sister, your, &c.
Have good courage, be not afraid, only let us be
God's, for God is ours. Amen.
To MADAME DE CHANTAL.
It is a great happiness to keep ourselves humble at the
foot of the cross.
Itumilly, 20th March, 1608.
MY DEAR CHILD, Let us keep ourselves, I beseech you,
quite at the very bottom of the cross; too happy if
some drop of this balm which distils on all sides, fall
into our heart, and if we can gather some of these
326 St. Francis de Sales.
tiny blades of grass which grow round about. Oh!
I should like, my dearest daughter, to entertain you
a little with the grandeur of this blessed saint (St.
Joseph), whom our soul loves, because he has fostered
the love of our heart and the heart of our love,
taking these words : Lord, do good to the good and up-
right of heart.* O true God, I say, how good and
right of heart must this saint have been, since our
Lord did him so much good, giving him the Mother
and the Son ? For, having these two pledges, he might
cause envy in the angels, and challenge all heaven
together to have more good than he ; for what is there
among the angels to compare with the queen of angels,
and in God beyond God?
Good night, my all dear child, I beg this great saint,
who has so often fondled our Lord, and so often cradled
him, to give you the interior caresses which are required
for the advancement of your love towards this Redeemer,
and abundance of interior peace, giving you a thousand
blessings. Vive Jesus, Vive Marie, and also this great
St. Joseph who has so cherished our life.
Adieu, my child ; the widow of Nairn calls me to
the funeral of her dear son.t It is not on such a
subject that I fail to think on what you write me
about your son. God's let us be without end, without
reserve, without measure ! Jesus be our crown ! Mary
be our honey ! I : m, in the name of the Son and of
the Mother, your, &c.
* Ps. cxxiv. 4.
f Alluding to the Gospel for Thursday, fourth week of Lent.
Various Letters. 327
To THE SAME.
On the repose of our hearts in the Will of God.
The Eve of the glorious St. Nicholas, ^th December, 1608.
MY DEAREST CHILD, Since my return from the visita-
tion, I have had some symptoms of feverish catarrh.
Our doctor would not prescribe me any remedy but
rest, and I have obeyed him. You know, my daughter,
that this is also the remedy I willingly prescribe
tranquillity, and that I always forbid eagerness.
Wherefore, in this corporal rest, I have been thinking
of the spiritual rest which our souls should have in
the will of God, or which this will brings us ; but it
is impossible to develop the considerations which this
requires without a little quite real and honest leisure.
Let us live, my dear daughter, let us live as long as
God pleases in this vale of tears, with a complete sub-
mission to his sovereign will. Ah ! how indebted are
we to his goodness, which has made us desire with such
resolution to live and die in his love ! Without doubt,
we desire it, my child, we are resolved upon it : let us