keeps his gratifications for eternal life ! I have said
this word to finish and fill up the page. May God
ever be our all. Amen.
Various Letters. 363
To A RELIGIOUS OP THE VISITATION.
Answers to questions on the truths of Faith.
28th November, 1621.
THE truths of the faith, my dearest child, are some-
times agreeable to the human spirit, not only because
God has revealed them by his word, and proposed them
by his Church, but also because they suit our taste,
and because we enter into them thoroughly, we un-
derstand them easily, and they are according to our
inclinations. As, for example, that there is a Paradise
after this mortal life, this is a truth of faith which
many hold much to their satisfaction, because it is
sweet and desirable. That God is merciful the greatest
part of the world finds to be a very good thing, and
easily believes, because even philosophy teaches us
this ; it is conformable to our taste and to our desire.
Now, all the truths of faith are not of this kind;
as, for example, that there is an eternal hell for the
punishment of the wicked, this is a truth of faith,
but a bitter, terrifying, fearful truth, and one which
we do not believe willingly, except by the force of God's
And now I say, firstly, that naked and simple faith
is that by which we believe the truths of faith, without
considering any pleasure, sweetness, or consolation we
may have in them, but solely by the acquiescence of
our spirit in the authority of the word of God, and
364 St. Francis de Sales.
the proposition of the Church : and thus we believe
no less the terrifying truths than the sweet and agree-
able truths : and then our faith is naked, because it is
not clothed with any sweetness or any relish ; it is
simple, because it is not mingled with any satisfaction
of our own feelings.
Secondly, there are truths of faith which we can
apprehend by the imagination ; as that our Lord was
born in the manger of Bethlehem, that he was carried
into Egypt, that he was crucified, that he went up to
heaven. There are others, which we cannot at all
grasp with the imagination, as the truth of the Most
Holy Trinity, Eternity, the presence of our Lord's
body in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist :
for all these truths are true in a way which is incon-
ceivable to our imagination, since we cannot imagine
how these things can be. Still, our understanding
believes them firmly and simply, on the sole assurance
it has of the word of God : and this faith is truly
naked, for it is divested of all imagination ; and it is
entirely simple, because it has no sort of action except
the action of our understanding, which purely and
simply embraces these truths on the sole security of
God's word. This faith, thus naked and simple, is that
which the saints have practised and do practise amid
sterilities, drynesses, distrusts, and darknesses.
To live in truth, and not in untruth, is to lead a
life entirely conformed to naked and simple faith, ac-
cording to the operations of grace and not of nature ;
because our imagination, our senses, our feeling, our
Various Letters. 365
taste, our consolations, our arguments, maybe deceived
and may err; and to live according to them is to live
in untruth, or at least in a perpetual risk of untruth ;
but to live in naked and simple faith, this is to live
So it is said of the wicked spirit, that he abode not
in the truth* because having had faith in the begin-
ning of his creation, he quitted it, wishing to argue,
without the faith, about his own excellence, and wish-
ing to make himself his end, not according to naked
and simple faith, but according to natural conditions,
which carried him on to an extravagant and irregular
love of himself. This is the lie in which live all those
who do not adhere with simplicity and nudity of faith
to the word of God, but wish to live according to
human prudence, which is no other than an ants' nest
of lies and vain arguments.
This is what I think good to say to you on your two
To A LADY.
Of piety in the midst of afflictions.
Annecy, sSth April, 1622.
MAY it please the Holy Spirit to inspire me with what
I have to write to you, Madam, and, if you please,
* John viii. 44.
366 St. Francis de Sales.
dearest daughter. To live constantly in devotion there
is only need to establish in our mind strong and ex-
The first to establish in yours is that of St. Paul.
To them that love God, all things ivork together unto
good* And in truth, since God can and does draw
good from evil, for whom will he do so if not for those
who, without reserve, have given themselves to him ?
Yes, even sins (from which God by his goodness de-
fend us !) are overruled by Divine Providence, unto the
good of those who are his. Never would David have
been so crowned with humility if he had not sinned,
nor Magdalen so amorous of her Saviour if he had not
forgiven her so many sins, and he would not have for-
given them, if she had not committed them.
Behold, my dear daughter, this great craftsman
(artisan) of mercy ; he alters our miseries into graces,
and makes the salutary theriacunrt of our souls from
the viper of our iniquities. Tell me, then, what will
he not do with our afflictions, with our labours, with
the persecutions used against us? If then it ever
happens that any pain touches you, from any quarter
whatever, assure your soul that if it truly loves God,
all will turn unto good. And though this " good "
works by springs which you do not see, remain all the
more assured that it will come. If God puts the clay
of ignominy on your eyes, it is to give you excellent
* Rom. viii. 28.
f A medicine in which one of the ingredients was the head of
the viper. It was used against poisons.
Various Letters. 367
sight, and to make you a spectacle of honour. If
God lets you fall down, like St. Paul, whom he struck
to the earth, it is to lift you up into glory.
The second maxim is, that he is your Father : for
otherwise, he would not order you to say : Our Father,
who art in heaven. And what have you to fear, who
are daughter of such a father, without whose provi-
dence not a single hair of your head shall perish. It
is a marvel that being child of such a father, we have
or can have other care than to love and serve him
well. Take the pains he would have you take about
your person and your family, and no more; for you
will see that he will have care of you. Think in me,
he said to St. Catharine of Sienna (whose feast we keep
to day) and I will think in thee. 0, Eternal Father!
says the wise Man, your providence governs all.*
The third maxim you must have is that which our
Lord taught to his Apostles. Did gou want any-
thing ?f Look, my dear daughter; our Lord had sent
his Apostles up and down, without money, without
staff', without shoes, without scrip, with but one coat,
and afterwards he said to them, When I sent you so,
did you want anything ? But they said : nothing.
And now, my child, when you have had afflictions,
even in the time when you had not so much confi-
dence in God, did you perish in the affliction ? You
will tell me : no. And why then will you not have
courage to come safely out of all other adversities?
God has not abandoned you up to now, will he
* Wisdom xiv. 3. f Ltike xxii. 35.
368 St. Francis de Sales.
abandon you from this time, when more than formerly
you would be his? Fear not future evils of this
world, for perhaps they will never happen ; and in
any case, if they do happen, God will strengthen you.
He ordered St. Peter to walk on the waters, and St,
Peter, seeing the wind and the storm, was afraid, and
the fear made him sink, and he begged help from his
master, who said to him : Man of little faith, why didst
thou doubt ?* And giving his hand he reassured him.
If God makes you walk on the waves of adversity,
doubt not, my child ; fear not, God is with you ; have
good courage, and you shall be delivered.
The fourth maxim is eternity. Little matters it
what I am in these passing moments, if I am eternally
in the glory of my God. My child, we move towards
eternity, we have almost already one of our feet
therein ; if our eternity be happy, what matters it
that these transitory moments be burdensome ? Is it
possible for us to know that our tribulations of three
or four days work such a weight of eternal consola-
tions, and to be unwilling to bear them ? In fine, my
What is not for eternity,
Can nothing be but vanity.
The fifth maxim is that of the Apostle : God for biff
that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ.-^ Plant in your heart Jesus Christ crucified,
and all the crosses of this world will seem roses to
* Mat. iiv. 31. f Gal, vL 14.
Various Letters. 369
you. Those who are pricked with the thorns of the
crown of our Lord who is our head, scarcely feel
You will find all I have said to you in the 3rd, 4th
(or 5th), and last hooks of the Love of God. You
will find many things about it in the Sinners' Guide
(the large one) of Granada. I must conclude, for I
am pressed for time. Write to me with confidence,
and point out to me what you think I can do for your
heart, and mine will give it very affectionately; for I
um, in all truth, Madame, your, &c.
To A LADY.
Purity of Christian friendships : God is their bond. The world is
insipid to those who love God. Humility must supply the
want of courage.
MY GOD, dearest daughter, how I love your heart
since it wishes to love nothing but its Jesus and for
its Jesus ! Alas ! could it possibly be that a soul
which considers this Jesus crucified for her, should
love anything outside him ? Could it be that after so
many true movements of fidelity, which have so often
made us say, write, sing, breathe and sigh, Vive Jesus !
we should will, like Jews, to cry out : Let him be
crucified, let him be killed in our hearts ? O God !
my child, I say very true child, how strong shall we
be if we continue to keep ourselves united to one
37 -5V. Francis de Sales.
another by this cord dyed in the crimson blood of
our Saviour ! For no one will attack your heart
without finding resistance from you, and from my
heart, which is quite dedicated to yours.
I have seen it, this wretched letter. The wicked,
says David, have told me their fables, but not as your
law.* O God ! how insipid is this compared with the
sacred divine love which lives in our hearts !
You are right; as once for all you have declared
the invariable resolutions of your soul, and he pre-
tends not to be willing to acknowledge them, do not
answer a single word until he speaks otherwise; for
he does not understand the language of the cross, nor
we that of hell
You do well also to receive these few words I say to
you with tenderness of love : for the affection I have for
you is greater and stronger than you would ever think.
You are glad that the troublesome girl has left
you : a soldier must have gained much in the war,
when he is very glad of peace. We shall never have
perfect sweetness and charity, if they are not practised
amid repugnances, aversions, and disgusts. True
peace does not lie in not fighting but in conquering \
the conquered fight no longer, yet they have not true
peace. Well, we must greatly humble ourselves for
being still so little masters of ourselves, and so much
lovers of ease and rest.
The child who is about to be born for us is not
come to rest himself, nor to have his conveniences,
* Ps. cxviii. 85.
Various Letters. 371
either spiritual or temporal, but to fight, to mortify
himself, and to die. So, then, henceforward, since we
have not courage, let us at least have humility.
I will see you soon ; keep quite ready on the tip of
your tongue what you will have to say to me, so that,
however little leisure we have, you may be able to pour
it out into my soul : meantime, press closely this divine
baby to your heart, that you may, with that soul, ine-
briated with heavenly love, breathe forth these sacred
words of love: My beloved to me, and I to him. He
shall abide between my breasts*
So, my dearest daughter, may this divine love of
our hearts be for ever on our breast, to inflame and
consume us by his grace ! Amen.
To ONE OF HIS SISTERS.
The Saint exhorts her to Hoc in a great conformity with
MY DEAREST SISTER, I am writing just to wish you
good-night, and to keep you in assurance that I do
not cease wishing a thousand thousand heavenly
blessings to you, and to my brother ; but particularly
that of being ever transfigured in our Lord. Oh !
how lovely are his face, and his eyes, how mild and
wondrous in sweetness, and how good is it to be with
him on the mount of glory ! It is there, my dear
* Cant. i. 12.
B B 2
3/2 .SV. Francis de Sales.
sister, my child, that we ought to lodge our desires
and our affections, not on this earth, where there are
but vain beauties and beautiful vanities. Well, now,
thanks to this Saviour, we are on the slope of Mount
Thabor, as we have firm resolutions to serve and love
fully his divine goodness; we must then encourage
ourselves to a holy hope. Let us ascend ever, my
dearest sister, let us ascend without growing tired to
this heavenly vision of the Saviour; let us withdraw
ourselves, little by little, from earthly and base affec-
tions, and aspire after the happiness which is prepared
I conjure you, my dear child, to beseech our Lord
earnestly for me, that he would keep me henceforth in
the paths of his will, that I may serve him in sincerity
and fidelity. Look, my dear child, I desire either to
die or to love God, either death or love : for life that
is without this love, is infinitely worse than death.
My God ! dearest child, how happy shall we be, if we
love well this sovereign goodness, which prepares us so
many favours and benedictions.
Let us belong entirely to it, my dearest child, amid
the many trials which the diversity of worldly things
causes us. How would we better testify our fidelity
than amid contrarieties ! Ah ! my dearest child, my
sister, solitude has its dangers, the world has its snares,
but everywhere we must have good courage, since
everywhere the help of heaven is ready for those who
have confidence in God, and who, with humility and
sweetness, implore his paternal assistance.
Various Letters. 373
Be on your guard not to let your carefulness turn
to solicitude and anxiety ; and though you are tossed
on the waves and amid the winds of many troubles,
always look up to heaven, and say to our Lord : O
God, it is for you I voyage and sail : be my guide,
and my pilot. Then comfort yourself in this, that
when we are in port, the delights we shall have there
will outbalance the labours endured in getting there.
But we are on our way there, amid all these storms, if
we have a right heart, good intention, firm courage,
our eyes on God, and in him all our trust.
And if the violence of the tempest sometimes disturbs
our stomach, and makes our head swim a little, let us
not be surprised ; but, as soon as ever we can, let us
take breath again, and encourage ourselves to do better.
You continue to walk in our good resolutions, I am
sure. Be not troubled, then, at these little attacks
of disquiet and annoyance which the multiplicity of
domestic affairs causes you ; no, my dearest child, for
this serves as an exercise to practise those most dear
and lovely virtues which our Lord has recommended
us. Believe me, true virtue does not thrive in exterior
repose, anymore than good fish in the stage ant waters
of a marsh. Vive Jesus
374 *SV' Francis de Sales.
To THE SAME.
Tke Saint exhorts her to comiminicatc often, and to abandon
herself to Providence in contradiction.
MAY our Lord take away your heart as he did that of
the devout St. Catharine of Sienna (whose feast we keep
to-day), to give you his own most divine, so that you may
live solely by his holy love. What a happiness, my dearest
sister, if some day, in coming from Holy Communion,
I found my weak and miserable heart out of my breast,
and established in its stead the precious heart of my
God ! But, my dearest child, since we ought not to
desire things so extraordinary, at least will I that our
poor hearts should henceforward live only under the
obedience and commandments of the Lord : this will
be quite enough, my dear sister, to imitate profitably
in this point St. Catharine ; and then we shall be
gentle, humble and charitable, since the heart of our
Saviour has no laws more dear to it than those of gen-
tleness, humility, and charity.
You will be very happy, my dearest sister, my
child, if amid all these follies of personal attachments,
you live all in yourself, and all for God, who indeed
alone merits to be served and followed with passion ;
for thus doing, my dear sister, you will give good ex-
ample to all, and will gain holy peace and tranquillity
fcr yourself. Let others, I beg you, philosophize
about the reason you have for communicating : for it
Various Letters. 375
is enough that your conscience, that you and I, know
that this diligence in often looking over and repairing
your soul, is greatly required for the preservation of
it. If you wish to give account of it to some one,
you may well say that you need to eat this divine
food so often because you are very weakly, and with-
out this refreshment, your spirit would easily faint
away. Meanwhile, continue, my dearest sister, to
clasp closely to your breast this dear Saviour. Let
him be a lovely and sweet nosegay on your heart, in
such sort that every one who approaches you may
smell that you are perfumed, and know that your
odour is the odour of myrrh.
Keep your soul in peace, notwithstanding these
disquieting things round about you. Submit to the
most secret providence of God what you find hard,
and firmly believe that he will sweetly conduct you,
your life, and all your affairs.
Do you know what the shepherds of Arabia do
when they see it lighten and thunder, and see the air
charged with thunderbolts ? They withdraw under
laurels, themselves and their flocks. When we see
that persecutions or contradictions threaten us with
some great pain, we must withdraw, ourselves and our
affections, under the holy cross, by a sweet confidence
that all things work together unto good to them that
So then, my dearest child, my sister, keep your
heart entirely recollected in peace; keep yourself
* Eom. viii. 28.
376 St. Francis de Sales,
carefully from worry; often throw your confidence on
the providence of our Lord. Be quite certain that
rather will heaven and earth pass away, than our Lord
be wanting to your protection so long as you are his
obedient child, or at least desirous to obey. Two or
three times a-day think whether your heart is not dis-
quieted about something; and finding that it is so
try at once to put it back in repose. Adieu, my
dearest child. May God ever be in the midst of your
LETTER XL VII.
To A LADY.
The means to ~be all to God is to crucify our strongest
MY DEAREST MOTHER, Now what shall I say to you ?
Many things, without doubt, if I wished to follow my
affections, which are always full for you, as I desire
that yours be full for me, above all when you are in
the little oratory. I beseech you there to pour them
forth before God for my amendment ; as on my part
I pour forth, not mine, which are unworthy, on ac-
count of the heart whence they come, but the blood
of the Immaculate Lamb before the Eternal Father,
for the good intention you have of being all his.
What happiness, my dear mother, to be all his, who,
to make us his, made himself all ours ! But for this
it is necessary to crucify in us all our affections, and
specially those which are more strong and active, by
Various Letters. 377
a continual slackening and tempering of the actions
which proceed from them, that they may be done not
with impetuosity, nor even by our own will, but by
the will of the Holy Spirit.
Above all, my dear mother, we need a kind, sweet
and loving heart towards our neighbour, and particu-
larly when he is burdensome and displeasing to us;
for then we have nothing to love in him but his
relation to our Saviour, which, without any doubt,
makes love more excellent and worthy, inasmuch as
it is more pure and free from transitory conditions.
I pray our Lord to increase in you his holy love.
I am, in him, your, &c.
To A SUPERIOR OF THE VISITATION.
God regards us with love, provided that me have good will. Our
imperfections must neither astonish nor discourage u$.
IT would have been to me a consolation beyond com-
pare to see you all when I passed by ; but God not
having willed it, I could not will it. And meanwhile,
my dearest daughter, I very willingly read your letters
and answer them.
Our Blessed Lady knows, dearest child, whether
her, Son thinks of you, and regards you with love!
Yes, my dearest daughter, he thinks of you ; and not
only of you, but of the least hair of your head : this is
an article of faith, and we may not have the least
378 St. Francis de Sales.
doubt of it : but of course I know well you do not
doubt of it ; you only express thus the aridity, dry-
ness, and insensibility in which the lower portion of
your soul finds itself now. Indeed the Lord is in this
place and I knew it not,* said Jacob : that is, I did
not perceive it, I had no feeling of it, it seemed not
so to me. I have spoken of this in the book of the
Love of God, treating of the death of the soul and of
resignations; I do not remember in what book.f And
you can have no doubt whether God regards you with
love ; for he regards lovingly the most horrible sinners
in the world on the least true desire they have of con-
version. And tell me, my dearest child, have you not
the intention of being God's ? Do you not want to
serve him faithfully ? And who gives you this desire
and this intention, if not himself in his loving regard
for you ? The way is not to examine whether your
heart pleases him, but whether his heart pleases you;
and if you look at his heart, it will be impossible for
it not to please you; for it is a heart so gentle, so
sweet, so condescending, so amorous of poor creatures,
if only they acknowledge their misery; so gracious
towards the miserable, so good to penitents ! And
who would not love this royal heart, paternally mater-
nal towards us?
You say rightly, my dearest child, that these temp-
tations come because your heart is without tender-
ness towards God : for it is true that if you had tender-
ness you would have consolation, and if you had con-
* Gen. xxviii. 16. t Book ix.
Various Letters. 379
solation you would no longer be in trouble. But,
my daughter, the love of God does not consist in
consolation, nor in tenderness : otherwise our Lord
would not have loved his Father when he was sorrow-
ful unto death, and cried out : My Father, my Father,
why hast thou forsaken me ?* and it was exactly then
that he made the greatest act of love it is possible to
In fact, we would always wish to have a little
consolation and sugar on our food, that is, to have
the feeling of love and tenderness, and consequently
consolation ; and similarly we would greatly wish to
be without imperfection ; but, my dearest child, we
must patiently continue to be of human nature and
Our imperfections must not give us pleasure ;
indeed we should say with the holy Apostle : Unhappy
man that I am : who shall deliver me from the body of
this death ?\ But they must neither astonish us nor
take away our courage ; we must, indeed, draw from
them submission, humility, and distrust of ourselves,
but not discouragement, nor affliction of heart, and
much less distrust of the love of God towards us. So
God does not love our imperfections and venial sins,
but he much loves us in spite of them. So again, as
the weakness and infirmity of the child displeases the
mother, and still not only does she not cease to love
it, but even loves it tenderly and with compassion ; in
the same way, though God does not love our imper-
* Mat. xxvi. 38. I Rom. vii. 24.
380 St. Francis de Sales.
fections and venial sins, he does not cease to love us
tenderly ; so that David had reason to say to our
Lord : Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am weak.*
Well, now, that is enough, my dearest daughter ;
live joyous, our Lord regards you, and regards you