with love, and with as much more tenderness as
you have more infirmity. Never let your spirit
voluntarily nourish thoughts contrary to this ; and
when they come do not regard them in themselves ;
turn your eyes from their iniquity, and turn them
back towards God with a courageous humility, to
speak to him of his ineffable goodness, with which
he loves our failing, poor and abject human nature,
in spite of its infirmities.
Pray for my soul, my dearest child, and recommend
me to your dear novices, all of whom I know, except
I am entirely yours in our Lord. May he live for
ever and ever (pour tout jamais) in our hearts ! Amen.
To A LADY.
A Confessor may for various reasons mitlidraw frequent communion
from certain persons ; this privation must be borne with a
humble obedience, to make it advantageous.
You have by this time, my dearest daughter, my
answer to the letter which N. brought me ; and here
* Ps. vi. 3.
Various Letters. 38 1
is the answer to yours of the I4th of January. You
have done well to obey your Confessor, whether he
has withdrawn from you the consolation of communi-
cating often in order to try you, or whether he has
done it because you did not take sufficient care
to correct your impatience. I think he has done
it for both motives, and that you ought to persevere
in this patience as long as he orders you, since
you have every reason to believe that he does nothing
without proper consideration ; and if you obey
humbly, one communion will be more useful in
its effect than two or three otherwise. For there is
nothing which makes meat so profitable as to take it
with appetite and after exercise : the delay will
give you a greater appetite, and the exercise you will
take in mortifying your impatience will reinvigorate
your spiritual stomach.
Meanwhile, humble yourself gently, and often make
an act of love of your own abjection. . Remain some-
what in the attitude of the Chanansean : Yes, Lord,
I am not worthy to eat the bread of the children,* if
I am truly a dog that snarl at and bite my neighbour
without cause by my words of impatience. But
if the dogs do not eat the bread, at least they have
the crumbs from their master's table. So, O my
sweet master ! I beg, if not your body, at least the
benedictions which it sheds on those who approach it
with love. These are the sentiments you might have,
* Mat. xv. 26.
382 ,5V. Francis de Sales.
my dearest daughter, on the days when you were
wont to communicate and do not.
The feeling you have of being all God's is not
a deceitful one ; but it requires that you should
occupy yourself a little more in the exercise of virtues,
and have a special care to acquire those in which you
find yourself most wanting. Read again the Spiritual
Combat, and give a special attention to the teachings
therein : it will be very useful to you.
The sentiments we feel in prayer are good ; but
still we must not so delight in them as not diligently
to employ ourselves in virtues and the mortification
of the passions. I pray ever for the good mother of
the dear daughters. And, indeed, since you are
in the way of prayer, and the good Carmelite mother
helps you, it is sufficient. I recommend myself to hex
prayers and yours ; and am, without end or reserve,
very perfectly yours. Vive Jesus. Amen.
To A LADY.
The Saint exhorts her to fidelity in her spiritual exercises and
the practice of virtue. Horn roe are to treat our heart n-hen
it has committed a fault.
MADAM, I truly and greatly desire that when you
expect to gain any consolation by writing to me, you
should do so with confidence. We must join these
Various Letters, 383
two things together : an extreme affection for prac-
tising our exercises very exactly, whether of prayer or
virtues, and a not being troubled or disquieted or
astonished if we happen to commit a fault in them ;
for the first point depends on our fidelity, which ought
always to be entire, and grow from hour to hour ; the
second comes from our infirmity, which we can never
put off during this mortal life.
My dearest daughter, when faults happen to us,
let us examine our heart at once, and ask it if it has
not still living and entire the resolution of serving
God ; and I hope it will answer us yes, and that it
would rather suffer a thousand deaths than withdraw
itself from this resolution.
Thereupon let us ask it : why then do you now
fail, why are you so cowardly ? It will answer : I
have been surprised, I know not how ; but I am now
fallen, like this.
Well, my child, it must be forgiven ; it is not by
infidelity it falls, it is by infirmity; it needs then to be
corrected gently and calmly, and not to be more
vexed and troubled. We ought to say to it : Well
now, my heart, my friend, in the name of God take
courage, let us go on, let us beware of ourselves, let
us lift ourselves up to our help and our God. Ah !
yes, my dear daughter, we must be charitable towards
our soul, and not scold it, so long as we see that it
does not offend of set purpose.
You see, in this exercise we practise holy humility:
what we do for our salvation is done for the service
384 St. Francis de Sales.
of God ; for our Lord himself has worked out in this
world only our salvation. Do not desire the battle,
but await it with firm foot. May our Lord be your
strength. I am, in him, your, &c.
To A SUPERIOR OF THE VISITATION.
Considerations on the death of the Blessed Virgin.
MY DEAREST MOTHER, I was considering last evening,
according to the weakness of my spiritual eyes, this
Queen dying of a last attack of a fever dearer than all
health the fever of love, which, drying up her heart,
at last inflames it, burns it and consumes it, in such
way that it gives up its holy spirit, which goes
straight away into the hands of her son. Ah ! may
this holy Virgin deign to make us live by her prayers
in this holy love ! May it be for ever the most
unique object of our heart. May our union for ever
give glory to the love of God, which bears the sacred
name of Unitive !
I have the happiest of birthdays, my dearest
mother, in having been born into this world on
the day when the most holy Virgin, our Queen,
appeared in heaven, in gilded clothing, surrounded with
variety* Thus we shall speak on Sunday, the day
on which I was born, and which has this glory, that
* Ps. xliv. 10.
Various Letters. 385
it was during the octave of this great Assumption.
Ah, God ! dearest mother, how entirely would I
hollow out our heart before this exalted Lady, that
it may please her to fill it with that overflowing dew
of Hermon, which distils on all sides from her holy
plenitude of graces.
O how absolute and sovereign is the perfection
of this dove, in comparison of which we are ravens !
Ah ! Amid the deluge of our miseries, I have
wished that she should find the olive branch of holy
love, of purity, of sweetness, of prayer to carry
it back in sign of peace to her dear dove-spouse,
to her Noe. Vive Jesus, vive Marie, the support of
my life ! Amen.
To A LADY.
We must support with patience our own imperfections. Advice
on meditation. The judgments of the world.
MADAM, MY DEAREST SISTER, I see you ever languish-
ing with the desire of a greater perfection. I praise
this longing, for it delays you not, I well know ; on the
contrary, it excites and goads you on to acquire what
You live, you tell me, with a thousand imperfec-
tions. It is true, my good sister, but do you not try
from hour to hour to make them die in you? It is
a certain truth that so long as we are here encom-
386 St. Francis de Sales.
passed with this heavy and corruptible body, there is
always in us a something wanting, I know not what.
I am not sure whether I have said to you that it is
necessary to have patience with all the world, and
firstly with ourselves. We are more troublesome to
ourselves than any one else is to us, as soon as we
are able to distinguish between the old and the new
Adam, the interior and the exterior man.
Well; you say you always have your book in your
hand for meditation ; otherwise you do nothing.
What does that matter? Whether book in hand,
and reading a little at a time, or without book, what
difference ? When I said you were only to take half
an hour, it was in the beginning, when I was afraid
of hurting your imagination; but now, there is no
danger in employing an hour.
On the day of communion, there is no danger in
doing all sorts of good things or in working; there
would be more in doing nothing. In the primitive
Church, where all communicated every day, think
you that therefore they kept their arms folded ? And
St. Paul, who said Holy Mass habitually, nevertheless
gained his sustenance by the work of his hands.
From two things only must we keep ourselves on
the day of ccjamunion : from sin, and from delights
and pleasures eagerly sought out (recherches) . As to
those which are of duty, or required, or necessary, or
taken in an honest spirit of condescension to others,
these are not at all forbidden on that clay ; on the con-
trary, they are counselled, under the condition of
Various Letters, 387
observing a gentle and holy modesty. No, I would
not abstain from going to an innocent feast or party
(assemblee) on that day, if I was invited, though I
would not seek it out.
You ask me if those who wish to live with some
perfection can see so much of the world. Perfection,
my dear lady, does not lie in not seeing the world,
but in not tasting or relishing it. All that the sight
brings us is danger ; for he who sees it is in some
peril of loving it : but he who is fully resolved and
determined, is not harmed by the sight. In a word,
my sister, the perfection of charity is the perfection
of life ; for the life of our soul is charity. Our first
Christians were of the world in body and not in heart,
and failed not to be very perfect. My dear sister, 1
would wish no pretence in us, no pretence in the
proper sense of the word. Sincerity (rondeur) and
simplicity are our great virtues.
But I am vexed, you say, about the incorrect judg
ments made of me; I do no good, and am thought
to do some : and you ask me a remedy. This is it,
my dear child, as the saints have taught it me : if the
world despises us, let us be glad ; for it is right we
know that we are fit to be despised : if it esteems us,
let us despise its esteem and its judgment, for it is
blind. Trouble yourself little about what the world
thinks, put yourself in no anxiety about it, despise its
esteem and its disesteem (son prix et son mepris), and
let it say what it likes, good or ill.
So I do not approve that we should commit a fault,
c c 2
388 St. Francis de Sales.
to give a bad opinion of ourselves ; this would be to
err, and to make our neighbour err. On the con-
trary, I wish that keeping our eyes on our Lord, we
should do our works without regarding what the
world thinks about them nor what view it takes of
them. We may avoid giving a good opinion of self,
but not seek to give a bad one, especially by faults,
committed on purpose. In a word, despise almost
equally whichever opinion the world will have of you,
and put yourself in no trouble about it. To say that
we are not what the world thinks, when it thinks well
of you is good ; for the world is an impostor, it always
says too much, either in good or evil.
But what, again, do you say? That you envy
others whom I prefer to you? And the worst is that
you say you know well I prefer them. How do you
know it well, my dear sister? In what do I prefer
others ? No, believe me, you are dear and very dear
to me; and I well know that you do not prefer others
to me, though you ought to do so ; but I am speaking
to you in confidence.
Our two sisters, who are in the country, have more
need of assistance than you who are in the town,
where you abound in exercises, in counsel, and in all
that is needful, while they have no one to help them.
And as to our sister Du N. Do you not see that
she is alone, not having the inclination to accept those
whom our father proposes to her? And our father
does not like those whom we propose ; for according to
what she writes to me, our father cannot approve the
Various Letters. 389
choice of M. Vardot. Do I not owe more compassion
to this poor crucified one than to you, who, thanks to
God, have so many advantages ?
To A LADY.
The remedy for calumny is not to trouble ourselves about it.
Advice on Confession.
MY DEAREST SISTER, I have not had the pleasure of
seeing Monsieur N., but I am not ignorant that you
have been afflicted on account of certain libels which
have appeared yonder, and I should much wish always
to bear your troubles and labours, or at least to help
you to bear them. But since the distance of our resi-
dences does not allow me to help you in any other
way, I beseech our Lord to be the protector of your
heart and to banish therefrom all inordinate grief.
Truly, my dearest sister, the greater part of our ills
are rather imaginary than real. Do you think the
world believes these libels ? It is possible that some
take an interest about them, and that others imbibe
some suspicion; but know, that your soul being good
and truly resigned into the hands of our Lord, all
attacks of this sort vanish into air like smoke ; and
the more wind there is, the quicker they disappear.
The harm of calumny is never so well cured as by
appearing not to feel it, by despising contempt, and
showing by our firmness that we are beyond attack,
390 -S^- Francis de Sales.
principally in the case of a libel of this kind : for a
calumny, which has neither father nor mother willing
to acknowledge it, shows that it is illegitimate.
Now, my dearest sister, I want to tell you a saying
of St. Gregory to an afflicted bishop : Ah ! said he,
if your heart was in heaven, the winds of earth would
not ruffle it at all ; . he who has renounced the world, can
be harmed by nothing that belongs to the world. Throw
yourself at the feet of the crucifix, and see how many
injuries He receives: beseech him, by the meekness with
which he received them, to give you strength to bear
these little evil reports which, as to his sworn servant,
have fallen to your lot. Blessed are the poor, for they
shall be rich in heaven, that kingdom belonging to
them : and blessed are the injured and calumniated, for
they shall be honoured of God.
As to the rest of your letter : the annual review
of our souls is made, as you understand, to supply
the defects of ordinary confessions, to provoke and
strengthen by exercise a more profound humility, but
especially to renew, not good purposes, but good reso-
lutions. These we must apply as remedies to the in-
clinations, habits, and other sources of our trespasses,
to which we find ourselves most subject.
Now, it would indeed be more suitable to make this
review before him who had received our general con-
fession, in order that by the consideration and reference
of the preceding life to the following life, we might
better take the requisite resolutions; that would be more
desirable; but the souls which, like you, have not this
Various Letters. 391
convenience, may make use of some other confessor,
the most discreet and wise they can find.
To your second difficulty I answer, my dearest sister,
that there is no need whatever in your review to signify
in particular the number or little circumstances of your
faults, but it suffices to say in general what are your
principal falls, what your primary weaknesses of spirit.
You need not say how many times you have fallen, but
\yhether you are very subject and given to the sin.
For example, you must not scrutinize yourself to see
how often you have fallen into anger; perhaps this
would give you too much to do; but simply say whether
you are subject to this irregularity; whether, when it
happens, you remain a long time entangled in it;
whether it is with much bitterness and violence. In
fine, say what are the occasions which most provoke
you to it ; the passion for play, self-consequence or
pride, melancholy or obstinacy (of course I give them
as examples) : and thus in a short time you will have
finished your little review, without much tormenting
either your memory or your leisure.
As to the third difficulty, some falls into mortal
sin, provided we have no intention of staying in them,
and do not go to sleep in the sin, do not prevent our
making progress in devotion. This devotion, although
lost by sinning mortally, is nevertheless recovered at
the first true repentance we make of the sin, when, as
I say, we have not long remained steeped in sin. So
that these annual reviews are greatly salutary to souls
which are still a little feeble ; for if, perchance, the first
39 2 -5^ Francis de Sales.
resolutions have not altogether strengthened them,
the second and third will confirm them more ; and at
last, by dint of resolving often, we remain entirely re-
solved, and we must not at all lose courage, but with
a holy humility look at our weakness, declare it,
and ask pardon, and beg the help of heaven. I am
To A LADY.
The consideration of the sufferings of our Saviour ought to console
us in our pains.
IT is the truth, my dearest daughter, that nothing is
more capable of giving us a profound tranquillity in
this world than often to behold our Lord in all the
afflictions which happened to him from his birth to his
death. We shall see there such a sea of contempt, of
calumnies, of poverty and indigence, of abjections, of
pains, of torments, of nakedness, of injuries, and of all
sorts of bitterness, that in comparison with it we shall
know that we are wrong when we call our little acci-
dents by the names of afflictions, pains and contradic-
tions ; and that we are wrong in desiring patience for
such trifles, since a single little drop of modesty is
enough for bearing these things well.
I know exactly the state of your soul, and I seem
to see it always before me, with all these little emo-
tions of sadness, of surprise and of disquiet that come
Various Letters. 393
troubling it. They do so because it has not yet driven
deep enough down into the will the foundations of love of
the cross and abjection. My dearest daughter, a heart
which greatly esteems and loves Jesus Christ crucified,
Igves his death, his pains, his torments, his being spat
on, his insults, his destitutions, his hungers, his thirsts,
his ignominies; and when some little participation of
these comes to it, it makes a very jubilee (il en jubile)
over them for joy, and embraces them amorously.
You must then every day, not in prayer, but out of
prayer, when you are moving about, make a study of
our Lord amid the pains of our redemption, and con-
sider what a blessedness it will be to you to share in
them ; you must see in what occasions you may gain
this advantage, that is, the contradictions you may
perhaps meet in all your desires, but especially in the
desires which will seem to you the most just and
lawful; and then, with a great love of the cross and
passion of our Lord, you must cry out with St. Andrew :
good cross, so loved by my Saviour, when will you
receive me into your arms ?
Look you, my dearest child, we are too delicate
when we call poverty a state in which we have not
hunger, nor cold, nor ignominy, but simply some little
contradiction to our desires. When we see one
another again, remind me to speak to you a little about
the tenderness and delicateness of your dear heart:
you have need for your peace and repose, to be cured
of this before all things; and you must form clearly in
yourself the idea of eternity ; whoever thinks well on
394 '$? Francis de Sales.
this troubles himself little about what happens in
these three or four moments of mortal life.
Since you are able to fast half Advent, you can
continue to the end ; I am quite willing for you to
communicate two days together when you have the
convenience. You may certainly go, only go with
devotion, to Mass after dinner ;* it is the old fashion
of Christians. Our Lord does not regard these little
things: reverence is in the heart, you must not let
your spirit feed on these little considerations. Adieu,
my dearest daughter, hold me ever as all yours ; for in
true truth I am so. God bless you. Amen.
To A LADY.
The Saint recommends her peace of the soul and trust in God.
I FIRMLY BELIEVE, my dearest daughter, that your
heart receives consolation from my letters, which are
also written to you with an incomparable affection,
since it has pleased God that my affection towards
you should be quite paternal; according to which, I
cease not to wish you the height of all blessings.
Keep your courage ever high, I beseech you, my
dearest daughter, in the confidence which you should
have in our Lord, who has cherished you, giving you so
* That is after the mornim; meal.
Various Letters. 395
many humble attractions to his service ; and cherishes
you, continuing them to you, and will cherish you, giving
you holy perseverance.
I do not understand, in good sooth, how souls which
have given themselves to the divine goodness, are net
always joyous : for is there a happiness equal to this ?
Nor should imperfections which may arise trouble you
at all ; for we do not wish to entertain them, or even
to stay our affections on them. Remain, then, quite
in peace, and live in humility and sweetness of heart.
You have well known, my dearest daughter, all our
little afflictions, which I might well have had reason
to call great, had I not seen a special love of God to-
wards the souls whom he has withdrawn from amongst
us ; for my brother died as a religious among soldiers ;
my sister as a saint among religious. It is only to
recommend them to your prayers that I say just this
Your husband is quite right to love me ; for I wish
ever to honour him and you, my dearest daughter.
I figure to myself that you always have a cordial
affection for me, and your soul will answer you for
me that I am yours, since the Lord and Creator of
our spirits has made this tie between us. For ever
may his name be blessed ! and that he may make you
eternally his, is the continual desire, my dearest
daughter, of your, &c.
396 SV- Francis de Sales.
To AN ECCLESIASTIC.
Advantage of Christian friendship over that of the children of
September } 1617.
AMID the incertitudes of the desirable journey which
was to bring us together for several months, my dear-
est brother, I regret nothing so much as to see deferred
the happiness which our hearts promised themselves
of being able to entertain one another at will on the
subject of our holy intentions. But the world and
all its affairs are so subject to the laws of inconstancy
that we must suffer the inconvenience of them, while
our hearts may say : I shall never be moved* No,
nothing shall shake us in the love of the cross, and
in the dear union which the crucifix has made between
our spirits. But now is the time when we must use
the advantage which our friendship has over that of
the children of this world, and make it live and
gloriously reign, in spite of absence and the division
of abodes ; for its author is not tied to time or place.
Truly, my dearest brother, these friendships which
God has made are independent of all that is outside
Now, if I were truly Theophilu$$ as your great
prelate calls me (rather according to the greatness of
his charity than his knowledge of my infirmities), how
* Ps. xxix. 7. t God-lover.
Various Letters. 397
delightsome should I be to you, my dearest brother !
But if you cannot love me because I am not such,
love me that I may so become, praying our great
Androphilus* to make me by his prayers Theophilus.
I hope to go in a few days to take a little holy repose
with him, who is our common phoenix, to smell the
burning cinnamon, in which he wishes to die. He
will live again amid the flames of sacred love, of which
he describes the holy properties in a book which he
But who can have told you that our good Sisters
of the Visitation have been in trouble about their
places and buildings ! O my dear brother ! The
Lord hath been made a refuge for us :f our Lord is
the refuge of their soul; are they not too happy?
And as our good mother, all vigorous in her feeble
state, said to me yesterday : If the sisters of our con-
gregation are very humble and faithful to God, they