followed distrusts, languors, depressions, or failings of
heart : well, if it is so, be very good for the
Let us go by land, since the high sea makes our
head turn, and gives us retchings. Let us keep at our
Lord's feet, with St. Magdalen, whose feast we are
celebrating : let us practise certain little virtues proper
for our littleness. Little pedler, little pack. These
are the virtues which are more exercised in going
down, than in going up, and therefore they are suit-
able to our legs : patience, bearing with our neighbour,
submission, humility, sweetness of temper, affability,
toleration of our imperfection, and such little virtues
as these. I do not say that we are not to mount by
prayer, but step by step.
I recommend to you holy simplicity : look before
you, and regard not those dangers which you see afar
off. As you say, they seem to you armies, and they
are only willow-branches, and while you are looking
at them you may make some false step. Let us have
a firm and general intention of serving God all our
life, and with all our heart : beyond that let us have
no solicitude for the morrow* let us only think of
doing well to-day ; when to-morrow arrives it will be
called in its turn to-day, and then we will think of it.
We must here again have a great confidence and
acquiescence in the providence of God ; we must
make provision of manna for each day and no more,
and we must not doubt that God will rain more to-
* Matt. vi. 34.
1 2 St. Francis de Sales.
morrow, and after to-morrow, and all the days of our
I extremely approve the advice of Father N., that
you take a director into whose arms you may be
able sweetly to lay your spirit. It will be your hap-
piness to have no other than the sweet Jesus, who, as
he wishes us not to despise the service of his ministers
when we can have it, so when that is wanting supplies
for all : but only in that extremity, so that if you are
reduced to that you will find it out.
What I wrote to you was not to keep you from
communicating to me by letters, or speaking with me
about your soul, which is tenderly dear and well-
beloved to me. It was to extinguish the ardour of
the confidence you had in me, who, through my in-
efficiency and your distance from me, can be to you
but very little use, though very affectionate and very
devoted in Jesus Christ. Write to me then with con-
fidence, and doubt not at all that I will answer faith-
I have put at the bottom of the letter what you
want, that it may be for you alone. Pray hard for
me, I beg you. It is incredible how pressed down
and oppressed I am by this great and difficult charge.
This charity you owe me by the laws of our alliance,
and 1 pay you back by the continual memory which I
keep of you at the altar in my feeble prayers. Blessed
be our Lord. I beg him to be your heart, your soul,
your life ; and I am your servant, &c.
Letters to Yoimg Ladies. 1 3
To A YOUNG LADY.
On friendships founded in charity.
O GOD ! how far more constant and firm are the
friendships founded in charity than those whose
foundation is in flesh and blood, or in worldly
Do not trouble yourself about your drynesses and
barrennesses ; rather comfort yourself in your superior
soul, and remember what our God has said : Blessed
are the poor in spirit, blessed are they who hunger and
thirst after justice.*
AVhat a happiness to serve God in the desert with-
out manna, without water, and without other consola-
tion than that of being under his guidance, and suffer-
ing for him ! May the most Blessed Virgin be truly
born in our hearts to bring her blessings to them. I
am in her and in her Son entirely yours.
To A YOUNG LADY.
On the cooling of piety. (Danger of lawsuits.)
i^th June, 1620.
WILL that amiable spirit which I saw in you during
some months, while you were in this town, my dearest
* Matt. v. 3, 6.
1 4 St. Francis de Sales.
daughter, never come back iuto your heart? Truly,
when I see how it has gone out, I ain in great per-
plexity, not about your salvation, for I hope that you
will still effect that ; but about your perfection, to
which God calls you, and has never ceased to call you
since your youth.
For, I pray, my dearest daughter, how could I
advise you to stay in the world ? I know the ex-
cellent disposition which is at the bottom of your
heart j but it is accompanied with so strong an incli-
nation to the grandeur and dignity of life, and to
natural, human prudence and wisdom, and with such
great activity, subtlety and delicacy of mind, that I
should fear infinitely to see you in the world ; there
being no condition more dangerous in that state than
:. good disposition accompanied by such qualities. If
we add to this your incomparable aversion to obe-
dience, there is nothing more to say except that on
uo consideration whatever must you remain in the
And yet how could I advise you to enter into
religion, while not only do you not desire it, but your
heart is entirely opposed to that kind of life ?
A sort of life then must be sought neither of the
world nor of religion, without the miseries of the
world and the constraints of religion. We may just
manage, I think, that you should have the entree to
some house of the Visitation, to recollect yourself often
in the religious life, and still that you should not be
bound to it. You may even have a lodging near, for
Letters to Young Ladies. 1 5
your retreat, with only the tie of some exercises of
devotion useful for a good life. Thus you will have
convenience for satisfying your spirit which so
strangely dislikes submission and the tie of obedience,
which finds it so hard to meet with souls made to its
desire, and which is so clear-sighted in finding defects,
and so sensitive in feeling them.
Oh ! when I call to memory the happy time when I
saw you, according to my wish, so entirely stripped of
self, so desirous of mortifications, so attached to self-
abnegation, I cannot but hope to see it again.
As to your dwelling, I leave you the choice of it :
as for mine I think it will be in your country after
my return from Rome, which will be about Easter, if
1 go. But make a good choice of place, where you
can be well helped.
As you wish it I will treat with Monsieur N. O
God, how ardently and unchangeably I desire that
your affairs may be settled without lawsuits. For,
you see, the money which your suits will cost, will be
enough to live upon, and what certainty is there of the
result ? How do you know what the judges will say
and decide about your cause ? And then you pass
your best days in this most wretched occupation, and
v.ill have few left to be usefully employed in your
principal object ; and God knows if, after a long
quarrel, you will be able to recall your dissipated
spirit to unite it to his divine goodness.
My child, those who live on the sea die on the sea;
I have scarcely ever seen people embark in lawsuits
1 6 St. Francis de Sales.
who did not die in that entanglement. Now, think
whether your soul is made for that ; whether your
time is rightly devoted to that; get M. Vincent,* 1
examine well with him all this affair, and cut it short.
Do not wish to be rich, my dearest daughter ; or at
least if you can only be so by these miserable ways of
lawsuits, be rather poor, my dearest child, than rich at
the cost of your peace.
You should make a general confession since you
cannot otherwise soothe your conscience, and since a
learned and virtuous ecclesiastic advised it. But I
have no time to write more to you, carried off by
businesses, and hurried by the departure of this
bearer. God be in the midst of your heart. Amen.
To A YOUNG LADY WHO WAS THINKING OF MARRIAGE.
The married state requires more virtue and constancy
than any other.
MADEMOISELLE, I answer your letter of the second of
this month, later than I wished, considering the
quality of the advice and counsel you ask me; but the
great rains have hindered travellers from starting, at
least I have had no safe opportunity till this.
The advice your good cousin so constantly gave you
* S. Vincent de Paul.
Letters to Yoimg Ladies. 17
to remain your own mistress, in the care of your
father, and able afterwards to consecrate heart and
body to our Lord, was founded on a great number of
considerations drawn from many circumstances of your
condition. For which reason, if your spirit had been
in a full and entire indifference, I should doubtless
have told you that you should follow that advice as
the noblest and most proper that could be offered, for
it would have been such beyond all question.
But since your spirit is not at all in indifference,
and quite bent to the election of marriage, and since
in spite of your recourse to God you feel yourself still
attached to it, it is not expedient to do violence to so
confirmed a feeling for any reason whatever. All the
circumstances which otherwise would be more than
enough to make me agree with the dear cousin, have
no weight against this strong inclination and pro-
pensity ; which, indeed, if it were weak and slight,
would be of little account, but being powerful and
firm, must be the foundation of your resolution.
If then the husband proposed to you is otherwise
suitable a good man, and of sympathetic humour,
you may profitably accept him. I say sympathetic
because this bodily defect of yours* requires sympathy,
as it requires you to compensate it by a great sweet-
ness, a sincere love, and a very resigned humility
in short, true virtue and perfection of soul must cover
all over the blemish of body.
I am much pressed for time, my dear daughter,
* Manquement de taille.
1 8 St. Francis de Sales.
and cannot say many things to you. I will end, then,
by assuring you that I will ever recommend you to
our Lord, that he may direct your life to his glory.
The state of marriage is one which requires more
virtue and constancy than any other ; it is a perpetual
exercise of mortification ; it will perhaps be so to you
more than usual. You must then dispose yourself to it
with a particular care, that from this thyme-plant, in
spite of the bitter nature of its juice, you may be able
to draw and make the honey of a holy life. May the
sweet Jesus be ever your sugar and your honey to
sweeten your vocation ; ever may he live and reign in
our hearts. I am in him, &c.
To MADEMOISELLE DE TRAVES.
The Saint enyufjes her not to marry, and courageously to
support family trouble.
Sth April, 1609.
MADEMOISELLE, Wishing to honour, cherish, and serve
you all my life, I have inquired of Madam, your dear
cousin, my sister, about the state of your heart, of which
she has said what consoles me. How happy will you
be, my dear child, if you persevere in despising the
promises which the world will want to make you, for iu
real truth it is only a real deceiver. Let us never look
at what it offers, without considering what it hides. It
Letters to Yoimg Ladies. 19
is true, doubtless, that a good husband is a great help,
but there are very few, and good as he may be, he be-
comes more of a tie than a help. You have a great
anxiety for the family which is on your hands, but it
would not lessen if you undertook the charge of
another, perhaps as large. Stay as you are, and
believe me, make a resolution to this effect so strong
and so evident that no one may doubt it. The cir-
cumstances in which you are now will serve you as a
little martyrdom, if you continue to join your labours
therein to those of our Saviour, of our Lady and the
Saints ; who, amid the variety and multiplicity of the
importunities which their charge gave them, have
inviolably kept the love and the devotion for the holy
unity of God, in whom, by whom, and for whom they
have conducted their lives to a most happy end.
O that you may, like them, keep and consecrate to
God your heart, your body, your love, and all your
life ! I am, in all sincerity, your &c.
To A YOUNG LADY.
The Saint exhorts Tier not to go to la?v and recommends the
method of accommodation. (Pernicious effects of lawsuits.}
I DO not tell you the truly more than paternal love
my heart has for you, my dearest daughter, for I think
2O St. Francis de Sales.
that God himself, who has created it, will tell it you ;
and if he does not make it known it is not in my
power to do so. But why do I say this to you ?
Because, my dearest daughter, I have not written to
you as often as you might have wished, and people
sometimes judge of the affection more by the sheets
of paper than by the fruit of the true interior senti-
ments, which only appear on rare and signal occasions,
and which are more useful.
"Well, you ask me for a paper which hitherto I have
not been able to find, and which M. has not either.
You wish that if it is not in our hands we should
send instantly to Rome for a similar one. But,
my child, I think there has been a change of
bishop at Troyes ; and if so, then we must know his
And, without further preface, I am going to say to
you, without art or disguise, what my soul wishes to
say to you. How long will you aim at other victories
over the world or other love for the things you can
see there than our Lord had, to which he exhorts you
in so many ways ? How acted he, this Saviour of the
world ? It is true, my child, he was the lawful sove-
reign of the world, and did he ever go to law to have
so much as where lo lay his head ? A thousand
wrongs were done him ; what suit did he ever make ?
Before what tribunal did he ever cite anyone ? None,
indeed; yea, he did not will even to cite the traitors
who crucified him before the tribunal of God ! on the
contrary, he invoked on them the power of mercy.
Letters to Young Ladies. 2 1
And it is this which he has so fully inculcated. To
him who would go to law with thee and take away thy
coat, give thy tunic also*
I am not at all extravagant (super stitieux] and blame
not those who go to law, provided they do so in truth,
judgment, and justice : but I say, I exclaim, I cry out,
and, if need were, would write with my own blood,
that those who want to be perfect, and entirely
children of Jesus Christ crucified, must practise this
doctrine of our Lord. Let the world rage, let the
prudence of the flesh tear out its hair with spite if it
likes, and let all the wise men of the age invent as
many divisions, pretexts, excuses, as they like ; but
this word ought to be preferred to all prudence : And
if any man would go to law with thee and take away
thy coat, (en jugement) give him thy cloak also.
But this, you will tell me, applies to certain cases.
True, my dearest daughter; but, thank God, we are
in such case, for we aspire to perfection, and wish to
follow as near as we can him who said with an affection
/ truly apostolic : Having food, and wherewith to be
clothed, with these we are content.^ And who cried
out to the Corinthians : Indeed, there is already plainly
fault and sin in you, for that you go to law with one
another. % Hearken, my child, to the sentiments and
advice of this man, who no longer lived in himself, but
Christ lived in him. Why, says he, do you not rather
suffer yourselves to be defrauded ? \\ Notice, my child,
* Matt. v. 40. f i Tim. vi. 8. J I Cor. vi. 7.
Gal. ii. 20. |j I Cor. vi. 7.
22 St. Francis de Sales.
that he speaks, not to a daughter who aspires after a
particular manner and after so many inspirations, to
the perfect life, but to all the Corinthians. Notice
that he wishes them to suffer the wrong, that there is
fault in them to go to law with those who cheat and
defraud them. But what sin? In that they thus
scandalize the heathen children of the world, who
said : " See how Christian these Christians are. Their
master says : To him who would lake thy coat, give also
thy cloak : see, how for temporal goods they risk the
eternal, and the tender brotherly love they should
have for one another." On this S. Augustine says :
" Note the lesson of our Lord ; he says not to him
who would take away a ring, give also thy necklace,
both of which are superfluous : but he speaks of the
tunic and mantle, which are necessary things."
O, my dearest daughter, behold the wisdom of God,
behold his prudence, consisting in the most holy and
most adorable simplicity, childlikeness, and, to speak
after an apostolic manner, in the most sacred folly of
But, thus will say to me human prudence, to what
will you reduce us ? What ! are they to tread us
under foot, to twist our nose, to play with us as with
a bauble ? Are they to dress and undress us without
our saying a word ? Yes, indeed, I wish that ; not I,
indeed, but Christ wishes it in me ; and the Apostle
of the cross and of the crucified cries out : Until now
we are hungry, we are thirsty, we are naked, we are
buffetted; in fine, we are become the offscouring of the
Letters to Young Ladies. 23
world (as an apple peeling, a sweeping up, a chestnut
skin, or a nutshell}.* The inhabitants of Babylon un-
derstand not this doctrine, but the dwellers on Mount
Calvary practise it.
" O/' J ou w iU Sa 7> m y child, " you are very severe,
father, all at once." Indeed it is not all at once, for
since I have had grace to know a little the spirit of
the cross, this sentiment entered into my mind, and
has never left it. And if I have not lived according
to it, this has been through weakness of heart and not
through thinking it right ; the howling of the world
has made me do externally the evil I hated internally:
and I will dare to say this word, to my confusion, into
my daughter's ear : I never rendered injury or evil
except unwillingly (a contre cceur). I do not scrutinize
my conscience, but so far as I see in the general, I
believe I speak the truth ; and so much the more
inexcusable am I.
I quite agree, my child, Be prudent as the serpent,"^
who despoils himself entirely, not of his dress, but of
his very skin, to renew his youth ; who hides his head,
says S. Gregory (which is, for us, fidelity to the Gospel
teaching), and leaves all the rest to the mercy of his
enemies to save the integrity of that.
But what am I saying? I write this letter with
impetuosity, and I have been obliged to write it at
two sittings, and love is not prudent and discreet, it
goes violently and in advance of itself.
You have there so many people of honour, of wis-
* I Cor. iv. II, 13. t Mat. x. 16
24 .SV. Francis de Sales,
dom, of loving temper, of piety : will it not be pos-
sible for them to bring Madame de C. and Madame de
L. to some understanding which will give you a holy
sufficiency? Are they tigers, who cannot be brought
to reason ? Have you not there M. N., in whose
prudence all you have and all you claim would be very
safe ? Have you not M. N., who will certainly do
you this favour of assisting you in this Christian way
of peace? And the good Father N., will he not be
pleased to serve God in your affair, which regards
almost your very salvation, and quite, at least, your
advancement in perfection ? And then Madame N.,
should she not be believed, for she is certainly, I do
not only say very, very good, but also prudent enough
to advise you in this case.
What duplicities, artifices, worldly speeches, and
perhaps lies, how many little injustices, and soft and
well-covered, and imperceptible calumnies, are used in
this confusion of suits and procedures ! Will you not
say that you wish to marry, scandalizing the whole
world by an evident lie, unless you have a constant
preceptor who will whisper in your ear the purity of
sincerity ? Will you not say that you wish to live in
the world, and to be supported according to your
birth ? that you have need of this and that ? And
what about all this ant's-nest of thoughts and fancies
which these transactions will breed in your spirit ?
Leave, leave to the worldly their world : what need
have you of what is required to live in it ? Two
thousand crowns and still less will abundantly suffice
Letters to Yoimg Ladies. 2 5
for a person who loves our Saviour crucified. A hun-
dred and fifty crowns income, or two hundred, are
riches for one who believes in the article of evangelical
But if I were not a cloistered religious, and only
associated to some monastery, I should be too poor to
have myself called my lady by more than one or two
servants. How ? Have you ever seen that our Lady
had so much ? What need for it to be known that
you are of good family according to the world, if you
are of the household of God ? Oh ! but I should like
to found some house of piety, or at least give some
assistance to such a house; for, being infirm in body,
they would then more willingly keep me. Ah ! now
it comes out, my dearest daughter. I knew very well
your piety was making a plank for self-love, so pite-
ously human is it. In fact, we do not love crosses,
unless they are in gold, with pearls and enamel. It
is a rich, a most devout, and admirably spiritual
abjection to be regarded in a congregation as foun-
dress, or at least great benefactress ! Lucifer would
have been willing to remain in heaven on that con-
dition. But to live on alms, like our Lord, to take
the charity of others in our illnesses, being by birth
and in spirit so and so, this certainly is very trying
and hard. It is hard to man, but not to the Son of
God, who will do it in you.
But is it not a good thing to have of one's own to
employ at one's will in the service of God ? The
-expression at one's will (a son yre) makes our differ-
26 St. Francis de Sales.
ence clear. But I say, at your will, my father; for
I am always your child, God having willed it so.
Well, then, my will is that you content yourself with
what M. N. and Madame N. think proper, and
that you leave the rest, for the love of God and the
edification of your neighbour, and the peace of the
ladies, your sisters, and that you consecrate it thus
to the love of your neighbour and the glory of the
Christian spirit. O God ! what blessings, graces,
spiritual riches for your soul, my dearest daughter.
If you do this you will abound and superabound :
God will bless your little, and it will satisfy you :
no, no, it is not difficult to God to do as much with
five barley loaves, as Solomon with all his cooks and
purveyors. Remain in peace. I am quite unchange-
ably your true servant and father.
To A YOUNG LADY.
The Saint endeavours to turn her away from a suit which she
thought of instituting against one who had promised to
marry her and broken his word.
ON the first part of the letter you have written to
Madame N. and which you wished to be communi-
cated to me, my dearest daughter, I will say that if
M. N. made to you no other assertions than those
you give, and if the matter were before us, we should
Letters to Young Ladies. 27
condemn him to espouse you, under heavy penalties ;
for he has no right, on account of considerations
which he could and should have made before his pro-
mise, to break his word. But I do not know how
things go over there, where often the rules which we
have in our ecclesiastical affairs are not known.
Meantime, my dearest daughter, my desire to dis-
suade you from prosecuting this wretched suit did
not arise from distrust of your good right, but from
the aversion and bad opinion I have of all processes
and contentions. Truly the result of a process must
be marvellously happy, to make up for the expense,
the bitterness, the eager excitements, the dissipation
of heart, the atmosphere of reproaches, and the multi-
tude of inconveniences which prosecutions usually
bring. Above all I consider worrying and useless,
yea, injurious, the suits which arise from injurious
words and breaches of promise when there is no real
interest at stake ; because suits, instead of putting
down insults, publish them, increase and continue
them ; and instead of causing the fulfilment of pro-
mises drive to the other extreme.
Look, my dear daughter, I consider that in real
truth the contempt of contempt is the testimony of
generosity which we give by our disdain of the weak-
ness and inconstancy of those who break the faith
they have given us : it is the best remedy of all.
Most injuries are more happily met by the contempt
which is shown for them than by any other means ;
the blame lies rather with the injurer than with the
28 St. Francis de Sales.
injured. But now, withal, these are my general
sentiments, which perhaps are not proper in the par-