Perhaps you are a little too eager and bustling, and
you have wanted to bother and restrict them. If so,
that is without doubt the cause which makes them
now draw in. We must, if possible, avoid making
our devotion troublesome. Now, I will tell you what
you must do. When you can communicate without
troubling your two superiors, do so, according to the
advice of your confessor. When you are afraid that
it will trouble them, communicate in spirit; and be-
lieve me this spiritual mortification, this privation of
God, will extremely please God, and will advance
66 St. Francis de Sales.
your heart very much. We must sometimes take a
step back to get a better spring.
I have often admired the extreme resignation of
St. John Baptist, who remained so long in the desert,
quite close to our Lord, without hastening to see
him, to hear him and follow him; and I have won-
dered how, after having seen and baptized him, he
could let Jesus go without attaching himself to him
in body, as he was so closely united to him in heart ?
But he knew that he served this same Lord by this
privation of his real presence. So I say that God
will be served if, for a little, to gain the heart of the
two superiors whom he has appointed, you suffer the
loss of his real communion ; and it will be to me a
great consolation, if I know that these counsels which
I give you do not disquiet your heart. Believe me,
this resignation, this abnegation will be very useful
to you. You may, however, take advantage of secret
opportunities of communion ; for, provided that you
can defer and accommodate yourself to the will of
these two persons, and do not make them impatient,
I give you no other rule for your communions than
that which your confessors may give you ; for they
see the present state of your interior, and can under-
stand what is required for your good.
I answer also about your daughter : let her desire
the most holy communion till Easter, since she can-
not receive it before that time without offending her
good father. God will recompense this delay.
You are, as far as I see, in the true way to resigna-
Letters to Married Women. 67
tion and indifference, since you cannot serve God at
your will. I know a lady, one of the greatest souls
I have eVer met, who has long remained in such sub-
jection to the humours of her husband, that in the
very height of her devotions and ardours, she was
obliged to wear a low dress, and was all loaded with
vanity outside, and except at Easter could never com-
municate unless secretly and unknown to every one ;
otherwise she would have excited a thousand storms
in her house ; and by this road she got very high, as
I know, having been her father confessor very often.
Mortify yourself, then, joyously ; and in propor-
tion as you are hindered from doing the good you
desire, do the good you do not desire. You do not
desire these resignations, you would desire others;
but do those which you do not desire, for they are
The Psalms translated or imitated by Desportes
are in no way forbidden or hurtful to you; on the
contrary, all are profitable : read them boldly, and
without hesitation, for there is need of none. I con-
tradict nobody, but I know quite well these Psalms
are in no way forbidden you, and that there is no
cause of scruple. Possibly some good father does not
like his spiritual children to read them, and perhaps
he does so on some good ground; but it does not
follow that there should not be grounds equally good,
and even better, for others to recommend them to
theirs. One thing is certain, that you may read
them on every proper occasion.
68 St. Francis de Sales.
As also, you may enter the cloister of Puy-d'Orbe
without scruple ; but at the same time there is no
cause to give yourself a penance for the scruple you
had about it, since the scruple itself is a great enough
pain to those who entertain or suffer it, without im-
posing any more.
Alcantara is very good for prayer.
Keep your heart very wide to receive in it all sorts
of crosses and resignations or abnegations, for the
love of him who has received so many of them for
us. May his name be for ever blessed and his king-
dom be confirmed for ever and ever ! I am in him,
and by him, your, and more than your, brother and
To A LADY.
He points out to her remedies against impatience in the
accidental troubles of a household.
MY DEAREST DAUGHTER, Whenever I can manage it
you shall have a letter from me : but at present I
write to you the more readily, because M. Moyron,
my present bearer, is my nearest neighbour in this
town, my great friend and ally, by whom, on his
return, you will be able to write to me in all con-
fidence, and if the picture of Mother (St.) Teresa is
Letters to Married Women. 69
finished, he will take it, pay for it, and bring it, as I
have asked him to do.
But, my daughter, I fancy I did not tell you
exactly, in my last letter, what I wanted, concerning
your little but frequent impatiences in the accidents
of your housekeeping. I tell you, then, that you must
pay special attention to this, and that you must keep
yourself gentle in them, and that when you get up in
the morning, or leave prayer, or return from Mass or
Communion, and always when you return to these
domestic affairs, you must be attentive to begin quietly.
Every now and then you must look at your heart, to
see if it is in a state of gentleness : and if it is not,
make it so before all things ; and if it is you must
praise God, and use it in the affairs which present
themselves with a special care not to let it get dis-
You see, my daughter, those who often eat honey
find bitter things more bitter and sour things more
sour, and are easily disgusted with coarse meats : your
soul, often occupying itself with spiritual exercises
which are sweet and agreeable to the spirit, when it
returns to corporal matters, exterior and material,
finds them very rough and disagreeable ; and so it
easily gets impatient ; and therefore, my dear daughter,
you must consider in these exercises the will of God,
which is there, and not the mere thing which is done.
Often invoke the unique and lovely dove of the
celestial spouse, that he would impetrate for you a
true dove's heart ; and that you may be a dove, not
yo St. Francis de Sales.
only when flying in prayer, tut also inside your nest,
and with all those who are around you. God be for
ever in the midst of your heart, iny dear child, and
make you one same spirit with him !
I salute through you the good mother and all the
Carmelite sisters, imploring the aid of their prayers.
If I knew that our dear Sister Jacob were there, I
would salute her also, and her little Fran9on; as I do
your Magdalen, who is also mine.
To A LADY.
Advice on the choice of a confessor. Practice for preserving
peace and gentleness in domestic affairs.
MY DEAR SISTER, MY CHILD, I answer only the two
letters which this bearer has given me from you ; for
the third, sent me by Madame de Chantal, has not yet
reached me. It is a great satisfaction to me that you
live without scruple, and that the holy Communion is
profitable to you ; wherefore you must continue it :
and on that account, my dear child, since your hus-
band is uncomfortable about your going to N., do not
press the matter; for as you have no great things to
ask about, all confessors will be equally suitable for
you, even the one of your parish i.e., M. N. or when
you have the opportunity, the confessor of the good
Letters to Married Women. 71
Carmelite mothers. You know how to conduct your-
self with all sorts of confessors : wherefore you can
act with liberty in this matter. My dear child, con-
tinue very gentle and humble with your husband.
You are right not to disturb yourself about bad
thoughts, as long as your intentions and will are good ;
for these God regards. Yes, my daughter, do just as I
have told you ; for though a thousand little deceits of
apparent reasons rise up to the contrary, my conclu-
sions are based on fundamental reasons and conform-
able to the doctrines of the Church : indeed, I tell you
that they are so true that the contrary is a great fault.
Therefore, serve God well according to them, he will
bless you ; and never listen to anything on the con-
trary side, and believe that I must be very certain when
T speak so boldly.
I thank the good Mother Prioress, and I bear her
with all her sisters in my soul, with great honour and
love. But, my daughter, there are very many other
things to ask you about this same devotion to the
reverend Mother (St.) Teresa ; you must get taken for
me a life-like portrait of her, down to the cincture
only, from that which I am told these good sisters
have, and in passing by there, one of our cures, who
is going thither in a week or so, would bring it to me
on his return. I would not act like that with all
sorts of daughters, but with you I act according to my
I will recommend to the Holy Spirit the dear
widowed sister, that he may inspire her to choose a
72 St. Francis de Sales.
husband who will always be a comfort to her : I mean
the sacred husband of the soul. Yet if God so dispose
as to use her again for the burden of a complete esta-
blishment, and wishes to exercise her in subjection, she
must praise His Majesty for it, which, without doubt,
does all for the good of his own.
Oh ! my daughter, how agreeable to God are the
virtues of a married woman, for they must be strong
and excellent to last in that vocation ; but also. O my
God ! how sweet a thing it is for a widow to have
only one heart to please ! After all, this sovereign
goodness will be the sun to enlighten the dear good
sister, that she may know what path to choose. She
is a soul I love tenderly "Wherever she may
go I hope she will serve God well; and I will follow
her by the continued prayers which I will make for
her. I commend myself to the prayers of our little
daughter N. and of N. It is true that N. is my
daughter rather more than the others, and I consider
that all is mine, my dearest daughter, in him who, to
make us his, has made himself all ours. I am in him,
my dearest daughter, your, &c.
P.S. Take particular pains to do all you can to
acquire sweetness amongst your people, I mean in your
household; I do not say that you must be soft and
remiss, but gentle and sweet. You must think of this,
when entering or leaving your house, and when in it,
morning, noon continually. You must make this a
chief thing for a time, and the rest, as it were, forget
for a little.
Letters to Married Women. 73
To ONE OP HIS NIECES.
Rules of Life.
$th March, 1616.
THINK not, I beg you, my dearest niece, my daughter,
that it has been from want of mindfulness or affection,
if I have so long delayed writing to you : for indeed,
the good desire which I have seen in your soul to wish
to serve God very faithfully has produced in mine an
extreme desire to help you .with all my power, apart
from the duty which I owe to you besides, and the
inclination I have always had for your heart, because
of the good esteem I have of it since your tenderest
Well then, my dearest niece, you must cultivate very
carefully this well-beloved heart, and spare nothing
which can be useful for its happiness : and though this
can be done in every season, still this in which you are
is the most proper. Ah ! what a rare grace it is, my
dear child, to begin to serve this great God while youth
renders us susceptible of all sorts of impressions ! And
how agreeable the offering when we give the flowers
with the first fruits of the tree.
Keep always firmly in the midst of your heart the
resolutions which God gave you when you were before
him with me ; for if you keep them through all this
mortal life they will keep you in the eternal. And in
order not only to preserve them but to make them
74 & Francis de Sales.
happily grow, you have need of no other counsels than
those I have given to Philothea, in the book of the
Introduction, which you have : still, to please you, I
wish to state in a few words what I chiefly want of
i. Confess every fortnight, when about to receive
the divine Sacrament of Communion ; and never go to
either the one or the other of these heavenly mysteries
without a new and very strong resolution to correct
more and more your imperfections, and to live with an
ever greater purity and perfection of heart. And I do
not say that if you find yourself in sufficient devotion
to communicate every week you are not to do it, and
specially if you find that by this sacred mystery your
troublesome inclinations and the imperfections of your
life go on diminishing; but I said every fortnight, that
you might not put it off longer.
2. Make your spiritual exercises short and fervent,
that your natural disposition may not make prayer a
difficulty to you on account of the length of it, and
that little by little it may grow tame to these acts of
piety. For instance, you should, with inviolable regu-
larity, make every day the morning exercise marked
in the Introduction ; well, to make it short, you may>
while dressing, thank God, by ejaculatory prayer, for
having preserved you that night, and then make the
2nd and 3rd points, not only while dressing, but in
bed or elsewhere, without distinction of place, or actions;
then, as soon as ever you can, you must put yourself
on your knees, and make the 4th point, commencing
Letters to Married Women. 75
by making that movement of heart which is marked :
Lord ! behold this poor and miserable heart. The
same for the examen of conscience, which you can
make in the evening while going to bed, provided that
you make the 3rd and 4th points kneeling, if not pre-
vented by any illness.
So in the church hear Mass with the behaviour of a
true daughter of God ; and rather than be wanting in
this reverence, leave the church and go away.
3. Learn to make often ejaculations and move-
ments of your heart towards God.
4. Be careful to be gentle and affable to every one,
but specially at home.
5. The alms given in your house, give yourself
whenever you can : for it is a great increase of virtue
to give alms with your own hand when it can well be
6. Visit very willingly the sick of your district, for
that is one of the works which our Lord will regard at
the day of judgment.
7. Read every day a page or two of some spiritual
book, to keep yourself in relish and devotion ; and on
feasts a little more, which will take the place of a
8. Continue to honour your father-in-law, because
God wishes it, having given him to you as your second
father in this world ; and love cordially your husband,
giving him, with a gentle and simple goodwill, all the
satisfaction you can ; and be good in bearing the im-
perfections of all, specially those of your home.
76 St. Francis de Sales.
I do not see that for the present I have any more
to say, except that when we meet you must tell me
how you have behaved in this way of devotion ; and if
there is anything more to say I will add it. Live, then,
all joyous in God and for God, my dearest child, my
niece, and believe that I cherish you very perfectly,
and am entirely your, &c.
To ONE OF HIS COUSINS.
On the nay roe are to act when living with our parents.
loth November, 1616.
I STILL want leisure to write to you, my dearest child,
although I answer your letter tardily.
Well, now, here you are in your establishment, and
you cannot alter it ; you must be what you are, mother
of a family, since you have a husband and children.
And you must be so with good heart, and with love of
God, yea for the love of God (as I say clearly enough
to Philothea), without troubling or disquieting yourself
any more than you can help.
But I see well, dear daughter, that it is a little un-
comfortable to have the charge of the housekeeping in
a house where your father and mother are ; for I have
never seen that fathers, and still less mothers, leave
the entire management to the daughters, although
sometimes they should do. For my part I counsel
Letters to Married Women. 77
you to do as gently and nicely as you can that which
is recommended, never breaking peace with this father
and this mother. It is better that things should not go
perfectly well in order that those to whom you have
so many duties may be content.
And then, unless I deceive myself, your character is
not made for fighting. Peace is better than a fortune.
What you see can be done with love you must do :
what can only be done with discussion must be left
alone, when there is question of persons so greatly to
be respected. I have no doubt there will be aversions
and repugnances in your spirit ; but, my dearest
daughter, these are so many occasions to exercise the
true virtue of sweetness : for we must do well and holily
and lovingly what we owe to every one, though it may
be against the grain, and without relish.
Here, my dearest daughter, is what I can tell you
for the present, adding only that I conjure you to
believe firmly that I cherish you with a perfect and
truly paternal dilection, since it has pleased Grod to
give you so complete and filial a confidence in
me : so then continue, my dearest child, to love me
Make well holy prayer ; often throw your heart into
the hands of God, rest your soul in his love, and put
your cares under his protection, whether for the voyage
of your dear husband, or for your other affairs. Do
what you can, and the rest leave to God, who will
do it sooner or later, according to the disposition
of his divine providence. To sum up, be ever all
78 St. Francis de Sales.
God's, my dearest daughter, and I am in him, all
To A LADY.
Distance of place can put. no obstacle to the union of God's
children. How to behave in uncharitable company. Gentle-
ness toward all.
NEVER think, my dearest daughter, that distance of
place can ever separate souls which God has united by
the ties of his love. The children of the world are
all separated one from another because their hearts are
in different places; but the children of God, having
their heart where their treasure is, and all having only
one treasure which is the same God, are, consequently,
always joined and united together. We must thus
console our spirits in the necessity which keeps us out
of this town, and which will soon force me to set out
to return to my charge. We shall see one another very
often again before our holy crucifix, if we keep the
promises we have made to one another ; and it is there
alone that our interviews are profitable.
Meanwhile, my dearest daughter, I will commence
by telling you that you must fortify your spirit by all
possible means against these vain apprehensions which
generally agitate and torment it ; and for this purpose
regulate, in the first place, your exercises in such a
Letters to Married Women. 79
way, that their length may not weary your soul, nor
trouble the souls of those with whom God makes you
A half quarter of an hour, and even less, suffices for
the morning preparation ; three-quarters of an hour,
or an hour for Mass ; and during the day there must
be some elevations of the spirit to God, which take no
time, but are made in a single moment. Then the
examination of conscience in the evening before rest,
besides grace at table, which is an ordinary thing, forms
a plan of reunion for your heart with God.
In a word, I wish you to be just Ph'dothea, and no
more than that ; namely, what I describe in the book
of the Introduction, which is made for you and those in
a similar state.
As to conversations, my dearest daughter, be at peace
regarding what is said or done in them : for if good,
you have something to praise God for, and if bad,
something in which to serve God by turning your heart
away from it. Do not appear either shocked or dis-
pleased since you cannot help it, and have not authority
enough to hinder the bad words of those who will say
them, and who will say worse if you seem to wish to
hinder them; for acting thus you will remain innocent
amongst the hissings of the serpents, and like a sweet
strawberry you will receive no venom from the contact
of venomous tongues.
I cannot understand how you can admit these
immoderate sadnesses into your heart ; being a child of
God, long ago placed in the bosom of his mercy, and
8o St. Francis de Sales.
consecrated to his love, you should comfort yourself,
despising all these sad and melancholy suggestions;
the enemy makes them to you, simply with the design
of tiring and troubling you.
Take great pains to practise well the humble meek-
ness which you owe to your dear husband, and to
everybody ; for it is that virtue of virtues which our
Lord has so much recommended to us : but if you
happen to fail in it do not distress yourself : only with
all confidence get up again on your feet to walk hence-
forward in peace and sweetness as before.
I send you a little method for uniting yourself to
God, in the morning and all through the day. So
much, my dear daughter, I have thought good to tell
you for your comfort at present. It remains that I
pray you not to make any ceremony with me, who
have neither the leisure nor the will to make any with
you. Write to me when you like, quite freely; for I
shall always gladly receive news of your soul which
mine cherishes entirely, as in truth, my dearest
daughter, I am your, &c.
To A LADY, THE WIPE OP A SENATOR.
He exhorts her to give herself entirely to God, assuring her
that it is the only happiness.
i"]th August, 1611.
MADAM, The remembrance of your virtues is so
agreeable to me that it has no need to be nourished
Letters to Married Women. 81
by the favour of your letters ; nevertheless, they give
you a new claim on me, as I receive by them the
honour and satisfaction of seeing not only that you,
in return, remember me, but that you remember, me
with pleasure. You could not remember a person
who has a more sincere affection for you.
I wish you, in presence of our Lord, a thousand
blessings; and this blessing above all, and for all, that
you be perfectly his : be so, Madam, with all your
heart, for it is the great, yea, the only happiness you
can have. Yet, your husband, the senator, will have
no jealousy about it, as you will be none the less his,
and will get the benefit of it, as you cannot give your
heart to God without his being joined to it.
I am, Madam, and I am with all I have,
To A LADY.
On the may to correct human prudence.
I ANSWER the question which the good Mother de
Sainte-Marie (Chantal) has put to me from you, my
dearest daughter. When human prudence mingles
with our plans it is hard to keep it quiet, for it is
wondrously importunate, and pushes itself violently
and boldly into our affairs, in spite of ourselves.
What must we do in this matter in order that our
82 St. Francis de Sales.
intention may be purified ? Let us see whether our
design be lawful, just, and pious ; and if it is, let us
propose and determine to do it, in order not now to
obey human prudence, but to accomplish in it the will
We have, for instance, a daughter whom human pru-
dence recommends to be placed in a convent, on account
of the state of our family affairs, well now, we will
say in ourselves, not before men, but before God, " O
Lord ! I wish to offer you this daughter, because, such
as she is she is yours ; and though my human pru-
dence induces and inclines me to this, yet, Lord, if I
knew that it was not also your good pleasure, in spite
of my inferior prudence, I would not do it at all, but
would reject on this occasion this prudence which my
heart feels, but which it desires not to consent to,
and embrace your will, which my heart perceives not
in feeling, but consents to in resolution."
Oh ! my dearest child, at every turn the human
spirit troubles us with its claims, and thrusts itself
importunately amidst our affairs. We are not greater
saints than the Apostle St. Paul, who felt two wills in
the midst of his soul, the one which willed according
to the old man, and worldly prudence, and this made
itself most felt, and the other, which willed according
to the Spirit of God. This latter was less felt, but
still prevailed, and by it he lived. Whence, on the
one hand, he cried out, 0, miserable man that I am,