Malankara World

The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales

By Jean Pierre Camus


UPON THE LESSER VIRTUES

He had a special affection for certain virtues which are passed over by some as trivial and insignificant. "Everyone," he used to say, "is eager to possess those brilliant, almost dazzling virtues which cluster round the summit of the Cross, so that they can be seen from afar and admired, but very few are anxious to gather those which, like wild thyme, grow at the foot of that Tree of Life and under its shade. Yet these are often the most hardy, and give out the sweetest perfume, being watered with the precious Blood of the Saviour, whose first lesson to His disciples was: Learn of Me because I am meek and humble of heart."[1]

It does not belong to every one to practice the sublime virtues of fortitude, magnanimity, endurance unto death, patience, constancy, and courage. The occasions of exercising these are rare, yet all aspire to them because they are brilliant and their names high sounding. Very often, too, people fancy that they are able, even now, to practice them. They inflate their courage with the vain opinion they have of themselves, but when put to the trial fail pitiably. They are like those children of Ephrem, who distinguished themselves wonderfully by, in the time of peace, hitting the target with every arrow, but in the battle were the first to fly before the enemy. Better had their skill been less and their courage greater.

Opportunities of acquiring offices, benefices, inheritances, large sums of money, are not to be met with every day, but at any moment we may earn farthings and halfpence. By trading well on these small profits, many have in course of time grown rich. We should become spiritually wealthy and lay up for ourselves much treasure in Heaven did we employ in the service of the holy love of God, the small opportunities which are to be met with at every hour of our lives.

It is not enough to practice great virtues; they must be practiced with great charity, for that it is which in the sight of God forms the basis of and gives weight and value to all good works. An act of lesser virtue (for all virtues are not of equal importance) done out of great love to God is far more excellent than a rarer and grander one done with less love.

"Look at this good soul, she gives a cup of cold water to the thirsty with such holy love that it is changed into the water of life, life eternal. The Gospel which makes light of the weightiest sums cast into the treasury, reckons of the highest value two mites offered out of a great and fervent love."[2]

"These little homely virtues! How seldom is mention made of them! How lightly they are esteemed! Kindly concessions to the exacting temper of our neighbor, gentle tolerance of his imperfections, loving endurance of cross looks, peevish gestures, cheerfulness under contempt and small injustices, endurance of affronts, patience with importunity, doing menial actions which our social position impels us to regard as beneath us; replying amiably to some one who has given us an undeserved and sharp reproof, falling down and then bearing good humouredly the being laughed at, accepting with gentleness the refusal of a kindness, receiving a favor graciously, humbling ourselves before our equals and inferiors, keeping on kindly and considerate terms with our servants. How trivial and poor all this appears to those who have their hearts lifted up with proud aspirations. We want, they seem to say, no virtues but such as go clad in purple, and to be borne by fair winds and spreading sails towards high reputation. They forget that those who please men are not the servants of God, and that the friendship of the world and its applause are worth nothing and less than nothing in His sight."[3]

[Footnote 1: Matt. xi. 29.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. _Treatise on the Love of God_. Bk. iii. c. ii.]
[Footnote 3: Cf. _The Devout Life_. Part iii. c, i., ii., and vi.]

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