Malankara World

The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales

By Jean Pierre Camus


Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! Lord, increase the Faith in us! And how is this increase of Faith to be brought about? In the same way, assuredly, as the strength of the palm tree grows with the load it has to bear, or as the vine profits by being pruned.

A stoic philosopher remarked very truly that virtue languishes when it has nothing to overcome. What does a man know until he is tempted?

Our Blessed Father[1] when visiting the bailiwick of Gex, which adjoins the city of Geneva, in order to re-establish the Catholic religion in some parishes, declared that his Faith gained new vigour through his intercourse with the heretics of those parts, who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.

He expresses his feelings on this subject in one of his letters: "Alas! in this place I see poor wandering sheep all around me; I approach them and marvel at their evident and palpable blindness. O my God! the beauty of our holy Faith then appears by comparison so entrancing that I would die for love of it, and I feel that I ought to lock up the precious gift which God has given me in the innermost recesses of a heart all perfumed with devotion. My dearest daughter, I thank the sovereign Light which shed its rays so mercifully into this heart of mine, that the more I go among those who are deprived of Faith, the more clearly and vividly I see its magnificence and its inexpressible, yet most desirable, sweetness."[2]

In order to make great progress in the spirit of Faith, which is that of Christian perfection, Blessed Francis was not satisfied with simple assent to all those truths which are divinely revealed, or with submission to the will of God as taught in them, he wanted more than this. It was his desire that we should be actuated in all our dealings by the spirit of Faith, as far at least as that is possible, so as to arrive at last at that summit of perfect charity which the Apostle calls the more excellent way, and of which he says that he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.

[Footnote 1: St. Francis de Sales was spoken of as Our Blessed Father, not only by the Visitation Nuns, but in the whole neighborhood of Annecy.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. The Depositions of St. Chantal. Point 24th.]

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