Malankara World

The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales

By Jean Pierre Camus


He who is not tempted what knows he? says Holy Scripture. God is faithful, and will not permit us to be tempted beyond our strength; nay, if we are faithful to Him, He enables us to profit by our tribulation. He not only helps us, but He makes us find our help in the tribulation itself, in which, thinking we were perishing, we cried out to Him to save us.

Those who imagine themselves to be in danger of losing the Faith, when the temptations suggested to them by the enemy against this virtue, harass and distress them, understand very little of the nature of temptations. For, besides that temptation cannot harm us, as long as it is displeasing to us, which is the teaching of one of the early Fathers, it actually, in such case, produces an absolutely contrary effect to what we fear, and to the aim of our adversary, the devil. For just as the palm tree takes deeper and stronger root, the more it is tossed and shaken by the winds and storms, so the more we are tossed by temptation, the more firmly are we settled in that virtue which the temptation was striving to overthrow.

As we see from the lives of the Saints, the most chaste are those who oppose the greatest resistance to the goad of sensuality, and the most patient are those who struggle the most earnestly against impatience. It is for this reason that Holy Scripture says: Happy is he who suffers temptation, since, after his trial, the crown of life awaits him.[1]

In this way the more violent are the temptations against Faith with which a soul is troubled, the more deeply does that virtue bury itself in the heart, and is there held all the more tightly and closely, because of our fear lest it escape.

Blessed Francis provides us in one of his letters with three excellent means of resisting and overcoming temptations against Faith. The first, is to despise all the suggestions of the Evil One. They are outside and before our heart rather than within it, for there peace maintains its hold, though in great bitterness. This so exasperates our proud enemy, who is king over all the children of pride, that, seeing himself disdained, he withdraws.

The second is not to fight against this temptation by contrary acts of the understanding, but by those of the will, darting forth a thousand protestations of fidelity to the truths which God reveals to us by His Church. These acts of Faith, supernatural as they are, soon reduce to ashes all the engines and machinations of the enemy.

Our Saint gives us his third means, the use of the discipline, saying that this bodily suffering serves as a diversion to trouble of mind, and adds that the devil, seeing the flesh, which is his partisan and confederate, thus maltreated, is terrified and flies away. This is to act like that King of Moab, who brought about the raising of the siege of his city, by sacrificing his son on the walls, in the sight of his enemies, so that, panic-stricken, with horror at a sight so appalling, they took at once to flight.

[Footnote 1: James i. 12.]


When the tempter sees that our heart is so firmly established in grace that we flee from sin as from a serpent, and that its very shadow, which is temptation, frightens us, he contents himself with disquieting us, seeing that he cannot make us yield to his will.

In order to effect this, he stirs up a heap of trivial temptations, which he throws like dust into our eyes, so as to make us unhappy, and to render the path of virtue less pleasant to us.

We must take up shield and sword to arm ourselves against great temptations; but there are many trivial and ordinary ones which are better driven away by contempt than by any other means.

We arm ourselves against wolves and bears; but who would condescend to do so against the swarms of flies which torment us in hot weather? Our Blessed Father, writing to one who was sorrowful and disquieted at finding herself assailed by temptations against Faith, though these were most hateful and tormenting to her, expresses himself thus:

"Your temptations against Faith have come back again, even though you never troubled yourself to answer them. They importune you again, but still you do not answer.

"Well, my daughter, all this is as it should be: but you think too much about them; you fear them too much; you dread them too much. Were it not for that, they would do you no harm. You are too sensitive to temptations. You love the Faith, and would not willingly suffer a single thought contrary to it to enter your mind; but the moment one so much as occurs to you you are saddened and troubled by it.

"You are too jealous of your purity of Faith. You fancy that everything that touches it must taint it.

"No, my daughter, let the wind blow, and do not think that the rustling of the leaves is the clash of arms. A little while ago I was standing near some beehives, and some of the bees settled on my face. I wanted to brush them off with my hand. 'No,' said a peasant to me, 'do not be afraid, and do not touch them, then they will not sting you at all; but if you touch them they will half devour you.' I took his advice, and not one stung me.

"Believe me, if you do not fear these temptations, they will not harm you; pass on and pay no heed to them."

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