For All the Saints: St. Francis de Sales

"Franz von Sales". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“Franz von Sales”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Courage is an enduring virtue, one that Christians of all strips have to tap into in the course of their lives. As such,  it is with great pleasure that I see that we commemorate St. Francis de Sales on this day.

In his book published in 1608 entitled Introduction to the Devout Life, written primary for everyday folk such as ourselves, hewrites a short chapter on courage which you may find of interest.

The need of a Good Courage.

However much we may admire and crave for light, it is apt to dazzle our eyes when they have been long accustomed to darkness; and on first visiting a foreign country, we are sure to feel strange among its inhabitants, however kindly or courteous they may be. Even so, my child, your changed life may be attended with some inward discomfort, and you may feel some reaction of discouragement and weariness after you have taken a final farewell of the world and its follies. Should it be so, I pray you take it patiently, for it will not last,—it is merely the disturbance caused by novelty; and when it is gone by, you will abound in consolations. At first you may suffer somewhat under the loss what you enjoyed among your vain, frivolous companions; but would you forfeit the eternal gifts of God for such things as these? The empty amusements which have engrossed you hitherto may rise up attractively before your imagination, and strive to win you back to rest in them; but are you bold enough to give up a blessed eternity for such deceitful snares? Believe me, if you will but persevere you will not fail to enjoy a sweetness so real and satisfying, that you will be constrained to confess that the world has only gall to give as compared with this honey, and that one single day of devotion is worth more than a thousand years of worldly life.

But you see before you the mountain of Christian perfection, which is very high, and you exclaim in fearfulness that you can never ascend it. Be of good cheer, my child. When the young bees first begin to live they are mere grubs, unable to hover over flowers, or to fly to the mountains, or even to the little hills where they might gather honey; but they are fed for a time with the honey laid up by their predecessors, and by degrees the grubs put forth their wings and grow strong, until they fly abroad and gather their harvest from all the country round. Now we are yet but as grubs in devotion, unable to fly at will, and attain the desired aim of Christian perfection; but if we begin to take shape through our desires and resolutions, our wings will gradually grow, and we may hope one day to become spiritual bees, able to fly. Meanwhile let us feed upon the honey left us in the teaching of so many holy men of old, praying God that He would grant us doves’ wings, so that we may not only fly during this life, but find an abiding resting-place in Eternity.

Read more about St. Francis de Sales here.

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  • Subsistent

    Jacques Maritain in his book *Formal Logic* (*Petite Logique*) quotes St. Francis using (in *Traité de l’Amour de Dieu*) a scientifically inaccurate comparison to illustrate a great truth that’s essentially independent of that comparison: “And even as the rainbow touching the thorny aspalathus renders it more fragrant than the lily, so the redemption of Our Lord touching our sorrows, renders them more profitable and lovable than original innocence could ever have been.”

  • Peter

    You’ll get a kick out of this. I just got back from the 2013 NY Encounter (Google it) and was reading Fr. Giussani’s reflections on T.S. Eliot’s Choruses from the Rock. I did a Google search to read more of the poem and found your blog. After reading the comments on your post of Choruses, I decided to check out your front page and found this article. Which is amazing because I literally just put down “Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction” in order to pick up Choruses. I literally have my Choruses booklet sitting on top of my de Sales book and then I boot the computer and in advertantly surf from Choruses to de Sales on your blog! Furthermore, not only did I not realize that today was St. Francis’ feast day, but last night I had pulled this book off a long dusty shelf to look up what Francis had said about Christian perfection, which I had marked in the book. It is not the same passage you cite, but still. Very mysterious. Very awesome.

  • Ellen

    What’s the best translation for Introduction to the Devout Life? I am going to read this for Lent.

  • Erin Pascal

    Thank you for sharing this wonderfully-written thought about courage from St. Francis de Sales–the saint of writers and journalists. His life and faith has always been an inspiration to me.