St Francis de Sales in Lent 2018

A reader’s comment mentioned St. Francis de Sales,  and that set me to looking  through our draft archives. Sure enough, I found this unfinished post which  may not be all that it could have been , but hope it will suffice:

I was won over to St. Francis de Sales when I obtained a battered paperback copy of his “Introduction to the Devout Life” for 25 cents in the parish church thrift shop many  years ago, and recently have been reading an ebook of his as part of my Lenten reading.  “The Saint Francis de Sales Collection, 16 Books”, by Catholic Way)

Here are some excerpts from this great Saint:

A Time of Fear
What words can oppose the flood of thoughts troubling your heart? Do not attempt to stop them; that will only make the pain worse. Do not try to conquer the temptations; the effort will only make them stronger. Disdain them, and do not dwell on them. Bring to mind an image of Jesus Christ crucified and say, “Here is my hope; here is the flowing fountain of my happiness. Here is the heart of my soul and the soul of my heart.” Hear our Lord say to Abraham and to you: “Be not afraid; I am your protector” (cf. Gen. 15:1). What is it that you seek upon the earth other than your God? And you already possess Him.

Be firm in your resolutions. Stay in the boat. Let the storm come. While Jesus lives, you will not die. He is sleeping, but He will awaken to calm the storm at the right time (Matt. 8:24-26). St. Peter, the Scriptures tell us, saw the great storm and was afraid, and as soon as he was afraid, he began to sink and drown. Whereupon he cried out, “O Lord, save me!” And our Lord took him by the hand and said to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:29-31). See this great apostle: he walked with dry feet upon the water, protected from wind and wave, but the fear of the wind and the wave would have killed him had not his Master relieved him.

(In that way) Fear is a greater evil than evil itself. O you of little faith: what is it you fear? Do not be afraid. You are walking on water, amid wind and wave, but you are with Jesus. What is there to fear? If fear takes hold of you, cry out strongly, “O Lord, save me!” He will hold out a hand to you. Hold on tight, and go forward with joy.

† .  † .  †

Means to Preserve Peace of Soul in Time of Trial
Nothing disturbs us so much as self-love and self-esteem. If our heart does not overflow with tender emotions, if our mind does not teem with sublime sentiments, if our soul is not inundated with exquisite sweetness, we are sad; if anything difficult is to be done, if any obstacle opposes our just designs, behold us in a state of precipitation to have it overcome, and we are overcome ourselves by the precipitation.

Why is this so? Undoubtedly, because we are too much attached to our comfort, our ease, our convenience. We would wish to say our prayers in a region of eau de cologne, and practice heroic virtue eating sugar cake; but we do not consider the meek Jesus, prostrate on the earth, sweating blood, through the dreadful combat that rages in His interior, between the feelings of the inferior part of His soul and the resolutions of the superior part.

Hence it happens that when we fall into any fault or sin, we are astonished, troubled, and impatient. We only desire consolations, and are unwilling to put a finger on our misery, our weakness, or our nothingness.  .  . Distrust over-anxious desires for good; they are full of self-love and of impatience to be something  . . .  In order to obtain the remission of light faults, it is better, after having acknowledged them, to turn humbly and lovingly towards God, than to preserve a sad remembrance of them and to remain a long time in fear. Whether your prevarications be serious or trivial, remain in pious sentiments of confidence towards the Lord, casting your sins into the abyss of His mercy, that they may be forever lost there; for there is no damnation to those who are in Jesus.

Peace
Were we to do a few things, we should find peace: let us have a pure intention to seek on all occasions the honour and glory of God; let us perform the little we can for this object, according to the advice of our spiritual father, and leave the rest to God. Why should he who has God for the object of his intentions, and who does what he can, torment himself? What has he to fear?

No, no, God is not so terrible to those who love Him; He is content with a little, for He knows that we have not much. And know that Our Lord is called in Scripture the Prince of Peace, and hence, wherever He is absolute Master, He preserves peace.

And War
It is nevertheless true, that, before establishing peace in any place, He first makes war there, separating the heart and soul from their dearest and most intimate affections, such as immoderate love of oneself, confidence and complacency in oneself, and other like evils. When Our Lord separates us from these cherished and favourite passions, it seems as if He excoriated our living heart, and we are filled with the most bitter sentiments; we can hardly prevent our whole soul from discussing its misfortune, so sensible is this separation.

But all this disputation of mind is not inconsistent with peace, when, though almost submerged by desolation, we still keep our will resigned to that of Our Lord, nailed to His divine good pleasure, and cease not from the performance of our duties, but fulfill them courageously.

Of which Our Lord gives us an example in the Garden; for, overwhelmed with interior and exterior affliction, He resigned His heart sweetly into His Father’s will, saying: “Not my will, but Thine be done,” and ceased not, great as was His anguish, to visit and admonish His disciples. To preserve peace in the midst of war, and sweetness in the midst of bitterness, is indeed worthy of the Prince of Peace.

From what I have just said, I desire you to draw three conclusions:

  • That we often imagine peace to be lost, because we are in pain, while it is not lost, as may easily be known by the fact that we still wish to renounce ourselves, to depend on the good pleasure of God, and to fulfill the duties of our state;
  • That we must of necessity endure interior pain, while God tears away the last remnant of the old man, to renovate us in the new man who is created according to God, and therefore we should not be troubled, or suppose that we have fallen into disgrace with Our Lord;
  • That all those thoughts which cause vexation and agitation of mind cannot proceed from God, who is the Prince of Peace, but are temptations of the enemy, and therefore to be rejected and disregarded.

In the draft post there was a note which appears a paraphrase and it seems to fit here:

To a nun who asked how to avoid distractions withdrawing the soul from God, the saint replied:

Distraction cannot withdraw your soul from God, since nothing withdraws us from God but sin, and the resolution we make in the morning to keep our soul united to God, and attentive to His presence, has the effect of preserving us thus always, even when we sleep, since we do all in the name of God, and according to His most holy will.

Even venial sins are not capable of turning us aside from the way which conducts to God; they undoubtedly retard us a little on our course, but they do not turn us aside: much less simple distractions. So far as prayer is concerned, it is not less useful, or less agreeable to God, when accompanied with many distractions; on the contrary, it may be more useful than if we had many consolations, because it is more laborious: provided, however, that we have the wish to withdraw from those distractions, and do not allow our mind to dwell on them willingly.

The very same observation applies to the difficulty which, during the day, we feel to fix our mind on God, and on heavenly things: provided we endeavor to keep our thoughts from running after trifles, and learn patience, by not growing weary of our labor, which is suffered for the love of God. For,

We must distinguish between God and a perception of God, between faith and a feeling of faith. A person about to suffer martyrdom for God does not always think of God at that time; and though he has no feeling of faith, yet he does not cease to merit, or to perform an act of the greatest love.

I recall reading St. Maximilian Kolbe to that same effect; having consecrated ourselves and all our works and intentions to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we may confidently proceed without scrupulosity. For it is not about our sensibilities but about surrendering our will to God. Humility. Obedience.

Pray the Rosary and confound satan and those who serve him!

  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
  Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!
  Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
  St. Joseph, protect us, protect our families, protect our priests.
  St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

Please pray for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary!.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!