Half-hours with the Saints and Servants of God – On the Love of God, by Saint Francis de Sales

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Francis of Assisi; date unknown, artist unknown; Church of Sainte Marguerite, Le Vésinet, Yvelines, France; photographed on 21 August 2012 by Reinhardhauke; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

“This only take care of with all diligence, that you love the Lord your God.” – Josue 23:1

Love is strong as death (Cant. 8:6): since both equally separate the soul from the body and all terrestrial things, the only difference is that the separation is real and effectual when caused by death, whereas that occasioned by love is usually confined to the heart.

I say usually, because divine love is sometimes so violent that it actually separates the soul from the body, and, by causing the death of those who love, it renders them infinitely happier than if it bestowed on them a thousand lives.

As the lot of the reprobate is to die in sin, that of the elect is to expire in the love and grace of God, which is effected in several ways.

Many of the Saints died, not only in the state of charity, but in the actual exercise of divine love. St Augustine expired in making an act of contrition, which cannot exist without love ; Saint Jerome, in exhorting his disciples to charity and the practice of all virtues ; Saint Ambrose, in conversing sweetly with his Saviour, whom he had received in the Holy Eucharist ; Saint Antony of Padua also expired in the act of discoursing with our Divine Lord, after having recited a hymn in honour of the ever-glorious Virgin; Saint Thomas of Aquinas, with his hands clasped, his eyes raised to heaven, and pronouncing these words of the Canticles, which were the last he had expounded: “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field” (Cant. 7:2)

All the apostles, and the greater number of the martyrs, died in prayer. Venerable Bede, having learned the hour of his death by revelation, went to the choir at the usual hour to sing the evening office, it being the feast of the Ascension, and at the very moment he had finished singing vespers, he expired, following his Guide and Master into heaven, to celebrate His praises in that abode of rest and happiness, round which the shades of night can never gather, because it is illumined by the brightness of the eternal day, which neither dawns nor ends.

John Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris, remarkable for his learning and virtue — of whom Sixtus of Sienna said, “that it is difficult to decide whether the vein of piety, which runs through his works surpasses his science, or whether his learning exceeds his piety” – after having explained the fifty properties of divine love mentioned in the Canticles, expired at the close of three days, smiling, and pronouncing these words of the same sacred text: “Thy love, O God, is strong as death” {Cant. 8:6).

The fervour and ardour of Saint Martin at the hour of his death are remarkable. Saint Louis, who has proved himself as great a monarch among the Saints as an eminent saint among kings, being attacked by the plague, ceased not to pray, and after receiving the viaticum, he extended his arms in the form of a cross, fixed his eyes on heaven, and, animated with love and confidence, expired in saying with the Psalmist: “I will come into Thy house, O Lord; I will worship towards Thy holy temple, in Thy fear” (Psalm 5:8).

Saint Peter Celestine, after having endured the most cruel and incredible afflictions, seeing the end of his days approach, began to sing like the swan, and terminated his song with his life, by these words of the last Psalm: “Let every spirit praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:5).

Saint Eusebiâ, surnamed the Stranger, died kneeling in fervent prayer. Saint Peter the Martyr yielded his last sigh in writing (with his finger, which he had dipped in his blood) the articles of the faith for which he sacrificed his life, and in saying: “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit” (Psalm 30:6).

The great apostle of the Indies and Japan, Saint Francis Xavier, expired holding a crucifix, which he tenderly embraced, and incessantly repeated in transports of love: “O Jesus! the God of my heart!”

– Saint Francis de Sales, from his treatise on “The Love of God.”

MLA Citation

  • Charles Kenny. “On the Love of God, by Saint Francis de Sales”. Half-hours with the Saints and Servants of God, 1882. CatholicSaints.Info. 13 May 2015. Web. 10 December 2016. <>