A Year with the Saints – 17 May

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Let us strive to be amiable, sweet, and humble with all, but especially with those whom God has placed near us, such as our servants. And let us not be of those who seem angels abroad, but demons at home. – Saint Francis de Sales

This blessed Saint treated everyone in his house with great kindness, even the servants, whom he never used roughly either in word or deed. His orders to them were given in the form of requests; he always courteously returned their salutations; he never complained of their mistakes in preparing his apartments or his food; he was most thoughtful in giving directions, sparing them inconvenience as much as he could. When he could not avoid blaming them, he did it with so much kindness and consideration that they were ashamed, and were sure to amend; for mildness has such a charm that everyone surrenders to it. An incident that occurred one evening may serve as an example. A marquis who had visited him on some important business remained until it had grown quite dark. The Bishop’s servants in the meantime, trusting their work to one another, not only left their master without attendance but even without a light, so that when the marquis was ready to go, the Bishop was obliged to lead him by the hand through the corridor and across the hall. When they reached the door, they found the servants amusing themselves with those the marquis had brought. After the guest had departed, the Saint said very quietly to his valet: “My friend, two farthings worth of candle would have done us much credit tonight.” Such were the corrections given by this mild prelate, of whom Monsignor di Bellei testifies that there was never a master kinder to his servants, or more beloved by them.

Saint Vincent de Paul always showed an admirable gentleness to all the members of his Congregation. He met them with a kind and cheerful countenance, giving them frequent marks of fatherly love and cordiality, especially when he was sending them to a mission or on a long journey. When they returned, he spoke to them with so much affability, and embraced them with so much cordiality, that he completely won their hearts; so that one of them said: “When I am going on a journey, or returning from one, I feel perfumed with the embrace and the welcome which he truly bestows on me.” His words were so full of spiritual unction and efficacy that he could have everything done that he wished, without an effort on his part. His manner was the same when they went to him on their own personal concerns. He listened with courtesy and cordiality, and never gave the least sign of impatience – even if he was engaged in important and urgent business. This courtesy was shown in a special manner towards the lay-brothers. One of them went to him on a certain occasion to complain of harsh treatment he had received from an official in the house. He was welcomed with the greatest cordiality, and invited to come again in any similar case, so that all bitterness was banished from his heart, and he went away consoled and edified to find that he had so good a Father. One of his priests came to him one day, full of trouble, resolved to abandon his vocation and return to his own country. The Saint listened to him and then said, “Well, Father, when do you go? Do you wish to travel on foot, or on horseback?” But the priest, surprised and edified by such meekness, was immediately freed from the temptation, and proclaimed that his Superior was a Saint.

The conduct of the Empress Leonora was the same. Her manner of giving orders was so kind and so humble that her household could not ask for a mistress with less air of control and dominion. Her commands almost always took the form of requests, which caused the women in her service so much confusion that they often entreated her to speak to them like a mistress, as she had a right to do. But she replied: “I approve and praise your sentiments; but I know myself to be far different from what I seem to you, and I think myself more worthy to serve than to command.” If anything happened to fall when she was working with them, she was always the first to stoop and pick it up. However great were the faults and errors committed by those in her service, she always had reasons and excuses ready to screen them. She took all possible pains not to displease anyone, and not to cause any jealousies or suspicions to arise among them. Once she entrusted a thing, by mistake, to the chief tiring-woman, instead of the principal lady in waiting. A distraction which she had in prayer brought this error to her recollection, and rising from her knees she went on the instant to apologize to the lady, that she might not consider herself overlooked and feel the slight.

We read of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal that while she was still in the world she showed the greatest affability and charity towards all who served her. She did not scold them, as many do, nor reprove them for every little fault, but bore with them with great patience and humility, without ever being weary of helping them to reform, until God gave her the consolation of seeing their amendment. As a proof of this, she never dismissed from her house more than two servants. These were quite incorrigible; but all the rest remained as long as they chose, and were always well sheltered, clothed, and taken care of. Once when the Baron, her husband, was very angry with a servant and she was trying to pacify him, he said to her: “It is true that I am too impulsive, but you are too good.”

MLA Citation