A Year with the Saints – 22 January


The two feet upon which one walks to perfection are mortification and the love of God. The latter is the right, the former the left foot. By the aid of these, Saint Francis Assisi climbed to the loftiest perfection. He led a life so austere and rigid that at the point of death he felt that he must ask pardon of his body for having treated it so ill; and his love of God was so remarkable that he gained not only for himself, but for his order as well, the noble title of Seraphic.

When Saint Francis de Sales wished to lead anyone to live in a Christian manner and renounce worldliness, he would not speak of the exterior – of the adornment of the hair, of rich dress, and similar things – but he spoke only to the heart and of the heart, for he knew that if this fortress is captured, all else surrenders and that when the true love of God comes to possess a heart, all that is not God seems to it of no account.

Saint Philip Neri adopted the same course with his penitents. He was not accustomed to dwell very much upon any vanities in dress, but he would overlook them as much as possible for some time, that he might more easily arrive at his object. When a lady once asked him whether it was a sin to wear very high heels, his only answer was, “Take care not to fall.” A man also came frequently to see him, wearing a collar with long stiff points. One day, he touched him lightly on the neck and said: “I would oftener give you such marks of friendship if your collar did not hurt my hand.” And with these reproofs alone both corrected their faults. A clergyman of noble birth, dressed in bright colors and with much display, came to the Saint every day for a fortnight to consult him in regard to the affairs of his soul. During all this time he said not a word to him in regard to his dress, but only took pains to make him feel compunction for his sins. Finally, becoming ashamed of his style of dress, he changed it of his own accord, made a good general confession, and giving himself wholly into Saint Philip’s hands became afterwards one of his most intimate and familiar friends.

MLA Citation