A Year with the Saints – 7 May


There are some characters which appear very gentle as long as everything goes well with them; but at the touch of any adversity or contradiction, they are immediately enkindled, and begin to throw forth smoke like a volcano. Such as these may be called burning coals hidden under ashes. This is not the meekness which Our Lord aimed to teach, that He might make us like Himself. We ought to be like lilies among thorns, which, though they come from amid such sharp points, do not cease to be smooth and pliable. – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

This test shows how true was the meekness of Saint Francis de Sales, for it is recorded of him that the more he was ill-treated, the more tranquil he appeared. It may be said that he found peace in war, roses among thorns and sweetness amidst the greatest bitterness. He once even said himself: “Of late, the open contradiction and secret opposition which I meet bring me a peace so sweet and soothing that it has no equal, and presages the approaching rest of the soul in its God, which most truly is the single ambition and the single desire of my heart and soul.” In nothing does this admirable peace and tranquillity shine forth more than in the persecutions he suffered on account of the Order of the Visitation – the work of his hands and of his mind, which had cost him prayers, journeys and labors without number, and was certainly dear to him as the apple of his eye. Such great opposition was raised against this most worthy Institute, that several times it was on the point of extinction; yet he never lost his imperturbable peace for that. On the other hand, he wrote that he praised God that his little Congregation had been calumniated, as that was one of the most evident marks of the approbation of Heaven. One day when the Saint was preaching, two lawyers sent up to him a note full of insulting remarks, in the hope of breaking up the sermon. He took the paper, thinking it contained some notice to be given to the people, had the patience to read it through to himself, and then, undisturbed, went on with his sermon. When it was over and he had rested a little, he inquired of the cleric from whom he had received the note and went to visit the two lawyers, one after the other. Without speaking of the letter, he begged them to say in what he had given them offense. When he heard the occasion, he assured them that he had never had the intention of doing so, and asked their pardon on his knees. This caused them much confusion, and they asked his pardon in turn. Thenceforth, they lived on the best terms with him, venerating, as they did, a virtue so heroic and Christian.

This virtue also shone forth in Saint Jane Frances de Chantal. When she was, on various occasions, ill-treated by many, she never showed the least sign of resentment or displeasure, but in return gave presents to one, bestowed favors obtained from God or from persons of rank, upon another. Nor was her love for any of them diminished.

A certain youth who was very angry because a young lady whom he wished to marry had embraced the religious state went to see her, and said many insulting things to her. She listened to them all with great serenity of countenance and so much joy of heart that on leaving the parlor she said to her companion, who had been present at the interview, “I never heard a eulogium more agreeable to me than the one this good youth has just made.” Then, moved with compassion at his sinful state, she added, “Let us pray the Lord to give him light.” Her prayers were indeed heard, for he repented of his error, came again to ask her pardon, then himself entered religion and finally became a great preacher and a good servant of God.

MLA Citation