Francis de Sales: Spiritual Sugar-Plums Friday, Jan 24 2014 

Franz_von_SalesJanuary 24th is the feast of St Francis de Sales.

A little child, who sees the surgeon bleed his mother, will cry when he sees the lancet touch her;

but let that mother for whom he weeps ask for his apple or a sugar-plum which he has in his hand, and he will on no account part with it; and too much of our seeming devotion is of this kind.

We weep feelingly at the spear piercing the Crucified Saviour’s Side, and we do well,—but why cannot we give Him the apple we hold, for which He asks, heartily?

I mean our heart, the only love-apple which that Dear Saviour craves of us.

Why cannot we resign the numberless trifling attachments, indulgences, and self-complacencies of which He fain would deprive us, only we will not let Him do so; because they are the sugar-plums, sweeter to our taste than His Heavenly Grace?

Surely this is but as the fondness of children;—demonstrative, but weak, capricious, unpractical.

Devotion does not consist in such exterior displays of a tenderness which may be purely the result of a naturally impressionable, plastic character; or which may be the seductive action of the Enemy, or an excitable imagination stirred up by him.

Nevertheless these tender warm emotions are sometimes good and useful, for they kindle the spiritual appetite, cheer the mind, and infuse a holy gladness into the devout life, which embellishes all we do even externally.

It was such a taste for holy things that made David cry out, “O how sweet are Thy words unto my throat, yea, sweeter than honey unto my mouth.” And assuredly the tiniest little comfort received through devotion is worth far more than the most abundant delights of this world.

The milk of the Heavenly Bridegroom, in other words His spiritual favours, are sweeter to the soul than the costliest wine of the pleasures of this world, and to those who have tasted thereof all else seems but as gall and wormwood.

There is a certain herb which, if chewed, imparts so great a sweetness that they who keep it in their mouth cannot hunger or thirst; even so those to whom God gives His Heavenly manna of interior sweetness and consolation, cannot either desire or even accept worldly consolations with any real zest or satisfaction.

It is as a little foretaste of eternal blessedness which God gives to those who seek it; it is as the sugar-plum with which He attracts His little ones; as a cordial offered to strengthen their heart; as the first-fruits of their future reward.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 13.

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Francis de Sales: The Magnet of our Heart Must Continually Point to the Love of God Tuesday, Dec 17 2013 

Franz_von_SalesThe order of God’s Providence maintains a perpetual vicissitude in the material being of this world.

[…] No two days are ever exactly alike. Some are foggy, rainy, some dry or windy; and this endless variety greatly enhances the beauty of the universe.

And even so precisely is it with man (who, as ancient writers have said, is a miniature of the world), for he is never long in any one condition, and his life on earth flows by like the mighty waters, heaving and tossing with an endless variety of motion;

one  raising him on high with hope, another plunging him low in fear; now turning him to the right with rejoicing, then driving him to the left with sorrows; and no single day, no, not even one hour, is entirely the same as any other of his life.

All this is a very weighty warning, and teaches us to aim at an abiding and unchangeable evenness of mind amid so great an uncertainty of events; and, while all around is changing, we must seek to remain immoveable, ever looking to, reaching after and desiring our God.

Let the ship take what tack you will, let her course be eastward or westward, northern or southern, let any wind whatsoever fill her sails, but meanwhile her compass will never cease to point to its one unchanging lodestar.

Let all around us be overthrown, nay more, all within us; I mean let our soul be sad or glad, in bitterness or joy, at peace or troubled, dry and parched, or soft and fruitful, let the sun scorch, or the dew refresh it;

but all the while the magnet of our heart and mind, our superior will, which is our moral compass, must continually point to the Love of God our Creator, our Saviour, our only Sovereign Good.

“Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s. Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?”

Nay, verily, nothing can ever separate us from that Love;—neither tribulation nor distress, neither death nor life, neither present suffering nor fear of ills to come; neither the deceits of evil spirits nor the heights of satisfaction, nor the depths of sorrow; neither tenderness nor desolation, shall be able to separate us from that Holy Love, whose foundation is in Christ Jesus.

Such a fixed resolution never to forsake God, or let go of His Precious Love, serves as ballast to our souls, and will keep them stedfast amid the endless changes and chances of this our natural life.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 13.

Alphonsus Liguori: Behold, the Door of My Heart is Already Open Friday, Dec 6 2013 

Sant'Alfonso_LiguoriBut how is it my Jesus, that after Thou hast repaired this ruin of sin by Thy own death, I have so often wilfully renewed it again by the many offences I have committed against Thee?

Thou hast saved me at so great a cost, and I have so often chosen to damn myself, in losing Thee, O infinite Good!

But what Thou hast said gives me confidence that when the sinner who has turned his back upon Thee is converted to Thee, Thou wilt not refuse to embrace him: Turn ye to Me, and I will turn to you.

Thou hast also said, If any man shall…open to Me the door, I will come in to him.

Behold, Lord, I am one of these rebels, an ungrateful traitor, who have often turned my back upon Thee, and driven Thee from my soul; but now I repent with all my heart for having thus ill-used Thee and despised Thy grace; I repent of it, and love Thee above everything.

Behold, the door of my heart is already open; enter Thou, but enter never to leave it again.

I know well that Thou wilt never leave me, if I do not again drive Thee away; but this is my fear, and this is the grace which I ask of Thee, and which I hope always to ask; let me die rather than be guilty of this fresh and still greater ingratitude.

My dearest Redeemer, I do not deserve to love Thee, after all the offences that I have committed against Thee; but for Thy own merits sake I ask of Thee the gift of Thy holy love, and therefore I beseech Thee make me know the great good Thou art, the love Thou hast borne me, and how much Thou hast done to oblige me to love Thee.

Ah, my God and Saviour, let me no longer live ungrateful to Thy great goodness. My Jesus, I will never leave Thee again; I have already offended Thee enough. It is only right that I should employ the remaining years of my life in loving Thee and pleasing Thee.

My Jesus, my Jesus, help me ; help a sinner that wishes to love Thee. O Mary, my Mother, thou hast all power with Jesus, seeing thou art his Mother; beg of him to forgive me; beg of him to enchain me with his holy love. Thou art my hope; in thee do I confide.

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787): Meditations for Every Day of Advent, 1 in The Incarnation, Birth, and Infancy of Jesus Christ, pp. 173-174.

Francis de Sales: Remedies for Sadness and Melancholy Tuesday, Nov 19 2013 

Franz_von_SalesThe Evil One delights in sadness and melancholy, because they are his own characteristics.

He will be in sadness and sorrow through all Eternity, and he would fain have all others the same.

The “sorrow of the world” disturbs the heart, plunges it into anxiety, stirs up unreasonable fears, disgusts it with prayer, overwhelms and stupefies the brain, deprives the soul of wisdom, judgment, resolution and courage, weakening all its powers.

In a word, it is like a hard winter, blasting all the earth’s beauty, and numbing all animal life; for it deprives the soul of sweetness and power in every faculty.

Should you, my daughter, ever be attacked by this evil spirit of sadness, make use of the following remedies.

[…] Prayer is a sovereign remedy, it lifts the mind to God, Who is our only Joy and Consolation.

But when you pray let your words and affections, whether interior or exterior, all tend to love and trust in God.

“O God of Mercy, most Loving Lord, Sweet Saviour, Lord of my heart, my Joy, my Hope, my Beloved, my Bridegroom.”

Vigorously resist all tendencies to melancholy, and although all you do may seem to be done coldly, wearily and indifferently, do not give in.

The Enemy strives to make us languid in doing good by depression, but when he sees that we do not cease our efforts to work, and that those efforts become all the more earnest by reason of their being made in resistance to him, he leaves off troubling us.

Make use of hymns and spiritual songs; they have often frustrated the Evil One in his operations, as was the case when the evil spirit which possessed Saul was driven forth by music and psalmody.

It is well also to occupy yourself in external works, and that with as much variety as may lead us to divert the mind from the subject which oppresses it, and to cheer and kindle it, for depression generally makes us dry and cold.

[…] Moderate bodily discipline is useful in resisting depression, because it rouses the mind from dwelling on itself; and frequent Communion is specially valuable; the Bread of Life strengthens the heart and gladdens the spirits.

Lay bare all the feelings, thoughts and longings which are the result of your depression to your confessor or director, in all humility and faithfulness; seek the society of spiritually-minded people, and frequent such as far as possible while you are suffering.

And, finally, resign yourself into God’s Hands, endeavouring to bear this harassing depression patiently, as a just punishment for past idle mirth. Above all, never doubt but that, after He has tried you sufficiently, God will deliver you from the trial.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 12.

Francis de Sales: Trifling Temptations which Flit Around like Flies or Gnats Tuesday, Mar 5 2013 

Franz_von_SalesNow as to all these trifling temptations of vanity, suspicion, vexation, jealousy, envy, and the like, which flit around one like flies or gnats, now settling on one’s nose,—anon stinging one’s cheek,—as it is wholly impossible altogether to free one’s-self from their importunity.

The best resistance one can make is not to be fretted by them. All these things may worry one, but they cannot really harm us, so long as our wills are firmly resolved to serve God.

Therefore despise all these trivial onslaughts, and do not even deign to think about them; but let them buzz about your ears as much as they please, and flit hither and thither just as you tolerate flies.

Even if they sting you, and strive to light within your heart, do no more than simply remove them, not fighting with them, or arguing, but simply doing that which is precisely contrary to their suggestions, and specially making acts of the Love of God.

If you will take my advice, you will not toil on obstinately in resisting them by exercising the contrary virtue, for that would become a sort of struggle with the foe.

But, after making an act of this directly contrary virtue (always supposing you have time to recognise what the definite temptation is), simply turn with your whole heart towards Jesus Christ Crucified, and lovingly kiss His Sacred Feet.

This is the best way to conquer the Enemy, whether in small or great temptations. For, inasmuch as the Love of God contains the perfection of every virtue, and that more excellently than the very virtues themselves, it is also the most sovereign remedy against all vice.

And, if you accustom your mind under all manner of temptation to have recourse to this safety-place, you will not be constrained to enter upon a worryingly minute investigation of your temptations, but, so soon as you are anywise troubled, your mind will turn naturally to its one sovereign remedy.

Moreover, this way of dealing with temptation is so offensive to the Evil One, that, finding he does but provoke souls to an increased love of God by his assaults, he discontinues them.

In short, you may be sure that if you dally with your minor, oft-recurring temptations, and examine too closely into them in detail, you will simply stupefy yourself to no purpose.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 9.

Francis de Sales: Strive Above All Else to Keep a Calm and Restful Spirit Thursday, Jan 24 2013 

Franz_von_SalesAnxiety of mind is not so much an abstract temptation, as the source whence various temptations arise.

Sadness, when defined, is the mental grief we feel because of our involuntary ailments—whether the evil be exterior, such as poverty, sickness or contempt; or interior, such as ignorance, dryness, depression or temptation.

Directly that the soul is conscious of some such trouble, it is downcast, and so trouble sets in.

Then we at once begin to try to get rid of it, and find means to shake it off; and so far rightly enough, for it is natural to us all to desire good, and shun that which we hold to be evil.

If anyone strives to be delivered from his troubles out of love of God, he will strive patiently, gently, humbly and calmly, looking for deliverance rather to God’s Goodness and Providence than to his own industry or efforts.

But if self-love is the prevailing object he will grow hot and eager in seeking relief, as though all depended more upon himself than upon God. I do not say that the person thinks so, but he acts eagerly as though he did think it.

Then if he does not find what he wants at once, he becomes exceedingly impatient and troubled, which does not mend matters, but on the contrary makes them worse, and so he gets into an unreasonable state of anxiety and distress, till he begins to fancy that there is no cure for his trouble.

Thus you see how a disturbance, which was right at the outset, begets anxiety, and anxiety goes on into an excessive distress, which is exceedingly dangerous.

[…] Just as internal commotions and seditions ruin a commonwealth, and make it incapable of resisting its foreign enemies, so if our heart be disturbed and anxious, it loses power to retain such graces as it has, as well as strength to resist the temptations of the Evil One, who is all the more ready to fish (according to an old proverb) in troubled waters.

Anxiety arises from an unregulated desire to be delivered from any pressing evil, or to obtain some hoped-for good. Nevertheless nothing tends so greatly to enhance the one or retard the other as over-eagerness and anxiety.

Birds that are captured in nets and snares become inextricably entangled therein, because they flutter and struggle so much.

Therefore, whensoever you urgently desire to be delivered from any evil, or to attain some good thing, strive above all else to keep a calm, restful spirit,—steady your judgment and will, and then go quietly and easily after your object, taking all fitting means to attain thereto.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 4, 11.

Thomas More: Faithful Trust in the Word and Promise of God Tuesday, May 15 2012 

This virtue of faith can no man give himself, nor yet any man to another.

But though men may with preaching be ministers unto God therein; and though a man can, with his own free will, obeying freely the inward inspiration of God, be a weak worker with almighty God therein; yet is the faith indeed the gracious gift of God himself.

For, as St. James saith, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is given from above, descending from the Father of lights.”

Therefore, feeling our faith by many tokens very faint, let us pray to him who giveth it to us, that it may please him to help and increase it.

And let us first say with him in the gospel, “I believe, good Lord, but help thou the lack of my belief.” And afterwards, let us pray with the apostles, “Lord, increase our faith.”

And finally, let us consider, by Christ’s saying unto them, that, if we would not suffer the strength and fervour of our faith to wax lukewarm—or rather key-cold—and lose its vigour by scattering our minds abroad about so many trifling things that we very seldom think of the matters of our faith, we should withdraw our thought from the respect and regard of all worldly fantasies, and so gather our faith together into a little narrow room.

And like the little grain of mustard seed, which is by nature hot, we should set it in the garden of our soul, all weeds being pulled out for the better feeding of our faith.

Then shall it grow, and so spread up in height that the birds—that is, the holy angels of heaven—shall breed in our soul, and bring forth virtues in the branches of our faith.

And then, with the faithful trust that through the true belief of God’s word we shall put in his promise, we shall be well able to command a great mountain of tribulation to void from the place where it stood in our heart, whereas with a very feeble faith and faint, we shall be scantly able to remove a little hillock.

Thomas More (1478-1535): Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation 1, 2.

Alphonsus Liguori: He That Loves Jesus Christ Desires Nothing But Jesus Christ Wednesday, Apr 18 2012 

He that loves God does not desire to be esteemed and loved by his fellow-men: the single desire of his heart is to enjoy the favor of Almighty God, who alone forms the object of his love.

[…]  St. James writes, that as God confers his graces with open hands upon the humble, so does he close them against the proud, whom he resists. God resists the proud, and gives His grace to the humble.

[…] The saying of St. Francis of Assisi is most true: “What I am before God, that I am.” Of what use is it to pass for great in the eyes of the world, if before God we be vile and worthless?

And on the contrary, what matters it to be despised by the world, provided we be dear and acceptable in the eyes of God? St. Augustine thus writes: “The approbation of him who praises neither heals a bad conscience, nor does the reproach of one who blames wound a good conscience.”

[…]  “What does it matter,” says St. Teresa, “though we be condemned and reviled by creatures, if before Thee, O God! we are great and without blame?”

The saints had no other desire than to live unknown, and to pass for contemptible in the estimation of all.

Thus writes St. Francis de Sales: “But what wrong do we suffer when people have a bad opinion of us, since we ought to have such of ourselves? Perhaps we know that we are bad, and yet wish to pass off for good in the estimation of others.”

Oh, what security is found in the hidden life for such as wish cordially to love Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ himself set us the example, by living hidden and despised for thirty years in a workshop.

And with the same view of escaping the esteem of men, the saints went and hid themselves in deserts and in caves.

It was said by St. Vincent of Paul that a love of appearing in public, and of being spoken of in terms of praise, and of hearing our conduct commended, or that people should say that we succeed admirably and work wonders, is an evil which, while it makes us unmindful of God, contaminates our best actions, and proves the most fatal drawback to the spiritual life.

Whoever, therefore, would make progress in the love of Jesus Christ, must absolutely give a death-blow to the love of self-esteem.

[…] In order, then, to be pleasing in the sight of God, we must avoid all ambition of appearing and of making a parade in the eyes of men. And we must shun with still greater caution the ambition of governing others.

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787): Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, 6 @ Alphonsianum.


Francis de Sales: If Your Affections are Warm and Tender, Your Judgment will Not be Harsh Friday, Feb 24 2012 

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged,” said the Saviour of our souls; “condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned.”

And the Apostle S. Paul, “Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.”

Of a truth, hasty judgments are most displeasing to God, and men’s judgments are hasty, because we are not judges one of another, and by judging we usurp our Lord’s own office.

Man’s judgment is hasty, because the chief malice of sin lies in the intention and counsel of the heart, which is shrouded in darkness to us.

Moreover, man’s judgments are hasty, because each one has enough to do in judging himself, without undertaking to judge his neighbour.

If we would not be judged, it behoves us alike not to judge others, and to judge ourselves.

[…] But alas! for the most part we precisely reverse these precepts, judging our neighbour, which is forbidden on all sides, while rarely judging ourselves, as we are told to do.

[…] What remedy can we apply? They who drink the juice of the Ethiopian herb Ophiusa imagine that they see serpents and horrors everywhere; and those who drink deep of pride, envy, ambition, hatred, will see harm and shame in every one they look upon.

The first can only be cured by drinking palm wine, and so I say of these latter,—Drink freely of the sacred wine of love, and it will cure you of the evil tempers which lead you to these perverse judgments.

So far from seeking out that which is evil, Love dreads meeting with it, and when such meeting is unavoidable, she shuts her eyes at the first symptom, and then in her holy simplicity she questions whether it were not merely a fantastic shadow which crossed her path rather than sin itself.

Or if Love is forced to recognise the fact, she turns aside hastily, and strives to forget what she has seen.

Of a truth, Love is the great healer of all ills, and of this above the rest.

Everything looks yellow to a man that has the jaundice; and…most assuredly the sin of rash judgments is a spiritual jaundice, which makes everything look amiss to those who have it.

If your affections are warm and tender, your judgment will not be harsh; if they are loving, your judgment will be the same.

Francis de Sales (1567-1622): Introduction to the Devout Life, 3, 28.

Alphonsus Liguori: “You shall Draw Waters with Joy out of the Saviour’s Fountains” Monday, Aug 1 2011 

Behold the source of every good, Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, who says If any man thirst, let him come to Me (John 2:27).

Oh, what torrents of grace have the saints drawn from the fountain of the Most Blessed Sacrament!

For there Jesus dispenses all the merits of his Passion, as it was foretold by the Prophet: You shall draw waters with joy out of the Saviour’s fountains (Isaiah 12:3).

The Countess of Feria…on being asked how she employed the many hours thus passed in the presence of the Holy of Holies, answered:

“I could remain there for all eternity. And is not there present the very essence of God, who will be the food of the blessed?

“Am I asked what I do in his presence? Why am I not rather asked, what is not done there? “We love, we ask, we praise, we give thanks. We ask, what does a poor man do in the presence of one who is rich? What does a sick man do in the presence of his physician?

“What does a man do who is parched with thirst in the presence of a clear fountain? What is the occupation of one who is starving, and is placed before a splendid table?”

O my most amiable, most sweet, most beloved Jesus, my life, my hope, my treasure, the only love of my soul; oh, what has it cost Thee to remain thus with us in this Sacrament!

Thou hadst to die, that Thou mightest thus dwell amongst us on our altars; and then, how many insults hast Thou not had to endure in this Sacrament, in order to aid us by Thy presence!

Thy love, and the desire which Thou hast to be loved by us, have conquered all.

Come then, O Lord! Come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee.

Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being.

[…] Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar.

[…] Let all who will, seek other treasures; the only treasure that I love, the only one that I desire, is that of Thy love; for this only will I ask at the foot of the altar.

Do Thou make me forget myself, that thus I may only remember Thy goodness.

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787): The Holy Eucharist, pp. 127-128.

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