Ebook - Wisdom of Saint Francis De Sales, The


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Translated by Mario DiTata

During his lifetime St. Francis wrote many books and innumerable letters of spiritual advice. He was known far and wide as the best spiritual director of his day. He converted seventy-two thousand Calvinists back to the Catholic Faith. Introduction to the Devout Life is one of his most widely known works. This compilation of gems of wisdom from this great Doctor of souls is a small tribute to his genius and sanctity and a book from you will derive much consolation.

Table of Contents

Part One: Prayer and the Sacraments
1. The Word of God
2. Devotion to Mary, the Angels, and the Saints
3. The Confession of Sins
4. The Holy Eucharist
5. Other Public Devotions
6. The Spirit of Recollection
7. Consolations in Prayer
Part Two: The Virtues
1. The Selection of Virtues
2. Patience
3. Humility 
4. Obedience 
5. Chastity
6. Poverty of Spirit
7. Modesty
8. Faithfulness to Duty
9. Social Virtues
Part Three: Obstacles to Virtue 
1. Opposition from the World 
2. Temptations
3. Harmful Desires
4. Dangerous Amusements
5. Anger 
6. Rash Judgment and Detraction
7. Anxiety
8. Sadness



St. Francis de Sales was a bishop of the Church in the early seventeenth century. At a time of great upheaval and division in the Church, he worked tirelessly to restore unity and brought many people back to the Catholic Faith.

In addition to his duties as a bishop, he found time to write books on the spiritual life, polemical works, and thousands of letters written for those to whom he was giving spiritual direction. He is considered to be one of the greatest spiritual writers in the history of the Church. So great has been his influence that he was named a Doctor of the Church, a title which the Church has given to only thirty-three saints.

It is my hope that this compilation of Salesian wisdom will make the teachings of our saint more easily accessible and widely known. Its contents are taken from his classic work, An Introduction to the Devout Life. May the readers will find in this booklet a useful summary of the teachings of this great doctor and, as a result, be better able to practice them in their own lives.

1. The Word of God
Always pay careful attention to the word of God, whether you hear or read it in private, or listen to it when publicly proclaimed. Listen with attentiveness and reverence; seek to profit by it; and do not let the precious words fall unheeded. Imitate the Blessed Virgin, who “kept all [the sayings]” concerning her Son “in her heart.” And remember that according to the way in which we listen to and receive God’s words, so will He listen to and receive our prayers. 

2. Devotion to Mary, the Angels, and the Saints
Honor, reverence, and love the glorious Virgin Mary, for she is the mother of our Lord, and, therefore, our mother also. Fly to her as her child, and cast yourself at her knees with a perfect confidence at all times, and on all occasions. Call on this dear mother, appeal to her maternal love, and strive to imitate her virtues. 

Familiarize yourself with the thought of the holy angels and honor especially the guardian angel of the diocese in which you live, those of your neighbors, and above all your own. Call on them and honor them often, and ask their help in all your affairs, temporal as well as spiritual. 

Choose as your patrons some saints in particular, to whose life and imitation you are most drawn, and in whose intercession you have a special confidence. The saint whose name you bear is already assigned you from your baptism.

The Rosary is a most helpful form of prayer, if you know how to say it properly; for this purpose, use one of the booklets which explain it. The litanies of our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints, and all the other prayers which you find in the authorized prayer books are helpful.

3. The Confession of Sins
Our Savior has left in His Church the sacrament of penance and confession, in order that as often as our souls are stained by sin we may cleanse and purify them. Since then you have so sure and simple a remedy at hand, never permit your heart to remain long sullied by sin. 

Always have a sincere hatred of the sins you confess, even if they are small, and a heartfelt resolution to amend. Some routinely and from mere habit confess their venial sins without thinking of correcting them, and continuing in them, lose much spiritual good. If, therefore, you make an insincere confession through want of thought, hasty words, or self-indulgence, repent heartily and firmly resolve to amend, for it is an abuse of the confessional to confess any sins, either mortal or venial, with out resolving to discontinue them. 

Be sure also to mention those details which explain the nature of your fault, such as the cause which excited your anger, or led you to encourage what was wrong. . . by this means, your confessor obtains a more perfect knowledge of the heart he has to deal with, and of the treatment to be adopted. But, as far as possible, avoid naming any third persons in your confessions.

4. The Holy Eucharist 
Attempt, if possible, to be present daily at the holy Mass, that, together with the priest, you may offer the sacrifice of your Redeemer to His divine Father in your behalf and that of the whole Church. The holy angels are always present in great numbers to honor this holy mystery, according to St. John Chrysostom, and we may hope to be made partakers of their holiness when we are gathered together with them to the same intent; and the choirs of the Church Triumphant as well as the Church Militant join themselves to our Lord in this divine action, that through Him, with Him, and in Him, we may as it were take God by storm, and obtain His mercy and love. What a privilege to be united in so blessed and mighty an action. 

After receiving Communion, offer your devout homage to the King of our salvation, reveal to Him all of your inmost thoughts and concerns, and cherish His presence within you for your exceeding benefit. In short, give Him the best welcome you can, and prove by the holiness of all your actions that God is with you. When you are unable to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist, unite yourself by desire to this life-giving flesh of the Savior, and make a spiritual communion in your heart. 

Your chief aim in Holy Communion should be to advance, strengthen, and comfort yourself in the love of God, receiving for love’s sake what love alone can give. There is nothing in which the love of Christ is set forth more tenderly or touchingly than in the Sacrament, by which He, so to speak, annihilates Himself for us and assumes the form of bread, in order to feed us and unite Himself closely to the bodies and souls of the faithful.

5. Other Public Devotions 
Take advantage of the societies (or confraternities) which exist where you are, especially those whose rules abound most in good works and example. This obedience is pleasing to God, for through the Church does not require such ties, she highly recommends them, as shown by the fact that she grants indulgences and other privileges to confraternities; it is always profitable to be joined to others and cooperate in good woks. And although you might perform equally pious exercise by yourself, and perhaps with more self-gratification, yet God is more glorified by our being united to our friends and neighbors.

6. The Spirit of Recollection
Remember then to retire often into the solitude of your heart, even while you are externally occupied in business or society. This mental solitude can take place even though many persons are around you, for they only surround your body and not your heart, which should remain alone in the presence of God. This was what King David did throughout his many cares, and we find him in the Psalms continually exclaiming, “My God, You are ever before me! The Lord is ever on my right hand! To You, O Lord, I lift up my eyes! O You who dwell in the heavens! My eyes are always looking to the Lord!”

7. Consolations in Prayer
I would say, then, that devotion does not consist in that sweetness, consolation, and visible tenderness which provokes tears and sighs, and gives us a certain agreeable savor and satisfaction our spiritual exercises. No, this is not the same thing as devotion; for there are many souls who experience these enjoyments and consolations, and nevertheless have many vices, and thus have no true love of God, much less any true devotion.  

These emotions and affections are, however, at times good and useful, for they excite the soul’s appetite, comfort the mind, and add to the earnestness of devotion and holy joy and gladness which renders even our outward actions nice and pleasant. 

If we enjoy much sweetness and consolation, we must humble ourselves profoundly before God, and beware of saying on account of such favors, “How good I am!” No, for such advantages do not prove us good, nor, as I have said, does devotion consist in them. Let us rather say, “Oh how good God is to those who love Him, and to the soul that seeks after Him!” 
Blessed Angela of Foligno says that the prayer most acceptable to God is that which is made with difficulty and constraint; that is, which we undertake not from our own taste or inclination, but solely in order to please God, to which we are as it were driven by our will, conquering and doing violence to the repugnance and dryness which we feel. It is the same in regard to all other good works, for the more reluctance we feel towards their performance (be it external or internal), so much more the precious and estimable they are in the sight of God.  The less self-interest we have in the pursuit of virtue, the greater therein will be the purity and brightness of our love for God.

Saint Francis de Sales

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