St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
|TREATISE ON THE LOVE OF GOD|
By St Francis de Sales
Book II. The History Of The Generation And Heavenly Birth Of Divine Love.
Ch 11. That It Is No Fault Of The Divine Goodness If We Have Not A Most Excellent Love.
O God! Theotimus, if we received divine inspirations to the full extent of their virtue, in how short a time should we make a great progress in sanctity? Be the fountain ever so copious, its streams enter not into a garden according to their plenty, but according to the littleness or greatness of the channel by which they are conducted thither.
Although the Holy Ghost, as a spring of living water,
flows up to every part of our heart to spread his
graces in it, yet as he will not have them enter
without the free consent of our will, he will only
pour them out according to his good pleasure and our
own disposition and cooperation, as the Holy Council
says, which also, by reason, as I suppose, of the
correspondence between our consent and grace, calls
the reception thereof a voluntary reception.
And as the sick man who had the potion given into his hand, if he took it not wholly but only partly, would also have the operation thereof in part only, and not wholly, - so when God sends a great and mighty inspiration to move us to embrace his holy love, if we consent not according to its whole extent it will but profit us in the same measure. It happens that being inspired to do much we consent not to the whole inspiration but only to some part thereof, as did those good people in the Gospel, who upon the inspiration which Our Lord gave them to follow him wished to make reservations, the one to go first and bury his father, the other to go to take leave of his people.
As long as the poor widow had empty vessels, the
oil which Eliseus had by prayer miraculously
multiplied never left off running, but when she had
no more vessels to receive it, it ceased to flow. In
the same measure in which our heart dilates itself,
or rather in the measure in which it permits itself
to be enlarged and dilated, keeping itself empty by
the simple fact of not refusing consent to the divine
mercy, this ever pours forth and ceaselessly spreads
its sacred inspirations, which ever increase and make
us increase more and more in heavenly love; but when
there is no more room, that is, when we no longer
give consent, it stops.
Ah! Theotimus, we must stop there, for, as S. Augustine says, the depravation of our will proceeds from no cause, but from some deficiency in the agent (cause) who commits the sin. And we must not expect to be able to give a reason of the fault which occurs in sin, because the fault would not be a sin if it was not without reason.
The devout Brother Rufinus upon a certain vision which he had of the glory which the great S. Francis would attain unto by his humility, asked him this question: My dear father, I beseech you, tell me truly what opinion you have of yourself ? The Saint answered: Verily I hold myself to be the greatest sinner in the world, and the one who serves Our Lord least. But, Brother Rufinus replied, how can you say this in truth and conscience, seeing that many others, as we manifestly see, commit many great sins from which, God be thanked, you are exempt. To which S. Francis answered: If God had favoured those others of whom you speak with as great mercy as he has favoured me, I am certain, be they ever so bad now, they would have acknowledged God's gifts far better than I do, and would serve him much better than I do, and if my God abandoned me I should commit more wickedness than any one else.
You see, Theotimus, the opinion of this man, who
indeed was scarcely man, but a seraph upon earth. I
know it was humility that moved him to speak thus of
himself, yet nevertheless he believed for a certain
truth that an equal grace granted by an equal mercy
might be more faithfully employed by one sinner than
by another. Now I hold for an oracle the sentiment of
this great doctor in the science of the saints, who,
brought up in the school of the Crucifix, breathed
nothing but the divine inspirations. And this maxim
has been praised and repeated by all the most devout
who have followed him, many of whom are of opinion
that the great Apostle S. Paul said in the same sense
that he was the chief of all sinners.(2)
Let us therefore, Theotimus, be attentive to
advance in the love which we owe to God, for that
which he bears us will never fail us.