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 21. How Our Saviour's Loving Attractions Assist And Accompany Us To Faith And Charity.
Between the first awaking from sin or infidelity to the final resolution of a perfect belief, there often runs a good deal of time in which we are able to pray, as we have seen S. Pachomius did, and as that poor lunatic's father, who, as S. Mark relates, giving assurance that he believed, that is, that he began to believe, knew at the same time that he did not believe sufficiently; whence he cried out: I do believe, Lord help my unbelief,(1) as though he would say: I am no longer in the obscurity of the night of infidelity, the rays of your faith already enlighten the horizon of my soul: but still I do not yet believe as I ought; it is a knowledge as yet weak and mixed with darkness; Ah! Lord, help me.
And the great S. Augustine solemnly pronounces these remarkable words: "But listen, O man! and understand. Art thou not drawn? pray, in order that thou mayest be drawn." In which words his intention is not to speak of the first movement which God works in us without us, when he excites and awakens us out of the sleep of sin: for how could we ask to be awakened seeing no man can pray before he be awakened? But he speaks of the resolution which we make to be faithful, for he considers that to believe is to be drawn, and therefore he admonishes such as have been excited to believe in God, to ask the gift of faith.
And indeed no one could better know the
difficulties which ordinarily pass between the first
movement God makes in us, and the perfect resolution
of believing fully, than S. Augustine, who having had
so great a variety of attractions by the words of the
glorious S. Ambrose, by the conference he had with
Politian, and a thousand other means yet made so many
delays and had so much difficulty in resolving. For
more truly to him than to any other might have been
applied that which he afterwards said to others:
Alas! Augustine, if thou be not drawn, if thou
believe not, pray that thou mayest be drawn, and that
thou mayest believe.
And meantime we remain in full liberty, to consent to the divine drawings or to reject them; for as the sacred Council of Trent has clearly decreed: "If any one should say that man's freewill, being moved and incited by God, does not in any way co-operate, by consenting to God, who moves and calls him that he may dispose and prepare himself to obtain the grace of justification, and that he is unable to refuse consent though he would," truly such a man would be excommunicated, and reproved by the Church.
But if we do not repulse the grace of holy love, it dilates itself by continual increase in our souls, until they are entirely converted; like great rivers, which finding open plains spread themselves, and ever take up more space.
But if the inspiration, having drawn us to faith, find no resistance in us, it draws us also to penitence and charity.
S. Peter, as an apode, raised by the inspiration
which came from the eyes of his master, freely
letting himself be moved and carried by this gentle
wind of the Holy Ghost, looks upon those life-giving
eyes which had excited him; he reads as in the book
of life the sweet invitation to pardon which the
divine clemency offers him; he draws from it a just
motive of hope; he goes out of the court, considers
the horror of his sin, and detests it; he weeps, he
sobs, he prostrates his miserable heart before his
Saviour's mercy, craves pardon for his faults, makes
a resolution of inviolable loyalty, and by this
progress of movements, practised by the help of grace
which continually conducts, assists, and helps him,
he comes at length to the holy remission of his sins,
and passes so from brace to grace: according to what
S. Prosper lays down, that without grace a man door
not run to grace.
Do you see, Theotimus, she would not pray if she were not excited; but as soon as she is, and feels the attractions, she prays that she may be drawn; being drawn she runs, nevertheless she would not run if the perfumes which draw her and by which she is drawn did not inspirit her heart by the power of their precious odour; and as her course is more swift, and as she approaches nearer her heavenly spouse, she has ever a more delightful sense of the sweetnesses which he pours out, until at last he himself flows out in her heart, like a spread balm, whence she cries, as being surprised by this delight, not so quickly expected, and as yet unlooked for: O my spouse, thou art as balm poured into my bosom; it is no marvel that young souls cherish thee dearly.
In this way, my dear Theotimus, the divine
inspiration comes to us, and prevents use moving our
wills to sacred love. And if we do not repulse it, it
goes with us and keeps near us, to incite us and ever
push us further forwards; and if we do not abandon
it, it does not abandon us, till such time as it has
brought us to the haven of most holy charity,
performing for us the three good offices which the
great angel Raphael fulfilled for his dear Tobias:
for it guides us through all our journey of holy
penitence, it preserves us from dangers and from the
assaults of the devil, and it consoles, animates, and
fortifies us in our difficulties.