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 IV. Of The Decay And Ruin Of Charity.
Ch 3. How We Forsake Divine Love For That Of Creatures.
This misery of quitting God for the creature happens thus.
We do not love God without intermission, because in this mortal life charity is in us as a simple habit, which, as philosophers have remarked, we use when we like and never against our liking. When then we do not make use of the charity which is in us, that is, when we are not applying our spirit to the exercises of holy love, but, when (keeping it busied in some other affair, or it being idle in itself) it remains useless and negligent, then, Theotimus, it may be assaulted by some bad object and surprised by temptation.
And though the habit of charity be at that instant in the bottom of our hearts and perform its office, inclining us to reject the bad suggestion, yet it only urges us or leads us to the action of resistance according as we second it, as is the manner of habits; and therefore charity leaving us in our freedom, it happens often that the bad object having cast its allurements deeply into our hearts, we attach ourselves unto it by an excessive complacency, which when it comes to grow, we can hardly get rid of, and like thorns, according to the saying of Our Saviour, it in the end stifles the seed of grace and heavenly love.
So it fell out with our first mother Eve, whose overthrow began by a certain amusement which she took in discoursing with the serpent, receiving complacency in hearing it talk of her advancement in knowledge, and in seeing the beauty of the forbidden fruit, so that the complacency growing with the amusement and the amusement feeding itself in the complacency, she found herself at length so entangled, that giving away to consent, she committed the accursed sin into which afterwards she drew her husband.
We see that pigeons, touched with vanity, display themselves (se pavonnent) sometimes in the air, and sail about hither and thither, admiring the variety of their plumage, and then the tercelets and falcons that espy them fall upon them and seize them, which they could never do if the pigeons had been flying their proper flight, as they have a stronger wing than have birds of prey.
Ah! Theotimus, if we did not amuse ourselves with
the vanity of fleeting pleasures, especially in the
complacency of self-love, but if having once got
charity we were careful to fly straight thither
whither it would carry us, suggestion and temptation
should never catch us, but because as doves seduced
and beguiled by self-esteem we look back upon
ourselves, and engage our spirits too much with
creatures, we often find ourselves seized by the
talons of our enemies, who bear away and devour us.
But if we kept our faith, which can discern between the true good we are to pursue and the false which we are to reject, sharply attentive to its office, without doubt it would be a trusty sentinel to charity, and would give intelligence of that evil which approaches the heart vender pretext of good, and charity would immediately repulse it.. But because ordinarily we keep our faith either asleep or less attentive than is requisite for the preservation of our charity, we are often surprised by temptation, which, seducing our senses, while our senses incite the inferior part of our soul to rebellion often brings to pass that the superior part of reason yields to the violence of this revolt, and by committing sin loses charity.
Such was the progress of the sedition which the
disloyal Absalom stirred up against his good father
David for he put forward propositions which were good
in appearance, which being once received by the poor
Israelites whose prudence was put to sleep and
smothered, he solicited them in such sort that he
wrought them to a complete rebellion; so that David
was constrained to depart from Jerusalem with all his
most faithful friends leaving there no men of
distinction save Sadoc and Abiathar, priests of the
Eternal, with their children: now Sadoc was a seer,
that is to say a prophet.(2)
Alas! Theotimus, what a pitiful spectacle it is to
the angels of peace to see the Holy Ghost and his
love depart in this manner out of our sinful souls!
Verily I think if they could weep they would pour out
infinite tears, and, with a mournful voice lamenting
our misery, would sing the sad canticle which
Jeremias took up, when sitting upon the threshold of
the desolate temple he contemplated the ruin of
Jerusalem in the time of Sedecias : How doth the city
sit solitary that was full of people! How is the
mistress of the Gentiles become as a widow: the
princess of provinces made tributary!(3)