"A single act of uniformity with the divine will suffices to make a saint."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Before a man chooses his confessor, he ought to think well about it, and pray about it also; but when he has once chosen, he ought not to change, except for most urgent reasons, but put the utmost confidence in his director."

St Philip Neri

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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "

Thomas á Kempis

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St. Francis de Sales  (1567-1622)
 Bishop, Founder of the Visitation and Doctor of the Church


By St Francis de Sales

Book I. Containing A Preparation For The Whole Treatise.

Ch 7. Description of Love in General.

The will has so great a sympathy with good that as soon as she perceives it she turns towards it to delight therein as in her most agreeable object, to which she is so closely allied that her nature cannot be explained except by the relation she has thereto, just as one cannot show the nature of what is good except by the affinity it has with the will.

For, tell me, Theotimus, what is good but that which every one wills. And what is the will, if not the faculty which bears us towards and makes us tend to good or what the will believes to be such?

The will then perceiving and feeling the good, by the help of the understanding which proposes it, feels at the same time a sudden delight and complacency at this meeting, which sweetly yet powerfully moves her towards this pleasing object in order to unite herself with it, and makes her search out the means most proper to attain this union.

The will then has a most close affinity with good; this affinity produces the complacency which the will takes in feeling and perceiving good; this complacency moves and spurs the will forward to good; this movement tends to union; and in fine the will moved and tending to union searches out all the means necessary to get it.

And in truth, speaking generally, love comprises all this together, as a beautiful tree, whose root is the correspondence which the will has to good, its foot is the complacency, its trunk is the movement, its seekings, its pursuits, and other efforts are the branches, but union and enjoyment are its fruits. Thus love seems to be composed of these five principal parts under which a number of other little pieces are contained as we shall see in the course of this work.

Let us consider, I pray you, the exercise of an insensible love between the loadstone and iron; for it is the true image of the sensible and voluntary love of which we speak. Iron, then, has such a sympathy with the loadstone that as soon as it feels the power thereof, it turns towards it; then it suddenly begins to stir and quiver with little throbbings, testifying by this the complacency it feels, and then it advances and moves towards the loadstone striving by all means possible to be united to it. Do you not see all the parts of love well represented in these lifeless things?

But to conclude, Theotimus, the complacency and the movement towards, or effusion of the will upon, the thing beloved is properly speaking love; yet in such sort that the complacency is but the beginning of love, and the movement or effusion of the heart which ensues is the true essential love, so that the one and the other may truly be named love, but in a different sense: for as the dawning of day may be termed day, so this first complacency of the heart in the thing beloved may be called love because it is the first feeling of love.

But as the true heart of the day is measured from the end of dawn till sunset, so the true essence of love consists in the movement and effusion of the heart which immediately follows complacency and ends in union.

In short, complacency is the first stirring or emotion which good causes in the will, and this emotion is followed by the movement and effusion by which the soul runs towards and reaches the thing beloved, which is the true and proper love. We may express it thus: the good takes, grasps and ties the heart by complacency, but by love it draws, conducts and conveys it to itself, by complacency it makes it start on its way, but by love it makes it achieve the journey.

Complacency is the awakener of the heart, but love is its action; complacency makes it get up, but love makes it walk. The heart spreads its wings by complacency but love is its flight. Love then, to speak distinctly and precisely, is no other thing than the movement, effusion and advancement of the heart towards good.

Many great persons have been of opinion that love is no other thing than complacency itself, in which they have had much appearance of reason. For not only does the movement of love take its origin from the complacency which the heart feels at the first approach of good, and find its end in a second complacency which returns to the heart by union with the thing beloved, - but further, it depends for its preservation on this complacency, and can only subsist through it as through its mother and nurse; so that as soon as the complacency ceases love ceases.

And as the bee being born in honey, feeds on honey, and only flies for honey, so love is born of complacency, maintained by complacency, and tends to complacency. It is the weight of things which stirs them, moves them, and stays them; it is the weight of the stone that stirs it and moves it to its descent as soon as the obstacles are removed; it is the same weight that makes it continue its movement downwards; and finally it is the same weight that makes it stop and rest as soon as it has reached its place.

So it is with the complacency which excites the will: this moves it, and this makes it repose in the thing beloved when it has united itself therewith. This motion of love then having its birth, preservation, and perfection dependent on complacency, and being always inseparably joined thereto, it is no marvel that these great minds considered love and complacency to be the same, though in truth love being a true passion of the soul cannot be a simple complacency, but must needs be the motion proceeding from it.

Now this motion caused by complacency lasts till the union or fruition. Therefore when it tends to a present good, it does no more than push the heart, clasp it, join, and apply it to the thing beloved, which by this means it enjoys, and then it is called love of complacency, because as soon as ever it is begotten of the first complacency it ends in the second, which it receives in being united to its present object. But when the good towards which the heart is turned, inclined, and moved is distant, absent or future, or when so perfect a union cannot yet be made as is desired, then the motion of love by which the heart tends, makes and aspires towards this absent object, is properly named desire, for desire is no other thing than the appetite, concupiscence, or cupidity for things we have not, but which however we aim at getting.

There are yet certain other motions of love by which we desire things that we neither expect nor aim at in any way, as when we say:-- Why am I not now in heaven! I wish I were a king; I would to God I were younger; how I wish I had never sinned, and the like. These indeed are desires, but imperfect ones, which, to speak properly, I think, might be called wishings (souhaits). And indeed these affections are not expressed like desires, for when we express our true desires we say: I desire (Je desire): but when we signify our imperfect desires we say: I should or I would desire (je desirerois), or I should like.

We may well say: I would desire to be young; but we do not say: I desire to be young; seeing that this is not possible; and this motion is called a wishing, or as the Scholastics term it a velleity, which is nothing else but a commencement of willing, not followed out, because the will, by reason of impossibility or extreme difficulty, stops her motion, and ends it in this simple affection of a wish. It is as though she said: this good which I behold and cannot expect to get is truly very agreeable to me, and though I cannot will it nor hope for it, yet so my affection stands, that if I could will or desire it, I would desire and will it gladly.

In brief, these wishings or velleities are nothing else but a little love, which may be called love of simple approbation, because the soul approves the good she knows, and being unable to effectually desire she protests she would willingly desire it, and that it is truly to be desired.

Nor is this all, Theotimus, for there are desires and velleities which are yet more imperfect than those we have spoken of, forasmuch as their motions are not stayed by reason of impossibility or extreme difficulty, but by their incompatibility with other more powerful desires or willings; as when a sick man desires to eat mushrooms or melons;-- though he may have them at his order, yet he will not eat them, fearing thereby to make himself worse; for who sees not that there are two desires in this man, the one to eat mushrooms, the other to be cured?

But because the desire of being cured is the stronger, it blocks up and suffocates the other and hinders it from producing any effect. Jephte wished to preserve his daughter, but this not being compatible with his desire to keep his vow, he willed what he did not wish, namely, to sacrifice his daughter, and wished what he did not will, namely, to preserve his daughter.

Pilate and Herod wished, the one to deliver our Saviour, the other his precursor: but because these wishes were incompatible with the desires, the one to please the Jews and Caesar, the other, Herodias and her daughter, these wishes were vain and fruitless.

Now in proportion as those things which are incompatible with our wishes are less desirable, the wishes are more imperfect, since they are stopped and, as it were, stifled by contraries so weak. Thus the wish which Herod had not to behead S. John was more imperfect than that of Pilate to free our Saviour. For the latter feared the calumny and indignation of the people and of Caesar; the other feared to disappoint one woman alone.
And these wishes which are hindered, not by impossibility, but by incompatibility with stronger desires, are called indeed wishes and desires, but vain, stifled and unprofitable ones. As to wishes of things impossible, we say: I wish, but cannot; and of the wishes of possible things we say: I wish, but will not.