The Gentleness of God

The editor of Maxims and Counsels of St. Francis de Sales tells us that, in the opinion of St. Jane Frances de Chantal and St. Vincent de Paul, St. Francis de Sales, revered as “the gentle Bishop of Geneva,” was the most perfect imitation of Jesus Christ among men. She notes that Francis was not astonished by the falls of men or by human discouragement, but cured their spiritual ills “by remedies as gentle as they are efficacious.” Here are a few examples of his spiritual remedies:

“I recommend to you more than anything else the exercise of holy gentleness and sweetness in all the events of this life.”

“I recommend to you great evenness of temper, sweetness and gentleness of heart; for these virtues, like the oil of a lamp, maintain the flame of good example; for there is nothing more edifying to our neighbour than charitable kindliness.”

“I desire that you should be extremely lowly and humble in your own eyes, condescending and gentle as a dove.”

“Our heart must be kind and gentle towards our neighbour, and full of affection for him, particularly when he is wearisome and displeasing to us, for then we find nothing in him to make us love him but respect for our Saviour.”

“Our gentleness with our neighbour must be carried to extreme, even to foolishness, and we must never retaliate; believe me, if we lose something by this, our Lord will make it up elsewhere.”

“Give your soul a thousand times to God, and sometimes say not a word to Him, but simply contemplate his gentleness. This is one of the great sources of spiritual gain, for as the mind converses so frequently and so easily with its God it will be perfumed with all his perfections.”

“Courage! Let us keep on in the low valleys of the small and humble virtues. I love these three little virtues: gentleness of heart, firmness of mind, and simplicity of life.”

“Give particular attention to the practice of gentleness, study every pulsation of your heart, and if it be not gentle, make it so before all things.”

“Train yourself to serve our Lord with a strong and fervent gentleness: it is the true way of serving Him.”

Quotations from Maxims and Counsels of St. Francis de Sales, translated by Ella McMahon (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1884).

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