He Practiced What He Preached

St. Francis de Sales, the “Gentle Bishop of Geneva,” was known for the gentle and practical spiritual guidance he offered to those in his care. As for his own spiritual life and practices, the introduction to Maxims and Counsels of St. Francis de Sales states: “He first practised, and then taught. One is gentle from motives of virtue, only when he possesses moral strength; now we find in these lines the secret of that strength which made St. Francis de Sales the gentlest of men. He admirably inculcates the method of sanctity which he perfectly possessed.”

A careful reading of his letters and treatises reveals his intense devotion to God, his sincere humility before men, and his trustful determination to accept the will of God in all things. Catch a glimpse of his heart and soul in his words:

“Lord, I wish for no event; for I leave Thee to will it for me as Thou pleasest; but instead of wishing for events I bless Thee for those Thou has ordained. Father, I am thine. I know not what I should wish; it is for Thee to will and do for me all that shall seem to Thee good. My Father truly loves me, and I am wholly his.”

“Lord, I desire nothing; for I leave Thee to will for me wholly as Thou pleasest; instead of wishing for anything, I bless Thee for what Thou shalt decree.”

“I would rather be a gnat by the will of God than a seraph by my own.”

“I love nothing but God, and all souls for God.”

“If anger or pride attack me, I must do all in my power to incline my heart to humility and meekness, devoting to that end my spiritual exercises, the sacraments and the other virtues.”

“O God, it is towards Thee that I am sailing. . . . We reach the port through all storms, provided we have an upright heart, a good intention, firm courage, our eyes fixed upon God, and all our confidence in Him.”

“There is and can be nothing which I cannot do, inasmuch as I place all my confidence in God, who can do all things, and with this confidence the soul courageously undertakes all that it is commanded, however difficult it may be.”

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

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