Holy Fear of God

Annunciation by Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden

Here and in the next several posts, we shall hear what Venerable Joseph Frassinetti teaches about having a holy fear of God. He begins by quoting the renowned spiritual director St. Francis de Sales, who writes to a certain devout soul: “I entreat you, my dear daughter, for the honour of God, do not be afraid of God, for He could in no way wish to bring the smallest evil upon you. On the contrary, love Him much, because He desires to do you the greatest good.”

Father Frassinetti remarks: “Do not think that St. Francis of Sales disapproves of the fear of God—of that fear which is the beginning of wisdom, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit. He disapproves of the fear which is born of distrust, which brings with it disquietude, which instead of honouring God dishonours Him; and therefore he begs us for the honour of God not to fear God in this manner.”

“The holy fear of God is the foundation and the base of Christian perfection, and for this reason it is most necessary for souls even the most devout and most saintly. . . . You must, however, have a just idea of this holy fear. If you have this just idea of it you will be powerfully assisted thereby in the acquirement of Christian perfection; otherwise you will find yourself cowardly, distrustful, intimidated, terrified—without peace in your heart.”

“The fear of God is of two kinds—servile and filial. We have a servile fear when we fear to offend God on account of the chastisement with which He punishes sin. . . . Although this fear is not of perfection, and is properly not one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, yet it is a good and salutary fear.”

“We have a filial fear when we fear to offend God on account of the displeasure caused to Him by our sins, fearing to insult and offend a goodness so great that it merits infinite love. This is a fear truly perfect; this is properly one of the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

“Whether servile or filial, the holy fear of God comes from the Spirit of God; but the Spirit of God is the Spirit of peace, of order, of tranquillity. . . . Hence as a natural consequence the holy fear which it inspires must be peaceful, well ordered, tranquil.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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