St. Francis de Sales on Liberty of Spirit

St Francis de Sales

The editor of Light and Peace amplifies Padre Quadrupani’s thoughts on liberty of spirit by appending these words of St. Francis de Sales:

“A heart possessed of this spirit of liberty is not attached to consolations, but receives afflictions with all the sweetness that is possible to human nature. I do not say that it does not love and desire consolations, but that its affections are not wedded to them. . . . It seldom loses its joy, for no privation saddens a heart that is not set upon any one thing.”

“The occasions for exercising this holy freedom are found in all those things that happen contrary to our natural inclinations; for one whose affections are not engaged in his own will does not lose patience when his desires are thwarted.”

“The effects of this virtue are sweetness of temper, gentleness, and forbearance towards everything that is not sin or occasion of sin.”

St. Francis explains that there are two vices opposed to liberty of spirit: the one is instability or dissipation, and the other is constraint or servility.

Instability or dissipation is “a certain excess of freedom which causes us to change our devout exercises or state of life without reason and without knowing if it be God’s will. On the slightest pretext practices, plans and rules are altered and for every trivial obstacle our laudable customs are abandoned. In this way the heart is dissipated and spent and becomes like an orchard open on all sides, the fruit whereof is not for the owner but for the passers-by.”

Constraint or servility is “a certain lack of liberty owing to which the mind is overwhelmed with vexation or anger when we cannot carry out our designs, even though we might be doing something better.”

St. Francis illustrates these two vices with this example: “I resolve to make a meditation every morning. Now if I have the spirit of instability or dissipation I am apt to defer it until evening for the most insignificant reason,—because I was kept awake by the barking of a dog, or because I have a letter to write, although it be not at all pressing. If on the contrary I have the spirit of constraint or servility I will not give up my meditation even though a sick person has great need of my aid just then, or if I have an important and urgent dispatch to send which should not be deferred.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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