St. Francis de Sales on Resignation

The editor of Light and Peace adds some relevant thoughts from St. Francis de Sales on the subject of resignation to the will of God.

St. Francis “gives us some sublime lessons in resignation applied to the trials and temptations that beset the spiritual life. He draws them from this great and simple thought that serves as foundation for the Exercises of Saint Ignatius, namely, that salvation being the sole object of our existence, and all the attendant circumstances of life but means for attaining it, nothing has any absolute value; and that the only way of forming a true estimate of things is to consider in how far they are calculated to advance or retard the end in view. Accordingly, what difference does it make if we attain this end by riches or poverty, health or sickness, spiritual consolation or aridity, by the esteem or contempt of our fellow-men? So say faith and reason; but human nature revolts against this indifference, as it is well it should, else how could we acquire merit?”

“Would to God,” says St. Francis, “that we did not concern ourselves so much about the road whereon we journey, but rather would keep our eyes fixed on our Guide and upon that blessed country whither He is conducting us. What should it matter to us if it be through deserts or pleasant fields that we walk, provided God be with us and we be advancing towards heaven?”

St. Francis explains: “For God in his infinite goodness sometimes sees fit to test our courage and love by depriving us of the things which it seems to us would be advantageous to our souls; and if he finds us very earnest in their pursuit, yet humble, tranquil and resigned to do without them if he wishes us to, he will give us more blessings than we should have had in the possession of what we craved. God loves those who at all times and in all circumstances can say to him simply and heartily: Thy will be done.”

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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Why God Troubles Us

Padre Quadrupani now discusses the disconcerting reality that God, Who we believe loves us more than we can imagine, nonetheless allows trials and tribulations to befall us.

First, the Padre states what seems like an impossibility: “Not only is it God who sends or permits our troubles, but He does so for the good of our souls and for our spiritual progress.” And he adds:”Do not, then, make a matter of complaint that which should be a motive for gratitude.”

To explain, Quadrupani turns to his favorite spiritual guide: “St. Francis de Sales says that the happiness of those who have reached their destination consists in the possession of God: to suffer for the love of Him is the only true happiness which those still on the way can expect to attain. Our Lord declared that those who mourn during this exile are blessed, for they shall be consoled eternally in their celestial fatherland.”

Quadrupani adds: “Notice that I say, to suffer for the love of God, for, as Saint Augustine remarks, no person can love suffering in itself. That is contrary to nature, and moreover, there would no longer be any suffering if we could accept it with natural relish.”

“But a resigned soul loves to suffer, that is, she loves the virtue of patience and ardently desires the merits that result from the practice of it. A calm and submissive longing to be delivered from our cross if such be the will of God is not inconsistent with the most perfect resignation. This desire is a natural instinct which supernatural grace regulates, moderates, and teaches us to control, but which it never entirely destroys.”

“Our divine Saviour Himself, to show that He was truly man, was pleased to feel it as we do, and prayed that the chalice of His Passion might be spared Him. Hence you are not required to be stolidly indifferent or to arm yourself with the stern insensibility of the Stoics; that would not be either resignation, or humility, or any virtue whatsoever. The essential thing is to suffer with Christian patience and generous resignation everything that is naturally displeasing to us. This is what both reason and faith prescribe.”

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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Resignation to God’s Will

In these excerpts, we hear Padre Quadrupani make the case for having complete trust in God, Who lovingly cares for us.

“We should recognize and adore the will of God in everything that happens to us. The malice of men, nay of the devil himself, can cause nothing to befall us except what is permitted by God. Our divine Lord has declared that not a hair of our heads can fall unless by the will of our Heavenly Father (Matt 10:30).”

“Therefore in every condition painful to nature, whether you are afflicted by sickness, assailed by temptations, or tortured by the injustice of men, consider the divine will and say to God with a loving and submissive heart: Thy will be done: O my Saviour, do with me what Thou willest, as Thou willest, and when Thou willest.”

And here the Padre shows how our complete trust in God benefits us: “By this means we render supportable the severest pain and the most trying circumstances. . . . Like unto the wood shown to Moses, that drew from the water all its bitterness, it sweetens whatever is bitter in our lives.”

“Without this practice, so comformable to faith, and without the light and strength that result from it, the pains and afflictions of life would become unbearable. This is what Saint Philip de Neri meant when he said: ‘It rests with man to place himself even in this life either in heaven or in hell: he who suffers tribulations with patience enjoys celestial peace in advance; he who does not do so has a foretaste of the torments of hell.'”

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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Praise and Humility

Padre Quadrupani and his favorite spiritual guide, St. Francis de Sales, offered practical, feasible spiritual advice. They knew of what substance we are made and made their recommendations accordingly. One such case is this: we have a natural tendency to manifest the good in us. In the following, Padre Quadrupani shows how this is not necessarily opposed to humility.

“Praise is naturally more pleasing to us than censure. There is nothing sinful in this preference, for it springs from an instinct of our human nature of which we cannot entirely divest ourselves. Only the praise must be always referred to Him to whom it is due, that is to say, to God; for they are His gifts that are praised in us as we are but their bearers and custodians and shall one day have to render Him an account for them in accordance with their value.”

“The soul that is most humble will also have the greatest courage and the most generous confidence in God; the more it distrusts itself, the more it will trust in Him on whom it relies for all its strength, saying with Saint Paul: ‘I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me’ (Phil 4:13).”

“Saint Thomas clearly proves that true Christian humility, far from debasing the soul, is the principle of everything that is really noble and generous. He who refuses the work to which God calls him because of the honor and eclat that accompany it, is not humble but mistrustful and pusillanimous. We shall find in obedience light to show us with certainty that to which we are called and to preserve us from the illusions of self-love and of our natural inclinations.”

“It is even good and sometimes necessary to make known the gifts we have received from God and the good works of which divine grace has made us the instruments, when this manifestation can conduce to the glory of His name, the welfare of the Church, or the edification of the faithful. It was for this threefold object that Saint Paul spoke of his apostolic labors and supernatural revelations.”

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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True Humility

Padre Quadrupani expresses regret that few people, it seems, have a correct idea of the virtue of humility. He notices that humility is frequently confused with servility or littleness. Here is how to discern true humility from these latter misconceptions:

“When a Christian who is truly humble commits a fault he repents but is not disquieted. . . . He thanks God on the contrary that his fall has not been more serious. Thus Saint Catherine of Genoa, whenever she found she had been guilty of some imperfection, would calmly exclaim: ‘Another weed from my garden!’ This peaceful contemplation of our sinfulness was considered very important by Saint Francis de Sales also, for he says: ‘Let us learn to bear with our imperfections if we wish to attain perfection, for this practice nourishes the virtue of humility.'”

“Some persons have the erroneous idea that in order to be humble they must not recognize in themselves any virtue or talent whatsoever. The reverse is the case according to Saint Thomas, for he says it is necessary to realize the gifts we have received that we may return thanks for them to Him from whom we hold them. To ignore them is to fail in gratitude towards God, and to neglect the object for which He gave them to us. All that we have to do is to avoid the folly of taking glory to ourselves because of them.”

The Padre offers this memorable analogy: “Mules, asses and donkeys may be laden with gold and perfumes and yet be none the less dull and stupid animals. The graces we have received, far from giving us any personal claims, only serve to increase our debt to Him who is their source and their donor.”

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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In the World, Not of the World

None of us has a choice in this: we are in the world, and we are all in it together. But each of us has a choice to be or not to be of the world. Here is how St. Francis and four other Franciscans distinguish between being in the world but not of the world:

St. Francis wisely advises: “Never praise a man before his death, because you never can tell how he will end.”

He declares: “Happy he who, when he is honoured and esteemed by men, thinks no more of himself than when he was humbled and despised, because man is what he appears to the eyes of God, and nothing more.” Again, he reminds us: “Know that there are many high and sublime things in the eyes of God which are vile and abject in the esteem of men; while, on the contrary, there are numberless things which men consider grand and beautiful, and which are mean and valueless before God.”

St. Elzear of Sabran remarks: “It ought to be a cause of confusion to us that, being placed on this earth in order to fit ourselves for heaven, we yet think so little of our home, and speak of it so rarely.”

St. Clare of Assisi, therefore, exhorts: “Never forget that the way which leads to heaven is narrow; that the gate leading to life is narrow and low; that there are but few who find it and enter by it; and if there be some who go in and tread the narrow path for some time, there are but very few who persevere therein.”

St. Antony of Padua argues that worldly vices destroy the theological virtue of charity: “Charity is a fire; but three things can extinguish it: the wind of pride, the water of gluttony and luxury, and the thick smoke of avarice.”

The human person is made up of body and spirit. Blessed Egidius of Assisi offers this suggestion on how to manage our affairs: “We have two eyes—the right and left. Let us use the former to contemplate all that is above us, and the latter to manage what is beneath us.”

Quotations from Flowers from the Garden of Saint Francis for Every Day of the Year (London: Burns and Oates, 1882).

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Confidence

Here is advice from Franciscan saints on having confidence in God:

St. Francis of Assisi urges us to have faith in God: “No one ought, by a foolish self-confidence, to take pride in what is within the reach of every sinner. A sinner can fast, pray, weep, mortify his flesh; but there is one thing he cannot do—be faithful to God.”

Likewise, St. Joseph of Cupertino says: “In all temptations, whatever kind they may be, mistrust yourself; cast a look at the crucifix, confide in God, and take courage; God will be faithful to you if you are faithful to Him.”

St. Joseph adds: “Preserve a filial confidence in God, and pray without ceasing. Even he whose prayers are not answered has the merit of having prayed. Thus each one comes from prayer enriched with God’s graces.”

St. Pascal Baylon says of confidence in prayer: “God being willing to give us all we want, we ought always to pray with entire confidence. God waits for us to ask Him, and even inspires us to ask for His help.”

St. Catherine of Bologna insists: “We must confide in God, with the hope that He will deign to give us the abundance of His divine grace, by which we shall obtain a complete victory over our enemies, knowing that He never abandons those who trust in Him.”

When St. Francis was dying, he said this to the friars about him: “Always remain and persevere in the fear of God. And because trouble and temptation approach, happy are those who shall persevere to the end in the work they have undertaken. As for me, I am going to God, to Whose care I confide you.”

Quotations from Flowers from the Garden of Saint Francis for Every Day of the Year (London: Burns and Oates, 1882).

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