A Saint’s Love of his Enemies

July 6, 2021 • 6 min

From Mystical Explanation of the Canticle of Canticles, and Canonization Deposition of St. Francis de Sales, page 163
By St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal

July 31, at seven o’clock in the morning, she gave her answer to the thirty-fourth point as follows:

It is well known that our Blessed Founder had a most cordial and charitable love for his enemies. He showed it practically by rendering good for evil to them whenever it was possible, as I have already shown in the chapter on patience.

He often said, when exposed to various kinds of persecution, that if his tormentors had torn out one of his eyes he would have looked at them afterwards just as kindly as if they had done him no injury; adding that it was a simple duty to do this since Our Lord Himself commanded it.

On one occasion he was told in writing that a certain gentleman had spoken evil of him several times in society; he replied: “I am vexed that he should have done it, because of the scandal given thereby to my neighbour, but for my own part, what can I do but pray for him?”

Another gentleman had a suspicion that the holy Bishop had managed to get a legacy left to our House, which was perfectly untrue. The gentleman went to the Bishop’s own room, and there poured forth a torrent of insulting words, even raising his hand to strike him. Our Blessed Founder, however, showed not the slightest disturbance or indignation on the occasion, and the next day the gentleman, having been greatly touched by his virtue, and ashamed of his own behaviour, came again to him, this time throwing himself on his knees and expressing his deep contrition. Our Blessed Founder received him with his accustomed gentleness and kindliness, and cheerfully forgave him.

When some bitter calumny was cast upon him in a matter in which he was absolutely innocent, he replied to those who told him of it: “I have delivered over all those rough winds to the Providence of God; let them bluster as it pleases Him; tempest and calm are all the same to me. Blessed are ye when they speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for My sake (Matt. v. 11). If the world found nothing to say against us, we should not be really the servants of God. The other day, when I said the name of St. Joseph in the Mass, I remembered the marvellous calmness which he displayed when he knew that his incomparable and Virgin Spouse was about to become a mother, and I commended to him the mind and the speech of these good gentlemen, that he might infuse into them a little of his own sweetness and kindliness. Then presently I recollected that Our Lady, in this perplexity, never said a word, never defended herself, and the Providence of God came to her assistance and delivered her. I therefore commended this matter to God, resolving to leave the care of it to Him and to keep myself calm; indeed what does one get by opposing oneself to the winds and waves? One is only covered with foam! You all trouble yourselves too much about what concerns me; am I to be the only person in the world who is free from opprobrium?”

This which I have just told you is perfectly true. I have it in his own handwriting.

Monsieur le Cure de Viuz, who was called Louis of Geneva, a most virtuous and God-fearing man, told me that he was carrying on a lawsuit for the preservation of the rights of the bishopric against some gentlemen who had threatened it, and this the good Cure was doing by command of our Blessed Founder, who was then at Paris during his last journey. This lawsuit he gained, and costs were also awarded to him. On the return of the Bishop he listened very quietly to the account given him by the Cure of the whole business, and of the threats which had been fulminated against him, and then said: “Do you know, M. le Cure, what we will do? I should like you to go to them, and tell them from me, that I am quite ready to excuse them all past debts, and the costs of the suit, provided that they will, as I beg them to do, recognise for the future the rights of the bishopric.” A fortnight was spent by the good Cure, at the expense of our Blessed Founder, in persuading these gentlemen to accept the courtesy offered them, which at last they did.

For a period of about two years one individual, from time to time, broke out into stinging words of disdain and contempt against the holy Bishop and our Order of the Visitation. He bore it without any complaint, and on one occasion expressed to me in writing his tender affection for this person, in these words: “Ah! how earnestly I wish her well! Truly, I love her exceedingly.” She died, and in a letter again he expressed his grief, and to me alone said: “I wish she had told me that she was sorry. Every day when I am at the holy altar I pray for her.”

I declare again, as I believe it, that this holy Prelate loved his enemies tenderly, doing them all the good that lay in his power; indeed it was commonly said that whoever wanted a favour from this servant of God should do him an injury, for this was his only way of taking revenge.

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