Discerning true from false consolations

July 30, 2021 • 2 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 248
By St. Francis de Sales

But you will perhaps ask me, since there are sensible consolations which are good, because they come from God, and others unprofitable, dangerous, and even pernicious, that proceed either from nature or from the enemy, how shall I be able to distinguish the one from the other, or know those that are evil or unprofitable from those that are good?

It is a general doctrine, Philothea, with regard to the affections and passions of our souls, that we must know them by their fruits. Our hearts are the trees; the affections and passions are the branches; and their words or actions are the fruit.

The heart is good which has good affections, and those affections and passions are good which produce in us good effects and holy actions. If these sweetnesses, tendernesses, and consolations, make us more humble, patient, tractable, charitable, and compassionate towards our neighbour; more fervent in mortifying our concupiscences and evil inclinations; more constant in our exercises; more pliant and submissive to those whom we ought to obey; more sincere and upright in our lives, then, Philothea, they proceed, without doubt, from God.

But if these consolations have no sweetness but for ourselves; if they make us inquisitive, harsh, quarrelsome, impatient, obstinate, haughty, presumptuous, and rigorous towards our neighbour; cause us to imagine ourselves to be little saints already, and to disdain to be any longer subject to direction or correction; they are then, beyond all doubt, false and pernicious, for a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit.

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