Gifts of God are not virtues, nor to be aspired to

August 13, 2021 • 3 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 97
By St. Francis de Sales

There are certain things which many esteem as virtues, though in reality they are not: I mean ecstasies or raptures, insensibilities, impassibilities, deifical unions, elevations, transformations, and such like perfections, treated of in certain books, which promise to elevate the soul to a contemplation purely intellectual, to the essential application of the spirit to a supernatural life.

But observe well, Philothea, these perfections are not virtues, but rather the recompense of virtue, or small foreshadowings of the happiness of the life to come, which God sometimes grants to men, to make them desire the full possession of it in heaven.

But we must not aspire to such favours, since they are by no means necessary to the serving and loving of God, which ought to be our only pretension; neither are they such as can be obtained by labour and industry, since they are rather passions than actions which we may indeed receive, but cannot produce in ourselves.

We have only undertaken to render ourselves good, devout, and godly; and we must strenuously endeavour to be so; but if it should please God to elevate us to these angelic perfections, we shall then be also good angels in this world.

In the meantime, let us endeavour, humbly and devoutly, to acquire those simple virtues for which our Saviour exhorted us to labour; such as patience, meekness, mortification of the heart, humility, obedience, poverty, chastity, love for our neighbours, bearing with their imperfections, diligence, and holy fervour.

Let us leave those super-eminent favours to elevated souls; we do not merit so high a rank in the service of God: we should be too happy to serve Him in his kitchen or pantry, or to be his domestics in much lower stations.

If He should hereafter think proper to admit us into his cabinet, or privy council, it will be through the excess of his bountiful goodness. Yes, Philothea, the King of Glory does not recompense his servants according to the dignity of the offices they hold, but according to the measure of the love and humility with which they exercise them.

Saul, seeking the asses of his father, found the kingdom of Israel. Rebecca, watering the camels of Abraham, became the spouse of his son. Ruth, gleaning after the reapers of Boaz, and lying down at his feet, was chosen as his wife.

High and elevated pretensions to extraordinary favours are subject to illusion and deceit; and it sometimes happens that those who imagine themselves angels, are not even good men, and that there is more affectation and grandiloquence in their words and expressions than solidity in their manner of thinking and acting.

We must neither despise nor censure anyone, but, blessing God for the supereminence of others, keep ourselves in our lower but safer way, which may be less eminent, but better suited to our insufficiency and littleness: persuaded that, if we conduct ourselves with humility and fidelity in it, God will infallibly elevate us to a position that will be very great indeed.

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