How True Widows must Live in Devotion

September 4, 2021 • 5 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 215
By St. Francis de Sales

The widow that has children, who stand in need of her assistance and guidance, principally in what relates to their soul and their establishment in life, ought not on any account abandon them; for the Apostle Paul says clearly, that they are obliged to take care of their children, that they may make a like return to their parents (Tim. ii. 1), and those who have no solicitude for those that belong to them, and especially for their own family, are worse than infidels.

But if the children are in such a state as to stand in no need of her guidance, then the widow should gather together all her affections and thoughts, to apply them more purely to her own advancement in the love of God.

If some absolute necessity does not oblige the conscience of the true widow to external troubles, such as lawsuits, I counsel her to avoid them altogether, and to follow that method in managing her affairs which appears the most peaceable and quiet, although it may not seem the most advantageous. ​For the advantages to be reaped from worldly troubles must be very great, if they are to bear any comparison with the happiness of a holy tranquillity.

Moreover, disputes and lawsuits distract the heart, and often open a gate to the enemies of the soul, while to please those whose favour they stand in need of, they are forced to adopt such behaviour as is neither suitable to devotion, nor pleasing to God.

Let prayer be the widow’s continual exercise; for seeing that she ought now to have no other love but for God, she should, by the same rule, have scarcely any words but for God.

Her heart, which could not well give itself up entirely to God, nor follow the attraction of his divine love, during the life of her husband, ought immediately after his death to run ardently after the sweet odour of the heavenly perfumes, saying, in imitation of the heavenly Spouse: O Lord, now that I am all my own, receive me so that 1 may be all thine: “Draw me after Thee, we will run after the odour of thy ointment.”

The virtues proper for the exercise of a holy widow, are perfect modesty, a renunciation of honours, ranks, assemblies, titles, and of all such vanities; serving the poor and sick, comforting the afflicted, instructing girls in a devout life, and making themselves perfect patterns of all virtues to young women.

Cleanliness and plainness should be the ornaments of their dress; humility and charity the ornaments of their actions; courtesy and mildness the ornaments of their speech; modesty and purity the ornaments of their eyes; and Jesus Christ crucified the only love of their heart.

In fine, the true widow should be in the Church like a little violet of March, and send forth an incomparable sweetness by the odour of her devotion, and almost always keep herself concealed under the broad leaves of her humility; since by her dress, rather dark than bright in colour, she testifies her mortification.

She grows in cool and uncultivated places, not willing to be importuned with the conversation of worldlings, the better to preserve the coolness of her heart against all the heats which the desire of riches, of honours, or even of vain love might bring upon her. “She shall be blessed,” says the holy apostle, “if she continue in this manner” (1 Cor. vii. 8).

I could say a great many other things upon this subject; but I shall have said enough in advising the widow who is solicitous for the honour of her condition to read attentively the excellent epistles which the great St. Jerome wrote to Furia, to Salvia, and to other ladies who were so happy as to be the spiritual children of so great a father; for nothing can be added to that which he says, except this one admonition:

That the true widow ought never to blame or censure those who marry a second, or even a third or fourth time; for in some cases God so disposes with regard to them for his greater glory; and that she must always have before her eyes this doctrine of the ancients, that neither widowhood nor virginity have any place or rank in heaven but that which is assigned to them by humility.

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