We must purify ourselves from all affection to venial sins

October 10, 2021 • 5 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 41
By St. Francis de Sales


We must purify ourselves from all affection to venial sins.

As the daylight increases, we see more clearly in a mirror the spots and blemishes on our face; even so, as the inward light of the Holy Ghost more and more illumines our consciences, we see more plainly and distinctly the sins, the inclinations, and imperfections, which hinder us from attaining to true devotion; and the very same light which causes us to discover those spots and deformities, inflames us likewise with a desire to cleanse ourselves from them.

Thou shalt then discover, Philothea, that besides mortal sins, and the affections to them, from which, by the aforementioned exercises, you have been purged, there remain yet in your soul various inclinations and affections to venial sins. I do not say you shall discover in it many venial sins, but affections and inclinations to them.

Now the one is far different from the other; for we can never be free altogether from venial sins for any long time, but we may, by the grace of God, destroy within us all affection for venial sins; for it is one thing to lie once or twice in matters of small importance, and another thing to take pleasure in lying, and to have a liking for that sin.

I say, then, that it is necessary to purge the soul from all affections and inclinations to venial sins, that is to say, we must not nourish voluntarily a will to continue and persevere in any kind of venial sin: for it would be a great want of fidelity and most culpable cowardice to keep willingly in our conscience a thing so hateful to God as the will to displease Him.

Venial sin, be it ever so little, displeases God, though not to so great a degree that He will reject or damn us for it. If, then, venial sin displeases Him, the will to commit it is no other than a resolution to displease his divine majesty: and is it possible that a generous soul should not only displease its God, but even take pleasure in displeasing Him?

Such affections, Philothea, are as directly contrary to devotion as affections to mortal sins are to charity; they weaken the strength of the spirit, hinder the course of divine consolations, open a gate to temptations, and though they do not kill the soul, yet they make it exceedingly sick.

“Dying flies,” says the wise man, “mar the sweetness of and remove all its virtue from a precious ointment.” He means that flies, staying not long upon the ointment, but eating it and flying away, spoil no more than they take, the rest remaining good; but when they die in the ointment, they deprive it of its virtue, and leave it worth nothing.

So, venial sins entering into a devout soul, and staying not long there, do not prejudice it much; but if the same sins remain in the soul, by the affection she conceives for them, they make her without doubt lose the sweetness of the ointment—that is, holy devotion.

Spiders do not kill the bees, but they spoil and corrupt their honey, and so entangle their combs with their webs that they cannot proceed with their work—this, be it understood, is when the spiders make their abode among them.

So venial sin does not kill the soul, but it spoils devotion, and infects the powers of the soul with such depraved habits and inclinations that it can no longer exercise charity with promptitude in which devotion consists; but this is to be understood when venial sin makes its abode in our conscience, by the affection we bear it.

It is but a small matter, Philothea, to tell some trivial lie; to exceed a little in words, in actions, in looks, in apparel, in mirth, in play, in dancing, provided that, as soon as the spiritual spiders have entered into our consciences, we chase and hunt them away, as the bees do the spiders which injure their honey; but if we permit them to remain in our hearts, and not only that, but delight to detain and multiply them there, we shall soon find our honey destroyed, and the hive of our conscience spoiled and seriously injured.

But, I say once again, what likelihood is there that a noble soul should take pleasure in displeasing God, and delight in becoming offensive to Him, or desire to do that which she knows to be hateful to Him?

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