Advice of St. Francis de Sales on how to love God better

December 1, 2021 • 4 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 51
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

You ask me, my sisters, how we can discover whether or not we are making any progress towards perfection. I cannot do better than consult our oracle, Blessed Francis, and answer you in his own words, taken from his eighth Conference.

We can never know what perfection we have reached, for we are like those who are at sea; they do not know whether they are making progress or not, but the pilot knows, knowing the course.

So we cannot estimate our own advancement, though we may that of others, for we dare not assure ourselves when we have done a good action that we have done it perfectly—humility forbids us to do so.

Nay, even were we able to judge of the virtues of others, we must never determine in our minds that one person is better than another, because appearances are deceitful, and those who seem very virtuous outwardly and in the eyes of creatures, may be less so in the sight of God than others who appear much more imperfect.

I have often heard him say that the multiplicity of means proposed for advancement towards perfection frequently delays the progress of souls.

They are like travellers uncertain of the way, and who seeing many roads branching off in different directions stay and waste their time by enquiring here and there which of them they ought to take in order to reach their journey’s end.

He advised people to confine themselves rather to some special Spiritual exercise or virtue, or to some well-chosen book of piety—for example, to the exercise of the presence of God, or of submission to His will, or to purity of intention, or some similar exercise.

Among books, he recommended chiefly:

And such like.

Among the virtues, as you know well, his favourites were gentleness and humility, charity—without which others are of no value—being always pre-supposed.

On this subject of advancement towards perfection, he speaks thus in the ninth of his Conferences:

If you ask me, “What can I do to acquire the love of God?” I answer, Will; i.e., try to love Him; and instead of setting to work to find out how you can unite your soul to God, put the thing in practice by a frequent application of your mind to Him. I assure you that you will arrive much more quickly at your end by this means than in any other way.

For the more we pour ourselves out the less recollected we shall be, and the less capable of union with the Divine Majesty, who would have all we are without reserve.

He continues:

One actually finds souls who are so busy in thinking how they shall do a thing that they have no time to do it. And yet, in what concerns our perfection, which consists in the union of our soul with the Divine Goodness, there is no question of knowing much; but only of doing.

Again, in the same Conference, he says:

It seems to me that those of whom we ask the road to Heaven are very right in answering us as those do who tell us that, in order to reach such a place, we must just go on putting one foot before the other, and that by this means we shall arrive where we desire.

Walk ever, we say to those souls so desirous of their perfection, walk in the way of your vocation with simplicity, more intent on doing than on desiring. That is the shortest road.

He adds:

And in aspiring to union with the Beloved, there is no other secret than to do what we aspire to—that is, to labour faithfully in the exercise of Divine love.

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