We must love God, not fear him

December 4, 2021 • 2 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 55


You know very well how Blessed Francis valued charity, but I will give you, nevertheless, some more of his teaching on this great subject.

To a holy soul who had placed herself under his direction, he said:

We must do all things from love, and nothing from constraint. We must love obedience rather than fear disobedience.

I leave you the spirit of liberty: not such as excludes Obedience, for that is the liberty of the flesh, but such as excludes constraint, scruples, and over-eagerness.

However much you may love obedience and submission, I wish you to suspend for the moment the work in which obedience has engaged you whenever any just or charitable occasion for so doing occurs. This omission will be a species of obedience. Fill up its measure by charity.

From this spirit of holy and christian liberty originated the saying so often to be met with in his letters: “Keep your heart in peace.” That is to say: Beware of hurry, anxiety, and bitterness of heart. These he called the ruin of devotion.

He was even unwilling that people should meditate upon the great truths of Death, Judgment and Hell, unless they at the same time reassured themselves by the remembrance of God’s love for them.

Speaking to a holy soul, he says:

Meditation on the four last things will be useful to you provided that you always end with an act of confidence in God. Never represent to yourself Death or Hell on the one side unless the Cross is on the other; so that when your fears have been excited by the one you may with confidence turn for help to the other.

The one point on which he chiefly insisted was that we must fear God from love, not love God from fear. He used to say:

To love Him from fear is to put gall into our food and to quench our thirst with vinegar; but to fear Him from love is to sweeten aloes and wormwood.

Assuredly, our own experience convinces us that it is difficult to love those whom we fear, and that it is impossible not to fear with a filial and reverent fear those whom we love.

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