Examples of how St. Francis de Sales handled fault-finding in others

December 21, 2021 • 3 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 84
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


I was one day complaining to him of certain small land-owners, who having nothing but their gentle birth to boast of, and being as poor as Job, yet set up as great noblemen, and even as princes, boasting of their high birth, of their genealogy, and of the glorious deeds of their ancestors.

I quoted the saying of the wise man, that he hated, among other things, with a perfect hatred the poor proud man, adding that I entirely agreed with him. To boast in the multitude of our riches is natural, but to be vain in our poverty is beyond understanding.

He answered me thus:

What would you have? Do you want these poor people to be doubly poor, like sick physicians, who, the more they know about their disease the more disconsolate they are?

At all events, if they are rich in honours they will think the less of their poverty, and will behave perhaps like that young Athenian, who in his madness considered himself the richest person in his neighbourhood, and being cured of his mental weakness through the kind intervention of his friends, had them arraigned before the judges, and condemned to give him back his pleasant illusion.

What would you have, I repeat? It is in the very nature of nobility to meet the rebuffs of fortune with a cheerful courage; like the palm-tree which lifts itself up under its burden.

Would to God they had no greater failing than this! It is against that wretched and detestable habit of fighting duels that we ought to raise our voice.

Saying this, he gave a profound sigh.

A certain lady had been guilty of a most serious fault, committed, indeed, through mere weakness of character, but none the less scandalous in the extreme.

Our Blessed Father, being informed of what had happened, and having every kind of vehement invective against the unfortunate person poured into his ears, only said:

Human misery! human misery!

And again,

Ah! how we are encompassed with infirmity! What can we do of ourselves, but fail? We should, perhaps, do worse than this if God did not hold us by the right hand, and guide us to His will.

At last, weary of fencing thus, he faced the battle, and the comments on this unhappy fall becoming ever sharper and more emphatic, exclaimed:

Oh! happy fault, of what great good will it not be the cause! This lady’s soul would have perished with many others had she not lost herself. Her loss will be her gain, and the gain of many others.

Some of those who heard this prediction merely shrugged their shoulders. Nevertheless, it was verified. The sinning soul returned to give glory to God, and the community which she had scandalized was greatly edified by her conversion and subsequent good example.

This story reminds me of the words used by the Church in one of her offices. Words in which she calls the sin of Adam thrice happy, since because of it the Redeemer came down to our earth—a fortunate malady, since it brought us the visit of so great a Physician.

Our Blessed Father, says in one of his letters:

Even sins work together for good to those who truly repent of them.

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