How St. Francis de Sales obeyed superiors and encouraged others to do the same

January 12, 2022 • 3 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 127
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

AN INSTANCE OF OUR SAINT’S OBEDIENCE.

On one occasion, when the Duke of Savoy, being pressed by many urgent public needs, had obtained from the Pope a Brief empowering him to levy contributions on the Church property in his dominions, Blessed Francis, finding some slackness and unwillingness on the part of the beneficed clergy of the diocese to yield obedience to this order, when he had called them together to settle what was to be done, spoke with just indignation. He cried:

"What! gentlemen, is it for us to question and reason when two sovereigns concur in issuing the same command? Is it for us, I say, to scrutinize their counsels, and ask, Why are you acting thus?

Not only to the decrees of sovereign courts, but even to the sentence of the most insignificant judges appointed by God to decide differences in our affairs, we yield deference so far as not to enquire into the motive of their decisions.

And here, where two oracles who have only to render account to God of what orders they give, speak, we set to work to enquire into their motives and reasons as if we were charged to investigate their conduct.

Assuredly, I will take no part in such doings. Our virtue, indeed, lags sadly behind that of those christians—only lay people too—of whom St. Paul said that being wise themselves they gladly suffered bondage, stripes, every sort of ill-usage from the foolish, [2 Cor. xi. 19. 20.] and of whom, in another place, he says that they took with joy the being stripped of their own goods, knowing that they had a better and a lasting substance. [Heb. x. 34.]

And the Apostle, as you know, is speaking to men who had been unjustly despoiled of their whole property by robbers and tyrants, whereas you will not give up a small fraction of yours to assist in the public need of our good Prince, to whose zeal we owe the re-establishment of the Catholic religion in the three divisions of the Chablais, and whose enemies are the adversaries of our faith!

Is not our Order the first of the three estates in a christian kingdom? Is there anything more just than to contribute of our wealth, together with our prayers, towards the defence of our altars, of our lives, and of our peace?

The people are lavishing their substance and the nobility their blood for the same cause. Remember the late wars, and tremble lest your ingratitude and disobedience should plunge you again into similar troubles.

Adding example to precept, he paid so heavy a tax upon a part of his own revenue that none could say he did not practise what he preached, and all those who had ventured to oppose him in the matter were not only effectually silenced, but covered with confusion and put to a just shame.

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