Examples of St. Francis de Sales’ humility.

January 25, 2022 • 3 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 147
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

UPON OUR SAINT’S HUMILITY.

It was of course impossible for Blessed Francis to be ignorant of the high esteem in which his piety was held, not only by his own people, but by all who knew him. This knowledge was, however, as may well be believed, a source of pain to him, and often covered him with confusion. He seldom spoke on the subject, for true humility rarely speaks, even humbly, of itself. Yet on one occasion, when more than usually worried by hearing himself praised, he allowed these words to fall from his lips:

The truth is that these good people with all their eulogiums, and expressions of esteem, are sowing the seed of a bitter fruit for me to gather in the end. When I am dead, imagining that my poor soul has gone straight to Heaven, they will not pray for it, and will leave me languishing in Purgatory. Of what avail then will this high reputation be to me? They are treating me like those animals which suffocate their young by their close pressure and caresses, or like the ivy which drags down the wall it seems to crown with verdure.

I will now give you some examples of his humility. He was sometimes told that people had spoken ill of him. Instead of excusing or defending himself, he would say cheerfully:

Do they say no more than that? Certainly, they cannot know all, they flatter me, they spare me: I see very well that they rather pity than envy me, and that they wish me to be better than I am. Well! God be praised for this, I must correct my faults, for if I do not deserve reproof in this particular matter, I do in some other. It is really a mercy that the correction is given so kindly.

If anyone took up his defence and declared that the whole accusation was false, he would say:

Ah! well, it is a warning to make me careful not to justify it, for surely they are doing me a kindness by calling my attention to the dangers of this rock ahead.

Then, noticing how indignant we all were with the slanderers, he would exclaim:

What, have I given you leave to fly into a passion on my account? Let them talk—it is but a storm in a teacup, a tempest of words that will die away and be forgotten. We must be sensitive indeed if we cannot bear the buzzing of a fly! Who has told us that we are blameless? Possibly these people see our faults better than we see them ourselves, and better than those who love us do. When truths displease us, we often call them slanders. What harm do others do us by having a bad opinion of us? We ought to have a bad opinion of ourselves. Such persons are not our adversaries, but rather our allies, since they enlist themselves on our side in the battle against our self-love. Why be angry with those who come to our aid against so powerful an enemy?

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