How St. Anselm was obedient to everyone

January 30, 2022 • 4 min

From Practical Piety Set Forth by St Francis de Sales, page 20
By St. Francis de Sales



The first is St. Anselm, who was extremely beloved by every body, during the whole time that he was prior and abbot of his monastery, because he was extremely condescending to the will, not only of the religious, but even of the seculars.

One man would come and say to him, “My father, your reverence ought to take a little of this dish,” and he would take some. Another would say to him, “My father, that will do you harm,” and he would at once give up eating it. He thus submitted himself, in whatever was not offensive to God, to the will of his brethren, and even of seculars, who might sometimes, and even often, be following their own inclinations.

Now this great condescension of the saint was not universally approved of, though he was beloved by all, and some persons indeed took upon them to represent to him that he ought not thus to comply with the will of every body, but that, on the contrary, he ought to make the will of others subject to his own.

That great saint said:

Oh, my children, you perchance do not know with what intention I do this. Know that, remembering that our Lord commanded us to do to others what we would wish should be done to us, I could not do otherwise; for I would wish that God should do my will, and therefore I willingly do that of others, in order that it may please my God sometimes to do mine.

I have yet another consideration, which is, that after the expressed will of God, I can know the will of His good pleasure in no better way than by the voice of another; for God does not speak to me, still less does He send me angels to declare that which is His good pleasure. Stones, plants, and animals do not speak. There is, then, only man who can manifest to me the will of my God, and so I attach myself thereto as much as I can; and in obeying men, I think that I obey God, who manifests to me His will by them.

Moreover, God commands us to observe charity with our neighbour, and to maintain union with every body as much as we can. Now I know of no better means for that than to be sweet and condescending. Sweet and humble condescension ought always to float over all our actions.

Besides this, has not our Lord said, that if we do not become as little children, we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven? Do not, then, be astonished if I am sweet and ready to comply like a child, since herein I only do what has been ordered me by my Saviour. It is of no great consequence my doing this or that, going here or staying there; but there would be great imperfection in my not submitting myself in that respect to the will of my neighbour.

See you the great St. Anselm submitting himself in whatever is not against the commandments of God or of His holy Church, or against the rules? for that obedience must always come first. I do not think that if people had wanted him to do any thing against that, he would have done it. Oh, no, in no wise. But that excepted, his general rule was, in things indifferent, to yield in every thing to every body.

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