How St. Francis de Sales won over a malicious creditor with patience and charity

February 26, 2022 • 3 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 193
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

I will now relate some other instances of Blessed Francis’ extraordinary gentleness and of its softening effect upon others.

He had made himself surety for a considerable sum of money for one of his friends, who, at the time when payment was due, happened to be in Piedmont levying troops for the service of His Highness the Duke of Savoy.

The creditor becoming impatient for the discharge of the debt, applied to the good Bishop, and insisted upon his making the money good, paying no attention whatever either to his gentle remonstrances, or to his assurances that the debtor, though unable at present to leave his troops, would do so as soon as was consistent with his duty to his Prince and his country, and that meantime his regular payment of the interest, and the knowledge that he was worth a hundred times more than the sum owing, ought surely to satisfy the creditor.

Blessed Francis remained perfectly calm and unmoved amid the storm of invectives and reproaches that followed this remonstrance, and which were accompanied by furious demands reiterated again and again, that he himself as surety should repay the money.

At last, speaking with incredible gentleness, the Saint said:

Son, I am your Pastor. Can you as one of my flock, have the heart to take the bread out of my mouth in place of helping to feed me? You know that I am much straitened in circumstances, and have really only barely enough for my maintenance. I have never had in my possession the sum which you demand of me, but for which, out of charity, I made myself surety: do you wish to seize for it my goods, rather than those of the real debtor? Well, if so, I have some patrimony. I give it up to you: there is my furniture. Turn it all out into the public square, and sell it. I put myself absolutely into your hands to do as you please. I only ask of you to love me for God’s sake, and not to offend Him in any way by anger, hatred, or scandal. If you will do this I am content.

The only reply to this was a fresh outburst of furious invectives and accusations, to which our Blessed Father replied with unalterable serenity:

Sir, since my indiscretion in making myself surety for my friend is the cause of your anger, I will with all the haste possible do what I can to satisfy you. At the same time, I wish you to know that had you plucked out one of my eyes, I would have looked as affectionately at you with the other, as at the dearest friend I have in the world.

The creditor retired, covered indeed with confusion, but still muttering injurious words, and calling the holy Bishop a hypocrite, a bigot, and the like. Blessed Francis immediately sent an account of the affair to the real debtor, who came as quickly as was possible and at once discharged the debt. The creditor, full of shame and repentance, hastened to ask pardon of our Blessed Father, and he, receiving the prodigal with open arms, treated him ever afterwards with special tenderness, calling him his friend regained.

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