How St. Francis de Sales defended his relative poverty against accusations

February 27, 2022 • 4 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 195
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

Again, when he was in Paris in 1619, having gone there with the Cardinal of Savoy, who wished to be present at the marriage of his brother, the Prince of Piedmont, with Madame Christine of France, the King’s sister, our Blessed Father was told that a man of tolerably good position professing the so-called Reformed Religion wished to see him.

Introduced into the Bishop’s apartment, the Protestant, without the smallest sign of reverence, or even courtesy, addressed him in these words:

“Are you what they call the Bishop of Geneva?”

Sir, (replied our holy Prelate,) that is my title, though in that city I am not so much in request as I am in the other parts of the diocese committed to my charge.

"Well, I should just like to know from you, who are regarded everywhere as an apostolic man, whether the Apostles were in the habit of going about in carriages?

Our Blessed Father, in telling me this story, owned that he was somewhat taken aback by the suddenness of this attack! Collecting his thoughts, however, and remembering the case of St. Philip the Deacon, who, though not the Apostle of that name, was undoubtedly an apostolic man, and who went up into the chariot of Queen Candace’s eunuch, he answered quietly that they did so when convenience required it, and the occasion for doing so presented itself.

“I should be very glad,” replied the man, scornfully,““if you could show me that in Scripture.” The Bishop quoted the instance to which we have just referred. His opponent, not noticing the fact of this not being St. Philip the Apostle, retorted, “But this carriage was not his own, it belonged to the eunuch, who invited him to come up into it.”

I never told you, (answered Francis,) that the carriage was his own. I only said that when the oceasion presented itself the first preachers of the Gospel rode in carriages.

“But not in gilded coaches such as yours, sir,” returned the Protestant, “nor drawn by such splendid horses, nor driven by a coachman in such superb livery. Why, the King himself has nothing better! This is what I complain of; and this it is in you which scandalizes me. And you, above all, who play the Saint, and whom the papists look upon as such. Fine Saints, forsooth, who go to Paradise so much at their ease!”

Blessed Francis, seeing at once where the shoe pinched, answered gently,

Alas, sir, the people of Geneva who have seized upon the property belonging to my See have cut me down so close as regards money that I have barely enough to live upon in the most frugal way. As to a carriage, I have never had one, nor money enough to buy one.

“Then that splendid carriage, which is, so to speak, regal, in which I see you every day driving about the city is not your own?” rejoined the antagonist.

Certainly not, (replied the Bishop,) and you are quite right in calling it regal, for it belongs to His Majesty, and is one of those set apart by him for people who, like myself, are mere attendants of the Princes of Savoy. The royal livery worn by the servants ought to have Shown you this!

“Now, indeed,” said the Protestant, "I am satisfied, and I esteem you. I see that you are in the right, and that, notwithstanding, you are humble.

After some further remarks he put some questions as to the birth and manner of life of the Saint, and was so perfectly contented with his replies that he quitted him with expressions of esteem and affection, and ever afterwards held him in the highest respect.

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