St. Francis de Sales patiently refuses a demand to bestow a benefice unjustly

March 1, 2022 • 3 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 199
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

Another striking example of patience. A person of some influence and consideration once applied to Blessed Francis asking him to obtain an ecclesiastical preferment for a certain Priest.

The Bishop replied that in the matter of conferring benefices he had, of his free will, tied his own hands, having left the choosing of fitting subjects to the decision of a board of examiners, who were to recommend the person to be appointed after due examination of the merits and talents of the candidates. As for himself, he said, he simply presided over the meeting. Should, however, the gentleman’s friend present himself as a candidate, he, the Bishop, would promise to bear the recommendation in mind.

The petitioner felt piqued at this answer, and quite losing his temper, replied to the Bishop in the most disrespectful and even insulting manner. The gentle firmness with which his anger was met only infuriated him the more, and he eventually lost all command over himself. It was in vain that the Bishop tried to soothe him by proposing to examine the claimant privately. This had no effect.

The Saint then said gently but gravely:

Do you then wish me to give the charge of my sheep blindfolded and to the first comer? Ask yourself if there is reasonableness in such a request as you are making?

But not even this appeal to his reason turned the flood of the man’s wrath, and he quitted the Bishop’s presence in a passion of disrespect impossible to describe. A most excellent Priest who had been in the room all through the interview asked the Bishop, after the departure of his impudent visitor, how he could bear such treatment with the patience he showed.

Well, (he answered,) it was not he himself that spoke, it was his passion. After all he is one of my best friends, and you will see that my silence on this occasion will only make our friendship the stronger.

More than this. Has not God from all eternity foreseen that these insults would be offered to me to-day, and foreseen, too, that He would bestow on me such grace as would enable me to bear them joyfully? Should I not drain the chalice held to my lips by the hands of so loving a Father? Oh! how sweet is this inebriating cup, offered to me by a hand which from my infancy I have learnt to adore.

“But,” returned the Priest, “were not your feelings stirred at all by this treatment?”

Well, (replied the Bishop,) I tried to overcome them by fixing my thoughts on the good qualities of the man whose friendship I have so long and so happily enjoyed. Then, too, I hope that when this storm in a tea-cup has subsided and the clouds of passion have lifted, my friend will come back to me with peace in his heart and serenity on his countenance.

Nor was the Saint’s expectation disappointed. His friend did come back, and with many tears begged his forgiveness; a forgiveness which was, you may be sure, granted so fully and with such loving readiness as to increase the fervour and sincerity of their old and mutual affection.

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