The devil doesn’t fear our austerities or mortifications, but our obedience to God

March 6, 2022 • 3 min


From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 207
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


It is far better to mortify the body through the spirit than the spirit through the body. To deaden and beat down the body instead of trying to reduce the swelling of an inflated spirit is like pulling back a horse by its tail. It is behaving like Balaam, who beat the ass which carried him, instead of taking heed to the peril which threatened him and which the poor beast was miraculously warning him to avoid.

One of the three first Postulants who entered the Convent of the Visitation, established by me at Belley, left it before taking the novices’ habit being unable to understand how Religious could be holy in an Order in which she saw so few austerities practised. She has since then, however, been disabused of her error, and has repented of it.

At that time she was under the guidance of those who considered that holiness consisted in mortifications in respect of food and clothing: as if the stings of the flesh cease to be felt when you no longer eat of it, and as if you could not be temperate over partridges and gluttonous over cabbages.

Our Blessed Father, writing to a novice in one of his convents who was perplexed on this subject, says:

The devil does not trouble himself much about us if, while macerating our bodies, we are at the same time doing our own will, for he does not fear austerity but obedience.

What greater austerity can there be than to keep our will in subjection and in continual obedience. Reassure yourself then, O lover of voluntary penance, if, indeed, the works of self-love deserve to be called penances! When you took the habit after many prayers and much consideration, it was thought good that you should enter the school of obedience and renunciation of your own will rather than remain the sport of your own judgment and of yourself.

Do not then let yourself be shaken, but remain where our Lord has placed you. It is true that there you suffer great mortifications of heart, seeing yourself so imperfect and so deserving of reproof and correction, but is not this the very thing you ought to seek, mortification of heart and a continual sense of your own misery? Yet, you say, you cannot do such penance as you would. My dear daughter, tell me what better penance can be given to an erring heart than to bear a continual cross and to be always renouncing self-love?

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