We may pause our sacrifices to fulfill brotherly love and to conceal our virtues

March 9, 2022 • 4 min

#Penance #Morals

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 211
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


1 The Saint is here speaking of fasts of devotion, not of those of obligation.—[Ed.]

One day when we were talking about that holy liberty of spirit of which he thought so highly, as being one of the great aids to charity, Blessed Francis told me the following anecdote, which is a most practical illustration of his feelings on the subject.

He had been visited by a Prelate, whom, with his accustomed hospitality and kindness, he pressed to remain with him for several days. When Friday evening came, our Blessed Father went to the Prelate’s room inviting him to come to supper, which was quite ready.

“Supper!” cried his guest. “This is not a day for supper! Surely, the least one can do is to fast once a week!” Our holy Bishop at once left him to do as he pleased, desiring the servants to take his collation to his room, while he himself joined the chaplains of the Prelate and his own household at the supper table.

The chaplains told him that this Prelate was so exact and punctilious in discharging all his religious exercises, of prayer, fasting, and such like, that he never abated one of them, whatever company he might have. Not that he refused to sit down to table with his visitors on fast days, but that he ate nothing but what was permitted by the rule he had imposed on himself.

Our Blessed Father, after telling me this, went on to say that condescension was the daughter of charity, just as fasting is the sister of obedience; and that where obedience did not impose the sacrifice, he would have no difficulty in preferring condescension and hospitality to fasting. The lives of the Saints furnish frequent examples of this. Above all, Scripture assures us, that by hospitality some have merited to receive Angels; from which declaration St. Paul takes occasion to exhort the faithful not to forget liberality and hospitality, as sacrifices well pleasing to God. [Heb xiii. 2, 16.]

Remember, (he said,) that we must not be so deeply attached to our religious exercises, however pious, as not to be ready sometimes to give them up. For, if we cling to them too tightly, under the pretext of fidelity and steadfastness, a subtle self-love will glide in among them, making us forget the end in the means, and then, instead of pressing on, nor resting till we rest in God Himself, we shall stop short at the means which lead to Him.

As regards the occurrence of which I have been telling you, one Friday’s fast, thus interrupted, would have concealed many others; and to conceal such virtues is no less a virtue than those which are so concealed. God is a hidden God, who loves to be served, prayed to, and adored in secret, as the Gospel testifies. [Matt. vi. 6.] You know what happened to that unthinking king of Israel, who, for having displayed his treasures to the ambassadors of a barbarian prince, was deprived of them all, when that same heathen king descended upon him with a powerful army.

The practice of the virtue of condescension or affability may often with profit be substituted for fasting. I except, however, the case of a vow, for in that we must be faithful even to death, and care nothing about what men may say, provided that God is served. They that please men have been confounded, because God hath despised them. [Psalm lii. 6.]

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