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Of sadness

5 min • Digitized on July 26, 2021

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 241
By St. Francis de Sales

Of Sadness.

“The sadness that is according to God,” says St. Paul, “worketh penance steadfast unto salvation; but the sadness of the world worketh death.” (2 Cor. vii.) Sadness, then, may be good or evil, according to its different effects.

It is true it produces more evil than good ones, for it has only two that are good, compassion and repentance; but it has six that are evil, namely, anxiety, sloth, indignation, jealousy, envy, and impatience, which caused the wise man to say, “Sadness kills many, and there is no profit in it” (Ecclus. xxx. 25), because for two good streams which flow from the source of sadness there are six very evil ones.

The enemy makes use of sadness to tempt the just; for as he endeavours to make the wicked rejoice in their sins, so he strives to make the good grieve in their good works; and as he can only induce persons to commit evil by making it appear agreeable, so he can only divert us from good by making it appear disagreeable.

The prince of darkness is pleased with sadness and melancholy, because he is and shall be sad and melancholy to all eternity; therefore he desires that everyone may belike himself.

The sadness which is evil troubles and perplexes the soul, causes inordinate fears, gives a distaste to prayer, stupefies and oppresses the brain, robs the mind of counsel, resolution, judgment, and courage, and destroys its strength.

In a word, it is like a severe winter that destroys all the beauty of the country, and kills very many animals; for it takes away all sweetness from the soul, and renders her disabled in all her faculties.

If you should at any time be seized with this evil kind of sadness, Philothea, apply the following remedies:

“Is anyone sad,” says St. James, “let him pray.” Prayer is a sovereign remedy, for it lifts up the spirit to God, our only joy and consolation. But in praying, let your words and affections, whether interior or exterior, always tend to a lively confidence in the divine goodness; use prayers such as, “O God of mercy, O infinite goodness, O my sweet Saviour, O God of my heart, my joy, and my hope, O my dear Spouse, the well-beloved of my soul,” &c.

Oppose vigorously the least inclination to sadness; and although it may seem that all you do at that time is performed with tepidity and sloth, you must nevertheless persevere; for the enemy, who seeks by sadness to make us weary of good works, seeing that we do not cease to do them, but even continue them in spite of his opposition, and that thus they become more meritorious, will cease to trouble you any longer.

Sing spiritual canticles, for the devil, by this means, has often desisted from his operations; witness the evil spirit by which Saul was afflicted, whose violence was repressed by such music.

It is also necessary we should employ ourselves in exterior works, and vary them as much as possible, in order to divert the soul from the melancholy object, and to purify and warm the spirits, sadness being a passion of a cold and dry character.

Perform external actions of fervour, although you may do them without the least relish: such as embracing the crucifix, pressing it close to your breast, kissing the feet and the hands, lifting up your eyes and your hands to heaven, raising your voice to God, by words of love and confidence, like these: “My beloved is mine, and I am his. My beloved is to me a bouquet of myrrh. My eyes have fainted after Thee, O my God.” Say also: “When wilt Thou comfort me? O Jesus, be Thou Jesus to me. Live, sweet Jesus, and my soul shall live. Who shall ever separate me from the love of my God?” and such like.

The moderate use of the discipline is also good against sadness, because this voluntary exterior affliction begets interior consolation, and the soul, feeling pain without, diverts herself from the pain within.

But frequent communion is the best remedy, because that heavenly bread strengthens the heart and rejoices the spirit.

Make known all the feelings, affections, and suggestions which proceed from your sadness, humbly and faithfully to your confessor.

Seek the conversation of devout persons, and frequent their company as much as you can.

In a word, resign yourself into the hands of God, preparing yourself to suffer this troublesome sadness with patience, as a just punishment of your vain joys, and doubt not but God will deliver you from this evil.

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