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How to properly respond to heavenly consolations

4 min • Digitized on August 7, 2021

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 248
By St. Francis de Sales

Whenever we experience these consolations we must humble ourselves exceedingly before God, and beware of saying: “Oh, how good am I!” No, Philothea, these consolations, as I have already said, cannot make us the better: devotion does not consist in them; but let us say: “O how good is God to such as hope in Him, to the soul that seeks Him!”

  1. As he that has sugar in his mouth cannot say that his mouth is sweet, but that the sugar is sweet; so, although this spiritual sweetness is excellent, and though God, who gives it, is most good, yet it does not follow that he who receives it is also good.

  2. Let us acknowledge ourselves to be as yet but little children, who have need of milk; and that these sweetmeats are given to us because our tender and delicate spirits have need of bribes and allurements to entice us to the love of God.

  3. Let us afterwards humbly accept of these extraordinary graces and favours, and esteem them, not so much on account of their excellence, as because it is the hand of God which puts them into our hearts, as a mother would do who, the more to please her child, puts the sweetmeats into its mouth with her own hand, one by one; for if the child has understanding, it sets a greater value on the tenderness of his mother than on their sweetness.

    And thus, Philothea, it is a great matter to taste the sweetness of sensible consolations, but it is infinitely more sweet to consider that it is his most loving and tender hand that puts them, at is were, into our mouth, our heart, our soul, and our spirit.

  4. Having thus received them humbly, let us employ them carefully, according to the intention of the donor. Now to what end, think you, does God give us these sweet consolations? To make us sweet towards everyone, and excite us to love Him.

    The mother gives sweetmeats to her child to induce it to kiss her; let us then embrace our Blessed Saviour, who gives us these sweet things. But to embrace Him is to obey Him, to keep his commandments, do his will, and follow his desires, with a tender obedience and fidelity. Whenever, therefore, we receive any spiritual consolation, we must be more diligent in doing good and in humbling ourselves.

  5. Besides all this, we must, from time to time, renounce those sweet and tender consolations, by withdrawing our heart from them, and love them because God sends them, and because they excite us to his love, yet it is not these we seek, but God Himself, and his holy love; not the consolations, but the Comforter; not their deliciousness, but the sweet Saviour; not their tenderness, but Him who is the delight of heaven and earth.

    It is in this manner we ought to dispose ourselves to persevere in the holy love of God, although throughout our whole life we were never to meet with any consolation; and be ready to say, as well from Calvary as upon Thabor: “O Lord, it is good for me to be with Thee,” whether Thou art upon the cross or in thy glory.

  6. To conclude, I admonish you, that should you experience any great abundance of such consolations, tendernesses, tears, or sweetnesses, you must confer faithfully with your spiritual director, that you may learn how to moderate and behave yourself under them; for it is written: “Hast thou found honey? Eat but as much of it as is sufficient for thee” (Prov. xxv. 16).

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