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This Book is Written with Fatherly Love and Attention

3 min • Digitized on September 11, 2021

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page n13
By St. Francis de Sales

In this capricious age I foresee that many will say: “It belongs only to religious to give particular directions concerning piety, since they have more leisure than a bishop can have, who is charged with a diocese so heavy as mine is; that such an undertaking too much distracts the understanding, which should be employed in affairs of importance.”

But I say to thee, dear reader, with the great St. Denis, that it belongs principally to bishops to conduct souls to perfection, since their order is as supreme among men as that of the seraphim is among the angels; so that their leisure cannot be better employed.

The ancient bishops and fathers of the Church, it must be granted, were at least as careful of their charge as we are; yet they did not decline to superintend the particular conduct of several souls who had recourse to their assistance, as appears by their epistles; in this they imitated the apostles, who, amidst the general harvest of the world, picked up certain remarkable ears of corn with a special and particular affection.

Who is ignorant that Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Onesimus, St. Thecla, and Appia, were the dear pupils of the great St. Paul; as St. Mark and St. Petronilla were of St. Peter?—St. Petronilla, I say, who, as Baronius and Galonius learnedly prove, was not St. Peter’s real, but only his spiritual daughter. And does not St. John write one of his canonical epistles to the devout Lady Electa?

It is painful, I confess, to direct souls in particular; but it is a pain that gives comfort, like that which is felt by the labourers in the harvest and vintage; who are never better pleased than when they have most to do, and when their burdens are the heaviest.

It is a labour which refreshes and revives the heart, by the sweet delights it brings to those that are engaged therein, as the cinnamon does to those that carry it through Arabia Felix.

It is said that when the tigress finds one of her whelps, which the huntsman leaves in her way to amuse her, whilst he carries off the rest of the litter, she loads herself with it, be it ever so big, and yet does not feel herself more heavy, but rather lighter in the course she makes to leave it safe in her den, natural love making her burden more easy: how much more willingly, then, will a fatherly heart take charge of a soul in which he has found a desire for holy perfection; carrying it in his bosom as a mother does her little child, without being oppressed by so beloved a burden!

But this must be indeed a fatherly heart; and therefore the apostles, and apostolic men, call their disciples not only their children, but still, more tenderly, their little children.

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