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St. Francis de Sales on not judging others

3 min • Digitized on December 22, 2021

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 86
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


Men see the exterior; God alone sees the heart, and knows the inmost thoughts of all. Our Blessed Father used to say that the soul of our neighbour was that tree of the knowledge of good and evil which we are forbidden to touch under pain of severe chastisement; because God has reserved to Himself the judgment of each individual soul. Who art thou, says Sacred Scripture, who judgest thy brother? Knowest thou that wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself? [Rom. ii. 1.]

Who has given thee the hardihood to take upon thyself the office of Him Who has received from the Eternal Father all judgment? That is to say, all power of judging in Heaven and on earth?

He observed that a want of balance of mind, very common among men, leads them to judge of what they do not know, and not to judge of what they do know. They, as St. Jude declares, blaspheme in what they know not, and corrupt themselves in what they know. [St. Jude. 10.] They are blind to what passes in their own homes, but preternaturally clear-sighted to all happening in the houses of others.

Now what is this that a man knows not at all? Surely, the heart; the secret thoughts of his neighbour. And yet how eager is he to dip the fingers of his curiosity in this covered dish reserved for the Great Master.

And what is it that a man knows best of all, or at least ought to know? Surely, his own heart; his own secret thoughts. Nevertheless, he fears to enter into himself, and to stand in his own presence as a criminal before his judge. He dreads above aught besides [or anything else] the implacable tribunal of his own conscience, itself alone more surely convicting than a thousand witnesses.

Our Blessed Father pictures very vividly this kind of injustice in his Philothea, where he says:

It is equally necessary in order to escape being judged that we both judge ourselves, and that we refrain from judging others. Our Lord forbids the latter [St. Matt. viii. 1.] and His Apostle commands the former. If we would judge ourselves we should not be judged.[1 Cor. xi. 31.]

Our way is the very reverse. What is forbidden to us we are continually doing. Judging our neighbour on all possible occasions, and what is commanded us, namely, to judge ourselves, that the last thing we think of.

Blessed Francis continued with a smile:

A certain woman all her life long had on principle done exactly the contrary to what her husband wanted her to do. In the end she fell into a river and was drowned. Her husband tried to recover the body, but was found fault with for going up the stream, since she must, necessarily, float down with the current. “And do you really imagine,” he exclaimed, “that even her dead body could do anything else but contradict me?” We are, most of us, very like that woman. Yet it is written: Judge not, and you shall not be judged; condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. [St. Luke. vi. 37.]

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