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Upon ridiculing one’s neighbour

4 min • Digitized on December 27, 2021

#Doctors of the Church #Doctrine #Justice #Mercy #Morals

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 95
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

Upon ridiculing one’s neighbour.

When in company he heard anyone being turned into ridicule, he always showed by his countenance that the conversation displeased him, and would try to turn the subject by introducing some other.

When unsuccessful in this he would give the signal to cease, as is done in tournaments when the combatants are becoming too heated, and thus put a stop to the combat, crying:

This is too much! This is trampling too violently on the good man! This is altogether going beyond bounds! Who gives us the right to amuse ourselves thus at the expense of another? How should we like to be talked about like this, and to have our little weaknesses brought out, just to amuse anybody who may chance to hear? To put up with our neighbour and his imperfections is a great perfection, but it is a great imperfection to laugh at him and his short-comings.

He expresses himself to Philothea on the same subject as follows:

A tendency to ridicule and mock at others is one of the worst possible conditions of mind. God hates this vice exceedingly, as He has often shown by the strange punishments which have awaited it.

Nothing is so contrary to charity, and still more so to devotion, as contempt and disparagement of our neighbour. Now derision and ridicule are always simply contempt, so that the learned are justified in saying that to mock at our neighbour is the worst kind of injury that we can by mere word inflict on him; because all other words of disparagement are compatible with some degree of esteem for the person injured, but ridicule is essentially the expression of contempt and disdain.

Now Holy Scripture pronounces woe upon those who despise others, and threatens them with being despised themselves. God always takes the part of the despised against the despiser.

Our Lord says: He who despises you, despises Me; [Luke x. 16.] and speaking of little children, Take heed that you despise not one of them. [Matt. xviii. 10.] And Almighty God in comforting Moses for an insult offered to the great law-giver by the Children of Israel, says: They have not despised you, but Me.

On one occasion when Blessed Francis was present some young lady in the company was ridiculing another who was conspicuously ill-favoured. Defects born with her were what were being laughed over. He gently reminded the speaker that it is God Who has made us and not we ourselves and that all His works are perfect. But the latter assertion only making her jeer the more, he ended by saying:

Believe me, I know for a fact her soul is more upright, more beautiful, and better formed than you can possibly have any conception of.

This silenced her and sent her away abashed.

On another occasion he heard some people laughing at a poor hump-back who was absent at the time. Our Blessed Father instantly took up his defence, quoting again those words of Scripture: The works of God are perfect. “What!” exclaimed one of the company. “Perfect! and yet deformed!” Blessed Francis replied pleasantly:

And do you really think that there cannot be perfect hunch-backs, just as much as others are perfect because gracefully made and straight as a dart!

In fine, when they tried to make him explain what perfection he meant, whether outward or inward, he said:

Enough. What I tell you is true; let us talk of something better.

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