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A short story about Forgiving our Enemies

3 min • Digitized on December 30, 2021

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 101
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


On the subject of the forgiveness of enemies, Blessed Francis told me of an incident which occurred at Padua (possibly at the time that he was studying there).

It appears that certain of the students at that university had a bad habit of prowling about the streets at night, pistol in hand, challenging passers-by with the cry of “Who goes there?” and firing if they did not-receive a humble and civil answer.

One of the gang having one night challenged a fellow-student and received no answer, fired, and took such good aim that the poor young man fell dead on the pavement. Horrified and amazed at the fatal result of his mad prank, the student fled, hoping to hide from justice.

The first open door that he saw was that of the dwelling of a good widow, whose son was his friend and fellow-student. Hastily entering, he implored her to hide him in some safe place, confessing what he had done, and that, should he be taken, all was over with him.

The good woman shut him into a little room, secret and safe, and there left him. Not many minutes had elapsed before a melancholy procession approached, and the dead body of her son was brought into the house, the bearers telling the distracted mother in what manner he had been killed, and after a little questioning, giving the name of the youth who had shot her child.

Weeping and broken-hearted, she hurried to the place where she had hidden the wretched homicide, and it was from her lips that he learned who it was that he had deprived of life.

In an agony of shame and grief, tearing his hair, and calling upon death to strike him down, too, he threw himself on his knees before the poor mother; not, indeed, to ask her pardon, but to entreat her to give him up to justice, wishing to expiate publicly a crime so barbarous.

The widow, a most devout and merciful woman, was deeply touched by the youth’s repentance, and saw clearly that it was thoughtlessness and not malicious intent that had been the moving spring of the deed. She then assured him that, provided he would ask pardon of God and change his way of life, she would keep her promise and help him to escape. This she did, and by so doing imitated the gentle kindness of the prophet who spared the lives of the Syrian soldiers who had come to murder him, he having them in his power in the midst of Samaria.

So pleasing to God was this poor widow’s clemency and forgiveness that He permitted the soul of her murdered son to appear to her, revealing to her that her pardon, granted so readily and sweetly to the man who had unintentionally been his murderer, had obtained for his soul deliverance from Purgatory, in which place he would otherwise have been long detained.

How blessed are the merciful! They shall obtain mercy both for themselves and for others!

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