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We ought to help others out of sin, but with charity and prudence

2 min • Digitized on December 31, 2021

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 103
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


I will give you our Blessed Father’s views on this subject, first reminding you how unfailingly patient he was with the humours of others, hew gentle and forbearing at all times towards his neighbour, and how perseveringly he inculcated the practice of this virtue, not only upon the Daughters of the Visitation, but upon all his spiritual children.

He often said to me:

Oh, how much better it would be to accommodate ourselves to others rather than to want to bend every one to our own ways and opinions! The human mind is like pulp, which takes readily any colour mixed with it. The great thing is to take care that it be not like the chameleon, which, one after the other, takes every colour except white. Condescension, if unaccompanied by frankness and purity, is dangerous, and much to be avoided.

It is right to take compassion upon sinners, but it must be with the intention of extricating them from the mire, not of slothfully leaving them to rot and perish in it. It is a perverted sort of mercy to look at our neighbour, sunk in the misery of sin, and not venture to extend to him the helping hand of a gentle but out-spoken remonstrance.

We must condescend in everything, but only up to the altar steps; that is to say, not beyond the point at which condescension would be a sin, and undeserving of its name.

I do not say that we must at every instant reprove the sinner. Charitable prudence demands that we rather wait the moment when he is capable of assimilating the remedies suitable for his malady, and till God shall give to his hearing joy and gladness, and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice. [Psalm l. 10.]

Turbulent zeal, zeal that is neither moderate nor wise, pulls down in place of building up. There are some who do no good at all, because they wish to do things too well, and who spoil everything they try to mend.

We must make haste slowly, as the ancient proverb says. He who walks hurriedly is apt to fall. We must be prudent both in reproving others and in condescending to them. The King’s honour loveth judgment. [Psalm xcviii. 4.]

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