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St. Francis de Sales giving advice on discerning marriage

3 min • Digitized on January 4, 2022

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 113
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


Like master, like man. Not only were all our Blessed Father’s servants virtuous (he would not have suffered any who were not, to form part of his household), but, following their master’s example, they were all singularly gentle and obliging in their manners and behaviour.

One of them, a young man, handsome, virtuous, and pious, was greatly sought after by many of the citizens, who thought he would prove a most desirable son-in-law, and to this end they encouraged his [companionship] with their daughters. About the several advantageous matches proposed to him he always used to tell the Bishop. One day the latter said to him:

My dear son, your soul is as dear to me as my own, and there is no sort of advantage that I do not desire for you and would not procure for you if I could. That you know very well, and you know, too, that it is possibly only your youth that dazzles the eyes of certain young girls and makes them want you for their husband; but I am of opinion that more age and experience is needed before you take upon yourself the cares of a family. Think well over the matter, for when once embarked it will be too late to repent of what you have done.

Marriage is an Order in which the profession must be made before the novitiate; if there were a year’s probation, as there is in the cloister, there would be very few professions. After all, what have I done to you to make you wish to leave me? I am old, I shall soon die, and then you can dispose of yourself as you please. I shall bequeath you to my brother, who will provide for you quite as advantageously as these proposed matches would have done.

He said this with tears in his eyes, which so distressed the young man that he threw himself at the Bishop’s feet, asking his pardon for having even thought of quitting him, and renewing his protestations of fidelity and of determination to serve him in life and death.

He replied:

No, no, my son, I have no wish to interfere with your liberty. I would, on the contrary, purchase it, like St. Paul, at the cost of my own. But I am giving you friendly advice, such as I would offer to my own brother were he of your age.

And in very truth he treated the members of his household, not as servants, but as his brothers and children. He was their elder brother or their father, rather than their—

Note from the site editor: The chapter cuts off here at the end of this page. This was probably a mistake by the printer, since the next page does not skip a number. But the point is gotten across well enough. If you remind me, I may look for other copies of this book to find out how the chapter ends.

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