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St. Francis de Sales practicing poverty

3 min • Digitized on January 13, 2022

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 129
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


Godliness with contentment, says Holy Scripture, is great gain. [1 Tim. vi. 6.]

So content was the godliness of Blessed Francis that, although deprived of the greater part of his episcopal revenues, he was fully satisfied with the little that was left to him.

After all, he would say, are not twelve hundred crowns a handsome income for a Bishop? The Apostles, who were far better Bishops than we are, had nothing like that sum. It is not for us to fix our own pay for serving God.

His love of poverty was truly striking. At Annecy he lodged in a hired house, which was both handsome and roomy, and in which the apartments assigned to him as Bishop were very elegantly furnished. He, however, took up his abode in an uncomfortable little room, where there was hardly any light at all, so that he could truly say with Job: I have made my bed in darkness; [Job. xvii. 13.] or with David: Night shall be my light in my pleasures; [Ps. cxxxviii. 11.] or again, I am like a night raven in the house, or as a sparrow all alone on the housetop. [Ps. ci. 8.]

He called this little room, or, to speak more truly, this sepulchre of a living man, Francis’ chamber, while to that in which he received visitors, or gave audience, he gave the name of the Bishop’s chamber.

Truly, the lover of holy poverty can always find a means of practising it, even in the midst of riches.

Blessed Francis, indeed, always welcomed poverty with a smiling countenance, though naturally it be apt to cast a gloom and melancholy upon the faces both of those who endure it and of those who only dread it.

Involuntary poverty is surly and discontented, for it is forced and against the will. Voluntary poverty, on the contrary, is joyous, free, and lighthearted.

To show you how cheerfully and pleasantly he talked on this subject, I will give you one or two of his remarks.

Once, showing me a coat which had been patched up for him, and which he wore under his cassock, he said: “My people really work little miracles; for out of an old garment they have made me this perfectly new coat. Am I not well-dressed?”

Again, when his steward was complaining of down-right distress, and of there being no money left, he said: “What are you troubling yourself about? We are now more like our Master, Who had not even where to lay His head, though as yet we are not reduced to such extremity as that.” “But what are we to do?” persisted the steward. “My son,” the Bishop answered, “we must live as we can, on whatever goods we have, that is all.” “Truly,” replied the other, “it is all very well to talk of living on our goods when there are none left to live upon!” “You do not understand me,” returned the Bishop; “we must sell or pledge some of our furniture in order to live. Will not that, my good M.R., [Goerges Roland] be living on our goods?”

It was in this fashion that the Saint was accustomed to meet cheerfully money troubles, so unbearable to weaker characters.

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