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St. Francis de Sales explaining the superiority of poverty

4 min • Digitized on January 16, 2022

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 134
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


Our Blessed Father was so absolutely indifferent to the goods of this world that I never heard him so much as once complain of the loss of almost all his episcopal revenue, confiscated by the city of Geneva.

He used to say that it was very much with the wealth of the Church as with a man’s beard, the more closely it was clipped the stronger and the thicker it grew again.

When the Apostles had nothing they possessed all things, and when ecclesiastics wish to possess too much, that too much is reduced to nothing.

His one hunger and thirst was for the conversion of souls, living in wilful blindness to the light of truth which shines only in the one true Church. Sometimes, he exclaimed, sighing heavily: “Give me souls, and the rest take to Thyself.”

Speaking of Geneva, to which city, in spite of its rebellion, he always applied terms of compassion and affection, such as “my dear Geneva,” or “my poor Geneva,” he said to me more than once:

Would to God that these gentlemen had taken such small remains of my revenue as they have left to me, and that we had only as small a foothold in that deplorable city as the Catholics have in La Rochelle, namely, a little chapel in which to say Mass and perform the functions of our religion! You would then soon see all these apostates come back to their senses, and we should rejoice over the return to the Church of these poor Sunamites, who are so forgetful of their duty. [Cantic vi. 12.]

This fond hope he always nourished in his breast.

He used to say that Henry VIII. of England, who at the beginning of his reign was so zealous for the Catholic faith, and wrote so splendidly against the errors of Luther, that he acquired for that reason the glorious title of Defender of the Faith, having, by yielding to his passion, caused so great a schism in his kingdom, even had he desired at the close of his life to return to the bosom of the Church which he had so miserably abandoned, would, on setting to work to attain this most happy end, have found the impossibility of recovering for the clergy and restoring to them the property and wealth which he had divided among his nobles, a serious difficulty.

Commenting upon this fact, our Blessed Father exclaimed:

Alas! to think that a handful of dust should rob Heaven of so many souls! The business of every christian, and especially of the clergy, is the keeping of God’s law. The Lord is the portion of their inheritance and of their cup.

He would have made to them an abundant restitution of all that had been theirs, by gentle but effective means. They whose thoughts are fixed upon the Lord will be nourished by Him. The just are never forsaken nor reduced to beg their bread; they have only to lift their eyes and their hopes to God and He will give them meat in due season; for it is He who gives food to all flesh.

Moreover, it is much easier to suffer hunger with patience than to preserve virtue in the midst of plenty. It is not every one who can say with the Apostle: I know how to abound, and I know how to suffer need. [Philipp. iv. 12.] A thousand fall on the left hand of adversity, but ten thousand on the right hand of prosperity; for iniquity is the outcome of luxury, and the sin of the cities of the plain had its origin in a superabundance of bread; that is to say, in their wealth. To be frugal and devout is to possess a great treasure.

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