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On Humility and Chastity, and speaking of them

4 min • Digitized on January 22, 2022

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 143
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


Speaking of the humility and chastity of the Blessed Virgin the holy Prelate said:

These two virtues, although they have to be continually practised, should be spoken of so rarely that this rarity of speech may rank as silence. The reason is that it is difficult to mention these virtues or to praise them either in themselves or in any individual who possesses them, without in some way sullying their brightness.

  1. There is, in my opinion, no human tongue which can rightly express their value, and to praise them inadequately is in a way to disparage them.

  2. To praise humility is to cause it to be desired from a secret self-love and to invite people to enter its domain through the wrong door.

  3. To praise humility in any individual is to tempt him to vanity and to flatter him dangerously; for the more he thinks himself humble the less he will really be so; and possibly when he sees that others consider him humble he will think that he must be so.

  4. As regards chastity, to praise it in itself is to leave on the mind a secret and almost imperceptible image of the contrary vice, and therefore to expose the mind to some danger of temptation. There is a sting hidden in the honey of such praise.

  5. To praise it in any individual is in a measure to expose him to the danger of falling. It is to put a stumbling-block in his way. It is to inflate that pride which under a fair disguise may lure him over a precipice.

  6. We must never be content to rely upon our hitherto untarnished purity of life, but must always fear, since innocence is a treasure which we carry in a vessel of glass, easily broken.

  7. In a word, the virtues of humility and chastity always seem to me like those subtle essences which evaporate if they are not kept very tightly corked.

  8. However, although I consider it wise very seldom to speak of these two virtues, it is wise to practise them unceasingly, humility being one of the most excellent virtues of the soul, and purity that fair white adornment of the body which is its honour, and which, like a lily growing among thorns, brings forth a wonderful flower, whose fruit is honour and riches.

  9. Nevertheless, I do not mean that we are to be so scrupulous as never to dare to speak of these virtues; not even to praise them when occasion warrants or demands our doing so. No, indeed. In one sense they can never be sufficiently praised, nor ever sufficiently valued and cultivated. What I mean is that we gain little by praising them. Our words in praise of a virtue are of little account in comparison with the smallest fruit; that is, with the least of the acts of a virtue.

I add this because I know you attach too much importance to my words, and take them as literally as if they were oracles.

Note from the editor of Immaculata Library: This chapter seems largely intended by St. Francis de Sales to be more for the benefit of Msgr. Camus, the Bishop of Belley, author of this book, and his close friend, than for us. For this good Bishop hung on every word our Saint, which is why we have this invaluable book in the first place. Yet I have included it here as generally useful to all, if taken in proper context.

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