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An example of justice and mercy in meekness

3 min • Digitized on February 24, 2022

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 189
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


An ecclesiastic in Blessed Francis’ diocese, had, because of his vicious and scandalous life, been sent to prison. After a few days’ sojourn there he testified the deepest repentance, and with tears and promises of amendment entreated the officers of the prison to allow him to be taken to the Holy Prelate, who had already pardoned many of his offences, that he might at his feet plead again for forgiveness.

This request was at first refused, as the officers considered that his scandalous life deserved punishment, if only as an example to others, and they knew that with Blessed Francis, to see a sinner was to pity and forgive him.

At last, however, they yielded to the priest’s passionate entreaties, and he was taken before his Bishop. Throwing himself on his knees before the Holy Man, he implored mercy, declaring that he would lead a new life, and set an example of all that was edifying, whereas before he had given nothing but scandal.

Blessed Francis on his part knelt down before the culprit, and with many tears, addressed these remarkable words to him:

I, too, ask you to have pity upon me, and upon all of us who are priests in this diocese, upon the Church, and upon the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman religion, the honour of which you are ruining by your scandalous life. For that life gives occasion to the adversaries of our Faith, who are always on the watch like dragons to detect our slightest failings, to condemn us. For a priest to sin, I tell you, is to give occasion to devils to mock at the lives of our clergy, and to blaspheme our Holy Faith.

I ask you also to have pity on yourself, and on your own soul which you are losing for all eternity, and to seek anew God’s favour. I exhort you in the name of Jesus Christ to return to God by a true repentance. I conjure you to do this by all that is most holy, and sacred in Heaven, or on earth, by the Blood of Jesus Christ which you profane, by the loving kindness of the Saviour, whom you crucify afresh, by the Spirit of Grace against whom you are rebelling.

These remonstrances, or rather the Spirit of God speaking by the mouth of this zealous Pastor, had such effect that the guilty man was by this change of the Right Hand of the Most High converted into a perfectly different being, and became as notable an example of virtue as he had been an occasion of scandal.

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