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The fearlessness of St. Francis de Sales in receiving insults and contempt

3 min • Digitized on February 28, 2022

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 197
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

Again, preaching during an Advent and Lent at Grenoble, not only a great concourse of Catholics flocked to hear him, but also such numbers of Protestants of the Geneva following that their ministers became alarmed and held meetings to decide what measures should be taken to avert a storm, which threatened desolation to their strong-holds and was fast emptying their conventicles.

They decided at last on a personal conflict with their opponent, choosing one of their most furious pastors, a man of violent temper and bitter tongue, to argue with Blessed Francis, and, as they expected, to worst him in a controversy.

The holy Bishop, who had already had much practice and success in this kind of warfare at Thonon, Ternier, and Gaillard, the bailiwicks of his diocese which he had brought back into the bosom of the True Church, cheerfully agreed to the proposal.

In answer to the remonstrances of his friends, and especially of one gentleman of Belley, a man of the greatest probity and piety, who painted the Protestant ministers in the blackest colours, and told the Bishop that insults would literally be heaped upon him, he replied:

Well, that is exactly what we want; this contempt is just what I ask. For how great is the glory to Himself that God will derive from my confusion!

On his friends reminding him that he would be exposing his sacred office to derision, “What of that?” replied the Bishop:

Did not our Saviour suffer shame for us—were not insults heaped upon Him?

“Oh,” said the other, “you aim too high.”

To tell you the truth, (said our Saint,) I am hoping that God will give me the grace to endure insults without end, for when we are finely humbled He will be gloriously exalted. You will see conversion upon conversion following the train of this affair, a thousand falling on the left hand and ten thousand on the right. God is wont at all times to make our infamy redound to His honour. Did not the Apostles come forth rejoicing from those assemblies in which they had suffered contumely for the name of Jesus? Take courage, God will help us; those who hope in Him never lack any good thing and are never confounded.

Was it possible to carry patience further than this? Doubtless, had the meeting taken place, the envenomed darts of heresy would have glanced aside from the spotless, shining shield of Faith carried by Blessed Francis, but the devil, fearing to be worsted in the fight, suggested so many prudent reasons to the Protestant Minister’s friends, who, in reality, had their doubts about both his virtue and his capacity for conducting the conference that they got it forbidden by the Lieutenant of the King, though himself at that time a heretic.

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