Monday, November 12, 2007

A gentle diligence

~from a letter of St. Francis de Sales. Sometimes God surprises me through unexpected events. I love this letter of St. Francis "to a woman beset by many tasks." How a propos it is to me best-laid plans set aside for the more important things.
My dear daughter,

I remember you telling me how much the multiplicity of your affairs weighs on you; and I said to you that it is a good opportunity for acquiring the true and solid virtues. The multiplicity of affairs is a continual martyrdom, for just as flies cause more pain and irritation to those who travel in summer than the travelling itself does, just so the diversity and the multitude of affairs causes more pain than the weight of these affairs itself.

You need patience, and I hope that God will give it to you (if you ask it of Him carefully) and that you will try to practice it faithfully, preparing yourself for it every morning by a special application of some point in your meditation, and resolving to restore yourself to patience throughout the day as many times as you sense yourself becoming distracted.

Do not lose any occasion, however small it may be, for exercising gentleness of heart toward everyone. Do not think that you will be able to succeed in your affairs by your own efforts, but only by the assistance of god; and on setting out, consign yourself to His care, believing that He will do that which will be best for you, provided that, on your part, you employ a a gentle diligence. I say "gentle diligence," because violent diligence spoils the heart and affairs, and is not diligence, but haste and trouble.

My God, Madame, we will soon be in eternity, and then we will see how all the affairs of this world are such little things and how little it matters whether they turn out or not. At his time, nevertheless, we apply ourselves to them as if they were great things. When we were little children, with what eagerness did we put together little bits of tile, wood, and mud, to make houses and small buildings! And if someone destroyed them, we were very grieved and tearful at it; but now we know well that it all mattered very little. One day it will be the same with us in Heaven, when we will see that our concerns in this world were truly only child's play.

I do not want to take away the care that we must have regarding these little trifles, because God has entrusted them to us in this world for exercise; but I would indeed like to take away the passion and anxiety of this care. Let us do our child's play, because we are children; but also, let us not trouble ourselves to death in playing it. And if someone destroys our little houses and little designs, let us not torment ourselves greatly at this; because also, when this night comes in which it will be necessary for us to take shelter--I mean to say, death--all these little houses will be of no use to us; we will have to take our shelter in the house of our Father. Faithfully attend to your obligations, but know that you have no greater obligation than that of your salvation and of the saving progress of your soul on the way to true devotion.

Have patience with everyone, but chiefly with yourself; I mean to say, do not trouble yourself about your imperfections, and always have the courage to lift yourself out of them. I am well content that you begin again every day: there is no better way to perfect the spiritual life than always to begin again and never to think you have done enough.

Recommend me to the mercy of God, which I ask to make you abound in His holy love. Amen. I am

Your most humble servant,

1 comment:

Dim Bulb said...

I love St Francis De Sales! I never have yet read anything by him which I fond disappointing. If you or you readers are interested, on the spirituality page of my bookworm site, I have a link to dozens of the saint's letters online. I also have a link to Bishop Jean Pierre Camus' classic THE SPIRIT OF ST FRANCIS DE SALES (it's outstanding).