Letters to Laymen from St Francis de Sales
St. Francis de Sales, known for his spiritual direction to women, also advised lay men in their many responsibilities and spiritual concerns. He particularly recommended the Introduction to the Devout Life and the reception of the Holy Eucharist to this correspondent whose spiritual life St. Francis took very seriously.
To a Man of the World.
Annecy, 24th August, 16 13.
”Blessed be God eternally for the goodness which he shows towards your soul, sir, inspiring it so powerfully to the resolution of consecrating the rest of your mortal life to the service of the eternal life. Eternal life, which is no other thing than the Divinity itself, in so far as it will vivify our souls with his glory and felicity; a life which is the only true life, and for which alone we ought to live in this world, since all life which has not its term in a living eternity, is rather death than life.
But, sir, if God has so lovingly inspired you to aspire to the eternity of glory he has just so far forth obliged you to receive humbly, and carry out carefully his inspiration, under pain of being deprived of this grace and glory. And the mere name of this loss fills with terror a heart which has the least degree of feeling.
Wherefore, in the simplicity of my soul, I conjure you, sir, to be very attentive to preserve well what you have, that you may not lose your crown. You are undoubtedly called to a masculine, courageous, valiant, invariable devotion — to serve as a mirror to many in favour of the truth of celestial love, in reparation of past faults, if ever you have been a mirror of the vanity of terrestial love.
See, I beg you, sir, with what liberty I let my spirit act towards yours, and how this name of father, with which it has pleased you to honour me, carries me away. For it has entered into my heart, and my affections have set themselves to the laws of love which the name father signifies, the greatest, the liveliest, and the strongest of all loves. In harmony with which I must beg you again, sir, to practise diligently the exercises which I mark in chapters x, xi, xii, xiii, of the Second part of the Introduction, for the morning and the evening, for the spiritual retreat, and for aspirations to God. The goodness of your soul, and the noble courage which God has given you, will serve you greatly for this practice, which will be so much the more easy to you as it is only necessary to employ in it moments which are stolen or justly detached, on occasion, here and there, from other affairs. The tenth part of an hour, or even less,will suffice for the morning, and the same for the evening.
Oh ! if you could gently deceive your dear soul, sir, and instead of undertaking to communicate every month during a year, a year of twelve months, would, when you have finished the twelfth, add the thirteenth, then the fourteenth, then the fifteenth, and go on thus continuing from month to month ! What a happiness to your heart, which, in proportion as it would receive its Saviour oftener, would also convert itself more perfectly into him ! And this, sir, could well be done without noise, without injury to your affairs, and without giving the world anything to say. Experience has made me realize in my twenty-five years of serving souls, the all-powerful virtue of this Divine Sacrament, to strengthen hearts in good, exempt them from evil, console them, and in a word deify them in this world, if it be frequented with faith, purity, and devotion.
But enough is said, sir; heavenly influences, your good angel and your generosity, will supply what my insufficiency does not permit me to propose to you.
Also, I pray our Lord to make you more and more abound in his favours, and I am, without end, &c.
Francis de Sales
Source: Letters to Persons in the World