Saint Francis de Sales…

…judges Francis’ idea on the role of the Church

  • The pre-eminence of feeding souls with the Bread of Life over providing for the material wants of the poor

The Apostles, whose mission it was to preach the Gospel, and feed souls with the Bread of Life, judged well that it was not right for them to hinder this holy work in order to minister to the material wants of the poor, weighty as that work was also. Every calling stands in special need of some special virtue; those required of a prelate, a prince, or a soldier, are quite different; so are those beseeming a wife or a widow, and although all should possess every virtue, yet all are not called upon to exercise them equally, but each should cultivate chiefly those which are important to the manner of life to which he is called. (Saint Frances de Sales. Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, ch. 1)

…judges Francis’ idea on conversion of the papacy

  • The Protestants disturb the clear fountain of the Gospel, so that neither Saint Peter finds his keys therein, nor do the faithful drink of the holy fount of obedience due to the vicar of Christ

‘And to thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven’. One could not speak with more plainly. […] But the [protestant] [Protestant] ministers try as hard as they can to disturb the clear fountain of the Gospel, so that Saint Peter may not be able to find his keys therein, and that we may turn disgusted from the water of the holy obedience which we owe to the vicar of Our Lord. And therefore they have bethought them of saying that Saint Peter had received this promise of Our Lord in the name of the whole Church, without having received any particular privilege in his own person. But if this is not violating Scripture, never did man violate it. For was it not to Saint Peter that he was speaking? And how could he better express his intention than by saying: ‘And I say to thee…I will give to thee?’ Put with this his having just spoken of the Church, and said: ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it’, which would have prevented his from saying: ‘And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom’, if he had wished to give them to the whole Church immediately. For he does not say it, but, to thee, will I give. […] In the promise and in the execution of the promise Our Lord has always preferred to Saint Peter by expressions which oblige us to believe that he has been made head of the Church. (Saint Francis de Sales. The Catholic controversy, Part II, Ch. 3, pg. 251 252)

  • It is not so much a man who determines, resolves and defines as it is the Holy Spirit who teaches his Church all truth by man

But when he is clothed with the pontifical garments, I mean when he teaches the whole Church as shepherd, in general matters of faith and morals, then there is nothing but doctrine and truth. […] thus we say that we must appeal to him not as to a learned man, for in this he is ordinarily surpassed by some others, but as to the general head and pastor of the Church: and as such we must honor, follow, and firmly embrace his doctrine, for them he carries on his breast the Urim and Thummim, doctrine and truth. And again we must not think that in everything and everywhere his judgement is infallible, but then only when he gives judgement on a matter of faith and questions necessary to the whole Church; for in particular cases which depend on human fact he can err, there is no doubt, though it is not for us to control him in these cases […] with all reverence, submission, and discretion. Theologians have said, in a Word, that he can err in questions of fact, not in questions of right; that he can err extra cathedram, outside the chair of Peter, that is as a private individual, but writings and bad example. But he cannot err when he is in cathedra, that is, when he intends to make an instruction and decree for the guidance of the whole Church, when he means to confirm his brethren as supreme pastor, and to conduct them into the pastures of the faith. For then it is not so much man who determines, resolves, and defines as it is the Blessed Holy Spirit by man, which Spirit, according to the promise made by Our Lord to the Apostles, teaches all truth to the Church […] conducts and directs his Church into all truth. (Saint Francis de Sales. Les controverses, Part II, Ch. 6, pg. 306-307)

  • If the supreme acting shepherd can conduct his sheep into venomous pastures, who will bring them back?

So when Saint Peter was placed as foundation for the Church, and the Church was certified that the gates of hell should not prevail against it – was it not enough to say that Saint Peter, as foundation-stone of the ecclesiastical government and administration, could not be crushed and broken by infidelity or error, which is the principal gate of hell? For who knows not that if the foundation be overthrown, if that can be sapped, the whole building falls. In the same way, if the supreme acting shepherd can conduct his sheep into venomous pastures, it is clearly visible that the flock is soon to be lost. For if the supreme acting shepherd leads out of the path, who will put him right? If he stray, who will bring him back? In truth, it is necessary that we should follow him simply, not guide him; otherwise the sheep would be shepherds. (Saint Francis de Sales. Les controverses, Part II, c. 6, a.14 – pg. 296-297)

  • The Pope and the Church are one

The Church or the Pope, because both are one, may employ their efforts, those of the Church, and of the Christian princes its spiritual sons, in the just defense and conservation of the rights of the Church against all of those that want to violate and destroy it. (Saint Francis de Sales. Spiritual letters, Book 4, letter 48)

  • Saint Peter is first, the governor and a confirmer of the rest

If the Church is compared to a building, as it is, its rock and its secondary foundation is Saint Peter (Mt 16). If you say it is like a family, it is only Our Lord who pays tribute as head of the household and after him Saint Peter as his lieutenant (Ib. 17). If to a ship, Saint Peter is its captain, and in it Our Lord teaches (Lk 5). If to a fishery, Saint Peter is the first in it; the true disciples of Our Lord fish only with him (Ib., and Jn 21). If to draw nets (Mt 13), it is Saint Peter who casts them into the sea, Saint Peter who draws them; the other disciples are his coadjutors. It is Saint Peter who brings them to land and presents the fish to Our Lord (Lk 5, Jn 21). Do you say it is like an embassy? Saint Peter is first ambassador (Mt 10). Do you say it is a brotherhood? Saint Peter is first, the governor and a confirmer of the rest (Lk 22). Would you rather have a kingdom? Saint Peter receives its keys (Mt 16). Will you consider it a flock or fold of sheep and lambs? Saint Peter is its pastor and shepherd-general (Jn 21). (Saint Francis de Sales. Les controversies, part II, c.6, a.8 – pg. 270-271)

  • To attack the dignity and office of the Pope could ever be right?

But to fill heaven and earth with invectives, railings, outrages – to calumniate the pope, and not only his person, which is bad enough, but in his Office, to attack the See which all antiquity has honored, to wish to go so far as to sit in judgment on him, contrary to the sense of the whole Church, to style his position itself as anti-Christianism – who shall call this right? (Saint Francis de Sales. Les controverses, part II, c. 6, a. 15 – pg. 310)

  • Our Lord has said in particular terms to Saint Peter what is afterwards said in general of the others

But a great proof of the contrary, as our adversaries think, is that, according to Saint Paul: ‘No one can lay another foundation but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus; and according to the same we are domestics of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus himself being the corner-stone. […] If then, say the, all the twelve Apostles are foundations of the Church, how do you attribute this title to Saint Peter in particular? And if Saint Paul says that no one can lay another foundation that Our Lord, how do you dare to say that by these words: ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church’, Saint Peter has been established as foundation of the Church? Why do you not rather say, asks Calvin, that this stone on which the Church is founded is no other than Our Lord? Why do you not rather declare, says Luther, that it is the confession of faith which Peter had made? […] At the same time it is not good reason to say: all the Apostles in general are called foundations of the Church, therefore Saint Peter is only such in the same way as the others are. On the contrary, as Our Lord has said in particular, and in particular terms, to Saint Peter, what is afterwards said in general of the others, we must conclude that there is in Saint Peter some particular property of foundation, and that he in particular has been what the whole college has been together. (Saint Francis de Sales. Les controverses, part. II, c. 6, a. 2, pg. 244-245. 247)

  • In authority and government Saint Peter precedes all the others as much as the head surpasses the members; the others have Saint Peter as the head of them all and their pastor

We have only to see for what general reason all the Apostles are called foundations of the Church: namely, because it is they who by their preaching have planted the faith and the Christian doctrine […] they were the first who converted the world to the Christian religion, which was as it were to lay the foundations of the glory of men, and the seeds of their happy immortality […] but in authority and government Saint Peter precedes all the others as much as the head surpasses the members; for he has been appointed ordinary pastor and supreme head of the Church, the others have been delegated pastors entrusted with as full power and authority over all the rest of the Church as Saint Peter, except that Saint Peter was the head of them all and their pastor as of all Christendom. Thus they were foundations of the Church equally with him as to the conversion of souls and as to doctrine; but as to the authority of governing, they were so unequally, as Saint Peter was the ordinary head not only of the rest of the whole Church but of the Apostles also. For Our Lord had built on him the whole of his Church, of which they were not only parts but the principal and noble parts. (Saint Francis de Sales. The Catholic controversy, pg. 248-249)

  • The Apostles were equal in the apostolate, not in dignity

We know that Our Lord gave a most ample procuration and commission to his Apostles to treat with the world concerning its salvation, when he said to them (Jn 20): ‘As the Father has sent me I also send you… receive y the Holy Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive’, etc. It was the execution of the promise of his which had been made them In general: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind’, etc. But It was never said to any one of the other Apostles in particular: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’, nor was it ever said to one of the others: ‘Feed my sheep’ (Jn 21:17). (Saint Francis de Sales. The Catholic controversy, pg. 259)

…judges Francis’ idea on new forms of poverty

  • The Apostles preferred to feed souls with the Bread of Life than to minister to the material wants of the poor

And the Apostles, whose mission it was to preach the Gospel, and feed souls with the Bread of Life, judged well that it was not right for them to hinder this holy work in order to minister to the material wants of the poor, weighty as that work was also. Every calling stands in special need of some special virtue; those required of a prelate, a prince, or a soldier, are quite different; so are those beseeming a wife or a widow, and although all should possess every virtue, yet all are not called upon to exercise them equally, but each should cultivate chiefly those which are important to the manner of life to which he is called. (Saint Francis de Sales. Introduction to the devout life, Part III, Ch. 1)

…judges Francis’ idea on human suffering

  • God is as worthy of our love when he afflicts us as when he consoles us

God is as worthy of our love when he afflicts us as when he consoles us. […] Considered in themselves, tribulations are terrifying; but considered in the will of God, they are lovely and delightful. (Saint Francis de Sales cited by Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, p. 191, 149)

  • How happy are the souls that drink of the chalice of suffering with Our Lord!

O how happy are the souls that valiantly drink of the chalice of suffering with Our Lord! That mortify themselves carrying their cross; that lovingly suffer and receive from His divine hand all sorts of happenings with submission according to His good willing. But, my God, how few are they who do such things! (Saint Francis de Sales. Sermon for the Feast of Saint John of the Latin Gate, p. 279)

  • Path that leads us directly to God

We should do this, my dear sisters: the path of the cross and afflictions is the sure path, and one that leads us directly to God and to the perfection of his love. If we are faithful in valiantly drinking of his chalice, crucifying ourselves with him in this life, his divine goodness will not be deficient in glorifying us eternally in the next. (Saint Francis de Sales. Sermon for the Feast of Saint John of the Latin Gate, p. 279)

  • The will of the Father and of Christ was to redeem us by the cross

Any action of the life of Our Lord, even the smallest, would have been infinitely sufficient to operate our salvation. However, the will of God his Father, and his own, was to not accomplish it except on the Cross. (Saint Francis de Sales. Sermon for the day of the finding of the Holy Cross, p. 271)

…judges Francis’ idea that man is the center of christian life

  • True charity leads us to a general practice of all God’s Commandments

Even so sinners do not rise towards God, for all their movements are earthly and earthbound. Well-meaning people, who have not as yet attained a true devotion, attempt a manner of flight by means of their good actions, but rarely, slowly and heavily; while really devout men rise up to God frequently, and with a swift and soaring wing. In short, devotion is simply a spiritual activity and liveliness by means of which Divine Love works in us, and causes us to work briskly and lovingly; and just as charity leads us to a general practice of all God’s Commandments, so devotion leads us to practise them readily and diligently. And therefore we cannot call him who neglects to observe all God’s Commandments either good or devout, because in order to be good, a man must be filled with love, and to be devout, he must further be very ready and apt to perform the deeds of love. (Saint Francis de Sales. Introduction to the devout life, Part 1, Ch. 1)

…judges Francis’ ideas on the Church closed and ailing

  • The Church is unmovable, unshaken, steadfast and perpetual

It is the same as St. Paul teaches when he calls the Church the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim 3:15). Is not this to say that truth is solidly upheld in the Church? Elsewhere truth is only maintained at intervals, it falls often, but in the Church it is without vicissitude, unmovable, unshaken, in a word steadfast and perpetual. (Saint Francis de Sales. The Catholic Controversy, Part I, Mission, ch. 12, p. 71)

  • To say that the Church errs is to say that God errs

Ah! Who will give me to know the good among so many bad? Who will tell me the real verity through so many specious and masked vanities. Everybody would embark on the ship of the Holy Spirit ; there is but one, and only that one shall reach the port, all the rest are on their way to shipwreck. Ah! What danger am I in of erring! […] But he who shall consider how perfectly authentic is the testimony which God has given of the Church, will see that to say the Church errs is to say no less than that God errs, or else that he is willing and desirous for us to err; which would be a great blasphemy. (St. Francis de Sales. The Catholic Controversy, Part I, Mission, ch. 12, p. 69-70)

…judges Francis’ idea on the origin of the Psalms

  • Sacred Scripture is the rule of Christian faith

Sacred Scripture is in such a way the rule of our Christian faith, that he who does not believe all that it contains, or believes something that in any way contradicts it, is considered an unbeliever. […] But I am wasting time; we are all in agreement about this, and if someone was so irrational as to contradict us, not knowing how to support his own contradiction other than with the Scripture itself, he contradicts himself, before contradicting the Scriptures, by using them at the same time as protesting that he does not wish to use them. (Saint Francis de Sales. Meditations on the Church, Part II, ch. 1, a. 1 (BAC, 1985, p. 171) – Spanish)

…judges Francis’ idea on boasting of our sins

  • Why die a spiritual death when is a sovereign remedy is available? – having consented in sin, make haste to seek purification

And so the soul which has ever so little consented to sin, ought to abhor itself and make haste to seek purification, out of respect to His Divine Gaze Who beholds it always. Why should we die a spiritual death when there is a sovereign remedy available? (Saint Francis de Sales. Introduction to the Devout Life, ch. XIX)

…judges Francis’ idea on eternal condemnation

  • What makes hell intolerable is the fact that suffering can never have end: an eternal night which gives birth to eternal despair

Like those in this city [a city of gloom, a city of burning pitch and brimstone, a city whose inhabitants can never escape], the damned are in the depths of hell, suffering unspeakable torments in every sense and member. Having used their life to sin, they suffer pain befitting their sin […] Yet greater than all these torments is the loss of the glory and the Presence of God, being deprived of it forever. If Absalom found the suffering of never seeing his father’s face greater than that of banishment, how much greater our suffering at being excluded forever from the Face of God! Consider that what makes hell intolerable is the fact that our suffering can never have an end. If a ache in the tooth or a slight fever makes the night seem endless, then how terrible that eternal night when afflicted with so many sufferings! An eternal night which gives birth to eternal despair and frenzied blasphemies without end. (Saint Francis de Sales. Meditation 7English)

…judges Francis’ idea on the obedience of a Religious

  • We should desire what God desires, that is, what the superiors desire

Do not desire, then, anything but that which God desires, and do what the one who commands tells you to do, as long as there is no sin involved. Desire that which the superiors desire and you shall desire that which God desires: thus you shall be truly obedient and blessed. (Letters of St. Francis de Sales, frag. 46)

Leave a Reply