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Monday, 9 December 2013

Doctors of the Church 2:16

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

St. Francis de Sales, the Fourth Franciscan out of Three!!!!!! Doctors of the Church Series continued

I made a terrible mistake and apologize to the Franciscans. St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, was a Third Order Franciscan

Naughty me. Mea culpa....

So, before tackling the great Dominicans, I need to cover this great man's writings on spirituality. This is Part 17 of the series.

He was only 56 when he died in 1622, but left behind wonderful writings for us. Here is a bit of his great insights into the holy life.

I concentrate today on the second purification on the way to perfection. This Doctor is a great saint for teaching us the way to perfection.

Notice how the saint refers to the mind as an attribute of the soul. Without going into that study, his ideas are close to those of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (my favourite DoC) who also saw the mind as part of the soul. This idea is not so common in modern theologians.

His clarity about breaking away from the habits of venial sin can be traced here in these selections from Introduction to the Devout Life.  The pages can be found before, one and after this link.

Be sure, my child, that if you seek to lead a devout life, 
you must not merely forsake sin; but you must further 
cleanse your heart from all affections pertaining to sin; for, to say nothing of the danger of a relapse, these wretched affections will perpetually 
enfeeble your mind, and clog it, so that you will be unable to be diligent, 
ready and frequent in good works, wherein nevertheless lies the very essence of all true devotion. 

Souls which, in spite of having forsaken sin, 
yet retain such likings and longings, remind us of those persons who, without being actually ill, are pale and sickly, languid in all they do, eating without appetite, 
sleeping without refreshment, laughing without mirth, 
dragging themselves about rather than walking briskly. 

Such souls as I have described lose all the grace of their good deeds, which are probably few and feeble, through their spiritual languor.

This last point has been made by Garrigou-Lagrange and other writers; that we get no merit unless we are in the state of illumination. I know this is hard, but it is true.

The work we do in the Illumination State comes from the Holy Spirit, and not from ourselves. 
Here is the great saint on this purification of tendencies.

We must make up our minds not to commit even one venial sin in order to avoid these tendencies to sin. I finally found one good priest in London, and a younger one at that, who understands this and can give absolution accordingly, instead of denying that this is possible. We need more priests who understand that we must fight against the tendencies to venial sin.

You will find then, my child, that besides the mortal sins and their affections from which your soul has already been purged, you are beset by sundry inclinations and tendencies to venial sin; mind, I do not say you will find venial sins, but the inclination and tendency to them. Now, one is quite different from the other. We can never be altogether free from venial sin,--at least not until after a very long persistence in this purity; but we can be without any affection for venial sin.
It is altogether one thing to have said something unimportant not strictly true, out of carelessness or liveliness, and quite a different matter to take pleasure in lying, and in the habitual practice thereof. But I tell you that you must purify your soul from all inclination to venial sin;--that is to say, you must not voluntarily retain any deliberate intention of permitting yourself to commit any venial sin whatever. It would be most unworthy consciously to admit anything so displeasing to God, as the will to offend Him in anywise. Venial sin, however small, is displeasing to God, although it be not so displeasing as the greater sins which involve eternal condemnation; and if venial sin is displeasing to Him, any clinging which we tolerate to mortal sin is nothing less than a resolution to offend His Divine Majesty. Is it really possible that a rightly disposed soul can not only offend God, but take pleasure therein?
These inclinations, my child, are in direct opposition to devotion, as inclinations to mortal sin are to love:--they weaken the mental power, hinder Divine consolations, and open the door to temptations;--and although they may not destroy the soul, at least they bring on very serious disease. 

"Dead flies cause the ointment to send forth a stinking savour," says the Wise Man.He means that the flies which settle upon and taste of the ointment only damage it temporarily, leaving the mass intact, but if they fall into it, and die there, they spoil and corrupt it. Even so venial sins which pass over a devout soul without being harboured, do not permanently injure it, but if such sins are fostered and cherished, they destroy the sweet savour of that soul--that is to say, its devotion. The spider cannot kill bees, but it can spoil their honey, and so encumber their combs with its webs in course of time, as to hinder the bees materially. Just so, though venial sins may not lose the soul, they will spoil its devotion, and so cumber its faculties with bad habits and evil inclinations, as to deprive it of all that cheerful readiness which is the very essence of true devotion; that is to say, if they are harboured in the conscience by delight taken therein. 
A trifling inaccuracy, a little hastiness in word or action, some small excess in mirth, in dress, in gaiety, may not be very important, if these are forthwith heeded and swept out as spiritual cobwebs;--but if they are permitted to linger in the heart, or, worse still, if we take pleasure in them and indulge them, our honey will soon be spoilt, and the hive of our conscience will be cumbered and damaged. But I ask again, how can a generous heart take delight in anything it knows to be displeasing to its God, or wish to do what offends Him?

So this saint backs up St. Benedict on frivolity and unnecessary mirth, as in the other posts today and previously on laughter and silliness.