Francis de Sales: Patience with Ourselves
We must, little by little and step by step acquire that self-mastery which the saints took years to acquire.
In this letter, Francis de Sales1 encourages Madem Brulart to be patient with her growth into Christlikeness and not to expect transformation overnight.
You complain that there is quite an admixture of faults and imperfections in your life in spite of your own great desire to attain perfection and the pure love of God.
I answer that it is not possible to empty ourselves completely of ourselves.
While we are here below, and until such time as God bears us up to heaven, we must always bear with ourselves; and as long as we are bearing with ourselves we won't be bearing much of real value.
So we must be patient and not think that we can overcome in a day all the bad habits we have acquired through the poor care we have taken of our spiritual health.
God did cure some people instantly, without leaving in them a trace of their former illness, as in the case of Mary Magdalene whom He transformed in an instant from a quagmire of corruption into a clear fountain of perfection; and from that moment, she was never again troubled.
On the other hand, this same God left in several of His dear disciples many marks of their evil inclinations for some time after their conversion, all for their greater good: for example, blessed St. Peter who stumbled many times after his initial calling and who on one occasion failed totally and miserably by denying the Lord.
Solomon said the maidservant who suddenly becomes the lady of the house can be very insolent. There is a great danger that the soul which has catered to its own passions and affections over a long period of time might become proud and vain if in a moment it could master them completely. We must, little by little and step by step acquire that self-mastery which the saints took years to acquire. Please, be patient with everyone, but first of all, with yourself.2
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Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was a French Catholic bishop and saint. He was devoted to the Counter-Reformation, used a moderate approach in his dealings with Protestantism, and became known as the “gentleman saint." He wrote many spiritual works, including Introduction to the Devout Life and his sermons and letters were collected as the Treatise on the Love of God. He was canonized in 1665 and is the patron of journalists and writers. He is known as one of the greatest Spiritual Directors in the Christian tradition.
Francis., Chantal, Jeanne-Françoise de. Letters of Spiritual Direction. United States: Paulist Press, 1988.