25 March 2013

St. Francis de Sales on Human Prudence

What St. Basil says of dogs can certainly be applied to such people: as soon as one barks and yelps, all the others bark and yelp, whether there is reason to or not, but simply because they are prompted and provoked.

But the holy Fathers teach us to continue to persevere in good despite all the barkings of such dogs. Let the world cry out as much as it wants; let human prudence censure and condemn our actions as much as it desires; we may have to listen to and suffer from all this, but let us not be frightened or give up; let us rather pursue our course firmly and faithfully. Let worldly wisdom go on constituting what it considers excellency in worldly glory if it wants to. The true Christian, or, to use the term appropriate for you, the true religious, who is tending toward Christian perfection, should, contrary to all the reasonings of human prudence, place all his perfection in the folly of the Cross [1 Co!: 1:18, 23], because it was in this folly of the Cross that Our Lord was made perfect. So all the saints have endeavored to become wise in this folly and, for this, suffered all the contempt, censures and humiliations which came to them from the worldly wise. Perfection of the Cross requires that we endure labors, persecutions and reprehensions for justice' sake. Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice' sake. [Matt. 5:10].
This wisdom is wholly contrary to that of the world. Even though Our Lord cried out again and again: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, the meek, they who hunger and thirst for justice8 [Matt. 5:3-6], the world cannot embrace this wisdom. It cries out: "Oh! How blessed are the wealthy, the oppressors, those who take vengeance on their enemies, and those whom one dares not offend." See how the perfection of the Cross is folly in the eyes of the world precisely because it embraces what is abhorrent to human nature. It loves correction and submits to it; it not only takes pleasure in being corrected, but it has no greater pleasure than in being reproved and corrected for faults and failings. Oh, blessed are they who speak only to give fraternal correction in a spirit of charity and profound humility! But more blessed are those who are always ready to receive it with a gentle, peaceful and tranquil heart! In this, they have already made great progress. Let them be humble and faithful, and let them have good courage, because in spite of all the trickeries of human prudence, they will arrive at the highest degree of Christian perfection.

--from the Sermon of St. Francis de Sales for Palm Sunday, 1622

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