With the season of Lent fast approaching, I would like to share with you once again this Golden Counsel from the great spiritual director St. Francis de Sales. The season of Lent as we all know is a penitential season, I hope that we will all prepare ourselves for this wonderful season of renewal and conversion.
This is what St. Francis de Sales said about penitence. “We must not fret over our own imperfections. Although reason requires that we be displeased and chagrined whenever we commit a fault, we must nevertheless refrain from bitter, gloomy, spiteful and angry displeasure. Many people are greatly at fault in this. When overcome by anger, they become angry at being angry, sad at being sad, and irritated at being irritated. By such means they keep their hearts entrenched and soaked in anger. It may seem that the second fit of anger does away with the first, but actually it serves to open the way for fresh anger on the first occasion that arises.
You must be sorry for the faults you commit with a repentance which is strong, level-headed, steady, and tranquil – a repentance that is not agitated, not worried, not discouraged. Are you certain that your slowing down on the path of virtues is the result of your own fault? If so, you must humble yourself before God, implore his mercy, prostrate yourself before the face of his goodness, and ask for his pardon, confess your fault and beg for mercy in the ear of your confessor to receive absolution. But when that is done, remain peaceful, and having detested the offense, embrace lovingly your lowliness which slows down your advance in virtue.
You must hate your faults, but you should do so calmly and peacefully, without fuss or anxiety. You must be patient when you see them and benefit from seeing your own lowliness. Unless you do this, your imperfections, of which you are acutely conscious, will disturb you even more and thus grow stronger, for nothing is more favorable to the growth of these weeds than our anxiety and over eagerness to get rid of them.”
As we enter the penitential season of Lent this coming Wednesday, let us keep in mind these words of counsel from St. Francis. I will share with you more of his words about penitence in our next week’s bulletin. May we all have a blessed Lenten journey.
In Christ, Fr. Maro