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and began to preach, and, when he found that the people would not come to hear him, he distributed leaflets. According to his Catholic biographers, the enterprise was a very dangerous one, and various attempts on his life are said to have been made. But even if we cannot believe all that is told of the wickedness of the Calvinists in their endeavour to frustrate and suppress his mission, we can well understand that they made the work as difficult for him as possible. The success which in two or three years crowned his efforts owed much no doubt to the sympathy and support of the Duke of Savoy, in whose territory the Chablais was now included, and at whose instigation indeed the mission had been undertaken. But, as Charles Beard said in the chapter on St. Francis de Sales in his Port Royal, “ Spiritual effects are produced only by spiritual means, and there can be no doubt that the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries mark the epoch of a great spiritual awakening of religious life in Catholic Europe.” The work of St. Francis de Sales was one of the evidences of that awakening, which had already, before his time, shown itself in the establishment of the Society of Jesus and of other agencies for the recovery of the ground which the Church had lost at the Reformation. His missionary labours were carried on with the utmost zeal and self-forgetfulness. To friends who told him that he ought to spare himself, or he would wear himself out, he replied, " It is not necessary that I should live, but it is necessary that the Church should be served.” Forty-three years after his death he was canonised, and in the papal bull authorising his canonization, it is stated that he had converted 72,000 Protestants. But that, if true, would be an achievement of doubtful value; and at any rate it is not upon it that I would rest his claim on your attention now. It is as the author of a famous devotional work, the Introduction to the Devout Life, and of the subject of one of the finest religious biographies, The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, that he comes within the range of our present studies.
We naturally like to know how a book which we value came into being; and we are not left uninformed as to the circumstances in which the Introduction to the Devout Life was written.
It has been said that people now-a-days are not concerning themselves about their souls; and that may or may not be a good sign, according to what is meant by it. But back in the early part of the seventeenth century, people were very much concerned about their souls. There was a widespread desire to cultivate the inner life, this being especially the case in the higher ranks of society. “Perhaps its most characteristic outcome was the rise of professed Directors of Conscience -divines who specialised in spiritual ailments; they stood to ordinary confessors much as a consulting physician stands to a general practitioner. No doubt their rise was not an altogether healthy sign, and a director often aggravated the ills he was sent to cure. He became the natural target for all the morbid scrupulosity and self-analysis which idle and luxurious lives produce. . .. But the prominence of Direction was a strong acknowledgement of the need of personal religion.”l
Among those who were most deeply impressed by the preaching of Francis de Sales was a lady, Madame de
: Cambridge Modern History, Vol. v. p. 79.
Charmoisy, and he became her Director of Conscience ; and it was in the notes which he made for her spiritual guidance that the material for the Introduction first took shape. But the book embodies the results of his experience as director of many other consciences besides hers, and it is this experience that gives the book its special character and value. It is the work of one who has been dealing with souls in the most intimate manner, and of one moreover who is gifted with extraordinary insight and sympathy. “This direction of souls,” says M. Fortunat Strowsky, “is an art so complex, and at the same time so delicate, that we can call it perfect in its kind and sufficient in itself; it is absorbing enough to occupy all the activity of a vigorous mind, and so fascinating as to make him forget all other horizons. But if one were able, after having practised it well, to disengage oneself from it, what riches one would have amassed! What a preparation for a philosopher or moralist ! An experience so varied, so extensive, and so intimate would be, for one who could make use of it, a royal foundation. Imagine how one could employ it to develop and support a doctrine ! Would he not be better equipped than anyone else? Well,” continues this writer, “St. Francis de Sales was able to disengage himself from the direction of souls in order to write a book embodying what it had taught him, and this book was not a simple letter of direction, more full, more complete, more general, more impersonal, but a true book, giving us the profound thought as well as the philosophy of conduct which he brought to bear on the consciences of men and women." It is the fault of
* Saint François de Sales. Deuxième edition, pp. 236-7.
many books of devotion as of many sermons, that they deal too much with abstractions, and have little contact with the real thoughts and needs of men ; but Francis' experience as a director of consciences helped to keep him free from this fault, and to make his readers feel that the book is written with an understanding sympathy.
The Introduction differed from most books of devotion that had been written before in being addressed not to the cloister but to men and women “in the world.” In his preface Francis says: “Almost all who have treated hitherto of devotion have had in view the instruction of persons wholly retired from the world, or at least have taught a kind of devotion leading to this absolute retirement. My intention is to instruct such as live in town, or families, or at court, and who by their condition, are obliged to lead, as to externals, the ordinary life.”
From the fact that the book was written more particularly for women, and owes much of its inspiration to them, one is apt to think that the kind of religion it inculcates must be lacking in strength and robustness. But although there was much that was truly feminine in the soul of Francis, much love and gentleness, there was nothing effeminate ; and in the Introduction there is plenty of vigorous thinking and stern but wholesome counsel, equally good for both sexes, and bearing on a great variety of matters and circumstances. It is written of course from the strictly Roman Catholic point of view, and by one convinced that outside the Church of Rome there was no salvation ; but we know that such assumptions have not been peculiar to Roman Catholic writers, and have been found sometimes in union with a great deal of practical common sense and spiritual wisdom. And it is for its practical common sense and spiritual wisdom that the Introduction has been valued by Protestants and Catholics alike.
In the opening chapters, Francis describes what he means by devotion and the devout life. “True and living devotion,” he says, "presupposes the love of God, or rather it is nothing else than the true love of God, and such a love of him as makes us do his will with the utmost eagerness.” It is a certain lightness and vivacity of spirit, by means of which we do whatever we are given to do promptly and diligently and exactly. When we act thus in the spirit of love and gladness and good will, then, and only then, are we truly devout. Devotion is simply a heightened or intensified love or charity. “ If," he says, “ love be milk, devotion is the cream ; if love be a plant, devotion is the flower ; if love be a precious stone, devotion is its lustre ; if love be a precious balm, devotion is the odour.” And this kind of devotion may be cultivated by every one, and will make all who practise it better in every relation of life as members of families, as neighbours, as citizens, and more acceptable in their different callings.
True devotion, according to Francis, begins with the purification of the soul from sin, and such purification is a life-long process. “The diseases of the soul, as well as those of the body, come post-haste on horseback, but go away on foot at a snail's pace. Courage and patience, then, are needed for this enterprise. . . . Let us not worry ourselves because we have imperfections, for our perfection consists in resisting them, and we cannot resist them without seeing them, nor vanquish