Theology of the Heart: Teachings of the Saints

Holy Patience
St. Francis de Sales
Excerpted from: St Francis de Sales, Selected Letters

To have to see to a great variety of things is really a continual martyrdom; for in the same way as those who make a journey in the summer find the flies more troublesome and irritating than the journey itself, so the fact that one has to attend to a great many different sorts of things is in itself more troublesome than the actual load of business.

You need patience, and God will give it to you, I hope, if you make a special point of asking him, and if you make yourself practice it faithfully, preparing yourself for this every morning by particularly applying some point of your meditation to it and making up your mind firmly to keep patient all day every time you feel yourself slipping.

Do not lose any opportunity, however small, of showing sweetness of temper toward everyone. Do not trust in your industry to carry you successfully through all your affairs but only in God’s help; and then rest securely in his care of you, believing that he will do what is best for you, providing that you for your part work diligently and yet without straining. Without straining and gently, I say, for violent effort spoils both your heart and the business at hand, and is not really diligence but rather over-eagerness and agitation.

How soon we shall be in the realm of eternity! And then we shall see how little all the affairs of this world amount to and how little it mattered whether they did or did not succeed; but all the same, now we pursue them as though they were great things. One day we shall in heaven see that what we clung to in this world was nothing more than a child’s fancy…

Be patient with everyone but especially with yourself; I mean that you should not be troubled about your imperfections and that your should always have courage to pick yourself up afterwards. There is no better way of getting there in the end in the spiritual life than always starting all over again and never thinking that you have done enough.  

 © 1960, Faber and Faber Ltd., London.


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