Today we celebrate the feast of St. Francis de Sales, one of my personal faves. This Doctor of the Church served as a priest in France during the time of the Reformation and was ordained as the bishop of Geneva in 1602. He worked tirelessly to evangelize and catechize the faithful. You can read more about his life from an earlier post or from this article from Catholic Encyclopedia.
St. Francis de Sales wrote one of my most used spiritual books, Introduction to the Devout Life. In it, St. Francis writes to the laity about how to grow in holiness. As I went to adoration last night for my weekly holy hour, I asked St. Francis and the Holy Spirit to guide me in choosing a reflection to share with you today. So… here you have St. Francis de Sales’ words on fighting temptation.
How to Overcome Small Temptations
It is impossible not to be bothered occasionally by little temptations of vanity, suspicion, impatience, jealousy, envy, flirtatiousness. They pass and repass over us like flies before our eyes, and sting us, sometime on the cheek, sometimes on the nose! However annoying they may be, our best resistance to them is not to let them unduly torment us. They can never harm us as long as we are firmly resolved to serve God.
Therefore, despise these petty attacks, not even deigning to think about them. Let them buzz about your ears as much as they like and flit around you on every side like flies. When they try to sting you and you see that they somehow light on your heart, quietly and simply chase them away. Do not do this by fighting or disputing with them. Do not keep on opposing the temptation with acts of the contrary virtue, for this would be another way of disputing with it. To the extent that you have recognized the nature of the temptation, perform some act of the directly contrary virtue; but after this, turn toward Jesus Crucified, and tell Him that you love Him. The love of God, which contains the perfections of all virtues – and more excellently than the virtues themselves – is the best remedy against all vices.
This habit that you will form of turning toward Jesus Christ at the least trouble will prevent you from looking at the temptation. And seeing that his efforts have no other result than to make your love of God increase, the devil will quickly cease bothering you.
There you have the proper attitude to adopt in little, ordinary temptations. The person who would strive against them one by one would give himself much trouble and would accomplish nothing. (Introductions to the Devout Life, Fourth Part, Chapter 9)
St. Francis de Sales, pray for us! Anne
PS: For more from this giant of the Church, check out Daily with De Sales, an online retreat based on the book Every Day with St. Francis de Sales and published by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.