Discover the spiritual wisdom of Saint Francis de Sales in his renowned work, Consoling Thoughts on God and Providence. Learn how to embrace God's will with perfect resignation, using the analogy of a ship without a known destination.

A Will Perfectly Resigned

Saint Francis de Sales was a saint renowned for his spiritual wisdom and guidance. Here, in one of his most well known works, Consoling Thoughts on God and Providence, he uses an analogy of a person aboard a ship without knowing its destination to explain how a soul should be perfectly resigned to the will of God.


A Journey With An Unknown Destination

Imagine you behold the glorious and ever-admirable St. Louis setting sail for a foreign land, and the Queen, his wife, embarking with His Majesty. Suppose that someone inquires of this heroic princess: Where are you going, madam? She would undoubtedly answer: I am going wherever the King is going. But do you know where the King is going? She would say: He has told me in general; yet I have no anxiety to know where he is going, but only to go with him. Then, madam, you have no special purpose in this voyage? No, she would reply: I have no other than that of being with my dear lord and husband. The other might add: See, he goes to Egypt, to pass to Palestine; he will stay at Damascus, at Acre, and at many other places; do you not intend, madam, to reside there also? No, indeed, she would say; I have no intention unless to be near my King, and the places he will visit are of no consideration to me, unless inasmuch as he will be there; I shall go, without desiring to go, for I care about nothing but the presence of the King; it is the King who desires the voyage, and as for me, I desire no voyage, but only the presence of the King; journeys, delays, and everything else being quite indifferent to me. Thus, a will resigned to that of its God should have no other desire than simply to follow the will of God.

As he who sails on board a ship does not advance by his own motion, but by the motion of the vessel, so the heart embarked on board the divine good pleasure should have no other wish than that of being carried by the will of God. Then, no more will the heart be heard to say: Thy will be done, not mine; for it will no longer have any will to renounce; but it will say these words: Lord! Into Thy hands I commend my will; as if its will were no more at its own disposal, but only at that of the Divine Providence.

Acquiescence Of The Soul To Spiritual Tribulations

Among all the pleasures of perfect love, that which is found in the acquiescence of the soul to spiritual tribulations is unquestionably the purest and most refined. The Blessed Angela of Foligno gives us an admirable description of the interior pains which she sometimes endured: she says that her soul was in torment, like a man with his hands and feet tied, hanging by the neck between life and death, yet not strangled; without any hope of succor; unable to support himself with his feet, to assist himself with his hands, to cry out with his mouth, or even to sigh. It is really so; the soul is sometimes so pressed with interior afflictions, that all its powers and faculties are crushed and desolated by the absence of everything that could solace it, as well as by the dread and apprehension of everything that could sadden it. To such an extent that, after the example of its Saviour, it begins to grow weary, to fear, to shudder, then to be sad with a sadness like that of the dying, when it can well exclaim: “My soul is sorrowful even unto death;” and, with the consent of its whole interior, it desires, implores, and beseeches that, “If it be possible, this chalice may pass away from it,” remaining attached only by the finest point of the spirit to the heart and good pleasure of God, and making one simple act of acquiescence: “O Eternal Father, may my will be never done, but Thine!” And it is remarkable that the soul makes this act of resignation in the midst of so much trouble, so many repugnances and contradictions, that it does not perceive itself doing so; at least it imagines that its acts are all so languid that they cannot come from the heart or be of any value, because what is regarded then as the divine good pleasure is endured not only without pleasure or contentment, but even contrary to the pleasure and contentment of the heart, which love allows to utter all the lamentations of Job and Jeremias, but on condition that one act of acquiescence should be made in the inmost depths, in the purest part of the soul. And this acquiescence is not sweet, or tender, or sensible, though it is real, and strong, and loving; it seems to have retired into the furthest corner of the soul, or, as it were, into the citadel of the fortress, where it remains courageous, though all the rest has fallen, and is overwhelmed with sadness. And the more removed this love is from aid, abandoned by the faculties of the soul, the more sublime is its constancy, and the nobler its fidelity.

This article is taken from a chapter in Consoling Thoughts on God and Providence by Saint Francis de Sales which is available from TAN Books

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