The faults and infidelities of which we are guilty every day should indeed bring us shame and confusion, when we approach Our Lord; and thus we read of great saints, like St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Teresa, that, when they had fallen into any fault, they experienced much confusion.
Hence it is very reasonable, that, having offended God, we should retire from Him for a little by humility, and remain confused; for if we had offended only a friend, we should be ashamed to go near him.
But we must not remain away always; for the virtues of humility, abjection, and confusion are medium virtues, through which we must ascend to the union of our soul with God. It would be no great matter to annihilate and confound oneself, which is done by an act of humiliation, if it were not to give oneself to God, as St. Paul teaches us when he says: “Divest yourselves of the old man, and put on the new.”
For we are not to remain naked, but to clothe ourselves with God. This little retirement is made only the better to rush into God by an act of love and confidence. We must not confound sadness with inquietude: it is self-love that raises a good deal of this confusion, because we are offended at not being perfect, less through love for God than love for ourselves.
And though you do not feel confidence, you should not cease to make acts thereof, saying to Our Lord: My Lord! Though I have no sentiment of confidence in Thee, yet I know that Thou art my God, I am all Thine and I have no hope but in Thy goodness; hence I abandon myself entirely into Thy hands.
It is always in our power to make these acts, and though we may have some difficulty, yet there is no impossibility in the way, and it is on such occasions that we show our fidelity to Our Lord; for though we make them without relish or satisfaction, still we have no need to be in pain on that account, since Our Lord prefers them so: and do not say that you utter them only from the mouth; for if the head did not wish it, the mouth would not say a word.
Having acted thus, remain in peace, and without attending to your trouble, speak to Our Lord of something else. To conclude this point, it is good to have confusion, when we have a knowledge and feeling of our misery and imperfection; but we must not rest there, or fall therefrom into discouragement, but lift our heart to God by a holy confidence, the foundation of which should be in Him, and not in ourselves, inasmuch as we change.
But He never changes: always remaining the same, and as good and merciful when we are weak and imperfect, as when we are strong and perfect. I am accustomed to say that our misery is the throne of God’s mercy; we must, therefore, as our misery is great, have so much the greater confidence.
To be a good servant of God is not to be always consoled, always in sweetness, always without aversion or repugnance for virtue; if it were, then neither St. Paul, nor St. Angela, nor St. Catherine of Siena, would have properly served God.
To be a good servant of God is to be charitable towards our neighbor, to possess an inviolable resolution in the superior part of the soul to follow the will of God, to have such a profound humility and simplicity as will make us confide entirely in God and rise again when we fall, to endure patiently ourselves and our abjections, and to endure tranquilly our neighbors and their imperfections.
Certainly, when we take occasion from the sight of our imperfections to become humble, we gain considerably by our loss; inasmuch as the profit we make by advancing in the excellent virtue of humility is a rich reparation for the damage sustained by our frailty.
This article is taken from a chapter in Consoling Thoughts on Trials of An Interior Life by St. Francis de Sales which is available from TAN Books.