Letters of St. Francis de Sales on Eternity

LETTER I. (We are journeying to eternity)

Dwell constantly on this thought,—that we are journeying in this world between paradise and hell; that our last step will place us in an eternal home; that we know not which shall be the last; but that in order to make our last step good, we must try to make all the others so, O holy and never-ending eternity! happy are they who, meditate on thee! for what is all we do in this world, be it for few or many years, but what I may call mere children’s play, if it were not that this life forms the passage to eternity.

To secure that, how careful should we be of the time given us here below; how anxious should we be, so to fulfill our respective callings, that they may be the means of helping us to that blessed end!

LETTER II. (To a Gentleman at Court.)

God defend you with His holy arm, and more and more strengthen in you this noble and blessed purpose, which He Himself has inspired, of devoting your whole life to His service. It is right and just that those who live should not live for themselves, but for Him Who died for them. A great mind uplifts its best thoughts, and affections, and energies to that which is infinite and eternal, and thereby learns almost to despise what is ephemeral and fading; and while keeping its eye fixed upon eternity and its exceeding fullness of bliss, overlooks as it were, the little pleasures, or rather, worthless amusements this passing life bestows. In proportion as you know yourself to be in the midst of temptation, strengthen yourself by every means to resist it. Never go out in the morning, till you have in the presence of God, renewed your good resolutions; and in the evening, read, if it be only a dozen lines, of some good book, (or one chapter in the Bible) before you say your prayers, to dissipate any contagion, or thought of evil your mind may have contracted during the events of the day. I would see you live like the celebrated Phoenix of the ancients, amid flames of fire without singeing even your wings. Blessed is any trouble and exertion, (however great it be) which delivers us from everlasting woe! Blessed is the labor whose reward is eternal!

LETTER III. (To a Gentleman of high rank.)

Blessed for ever be God, for the mercy He has shown toward you, in inspiring your soul with such a burning desire to consecrate to the work of eternity, the remainder of your mortal life.

Divine indeed, is that eternity, which illumines our spirits with its own glory and blessedness;—the only real life;—to the attainment of which, we should direct all our efforts in this world, since life which ends not in life eternal, approximates rather to death than to life at all. But as God has so mercifully led you to aspire to an eternity of glory, He has also thereby laid a necessity on you, diligently to practice the suggestions of His Holy Spirit, under pain of being deprived of this blessing and glory; therefore I would entreat you to give every attention to keep what is committed to you, lest you lose your crown. You are doubtless called to a manly, courageous, and invariable course of devotion, to be, as it were, a mirror of the truth of Heavenly love to many, and thereby to repair your own past faults, if ever you have been led away by the vanity of earthly love.

I would earnestly persuade you to communicate more frequently: so that instead of resolving to communicate but twelve times in the year, you would add a thirteenth, then a fourteenth, then a fifteenth, and so on, increasing from month to month. What peace and strength it would bring you; for the oftener your heart received its Saviour, the more perfectly would it become united to Him; and you could do so without any ostentation, without its interfering with your interests, or without the world saying or knowing anything of it. An experience of twenty-five years’ ministering to souls, has taught me the all-powerful virtue of this Blessed Sacrament, in strengthening hearts in goodness, in cleansing them from sin, in comforting them; in a word, in transfiguring them to a Heavenly likeness, even in this world, provided it be received with the needful Faith, Purity, and Devotion.

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