The Meekness of Confessors

If you wish to labor with fruit in the conversion of souls, you must pour the balsam of sweetness upon the wine of your zeal, that it may not be too fiery, but mild, soothing, patient, and full of compassion. For the human soul is so constituted that by rigor it becomes harder, but mildness completely softens it. -St. Francis de Sales

This holy Bishop proceeded in this way himself with the most perverse sinners, striving to bring them to repentance in the gentlest ways possible, guiding himself by the great maxim, that the spirit of meekness is the spirit of God.

A man who had been guilty of enormous crimes, once came to his confessional, and went on accusing himself of them with indifference, and without any spirit of penitence. After bearing this for some time, the Saint began to weep, and when his penitent asked if anything bad happened to him, he merely answered, “Go on.” As he went on with the same ease as before, telling even greater sins, he wept again and again. On being urged to tell the cause, he at last said, in a voice full of compassion, “I weep because you do not weep.” These words struck the heart of the sinner with compunction, and he became a true penitent.

Text from A Year With the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1891).

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