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The Holy Family in Prayer

Forgiveness in the heart of the Saints

When someone told St. Francis de Sales that the most difficult thing in Christianity, in his opinion, was to love one’s enemies, the Saint replied: “I don’t know what kind of heart I have, and whether God, by an effect of His love for me, has given me one quite different from that which He gives to others, since the fulfillment of this precept is not difficult for me. I confess to you even that, if God had forbidden me to love them, it would be difficult for me to obey Him.” The following fact proves that he acted as he spoke.

There was a lawyer in Annecy who hated the holy prelate, without the latter knowing why. He never ceased to ridicule him, to slander him, to seize every opportunity to show him his hatred. The Saint, who was informed of everything, having met him, greeted him kindly; and, having taken him by the hand, said to him all that he judged capable of making him return to his right mind; but, seeing that these words produced no good effect, he added: “I perceive well that you hate me, and I cannot suspect what has indisposed you against me; but be assured that, when you pluck out one eye, I shall look at you with the other as if you were the greatest of my friends.” Surprisingly, such feelings could not soften his heart. Having fired several times at the windows of the episcopal palace, this frenzied man went so far as to fire one at the Saint himself, one day when he met him in a street of the city; the bishop was not injured, but the priest who accompanied him was.

As soon as the senate of Chambéry was informed, the guilty man was put in prison, and soon afterwards condemned to death, although the holy bishop spared nothing to prevent the sentence from being carried out. All that he obtained was that the execution would be postponed; his intention was to address the sovereign, to whom he made so many requests that he granted him the pardon that he was asking for with as much vivacity as if he had been interested in the best of his friends or a close relative. The holy bishop, having obtained what he desired, went to the prison, not doubting that he would win the heart of his enemy; he announced to him the grace he had obtained, begging him to lay down for ever all feelings of hatred. Who would believe it! Instead of tears of repentance and gratitude flowing from the eyes of this unfortunate man, he received only invectives from him: he was only more furious when he saw his bishop, his benefactor, on his knees, asking him for forgiveness as if he had been a criminal. What did the Saint do then? He parted with the man, leaving him the letters of grace, and said to him: “I have taken you out of the hands of the justice of men, and if you do not convert, you will fall into the hands of the justice of God, and you will not be able to escape.

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A good nun, filled with true charity, used to go before the Blessed Sacrament when she had received a mortification from one of her sisters, and say to Jesus Christ, “O my Savior! I forgive her heartily for Thy sake: I pray Thee to forgive her for my sake all her sins.”

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