St Francis de Sales on Sadness

The enemy takes advantage of sadess to tempt the good… [he] is pleased with sadness and melancholy, because he is sad and melancholy himself, and will be so for all eternity; and therefore he wishes everyone to be like himself.

Evil sadness troubles the soul, leads it into disquietude, gives birth to inordinate fears, causes a distaste for prayers, dulls and oppresses the brain, deprives the soul of counsel, of resolution, of judgement and of courage, and weakens her energy: briefly it is like a hard winter which takes away all the beauty from the earth, and benumbs all living creatures; for it takes away all sweetness from the soul, and makes her almost paralysed and powerless in all her faculties.

If you should ever find yourself attacked by this evil sadness, make use of the following remedies: If anyone is sad, says St James, let him pray; prayer is a sovereign remedy, for it lifts up the soul to God, who is our only joy and consolation. But when you pray, make use of aspirations and words, whether interior or exterior, which tend to confidence in God and love of him, as: O, God of mercy! O God most good! My loving Saviour! God of my heart!…

Vigorously resist inclinations to sadness, and though it may seem to you that whatever you do in such a time is done oddly, sadly and half-heartedly, yet do not omit to do it; for the enemy, who tries to make us weary of good works by sadness, seeing that we do not fail to do them, and that when they are done with repugnance they are more meritorious, ceases to trouble us any longer.

Sing spiritual canticles, for the evil one has often been forced to desist from his efforts by this means…

It is good to occupy oneself with exterior works and to vary them as much as possible, in order to divert the soul from what causes the sadness, to purify and warm the spirit, sadness being a passion of a cold and dry nature.


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