I love St. Francis de Sales. Although his classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, was originally published in 1609, I continue to find in it grace for living today. But maybe the real reason I like this book so much is that it makes me laugh. I don’t know if St. Francis deliberately sprinkled his writing with jokes, or if it’s the clash of cultures and centuries that so tickles my funny bone, but his metaphors and comparisons are often so strange that I’m frequently doing double-takes and asking, is this monk crazy? Or sometimes his analogies are just slightly askew, and I wonder, did he really mean that?
Here’s one of those passages that caused a double-take. The subject is serious, but…
“If you meet with losses that impoverish you either very much or a little, as in the case of tempests, fires, floods, droughts, thefts, or lawsuits, that is the proper time to practice poverty by accepting your losses meekly and patiently and by courageously submitting to such impoverishment. Esau presented himself to his father with his hands covered with hair, and Jacob did the same, but because the hair on Jacob’s hands did not belong to his skin but only to his gloves it might be taken away without injuring his skin. On the contrary, the hair on Esau’s hands adhered to his skin, which was naturally very hairy, so if anyone had tried to pluck it off it would have hurt him and he would have cried out, been angry, and defended himself. Thus when our worldly goods cleave to our hearts, what complaints, what trouble and what impatience do we fall into if a storm, a thief, or a cheat takes any part of them away from us. When our goods do not cleave to our hearts and we think of them only because of such care as God wants us to have for them, we don’t lose reason or peace of mind if they are taken away from us. Hence the difference as to clothing between men and beasts. The garments of beasts, namely, their skins, adhere to their flesh, while those of men are merely put on them and can be taken off at will.”
Thinking in the same logical vein, I wonder if women are better able to accept losses than men because women shave their legs.