Undoubtedly, François Fénelon was able to see into other people’s lives not just by their actions or attitudes, but in conversing with them. The stress of post-war recovery and wanting not to give God another reason for such punishment, they became reclusive, not wanting to earn His disfavor. What Fénelon heard motivated him to address them this way:

Don’t you know that your spiritual progress is more hindered by your excessive fear of taking the opportunity to enjoy ordinary, innocent things, than which could be enjoyed by your participating. Of course, self-indulgence is always to be avoided, especially when we need self-restraint; but you seriously injure yourself by keeping up a perpetual effort to resist even the smallest involuntary pleasure in the details of a well-regulated life. I would have you steadily resist such a tendency. I do not approve of your efforts to reject the enjoyment inevitably attending upon simple food and needed rest.

Speak honestly about your concerns about your health to your doctor. Then leave it to him to, decide and stop thinking about your delights. But obey quietly; that should be the aim of your courage and steadfastness. Without this, you will not acquire the peace that God’s children possess, nor will you deserve it. Bear all annoyances of your present condition, which is full of inconveniences and discomfort; in a penitential spirit; these arc the penances God assigns you, and they are far more useful than those you may choose for yourself. There is no spot in the world where you would not find yourself beset with your natural taste for enjoyment. Even the strictest solitude would have its thorns.

The best state to be in is the one in which God’s hand holds you: do not look beyond it, and be content to accept His will from one moment to another in the spirit of self-denial and renunciation. But this surrender must be full of trust in God, who loves you even more for not sparing you. You ought to be scrupulous about your scruples rather than about your enjoyment of innocent, ordinary things.[1] [2]

Written over 450 years ago

Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Cf. Philippians 4:8

[2] Fénelon, François: The Complete Fénelon, Part 1, The Royal Way of the Cross, pp. 8-9

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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