Delicately and Without Coercion

At the shrine of Mary Annai Velangkanni in Medan, Indonesia

How should we correct others? How should we show them virtue? How should we speak to them about the truth? Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of Love, writes to his friend Saint Jane Frances de Chantal,

As much as possible, we must touch the hearts of others as do the angels: delicately and without coercion.

How is this possible? We’re not angels! No, but we are spiritual creatures, too: a bit ruder a rougher than the angels, but definitely spiritual creatures as well. The greatest power we have is spiritual. This power can always be gentle, for it is spiritual. It can even be silent and unseen, or almost silent and almost unseen; but it remains real. There are good effects that the saints call diffusive and which are a bit like contagious imprints, impressing goodness on souls by the mere presence and receptivity of souls. Although seemingly hidden, this is the most prevalent way in which we can act on the world: by the natural and humanly uncalculated diffusion of goodness, contemplation, peace, truth, love, the Holy Spirit’s gifts.

This is one of those many reasons that being contemplative in the midst of the everyday is open to us and indeed asked of us: the reason of hope to effect change in the world when all is hopeless.


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