St. Francis de Sales on how poverty is happier than riches

January 14, 2022 • 3 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 131

On one occasion I expressed my admiration at his being able to make so good a show on his small means. He said:

It is God, Who multiplies the five loaves.

On my pressing him to tell me how it was done, he answered with a smile:

Why, it would not be a miracle if we knew that. Are we not most fortunate to live on only by help of miracles? It is the mercy of God that we are not consumed.

“You go quite beyond me,” I said, “by taking that ground. I am not so transcendently wise.” He replied:

Listen. Riches are truly thorns, as the Gospel teaches us. They prick us with a thousand troubles in acquiring them, with more cares in preserving them, and with yet more anxieties in spending them; and, most of all, with vexations in losing them.

After all, we are only managers and stewards, especially if it is a question of the riches of the Church, which are the true patrimony of the poor. The important matter is to find faithful dispensers. Having sufficient to feed and clothe ourselves suitably, what more do we want? Assuredly, that which is over and above these is of evil. [Matt. v. 37.]

Shall I tell you what my own feeling is? Well and good, but I must do so in your ear. I know very well how to spend what I have; but if I had more I should be in difficulty as to what to do with it. Am I not happy to live like a child without care? Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

The more any one has to manage the longer the account he has to render. We must make use of this world as though we were making no use of it at all. We must possess riches as though we had them not, and deal with the things of earth like the dogs on the banks of the Nile, who, for fear of the crocodiles, lap up the water of the river as they run along its banks.

If, as the wise man tells us, he that addeth knowledge addeth also labour; much more is this the case with the man who heaps up riches. He is like the giants in the fable who piled up mountains, and then buried themselves under them.

Remember the miserable man who, as the Gospel tells us, thought that he had many years before him in which to live at his ease, but to whom the heavenly voice said: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee; and whose shall those things be which thou hast proided? In truth happy is he only who lays up imperishable treasures in Heaven.

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