The following words, so typical of the gentleness and love of St. Francis de Sales, are taken from ‘Frances de Sales: A Study of the Gentle Saint’, by Louise M. Stacpoole Kenny, p. 45-46):
“In particular one hardened old veteran was so moved by one of his [St. Francis] most beautiful discourses that when it was finished he sought out Francis, and, entreating him to hear him, threw himself at the Saint’s feet, crying out in his anguish:
“God will never pardon so great a sinner. There is no hope for me: my crimes are too many and too terrible.”
Francis consoled and soothed him, and persuaded him to make a general confession.
With sobs and groans the poor man went through a long catalogue of sins. He had not approached the Sacrament of Penance since he was a boy, and now he was grey-haired. He had the numerous sins of a lifetime spent in dissipation to confess. Francis absolved him, and gave him for his penance one Pater and one Ave.
“What, my Father!” cried the astonished soldier, “do you wish me to be damned that you give me so light a penance? Think of the awful crimes I have just confessed to you; how can I atone?”
“My son,” replied the gentle Saint, “confide in the mercy of God. His Precious Blood was shed for you and for all of us for the remission of our sins. His mercy is greater than all your iniquities. I will perform the rest of your penance myself.”
St. Francis de Sales was of the belief that the greater number of Catholics are saved. Contrary beliefs have been briefly mentioned and explained on this site; this is for the benefit of those who are familiar with some of the more sobering Catholic traditions. If our confidence wavers, we will benefit from frequent, devout and humble meditation on our Lord’s goodness, calling to mind the fact that Jesus created us each for Himself. Even at the hour of death, His mercy calls upon us.
St. Alphonsus: “God protests that when sinners repent of their iniquities, he will forget all their sins, as if they had never offended him. ‘But if the tricked do penance for all the sins he hath committed . . . . living, he shall live, and shall not die.’ ‘I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done.’ By the Prophet Isaias, the Lord goes so far as to say: ‘Come and accuse Me,’ saith the Lord. ‘If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow.’ Mark the words, ‘Come and accuse Me.’ As if the Lord said: Sinners, come to me, and if I do not pardon and embrace you, reprove me, upbraid me with violating my promise. But no! God cannot despise an humble and contrite heart. ‘A contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.'” (Taken from his book of sermons)