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A sermon on grandeur and dress


During the Lenten season, St. Francis de Sales, the Bishop of Geneva, came to the church attached to a monastery of Capuchin friars within his diocese. He happened to arrive just at sermon time. The preacher had taken ostentation in dress as the theme of his sermon and was vehemently criticizing prelates and church dignitaries, who instead of setting an example of humility wore splendid garments and drove about in grand carriages. When the sermon ended, the bishop went into the sacristy and had the preacher summoned. The monk was startled and a little frightened when he saw the bishop standing before him. As soon as they were alone together, St. Francis said, “Reverend Father, your discourse contained much that was edifying. It may also be true that we who are in authority in the Church are guilty of sins from which the inmates of the cloister are exempt. Nevertheless, I consider it highly unwise to say such things as you did on this subject from the pulpit, to the common people. Moreover, I wish to call attention to the fact that for many reasons it is a matter of necessity that the princes of the Church should keep up an appearance befitting their rank. Besides, you never know what might be hidden beneath a silken robe.” So saying, St. Francis unbuttoned the upper part of his purple cassock and let the monk see that he wore a ragged hair shirt next to his skin. “I show you this,” he added, “that you may learn that humility is quite compatible with the rich dress of one’s office. From henceforth see that you are less harsh in your judgment and more prudent in your speech.” 

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