Dr. and Mrs. Samson Libermann
The conversion of Samson and his wife to Catholicism in 1824 made a deep impression on Francis. Samson wrote, "He suffered intensely from it and made bitter reproaches to me for what he called my apostasy . . . . It sees, however, that my answers made an impression on him." Two years later in a letter to Samson, we see the beginnings of Francis's own journey through questioning to Christian faith. "God gave us the power to think not for the sake of letting it lie dormant but that we might exercise it. If a man had to allow his mind to grow dull, if he had to surrender blindly to the chains of religion, how then would he differ from the brute religion would make him what a brute is by force of nature. Why did I receive that heavenly gift if not that I might make use of it?"
- These letters, brother to brother, give us valuable insight into how Francis understood his own trials and difficulties. They help us trace his growing trust in God's providence at work in his life. He wrote of his epilepsy. "My beloved sickness is for me a great treasure, preferable to all the goods that the world offers . . . I hope that, if our Lord Jesus Christ continues to bestow upon me the graces which He has given me until this moment, however undeserving I have been of them, I shall lead a life of perfect poverty and entirely devoted to His service. ... Whatever I am and whatever I have, belongs to God, and belongs to no one else but Him."
- Francis, as a seminarian, took on the role of Spiritual Guide in his family, not least, in writing to Samson and his wife, whom he addressed as ‘Dear Brother and Sister'. The perfect love of God, in response to God's unending love for us, was his preoccupation. He wanted his family members to immerse themselves, as he had, in the circle of divine love. "You know what Jesus Christ asks of all Christians: You shall love the Lord your God, with your whole heart. This means that there should be no desire or affection in our heart, which is not for God alone, to the exclusion of all creatures."
- Francis encourages the practice of meditation as a sure way to be present to God and obedient to God's will. "I should especially like to teach you how to meditate. I am very anxious for you to do so, because I am convinced that, if you applied yourself seriously to this holy exercise for even half an hour every day, you would make rapid progress in the perfection of the Christian religion."
- Francis understood this perfection as union with Christ. This union is nurtured through meditation on the passion and suffering of Jesus for our sakes. By entering deeply into this mystery, we can behold the incomprehensible love God has for us. "If Our Lord finds our hearts well disposed, and free of the world and of worldly desires, He fills them with His love, and this love is so beautiful, so amiable, so delightful, it gives us strength to become masters of the world and of ourselves. It forms the greatest happiness of our lives here below, as well as our blessedness for the eternal hereafter."
- Francis wants his brother and sister to be free of all resentment, regret, self-love, so that they can be worthy teachers of the Christian way for their children. They are not to speak ill of others, lest the children imitate what they do. "You must also have meekness and peace in your heart; be mild and peaceful toward everybody, even those who wish you harm. Still, you must not believe too readily that anybody is against you. On the contrary, forget all the injuries that you have received at the hands of others."
- Francis does not want his brother and sister to be worried about him or about their own affairs. "Do not yield to anxiety or sorrow because it pleases Our Lord to make you wait so long for help in your affairs; there is a set time for everything! ... Let the Lord arrange things for you, my dear friends. Divine Providence might direct your affairs more slowly than you would wish. I am fully convinced that, if the whole family were solidly established in the perfection of divine love and renunciation of worldly things, your affairs would progress more quickly. Moreover, you see very well that God's goodness gives you reminders so that you will not distrust God."