I just finished “The Catholic Controversy” by St. Francis de Sales. This is a collection of the tracts he wrote in a time period not long after he was ordained.
He takes some interesting approaches in addressing the fact that the “reformers” were not sent and had no authority. The lack of miracles regarding their authority and disagreed substantially among each other. At one point he compares this to the Tower of Babel.
“On the contrary, gentlemen, your first ministers had no sooner got on their feet, they had no sooner begun to build a tower of doctrine and science which was visibly to reach the heavens, and to acquire them the great and magnificent reputation of reformers, than God, wishing to traverse this ambitious design, permitted among them such a diversity of language and belief, that they began to contradict one another so violently that all their undertaking became a miserable Babel and confusion.”
He goes to the root of the various problems, the concept of the invisible church, and where they outright denied doctrine. He uses scripture masterly and has such a command of the faith.
Frankly, if I did not know the author ahead of time I would have been surprised to find the answer. You can really tell this is the writings of a young man as he is so much more adversarial than in later years. For the time, in comparison, rather tame compared to Luther or St. Thomas More.
“But I detain you too long on a subject which does not require great examination. You read the writings of Calvin, of Zwingle, of Luther. Take out of these, I beg you, the railings, calumnies, insults, detraction, ridicule and buffoonery which they contain against the Pope and the Holy See of Rome, and you will find that nothing will remain.”
Russell Shaw says of this book in the introduction.
“He can, and does, write with strenuous indignation about those he blames for fracturing Christendom and leading souls away from the true Church. But by the standards of the time, even his polemics are gentle—an exercise in wit and the rhetoric of argumentation rather than a violent verbal assault on his adversaries.”
His tracts though were extremely effective in bringing people back to the faith.
Reading this I was thinking about what Trent Horn recently said when talking about different styles of apologists. He referred to himself as Miyagi-Do style. Which got me thinking about 4th season Cobra Kai and the blending of styles. It seems St. Francis also developed his style over time considering the phrase he coined.
“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”