St. Francis De Sales
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St. Francis de Sales, besides being the founder of the Visitation Order, is also honored as patron of authors, journalists, teachers, writers, confessors, publishers, and the deaf. It may be worth considering why he might have been chosen as patron for these various professions.
He was an appealing and successful teacher who instructed our first sisters in the ways of religious life according to his particular spirit, and also helped to reform and renew other religious communities of men and women by his gentle and tactful guidance. He regularly gathered groups of children around himself to instruct them in the catechism, and thereby enticed their parents to attend these lessons as well So high was his esteem for learning that he made efforts to establish a “holy house of faith and science”, a spiritual and technical center for training new converts to become evangelists in the regions dominated by Protestants.
He was a renowned confessor, much sought-after for his enlightened spiritual direction and compassion toward sinners; he spared no efforts to bring sinners to accept the mercy of God, often humbling himself before them and making himself vulnerable to their insults. Another meaning for “confessor” is illustrated by his missionary activity – he was a persuasive and steadfast defender of the faith, never hesitating to debate leading Calvinists in public. He always defeated them – sometimes he won by default because his opponents failed to appear for a scheduled debate, thus incurring the jolly ridicule of the citizens gathered to hear them.
He wrote thousands of letters of instruction, guidance, comfort, and encouragement, in addition to his correspondence as a bishop and an unofficial diplomat employed by the Pope, the King of France and the Duke of Savoy. He was the author
of The Introduction to the Devout Life, drawn from some of his letters, and The Treatise on the Love of God, a unique philosophical and theological foundation for the life of prayer and union with God. At the time of his death, he was making plans for a companion treatise on the love of neighbor.
While laboring to re-convert the Chablais from the Protestant religion imposed upon it by its rulers, he published newsletters and pamphlets to reach the people who were afraid to come to hear him preach. He wrote out instructions on the teachings of the Church to counteract the false information given by the Calvinists and then made countless copies by hand. These were distributed in secret at night so that the people could receive them and read them without fear of reprisals from their magistrates. He regularly promoted the use of the printed word in his apostolic works and even had his own printing press which he made use of to proclaim the truth and to inform the consciences of his people.
He was one of the most popular preachers in Europe . Frequently he preached for missions and series of sermons during Lent and Advent, as well as for state funerals and weddings. Constantly he “preached the Word, in season and out of season”, by word and example. During one of his missions in a little town called La Roche, he encountered a deaf-mute named Martin. St. Francis de Sales took a personal interest in this man and worked out a kind of sign language as a means of communicating with him. He patiently instructed him in preparation for receiving his First Holy Communion and from then on became the man’s confessor, taking him into his household as a servant. It is no wonder that St. Francis de Sales is known for his gentleness and humility, charity and generosity, wisdom and learning, joyful self-forgetfulness and detachment from worldly values. He is a patron we can all study and confidently follow in the way of holiness.
Hours of the Passion: Second Hour
Reflections and Pratices
Jesus promptly departs from His Mother, although His most tender Heart undergoes a shock.
Are we ready to sacrifice even the most legitimate and holy affections in order to fulfill the Divine Volition?
(Let us examine ourselves especially in the cases of separation from the sense of the Divine Presence, or from sensible devotion).
Jesus did not take His last steps in vain. In them, He glorified the Father and asked for the salvation of souls. We must place in our steps the same intentions which Jesus placed – that is, to sacrifice ourselves for the glory of the Father and for the good of souls. We must also imagine placing our steps in those of Jesus Christ; and as Jesus Christ did not take them in vain, but enclosed in His steps all those of creatures, repairing for all their missteps, to give the glory due to the Father, and life to all the missteps of creatures so that they might walk along the path of good – so we should do it in the same way, placing our steps in those of Jesus Christ with His own intentions.
Do we walk on the street modest and composed, so as to be an example for others? As the afflicted Jesus walked, He talked to the Apostles every once in a while, speaking to them about His imminent Passion. What do we say in our conversations?
When the opportunity arises, do we make the Passion of the Divine Redeemer the object of our conversations?
In seeing the Apostles sad and discouraged, loving Jesus tried to comfort them. Do we place in our conversations the intention of relieving Jesus Christ? Do we try to do them in the Will of God, infusing in others the spirit of Jesus Christ? Jesus goes to the Cenacle. We must enclose our thoughts, affections, heartbeats, prayers, actions, food and work in the Heart of Jesus Christ in the act of operating; and by doing this, our actions will acquire the Divine attitude. However, since it is difficult to always keep this Divine attitude, because it is hard for the soul to fuse her acts continuously in Him, the soul can compensate with the attitude of her good will, and Jesus will be very pleased. He will become the vigilant sentry of her every thought, of her every word and of her every heartbeat. He will place these acts as cortege inside and outside of Himself, watching them with great love, as the fruit of the good will of the creature. When then the soul, fusing herself in Him, does her immediate acts with Jesus, good Jesus will feel so attracted toward that soul that He will do what she does together with her, transmuting the work of the creature into Divine work. All this is the effect of the Goodness of God which takes everything into account and rewards everything, even a tiny act in the Will of God, so that the creature may not be defrauded of anything.
O my Life and my All, may your steps direct mine, and as I tread the earth, let my thoughts be in Heaven!