Today we commemorate the life of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of our Church. His Introduction to the Devout Life is a timeless spiritual treasure that has had a profound impact on many a searching soul - including myself. I am indebted to my first spiritual director for having given me his personal copy of this classic and for putting me on a solid spiritual path. I consider this one of the most important and life changing spiritual books that I have ever read.
To wet your appetite, take a reflective look-see at how Saint Francis so exquisitely puts our ability to accept suffering in its proper perspective:
“The Everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His innermost heart. This cross He now sends you is considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands, to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His Holy Name, anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation, taken one last look at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.”
He is just as clear about our need to be ever mindful of eternity:
“Oh my soul, you must one day part with this body, but when shall that day be? Shall it be in the winter, or in the summer? In the city, or in the country? By day, or by night? Shall it be suddenly, or on notice given you? Shall you have leisure to make your Confession? Shall you have the assistance of your spiritual father? Alas, of all this, you know nothing at all! Only certain it is that you must die. In fact, as it almost always happens, much sooner than you imagine.”
Read this and let me know if the good Bishop believes we are much too casual with our speech and the impact it has on people’s reputations and lives:
“Whenever I speak of my neighbor, the tongue in my mouth is like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon who wishes to cut between the nerves and the tendons. The stroke I give must be neither more nor less than the truth.”
Even this cursory view of his writings should help you understand how it upsets me whenever I hear anyone suggest Introduction to the Devout Life is too antiquated and of little value to the contemporary, post-Vatican II Catholic. Hogwash! Nothing could be further from the truth!
Today’s feast day of this great saint would be a perfectly good day to find out for yourself. If you have never read it, get a copy and dive right into it. If it has been awhile since you had your nose in between its pages, dust it off and get back into it.
And while you are at it, consider taking a look at Forgotten Truths To Set Faith Afire! –Words to Challenge, Inspire and Instruct – another treasure trove of sound tidbits of spiritual nourishment.