Holy Family (December 30, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience Jesus telling Mary and Joseph that He must be in his ‘Father’s house’, yet he remains obedient to his parents. St. Francis de Sales notes:

God draws us by special attractions. If the attraction comes from God, it leads you to ‘loving obedience’. In doing God’s will, ‘loving obedience’ undertakes a command lovingly, no matter how difficult it may be. We desire that God take all our affections and actions, and shape them. This road will surely lead you to reap a harvest of blessings.

In the Scriptures, Jesus tells us often that He came not to do His own will but the will of His Father. During His mortal life, Jesus also lovingly obeyed His parents and others. Our Savior now asks of us to imitate the loving obedience that He rendered, not only to the Divine good will, but also to His earthly parents. Joseph and Mary received great joy because they helped Him, and remained constantly in His presence.

What causes us to be inconstant and changeable in our moods to love and serve God? It is the diversity of our desires. Constant mood swings come from our inordinate desires. Holy love has only one desire: to love and serve God, who desires we have a tranquil spirit, and experience in this world a slight foretaste of eternal joy.

Evenness of mind and heart is the most necessary virtue for the stability of moods that leads to holiness. One way to achieve evenness and stability of moods in our lives is to have a daily routine of mental prayer and other activities that sustain our well being: eating, sleeping, and exercise. Be faithful to God’s wishes and commands, as the bees do with their queen. Then you will live firm and unwavering in your resolution to love God’s will as Jesus did: constantly, courageously, hardily, and ardently.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Oeuvre: Entretiens)

Vigil of Christmas (December 25, 2018)

This evening is the vigil of Christmas and we ponder on the mystery of the birth of Our Lord. St. Francis de Sales offer us some thoughts on the nativity:

If someone intends to build a house or a palace, he must first consider for whom the dwelling is intended. He will obviously use different plans depending upon the social status of the person. So it was with the Divine Builder. God built the world for the Incarnation of the Son. Divine wisdom foresaw from all eternity that the Word would assume our nature in coming to earth. To accomplish this task, God chose a woman, the most holy Virgin Mary, who brought forth Our Savior.

In the Incarnation, God made us see what the human mind could hardly have imagined or understood. So great was God’s love for humanity that in becoming human, God desired to fill us with divinity. God wished to crown us with divine goodness and dignity. God wanted us to be children of God.

Our Savior came into this world to teach us what we need to do to preserve in ourselves this divine resemblance that God has so completely repaired and embellished in us. Oh, how earnestly we ought to summon up our courage to live according to what we are. Our Savior came to teach us how to live according to reason, and to show us how to subdue our disordered loves. He was wholly filled with mercy and kindness for the human family. Often when the most hardened sinners have reached the point of living as if there were no God, Our Savior allows them to find His Heart full of pity and kind mercy toward them. All who know this experience some feeling of gratitude for it. It is Jesus whom we must form and bring to birth in our own hearts. The Child is well worth whatever we endure in order to bring Him to birth.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 23, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, we experience Elizabeth proclaiming Mary to be blessed as the mother of Our Lord. St. Francis de Sales notes:

When Elizabeth proclaims Mary’s blessedness, Mary affirms that she is indeed blessed, for all her happiness comes from God. God looks at Mary in her lowliness and exalts her. Mary, in her humility, is in awe that God has made her the mother of Jesus.

A very exalted love of God and neighbor, as well as a profound humility, form a special union in Mary’s heart. Humility has Mary experience the immense and inexhaustible depth of God’s goodness. After experiencing the immensity of God’s love, she is aware of her littleness in the face of God’s loftiness. She immediately acts on her love for God, by saying: Let it be done to me as You say. In giving her consent to God’s will, she demonstrates the greatest charity conceivable. For at the moment she consents, the Divine Word takes on flesh. Infinitely graced, Mary desires God’s love for all.

As with Mary, our first fruit of the grace of God is humility. Humility has us experience the infinite love of God. At the same time, humility has us experience the limitations of our capacity to love God and others. While grace inclines us to the excellence of God’s divine love, humility has us see how God’s love profoundly purifies the heart before God and creatures. Like in Mary, God’s love, in us, has us love others.

What a good sign humility of heart is in the spiritual life! If we humble ourselves by giving our consent to God’s will in our life, we too can give birth in our heart to the Christ Child. To let go of our own willful desires is painful. Yet, to bring Christ to birth in our hearts is well worth trusting in God’s action in us. Our divine Savior, with our consent, will assuredly make us eternally blessed, and introduce us into eternal life.

(Sermons of St. Francis de Sales, L. Fiorelli, Ed.; Saint Francis de Sales, Oeuvres.)

Third Sunday of Advent (December 16, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we continue to experience John the Baptist urging us to conversion. He tells us to give of our abundance, have a sense of integrity in our daily activities, and know who we are and who Our Messiah is. St. Francis de Sales notes:

John the Baptist is too great a lover of truth to be carried away by ambition. He informs those who came to him that he is not the Messiah. He tells us, we must look into our actions, reforming those that are not of good intentions and perfecting those that are.

John the Baptist was a firm rock, a man possessed of unshakable stability in the midst of changing circumstances He has courage to admit who he is. Indeed, he who truly knows himself is not annoyed when he is held and treated for what he is. Surely, it is a sign of great interior conversion when God gives us light to know who we are.

To be a Christian is the most beautiful title we can give ourselves. Yet, it is not enough to be called a Christian. We must live in a way that one recognizes clearly in us a person who loves God with his or her whole heart. One who keeps the Commandments and frequents the sacraments, and who does things worthy of a true Christian.

When we know we are loved, we are compelled to love in return. So it is when we live our life in Christ. The sacred love of Christ presses down upon us in a special way to have us share our abundance with others. Compassion makes us share the sufferings, sorrows and affections of those we love. Mothers and fathers suffer because of the great afflictions of their children. The dearer one is to us the deeper one’s welfare enters into our heart. Whether their welfare is sad or joyful, we commiserate with them. Our goal is to act with only one intention: conforming ourselves to the true image of God in us. For the reason why Jesus came, was to show us our true self in God.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Second Sunday of Advent (December 9, 2018)

In today’s Gospel we experience John the Baptist urging us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. St. Francis de Sales has us start with our hearts:

Our heart is the source of our action. As our heart is, so are our actions. Whoever wins a person’s heart has won the whole person. Yet even the heart, where we wish to begin, must be instructed. John the Baptist wants us to fill our fearful hearts with faith and hope. Certain fears and anxieties, when excessive, unnerve the heart and often lead to discouragement. These are the ditches and valleys that must be filled with confidence and hope to prepare for Our Lord’s coming.

Make straight the paths. Roads that twist and turn fatigue and greatly mislead the traveler. We must straighten our ways with confidence that God will give us the necessary help to acquire an even disposition. Don’t lose heart. Be patient. Do all you can to develop a spirit of compassion. I have no doubt that God is holding you by the hand. If God allows you to stumble, it is only to let you know that if God were not holding your hand, you would fall. This is how we learn to take a tighter hold of God’s hand.

It is not possible for us to have a change of heart so totally right away. We need patience. If you strive to practice patience faithfully God will give it to you. We must be like the mariner who, in steering his vessel, always keeps his eye on the needle of the compass. We must have only one intention and that is pleasing God. Let us pay attention to the Word of God and digest it well. How delightful it is to reflect on our Savior. He had perfect equanimity of spirit shining brilliantly in the midst of all sorts of changing circumstances. How pleasing it is to find this even disposition in someone. Those who have Jesus Christ in their heart will soon have Him in all their ways.

(Adapted from the writings of Saint Francis de Sales.)

First Sunday of Advent (December 2, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges us to live a life of holiness so as to experience the glory of His coming. This calls for a conversion of our hearts. St. Francis de Sales notes:

As soon as some people see that you wish to lead a life of holiness, they might speak of your conversion as hypocrisy, bigotry, and trickery. They will say that the world has turned against you, and being rebuffed by it, you have turned to God. Your friends will tell you that you will become depressed, lose your reputation, be unbearable, and that your affairs at home will suffer. All this is mere foolishness. People spend hours in playing games and think nothing of it. Yet if you spend an hour in meditation or get up a little earlier than usual in the morning to pray, everyone thinks there is something the matter with you. So we must be firm in our resolution to live faithfully in God’s love.

When we first have a change of heart, things will seem a little strange, as they are new. When we see that the mountain of Christian perfection is very lofty, we tend to say “O God, how shall I be able to climb it?” Have courage. Such feelings will pass, and you will receive countless blessings.

We are like young bees who cannot yet fly out among the flowers, mountains, or nearby hills to gather honey. Little by little, by continuing to eat honey the older bees have prepared, the young bees develop wings and grow strong, so that later they fly all over the country in search of food. At first we cannot fly up high according to our plan, which is to be holy. But as our desires and resolutions begin to take form and our wings start to grow, we hope some day to be able to fly aloft. Let us follow the instructions of holy persons of past times, and pray to God to give us wings, not only to fly upward during the time of our present life but also to find repose in the eternity that is to come.

(Adapted from the Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales.)

Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King (November 25, 2018)

Today is the Feast of Christ the King.  St. Francis de Sales stated that it was divine inspiration that the word “king” was inscribed on Jesus’ cross. He adds:

Our Lord came as a shepherd and as King of Shepherds. Shepherds represent those who make a commitment to lead a holy life. In this sense we are all shepherds, and Our Lord desires to favor those like Himself.  As a good shepherd and lovable pastor of our souls that are his sheep, Jesus came to teach us what we ought to do so that we might be made whole through Him. He came to recreate what was lost, and no one has ever been betrayed by Him.

Jesus as a king was called to be Savior, and He desired that others should share in the glory of being leaders, especially his blessed Mother. Jesus made God’s goodness abound more than evilness. He overcame death, disease, toil, and abuse of our sensory desires. Jesus’ work is truly salutary when it touches our miseries and makes them worthy of love. When we possess God’s love, we are empowered to share in our Savior’s work.

God desired to save the Hebrew people through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the other prophets. We are shown more fully God’s delight and care for the world by the sending of our Savior Jesus. We plant vines because of their fruit. Yet leaves and buds precede the fruit. Similarly, while Our Savior was first in God’s eternal plan of creation, the vine  (the universe) was first planted. For this reason Jesus is called the “first-born of all creatures.” Like leaves or blossoms, the many generations that precede Jesus prepare the way for Him. How happy we are when we choose Jesus as our leader, who gives us unparalleled peace and calm if we follow Him. Our Savior shows us that God’s majesty will not be overcome by evil, but will overcome evil by good: the work of a true King.


(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.)

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 18, 2018)

Today’s readings remind us that we have nothing to fear if we have hope and faith in God. St. Francis de Sales has much to say about hope, faith, trust in God:

Hope in God, for God will free you from your burdens or give you the strength to bear them. When we have faith in God, we are shielded from our enemies and the terrors of the night. To say “I believe in God” is to say we do not trust in our own strength but in the strength of God. It is most certain that God exercises a tender care for us when we abandon all our anxieties and fears to Divine Providence. Yet God desires that we do all that lies in our power to accomplish our tasks. Go ahead filled with courage, but go in simplicity. God wants us to use all the ordinary means to attain hope and trust.

We must not think that we have no talent to do what we are called upon to do. Thinking we are not virtuous enough must not trouble us. The apostles were fishermen who were given talents and holiness to the extent these gifts were necessary to fulfil the mission God confided to them. Go ahead without worrying and without turning back. Whenever you work for God’s glory, God will always give you what you need at the proper time, and provide what is necessary for you and those entrusted to your care.

If you feel disheartened, throw yourself immediately into God’s arms, entrusting yourself to God’s care. We must not be upset if we have little attacks of anxiety and sadness, as they give us opportunities to practice the best and dearest virtues: trust in God and gentleness. When things go wrong, is this not the best time to trust in God? We must encourage one another in holy hope. Without growing weary, we must walk in hope, ardently yet tranquilly, carefully but confidently. Let us climb Mount Tabor where, in hope, faith and trust in God, we will encounter Jesus when He comes in glory.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales, especially Sermons, L. Fiorelli, Ed.)

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 11, 2018)

Today’s readings inspire us to give of ourselves at a deeper level. St. Francis de Sales gives us simple ways to give of ourselves by setting priorities of what is important in life:

The love of God is gentle, peaceful and calm. Our, love to be effective, must flow from this divine love. To love as Jesus loved we must have a generous heart that reaches out to those who are poor, materially and spiritually. Love the poor. Be glad to see them in your home and to visit with them in theirs. Share your goods with them. God will repay you not only in the next world but even in this.

Our hearts must be open first to God’s kingdom. Whatever riches we possess, remember that we are only stewards of the things of this earth. God entrusts them to our care, but our hearts must remain detached from them in a way that we are not anxious about them. When we take care of our possessions the way God wants us to care for them, we don’t lose peace of mind if they are taken from us.

If we decide to respond to misfortunes with gentleness, peace and calmness, we feed the fire of sacred love that is growing in us. We do not choose these losses, but we do choose how we will give of ourselves to others when difficult events cause us pain. We ought to rejoice in such occasions, as they are opportunities for us to place our trust more fully in the love and goodness of God. Thus, in circumstances over which we have no control, let us yield to these circumstances with a good heart, and put up with them patiently, courageously and cheerfully. If we live in this way we will be very rich because we will possess divine love, which empowers us, like the saints, to give more fully of ourselves to those in need.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal.)

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary (November 4, 2018)

“Which is the first of all of the commandments?”

When we get right down to it, what is the most important dimension of our faith? Upon what foundation does the edifice of Christianity rest?

Jesus’ answer is unambiguous: love. This love has three facets.

Love of God. Francis de Sales tells us that the reason that we love God is because of who God is: our dignity, and our destiny. “We love God because God is the most supreme and most infinite goodness.”

Love of neighbor. Francis de Sales tells us: “Love of God not only commands love of neighbor, but it even produces and pours love of neighbor into our hearts. Just as we are in God’s image, so the sacred love we have for one another is the true image of our heavenly love for God.”

Love of self. This is the aspect that perhaps we are most tempted to overlook: after all, “self-love” sounds suspiciously like being self-centered. Why should we love ourselves? Simply and profoundly because “we are God’s image and likeness,” says Francis de Sales. When we are at our best all of us are the “most holy and living images of the divine.”

Why is authentic love of self so critical to our love of God and neighbor? Simply, if we fail to love ourselves, how can we possibly give praise and thanks to God for creating us? If we fail to love ourselves, how can we possible love our neighbor who is not only made in God’s image, but who is fundamentally made in the image and likeness of us since we all come from the same source – God himself.

The fullness of Christian perfection – the fullness of living Christ’s life – can be likened to a three-legged table. To the extent that any one of the three legs is weak, the whole table is seriously at risk. Such a table cannot hope to support any significant weight. So, too, if any one of the three loves of our lives – God, self and others – is deficient, all three will suffer, and we cannot hope to carry the weight of God’s command for us to build up something of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

To be sure, love is the simple answer to what is most important in our lives. In our lived experience, however, this love is never quite so simple as we might like to believe.

How is your love of God? How is your love of neighbor? How is your love of self?


All Saints (November 1, 2018)

“Let us join our hearts to these heavenly spirits and blessed souls. Just as young nightingales learn to sing in company with the old, so also by our holy associations with the saints let us learn the best way to pray and sing God’s praise.” (Introduction to the Devout Life, Part II, Chapter 16)

We stand on the shoulders of giants. Over the last two thousand years countless men, women and children of many eras, places and cultures have spent their lives in the service of the Good News of Jesus Christ. From among these many, a smaller group of individuals have earned the distinction of being known as “saints.”

These are real people to whom we look for example. These are real people to whom we look for inspiration. These are real people to whom we look for encouragement and grace. These saints – these real people - have blazed a trail in the midst of trials while living and proclaiming the Gospel. The challenge to us is to follow their example in ways that fit the state and stage of life in which we find ourselves.

Francis de Sales wrote: “Look at the example given by the saints in every walk of life. There is nothing that they have not done in order to love God and to be God’s devoted followers…Why then should we not do as much according to our position and vocation in life to keep the cherished resolution and holy protestations that we have made?” (Ibid, Part V, Chapter 12)

What does it mean to be a saint? Surprisingly, it is much more down-to-earth and obtainable than we might think. Francis de Sales observed: “We must love all that God loves, and God loves our vocation; so let us love our vocation, too, and not waste our energy hankering after a different sort of life, but get on with your own job. Be Martha as well as Mary, and be both gladly, faithfully doing what you are called to do…” (Stopp, Selected Letters, Page 61)

In the view of St. Francis de Sales, sanctity – sainthood – is measured by our willingness and ability to embrace the state and stage of life in which we find ourselves. Saints are people who deeply embraced their lives as they found them, rather than wasting time wishing or waiting for an opportunity to live someone else’s life. Sainthood – sanctity – holiness – is marked by the willingness to embrace God’s will as it is manifested in the ups and downs of everyday life.

How are you being called to be a saint today? How, in the midst of trials, van we blaze trails of love today?

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 28, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, we experience Jesus’ compassion as He heals the blind man who has faith in His healing power. St. Francis de Sales notes:

Your heart is held in God’s hand of mercy. God will never abandon you even if you are troubled and in anguish. You never want to leave God when you are feeling sad and bitter. Instead call out to our Lord and our Lady, who never stop loving you. God’s goodness with its gentle strength comes to our aid if we accept the needed help. In no way must we lose heart. If we cooperate with God’s loving care for us, God’s goodness will give us another, even greater help. God’s mercy leads us from good to better so that we may advance in holy love.

By frequently lifting up your heart to God during the day, you will strengthen your mind against useless and habitual thoughts that upset and torment you. You can say: "Yes Lord, I want to do this action because You want it." Choosing to endure difficulties so as to achieve what is better for us is a very powerful prayer before God, regardless of the complaints that come from our feelings. If you happen to fail, don’t be disturbed. With great confidence in God’s mercy, pick yourself up and continue to walk peacefully and calmly, as before, in faith. Even though we are weak, our weakness is not nearly as great as God’s mercy toward those who want to love and hope in God.

I have seen few people make progress without experiencing trials, so you must be patient. After the squall, God will send the calm, for you are God’s child. Our divine Savior never forgets to show that his mercy surpasses his justice. That his love and desire to forgive is infinite, and that he is rich in mercy. Consequently, Our Redeemer wishes that all be made whole through his divine love. Have faith in God’s healing power.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal.)

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 21, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals that to be great is to be a servant. St. Francis de Sales stresses that we serve God best in our daily responsibilities of our state of life:

Firmly put in your mind that God desires you to be a servant just as you are. That is, you serve God best by trying to be patient, gentle and loving in the activities and responsibilities that your state in life requires. Once you are convinced of this, you must bring yourself to a tender affection for your state in life. Because God wills it, we must love everything about it and give it first place in our heart, recalling it often, thinking it over seriously, welcoming and enjoying the truth of it.

Cultivate your own garden as best you can. Direct your thoughts to being very good at being what you are and bear the crosses, little or great, that you find there by frequently asking God to help you. Do not consider the importance of the things you do. For of themselves they are insignificant. Consider only the dignity they have in being willed by God’s providence, and planned according to God’s wisdom. In a word, if they are pleasing to God and acknowledged being so, to whom should they be displeasing?

Little by little exercise your will to follow God’s will. God, who does nothing in vain, gives us strength and courage when we need them. Gradually the strong resistance you feel will become weaker and soon disappear altogether. Call to mind that trees bear fruit only because of the presence of the sun, some sooner, and some later. Not all of them yield equal harvests. We are very fortunate to be able to remain in the presence of God. So let us be content that God will make us bear our fruit sooner or later, or only occasionally, according to God’s good pleasure. Our openness to the will of God allows us to be faith-filled servants of God, who never fails to help us in our needs

(Adapted from W. Wright & J. Power, Eds., Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal…)

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 14, 2018)

In today’s Gospel Jesus challenges us to let go of everything to follow Jesus, who brings true wealth. St. Francis de Sales speaks similarly:

To let go of our external possessions means we have to abandon everything into Our Lord’s hands. Then, we must ask Our Lord for the true love He desires us to have for them. You can possess riches if you merely keep them in your home and not in your heart. You may take care to increase your wealth and resources provided it is done not only justly, but also honestly and charitably, and you use them for the honor and glory of God. We must love God first of all, and then after that, others.

To live Jesus we must also give to Our Lord our imaginary possessions, such as honor, esteem and fame, so that in all things we seek God’s glory. Our possessions are not our own. God has given them to us to cultivate and wants us to make them fruitful for the Kingdom on earth. Hence we must take good care of them and use them as God wills.

To be free from our possessions means to cut out all that is superfluous and not of God in our lives. Yet, no one prunes vines by hacking them with an axe but by cutting them very carefully with a pruning hook, one shoot at a time. We must do likewise with ourselves, and take one step at a time. We can’t arrive in a day where we aspire to be.

This holy pursuit of doing God’s will in our lives is a huge undertaking. Still it is not as great as the reward. A generous person can do anything with the help of the Creator. At every moment give the very heart of your heart to our Savior. You will see that as this divine Lover takes His place in your heart, the world with all its futile pursuits will leave you, and you will live joyously in the total and perfect liberty of spirit as a child of God.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales.)

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 7, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals to us that God made marriage a holy committed relationship. St. Francis de Sales speaks similarly about marriage:

Marriage is equally holy in the rich and in the poor. The preservation of holy marriage is of the highest importance for the state since it is the origin and source of all that flows from the state. If only our Savior were invited to every marriage, as He was to the marriage at Cana. The wine of his consolation and blessing would never be lacking.

Married people ought to have that mutual love that the Holy Spirit in Scriptures so highly recommends to them. The first effect of this divine love is an indissoluble union of the hearts, affections, and love of the husband and wife. The second effect of this divine love is the inviolable fidelity of husband and wife to each other. The third fruit of marriage is the birth and nurturing of children. Marriage is the nursery of Christianity. It is a great honor to you who are married that God empowers you to cooperate in so noble a work of creation in giving birth to children and properly nurturing them.

Husbands and wives, advance more and more in the mutual love you owe to one another, take care that your love does not degenerate into jealousy of any kind. It often happens that just as a worm is bred in the ripest, most tender apple, so also jealousy grows in the most ardent and compelling love of husband and wife. Jealousy never gets in where friendship is based on true virtue in both persons. Love and fidelity joined together always produce intimacy and mutual trust. Why then do you not cherish each other with a completely holy, completely sacred, and completely divine love?

(Adapted from St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life .)

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 30, 2018)

Today’s readings call us to be totally committed and dedicated to God. St. Francis de Sales tells us that we do this by cultivating a life of holy love.

The supreme happiness of the world consists in loving many things as one’s own. Such affections easily spring up again and again in us. But we must make a clear distinction between inclinations and attachments. If our feelings come from inclinations, we should not be concerned. For instance, a thousand times a day I may feel enraged against someone who has slandered me. But if I turn to God and make an act of charity for the one who outraged me, there is nothing wrong, for it is not in my power to calm my natural feelings, especially when faced with a lion.

With our attachments it is a different story. What makes us so attached to what is ours is the exaggeration of our self-importance. While we may subdue our inordinate self-centeredness, it will never die as long as we live here on earth. Yet, if we wish to calm the feelings that dominate our actions that cause us regrets, we need to nurture holy love. To do this we must move from our inordinate self-centered loves to a love that seeks only God’s glory in all things. Holy love begins to grow in us as we begin to let go of all that does not lead us to God’s goodness. “Letting go” (holy detachment) is such a difficult virtue to acquire that in a monastery it takes ten years of cultivation. Yet the virtue is not as terrible as it sounds, for it gives us the liberty of spirit to love the world around us as God loves it. So let us follow reason and not our tendencies or dislikes of difficult virtues. While our attachments are very precious things, we must use them to love God, our one true Possession, to whom we dedicate and commit our lives.

(Adapted from Carneiro, Spiritual Conferences of St. Francis de Sales)

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 23, 2018)

Today’s Gospel challenges us to be child-like servants of God. Simplicity of heart marks a loving child, and is also a “little virtue” that St. Francis de Sales emphasizes:

Like an infant whose one desire is to be fed by its mother, our heart is simple when we have only one desire and that is to love God. We allow our Lord to carry us as we walk according to the desires of God and not our own preferences. A truly simple person spends time with the Lord. They are like the little child who desires only to rest in his mother’s arms because here is where he is nourished and cared for.

Simplicity requires that our interior self match our exterior self. Yet, we do not lack simplicity when we put on a smiling face while we feel upset. It is true you are agitated within when you are facing some difficulty. This is natural for our misery tends to follow an extreme course. Although we admit the feeling, we do not have to consent to it. Thus when we are troubled by something and smile, it means we accept our difficulty in a good, wholesome, simple way that helps us to flourish as a child of God.

Walk simply and you will walk confidently. If you are with someone who is moody, don’t be concerned about what to do. Simply be your cheerful self. Just now she is sad, but at some other time you will be like her. Help her and yourself to enjoy the time you have together. And at another time she will help you do the same. In this way you are a child-like servant of God to others. We come closer to God’s love the more we detach ourselves from things that hinder us from loving God and others. Simplicity places every event in God’s hands. Happy are they who no longer journey with their own feet, that is, according to their own thoughts, desires, preferences and inclinations, but according to those of their God! For in their simplicity of heart they will find God’s love and peace.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 16, 2018)

Today’s readings remind us that to follow the teachings of Jesus involves suffering. St. Francis de Sales has a very interesting understanding of suffering:

I don’t think we should ask for suffering, as did our Lord, for we aren’t able to handle it as He did. It is quite enough if we endure it patiently.

However, do not limit your patience to great deeds of courage. The truly patient and true servant of God bears up equally under the little as well as the great events in life. To be despised, criticized and accused by our friends and relatives is the test of virtue. The sting of a bee is much more painful than that of a fly. So likewise the wrongs and attacks we suffer from those we love are far harder to bear than those we suffer from others. Yet it often happens that two good and well-intentioned persons, because of conflicting ideas, stir up great persecutions and attacks on one another.

If an evil happens to you choose a remedy agreeable to God. If you are falsely accused of something, you have a duty to respond with the truth. If the accusation continues after you have given a legitimate explanation, don’t try to make them accept your explanation. Gently stir up your courage. Arm yourself with the patience we ought to have toward ourselves. Often raise your heart to God so you may be on guard against a surprise attack. Yet we need to always watch out for our bad-tempered self that is good at thinking up things. But don’t be upset if this touchy self causes you to totter and stumble. Within us, the Spirit of Jesus is transforming us so that we seek in all things the honor and glory of God.

While we work to bring forth Christ in us, we must let go of our inordinate self-sufficiency that causes us to suffer. Yet we will experience peace if we remain resigned to God’s Will, remembering that God desires most our fidelity.

(Adapted from St. F. de Sales, Introd. to a Devout Life, Ryan, ed.; Letters of Spiritual Direction, Power & Wright, eds)

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 9, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, we experience God in Jesus who, through healing the deaf man, brings hope of a New World to the whole human family. St. Francis de Sales remarks:

Hope, like an arrow, darts up to the gate of Heaven, but it cannot enter there because it is a virtue wholly of earth. Hope is possible because God places in our hearts the desire for eternal life and then assures us that we can attain it. God places hope in our heart through the many promises made in the Scriptures. God’s assurance that we can achieve a life of eternal joy infinitely strengthens our desires and calms our heart. This calm is the root of the virtue of hope. Assured by faith that we can enjoy the promises God made to us, we wait in hope as we grow in God’s love with one another.

While our hopes and expectations bring joy to our heart, they also may bring sadness to fervent souls. Not finding ourselves the saints we hoped to be, we are often discouraged in the pursuit of virtue that leads to holiness. Have patience, lay aside that anxious care of yourself, and have no fear that anything will be wanting to you.

We need not hurry so fast. However, we must use the means that are given to us according to our vocation, and then remain in peace. We need to walk ardently, yet tranquilly, carefully but confidently. That is to say, we must have more confidence in Divine Providence than in our own work. When all human aid fails us, God takes over and cares for us. We have God, who is our All. Let us trust in God who will make us holy in time. For God, under whose guidance we have embarked, will always be attentive in providing us with whatever is necessary for our perfection. Let us begin to live well, according to our vocation: patiently, gently, and simply. For no one who hoped and trusted in God’s Goodness and Providence has ever been disappointed.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 2, 2018)

Today’s readings beg us to live the commandments, the word of God, in a way that allows us to be wise and have a pure heart before God. St. Francis de Sales speaks of God’s commandments in light of living and loving God’s will:

There are some matters in which it is clear what God’s will is, such as the commandments or the duties of one’s vocation. To live according to God’s will is to love. The just are not truly just unless they have holy love, which forms a pure heart.

True love always strives to please those in whom it has found pleasure. God’s word becomes most pleasing when ordained by love. By often taking delight in what God commands, we become what God desires us to be, and our will is transformed into that of the divine will. The greater the pleasure we take in God’s will for us, the more perfect is our transformation in holy love, the true source of divine wisdom. Happy the soul who no longer journeys with its own feet but according to the desire of its God!

To arouse in us a holy, salutary love of God’s commandments, we must contemplate their wondrous beauty. Like the visible sun that touches all things with its life-giving warmth, and gives them the vigor needed to produce their proper effects, so God’s goodness enlivens all hearts to love God’s word. To love the divine commandments, God gives us means that are not merely sufficient. Rather, God gives us a rich abundance of ways to fulfill this divine desire implanted in our hearts.

The commandments are worthy of love because they give goodness to those who lack it and increase goodness in those who have it. There is no toil in what we love, or if there is any, it is a beloved toil. Thus, while the divine law imposes a necessity to obey God’s will it also converts this necessity into holy love, and all difficulty into delight.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)