Monday, January 10, 2011

A Devout Life

            The next couple of weeks, I would like to study the words of Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers.  I believe even though he lived over four hundred years ago, he still has something to teach us.  Amazingly, he grabbed my attention in his introduction to Introduction to the Devout Life.  He is a writer with vivid analogies painting a picture which helps in his guidance to holiness.  I also was amazed by his humbleness.
            In the introduction to his essays, Francis explains that he has nothing to add to the great works of the Bible.  Instead, he wants to use different words to assemble the ideas from the Bible to make a different arrangement.  He compared what he did to that of a florist making an unusual arrangement from the same flowers.  The imagery of his words took my breath away.  He continues in humbleness by saying though he writes about being devout he in not.  “…but most certainly I am not without the wish to become so [devout], and it is this wish which encourages me to teach you.”  Again, his modest manner as a bishop when he is writing reflects holiness even if in the beginning stages.
            We are all called to a vocation, career.  Francis knew we are not all called to work for our churches.  We are called to be soldiers, bankers, doctors, mothers, and fathers.  This does not leave us out of the call to holiness.  “But my object is to teach those who are living in towns, at court, in their own households, and whose calling obliges them to a social life, so far as externals are concerned.”  In other words, though we are not called to live a life away from the secular world as monks, nuns, and other cloistered groups, we are still in need of being taught further then just attending services on Sunday.
            Our world is filled with many temptations.  We see people fall to the lure of power and money.  We are swayed by taking the easy route.  Francis gives us hope.  “…a true steadfast soul may live in the world untainted by worldly breath, finding a well-spring of holy piety amid the bitter waves of society, and hovering amid the flames of earthly lusts without singeing the wings of its devout life.”  Francis doesn’t paint a pretty picture and warns us.  “Of a truth this is not easy, and for that very reason I would have Christians bestow more care and energy than heretofore on the attempt, and thus it is that, while conscious of my own weakness, I endeavor by this book to afford some help to those who are undertaking this noble work with a generous heart.”  Again Francis expresses his understanding for he is also weak.  I am comforted by his understanding and belief we are working a noble endeavor in the world.
            The other day I was listening to the Catholic channel on XM radio.  Lino Rulli talked about how we need more Saints that are parishioners instead of archbishops, nuns, priests, and popes.  His thinking was that then the common lay people would feel they have something to work towards.  I think Francis agrees.  “This is a caviling [to make petty or unnecessary objections] age and I foresee that many will say that only Religious and persons living apart are fit to undertake the guidance of souls in such special devout ways.”  Wow, not much has changed in the last four hundred years.
            The easy way that many people take is to believe if we aren’t working directly for God, our work doesn’t matter.  But it does.  All work we perform is noble if we approach it with a generous heart.  This will lead us to holiness.  I believe a good dose of humbleness will also help us along the way.  Saint Francis de Sales believes in us.  We can live a devout life.
            Blessings to you all.

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