Saturday, April 24, 2010

St. Francis de Sales

A colleague of mine gave me a copy of St. Francis de Sales' Philothea, or An Introduction to the Devout Life. I have heard a little of St. Francis' work, but not much. I am enjoying The Devout Life. I'm trying to go through it slowly, prayerfully, but I am like a leashed dog who wants to run ahead of its owner.

There are many passages I have liked. Here is one:

Recount all the mercies He has bestowed upon you, and how you have in return abused them; above all how many inspirations you have despised, how many good impulses you have neglected. How many Sacraments have you received and where are their fruits? where are those precious jewels with which your Heavenly Spouse adorned you? with what preparation have you received them? Think over all this ingratitude, and how God has ceaselessly sought you to save you, whilst you have always fled from Him that you might lose yourself. (Part First, Chapter XII [Meditation IV - Sin])

So much wisdom in this short passage. St. Francis is big on gratitude (what saint was not?). Not only does he have us focus on our sins of comission, but he has us reflect on our sins of omission as well. Recall all the times God has been calling us to do something, and we didn't do it, either because we didn't want to, or because we were "too busy" to even hear the call in the first place? St. Francis' attention to how we approach the sacraments is critical. How many times have we gone up to receive our Savior's body and blood, soul and divinity as though we were in line at a cafeteria ordering fried fish! Do we prepare for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by praying over the readings of the Mass beforehand? Do we come to church early to pray before Mass begins? If we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at all, do we take time for a thorough examination of conscience, or do we just "get it over with"? The sacraments offer infinite grace to us, but we only receive as much grace as we are open to receive. Jesus warns us about false prophets, saying: "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). We can tell how little we have been open to the grace of the sacraments by our pitiful fruits. Do we think of the sacraments as "precious jewels from our heavenly spouse"? Most of all, do we think about how God is the "Hound of Heaven" and how we run from Him towards our own destruction, a destruction which we clothe in the guise of "freedom" or "self-actualization" or "free-thinking"? I know I have so often fallen short in these ways, and in many more.

So let us all pray for St. Francis de Sales' intercession that we will stop running from God, that we will open ourselves to His ocean of grace, that we will seek out His sacraments with humility, gratitude, and preparation. St. Francis, pray for us.

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