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Visitation Spirit

Understanding the role and function of our souls

Now that we finished going through An Introduction to the Devout Life, we are going to move into Saint Francis’ Treatise on the Love of God. This time around we will have accompanying videos and reflections to give you a new way to embrace his timeless wisdom. We begin with with Francis’s Understanding of Human Nature.

An Oblate of St Francis de Sales explains the saint’s “Treatise”

Governing all the faculties of the soul

1. Passions are our instincts in which we try to get things that we perceive as good and avoid things that we perceive as painful or bad. Our passions move us toward pleasure, power, achievements, or love and away from danger or pain. Here are two examples of our passions, or instinctive responses, from daily life:

•  Thomas sees Jane walking down the street and stares at her (because he senses she is beautiful)

•  I touch a pot of boiling water and immediately scream and pull my hand away (because my burned hand tells me the water is very hot).

•   Can you think of two more examples of passions, or instinctive responses, from your own life?

2. Affections are my rational thoughts in which I try to get things that I reason are good and avoid things that I reason are painful or bad. My affections move me toward pleasure, power, achievements, or love and away from danger or pain. Here are two examples of our affections, or reasoned responses, from daily life:

•  A college student decides to study on a Thursday night (because he has a test on Friday and studying will help him do well).

•  A daughter picks up the phone and calls her mother (because she believes that close family relationships are good things).

•   Can you think of two more examples of affections, or reasoned responses, from your own life?

3. St. Francis de Sales recognizes the complexity of human nature and views it as being composed of both rational and non-rational parts. Like animals, human beings are composed of instinctual drives, which Francis calls “appetites” and “passions” that serve to keep the human being alive. Unlike animals, human beings are also rational and have an intellect and will. The intellect seeks knowledge and truth while the will seeks what is believes to be good. Francis is quite clear, however, that while we are rational beings, we can also act irrationally. In other words, just because we can “know” what is good, does not always mean that we choose to do it. Do you find Francis’ view of human nature to be a helpful one both personally and pastorally? Why or why not?

4. St. Francis de Sales speaks about the soul having three parts: an inferior part that relies on senses and instincts, a superior part that relies on reason and intellect, and as supreme part in which the soul is aware of the reality of God and, through grace, can freely respond to God. Do you think this is an optimistic or pessimistic view of human nature? Why?

For Saint Francis’ own words, you can read the chapter here.

Click to watch the above video reflection.

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