Feast of the Sacred Heart

St Francis de Sales

It is certain that the Heart of our dear Jesus beheld your heart from the tree of the Cross and loved it.  By the love that He bore it, He obtained for it every good that you shall ever have, and among others your resolutions.  We may all say with the prophet Jeremias, “O Lord, before I was Thou didst behold me, and called me by my name.”             

 

Charity

Charity is kind, but the world is unkind

 

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We continue our series with Part IV, Chapter 1 “We must not trifle with the Words of Worldly Wisdom” from An Introduction to the Devout Life. Here Saint Francis speaks of the wrath of friends and others who criticize a life of piety.

DIRECTLY that your worldly friends perceive that you aim at leading a devout life, they will let loose endless shafts of mockery and misrepresentation upon you; the more malicious will attribute your change to hypocrisy, designing, or bigotry; they will affirm that the world having looked coldly upon you, failing its favour you turn to God; while your friends will make a series of what, from their point of view, are prudent and charitable remonstrances. They will tell you that you are growing morbid; that you will lose your worldly credit, and will make yourself unacceptable to the world; they will prognosticate your premature old age, the ruin of your material prosperity; they will tell you that in the world you must live as the world does; that you can be saved without all this fuss; and much more of the like nature.

My daughter, all this is vain and foolish talk: these people have no real regard either for your bodily health or your material prosperity. “If ye were of the world,” the Saviour has said, “the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

We have all seen men, and women too, pass the whole night, even several in succession, playing at chess or cards; and what can be a more dismal, unwholesome thing than that? But the world has not a word to say against it, and their friends are nowise troubled. But give up an hour to meditation, or get up rather earlier than usual to prepare for Holy Communion, and they will send for the doctor to cure you of hypochondria or jaundice!…

Let us leave the blind world to make as much noise as it may,—like a bat molesting the songbirds of day; let us be firm in our ways, unchangeable in our resolutions, and perseverance will be the test of our self-surrender to God, and our deliberate choice of the devout life.

The planets and a wandering comet shine with much the same brightness, but the comet’s is a passing blaze, which does not linger long, while the planets cease not to display their brightness. Even so hypocrisy and real goodness have much outward resemblance; but one is easily known from the other, inasmuch as hypocrisy is short-lived, and disperses like a mist, while real goodness is firm and abiding.

There is no surer groundwork for the beginnings of a devout life than the endurance of misrepresentation and calumny, since thereby we escape the danger of vainglory and pride, which are like the midwives of Egypt, who were bidden by Pharaoh to kill the male children born to Israel directly after their birth. We are crucified to the world, and the world must be as crucified to us. It esteems us as fools, let us esteem it as mad.

St Francis de Sales and Fortnight for Freedom

 

St. Francis de Sales often relates the concept of freedom to other themes such as: the good; grace, love, obedience, sin, the human will, and God’s activity. He often also makes mention of free will.

“St. Francis de Sales does not speculate on freedom itself, but is much more inclined to speak of free will.” 1

Therefore the concept of freedom, rather than the more limited term freedom, is a better way to examine the Visitation Founder’s thought.

The concept of freedom is connected to the faculty of the will.”2

This, in turns, leads us to a deeper understanding of how St Francis de Sales regarded the human person, as the will itself is a human faculty.

“Thus, reflecting on the mystery of what it means to be human leads us to the acknowledgment of the God who created us. Created reality is made from Love and is called to return to its source which is Love.”

One constant we need to return to, if we are to be faithful to the writings of St Francis de Sales, is that within the framework of Salesian anthropology the human person can only be understood in relation to the God who created him, and this will undoubtedly have a bearing on our understanding of freedom.”3

REFLECTION:

How do you recognize the relationship between God and the human person in our current national “Fortnight for Freedom”?

Footnotes/References:

  1. The Concept of Freedom in the Writings of St. Francis de Sales, Chapter 2, page 94
  2. The Concept of Freedom in the Writings of St. Francis de Sales, Section 2, page 94
  3. The Concept of Freedom in the Writings of St. Francis de Sales, Chapter 2, page 95, 96