Living in the Present Moment

St. Jane and St. Francis de Sales

Both Jane de Chantal and Francis de Sales firmly believed and taught that holiness was cultivated by striving to live in the present moment This means not only should we abandon ourselves to God’s will but also we should give up our natural tendency to worry needlessly about the past and the future. It  means that we should not worry about how much time we have to serve God, but to serve him well at each moment.

Living in the present moment means living each moment as an offering to God, accepting what he sends at the time, and lovingly meeting him in every event, person and situation that comes our way. As Francis said and Jane constantly preached by word and example: “At every event we should exclaim, Dominus est! It is the Lord; and we should feel each circumstance of our life as a special gift from him.”

Reflection questions:

  1. How can we put this ideal of living in the present moment into practice?
  2. What are some of the benefits of living in the present moment?
  3. What can we learn about ourselves when we strive to live in the present moment?

APPLICATION

Scripture

Oh, that today you would listen to his voice. (Psalm 95:7)

He said to them, why are you afraid? Have you no faith? (Mark 4:40)

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Jane’s Words

We must live in the present moment without forecast and care for ourselves.

We cannot always offer God great things, but at each moment we can offer him little things with great love.

Believe me, if in all simplicity you receive whatever is presented to you in food, clothing or other things, embracing all the contradictions that come your way, they will be as profitable, more profitable than the austerities you desire to practice.

Look to God, forget self and all else to please him.

Joy-Filled Devotion

Mary ministers to Elizabeth

While devotion to God was always Jane’s and Francis’ primary goal, they also recognized the necessity of working in the real world with real and fallible people. Therefore, they continually advised that devotion to God should look pleasant and appealing to others. They had little patience with a harsh asceticism that only served to put people off.

The spirit of the Visitation Order is one of joyful devotion in the service of others. Mary went in haste–often interpreted as going joyfully–into the hill country to minister to her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s child leaped with joy when he heard the sound of Mary’s greeting. In her direction of the Sisters of the Visitation, Jane followed the lead of Francis who at all times told her to make devotion lovable. It was his special gift and the following letter to a married woman outlines his teachings on the subject:

You should not only be devout and love devotion, but you should make it pleasing to others. And you will make it pleasing if you make it useful and acceptable. The sick will like your devotion if it enables them to be consoled; your family, if they find you are more attentive to their own particular needs, more sympathetic towards events that take place, less reproving, and so on; your husband, if he sees that as your devotion increases you become more kindly with him and sweeter in the affection you bear him. In short, you must make devotion as attractive as possible.

Reflection questions:

  1. What are some of the ways that we can put people off with our devotional or religious practices?
  2. How can we make our devotional practices attractive and  pleasing to others?
  3. How could this ideal be put into practice in our homes?

APPLICATION

Scripture

Those who counsel peace have joy. (Proverbs 12:20)

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)

And Mary said,”My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46)

Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:8)

Jane’s Words

This sister has to be led slowly and tenderly. You see, my dear, we have to cultivate in these young, delicate souls lots of vigor, cheerfulness, and joy, and thus bring them to want those things they would fear or dread if they were led in any other manner.

Keep minds expansive, joyous and generous. Make them feel confident of your good will; and though all may not advance with the alacrity you would like to see at this beginning, for the love of God, my dearest daughter, do not let any dissatisfaction or ennui be seen on your part that would dampen their courage, whereas to show content will raise it.

May God be blessed for the graces he confers upon you, which I see arc great. You ought to correspond with them faithfully by following with a careful, loving attention your inward attraction, for this is the characteristic and special spirit of the daughters of the Visitation. Return then, my dear daughter, with humility and sweetness to this joyful state and remain there steadfastly and constantly, without ever allowing yourself to be diverted from it. For the spirit of God is tender and loving.

Making Holiness Attractive

Bourbilly Castle

Bourbilly Castle

When first married, Jane arranged for Mass to be said before the hunt, her husband’s favorite pastime. She had daily Mass offered at Bourbilly which she attended regularly and encouraged her servants to attend. When living with her father-in-law, she rose very early in the morning and rode horseback to Mass. She then managed to be back at the castle in time to have breakfast with him. She was very resourceful in order to be true to what was important to her. Jane took care of her devotions in a way that did not impose her will on others, but she made the good attractive to her children and the rest of the household. She did not manipulate others to do what she wanted, but she always found a way to take care of the things that were essential to nourish her faith. All was done in a gentle spirit and with a certain sense of humor.

Her husband was also expected to rise early for Mass. Once she told this story to the novices: “I remember how M. de Chantal used to like to sleep late in the morning; but I had to rise early in order to organize everything for the day. When it began to be late, I would go back to our bedroom and make some noise coming in so as to awaken him. Then I’d say there would be plenty of time for whatever he wanted to do that day after Mass had been said in the chapel. I’d begin to get impatient; I’d go and pull back the bed curtains and cry out, ‘ We’re late! We should both be up. The chaplain is already vested and he’s ready to begin Mass.’ and if all that didn’t wake him up, I’d take a lighted candle and hold it in front of his face and tease him until lie was awake and on his feet.”

Reflection questions:

I. How can we make the good attractive to others?

  1. Why is a sense of humor such a necessary and useful part of affection?
  2. How can we discover ways to do the things that nourish our faith?
  3. How do we fail to find ways to do the things that nourish our faith?

Application

Scripture

You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self..and to be renewed in the spirit, and to clothe yourselves with the new self created according to the likeness of God in true holiness. (Ephesians 4: 22-24)

Pursue peace with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.(Hebrews 12:14)

Join with me in suffering for the Gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace. (2 Timothy 1:8,9)

Jane’s Words

Run cheerfully and lovingly in the ways of God’s good pleasure, my dear Sisters.

It is better to attract hearts by your modest Christian manner and by a spirit of gentle and gracious affability.

The strongest desire I have is to see you, my Sisters, earnest in doing your duty and in advancing toward holiness. . The mother’s love I bear you makes me long for your happiness and your spiritual profit.