Spiritual Guidance from Francis de Sales

For summer spiritual reading, I had been looking for an author who speaks directly to me and targets issues that I frequently face in my daily life. I wanted to read something that I could benefit from even if I only read a few pages. I get lost if I’m reading an author who pens long chapters to make his or her point. I wanted something that was easy to read but meaningful, and if I’m lucky I will uncover some great spiritual gems. My twenty-first century needs and desires have turned to a seventeenth century spiritual guide.

Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was a bishop, Doctor of the Church, and patron saint of writers. He was ordained a priest in 1593 and elected bishop of Geneva in 1602. During his lifetime, he wrote thousands of personal letters and is regarded as one of the greatest spiritual advisors in the history of the Church.

Here is a sample of the wisdom of St. Francis de Sales from a letter he wrote to a married woman. This is the type of guidance St. Francis will provide us in future Sojourner reflections during the remaining summer season.

Practical Pointers for a Contented Life

  1. Every day, either in the morning or an hour or two before supper, meditate on the life and death of our Lord. . . At the end of it, always think about the obedience that our Lord showed toward God his Father. You’ll find that everything he did was done to fulfill His Father’s will. By reflecting on this, make an effort to obtain a great love for the will of God.
  2. Before beginning to carry out those duties of your state in life that are trials to you, recall that the saints joyfully did things far greater and harder. Some suffered martyrdom, others the dishonor of the world. St. Francis of Assisi and many religious of our age kissed and kissed a thousand times people afflicted with leprosy and sores; others lived in deserts; others with the soldiers on galley ships. All of this they did to please God. And what do we do that even comes close to such difficulties?
  3. Often during the day, ask God to give you love of your vocation [calling], and say like St. Paul when he was converted, “Lord, what will you have me do?” (Acts 9:6). Coming to the particular thing that troubles you say, “Do you want me to do this? Lord, although I’m not worthy, I’ll do it most willingly.” And thus, you practice great humility–a treasure undoubtedly greater than you can imagine.
  4. Consider how many saints were married people like you, and how they accepted this vocation [calling] with great sweetness and surrender. . . Sarah, Rebecca, St. Anne, St. Elizabeth, St. Monica, St. Paula, and a hundred thousand others. [St. Paula is the patron of widows. She was a mother of 5 and widowed at the age of 32. St. Paula then devoted her fortune and her life to care for the poor and spiritual development.] Let this encourage you and ask for their prayers.

We must love what God loves. He loves our vocation [calling], so let us also love it and not waste time thinking about other people’s. Let us do our duty. Each person’s cross is not too much for him or her. Be both Martha and Mary. Diligently carry out your duties, and recollect yourself and put yourself in spirit at the feet of our Lord. Say, “My Lord, whether I’m rushing around or staying still, I am all yours and you are all mine. You are my first Spouse [desire], and whatever I do is for love of you.” Saint Francis de Sales, Letters to Persons in the World

Future Sojourner reflections will deal with issues such as:

  • How to place yourself in the presence of God
  • How busy people should pray
  • How to be patient with your family
  • How to avoid thoughts that give us anxious and restless minds
  • Wasting your time on useless desires

If you find it difficult to live amid the chaos of the world with your eyes fixed on Christ alone, let St. Francis de Sales teach you how to live as a true rose among the thorns of your world.

Blessings and peace to you as we journey together in Encountering Christ in Word, Liturgy, Charity, and Community.   

A Saint Monica Sojourner 

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