Saint Francis de Sales: A Spirituality for the Imperfect – Part One

From a Saint Monica Sojourner

This is part one of a two-part conclusion on the spirituality of Saint Francis de Sales. If you have not heard of his spirituality referred to as a Spirituality for the Imperfect or the Spirituality of Imperfection, neither had I until I looked a little deeper into the readings of de Sales.

Perfectionists carry an image of tireless effort. They may be admired, but not for their discontent and dissatisfaction with themselves and with others. Pope Saint John Paul II said, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”

Saint Francis de Sales envisions perfection as consisting in struggling against our imperfections. In Introduction to a Devout Life, he states, “This work of purging the soul neither can nor should end except with our life itself. We must not be disturbed at our imperfections, since for us perfection consists in fighting against them. How can we fight against them unless we face them? Our victory does not consist in not being aware of them, but in not consenting to them.” Francis says in effect that we are always winners as long as we are willing to fight.

Saint Francis had to deal with a number of persons who were too eager to become perfect and had unrealistic ideas about holiness and perfection. He gave advice to one person who was upset about his spiritual failures, and wrote, “For I am sure you will note that those interior troubles you suffered have been caused by a great number of considerations and desires produced by an intense eagerness to attain some imaginary perfection.” He goes on to advise the person to relax and not to be so anxious about becoming perfect saying, “We have to put up with imperfections in order to have perfection.”

Part 2 of a Spirituality for the Imperfect will address what it means to be human, maintaining a balance in life, and practicing the virtues of humility, patience, and gentleness which lead to self-knowledge and self-acceptance.

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

A Saint Monica Sojourner


Signs of Getting Older

In an article titled, “Salesian Vision of Holiness: A Spirituality for the Imperfect,” an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Father Alexander Pocetto, OSFS of DeSales University, adds some imperfections all of us may have to live with as we get older.

Getting Older

You know all the answers, but nobody asks you any questions.

You get winded playing checkers.

You stop to think and sometimes forget to start again.

You finally get it all together, but you can’t remember where you put it.

Everything hurts and what doesn’t, doesn’t work.

You feel like the morning after, and you haven’t been anywhere.

You join a health club and never go.

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