St. Francis de Sales
Disease is ravaging the world. Climate change. Animosity within nations and war between them. The church is torn asunder. Families and communities are divided by the discord of partisan politics.
We may sometimes feel that the troubles of our times are unprecedented, but this was certainly the world that our patron saint, St. Francis de Sales, was born into in 1567; and if we are honest, we will recognize that most of human history has been lived under these conditions. Our church is blessed with a nearly endless roster of “all-star” Christians whose teachings and lives give us a great example of how we can respond to these universal challenges, and there are few better heroes of the faith than St. Francis.
His main mission in life was, frankly, an impossible one. The Christian world had been divided, with large numbers of Christians abandoning the ancient faith and the teachings of the Word of God. Instead, they followed men who distorted Christ’s words to their own ends. The political leaders of the day seized upon this discord and used it for their own purposes. Francis’ mission was to reach out to a hostile world within Christendom itself and re-convert these communities back to the authentic teachings of Jesus. Francis accepted Christ’s Great Commission to His church: to convert the entire world to Him.
We can reflect on how Francis did this. He didn’t call people names, didn’t threaten, didn’t divide, didn’t hate anyone; but at the same time, he never gave an inch to the poisonous philosophies, teachings, and ideas that threatened the world of his day. He was compassionate and gentle with every person, no matter their beliefs, but he was also a dedicated warrior against every concept, doctrine, or ideology that opposed the true teachings of Jesus. He didn’t focus on the ongoing strife; instead, he focused on each person, assisting them towards holiness, because Francis knew that the only solution to the secular problems of this world is the crucified Christ.
We can see exactly what Francis taught because his writings are not just extant but remain in print to this day. Francis published his collected writings in January 1609 under the title “Introduction to the Devout Life”, and that book has never once gone out of print. Not only can you find it at your local bookstore, but there are also many places online at which it can be found and read for free. If you find the weekly reflections presented here by your fellow parishioners and contemporaries to be worthwhile and helpful, how much more so will you find this book, filled with a lifetime’s worth of reflections from the gentle and humble St. Francis de Sales?