It has been a hallmark of our Catholic tradition to draw inspiration from the lives of the saints down the ages. The Sanctorale of the Church’s Calendar provides for the commemoration of a saint for most days of the year, offering a kaleidoscope of the holy ones of God for reflection and thanksgiving: women and men; clergy, religious and lay; rich and powerful, humble and poor. I, for one, often find myself drawn more to one than another: St. Paul and St. Jerome, for example, are not always considered the most comfortable of people to be with. On the other hand, I always feel St. Francis de Sales to be an attractive figure, likewise the better-known St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Francis de Sales lived in the troubled and divided time of the Reformation: indeed, although the Roman Catholic Bishop of Geneva he never lived in the city as it was held by the Protestant Reformers. He is renowned for his pastoral ministry and spiritual direction; his Introduction to the Devout Life remains a spiritual classic to this day, stemming from his own sense of devotion and his experience of the love of God. His preaching and counselling style was that of gentle encouragement rather than one of dogma and dictate: you will find examples in this week’s Reflection in the bulletin.
Unusually for his era, Francis had a particular concern for the spiritual well-being of ordinary folk, rather than the “religious” or the great and the good. One of his passages on prayer advises readers to develop a pattern of praying which is appropriate to the particular rhythm and demands of their individual daily routine. A young mother or a busy manager, for example, should not be expected to pray the seven-fold office of the monk or nun. Francis focused on Jesus’ Summary of the Law, so simple, yet so profound: love for God, love for neighbour, love for oneself.
I let Francis have the final word: “Be who you are and be that well.”
Download service booklet here: Liturgy at Home Epiphany 4 January 29 2023