Jan 24th - Francis de Sales
Jesus had the ability to make complex things simple; he used parables to explain deep and difficult ideas. Even then he often had to turn around and explain them to his closest disciples!
What if you could simplify ideas so that people who were angry, who were confused, disappointed, or marginalized could understand and find peace? What if you could show that things that seem far above the average person were actually understandable and available to them? What would you do with such power? Where would you practice it? What would you risk? How would you go about it? What if you had to accomplish it from a distance?
As bishop and shepherd, Frances set forth into the heart of Calvinism and with humility and gentleness he worked to answer the questions that Calvinism addressed. What did it take to be holy? How can one find salvation amidst the world's snares? Who is the ultimate authority?
He not only used the Church's tried-and-true answers, he also used the popular media of the day, the way in which Protestants reached their broad audience, not just from the pulpit but through pamphlets and other writings.
Above all, he did it in love. I have read that Cardinal Du Perron, one of his friends, said of him that 'if you want heretics to be convinced of their errors, you may send them to me; but if you want them to be converted, send them to the Bishop of Geneva.'
We are not about numbers and show but about the dignity of each soul; success is not measured - at all; there is no metric which speaks to our success. Only the individual, joined in community, can have success with their relationship with God. The Spirit is the one who "every day...added to their number those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47b); our job is to facilitate and live appropriately so "that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." (Matthew 5:16b)
When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.
I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
...Not only does [true devotion] not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.
Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.
It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic, and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.
Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.
-- From The Introduction to the Devout Life
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