Tag Archives: Publication (spiritual counsel) – Introduction to the Devout Life (1608)

Quotations: ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, BISHOP OF GENEVA, SWITZERLAND (1567-1622). (42 Quotes).

FEATURE Image: Saint Francis de Sales sitting in front of a copy of his work, “Introduction to the Devout Life,” oil on canvas, c.1790s, 77 cm x 99.5 cm, unknown artist. Hovering above the 17th century French Catholic bishop, saint, and Doctor of the Church are two cherubs who regard him with kindness. Public Domain. Francis de Sales became one of the most respected theologians in Christianity. A great preacher and writer, Francis de Sales ascended the seat of Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, and, with widowed Baroness Jeanne de Chantal (1571-1641), founded the religious order of the Visitation. As a diplomat and man of prayer, Francis de Sales exerted a significant influence within the Catholic Church and among the temporal powers of the day.  https://www.antiques-delaval.com/en/paintings/7068-hst-large-portrait-saint-francois-dirty-life-devote-cherubs-xviiieme.html -retrieved January 24, 2023. Public Domain.

INTRODUCTION.

By all accounts, St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was a gracious and holy man. His writings were, similar to the Jesuits of whom Francis was a student, admirer and close friend, directed to society’s well-to-do and concerned with how they, as society’s current elites can practice, most basically, Christian “noblesse oblige” within their privileged social station.

Also like the Jesuits at that time, St. Francis de Sales’ writing defended and explained Catholic doctrine to a Europe which, in an age of Renaissance and Reformation, was very much in revolt against it. To preserve and endorse a social order as well as to perfect belief in doctrine, St. Francis de Sales communicated in everything he did and said that both were attainable.

Like the sons of St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis de Sales was also active in the direction of souls. In one of the bishop’s most famous writings, the Introduction to the Devout Life, it was a Jesuit father (Jean Fourier, S.J.), who strongly encouraged a noble lady around 1607 to prevail upon the local bishop to have his personal writings of spiritual direction to her and others printed to reach a wider audience of contacts and friends at court and others among the ruling class. St. Francis de Sales was equally eager to have his personal instructions for the advancement and perfection of individual souls printed as soon as due diligence allowed. The decision to publish the book in 1608 was auspicious – Introduction to the Devout Life became an instant international bestseller and, over four centuries, remains a spiritual classic. As John K. Ryan observed, “Its greatness lies in many things: in its originality, its completeness, its sincerity, its balance, its penetration and its style…(and) as such it is beyond adverse criticism in any important way.”1

Born Francis Bonaventure in August 1567 at the Sales castle in Savoy, France, Francis de Sales, like Ignatius of Loyola in Spain 75 years earlier, was born to nobility. His father was a lord of multiple localities and Francis was destined to inherit his life of wealth and power. As a boy and young man, Francis was naturally spiritual and as he pretended to be just another one of the fellows, class-mates in Annecy recognized Francis was devout. Despite his attraction to being a priest there were tremendous social pressures to marry a beautiful woman and inherit his father’s lordly mantle.

His family sent Francis to Paris to round out these social expectations as well as continue his education. They wanted Francis to attend the select, prestigious, and venerable (founded in 1305) College of Navarre with its renowned library, but Francis chose to attend the new (founded 1562) Jesuit College of Clermont, which was known for its academic rigor and religious and moral vision.2 At the Jesuit school St. Francis de Sales came into contact with the post-Tridentine humanism taught by its dedicated Jesuit directors and faculty such as Father Possevin, S.J. 3 In Paris St. Francis de Sales was exposed to the classical learning of the modern renaissance and which was applied in the service of the Christian mind and spirit. Francis took to humanism better than any of his class-mates and knowingly expressed its intellectual tenets the rest of his life.

Although away from the distractions of the fine hôtel de Navarre in rue Saint André des Arts which housed the College of Navarre, St. Francis de Sales could be seen working out his spiritual life often in prayer in Saint-Étienne-des-Grès in the Latin Quarter. The church (now demolished) on Rue Saint-Jacques was at the time a center for Christianity among the students. A later saintly Frenchman who often frequented Saint-Étienne-des-Grès was St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660). The young college-age layman finding he had serious religious scruples and temptations to lust4, it was in Saint-Étienne-des-Grès that St. Francis de Sales ultimately took a personal vow of chastity before a statue of the Virgin Mary which allowed him to pursue his spiritual desires.

After studying for another 5 years at the University of Padua in Italy, the young nobleman, St. Francis de Sales, emerged in 1591 with the equivalent of today’s J.D.- Ph.D. In those years the young nobleman was surrounded by the Renaissance writings of philosophers and poets such as Marsiglio Ficino (1433-1499), Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) and contemporary French theologian Pierre Charron (1541-1603).5 Francis was not yet a priest but set on its course – and continued onwards to ordination after he told his family of his decision. In May 1593, at 25 years old, now-Dr. Francis de Sales, Esquire, was ordained a Catholic priest and joined the staff at the chapter of Geneva. Then-bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, Claude Grenier (1548-1602), gave the young, freshly well-educated St. Francis de Sales the virtually impossible task to reconvert to Catholicism the citizens of Geneva, the seat of John Calvin (1509-1564), French Protestant and author of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Despite his charitable and positive efforts at persuasion, the die was mostly cast for Geneva and the young priest’s efforts were unsuccessful, including the disappointment of having to deal solely on the promises of princes whether temporal or ecclesial. 6

The Protestant Reformation and the Wars of Religion  (1562-1598)  made for impassioned attitudes and complicating factors in European and Church politics and the individual practice of one’s faith in the larger, fragmented, society at the start of the 17th century.

In 1602 St. Francis de Sales was sent to Paris to negotiate the condition of Catholics in reconverted territories in France. He met and discussed these matters, particularly exploring its approach for the reintegration of the Catholic faithful at each stratum of society that was peaceful, positive, charitable and temperate. At meetings taking place at the worldly façade of the court of Henry IV ( (1553-1610), St. Francis de Sales met some of the great figures of the religious and mystical revival taking place in France in that time, including Henri, Duc de Joyeuse (1563–1608), a General commander in the Wars of Religion and member of the Catholic League who became a Capuchin Franciscan after the death of his wife, Catherine de La Valette; Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629), one of the most important mystics of the 17th century in France and, later, a Catholic cardinal; and Madame Acarie (1566-1618), mother of seven children, and foundress and lay sister of the Discalced Carmelites in France. Born Barbara Avrillot (and called “Barbe”), Madame Acarie was widely respected in Paris as the person to whom the wealthy, whenever they desired to help the poor, made sure their alms went through her hands. St. Francis de Sales, a respected theologian, also influenced the temporal powers – the dukes of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel I (1562-1630) and Victor Amadeus I (1587-1637), the regent of Savoy Christine de France and kings Henry IV and Louis XIII of France.

Charles Emmanuel I. Duke of Savoy (1562-1630) by Jan Kraeck. Public Domain.
Victor Amadeus I (1587-1637), artist unknown. Public Domain.

In July 1602 following the death of Bishop Grenier, St. Francis de Sales became Bishop of Geneva. Francis de Sales traveled ceaselessly around the diocese and beyond, preaching and hearing confessions, and the people quickly realized they had a holy bishop. It was by way of one of his penitents, St. Jeanne-Françoise de Chantal (1572-1641), that St. Francis de Sales worked his vision of the foundation of a new order, the Visitation, whose charism was to serve the sick and the poor with “the charity and gentleness of Jesus Christ.”7

St. Francis de Sales with Sisters of the Visitation, Francisco Bayeu y Subias (1734-1795), c. 1760, oil on canvas, , 56 x 34 cm, Prado, Madrid, Spain. https://www.museodelprado.es/coleccion/obra-de-arte/san-francisco-de-sales/540cb0b9-ca15-4c43-b011-d2d71f7c5820?searchMeta=san%20francis The 18th century painting, once in the Royal Collection, is today housed in a regional art museum in Salamanca. Public Domain.

It was in this first decade of the 17th century amidst this flurry of evangelizing and other activity that the 40-something bishop wrote the Introduction to the Devout Life (1608). The book, written in short chapters with titles on topical challenges, problems, and opportunities in the Christian life in the world, provides its responses based on practical counsels. The Introduction to the Devout Life much as his later work, On Love of God, are very reliant on the Bible for its teaching and sprang directly from the bishops’ care of souls that he was doing actively and sacramentally from his diocese in southeastern France. Francis’s generous range of literary sources reflected his education in Renaissance humanism and included classical authors, Montaigne, contemporary poets as well as medieval saints and spiritual writers such as Sts. Anselm, Bonaventure and Bernard. Francis was also familiar with the writings and religious vision of the 16th century Spanish mystics and saints such as Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola.8

The exceedingly practical St. Vincent de Paul observed about St. Francis de Sales’ On the Love of God: “A truly admirable book, which has as many admirers of the sweetness of its author as it has readers. I have carefully arranged that it shall be read throughout our Society [the Vincentians], as the universal remedy for all feeble ones, the good of slothful ones, the stimulus of love, and the ladder of those who are tending to perfection. Oh! that all would study it as it deserves! There should be no one to escape its heat.”9

St. Francis de Sales by J. J. Owens. c. 1905, based on the Turin portrait. Public Domain.

St. Francis de Sales, now in his early 50s, visited Paris in 1618 where he preached sometimes twice each day. His great work was to show how ordinary daily life, particularly a busy and successful life, could be a path of holiness. No issue was too large or small for the saint to address – from parties, clothes, flirtations, daily life among marrieds – but all directed to the purpose of imitation of Christ and the love of God. St. Francis takes for granted one’s daily life in French society and proposes no maxim which involves any violent upheavals from it. Part of the saint’s genius is to see that there can be no dispute between the social order and the Christian life. At the same time, St. Francis is no easy teacher or grader – he asks that the Christian virtues be upheld and practiced. That insistence on Christian virtue informing one’s daily life is also the genius of his doctrine. While highly educated and imbued with the grace of mind of the Renaissance, St. Francis carried naturally within himself and conveyed the wisdom of the French soil of Savoy, its terroir. As Francis took one’s daily life in French society for granted, he took Catholic doctrine as if for granted. He then explained it with a highly cultivated mind and gracious spirit that expressed itself with a sweetness and gentleness of style that expounded it as “the universal remedy…the stimulus of love…the ladder …to perfection” as St. Vincent de Paul recognized to those with faith or not, or in trouble in day-to-day life.

St. Francis de Sales perhaps speaks to the 21st century most clearly by way of his theology that is presented without sentimentality or melodrama and is clearly explained and lived to be particularly possible and desirable. Francis said: “He who lives for God, frequently thinks of Him during all the occupations of life.”12

January 24 is the memorial feast day of St. Francis de Sales on the General Roman Calendar of 1969. St. Francis de Sales is the patron of writers, journalists, the Catholic press, confessors, the deaf and educators. He was proclaimed a saint and doctor of the Catholic Church. The following quotes are taken from his many published works of spiritual edification, counsel, exhortation, and solace.

NOTES:

  1. Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales, trans. and edited by John K. Ryan, Image books (Doubleday) Garden City New York, 1955, p.11.
  2. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction, trans. by Péronne Marie Thibert, V.H.M. and selected and introduced by Wendy M. Wright and Joseph F. Power, O.S.F.S. Paulist Press New York, 1988 p.19.
  3. CF. Elisabeth Stopp, “St. Francis de Sales at Clermont College,” in Salesian Studies, 6 (Winter 1969). pp. 42-43.
  4. Wright & Power, p. 20.
  5. Wright & Power, p. 22.
  6. The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957, p. 305.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Wright & Power, p. 28.
  9. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/love.all.html – retrieved January 23, 2023.
  10. The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957, p. 305.
  11. On the Love of Godhttps://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/love.all.html – retrieved January 23, 2023.
  12. Maxims and counsels of St. Francis de Sales for every day in the year, Ella McMahon, M.H. Gill & Son, Dublin, 1884, p. 12.

QUOTATIONS.

Keep yourself faithfully in the presence of God. Avoid hurry and anxiety, for there are no greater obstacles to our progress in perfection.
Cast your heart gently, not violently, into the wounds of our Savior and have an unlimited confidence in his mercy and goodness.
To make good progress we must devote ourselves to getting over that portion of the path which lies close before us, and not amuse ourselves with the desire to attain the last step before we have accomplished the first.
We must make our imperfections die with us from day to day. Dear imperfections, which cause us to recognize our misery, which exercise us in contempt of self, and the practice of virtue, and notwithstanding which God accepts the preparation of our hearts which is perfect.
I recommend simplicity to you; look before you, and not at the dangers which you behold in the distance. Keep your will firmly bent upon serving God with your whole heart. While you are thus occupied in forecasting the future you expose yourself to some false step.
Have no care for tomorrow. Think only of doing well today. And when tomorrow shall have become today, then we shall think about it.
We must make a provision of manna for each day only. Let us not be afraid that God will fail to send down more upon us tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and every day of our pilgrimage.
Since the Heart of our Lord has no more loving law than meekness, humility, and charity, we must firmly maintain these dear virtues in us.
True sanctity lies in love of God, and not in foolish imaginings, raptures, &c. Let us devote ourselves to the practice of true meekness and submission, to renouncement of self, to docility of heart, to love of abjection, to consideration for the wishes of others : this is true sanctity and the most amiable ecstasy of the children of God.
May you belong to God forever in this mortal life, serving Him faithfully through its trials, bearing the cross after Him, and may you be His forever in life eternal with the whole celestial court!

https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/20221228-totum-amoris-est.html – APOSTOLIC LETTER TOTUM AMORIS EST (it’s all about love)
OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON THE FOURTH CENTENARY OF THE DEATH
OF SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES
, dated December 28, 2022 – retrieved January 28, 2023.

The great good of our souls is to live for God, and the greatest good to live for God alone. He who lives but for God is never sad, save at having offended God.
He who lives for God, frequently thinks of Him during all the occupations of life.
Saint Francis gives the rule to Saint Jeanne de Chantal (Study for the Chapel of the Visitation at Nantes), 19th century, Elie Delaunay (1828-1891), Louvre. Public Domain.
The reason persons are in the world is to receive and carry the gentle Jesus: on our tongue by proclaiming him and in our arms by doing good works.
I am as human as anyone could possibly be.
See the divine lover at the gate. He does not simply knock once. He continues to knock. He calls the soul: come, arise my beloved, hurry!…In short, this divine Savior forgets nothing to show that his mercies are above all his works, are greater than his judgment.
Solitude has its assaults, the world its busyness – in either place we must be courageous since in either place divine help is available to those who trust God and humbly and gently ask for his fatherly assistance.
Since this congregation does not have as many austerities or indissoluble bonds as formal orders, the fervor of charity and force of a deep personal resolution must supply for all that…so that might be realized the saying of the Apostle which affirms that charity is the perfect bond.
Saint François de Sales blesses Saint Jeanne de Chantal, Chapelle de la Visitation at Nantes n° 61
XIXe siècle. Elie Delaunay (1828-1891), Musée d’Arts de Nantes. Public Domain.
It is the height of holy disinterestedness to be content with naked, dry, and insensible acts carried out by the superior will alone….In the end, the savior wants us to be His so perfectly that nothing else remains for us, and to abandon ourselves to His providence without reservation.
Since the heart is the source of all our actions, as the heart is, so are they.
For myself, I cannot approve the methods of those who try to reform a person by beginning with external things, such as bearings, dress or hair. On the contrary, it seems to me that we should begin inside.
I beg you, my dear Sister, govern your community with a great expansiveness of heart…The more solicitous, open, and supportive you are with them, the more you will win their hearts.
I had the courage to my give [my own dying mother] the last blessing, to close her eyes and mouth and to give her the last kiss of peace at the moment she passed away; after which my heart swelled and I wept….
Saint Francis de Sales healing a lame man, Chapelle de la Visitation at Nantes n° 61
XIXe siècle. Elie Delaunay (1828-1891), Musée d’Arts de Nantes. Public Domain.
Then let us belong wholly to Him, and live but for Him, desiring only to please Him, and for his creatures in Him, through Him, and for Him. Make your little efforts sweetly, peacefully, and amiably to please this Sovereign Goodness, and do not be astonished at difficulties.
We must be constant in aspiring to the perfection of holy love, in order that love may be perfect. For the love which seeks anything less than perfection cannot fail to be imperfect.
Never permit your soul to be sad and live in bitterness of spirit or scrupulous fear, since He who loved it and died to give it life is so good, so sweet, so amiable.
God, who calls us to Him, sees how we are approaching, and will never permit anything to happen but what is for our greater good. God knows what we are, and will hold out his paternal hand to us in a difficult step, in order that nothing may stop us.
God has preserved you so far. Only keep yourself faithful to the law of his providence and He will assist you at all times. And where you cannot walk, He will carry you.
Saint Francis de Sales healing a lame man, Chapelle de la Visitation at Nantes n° 61
XIXe siècle. Elie Delaunay (1828-1891), Musée d’Arts de Nantes. Public Domain.
An over-sensitive mind can neither receive nor endure anything without telling of it, and it is always a little astonished at the lowly places which humility and simplicity choose.
I see you with your vigorous heart which loves and wills powerfully. I like it, for what are those half -dead hearts good for? We must make a particular exercise once every week of willing to love the will of God more tenderly, more affectionately than anything in the world, and that, too, not only in bearable but in the most unbearable events.
Plant in your heart Jesus Christ Crucified, and all the crosses of this world will seem to you like roses.
Lord Jesus, without reserve, without an if, or a but, without exception or limitation, may you holy will be done in all things and at all times.
Regard not the appearance of the things you are to do, but Him who commands them, and who, when He pleases, can accomplish his glory and our perfection through the most imperfect and trifling things.
 
Painting of St. Francis de Sales in Don Bosco’s rooms at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in Turin.
Behold this great Artisan of mercy. He converts our miseries into graces and our iniquities into salutary remedies for our souls. Tell me, I pray, what will He not do with the afflictions, the labors, the persecutions which assail us?
Never think you have attained the purity of heart which you owe to God until your will is freely and joyfully resigned to his holy will in all things, even in the most repugnant.
Daily strengthen yourself more and more in the resolution, which you formed with so much affection, of serving God according to his good pleasure. Regard Him who commands them and, when He pleases, can accomplish his glory and our perfection through the most imperfect and trifling things.
A true servant of God has no care for tomorrow, but performs faithfully what is required today, and tomorrow will do what is required without a word.
The meek Savior would have us meek, so that, though surrounded by the world and the flesh, we may live by the Spirit that, amidst the vanities of earth, we may live in heaven; that, living among men, we may praise Him with the angels.
St. Francis de Sales, 18th c, Besançon, 96 x 131 cm.
Here is the great lesson – we must discover God’s will, and, recognizing it, endeavor to do it joyfully, or at least courageously.
The sight alone of our dear Jesus crucified can speedily soften all sorrows, which are but flowers compared with his thorns.
Our great rendezvous is an eternal heaven and compared with the price of eternity, what are the things which end with time?
Continue to unite yourself more and more with our Lord. Plunge your heart into the charity of His, and say always with your whole soul: May I die and may Jesus live !” Our death will be a happy one if we have died daily.
Lord Jesus, what true happiness for a soul consecrated to God to be strongly exercised in tribulation before leaving this life!