FEAST OF ST. FRANCIS de SALES
In his Apostolic Letter to All Consecrated People (November 2014), Pope Francis reminded us that ‘…we will have learned from Jesus the meaning and practice of love. We will be able to love because we have his own heart.’ He goes on to say, ‘Our founders shared in Jesus’ own compassion …. Like Jesus, who compassionately spoke his gracious word, healed the sick, gave bread to the hungry and offered his own life in sacrifice, so our founders sought in different ways to be at the service of all those to whom the Spirit sent them.’
Father Braun always held that St. Francis de Sales was the real founder of our Congregation.
Since the first days of the foundation of your Institute, in giving you the gentle and delightful
St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, as father and patron, it has been recommended to you to study his spirit and doctrine, in his life and writings, and to conform your religious life after the example of the virtues that shone most especially in him. (Fr. Victor Braun, 1878)
It is the spirit of St. Francis de Sales that I give to you, a spirit of humility, simplicity and gentleness, together with a tender care for the poor and the sick. St. Francis de Sales is your real founder.
(Fr. Victor Braun, 1869)
Taking that founding energy and living it with zeal in our lives today, this is what makes for powerful ‘heart speaks to heart’ encounters.
As we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis de Sales in the Year of Consecrated Life, let him remind us of the committed life, our call to holiness and gentleness. Let us continue opening our hearts to experience and share the compassionate heart of Christ. When we are united with him in love, our own hearts are pierced by a spear of compassion and identification. As this compassionate identification grows, we are transformed.
St. Francis de Sales speaks……
‘May God live in my heart, for that is what it is made for.’ This is something I had to keep on reminding myself of but more and more I have come to know that ‘God is only as far from me as I am from myself. His availability is intense, immediate, loving and constant. He dwells within me! ’ And of course, He dwells within you!
The thing I have come to understanding and treasure more and more over the years is the transforming power of prayer. ‘The sacred gift of prayer is held in the Saviour’s right hand; if you empty yourself, that is, if you are very humble, the Lord will communicate it to your heart. Be patient and walk with small steps, until you have legs for running or wings for flying.’ ‘Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, not even if your whole world seems upset. If you find that you have wandered away from the shelter of God, lead your heart back to Him quietly and simply.’
I would suggest ‘half an hour's meditation is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed.’ I know the struggles with trying to achieve this all too well but what I would say is persevere with it. ‘If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master's presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord's presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.’
Some time ago I was asked, what is prayer? If I remember correctly, I said prayer is the place where you can ‘Set your heart free and let heart speak to heart.’ It is ‘opening our understanding to God's brightness and light, and exposing our will to the warmth of his love….. It is a spring of blessings and its waters quench the thirst of the passions of our heart, wash away our imperfections, and make the plants of our good desires grow green and bear flowers.’
Even with commitment to pray, our humanness can sometimes disturb our inner peace and bring a little anxiety. We shouldn’t be discouraged with this, but rather see it through the eyes of compassion. Be gentle with yourself! For there is ‘Nothing so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.’
‘Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.’
‘Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.’ This is not always easy to remember or achieve but in doing so perhaps we come a step closer to understanding that ‘The measure of love is to love without measure.’
The last thing I will speak of is commitment, our call to holiness. ‘True commitment comes from only one source; the love of God. It is indeed that very love that shows itself in all the many facet of our human existence. It is this love that allows itself, through the action of the Holy Spirit, to move us to loving activity consistently, generously and eagerly. This is the expression of true Christian commitment.’
Allowing God’s love to touch and transform us, calls us to respond to with a change of heart.
‘Happy are they who walk in the way of God's love. Their hearts are changed.’
Let us draw on the compassionate heart of Christ for ‘It was our Saviour, when he was dying, who gave us life by the opening of his Sacred Heart.’
‘Be who you are and be that well.’
St. Francis de Sales