Sunday, January 29, 2006

29th of January

Feast of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church.
Born in a castle to a well-placed family, his parents intended that he become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. Studied at La Roche, Annecy, Clermont College in Paris, and law at the University of Padua. Doctor of Law. He returned home, and found a position as Senate advocate. It was at this point that he received a message telling him to "Leave all and follow Me." He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family. Provost of the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. Preacher, writer and spiritual director in the district of Chablais. His simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine, and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to the Roman Church. Bishop of Geneva at age 35. Travelled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. Friend of Saint Vincent de Paul. Turned down a wealthy French bishopric. Helped found the Order of the Visitation with Saint Jeanne de Chantal. Prolific correspondent (information from the Patron Saint Index).
In the lesson 5 in the Matins for today Feast, we read:....He had to suffer the harshest treatment on the part of the heretics, who frequently sought to take his life, calumniated him, and laid plots against him. But he showed heroic courage in the midst of all these dangers and persecutions, and, by the divine assistance, converted, as it is stated, seventy two thousand heretics to the Catholic faith, among whom were many distinguished by high position and by learning.

O, God, by whose gracious will blessed Francis, thy Confessor and Bishop, became all things unto all men for the saving of their souls; mercifully grant, that, being filled with the sweetness of thy love, we may, through the guidance of his counsel and by the aid of his merits, attain unto the joys of life eternal. Through our Lord.

Let us reflect on the excerpt from Saint Francis writing in His famous treatise "Introduction to the devout life" The Newmann Press, 1951. This fragment is compatible with main meditation theme, based on today's Liturgy which encourage us to have unfailing confidence in Our Lord's love and mercy in difficulties and temptations of our everyday life; in all these innumerable little obstacles on the way to Christian perfection.

Chapter VIII
That we must resist small temptations.

Although we must fight great temptations with invincible courage, and although the victory which we gain over them is very profitable to us, yet perhaps we may be able to gain great greater profit in fighting well against small temptations; for just as the great temptations surpass the small ones in quality, so the small ones surpass the great ones so much in number, that the victory over these may be comparable to that over the greater ones. Wolves and bears are certainly more dangerous than flies, but they do not cause us so much annoyance, nor do they exercise our patience so much. It is easy to refrain from murder, but it is difficult to avoid those little outbursts of anger, whereof the occasions present themselves every moment. It is easy for a man or a woman to refrain from adultery, but it is not easy to refrain from amorous glances, from giving or receiving love, from seeking little favours, from saying and receiving words of flattery. It is easy to admit of no rival to the husband or to the wife, as far as the body is concerned, but it is not so easy to do the same in regard to the heart; very easy not to defile the marriage bed, but very difficult to refrain from everything that may be injurious to married love; easy not to steal the goods of others, but difficult to refrain from envy and covetousness; easy not to bear false witness in a court of law, but difficult never to lie in conversation; easy never to get drunk, but difficult always to be temperate; easy never to desire the death of another, but difficult never to wish ill to him; easy never to defame him, but difficult never to despise him.
In a word, these little temptations to anger, suspicion, jealousy, envy, flirtation, frivolity, vanity, duplicity, affectation, artifice, impure thoughts, continually exercise those very persons who are most devout and resolute; and therefore, my dear Philotea, we must prepare ourselves for this combat with great care and diligence; and rest assured that for every victory which we gain over these little enemies, a precious stone will be set in the crown of glory which God is preparing for us in heaven. It is for this reason that I say, that whilst we must be ready to fight well and valiantly against great temptations, should they come, we must defend ourselves well and diligently against these little and weak assaults.

Chapter IX
Of remedies against small temptations

Now, as to these small temptaions to vanity, suspicion, peevishness, jealousy, envy, flirtation, and such like follies, which like flies and midgets, hover before our eyes, and sometimes sting us on the cheek, sometimes on the nose, because it is impossible to be altogether free from their importunity, the best way of resisting them is not to allow ourselves to be worried by them; for they cannnot hurt us, although they can annoy us, provided that we are firmly resolved to serve God.
Despise, then, these little attacks, and do not so much as think of what they suggest, but let them buzz about your ears as much as they like, and fly here and there about you, just as we do with the flies; and when they are about to sting you, and you see them settling on your heart, do nothing more than quite quietly to drive them away, not fighting against them, nor answering them, but performing acts contrary to them, whatever they may be, and especially acts of the love of God. For if you will believe me, you will not persist in wishing to oppose to the temptation which you feel the virtue which is contrary to it, because that would be, as it were, to have a mind to dispute with it; but after having performed an act of the contrary virtue, if you have had the leisure to recognize the quality of temptation, you will turn your heart simply towards Jesus Christ Crucified, and by an act of love of him, you will kiss his sacred feet. It is the best way to overcome the enemy both in small and great temptations, for the love of God, containing in itself all the perfections of all the virtues, and more excellently than the virtues themselves, is also a sovereign remedy against all vices; and your soul, accustoming herself in all temptations to resort to this general rendezvous, will not be obliged to consider and examine what the temptations she has had; but on feeling herself troubled, she will without more ado ask calm in this great remedy, which is, moreover, so terrifying to the evil spirit, that, when he sees that these temptations stir us up to this divine love, he ceases to trouble us with them.
So much for the little and frequent temptations; whosoever would occupy himself with them in detail would waste his time and accomplish nothing.