Many of you are aware that I am a beloved devotee of St. Francis of Assisi and in fact have written a book about him. There is another “St. Francis,” however, who often gets overshadowed by his wildly popular predecessor. I mean St. Francis de Sales (1567 – 1622), a French bishop whose views about “holy imagination” have benefitted those in the literary trade who also happen to possess spiritual sensibilities. (He has been deemed “The Patron Saint of Writers.”)
I have read his book Finding God Wherever You Are, and cite from it here five helpful lessons for pilgrims of any epoch who find themselves entrenched the timeless realities of the human situation.
1. Small mistakes at the beginning only grow larger: “Small mistakes made at the beginning of any project grow infinitely great as it progresses . . . . Hence, you should know, before everything else, what is the virtue of devotion.”
2. Good ideas are only good if they are acted upon: “Our spirit should give vent whole-heartedly to these good movements of the will . . . But do not linger too long with these general movements of the will. You have to change them into deliberate decisions.”
3. Be patient; stay honorable: “The really patient servant of God bears with equanimity of the humiliating trials as well as the honorable.”
4. Stay calm: “Nothing calms down an angry elephant so quickly as a the sight of a little lamb, and nothing breaks the force of cannon balls so easily as wool.”
5. Think through decisions carefully, make them clear-headedly, and stay the course: ”We are not to question our choice, but devotedly, calmly, steadfastly keep it up, carry it through. Although difficulties, temptations and many different things may beset our path, to make us wonder if we have done right, we are to remain resolute and take no notice . . . . Once our decision has been taken with God’s help, we need never fear but that God will aid us to carry it through.”
Almighty God, bestow upon us the meaning of words, the light of understanding, the nobility of diction, and the faith of the true nature. And grant that what we believe we may also speak.
Saint Hilary (c. 315-368), Bishop of Poitiers
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