Review by Michele Craig
Fr. Thomas F. Daily, O.S.F.S (Oblate of St. Francis de Sales) has taken St. Francis de Sales’s classic The Devout Life and made it user friendly! I began reading The Devout Life about two years ago and struggled to apply it to my everyday life, but Fr. Thomas has mastered that task beautifully in Live Today Well: St. Francis de Sales’s Simple Approach to Holiness.
To live well, Fr. Thomas explains: “…St. Francis de Sales considers the ordinary, everyday experience of life as providing the best opportunities for living well. For him, spirituality is not one of the multiple aspects of our lives; rather, it offers a comprehensive approach to the whole of life and is put into practice through the normal activities and regular responsibilities we carry out each day. From that perspective, he sees holiness not as the practice of heroic feats of sanctity, but as doing what we naturally do with supernatural impetus.”
In Live Today WELL, Fr. Thomas takes us through our entire day, as St. Francis de Sales did with his Visitation Sisters in the Spiritual Directory that he composed for them (edited by St. Jane de Chantal!), and shows us how to adapt these practices to our everyday lives. Fr. Thomas tells us that “Adapted here for life in the twenty-first century, the Spiritual Directory makes visible the glamour of holiness for anyone desiring or seeking the good life. Its distinctive radiance creates an aura of sanctity in everyone who lives by it, because it enables people today to be claimed by the divine Spirit of love that is our human origin and end. Fidelity to its teaching leads the Salesian disciple to die to his own preferences and inclinations and to live continuously in the presence of God. Union with God is the ultimate goal of living well in every age.”Salesian spirituality takes into account our human nature that tends to make us human “doings” rather than human “beings” and “For this reason, St. Francis de Sales counsels us to pause, ever so briefly, before anything we do and make a threefold prayer in which we ask for God’s grace, offer to God the action we are about to do, and promise to accept whatever will happen in the process. The prayer is not complicated, difficult , or time consuming. But psychologically it holds the power to transform our lives completely.”
Fr. Thomas goes on to say: “Asking, offering, and accepting-this spiritual triad constitutes the heart of Salesian asceticism ‘if we wish to thrive and advance in the way of the Lord.’ For St. Francis de Sales, living well depends not on positive circumstances or successful outcomes but only on the grace-filled transformation that occurs ‘from the inside out.’ It calls not for bodily discipline or physical mortification, but for a new consciousness and a new willingness, a metanoia of the mind and conversion of the heart. It entails the habitual practice of reintending what we do for love of God, who enables us to do everything we do. In this, it generates a transfiguration of who we are into what God has called us to be.”
This book is an answer to my prayer “How, Lord, do I pray without ceasing?”