Memorial of St. Francis de Sales
Hebrews 9:2-3, 11-14
Twenty five years ago I had the opportunity to visit the tomb of Francis de Sales in the Visitation convent overlooking Lake Annecy in France. It was one of those unforgettable moments for me. Francis was that beautiful combination of tremendous holiness and a highly educated and cultured priest. Many were touched by the inspiring words and example of this warm and approachable man including canonized saints like St Vincent de Paul and St Jeanne de Chantal. St Paul of the Cross was deeply inspired by his teaching on prayer.
He was a gentle man with tremendous apostolic zeal. "Nothing is as strong as gentleness, nothing as gentle as real strength." One is still impressed by his prodigious efforts to bring back multitudes of fallen away Catholics.
He was a very good preacher. Often he had trouble getting into the church where he was to preach. There were such great crowds he could not get to the pulpit. He was a great writer whose works are still widely read and cherished. He is the patron of the printed word. He founded a religious order. He was among the best spiritual directors of the Church. By any reasonable standards he was among the busiest of God’s people.
All this activity did not stop him from being a wonderful man of prayer. He was insistent on this key for spiritual life. Here is one of his famous quips: "Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed." He shares with us how to begin at prayer: "By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God."
For us who live in a frenetic world we can look to Francis de Sales as a modern guide who lived a long time ago. "Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others, and talk to God."
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.