The greater the reason we have to trust in God

One more from Francis de Sales:

The more miserable we are, the more we ought to trust in God’s goodness and mercy.  Had God not created man, God would always have been good, but he would not have been actually merciful, since he would not have shown mercy to anyone; for to whom can mercy be shown except to the wretched?

You see, then, that the more we recognize ourselves as miserable, the greater the reason we have to trust in God, since there is absolutely nothing in us in which we could put our confidence.

Learn to live in peace

More from St. Francis de Sales:

Learn to live in peace and gently bear up with your little miseries.  You belong unreservedly to God.  He will lead you safely to the port.  If, however, he does not deliver you immediately from your imperfections, it means that he has some other plan for you and that could be to give you a longer formation in the practice of humility, so that you may be well rooted in that lovely virtue.

“Sure that he loves you still”

The next few days I would like to feed you some quotes from St. Francis de Sales, the great writer for lay folks.  This first one addresses those of us who are overly concerned about doing everything right (another word for pride :-):

Take great care not to get overly upset whenever you commit some faults.  Humble yourself immediately before God, but let this humility be a loving humility, which will fill you with fresh confidence to throw yourself immediately into God’s arms, secure in the knowledge that God, in his goodness, will help you to change for the better.  And so, whatever be the faults you commit and whenever you commit them, gentle ask God’s pardon and tell him that you are perfectly sure that he loves you still and that he will forgive you.  Always do this in a simple and gentle manner.

“Death is a benefactor”

Yesterday, All Soul’s Day, shortly after midnight Sr. Sarah’s mother went home to the Lord.  She was able to be with her when she died.  Just an hour or so ago Sr. Sarah shared with me this excerpt from a book of meditations based on St. Francis de Sales.  It is a great comfort to her. May it be a comfort for all of you:

Death is a benefactor, who tears away the veil that separates us from God; it is the hand that closes our eyes to open to us the fatherland; it is the sunshine, the spring sunshine, which breaks the envelope of the humble chrysalis, to give it the wings and the flight of the butterfly; it is according to the expression of Holy Scripture and of the Church, the sleep which prepares us for an immortal awakening; it is the beginning of true life; it is the leap of the child into the arms of its Father.  Let us then be consoled.  (Lieutenant-Colonel M. De S., Draw Near to God)

Distracted Prayer (2)

A little more on distracted prayer.  One of the most helpful things I ever learned about dealing with distractions in prayer was that it’s not something you necessarily need to repent of and it’s not an indication of “good” or “bad” prayer.  Distractions will come; it’s impossible (and not healthy) to turn our minds completely off.  The important thing is what we do with them.  If we peacefully resist them, we do not sin.  I stress “peacefully”, because if we get agitated about them, it can allow the devil an entrance.  St. Francis de Sales once wisely said: “Our very care not to have distractions often serves as a very great distraction.”  The best thing to do is peacefully turn from them when we become aware of them.  Fr. Thomas Green, author of When the Well Runs Dry, advises relating to them as you would to noisy children who are trying to interrupt a conversation you are having with another adult: reprimand them as needed, but sometimes you just need to relate to them as background noise and ignore them, doing your best to stay focussed on the One you’re talking to. You moms out there surely have a lot of experience at doing that!

The musician

A story from St. Francis de Sales that I call to mind when prayer gets “tough”:

One of the world’s finest musicians, who played the lute to perfection, in a brief time became so extremely deaf that he completely lost the use of his hearing.  However, in spite of that he did not give up singing and playing the lute, doing so with marvelous delicacy by reason of his great skill which his deafness had not taken away.  he had no pleasure either in singing or in the sound of the lute, since after his loss of hearing he could not perceive their sweetness and beauty.  Hence he no longer sang or played except to entertain a prince whose native subject he was and whom he had a great inclination as well as an infinite obligation to please since he had been brought up from his youth in the prince’s court.  For this reason he had the very greatest pleasure in pleasing the prince and he was overjoyed when the prince showed that he enjoyed his music.  Sometimes it happened that to test this loving musician’s love, the prince would command him to sing and immediately leave him there in the room and go out hunting.  The singer’s desire to fulfill his master’s wishes made him continue his song just as attentively as if the prince were present, although in fact he himself took no pleasure out of singing.  He had neither pleasure in the melody, for his deafness deprived him of that, nor that of pleasing the prince, since the prince was absent and hence could not enjoy the sweetness of the beautiful airs he sang. (On the Love of God, Book 9, Chapter 9)

God is holding on to you

Do you have times when you feel that no matter how well-intentioned you are, you still blow it?  Here are St. Francis de Sales’ thoughts on the matter:

You should be like a little child who while it knows that its mother is holding its sleeve walks boldly and runs all round without being distressed at a little fall or stumble; after all, it is a s yet rather unsteady on its legs.  In the same way, as long as you realize that God is holding on to you by your will and resolution to serve him, go on boldly and do not be upset by your little set-backs and falls; there is no need to be put out by this provided you throw yourselves into his arms from time to time and kiss him with the kiss of charity.  Go on joyfully and with your heart as open and widely trustful as possible, and if you cannot always be joyful, at least by brave and confident.  (Sellected Letters)

For a related post, see “Punishing with a kiss”

“God’s heart so abounds in love . . .”

From Francis de Sales–about how much God loves you:

God’s heart so abounds in love and his good is so great and infinite that all men may possess it while no one man thereby possesses less of it.  This infinite goodness can never be exhausted, even though it fill the spirits of the universe.  (Treatise on the Love of God, 10.14)

God pours his love in no less measure into one soul, even though he loves an infinity of others along with it, than if he loved that soul alone.  (ibid.)

“If you get tired kneeling, sit down”

“You can only give God what you have . . . ” (St. Francis de Sales)

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One more from Francis de Sales.  (I remember the first time I read him, I thought, “This is the man I would like for my spiritual director!”)  This letter was written to a pregnant woman, but I think it can be applied to anyone bearing some kind of affliction.

My dearest daughter,

. . . Be careful to spare yourself in this pregnancy: make no effort to oblige yourself to any kind of exercise, except quite gently.  If you get tired kneeling, sit down; if you cannot command attention to pray half an hour, pray only fifteen minutes or even half of that.
     I beg you to put yourself in the presence of God, and to suffer your pains before Him.  Do not keep yourself from complaining; but this should be to Him, in a filial spirit, as a little child to its mother.  For if it is done lovingly, there is no danger in complaining, nor in begging cure, nor in changing place, nor in getting ourselves relieved.  But do this with love, and with resignation into the arms of the good will of God.
     . . . You can only give God what you have, and in this time of affliction you have no other actions. . . .
     Do not torment yourself to do much, but suffer with love what you have to suffer.  God will be gracious to you, Madame, and will give you the grace to arrange this more retired life of which you speak to me.  Whether languishing “or living or dying, we are the Lord’s” and nothing, with the help of His grace, will separate us from this holy love.

“Have patience with everyone, including yourself”

A little encouragement from St. Francis de Sales.

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One of the books I have recommended under the Spirituality category in “Books to Read” is Thy Will be Done, a collection of letters from St. Francis de Sales to persons in the world.  If you haven’t “discovered” St. Francis yet, you have a treasure awaiting you.  He was definitely a priest devoted to folks trying to live a life of holiness amidst the stresses of everyday life.  I thought today I would share an excerpt from one of the letters included in this book:

My dear daughter,
      I remember you telling me how much the multiplicity of your affairs weighs on you; and I said to you that it is a good opportunity for acquiring the true and solid virtues.  The multiplicity of affairs is a continual martyrdom, for just as flies cause more pain and irritation to those who travel in summer than the travelling itself does, just so the diversity and the multitude of affairs causes more pain than the weight of these affairs itself.
     . . . Do not lose any occasion, however small it may be, for exercising gentleness of heart toward everyone.  Do not think that you will be able to succeed in your affairs by your own efforts, but only by the assistance of God; and on setting out, consign yourself to His care, believing that He will do that which will be best for you, provided that, on your part, you employ a gentle diligence.  I say “gentle diligence,” because violent diligence spoils the heart and affairs, and is not diligence, but haste and trouble.
     . . . Have patience with everyone, but chiefly with yourself; I mean to say, do not trouble yourself about your imperfections, and always have the courage to lift yourself out of them.  I am well content that you begin again every day: there is no better way to perfect the spiritual life than always to begin again and never to think you have done enough.
     Recommend me to the mercy of God, which I ask to make you abound in His holy love.  Amen.  I am
                             Your most humble servant,