Posted by: matt25 | January 24, 2015

Can I Be Frank With You?

Can I be Frank with you? Put less informally, which St. Francis would be the best St. Francis to draw lessons from to help us on our own personal journey to heaven? When Pope Francis chose the name Francis, there was some initial public discussion over whether he chose the name because of Francis of Assisi or Francis Xavier. As I recall it was the first in spite of his Jesuit roots but, the name of St. Francis belongs to numerous Roman Catholic saints. Wikipedia lists them as:

Francis of Assisi (1181–1226), Italian founder of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)
Francis of Paola (1416–1507), Italian (Calabrian) founder of the Order of the Minims
Francis Xavier (1506–1552), Navarrese Catholic missionary to China; co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)
Francis Borgia (1510–1572), Spanish Jesuit priest; third leader of the Jesuits
Francis Solanus (1549–1610), Spanish Franciscan missionary to South America
Francis Caracciolo (1563–1608), Italian priest who co-founded the Congregation of the Minor Clerics Regular
Francis de Sales (1567–1622), French born bishop of Geneva, Switzerland
Francis Ferdinand de Capillas (1607–1648), Castilian Dominican missionary; first Roman Catholic martyr killed in China
Francis de Geronimo (1642–1716), Italian Jesuit priest

Today however is the memorial of St Francis de Sales and I was struck by the iBreviary description of this particular Saint Francis in part because I saw some parallels to the current Holy Father.

He was then compelled by the Pope to become Coadjutor Bishop of Geneva, and succeeded to the see in 1602. At times the exceeding gentleness with which he received heretics and sinners almost scandalized his friends, and one of them said to him, “Francis of Sales will go to Paradise, of course; but I am not so sure of the Bishop of Geneva: I am almost afraid his gentleness will play him a shrewd turn.” “Ah,” said the Saint, “I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity. Is not God all love? God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a Lamb; God the Holy Ghost is a Dove – that is, gentleness itself. And are you wiser than God?” In union with St. Jane Frances of Chantal he founded at Annecy the Order of the Visitation, which soon spread over Europe. Though poor, he refused provisions and dignities, and even the great see of Paris. He died at Avignon, 1622.

So can I be Frank with you? Which Francis would be the best Francis to draw lessons from to help us on our own personal journey to heaven? Perhaps, something from the Office of Readings will be of help. May God grant you and I wisdom to walk where we are called, words to speak with joy, and a heart to act with mercy, always filled and sustained by love.

From The Introduction to the Devout Life, by Saint Francis de Sales, bishop
(Pars 1, cap 3) Devotion must be practiced in different ways…

When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.

Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfills all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.

Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.

It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.

Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.

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