Yesterday our Gospel spoke of seed cast on various soils - and how fruitful God’s word could be if we listened to it and acted on it.
Aptly, the saint’s day was St. Francis de Sales whose fruitful life and teaching have had a disproportionate impact on the Church and our practice of the faith in every age.
DeSales’ “Introduction to the Devout Life” remains one of the most popular books on spirituality for Catholics.
As a newly-ordained priest and provost of the cathedral chapter, DeSales abandoned his privileges to undertake four dangerous years of slogging, winning back tens of thousands of Calvinists to the faith by pamphlets where they could examine his arguments privately. The Church thus named him the Patron Saint of Writers.
As a young man he met the elderly Philp Neri and had a great impact on one of his sons. St. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s study in the Oratory at Birmingham has also a chapel with a saint’s portrait over the altar and scenes from the same saint’s life on the dividing wall. They’re of De Sales who was Newman’s great mentor and interpreter of spirituality and life. Indeed Newman took his own motto as cardinal from DeSales: “Cor ad Cor Loquitur” — “Lips speak merely to the ears, but Heart Speaks to Heart!”
St. Jane de Chantal was brought by him to a more balanced spirituality.
St. Vincent de Paul in his spiritual crises used to reason back to God’s loving kindness by banking off of DeSales’ goodness: “How good God must be if Francis de Sales who is only one of His servants is so good!”
St. John Bosco so admired DeSales that he named the immense and multinational religious order he founded “the Salesians.”
As a young priest Angelo Roncalli’s “Journal of a Soul” contains the line by St Pope John XXIII “If I could be like St Francis DeSales, I would not mind someday becoming pope!”
On the 400th of DeSales’ death, Pope Francis wrote the apostolic exhortation “Totum Amoris Est: Everything Pertains to Love”, reminding us of his insight that there was “no better place to find God than in the hearts of the men and women of his own time.”
May DeSales guide us into the love and support of the Good God all our lives king, amid every turn, every disappointment, every joy!
May God Bless You Always!
Father George Salzmann
Oblate of St. Francis de Sales