January 24, 2018
"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew."
“Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.”
St. Francis de Sales was one of the chief reasons we chose Francis as our son Leo's middle name (among other great Francises, of course). His writings and ministry are an embodiment of God's mercy, healing, and hope, and spoke to both my wife and I at pivotal moments in our lives.
Our Father has his alternating moments of stern redirection and calm consolation. He reads our hearts and tells us what we need to hear when we need to hear it. This is gross simplification of God's Word in our lives, of course, but I think we can all relate to hearing a hard saying when we were getting lackadaisical or a comforting word when we were spread too thin.
St. Francis de Sales was like a cool drink of water for me when I was in the midst of rooting out my own selfishness and imperfection. I had recently re-given my life to Jesus and the Church, and could see all too well how far I needed to go. One day, when I particularly felt as though I was beating my head against a wall to overcome some bad habits and patterns of thought (even worse, I thought I deserved the beating!), I had a book recommended to me: How to Profit from Your Faults, by Joseph Tissot. It paraphrases and compiles some of St. Francis's teachings, especially those relating to our shared journey to sanctification. In a weird place between self-pity and self-loathing, I read the quote above, and it rang clear, true, and simple, like the bells during consecration (they always get Leo's attention, no matter what baby things he might be in the midst of doing).
St. Francis de Sales preaches a beautiful mercy, one that reaches to places in our hearts that calls to greatness and puffed-up rhetoric never could.
God is not angry with our sin. God does not expect perfection, nor does he ask it. He asks only for our hearts to chase him with reckless abandon.
If you are struggling with chronic sins or self-directed negativity, please seek out the teachings of St. Francis de Sales. How to Profit from Your Faults is an excellent primer, and Introduction to the Devout Life, written by the saint himself, is a perennial Catholic classic.
If my reflection hasn't convinced you, just read some of his quotes HERE. He's way more eloquent and convincing than I ever could be. Fitting for a Doctor of the Church, I suppose.
Praised be Jesus Christ.