Make a fresh start each day.
Today is the Feast of St. Francis de Sales. His motto is: “He who preaches with love, preaches effectively.” And I would say that St. Francis did just that, both with love and effectively.
The longer I travel on the road of Catholicism the more I discover about the saints and find ones who I find inspiring and motivational for me. I’ve grown quite attached to Mary, which isn’t unusual for many Catholics, but it surprised me, as well as St. Brigid and my own, St. Elen.
I first learned of St. Francis de Sales from my friend, Mickey, who I will talk about later on and share his links with you, and what I found primarily was the simplicity of St. Francis’ philosophy and the direction of his spirituality. He offers an everyday spirituality, suggesting a way to be in a spiritual place in the ordinary. I accidentally bought a book today called Sacred Space, and one thing that St. Francis reminds me is that we can create our own sacred spaces in our everyday by drawing closer to G-d and his message and love. The main quotation I know from him is:
Be who you are and be that well.
What a simple thing to attempt to attain. Just be yourself and do that well. Everything will follow.
Similarly, this one:
Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.
And these two:
Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections.
Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.
Are you sensing a pattern?
St. Francis de Sales is very quotable. And as he puts it so simply and quietly, I am drawn closer to him and through him to others.
He was born in France, in the Chateau de Sales in 1567 and lived until 1622. He was ordained in 1593, was the Bishop of Geneva, canonized in 1665, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877. Before his ordination, he went to school and earned two Doctorates, one in Law and one in Theology, and taught at university for a time.
He was known to have a deep faith, was a gentle man, and patient. This was shown over and over during his life and it resonates in his writings. Two of his books can be found for the Kindle for $1: Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of G-d.
He developed a sign language in order to teach the Word and love of G-d to a deaf man.
He taught his followers to look at charity over penance, which can be seen so clearly in his books and his words. It may come as no surprise that he is the patron of writers and journalists as well as the deaf among other patronages.
Over his life, he formed two religious groups, one for women with St. Jane Frances de Chantal. His men’s order couldn’t sustain itself after his death, but his vision for the communities was revived in the 19th century mostly due to the efforts of Mother Marie de Sales and has communities across the world.
If I had to choose one quotation of his that I would call my motto, it is this one:
Just as birds have nests, people need hideouts to refresh and re-create themselves.
My friend, Brother Mickey McGrath has been a religious brother in the Oblates of St. Francis since 1977, and recently celebrated his fortieth year. I met him a few years ago when he was directing a retreat. It was, in fact, my first weekend retreat, and there was an art focus. All the art that you see that I post is directly related to my retreats with Brother Mickey. It wasn’t just the practicing, it was learning new skills with gentleness, and it wasn’t just that either – it was the gentle, confident way that Brother Mickey teaches and supports and encourages. He offers feedback, and critique, and suggestions, and I am always amazed at what I’ve accomplished, even if that is only praying while I color.
Brother Mickey has been studying art since he was a child and went to art classes on the weekend through high school, earning an MFA from American University in Washington, DC. He’s based in Camden, New Jersey, but he travels all across the country sharing his art and spiritual direction as well as leading retreats overseas. I try to see him and learn something new every time he’s local. It would benefit anyone to check their schedule against his calendar, and see where the two of you meet.
When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.
We should hide our littleness in G-d’s greatness and stay there like a little bird beneath its mother’s sheltering wing.