St. Francis de Sales
Who was he?
St. Francis de Sales was a Bishop of Geneva noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.
What was he struggling with?
St. Francis de Sales struggled daily with a fiery temper and intense impatience. By his own admission, it took him nearly 20 years to overcome these tendencies. It is a testament to his fierce battle against self that he is known and remembered for the exact opposite virtues of patience and gentleness, rather than those that came easily to his nature.
What can St. Francis de Sales teach us?
When we think of grave sins, we generally think of things like adultery or murder. If we don’t do these things, we think we are spiritually all right. And yet Jesus makes it quite clear that, while it is more subtle, anger is a form of murder and that it has grave consequences to our souls (Matt. 5:22). St. Paul, too, mentions anger alongside adultery in his list of sins that will keep people out of heaven. St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to a Devout Life can help us understand how he was able to overcome his own anger—so that we, too, can overcome ours.
“It is better to attempt to find a way to live without anger than to pretend to make a moderate, discreet use of it. When we find ourselves surprised into anger through our own imperfections and frailty, it is better to drive it away quickly than to start a discussion with it. If we give it ever so little time, it will become mistress of the place, like the serpent that easily draws in his body where it can once get in its head.”
Prayer to St. Francis de Sales:
St. Francis, ardent lover of the Child Christ,
Help us to fill our lives and words with that love.
Grant we might also find the mildness
that you finally found in your own life and heart.
Give us the grace to stop and consider
whom our words might hurt when spoken in anger.
Teach us to practice the virtues of the saints
so that divine charity may blossom in our hearts: Amen.