Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Saint Francis de Sales (updated eveningTues. Jan 24th

In the summer of 2002 I began to make a moist pot-pourri with the long term plan that it would come to maturity in time for the feast of St. Francis de Sales the following January. Its plant ingredients were: Roses (hybrid tea 'Crimson Glory') pinks, summer jasmine, mock orange, rosemary, thyme, and dried orange peel. Later I wrote in 'Gardening with God' about the several reasons for my going to such trouble in his honour....................

"As the mentor of my patron, Jane Frances de Chantal, he has had considerable influence on me. His idea for a daily place of spiritual retreat is probably the best way I know of staying in god's presence, whatever the distractions of life and work, and I cannot recommend it too highly. Through his writings he has led countless laywomen along the narrow path, with kindness, understanding and love but above all with sanity. He wrote for specific individuals, and this is probably why the reader feels he is addressing her personally. He is patron of writers and journalists, and, I believe, has watched over all I have done for many years. During those years I have been drawn ever more deeply into the mystery of the Visitation, after which Saint Francis named the Order that he founded with Saint Jane. All the saints command admiration, gratitude and respect, but there are a few whom one can dare to love as well. For me, St Francis is such a one.

St Francis is also dear to me because of his frequent use of plant imagery to underline points about the spiritual life. He once said that meditation is like sniffing separately all the flowers and herbs in my planned pot-pourri (ideed the fact that he listed them was my reason for their choice); contemplation is being able to appreciate them all at the same time. This may seem whimsical, but it is supported by the mechanics of making a successful moist pot-pourri and by its eventual attributes. If it is stoppered while you are not there to appreciate it, it will keep its perfume for years. It takes longer to prepare than a dry pot-pourri and is not visually so attractive, but the perfume is deeper and more mellow. Similarly we retain the insights and privileges given us during patient, concentrated prayer and meditation. Their beauty and value cannot be seen or touched but remain hidden in the soul for future reflection and enrichment. The analogy continues with the packing-down of layers of petals and spices; with the subsequent fermentation; with the fact that at this stage the scent is not striking; and with the eventual breaking up of the 'wodge' that has formed. Later, for beginners, an essential oil of only one of the ingredient flowers must be added. Blending is for the more experienced and unless you have a particularly keen sense of smell the result will be a blur of fragrance. Lastly a 'fixing' agent is added to hold the perfume. When St Francis' pot-pourri is finished it will be stored in sealed jars and not opened until his feast day."
Copyright 2005 'Gardening with God: Light in Darkness' jane Mossendew Burns & Oates/Continuum Imprint 

To be completed later this evening

Update evening Tues Jan 24th:

The Contribution of St Francis to the Counter Reformation
Francis de Sales was ordained in 1593, and before being mad Bishop of Geneva in 1602 he brought back to the Faith over 70,000 Haute-Savoie Catholics who had gone over to Calvinism. He survived this dangerous enterprise and achieved his goal through preaching characterised by patience, gentleness, discretion and love. These were to mark all his writings, but let noone be deceived: the glove may have been velvet, but the hand within it was one of firm orthodoxy and discipline. St Francis was canonised only 43 years after his death and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877.

The Church honours St Francis as one of her greatest spiritual directors and concentrates on him as a champion of the devout life for lay people. T'he second Office reading today is from Part I, Chapter 3 of his
'Introduction to the Devout Life'. Here he explains that true devotion can be practised in any state of life. Using the analogy of a bee sucking nectar leaving the flower undamaged, he explains that if our devotion is true it will not conflict with the duties of our state. Rather, it will improve our performance of them and enhance our lives and those of people around us. I have found this an invaluable yardstick against which to measure every aspect of my own life, and I apply it at least annually on St Francis' day. It is a salutary fail-safe and I don't mind admitting that it sometimes brings me up with a round turn! The office extract concludes with his firm conviction that although a purely contemplative life cannot be achieved in the world, there are other ways in which lay people can pursue perfection. Depending on one's spiritual state and need at any given time, it is easy to select passages from St Francis for meditation because he presents his material under clear headings within his chapters.

Place of Spiritual Retreat for today (as indicated in 'Gardening with God', quoted above).
"Resting with Christ in His words from Matthew 5:14-16 'You are the light of the world'
and Matthew 11:29 'Take my yoke and learn from me. I am humble and gentle of heart.'

God bless all here.
St Francis de Sales and St Jane Frances de Chantal, pray for us.

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