Feast of St Francis de Sales, Patron of Salesians
Posted: Thu, 23 Jan 2020 14:29
At his ordination, Don Bosco resolved to be guided by the "charity and sweetness of St Francis de Sales". When he founded our congregation, he chose this gentle saint as its patron, naming it the Society of St Francis de Sales - the Salesians. We celebrate the feast of this inspiring saint on 24th January.
St Francis (August 21, 1567 - December 28, 1622) followed the early church in believing that we are all called to holiness and sanctity, whatever our role or station in life. He offered spiritual direction to lay men and women to guide them in their everyday lives, and many of his writings also had this aim. This idea of a "universal call to holiness" was important in the teachings of the Church following the Second Vatican Council.
Working in a Calvinist area during the Reformation, Francis won many people back to the Church by gentle persuasion and patience, saying that "you catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel full of vinegar." Don Bosco's approach in respecting and befriending the young people he wanted to help was rooted in this concept.
Francis recognised that gentleness must come from within: "Gentleness towards ourselves makes us moderate in our emotions and feelings toward ourselves; regulate all violent, impetuous and passionate thoughts. Gentleness must permeate our whole being, interior and exterior." He knew that being too hard on ourselves leads to impatience and harshness to others, and gave us some excellent advice for coping with our driven, modern lives: "Have patience with all things - but first with yourself".
His reassuring words about the peace that comes from placing our trust in God are as necessary and relevant today as they were when he wrote them to a worrried lady 400 years ago:
Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same understanding Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
Letter to a Lady(LXXI), 16 January 1619. Selection from the Spiritual Letters of S. Francis de Sales, Rivingtons, 1871, p 185.