Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Live Today Well, Chapter 1

Oooooo, welcome to chapter 1 of our winter/spring book club endeavor! I have to say, this is perfect timing for me to be posting about chapter 1. Here's why:

St. Francis de Sales's feast day was yesterday. I had finished the novena and was all aglow. I stopped off at Confession on my way home from work, and *in the confessional* the priest talked about St. Francis de Sales and his message. I mean, seriously. Like Barb tweeted to me last week, I feel like I'm being stalked by a saint. :0 There's a definite St. Francis de Sales vibe to our year, for sure. And let me tell you, I NEED IT. More on that later on in the post.

All right, so chapter 1. I thought the way we would do each chapter discussion is for me to provide a short general overview. Then I simply will pull out some passages that really resonated with me, and subsequently reflect on why those lines spoke to me. You can also comment on those passages, or others that resonated with you that I did not mention. Let's get started!

Chapter 1, "The Devout Life," is devoted to a brief biography of St. Francis de Sales, and one of his spiritual proteges, St. Jane de Chantal. Many years ago, I read Introduction to the Devout Life, so I knew that St. Francis's overall philosophy is that holiness is possible in all walks of life; specifically, he was referring to laypeople. That was somewhat unusual in St. Francis's time!

I also loved learning that youngster St. Francis excelled in a liberal arts curriculum at the university level, and took classes in such things as horsemanship, fencing and dancing. :0 A kindred dancing spirit! No wonder I like him so much.

Our first quote:

"...he came to understand that a devout life can be lived in and through our normal routines and responsibilities. But even there, or especially so, it became clear to him that 'Christian life required strategy. A Christian should live in  the world without being of the world, and to do this required art.'"

I just love this guy! I think we can all relate to having mundane things to do in our day. Things, frankly, that we do not feel like doing. These things though, are very much part of our quest to be devout.

"Put simply: living today well means fulfilling life's responsibilities, no matter what they are, in a way that strives for good in response to God's grace. We live this good life carefully when we do what we do with intentionality, rather than by accident or out of mere routine."

Insert a heart here. I LOVE this way of looking at our everyday lives. I have some intense stuff coming up at work, stuff that I really don't want to do. But thinking about this view of intentionality puts things into a much more positive perspective for me. 

St. Francis also loved preaching, and not always in the traditional sense. His printed pamphlets are the reason he is the patron of writers and journalists, and this really speaks to my Dominican heart!

" all through love, and nothing by force."

Additionally, I relate quite well to his thoughts on spiritual failures of the repeated variety:

"The key to growth in holiness, he would constantly teach, is always to begin again, to keep moving forward, confident that the good Lord will provide."

I could spend an entire dissertation just on this sentence alone. Confession anyone? I mean, ugh! I feel like I'm confessing the exact same things every time I go! Can I *never* do any better?! But the key is to keep trying.

In summary:

"Thus, to 'be who you are and be that well' means to recognize and respond to the moments of grace and the opportunities for charity that are presented to us each and every day."

Chapter 2, "Francis's Spiritual Directory" will present us with a guide to live these everyday moments well.

Reading this book has already helped me. I'm finding myself thinking before leaping to impatience or frustration, sort of a "What Would St. Francis Do?!" kind of scenario. ;-) And it's helping, it really is. Difficult things that have come up in the past week, at work and at home with the kids, I've been able to deal with in a much healthier way than in the past. I'm really hoping this continues.

What were the highlights of chapter 1 for *you*? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!


  1. This is what I underlined from Chapter One: "...he realized that whatever good he could muster and whatever bad he might suffer would be far and away surpassed by the mercy of God." I really loved that.

  2. whoops, I forgot to write my name...

    1. Thanks Robin! This is a good one. It helps to remember that we should take a step back sometimes, and see the forest rather than the trees. It's easy to get absorbed in a negative way in our day-to-day tasks, some of which may be rather unpleasant.

  3. These quotes stood out to me:

    The quote mentioned above about failure and to keep moving forward.

    "Do not love anything too much, I beg of you, not even virtues, which we sometimes lose by our excessive zeal."

    At times when I have felt like a failure spiritually, I've thought I just need to work harder but either I do too much an burn out or not enough by my standards. It helps to hear that failure happens and it is important to just keep going but at the same time don't put in so much effort that you lose track of what you are striving for.

    1. Melanie, excellent points all round. I am just like you. :0 I often bite off more than I can chew with my goal setting zeal. Many a Lent and Advent have gotten nary to the halfway point to find my plans in shambles and me feeling adrift. Right, failure happens, and we just have to keep going (we are no different from anyone else), but importantly we should not put our focus on our efforts rather than on what we are trying to achieve. We can likely achieve our goal in a simpler way, and that may be a better way, with us not so consumed to distraction.

  4. What I love about Francis deSales is how very rational he was. Everyone has the same goal but is in a different place with different gifts and different challenges. "Be who you are and be that well" was a pretty amazing concept for his day and even still I know folks who cannot seem to grasp the concept. It's very reassuring that the challenges we face are not new and yet that there is hope for us all <3

    1. This is beautiful! Indeed, I think about this a lot with my quirky hobbies and idiosyncracies. But these are the things God is asking me to do, so I just need to endeavor to do my best. :)

  5. I think what draws me to this saint is that he supports what I'm trying to be and do as a secular Franciscan: holiness in my state of life.

    1. Hi Barb!

      Absolutely. I should connect you with my sister. She's about to enter formation to be a secular Franciscan!


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