Chapter 2 of Live Today Well focuses on St. Francis de Sales's Spiritual Directory, which he actually wrote for a specific religious community. It is intended as a beginner's guide to certain customs in the religious life, and the author here applies it to our lives as lay people. I have to say, this is an ingenious idea, and I was intrigued from the outset. This chapter, in addition to what we read last week, form the first official segment of the book, which summarizes the life of St. Francis and Salesian spirituality. Next week we'll get into lots of nitty gritty, but more on that at the end of the post!
St. Jane de Chantal summarizes what we are about to study in the introduction to the Spiritual Directory as this:
"...that our whole life and all our works be dedicated to union with God, so that we might assist in the renewal of the Church, and the salvation of our neighbor by our prayer, works and good example, and that we might excel in every kind of virtue..."
We might assist in the renewal of the Church and the *salvation of our neighbor* via our prayer, works, and good example. Wow. I really needed to hear that today, because my sour disposition is almost certainly bringing my neighbor way, way down. :0
We are then presented with three principles that characterize the Salesian approach to the good life:
- The pursuit of holiness within the *everyday experience* of our lives. "In his view, the present moment of today is the only time over which we have any direct control. By focusing our energies there, we are more likely to remain at peace, neither disturbed about the past nor anxious about the future."
- Personal growth takes place "little by little." "He recognizes, from his own experience, that personal transformation is a lifelong process and that it does not come easy. For that reason, he often reminds people not to be overwhelmed by their desire for holiness but instead to attend to their spiritual growth gently, by taking small yet continual steps forward."
- Personal transformation works most effectively when it moves from "inside out." "In this vein, the Spiritual Directory teaches us to act in such a way that we become, through practice, ever more conscious of the divine presence in our midst and ever more intentional in the human choices we make in response to that presence."
"Over the edge!" as my colleague Cindy so aptly put it this morning. I feel cranky and overworked, and thus I am deliberately not trying to feel better. I feel justified in my misery. But who is this helping?
Sometimes, I suppose, it's all just an act of the will. Right now, at this moment (by which I mean that in 30 minutes I have to go and yet again teach the exact same lesson I've already taught 5 times this week, and somehow manage to do it displaying an attitude of something resembling enthusiasm) I can choose to be and act happy anyway. And indeed, the chapter sums up in related fashion:
"We too, can actually be happy-when our lives and work are grounded in an experience of holiness, as the exercises of the Spiritual Directory will demonstrate. Thus, with St. Francis de Sales as our guide, we are invited to discover everything that can be sacred in our life...Live today well, and the 'grace, peace and consolation of the Holy Spirit' will be yours!"
So I'm going to try again. It's very easy to be warm and kind to the students, that comes naturally to me, even when I'm in a bad mood. But it's not so easy to be enthusiastic about teaching material again and again that I'm so bored with. Gosh. It feels good to say that and be honest about it. :0 But at the same time, I don't need to dwell in that negative place. Despite my frustrating situation, I can choose to dwell in a positive place, and see the negative situation as a way of growing in holiness. Stick a halo over my head, I'm done! :0 That's as positive as I can get right now, take it or leave it! ;-)
Next week we move onto the largest and meatiest part of the book, entitled "Our Daily Routine." Each week from here on out, we'll look at a specific aspect of the Spiritual Directory, such as our approaches to things like rising for the day, preparing and eating meals, and working. I am completely in love with this idea, and cannot wait to dive into the details! We begin with chapter 3 next week: "On Rising: Starting Your Day Right."
What were your thoughts on chapter 2?