Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Live Today Well, chapter 2

So, this chapter is particularly well-timed for me. Let's just say that work has me in a bit of a grumpy mood and I *really* need a pick-me-up right about now.

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:

  1. 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."
  2. 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."
  3. 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."
*deep sigh* This week, I started out trying so hard to stay optimistic and be grateful for things, thus creating a positive place for my mind, heart and soul to dwell.  Like I talked about yesterday. And what happened? 

"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?


  1. Jumping in here late! Our parish had a lovely statue of St. Francis de Sales out this week because of his feast AND because he is the patron saint of our diocese. :) AND . . . one of my friends said she prayed for me Sunday as we are both writers and he is our patron.

    So - what are my thoughts on Chapter Two. Thank you for being honest about your feelings. I so totally understand and was also impressed by St. Francis' thoughts on our personal growth happening "little by little." The past couple of weeks we have been dealing with a devastating situation in the family - one of my niece's is having a hard time and it has affected all of us. I SO want to speak out and add to the family voicing what she should or shouldn't do - but then realized that is not helping anything. If I want to progress in holiness and to stay in a positive frame of mind, if I BELIEVE God can change the situation as I pray, then I need to stop dwelling on the negative and focus on being happy and acting as if God is doing what I've asked.
    A great chapter! Looking forward to week three . . .

    1. Donna,

      St. Francis de Sales is stalking all of us! :0 I swear, this is the year of the other St. Francis!

      So, your thoughts are chapter 2 are just so, so apt. I have faced many situations like yours, and it is indeed so incredibly difficult to keep silent and in prayer. But sometimes it is what we must do for the good of all involved. And that is a perfect Live Today Well moment.

      This was a *meaty* chapter. I kept trying to be more conservative with my pencil, because when I underline a lot it makes writing these pots take longer! But I couldn't help myself! :)

  2. Tiffany,
    Sometimes challenging circumstances unfold in my life and I ask myself, "Where is this going? Why is God keeping me here without changing anything when all I want is full resolution?" The "little by little" concept of personal growth made me think that I might not always be 'ready' for the pieces to fall neatly into place. Maybe God is doing a work, somehow, in me, in others, in the situation itself, or in all three, and He needs for things to stay messy for a time so that I have the freedom to grow "little by little" towards His 'end goal' and towards an increase in holiness. If only I could be patient with the process!

    1. Robin,

      Your words really touched a chord with me. I am very much an instant gratification kind of person. I am NOT patient, and I want resolutions to messy situations to come yesterday. Right now, I am so unhappy at work that I am desperately seeking ways for my situation to change. But desperation is never a good lead-off to a major life decision. It could be that the messiness is effecting small term changes that ultimately will lead to a long term change, but not anytime soon.

      "Patient with the process," you and me both, girl!

  3. I've never liked underlining or writing in books, but I actually have pulled a pencil out for this one quite a bit.

    The school I'm at focuses on a virtue for 2 weeks. Last week and this week it has been patience. :p My cooperating teacher and I have both been given LOTS of opportunities to practice this every single day. Growing up, I thought I was a pretty patient person. I'm realizing that I'm really not. This student teaching semester is helping me work on that slowly, though.

    "...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..."
    This one spoke to me too. Every day, my kids are watching me to see what I'm doing, and how I react to different situations. They will react based on my reaction. It also reminded me that even though I am exhausted most days, especially by the afternoon, I can't show that to the kids. They pick up on it and start refusing to do things. Some refuse to do things anyway, but I have to show them that I am excited to be there and learn with them. I truly am excited to be with them most days. ;-)

    1. Sam,

      Wow. Again, what a PERFECT real life situation that this book applies to! I totally relate to your experience of exhaustion, and trying not to show it. Solidarity, sister. *fist bump*

      I am SO grateful to be reading this book with you all! It is really warming my heart.


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