The Insight of St. Francis de Sales

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

St. Francis de Sales was a bishop and eminent teacher of the faith whose life bridged the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His most famous work, “The Introduction to the Devout Life” contains remarkable insights for Christian living.

For example, there’s this passage that occurs in the Office of Readings on his feast day, January 24th: “When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind. He has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.”

This brief passage has two important points.

The first is that the various vocations in the Church — clergy, religious, married and single life — are distinct calls, but that each is valuable, and each has its own special mission. An individual in one vocation shouldn’t look longingly at another but rather recognize the value of their own way of life and be proud of the important contributions they can make. St. Francis explains: “Devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.”

The second point is that each vocation shines forth when it is wrapped in devotion. Again, from St. Francis: “Just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, become brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion.” What a neat little analogy, an important insight that whatever we do is solidly grounded and more fruitful when it’s part of a spiritual vision, when it’s accompanied by prayer.

I’m reminded of the popular prayer that says, “Father, may everything we do begin with your inspiration, continue with your saving help, and through you reach completion.”

So, the practical conclusions from St. Francis de Sales — whether you are priest, deacon, religious, married or single; whether you are male or female, young or old — stay faithful to your vocation, value what the Lord has called you to do, and combine your daily activity with fervent prayer.

Something to think about: Take a moment today to thank God for your vocation and remember that you have a valuable, even unique contribution to make to the Kingdom of God!