The De Sales Spirituality Center is pleased to present a new translation of St. Francis de Sales' Spiritual Conferences. This new translation is brought to us by Rev. William Ruhl, OSFS, formerly of the De Sales School of Theology in Washington, DC, and now pastor at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.
In his introduction to this new translation of these conferences, Fr. Ruhl observes:
"The content of the Spiritual Conferences is directed toward what is necessary for perfection with the Sisters of the Visitation. For Francis de Sales, this is a living out of the gospel mandate, living a life of charity, love toward God and love for one's neighbor. This life of charity must manifest itself in the virtue of humility before God and in gentleness toward one's neighbor. Characteristic of writings in the seventeenth century, the language that Francis de Sales uses with reference to humility carries with it a negative asceticism, contempt for the self, the miserable state of the self. However, this must be viewed in the context of the whole of his writings. To understand Francis' conception of humility, the Christian disciple must be clearly aware of the meaning of what has happened to humankind in light of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and, more particularly, to the Christian who experiences this mystery of Divine Love symbolically in the Sacrament of Baptism. It is God who has taken, continues to take and will continue to take the initiative toward his creation, especially human creation. It is only by understanding grace as the mysterious presence of the Holy Spirit that a Christian disciple intimately knows that he or she is incapable of achieving salvation without God's initiative and constant assistance in our life project. Understanding the reality of grace means self-honesty for the disciple--that in and of oneself, one is nothing without God. It is when the disciple can honestly say: "I am nothing," that God can bring his saving plan to fulfillment."
"This brings us to the virtue of gentleness toward our neighbor. When we realize God's immeasurable graciousness toward ourselves, only then can we come to appreciate what God does for our neighbor. Thus, we must come to see and love in them what we see and love in ourselves--the loving kindness of our God. Ultimately, this demands charity in all things, since we all have been blessed by God with varying gifts of the Holy Spirit so as to become one in mind and heart."
"These are the two virtues that Francis de Sales threads through all of his responses to the questions raised by the Sisters of the Visitation. They are the rock upon which the Visitation rises or falls; they are the hallmark of Salesian Spirituality."
While many of the particulars of Francis de Sales' observations are particular to the lived experience of the Sisters of the Visitation, the overall themes and the spirit of these Spiritual Conferences are applicable to all those who wish to practice devotion, that is, to grow in love for and union with God, a love and union that is expressed in love for others. Click on the links below to access particular parts (in PDF format) of William Ruhl's translation of the Spiritual Conferences including his introduction and several appendices.
(Note: The pagination in each selection reflects the pagination of the entire translation.)
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