Desire and Duty

This week's reflection is written by
V. Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS, Provincial.

On a recent reflection on “Desire and Duty,” we saw the importance of doing or embracing God’s will for us at each passing present moment of daily life. In that context, we quoted Francis de Sales, “At hundreds of times during the day let us join our life to God’s love” (Treatise on the Love of God, Book 12, chapter9).

I love this quote and especially the powerful spiritual truth behind it. Whenever we link this particular moment or circumstance or encounter with God’s love, time touches eternity. Better, eternity breaks into the ordinariness of daily life, giving it a divine death. The English saint, John Newman, used to remind us of the unbreakable connectedness between grace and glory. Grace, he taught, is glory in exile; and glory is grace in its homeland. Simply put, grace and glory are the same reality but experienced under the different modalities of time and eternity.

Something of that thinking lies behind the Salesian teaching regarding the divine depth in the ordinary moments, circumstances, and encounters of our daily lives, especially when those moments, circumstances and encounters are intentionally joined by us to God’s love, to God’s will. Something as simple as preparing a meal or teaching a class or helping out a neighbor in need, when linked by intention to God’s love, is freighted with the weight of glory, becoming a stepping stone to heaven. Thus, little ordinary everyday things that are done with love are extraordinarily pleasing to God. This is one of the many ways, Francis expresses that truth in his Introduction to the Devout Life“For a single cup of water God has promised his faithful a sea of perfect bliss. Since such opportunities present themselves from moment to moment it will be a great means of storing up vast spiritual riches if you only use them well” (Part 3, chapter 35).

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How, then, do we use those moments well? In Book 12, chapter 12 of the Treatise Francis gives three simple means by which we can make good spiritual use of those moments: the direction of intention, aspirations, and spiritual retirements.

Readers of these reflections are familiar with the concept of the direction of intention. We simply link what we are about to do or experience at this moment or in this action or encounter to God’s will for us by saying, “Yes!” to that will by practicing the virtue called for or by accepting the pain or challenge or disappointment that this circumstance or encounter may bring with it. This may sound too abstract. A bothersome client has called again. Patience or compassion is called for, not anger or mean-spiritedness. The meat is burnt. You warm up a leftover and bear with the disappointment of the moment graciously. The examples could be multiplied a hundred-fold throughout any given day.

Aspirations or, as one Oblate calls them, “loving tweets to God,” are simply brief scripture sayings or your own favorites words to God that are expressed from time to time throughout the day. They go from your heart directly to God’s heart. As such they join that particular moment to God’s love. “Jesus, I love you!” “My Lord and my God!” are examples of what is meant here. Words are not even necessary. A simple “lifting up our heart” has the same effect.

Spiritual retirements. This is one on my favorite spiritual exercises. Both Francis and Jane used to like to retire into the pierced side of Jesus from time to time throughout the day. Some like to spend a brief moment at the crib of the infant Jesus. You get the idea. The moment, though brief, refreshes the soul before moving on to the next activity.

These are three possible ways of joining our daily life to God’s love. They take no time at all. They can be used while standing in the grocery line or while driving to work or when taking a short walking break at work.

They may be simple but they are sure stepping stones to heaven. Read what Francis writes about these practices early in the Introduction“Since the great work of devotion consists in such use of spiritual recollection and ejaculatory prayers, it can supply the lack of all other prayers, but its loss can hardly be repaired by other means. Without this exercise we cannot properly lead the contemplative life, and we can but poorly lead the active life. Without it rest is mere idleness, and labor drudgery. Hence, I exhort you to take up this practice with all your heart and never give it up” (Introduction, Part 2, chapter 13).