Friends are a welcome support as we go through life. They can also test our endurance. Many of us find that friendship can create many expectations, some of which are invigorating and others which can sap our strength. De Sales offers us some valuable advice.
"Love everyone with a deep love based on charity,... but form friendships only with those who can share virtuous things with you. The higher the virtues you share and exchange with others, the more perfect your friendship will be. If this participation is in matters of knowledge, the resulting friendship is certainly very praiseworthy. It is still more so if you have virtues in common, namely prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. If your mutual and reciprocal exchanges concern charity, devotion, and Christian perfection, O God, how precious this friendship will be! It will be excellent because it comes from God, excellent because it leads to God, excellent because its bond will endure eternally in God."
---Introduction, Part 3, Chapter 19 (p. 174)
"All love is not friendship, first because we can love without being loved. In such cases there is love but not friendship since friendship is mutual love, and if it is not mutual it is not friendship. Secondly, it is not sufficient for it to be merely mutual. Persons who love each other must be aware of their reciprocal affection, and if they are unaware of their love it is not friendship. Thirdly, there must be some kind of communication between them, and this is the basis of friendship."
---Introduction, Part 3, Chapter 17 (p. 169)
Prayer thought for the day: Give me strength and courage to share only good things with my friends.
Our world seems filled with anxieties. Worries about the past and deep concern for the future can crate inner turmoil. And that inner turmoil often spills out into the things we say and do. De Sales urges us to preserve an inner peace.
"With the single exception of sin, anxiety is the greatest evil that can happen to a soul. Just as sedition and internal disorders bring total ruin on a state and leave it helpless to resist a foreign invader, so also if our heart is inwardly troubled and disturbed it loses both the strength necessary to maintain the virtues if had acquired and the means to resist the temptations of the enemy. He then uses his utmost efforts to fish in troubled waters, as they say.
Anxiety proceed from an inordinate desire to be freed from a present evil or to acquire a hoped for good. Yet there is nothing that tends more to increase evil and prevent enjoyment of good than to be disturbed and anxious."
---Introduction, Part 4, Chapter 11 (pp. 251-252)
"See if you have your soul 'in your hands' or if some passion or fit of anxiety has robbed you of it...if it has gone astray, look for it before doing anything else and bring it quietly back into God's presence, subjecting all your affections and desires to the obedience and direction of his divine will... Resolve to do nothing that your desire insists on until your mind has regained peace, unless it is something that cannot be put off."
---Introduction, Part 4, Chapter 11 (p. 252)
Prayer thought for the day: You are caring for me; I have no reason to be anxious today.
Why do we want to judge others so often, comparing them to ourselves or to some ideal that we have decided should be the norm for every person (often excluding ourselves)? Often times, our judgments are made with little personal experience of the person. De Sales offers us a sobering thought.
"How offensive to God are rash judgments! The judgments of the children of men are rash because they are not the judges of one another, and when they pass judgments on others they usurp the office of our Lord. They are rash because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention and counsel of the heart, and to us they are 'the hidden things of darkness.' They are rash because every person has enough on which he ought to judge himself without taking it upon him to judge his neighbor. To avoid future judgment it is equally necessary both to refrain from judging others and to judge ourselves. Just as the Lord forbids the one, so also the apostle (Paul) enjoins the other for he says: 'If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.' But, O God, how differently do we act! By judging our neighbor on every occasion we never stop doing what is forbidden and we never do what is imposed on us, namely, to judge ourselves."
---Introduction, Part 3, Chapter 28 (pp. 196-197)
Prayer thought for the day: With Your help, I will try to see the good in each person around me.
The Scriptures contain the revealed wisdom of God. God's word tells us about himself and ourselves, and how we are to live a life that is pleasing to him. De Sales offers us a way of benefiting from our reading of Scripture.
"Always (read and) listen to it (the Scriptures) with attention and reverence; make good use of it; do not let it gall to earth but take it into your heart like a precious balm. Do all this after the example of the most holy Virgin, for she carefully kept in her heart all the words spoken in praise of her Child. Remember that our Lord gathers up the words we speak to him in prayer in measure with the way we gather up those he speaks to us by his preaching."
---Introduction, Part 2, Chapter 17 (p. 108)
Prayer thought for the day: May I always reverence Your presence in the Scriptures.
There are so many virtues that are part of trying to live a holy life. Sometimes we can become confused about what virtues we ought to be practicing, or we try to practice too many at one time and become discouraged when we fail. De Sales tries to help us in making our choices.
"In practicing the virtues we should prefer the one most conformable to our duties rather than the one more agreeable to our tastes...Every state in life must practice some particular virtue. A bishop's virtues are of one kind, a prince's of another, a soldier's of a third kind, and those of a married woman are different from a widow's. All should possess all the virtues, yet all are not bound to exercise them in equal measure. Each person must practice in a special manner the virtues needed by the kind of life he is called to."
---Introduction, Part 3, Chapter 1 (p. 122)
"Let us try sincerely, humble, and devoutly to acquire those little virtues whose conquest our Savior has set forth as the end of our care and labor. Such are patience, meekness, self-mortification, humility, obedience, poverty, chastity, tenderness toward our neighbors, bearing with their imperfections, diligence, and holy fervor."
Let us gladly leave those supereminent favors to lost souls; we do not deserve so high a rank in God's service, and we should be happy to serve him in his kitchen or pantry or to be his lackeys, porters, or chamberlains. Afterward if it seems good to him he may admit us into his cabinet or private council."
---Introduction, Part 3, Chapter 2 (p. 127)
Prayer thought for the day: Help me to practice the virtue I most need today.
All of lead busy lives. We yearn for a few moments of quiet to slow down and pull ourselves together. De Sales shows us some simple ways to do this, even in the busyness of our lives.
"Always remember to retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart even while outwardly engaged in discussions of transactions with others. This mental solitude cannot be violated by the many people who surround you since they are not standing around your heart but only around your body. Your heart remains alone in the presence of God... Indeed our tasks are seldom so important as to keep us from withdrawing our hearts from them from time to time in order to retire into this divine solitude."
---Introduction, Part 2, Chapter 12 (p. 97)
"Make spiritual aspirations (ejaculatory prayers) to God by short ardent movements of the heart ... If our mind thus habituates itself in intimacy, privacy, and familiarity with God, it will be complete perfumed by his perfections. There is no difficulty in this exercise, as it may be interspersed among all our tasks and duties without any inconvenience, since in this spiritual retirement or amid these interior aspirations we only relax quickly and briefly. This does not hinder but rather assists us greatly in what we do...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."
---Introduction, Part 2, Chapter 13 (p. 98-103)
Prayer thought for the day: Lord, draw me often to Your presence in my heart today.
We all experience times when our crosses seem very heavy and it's difficult to share the burden. We know that Jesus has told us that we must take up our cross daily and follow him. Where to turn when we seem alone and the burden is heavy? De Sales offers us a consoling thought that can lift our spirit.
"The everlasting God has in his wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that he now presents to you as a gift of his inmost heart. This cross he now sends you he has considered with his all-knowing eyes, understood with his divine mind, tested with his wise justice, warmed with loving arms, and weighed with his own hands to see that it is not one inch too large nor one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with his holy name, anointed it with his grace, perfumed it with his consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, and alms of the all-merciful love of God."
"To take up our cross and follow Jesus Christ means nothing other than receiving and accepting all the troubles, contradictions, afflictions and mortifications that come our way in life. We should accept them with complete submission and resignation. We ought not to select our own crosses, but we should accept and carry those that are offered to us. In this way we imitate the Savior, Who did not choose His own cross, but humbly took upon Himself the one prepared for Him."
---Sermons 2, Oeuvres, 9, p. 18 (From Every Day with Saint Francis de Sales)
Prayer thought for the day: Your gracious love, Lord, helps me carry my burdens.