The Teachings of St. Francis de Sales and the Oblates
VOCATION IN LIFE
"Francis exhibits his usual 'inspired common sense' here. If one's vocation or state in life is, as we Christians believe, God's will for us, then generally speaking, his will for us will be centered in the exigencies and duties which cluster around that vocation, as well as in the practice of the virtues, often referred to as 'the little virtues,'which are called forth in the daily give and take of our relational life: patience, humility, gentleness, charity, good balance, and the like (cf Introduction, Part 3). His advice here is blunt: 'Let us be what we are and be it well!' That is what God wills for us. Are we a spouse? Then let us be the best spouse we can be; let us work at it, never taking the other for granted. Are we a parent? Then let us throw ourselves into it with gusto. God wills it! Are we a friend? Then let us be a good one, a caring one. Are we a teacher, a pastor, an engineer? Then let us be the best teacher, pastor, engineer, we can be! A focus for the divine will for us is our vocation; therefore, our Christian and human energies must largely be placed there."
THE PRESENT MOMENT
"Francis has been called a Christian existentialist because of his emphasis on the present. His advice is to the point: 'Live one day at a time, leaving the rest in God's care; . . .' Go along with confidence in Divine Providence, worrying only about the present day and leaving your heart in the Lord's care. The past and the future are to be surrendered in confidence into the hands of the Lord, who will forgive our past failings and be our sure hope in the future. That leaves but the present moment in which we are called to be actively united to God's will for us. De Sales would have us actively direct our intention to whatever God wants of us in the moment at hand. If the past is gone and the future is not yet, then only the present can be a realistic locus for the Divine Will. Look there! Francis has little time for people who live in 'what might have been' or in 'what might be' (cf. Treatise, Book 12, ch. 6) The present moment provides the only real possibility for encounter with the living God through an active embrace of His will for us. Seize it! That's the Salesian way."
THE NEEDS OF THE NEIGHBOR
"Francis would endorse the sentiment expressed in the final line of the dramatic musical, Les Miserables: 'To love another person is to see the face of God.' Matthew 25 makes it abundantly clear to us Christians that Jesus has identified with his people, especially with the needy among us. It is therefore clear that when we hear their cry, it is His will for us that we respond with zeal and energy in addressing their need. For Francis de Sales, 'The culmination of love for the heavenly Father's divine goodness consists in perfect love of our brothers and sisters. For to love our neighbor, in charity, is to love God in man and man in God.' (Treatise, Book 10, ch.2).
Do you wish to know God's will for you? See that needy or hurting or wronged or oppressed person there? Respond!"
GOD'S GOOD PLEASURE
"Book 9 of the Treatise shows how challenging is the Salesian ideal for each Christian's embrace of the Divine Will, every aspect of it. Not only are we to embrace what He reveals is to be done but we are to give generous acquiesce to what his good pleasure has permitted to have been done in our regard, and these are often the painful, difficult, demanding moments in life. No matter. Even God's permissive will is to be boldly embraced by the Salesian. There is no hair-splitting for lovers! And that is just what Francis de Sales expects Christians to be, lovers of God, as patterned after Jesus: 'May Your will be done!'
Francis defines love as an active union of our wills with God's will for us. This love is imitative of Jesus' love for His Father. It is challenging, to be sure, but it will lead, as with Jesus, to risen life, not only for us, but for others as well. It is therefore worthy of our every energy!"
CREATION FOR CHRIST
"Francis is clear here. The Incarnation of God in Jesus is not a consequence of the Fall; it is the consequence, 'in the fullness of time,' of God's eternal plan to bring about creation so that He might join Himself to it in Christ. From all eternity, creation is willed by God, with Christ as its alpha and omega, and union with God in Christ as its perfection. This divine plan is realized in the human person who, as apex of creation, is called to the highest perfection and happiness in loving union with God. This loving union is begun here with grace and is perfected in the glory of heaven. (Treatise, Book 2, ch. 4)"
"In light of his starting point, Francis adopts the Greek maxim, 'Know yourself!' for us Christians. Once we become clear from Revelation as to God's intention for creation and the human person, we realize that deepest dignity, happiness, and perfection lies in being called to union with God in Christ; that we are made to the very image and likeness of God; and that this basis is the foundation for the respect, even reverence, we are to render ourselves and every other person, with neither distinction nor exception.
We affirm that the divine generosity towards the human family is the basis for each person's posture of humility before God, in a frank acknowledgment of the truth that human dignity rests solely on divine generosity. And the dignity of each human person, rooted in God's generosity, is foundational for the awe in which we hold each other and the gentleness with which we deal with one another. For this very reason, 'as Christian humanists, we believe in the dignity, worth, and responsible liberty of each person.' (Mission Statement)"
THE PRIMACY OF LOVE
"With his starting point the fact that creation is for Christ and that the dignity of the human person lies in being called to loving union with God in Christ, it follows for Francis that the strongest force in the whole universe is love. Only love can explain God's primordial and free decision to bring about creation to which He might give Himself, first in the Incarnate One and then, in each of us in grace and glory. And love alone shows how the Christian should, in freedom and personal responsibility, respond to God and reach out to neighbors, especially to neighbors in need. This love will be gentle, characterized by persuasion and a deep awareness of the dignity of the other. It will invite, even entice, but not force or compel the other's freedom. It will act towards the neighbor in exactly the way God has acted towards the human family in persuasive, attractive and inviting love. A true follower of Francis de Sales is convinced that love, not force, is stronger even than death itself and is the ultimate power for good in life. Jesus' life, death and resurrection are the foundation for this conviction and His Sacred Heart its fitting symbol."
"Francis is not naive theologically. He knows that creation has fallen and that the human spirit is fractured by its sin. Nevertheless, given his starting point, creation for Christ, and his belief in a generous, even prodigal redemption, only optimism characterizes his thoughts on creation. After all, the very Word of God assumed creation in the Incarnation. Therefore, creation though fallen, is now redeemed and remains good. Francis would agree with Hopkins, the Jesuit poet, that creation is charged with the grandeur of our God! It is, therefore, to be respected, shepherded and cultivated for the glory of God. All this recalls the Good Mother's linkage between creation and the honor we render to God the Father in his role as Creator when we respect creation and even render a special reverence for material things because of that linkage. (The Good Mother, Venerable Mary de Sales Chappuis a Visitation nun, was instrumental in the foundation of the Oblate Congregation and its interpretation of the Salesian charism for today's world. Even while alive, she was called the "Good Mother" by all who knew her. The Founder, Blessed Louis Brisson, as well as all the early Oblates, honored and respected her immensely, and Blessed Louis Brisson wrote an early biography of the saintly woman.) "
"Despite the fall, and because of God's generous mercy and compassion towards us in the redemption of Christ, the human person, already naturally inclines towards God from creation and is Invited and enabled by grace to respond freely and creatively to the alluring call of God's love. Human potential is nothing less than spousal union with God Himself and from the contemplative core of that union, comes a selfless love of neighbor, in imitation of Jesus and of the God of the Exodus (3:14-16). Under the impetus of God's love, there is no limit to human potential for good, especially when the human family becomes one in mind and heart in this endeavor. God wills it. God enables it. Only human freedom can limit it."
GOD AND THE HUMAN FAMILY: A SALESIAN PERSPECTIVE
An Exposition of the Oblate-Salesian Charism.
Prepared and Written By:
THE MEMBERS OF THE SALESIAN SPIRITUALITY COMMISION
Very Rev. Richard T. Reece, OSFS, Provincial
Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS, Salesian Advisor
Rev. Joseph D. Bowler, OSFS
Very Rev. John J. Conmy, OSFS
Rev. John P. Connolly, OSFS
Rev. Thomas F. Daily, OSFS
Very Rev. Francis W. Danella, OSFS
Very Rev. Thomas J. Greenfield, OSFS
Very Rev. Robert A Mancini, OSFS
Rev. Robert A. McGilvray, OSFS
Rev. Alexander T. Pocetto, OSFS
FRANCIS DE SALES. Rev. Joseph P. Jocco, OSFS