A great spiritual guide and Patron of Writers, therefore the intecessor of all who keep their own blog.
from Introduction to the Devout Life
St. Francis de Sales
THE queen bee never takes wing without being surrounded by all her Subjects; even so Love never enters the heart but it is sure to bring all other virtues in its train; marshalling and employing them as a captain his soldiers; yet, nevertheless, Love does not set them all to work suddenly, or equally, at all times and everywhere. The righteous man is “like a tree planted by the water side, that will bring forth his fruit in due season;” inasmuch as Love, watering and refreshing the soul, causes it to bring forth good works, each in season as required. There is an old proverb to the effect that the sweetest music is unwelcome at a time of mourning; and certain persons have made a great mistake when, seeking to cultivate some special virtue, they attempt to obtrude it on all occasions, like the ancient philosophers we read of, who were always laughing or weeping. Worse still if they take upon themselves to censure those who do not make a continual study of this their pet virtue. S. Paul tells us to “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep;” and Charity is patient, kind, liberal, prudent, indulgent.
At the same time, there are virtues of universal account, which must not only be called into occasional action, but ought to spread their influence over everything. We do not very often come across opportunities for exercising strength, magnanimity, or magnificence; but gentleness, temperance, modesty, and humility, are graces which ought to colour everything we do. There may be virtues of a more exalted mould, but at all events these are the most continually called for in daily life. Sugar is better than salt, but we use salt more generally and oftener. Consequently, it is well to have a good and ready stock in hand of those general virtues of which we stand in so perpetual a need.
In practising any virtue, it is well to choose that which is most according to our duty, rather than most according to our taste. It was Saint Paula’s liking to practise bodily mortifications with a view to the keener enjoyment of spiritual sweetness, but obedience to her superiors was a higher duty; and therefore Saint Jerome acknowledges that she was wrong in practising excessive abstinence contrary to the advice of her Bishop. And the Apostles, whose mission it was to preach the Gospel, and feed souls with the Bread of Life, judged well that it was not right for them to hinder this holy work in order to minister to the material wants of the poor, weighty as that work was also. Every calling stands in special need of some special virtue; those required of a prelate, a prince, or a soldier, are quite different; so are those beseeming a wife or a widow, and although all should possess every virtue, yet all are not called upon to exercise them equally, but each should cultivate chiefly those which are important to the manner of life to which he is called.
What is so wonderful here is the sheer, loving practicality of the advice. Practice those virtues which are most appropriate to your calling in life and to the situation in which you find yourself. Don't attempt magnanimity when the situation calls for compassion. Don't go for strength when what is called for is humility.
It seems like common sense, but too often in the practice of spiritual life it is easy to become derailed. Sometimes we are so busy searching for patience that we forget love, or so focused on endurance that we forget compassion. Sometimes we pray for the strengthening of one virtue, when in fact it is some other facet of spiritual lives that needs polishing.
More and more as I read the great Saints I hear a single resounding message. Live this moment, right now. You haven't any other and this is the moment that God has given you and everything about it has been lovingly constructed to strengthen you in your pursuit of Him. We hear it in St. John of the Cross, in Jean-Pierre de Caussade, in St. Francis de Sales, and even the intimations of it in the letters of St. Paul. (Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say it rejoice. What other activity requires so much focus on the moment?)
Happy Feast Day and through the intercession of St. Francis de Sales may we all be blessed with the right words to bring all people to our most gracious Lord Jesus Christ.