Today, we celebrate the feast of one who might be considered spirituality’s original blogger.
Though Francis de Sales (1567-1622) lived long before the invention of the internet, his writing style would have been well-suited to the medium. He never set out to write book-length spiritual treatises. Rather, he simply recorded notes to assist a woman who’d come to him for spiritual direction. In time, those brief and approachable essays evolved into Introduction to the Devout Life – a classic work that’s still in print, more than 400 years after its first publication.
De Sales’ genius is that he wrote for us: Ordinary folks, living ordinary lives. ‘My purpose is to instruct those who live in town, within families, or at court, and by their state of life are obliged to live an ordinary life as to outward appearances.’ You need not reside in a monastery in order to grow closer to God, he believed.
And more to the point, he wrote using images and examples that people could relate to. Everyday things, like onions and melons. So to celebrate his feast day today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite passages from Devout Life – an observation on how our sinful hearts often work.
Although all the Israelites left Egypt in effect, not all of them left it in affection, and hence in the wilderness many of them regretted their lack of the onions and fleshpots of Egypt. In like manner, there are penitents who leave sin in effect, but do not leave it in affection…They abstain from sin like sick men abstaining from melons. They don’t eat them solely because the doctor warns them they’ll die if they do. But they begrudge giving up melons, talk about them, would eat them if they could, want to smell them at least, and envy those who can eat them…Although [the penitent] is out of Egypt in effect, he is still there in appetite, and in his longing for the garlic and onions on which he once glutted himself.
Mmm, mmm…good! How delicious our temptations can be! So as we remember St. Francis de Sales and his classic work of spirituality today, perhaps we can ask for his intercession in helping us grow beyond the affection for sin. May his wise words bring us one step closer to Christ, and the abundant grace that Christ pours out in our lives!