24 Jan – Memorial for St. Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was born in a castle to a well-placed family. His parents intended him to become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche, Annecy, Clermont College in Paris, and law at the University of Padua. He became a Doctor of Law, returned home, and found a position as Senate advocate.
It was at this point that he received a message telling him to “Leave all and follow Me”. He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.
He became a priest, and a provost in the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. He was a preacher, writer and spiritual director in the district of Chablais. His simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine, and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to the Roman Church.
He was ordained Bishop of Geneva at the age of 35. He travelled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. He was a friend of St. Vincent de Paul. He turned down a wealthy French bishopric. He helped found the Order of the Visitation with St. Jeanne de Chantal. He was a prolific correspondent. He was declared a Doctor of the Church.
- Patron Saint Index
2 Sam 5:1-7,10
David grew greater and greater, and the Lord, the God of Hosts, was with him.
As I write this, ironically enough, I had just been sharing with my son the story of David, the shepherd boy who was anointed and chosen by God to become King. It reads almost like a Cinderella-story — boy of no consequence, youngest of all his stronger brothers, favoured by God and becomes one of the greatest Kings in the Bible. My son pretty much summed up what I was secretly thinking to myself: “I wish I was like King David.” Yup, that would be amazing wouldn’t it, favoured and anointed by God to become someone great.
Here’s the truth — we are not David.
And the follow-on truth — but that doesn’t mean we aren’t anointed nor favoured by God.
I think that no matter how much we know to be otherwise, we have this ingrained belief that as ordinary people, or small, short, fat, thin, scarred, handicapped, (insert imperfection) people, our ability to do great things is limited by our imperfections and ‘ordinariness’. This is probably partly due to our exposure to social media. We think that if we looked more like the influencers and celebrities that we see, we would have that reach, the right platform, to do good things. If we had more money, looked better, became fitter, grew smarter, then we would be able to make a ‘real’ difference. But because we lack the ‘total package’ and tools that we think we need, we don’t achieve that ‘greatness’. So, we wait. We wait for that elusive day to arrive when we can be so much more, to be like David.
Our Saint for today, St Francis de Sales, thought differently. He believed that real holiness could be achieved not just by those who are called to a religious life, but by ordinary people too. In fact, he said, “It is an error, or rather a heresy, to wish to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the mechanic’s shop, the court of princes, or the home of married people….Wherever we may be, we can and should aspire to the perfect life.” He believed that holiness could be achieved in the experience of our daily lives, regardless of temperament, age, or vocation.
I thought that that was such an enlightening and comforting thought when I read that. St Francis made this statement way back in the 17th century and yet, it rings true and relevant in current times. Who is to say that we can’t serve God in the little things that we do in our lives? If we try to find a way to see Jesus in the things that we do and the way that we live, is not holiness attainable by us too?
We are all chosen by God to “do something beautiful for God,” as St Teresa of Calcutta (a.k.a. Mother Teresa) put it. I don’t think God expects us to conquer dominions as they did in King David’s time, but to dedicate what we do with whole-hearted conviction and love to Him. If we need further proof of being chosen, we need look no further than the reassurance in Psalm 23: “You have anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows.”
Brothers and sisters, we are not David, but we can be like him, because God is with us. Let this thought encourage us to strive for greater things, as we ourselves grow steadily stronger with God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, we pray to see beyond the ordinariness of our lives. What we see as mundane, help us to see as opportunities to serve You instead. We pray for the belief that we are enough to strive for holiness in our daily lives. Let us not be discouraged, but be strengthened by Your presence.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the opportunity and capability to serve and love You, even in the smallest things that we do. Thank you for choosing us as Your anointed ones, and for Your grace and favour. May we prove worthy of it.
Thank you so much for such a pertinent reflection. And I love your prayer.