St. Francis De Sales reminds us that our path to holiness is nothing without a love for God

January 22, 2024

“I just want to get to heaven” was a statement of last resort for a friend who appeared to have had enough with people in general. He had worked in the financial sector as an investor and broker for over a decade and had experienced an abundance of graces in his career assisting people with money management and echoing responsible stewardship to his clients specifically to give thanks to Jesus for the gifts his clients had received. However, as any of us would encounter, he hit a spiritual wall with his position, and he began to lose his sense of purpose and enjoyment. His usually friendly demeanor was no longer apparent as he began to view the world through a negative lens.

When I met with my friend at the point where despair appeared to be taking over, he told me rather bluntly, “I just want to get to heaven, I’ve had enough with people.” He began to elaborate that in his daily interactions with clients, he noticed a behavioral change, people were disinterested in conversation, expected immediate gratification, passively disregarded the dignity of the person next to them, and scoffed at the mention of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in regular conversation. These encounters began to bother him to the point that he was developing a very negative attitude toward people in general.

My friend’s experiences may not be any different than yours or mine, however, when you and I get to the point of desiring heaven as a means of escape and not a means of salvation then our understanding of who God is may require a spiritual and doctrinal adjustment. When someone desires to be in eternal rest with our Father in heaven, the journey towards eternal rest involves a convergence between the human condition and our willingness to both recognize and surrender to the Divine condition. This is why the Incarnation is central to our Christian identity because it involves the Son of God, the Word made flesh Jesus Christ that converges Christ’s Divinity with his humanity.  

As the order of creation reveals a progression toward man being made in God’s image and likeness, man and woman were bestowed with a distinctive character that reflected the Divine love of God. In this divine love, man is called to freely engage in this love and reciprocate in faith, his love toward the Father. As he reciprocates his love to the Father it must also be given and reciprocated to man as well. This is where we can attain great wisdom and knowledge from St. Francis De Sales, the Doctor of Divine Love who through his charism of love teaches us that the path to holiness is nothing without a love for God. In his comparison of St. Francis De Sales and St. John Bosco, Fr. Arnaldo Pedrini describes St. Francis as someone who:

Wished to convince the ordinary person that true devotion is neither difficult to understand nor hard to practice. Religion can be adapted to any level of living, made suitable for any social condition, and inserted into the routine occupations of daily life. At the core of this teaching, human beings are exalted in all their dignity, turned toward God both in body and in spirit. A devout humanism, translated into practical terms and sustained by love, is attractive to the human heart, which is naturally inclined to love God ever more and more. He is the God of the human heart.[1]

St. Francis De Sales rarely viewed the world through a secular lens and observed every human being as a child of God and a soul hungry for Christ. If God’s love is perpetually directed toward us, then our love for our neighbor should be as well. Fr. Pedrini describes how St. Francis De Sales viewed the virtue and gift of sanctity to be the call of grace for all Christians in the Church of the Lord.[2] Our path to holiness God requires us to be in love with God. By nature of our creation in His image and likeness, we are called to sacrifice our human vices and desires for the love of God. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul reminds us that we are called to be imitators of God’s love as his children. God calls us to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.[3]

If we desire heaven, then all our human actions must be redirected to reflect an act of love in the name of our Lord. St. John reminds us that God is love[4] who as Father desires to have an intimate relationship with Him and share in His love in heaven. The implications of our Love for God reflect our final end with Him which is based on how we are created out of love and how we will die in love with God. The Catechism reminds us that the whole of the Christian life is a communion with each of the divine persons without in any way separating them. Our ultimate end is entry into perfect unity with the Trinity.[5]

 

Complete trust in God

Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God to whom you belong will in his love enable you to profit by them. He has guided you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, He will carry you lovingly in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations.’

St. Francis De Sales

 

[1] Pedrini, Fr. Arnaldo, SDB, St. Francis de Sales, Don Bosco’s Patron, (New York, Don Bosco Publications, 1987), p. 50

[2] Ibid, p. 51

[3] Eph 5:1-2

[4] 1 Jn 1:5

[5] CCC 259

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