Identity I argue is a very important term within the context of leading a person to Jesus Christ. Whether the intention is to introduce the concept of God, guide someone toward developing a relationship with Jesus Christ or simply introducing a genuine life in steeped in prayer, these elements are intimately united toward a central theme of introducing and guiding a person toward Jesus Christ hence identity. If the person in question begins to know, understand and hence identify with Christ then we begin to witness the first fruits of a genuine conversion.
The great Doctor of the Church St. Francis De Sales whom St. John Bosco modeled in the establishment of the great Salesian teaching order emphasized the value of exercising a genuine identity in Jesus Christ. A preferred method or approach in developing an active relationship with Jesus Christ was the exercise of the charisms of almsgiving, fasting and devotion. The premise of these charisms or acts of faith was to prepare the soul for an engagement with Christ.
The importance of Charisms
An overarching theme of St. Francis De Sales acts of faith (charisms) was his charism of love. A central point of his great masterpiece An Introduction to the Devout Life involved the development of a love for God and in turn a love for his fellow man in a simple and reverent way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expands on the practice of the theological virtue of love (charity) in the following way:
Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for is own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God . . . the practice of all the virtue is animated and inspired by charity, which binds everything together in perfect harmony, it is the form of the virtues it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice (CCC 1822, 1827).
A Devout Life rooted in Prayer
St. Francis wrote The Introduction to the Devout Life with the intention of presenting a universal call to holiness that would serve as a basis for true devotion to God through prayerful intimacy with Him. Part of this call to holiness involves the renunciation of sin and all its distractions in order to begin the journey of Christian discipleship one rooted in love. The culmination of this journey of faith leads the individual toward an act of faith that involves a profession of faith and an openness to prayer. St. Francis talks about the necessity of prayer in the following way:
Prayer brings our mind into the brightness of divine light and exposes our will to the warmth of divine love. Nothing else can spurge the mind from its ignorance, and our will from its depraved affections. It is a blessed fountain which, as it flows, revives our good desires and causes them to bring forth fruit, washes away the stains of infirmity from our soul, and calms the passions of our hearts. Above all, I would recommend mental prayer, the prayer of the heart; and that drawn from the contemplation of our Savior’s Life and Passion (p. 55).
The Charism of Simplicity
Charisms are gifts, dispositions of the intellect and will guided by God and affirmed by Christ with the intention to assist and guide the person toward a relationship with Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel. The fruits of any charism are to serve the faithful and foster an opportunity for the person you witness to seek Christ. With respect to the many charisms attributed to St. Francis De Sales, perhaps the most significant one he exuded was the simplicity. I leave you with an excerpt from his treatise on simplicity:
Simplicity is nothing but an act of charity pure and simple, which has but one sole end-that of gaining the love of God. Our soul is then truly simple, when we have no aim at all but this, in all we do. The office of simplicity is to make us go straight to God, without regard to human respect or our own interests. It leads us to tell things candidly and just as they exist in our hearts. It leads us to act simply, without admixture of hypocrisy and artifice-and, finally keeps us at a distance from every kind of deceit and double-dealing.
God loves the simple and converses with them willingly and communicates to them the understanding of His truths, because He disposes of these at His pleasure. He does not deal thus with lefty and subtle spirits. True simplicity is like that of children, who think, speak and act candidly and without craftiness. They believe whatever is told them; they have no care or thought for themselves, especially when with their parents; they cling to them, without going to seek their own satisfactions and consolations, which they take in good faith and enjoy with simplicity, without any curiosity about their causes and effects.
Astuteness is nothing but a means of artifices, inventions, craft and deceit, by which we endeavor to mislead the minds of those with whom we are dealing and make them believe that we have no knowledge or sentiment as to the matter in question, except what we manifest by our words. This is wholly contrary to simplicity which requires our exterior to be perfectly in conformity with our interior.
When a simple soul is to act, it considers only what it is suitable to do or say and then immediately begins the action, without losing time in thinking what others will do or say about it. And after doing what seemed right, it dismisses the subject; or if, perhaps, any, and thought of what others may say or do should arise, it instantly cuts short such reflections, for it has no other aim than to please God, and not creatures, except as the love of God requires it. Therefore, it cannot bear to be turned aside from its purpose of keeping close to God and winning more and more of His love for itself.