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What Is Salesian Spirituality?

St. Francis de SalesSt. Francis de Sales
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St. Francis de Sales

Salesian Spirituality is a practical everyday spirituality for living in the modern world as learned, lived and shared by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) and St. Jane de Chantal (1572-1641), spiritual friends. Salesian spirituality gives expression to a way to journey in the spiritual life as we embrace the duties of our state in response to the universal call to holiness - in the words of St. Francis de Sales to "bloom where you are planted." It's a "spirituality of the heart," as relevant today as in the time of St. Francis de Sales himself, an all-embracing, down-to-earth spirituality for everyone.

The essence of the spirituality can be found in the "Introduction to the Devout Life," a book written by St. Francis de Sales at the beginning of the 17th century. The book, often referred to as a spiritual classic, contains the collective wisdom of the first sixteen centuries of the Christian experience and is divided into five parts: (1) instructions and exercises needed to lead the soul from its first desire for the devout life until brought to a full resolution to embrace it; (2) various instructions for elevating the soul to God through prayer and the sacraments; (3) instructions on the practice of virtue; (4) necessary councils against frequent temptations; (5) exercises and instructions for renewing the soul and confirming it in devotion.

St. Francis de Sales wrote another spiritual classic, "Treatise on the Love of God." It is comprised of twelve books written for individuals more advanced in the spiritual life and addresses topics such as the human tendency to love God, meditation and prayer, an explanation of the history of divine love, the difference between benevolent and complacent love, and affective and effective love.  The "Treatise on the Love of God" focuses on: the fundamentals of Francis' science of love of God and the application of these basic principles. Francis' spirituality is found in numerous other writings including many of his sermons and letters.

The context for the "Rule of Life," which is followed by many Daughters and Sons of St. Francis can be found in Romans 13:10, "Love is the fulfillment of the law."  Salesians commit themselves to living according to the Spirit of Jesus and living the Gospel in the Church and in the world, as disciples of St. Francis de Sales and with Mary, the mother of the Church.

 Many Salesian followers begin each day with "the direction of intentions": My God, I give you this day. I offer You, now all the good that I shall do and promise to accept, for love of You, all the difficulties that I shall meet. Help me to conduct myself this day in a manner pleasing to You.

Salesian spirituality has helped many people over the centuries to "Live Jesus," to allow Jesus to live in them and to love through them, and to reproduce in their life, as did St. Francis de Sales, the gentleness and humility of Jesus. Many have looked to St. Francis de Sales for the means by which to attain holiness and a devout life.

The Salesian "family" is both large and diverse. Beyond the association it includes: the Sons of St. Francis de Sales, the Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (missionary sisters), the Priests of St. Francis de Sales, the Oblate priests, brothers and sisters of St. Francis de Sales, the Sisters of the Visitation of Mary (Visitandines), Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, Salesians of John Bosco, and the Secular Institute of St. Francis de Sales.

By following Salesian spirituality a person seeks to become a child of God by imitating Jesus Christ, in the context of interior prayer which allows God's light to illumine our intellect and His love to fill our heart. A Salesian is a disciple of "De Sales," who lives in the context of his words: "Let us be who we are, and be that well,so as to honor the Master Worker, whose handiwork we are."

The following are some of the highlights from Salesian spirituality:

  • God is love, and all creation is an outpouring of that love.
  • All creation has been made for Christ, with Christ and through Christ.
  • All creation should be treated with respect and care.
  • Jesus is the model for all fully human living.
  • You possess divine dignity and are worthy of profound respect.
  • God has testified that you are good, worthy of divine love and mercy.
  • Despite your weakness and sinfulness, God loves you so much that He sent His only Son to become  human.
  • You are called to be holy, that is, to grow in union with God.
  • Pursuing a holy life is called "devotion," that is, doing what is both commanded and counseled by God promptly, actively, and  diligently.
  • The  pursuit of holiness must be practical. It must transform your attitudes, attributes, and actions.
  • Acknowledge your sins and failing, learn from them, but do not dwell on them.
  • God gives you talents and abilities, gifts that should be discovered, developed and used for the good of others.
  • Relationships are essential to living a fully human, that is, a holy life.
  • Each moment of each day comes from the hand of a loving God and is graced for your salvation.
  • The only time you have is each present moment. Don't live in the past; don't dwell on the future.
  • Living each moment to the fullest with an eye to loving God must lead you to show compassion for others.
  • The challenge of each moment is discerning God's will, that is, the  particular, unique way that God may be calling you to love Him, yourself, and others.
  • God's will is frequently communicated through the events, circumstances, and relationships in which you find yourself.
  • God seldom requires you to perform great or extraordinary feats, but He always challenges you to perform everyday actions  with extraordinary attention and enthusiasm.
  • The "little virtues" of  patience, humility, gentleness, simplicity, honesty, and hospitality are powerful means for growing holy.
  • All prayer and meditation must lead to action.
  • The motivation with which you perform some action may be far more important and powerful than the action itself.
  • Freedom is one of the most precious and powerful gifts that God gives you.
  • You are to use that freedom to grow in conformity to God's will.
  • Intellectual  learning, prayerful reflection, social interaction, work, play and all things creative should be valued as graced by God  and viewed as means for growing into a fully human person.
  • Each new day is a new beginning, a new opportunity for growing in holiness.
  • Let your passion be disciplined.
  • Let your discipline be passionate.
  • Keep things in perspective.
  • Develop a sense of humor, one which does not offend others.
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