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From our perennial favourite, St. Francis de Sales:

As to the examination of conscience, which we all should make before going to bed, you know the rules:

  1. Thank God for having preserved you through the day past.
  2. Examine how you have conducted yourself through the day, in order to which recall where and with whom you have been, and what you have done.
  3. If you have done anything good, offer thanks to God; if you have done amiss in thought, word, or deed, ask forgiveness of His Divine Majesty, resolving to confess the fault when opportunity offers, and to be diligent in doing better.
  4. Then commend your body and soul, the Church, your relations and friends, to God. Ask that the Saints and Angels may keep watch over you, and with God’s Blessing go to the rest He has appointed for you.

– Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales

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Dear Saint Francis de Sales, I’m stressed, anxious, worried…

Having heard that I was a fan, a good friend gave me a worn out little book called Spiritual Letters of Saint Francis de Sales.

I smiled as I read the first letter, which seems to have been written just for me. In it, the good saint says Girl, chillaaaax.

“…God is not in the great and strong wind, or the scorching fires of agitated feeling, but in the soft, almost imperceptible, breeze of calmness and gentleness.”

“…strive to be as a little child, who, while its mother holds it, goes on fearlessly, and is not distrubed because it stumbles and trips in its weakness. So long as God holds you up by the will and determination to serve Him with which He inspires you, go boldly and do not be frightened at your little checks and falls, so long as you can throw yourself into His Arms in trusting love. Go there with an open, joyful heart as often as possible;–if not always joyful, at least go with a brave and faithful heart.”

Ok, I was paraphrasing a bit. I am definitely a long way away from going about life with the fearlessness of a little child. Too many worries, too many fears. Gotta work on that.

I found a copy of Saint Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life on my parents’ bookshelf back in university. It floored me then and has rarely left my bedside since, which is highly amusing since it was written some four hundred years ago. It is uncanny how relevant his writing has been to my life, how specifically he writes about my particular struggles, how helpful his centuries-old advice has been. How could someone from the 16th century have had such a clear window to my modern soul?

Here is a section from chapter VIII, called Gentleness towards others and Remedies against Anger:

I mean, that when we feel stirred with anger, we ought to call upon God for help, like the Apostles, when they were tossed about with wind and storm, and He is sure to say, “Peace, be still.” But even here I would again warn you, that your very prayers against the angry feelings which urge you should be gentle, calm, and without vehemence. Remember this rule in whatever remedies against anger you may seek. Further, directly you are conscious of an angry act, atone for the fault by some speedy act of meekness towards the person who excited your anger. It is a sovereign cure for untruthfulness to unsay what you have falsely said at once on detecting yourself in falsehood; and so, too, it is a good remedy for anger to make immediate amends by some opposite act of meekness. There is an old saying, that fresh wounds are soonest closed.
– Introduction to a Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales

That particular bit of advice has (I’m sure) saved my children from being thrown out the window countless times. Lose temper. Yell. Pray. Calm down. Say sorry. Humbly ask for a hug. Lather, rinse, repeat. I’m currently praying to cut out steps 1 and 2 (the losing temper and yelling part). The book isn’t particularly directed towards parents, but the road to becoming a better person is the same road to becoming a better parent.

Which is to say: I highly recommend this book. So do all sorts of other people, it seems. I can imagine that the 400-year old writing style might be a bit much for some people, but do give it a try if you’ve never read it before. I found a neat site where you can read the full book online, for free.

What is this?

Here a volunteer parishoner at St. Clement shares her personal experiences as her young family tries to keep the Catholic faith alive in their homes, living out the promises of their Baptism. Thank you for stopping in and be sure to share some of your stories as well!

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