Pope Benedict’s Reflection on St. Francis de Sales, our Patron

Pope Benedict’s Reflection on St. Francis de Sales, our Patron

Some of the protagonists of modern spirituality and the teachings of the Second Vatican Council can be traced to the contribution of a 16th century bishop and doctor of the Church. Benedict XVI made this observation today when he focused the general audience on the figure of St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622).

Francis developed a conviction about the love of God early in his life, the Pope explained, when the 20-year-old youth overcame a period of extreme anguish about his eternal salvation and predestination, a theme much under discussion in the Calvinist epoch.

The future saint came to peace "in the radical and liberating reality of the love of God," the Holy Father said, "to love him without asking anything in return and to trust in his divine love; not to ask any longer what God will do with me: I will simply love him, regardless of what he does or does not give me." Francis "no longer sought what he could have from God; he simply loved him, abandoned himself to his goodness. And this would be the secret of his life, which would shine in his principal work, 'Treatise on the Love of God,'" the Pope continued.

Leading figure Francis de Sales would eventually become the bishop of Geneva, "at that time a stronghold of Calvinism," the Holy Father noted. "His fine education, his personal gifts of charity, serenity and openness to dialogue, together with his brilliance as a spiritual guide, made Francis a leading figure of his age."

Benedict XVI pointed out how Francis' spirituality proposed an appeal to the laity, a "care to consecrate temporal things and sanctify the every day, on which the Second Vatican Council and the spirituality of our time insist."

"His spiritual writings include the celebrated 'Introduction to the Devout Life,' which insists that all Christians are called to perfection in their proper state of life, foreshadowing the insistence of the Second Vatican Council on the universal call to holiness," the Pontiff observed. "His 'Treatise on the Love of God' develops this teaching, stressing that we find ourselves and our true freedom in the love of God."

"[A]t the origin of many paths of pedagogy and spirituality of our time we rediscover the stamp of this teacher, without whom there would be no St. John Bosco or the heroic 'little way' of St. Thérèse of Lisieux," Benedict XVI asserted. The Pope emphasized Francis' relevance for today, particularly in his Christian humanism and teaching on freedom.

"n an age such as ours that seeks liberty, even with violence and disturbance," the Pope said, "the timelines of this great teacher of spirituality and peace should not be missed, a teacher who gave to his disciples the 'spirit of liberty,' the true one, as the culmination of his fascinating and complete teaching on the reality of love. St. Francis de Sales is an exemplary witness of Christian humanism; with his accessible style, with words that at times have the touch of poetry, he reminds that man bears inscribed in his deepest self nostalgia for God and that only in him is found his true joy and most complete fulfillment."

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