“I am thankful for YOU!” — Gratitude inspired by St. Francis de Sales

From Guest Blogger Claire Kranz, Vis Alumna, Student at St. Louis University

Claire Kranz, Vis Alumna; St. Louis University Student

Claire Kranz, Vis Alumna; St. Louis University Student

Marvel at God’s goodness. ~St. Francis de Sales

Thanksgiving week is finally here and from a school and work perspective, I could not be more ready.  But, as I sit here, admittedly listening to Christmas music, I realize I am not truly ready.  It almost seems trite.  Thanksgiving’s not about the food, it’s about God. Sometimes, that’s hard to completely soak up.  We are thankful for God and all He has done, like provide the food and football.  The truth is, there is so much more to God’s work than the food, but sometimes, it can be hard to recognize.

We can make lists of all the things we are thankful for, say prayers of thanksgiving for all we have received, but all that recognizes the past. What about the present moment?  How can we experience gratitude for moments as they happen, not hours later when it is time for bed?  How can we “marvel at God’s goodness” as St. Francis de Sales suggests?

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

Every Thanksgiving, we are surrounded by incredible people.  They are family, friends, children of God.  All who gather on Thanksgiving represent an everyday piece of God’s goodness on a special day that allows us time to actually take in their spirits.  Thursday, and all this week, take time to experience the love and joy of the people around them.  Realize moments of gratitude and savor them as they happen.  Marvel at the incredible life God has placed before you, and all the amazing people who have graced it.  Be Thankful. Be Grateful.  Be Marveled.

V+J
Peace,
Claire

“COURAGE!” — Inspiration from St. Francis de Sales and Claire Kranz

Claire Kranz, Vis Alumna

Claire Kranz, Vis Alumna

The following post comes from Vis Alumna and St. Louis University student Claire Kranz. We are fortunate to share it here with you:

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

“Go courageously to do whatever
you are called to do.
If you have any fears, say to your soul:
”The Lord will provide for us.”
If your weakness troubles you,
cast yourselves on God, and trust in him.
Trust in him, depend on his providence;
fear nothing.

~St. Francis de Sales

God calls us to do many things.  Eventually, he has an occupation for us.  Maybe he is calling us to have a family or allow a monastic community to become our family.  Maybe he is calling us to volunteer or pray more deeply for someone who is struggling.  Right now, God may be calling us in simpler ways.  As students, we must write papers, study for tests, and participate in all that the college life may have to offer us.  Some of these callings, no matter how small, can seem so daunting. St. Francis de Sales reminds us tonight to face these with courage. Trust that God will provide for all that we are incapable of doing ourselves.

V+J.

Peace and Prayers,
Claire

Readying our Hearts for Lent: Words from St. Francis de Sales

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“The desert experience begins by calling one out of the world. Salesian experience does not. For [St. Jane de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales] the location of that process is first and foremost interior. It is hidden in the heart.” Introduction to the Letters of Spiritual Direction p. 54

On Wednesday, February 22, 2012, we begin our Lenten journey. As individuals, and as a large Catholic faith community, we lean into this season, embracing Christ’s journey to the desert as our own. We empty ourselves and tune into our poverty, our longing, our desire, our suffering, and become more vulnerable as we examine our very humanity and our need for God.

Well, in theory that’s what we all do, right?

In my own pre-Mardi-Gras preparation for this Lenten journey, I turned to our Visitation co-founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, for a little inspiration and guidance. Opening their “Letters of Spiritual Direction”, (translated by Péronne Marie Thibert, VHM, with an introduction by Wendy Wright and Joseph S. Powers, OSFS; and preface by Fr. Henri Nouwen),  I landed upon some Salesian material in the Introduction to the book that really resonated with me and struck me as particularly “lenten.”   Theme V of Francis and Jane’s letters, as the authors point out,  focuses on the heart-centered nature of their spirituality. The chapter begins with these words by St. Francis:

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

“Since the heart is the source of all of our actions, as the heart is, so are they.” (Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life III, 23)

The authors go on to define “classic desert spirituality” here and the “extent to which its focus is on the exterior dimensions of spirituality (as opposed to Francis’ attention to the interior).  As indicators of the transformation of the person,  one fleeing society has exterior markers; these include entering a monastery, donning the habit, taking a new name, and being celibate.  Salesian spirituality, on the other hand is first and foremost distinguished as rooted in the interior life, the heart.* (And, I might note, something the laity might aspire to as well as the religious.)

Authors Dr. Wendy Wright and Joseph Powers, OSFS, explain:

“The desert experience begins by calling one out of the world. Salesian experience does not. For Madame de Chantal and the Monseigneur of Geneva the location of that process is first and foremost interior. It is hidden in the heart. It is only after the slow and dramatic change of person has been engraved in the center of one’s being that the issue of that metamorphosis can be seen.  To impress this idea on his readers, Francis relied upon the metaphor of the almond tree (an image shaped by the particular botanic knowledge of his day.)”

To quote Francis de Sales then:

“Men engaged in horticulture tell us that if a word is written on a sound almond seed and it is placed again its shell, carefully wrapped up and planted, whatever fruit the tree bears will have that same writtten word stamped on it. For myself…I cannot approve the methods of those who try to reform a person by beginning with external things, such as bearings, dress or hair. On the contrary, it seems to me that we should begin inside. ‘Be converted to me with your whole heart,’ God said. ‘My child, give me your heart.’  Since the heart is the source of actions, as the heart is, so are they…

For this reason…..I have wished above all else to engrave and inscribe on your heart this holy, sacred maxim, LIVE JESUS! I am sure that your life, which comes from the heart just as the almond tree comes from its seed, will after that produce all its actions — which are its fruits — inscribed and engraved with this sacred word of salvation.”

May you travel to the desert of your own heart this Lent.

May you travel to the desert of your own heart this Lent.

****

It is my hope that this reflection inspires your journey into Lent, tending to your interiors, to your hearts; may a desert of contemplation and sincerity be cultivated in the midst of your present surroundings. May you know and trust the Divine source of Love that exists in your heart and guides you daily.

Happy Lenten Journey! LIVE JESUS!

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*I invite you all to turn to page 54 of this text and simply read the first page of this section of the book — as my attempts to summarize will undoubtedly do injustice to our authors’ work. (Amazon will let you read this online for free by clicking here.)