Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
4. THIRD PART: THE PRACTICE
OF THE VIRTUES: PATIENCE AND HUMILITY / Fr Gianni Ghiglione
We have gone directly
to the third part of the Philothea. But what about the second part?
In the second part Francis leads the person, who has promised solemnly
to journey towards God and to give himself totally to God, to live
the celebrated expression of Saint Teresa of Avila: God alone is enough!
The total gift of oneself must be brought to God and this is realized
through prayer and the sacraments. I would like to highlight two elements
that I consider fundamental in this second part. Here they are:
1. Prayer is opening our understanding to God's brightness and light,
and exposing our will to the warmth of his love. Nothing else purifies
so well our understanding of its ignorance and our will of its sinful
attachments. (II, 1). As you can see, we are back to Salesian anthropology
and integral humanism, so that in the relationship with God we offer
our whole selves and we use all our faculties and gifts. Too often
we either emphasize the intelligence at the risk of falling into sterile
reflections (which sometimes satisfy our pride) or we emphasize the
heart at the risk of being content with pious feelings. Salesian balance
brings both heart and mind, feeling and reflection, into play. Don
Bosco educated his young people simultaneously in three areas: Reason
implies a commitment to study or work, play and fun, (in workshop
and school). Loving Kindness includes relationships, friendship and
affectivity (in the playground). Religion includes the encounter with
God and the spiritual life (in church).
2. The heart of the teaching
of Francis de Sales: during the day remain in the presence of God,
who always has his eyes turned towards you. This is called spiritual
recollection. The holy Bishop of Geneva used to go to confession if
he let a quarter of an hour pass without thinking of the Lord!!! How
can we reach this level? Through ejaculatory prayer! Long for God
again and again, Philothea, by short and ardent desires of the heart:
admire his beauty, ask for his help, adore his goodness, give him
your heart (II,13).
In the practice of spiritual recollection and ejaculatory prayer we
find the deep root of devotion: it can make up for the lack of all
other forms of prayer. But if this is missing, there is no way to
make up for it!
Francis offered Philothea some suggestions to enrich her heart and
her spiritual life with prayer and the sacraments. Now this love of
God must bear fruit in the form of virtues. However, before talking
about the virtues to be practised, the Saint offers some simple and
concrete criteria, as is his style, to guide the choice of these virtues:
there are many virtues so which of them are we to choose? (III, 1)
"In the practice of virtues, we must prefer that virtue which
corresponds more with our duties than with our tastes." Every
vocation has its own special virtues: the virtues that a Bishop must
have are not those of a soldier or a married woman ... "Each
one must devote oneself to those virtues much needed for the state
of life to which one is called." Note how Francis immediately
favours the concrete situations of life: it is there that the Lord
is calling us to aim high, avoiding easy shortcuts or distractions.
b. "We are to prefer the most excellent and not the most showy."
Prefer spiritual almsgiving to material almsgiving, avoid strange
bodily penances and practise sweetness, kindness, modesty and the
mortifications of the heart! Choose the most consistent and most effective
c. Those that are contrary to the defects that afflict you: if you
yield easily to anger, choose the virtue of patience and goodness;
if you are proud, choose humility.
d. Let us simply, humbly
and devoutly exercise ourselves in small virtues the conquest of which
Our Lord has entrusted to our care and toil: such as patience, humility,
poverty, chastity and obedience.
In conclusion, the fundamental
criterion that gives peace to the heart and courage to our commitment
is to bear in mind always that "this King of Glory does not reward
his servants according to the dignity of their duties but according
to the love and humility with which they carry them out."(III,
The first virtue that
Francis presents is PATIENCE:
Control of self is the highest aspiration of man. Control of self
is commensurate with the practice of patience.
The basic principle of patience: Do not complain or complain as little
as possible about the wrongs you receive! If you really have to complain,
be careful whom you confide in! Choose a person who is calm and full
of love for God.
"The truly patient person does not complain of evil and does
not want to be pitied!"
Francis is not content with a submissive attitude which accepts whatever
comes. He urges a positive aspect of offering, after the example of
Jesus: "Offer your sufferings for the service of the Lord and
ask him insistently to unite them to what He has endured for you."
And this applies to all the virtues. (A little bit of paradise makes
everything right, as Don Bosco used to say). The good must be paid
for! This is the way of the Gospel; but there is no need for great
things or extraordinary penances. It is a matter of offering one's
everyday life with its joys and sorrows, hopes and trials.
We offer some valuable
advice on this virtue. These are excerpts from his letters.
"As long as we remain down here, we must be resigned to put up
with our lives until God takes us to heaven [...]. We must therefore
have patience and never think that we can correct in one day the bad
habits we have contracted by taking little care of our spiritual health
[...]. We must admit it and have patience with everyone, but first
of all with ourselves."
To Madame de Limojon he wrote: "It is not possible to arrive
where you aspire in one day: you have to earn one point today, and
another one tomorrow. In this way step by step, we will become masters
of ourselves; and this is no small conquest."
Patience brings one to love one's weaknesses and imperfections; even
these become or can become precious material of growth: "Hate
your imperfections, but love them insofar as they put you in touch
with your nothingness. They are a reason for the exercise and perfection
of your virtues and of God's mercy".
The message does not change
even if the recipient of the letter is the Abbess of Puits-d'Orbe
whose spiritual guide Francis became. "You need to have a heart
capable of patience: great designs are realized only with a lot of
patience and a lot of time; and the things that grow in one day are
also lost in one day ". "Have patience with your inner cross:
the Saviour permits it so that, one day, you may know better what
you are by yourself. Do you not see that the agitation of the day
is calmed by the repose of the night? This means that our soul does
not need anything other than to abandon itself completely to God and
to be willing to serve him both among roses and among thorns."
To a religious sister he wrote: "Do not trouble yourself! There
is no more unbearable annoyance than that made up of small but persistent
troubles. Our Lord allows us to be unable to overcome these little
inconveniences, so that we may humble ourselves and understand that,
if we have been able to overcome certain great temptations, we do
not owe it to our strength, but to the particular assistance of His
Aristotle considered humility a vice. Today's world has no esteem
for this virtue. Indeed, humility is considered synonymous with weakness,
cowardice and an inability to assert oneself. But remember that this
is the virtue Jesus chose for himself.
Francis reminds us immediately that in order to receive God's grace
in our hearts, we must empty our hearts of ourselves. The image of
the empty vase often returns in his writings and in those of Jane
de Chantal, his faithful disciple. For example: "Keep your heart
and soul always like an empty vessel before his goodness so that He
alone will fill them with whatever pleases him, be it fear or joy,
peace or war. In short, it is necessary that you remain always and
without reservation, totally dependent on his divine guidance."
Read and enjoy the fine irony with which he presents examples of false
humility, which are extremely relevant.
The basic criterion is
the following: "To know if a man is truly wise, learned and generous,
we need to see if his good qualities tend towards humility, for then
they will be really good. If instead they are put on display they
are false "(III, 4). So don't act the peacock!
Francis distinguishes between interior and exterior humility.
Interior humility is reached in three steps:
1. Be thankful: think of the gifts you have received, the good that
is in you and has been given to you. "Serious reflection on the
gifts received makes us humble; knowledge leads to gratitude."
The Virgin Mary acknowledges the love of God in her life and sings
Humility must be sincere and without pretence. Sometimes we show we
want to take the lowest place, sitting at the bottom of the table,
but only to pass with great honour to the head of the table.
Humility means putting our trust in God who is pleased to manifest
his power in our weakness.
2, Recognize and accept
your own inadequacy. It follows that the good that is found in others
is appreciated more. The best humiliations are those related to our
work, living conditions and relationships. And this is because we
have not chosen them, but it is the good God who sent them to us (III,
3. Endure Offence. Slander
hurts only those who worry about it. Sometimes the best technique
is to leave it alone and pay no heed to it. Even if one's good name
is lost, the important thing is not to lose virtue. The root of one's
good name is the goodness and honesty of one's life.
Conclusion: let the dogs
bark at the moon!
Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ crucified, let us walk
in his service with trust and simplicity, accompanied by wisdom and
devotion." (III, 7).
For your reflection.
o Are you in the habit of meditating on the Word of God? Do you prepare
for Sunday Mass by reflecting beforehand on the Readings?
o Do you practise recollection or do you always have the TV or mobile
phone switched on?
o Are you aware of your positive qualities and the aspects of your
character you need to improve?
o Are you always (or often) complaining?
o Do you appreciate the good qualities of others?
The messages of the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández
Artime, are important. He has given us the Strenna for 2018 on the
theme: "'LORD, GIVE ME THIS WATER". LET US CULTIVATE THE
ART OF LISTENING AND ACCOMPANIMENT". Here are ten points to help
us to appreciate it more:
1. Many people are thirsty. There are many empty glasses and empty,
tired lives waiting to be filled with meaning. There is plenty of
good land with good seed waiting to be "awakened" by the
inexhaustible source of Life that flows from Jesus.
2. Don Bosco is full of the living water of Jesus. He is a "reservoir"
that gives water to all, especially to the young, in order to give
life, commitment and hope.
3. The Samaritan woman: foreign, rejected, confused, tormented ...
She meets Jesus and everything changes.
4. Jesus, source of Living Water.
5. Mary Help of Christians is always attentive. As our mother she
tells us: "Do what Jesus tells you".
6. From the side and from the heart of Jesus flows the inexhaustible
Water of Love. The meeting with the Samaritan woman took place at
the sixth hour, the same hour when Jesus died on the cross and blood
and water came out of his pierced heart.
7. The task of adults is to collaborate, accompany and cultivate.
8. Water quenches, irrigates, washes, makes seeds sprout, vivifies,
changes the desert into a garden.
9. The Spirit of God works and gives strength of will.
10. Different ages, different experiences, different races, languages
and cultures, but the same humanity, the same thirst, the same intense
joy in receiving Jesus the Living Water.
SAN PAOLO (BRAZIL) - FIRST
The representatives of the Salesian Family and the leaders of the
local ADMA groups of the Province of Our Lady Help of Christians were
happy to meet at the Sacred Heart High School in São Paulo
for Mass on 2 June 2017, during which the first ADMA Council at Province
level was introduced.
The Provincial Fr Edson Castilho presided at the Mass. Fr Narciso
Ferreira, spiritual animator of ADMA and Fr Justo E. Piccinini, newly
appointed Provincial of São Paulo, concelebrated. Groups from
Guarujá, Pindamonhangaba, Campinas, São Paulo, Sorocaba
and São José dos Campos were present.
The Council relies on Salesian enthusiasm and the intercession of
Our Lady Help of Christians and is inspired by the teaching of Don
Bosco. Fr Edson gave the group its mission to direct all its activities
to support the young and to pray constantly for priestly and religious
The provincial council elected at the last ADMA meeting of the Province
in the city of Guarujá to develop the activities of the Association
for the next 4 years, is composed of:
1. Tânia M Costa Esteves de Campos - ADMA of SJ dos Campos -
2. Marli Cesario Israel - ADMA of Pindamonhangaba - Secretary
3. Dinéia Custódio Santos da Silva - ADMA of Itaquera
4. Valderez Gonzalez - ADMA of Guaruja - Communication
5. Lucia Helena Natto Chahin - ADMA of SP - Santa Terezinha - Treasurer
MEXICO (FMA) - SEVENTH
On 21 October 2017 the ADMA centres of the province of Our Lady of
Guadalupe in southern Mexico, accompanied by the FMA, took part in
the seventh provincial meeting at the Laura Vicuña College
in Coacalco. We came from the centres of the region of Michoacán,
Puebla, Mexico and the State of Mexico, for a total of 64 participants.
In an atmosphere of fraternity and reflection, we studied the document
"Youth, faith and vocational discernment" with the help
of Sister Maria Guadalupe Villicaña, FMA.
After getting to know this beautiful message of Pope Francis, the
commitment we have in our lives and in our families consists in the
effort to help our children and any young person with whom we are
in contact, to choose with certainty the vocation to which God is
calling them, but above all, to be happy to serve others with an oratorian
heart in the style of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello.
Holiness is possible. ADMA in our province relies on the Help of Christians,
the Morena of Tepeyac, to continue to accompany us with her maternal
love, allowing us to continue joining forces to fight for life before
and after birth, spreading devotion to such a tender Mother with the
firmness and love of sons and daughters, and the worship of her Son
Jesus in the Eucharist, source and support of the whole Salesian vocation.
Many thanks to all those who made this event possible. We continue
to ask for these annual meetings, as they are spaces for sharing and
friendship and also nurseries of experiences that enrich the work
of each centre in spreading devotion to Mary Help of Christians. (Saraí
Patricia Otero Muñoz, Member of ADMA of the Laura Vicuña
ITALY - REGIONAL MEETING
OF DELEGATES FOR THE SALESIAN FAMILY
From November 9 to 12 in Genzano (Rome) there was a regional meeting
of the Delegates for the Salesian Family (SF), attended by 26 Salesians
from Italy, Portugal and Spain, together with the members of the Secretariat
of the SF. At the meeting, the Provincial Delegates for the SF were
joined by some Salesians working with groups of the SF. Fr Eusebio
Muñoz, Delegate of the Rector Major for the SF, led the meeting.
The participants presented the situation of the SF in the world, studied
the figure of the delegate for the SF, strengthened the work with
the SF in the Region and in the Province and reflected on the present
situation of the SF.
CONGO - PRAYER FOR PEACE
On 24 November 2017 in the Chapel of Mary Help of Christians in the
Province, ADMA members prayed for peace especially in Congo and South
Sudan. They invoked the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Rosary,
and also adoration and Mass. We also prayed for the new council of
Primary ADMA in Turin. We encourage the participation of young people
with the new ADMA delegate, Fr Aurélien. The Mass was presided
over by the Provincial, Fr Albert Kabuge.
On Sunday 26 November 2017, the feast of Christ the King, at the Shrine
of St Maria Domenica Mazzarello in Mornese, an ADMA meeting took place
with the presence of the world Spiritual Animator, Fr Pierluigi Cameroni.
During the Eucharist two people who had been preparing throughout
the year, expressed the desire to be part of the Association by making
their COMMITMENT to live and promote devotion to Mary Help of Christians
and to the Blessed Sacrament. Fr Pierluigi gave a talk on formation.
This was followed by the Rosary during which we remembered the whole
Salesian Family, the Rector Major, and the sick. Finally, we shared
a good meal. We thank you Lord for the GRACE offered to all the participants
at different times of the day ... Our task for the next year is to
grow in DOCILITY TO THE SPIRIT ... (Sister Luigina Silvestrin, FMA,
MADRID - INTERNATIONAL
YOUTH AND FAMILY MINISTRY CONGRESS
The Congress was dedicated to studying the challenges facing Youth
and Family Ministry. As well as celebration and reflection, ample
space was dedicated to the exchange of experiences with group work
and the presentation of Good Practices. Among the Good Practices (20
from all over the world), Mr Tullio Lucca and his wife Simonetta,
on behalf of ADMA, presented their experience of Family Ministry open
to Youth. Starting from the charismatic identity of the two columns
(Eucharist and Mary Help of Christians), the Association at the present
time sees Family and Youth as the privileged recipients of its ministry,
shared by the different states of life (religious, priests and laity)
and families. Today, no family can remain alone and Don Bosco offers
us the paths to follow for the welfare of the young.