Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Power of Forgiveness

Today's Gospel teaches us how to pray, quite simply. Even more strongly, it teaches us about the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a virtue closely related to the Salesian virtues of humility, kindness and gentleness. When we, on our side, can humbly admit a mistake our hearts soften and become more gentle. When we move a step beyond admitting our mistakes and recognize that others can also make mistakes, kindness should enable us to be quickly forgiving.

Let us strive during this sacred time of Lent to work on becoming forgiving persons so that the Salesian virtues may shine brilliantly in our lives and give courage and strength to others!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two Great Saints of Gentle Strength and Cheerful Optimism

The last week in January is surely the week of the Salesian saints: Francis de Sales on January 24th and Don Bosco on January 31st.

It is interesting to note how each one was a man of his time, although their family backgrounds were radically different. Francis was from the nobility and Don Bosco was from a poor family in Italy two centuries later. Both men seemed to be by nature a bit impetuous and strong-willed, but each came to see that to reeach the hearts of those with whom they worked they needed to be men of gentle loving kindness.

A spirituality of the heart inspired them and pe rmeated their work with souls. In a message to the Salesian congregation one of Don Bosco's followers wrote: "St. Francis de Sales is an outstanding educator in the way of perfection, and his works are totally permeated by that pedagogy which our founder took up several centuries later, adapting them with so much art. He achieved this not on paper, but in the society created by him for the salvation of youth. . . .

'We can learn much from these two gentle saints about liviing in the presence of God, accepting the circumstances of our lives with peace and avoiding what Francis one describes as " a panting heart, fluttering wings, an agitated will, that lacks any kind of resignation.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Two great Proponents of Nonviolence

This week we celebrate two significant figures in the movement toward peace and respect for the dignity of human life.The month of January offers us several reminders which encourage us to live a more concentrated, spirit-filled life. The celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday on January 15 and the feast of St. Francis de Sales on January 24, as well as the March for Life on January 22, offer us reminders about significant moments in the life of our church and country which are directed toward preserving and strengthening human life.

Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is a clarion call to "act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God. This letter contains poignant reminders of the basic issues of human life, issues often reflected in the teachings of Francis de Sales.Dr. King writes: " I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the south is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality."

The spirituality of Francis de Sales has a deep appreciation for the innate dignity of the human person who is created in the image of God. From this basic assumption flows the essence of this spirituality: to "Live Jesus" in a spirit of optimism. Francis underlines the thought that gentle nonviolence is a light that illumines life, it is the way of being a person and dealing with persons which Jesus lived and taught. It is the only way we can make sense out of the challenge to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us.

Let us strive always to "Live Jesus!"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Feast of St. Francis de Sales Is Approaching!

As we prepare for the feast of St. Francis de Sales on Janury 24, our thoughts turn to the simple-down-to-earth spirituality which he has left us. His is a universal spirituality that invites all to walk the path of holiness. Eizabeth Stopp has described Salesian spirituality as "inspired common sense."

One of Francis' most practical calls to holiness is what he refers to as the "ecstasy of life." Simply stated, this ecstasy helps us to charge each action of our days into an act of love of God. Whether we are washing dishes, pushing a vacuum cleaner, raking leaves, writing a masterpiece, teaching a class, tending a sick child or creating a magnificent work of art, when done in union with our loving God, we find ourselves living on a wholly new dimension of life.

This ecstasy of life helps us to curb our natural inclinations so we act with an interior gentleness, simplicity and humility. We live in the presence of God and this connection enables us to rise above ourselves and to "Live Jesus." So the patience we show is not our own, but the patience of the heart of Jesus filling our hearts.

Let the Visitation motto "Live + Jesus" be our mantra during this week before the feast of our good saint as we do all things with and for God.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Jane de Chantal, Woman of Courage

Jane de Chantal's life was replete with all kinds of challenges. Her courage in facing daunting losses of children, parents, and other people who had enriched her life considerably reminds us of the "valiant woman" of Scripture.

Jane's courage was rooted in her strong, steadfast faith which enabled her to see the hand of God in all that unfolded in her life. Her path to sanctity was forged by accepting the challenges that came her way as what she often referred to as "God's good pleasure."

"Live joyously and courageously, never doubting that Jesus Christ is entirely yours", she would often say to those whom she was leading along the paths of holiness.

Let us live this week joyously!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Year of Saint Jane de Chantal

As the Visitation Sisters move toward the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Visitation order in 2010, we are dedicating the year 2008 to our foundress, St. Jane de Chantal. St. Jane de Chantal was an extraordinary woman who found sanctity in the ordinary events of her life. In some ways her life could be described as ordinary; in other ways it was extraordinary because of the many losses she experienced, including her loved husband, who died in a hunting accident right after the birth of their fourth child.

Under the direction of St. Francis de Sales St. Jane learned how to see the hand of God and "God's good pleasure" in the challenges she faced during her life of close to 70 years.

This woman of a strong, ardent and somewhat impatient temperament learned how to curb her natural dispositions so she developed a serenity in her life which enabled her to lead others along paths of kindness and gentleness.

For those of us engaged in working with young students, she has a special message of encouragement.

"Lead those in your care with a kind and understanding heart. Give them a holy liberty of spirit and remove from your mind and theirs any unhealthy spirit of constraint."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Salesian Reflection: Living in God's Presence

"In the course of the day, recall to mind the presence of God as often as you can. Become aware of what God is doing and of what you are doing; you will realize that his eyes are turned towards you and, with unparalleled love, fixed on you all the time.

"My God" you will say, "why do I not look at you always as you look at me? You think of me so often, my Lord, and I think of you so seldom. Where am I? My true place is God; where do I find myself?" (Introduction to the Devout Life, Part I, Ch. 12.)

Prayer for Direction of Intention

O my God, I offer you this day,
I offer you now all the good that I shall do
and I promise to accept for love of you
all the difficulty which I shall meet.
Help me to conduct myself during this day
in a manner that is pleasing to you.