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St. Francis de Sales was a spiritual giant who famously advocated for lay men and women to become holy in an era when holiness was thought to be reserved for those in religious life.
But he didn’t just speak out about lay sanctity: He actively promoted it through his writing, speaking, and mentorship of lay people he knew.
One great example of his good advice is from a letter he wrote to a married laywoman. In it, he lays out sound spiritual advice that could benefit any Christian.
These words are from a new anthology, Wisdom from the Lives and Letters of St Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. It’s a gem of a book. You won’t find another that makes these great saints’ writings clearer and easier to understand.
Here are some of St. Francis de Sales’ practical pointers, in his own words, for a life of joy and contentment. It’s very wise advice for anyone seeking holiness today.
1Make your daily prayer a priority
Every day, either in the morning or an hour or two before supper, meditate on the life and death of Our Lord … Your meditation should last no more than a good half-hour. At the end of it, always think about the obedience that our Lord showed toward God his Father. You’ll find that everything he did was done to fulfill his Father’s will. By reflecting on this, make an effort to obtain a great love for the will of God.
2Keep your problems in perspective
Before beginning to carry out those duties of your state in life that are trials to you, recall that the saints joyfully did things far greater and harder. Some suffered martyrdom, others the dishonor of the world. St. Francis and many religious of our age kissed and kissed again a thousand times people afflicted with leprosy and sores; others lived in deserts; others with the soldiers on galley ships. All of this they did to please God. And what do we do that even comes close to such difficulties?
3Embrace God’s will for you
Think often that all we do has its true value from our conformity with the will of God. If I’m eating and drinking because it’s God’s will for me to do it, I’m more pleasing to God than if I were to die without having that intention.
4Ask God for help to do the hard things in your vocation
Often during the day, ask God to give you love of your vocation, and say like St. Paul when he was converted, “Lord, what would you have me do?” (cf. Acts 9:6). “Will you have me serve you in the lowest ministry of your house? Oh, I’ll be only too happy to do so; I don’t care what I do, provided that I’m serving you.” And coming to the particular thing that troubles you, say, “Do you want me to do this? Lord, although I’m not worthy, I’ll do it most willingly.” And thus you practice great humility. What a treasure you’ll gain! Undoubtedly greater than you can imagine.
5Look to saintly role models for inspiration
Consider how many saints have been married people like you, and how they accepted this vocation with great sweetness and surrender … Sarah, Rebecca, St. Anne, St. Elizabeth, St. Monica, St. Paula, and a hundred thousand others. Let this encourage you, and ask for their prayers.