There is good reason that St. Francis de Sales is the patron of writers—he really had a way with words. During his lifetime, he wrote pamphlets defending the faith that actually converted many people away from heresy. He also wrote books advising laypeople in the spiritual life, which was a revolutionary concept at the time. These books instructed ordinary people in how to grow in spiritual life according to their vocation, helping them to understand that holiness wasn’t just for those in the religious life. We still have a lot we can learn from St. Francis de Sales today!
1. “Have patience in all things—but first of all, with yourself.”
True growth happens slowly. We are all human beings, prone to making mistakes, and we can’t let our faults frustrate us. Instead, we can acknowledge in humility that we’ve messed up and ask God to forgive us and help us. We can’t expect to be perfect; we must allow ourselves to be dependent upon Him.
2. “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”
St. Francis de Sales struggled with anger. In his youth he was hotheaded, but in adulthood he was known for his incredible patience and calm spirit—a direct result of prayer. When he recognized that his short temper was holding him back and drawing his attention away from God, he prayed for inner peace and made efforts to hold back his anger. As a result, he learned the value of maintaining inner peace in all things.
3. “There was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust.”
When we are consumed with anger, it can blind us to the truth of the situation. Our own perspective always seems right—and everyone else utterly wrong—when it’s filtered through the lens of passionate fury. Only if we remain calm can we see the truth.
4. “Those who love to be feared fear to be loved.”
When we seek power over relationships, it is a sign that we are letting fear run our lives instead of love. Allowing ourselves to be loved means relinquishing control and making ourselves vulnerable, but it is always worth it.
5. “Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others, and talk to God.”
If we learn to rely on God’s love to sustain us, even as we are surrounded with other distractions, we will find unfailing support through the ups and downs of our lives. Every so often, we need to take a moment and direct our attention to God’s presence.
6. “Reputation is rarely proportioned to virtue.”
A reminder that we should never be too preoccupied with what others think about us—what really matters is what God thinks of us, and public opinion rarely aligns with God’s opinion.
7. “When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.”
Rather than reacting forcefully in the moment, we can effect more lasting change if we respond with patience and kindness, never allowing the challenges we face to disturb our inner peace.
8. “True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.”
God works powerfully and mysteriously. Often we don’t realize the changes He’s making in our lives while they’re happening, but when we look back, we see how He has led us. But if we despair in the moment that it seems we are making no progress, we might become discouraged and give up. Keeping our focus outward, on God and others instead of on ourselves, will leave room for God to do His work in us.
9. “Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.”
Don’t have time to pray? That means you need to pray even longer than usual. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s actually true—when we are overscheduled and overstressed, the only way we can survive is if we abandon ourselves to God. Time spent in prayer will help us to step back and see our lives more clearly, and we will be able to discern which things deserve our attention and which things just aren’t necessary. Only prayer will help us get our priorities in order.
10. “Be who you are and be that well.”
Each of us has different gifts to offer the world, and comparison will only distract us from the amazing gifts we’ve been given. Instead of trying to be someone else, strive to become the best version of yourself. Recognize that God has given you a very particular mission, one that only you are equipped to carry out.