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Sunday, December 21, 2008

St. Francis de Sales and Advent

One of my favorite spiritual writers is St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church. Among his many works are his Sermons For Advent and Christmas. Here's an excerpt from the fourth Sunday of Advent:

"Now St. John [the Baptist] was by the River Jordan, at the edge of the desert, crying out and preaching penitence. [Lk. 3:3]. People hastened from all sides to hear him and to be baptized by him. It was there that he cried out: 'Do penance! Prepare the way, make straight the paths, for the Lord is near. [Matt.3:1-3, 5-6; Mk. 1:4-5]. But because I cry out and preach in the desert, you want to know who I am. I protest to you that I am only the voice of Him who cries out. It is not I who cry out in the desert: "Do penance." It is God who says it to you through me, and I am only the voice, the trumpet He uses so that you will understand how you are to prepare to do penance and dispose yourselves for His coming. That is what I am. And you ought to hear my words, not as mine, but as those of God who speaks to you through my mouth, for I am the voice of Him who cries out in the desert.'...

"[John] was bound to cry out that the people must prepare the way and that they must level the paths and roads of the Lord. the people whom he addressed were likewise bound to listen, to receive the baptism he offered them, and to do what he told them. If the preacher has the duty to preach to you, you also have that of listening to him and of receiving with good dispositions what he announces to you on behalf of God. I come here to preach to you, but if I am bound to bring the divine word to you, you are bound to pay attention to it, and not only that but to learn it well and carry out what you are taught."

This 17th century bishop was a catechist, a true son of Mary, and a lover of the poor. he dressed simply, ate plain food, and dispensed with many of the comforts of life in his living arrangements. Oh, would that today's bishops followed the example of this great cleric who converted tens of thousands because of his goodness and clear teaching. Few among our bishops are as effective as he is because they are so much of the world. How many bishops' houses reflect their worldly status of "prince" rather than a spiritual richness? Pray for them!

I heartily recommend St. Francis' Introduction to the Devout Life which is filled with common sense advice for the soul who wants to grow in holiness. If your heart's desire is to know the Lord better, run to St. Francis, a sure guide.

He is also the patron saint of journalists and, since blogging is journaling of a sort, I claim him for my own special friend. St. Francis, pray for us.

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