Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Feast of Saint Francis de Sales

When you read about the history of the devotion to the Sacred Heart the name of Saint Francis de Sales shines out brightly.  His writings and teachings had an enormous influence on the evolution of the devotion and the image itself.  But I have to confess that I tended to read him in the shadow of Paray-le- Monial, and that is a great pity.    Today, of course, is the day when the Church asks us to focus on his life and the spiritual tradition which is associated with his name.

There is so much wisdom and insight in his writings that it is impossible to do his work any justice in this blog.   But this passage below  I find gives a sense of how the heart of Jesus was at the very heart of his spirituality and provides another way of reading the icon. 

God’s love is seated within the Saviour’s heart as on a royal throne.  He beholds through the cleft of his pierced side all the hearts of the children of men.  His heart is king of hearts, and he keeps his eyes fixed on our hearts.  Just as those who peer through the lattice see clearly while they are only half seen, so too divine love within that heart, or rather that heart of divine love, always sees our hearts and looks on them with his eyes of love, whilst we do not see him, but only half see him.   If we could see as he is, O God, since we are mortal men we would die for love of him, just as when he was in mortal flesh he died for us, and just as he would still die for us were he not now immortal.  Oh, if we could hear this divine heart singing with a voice infinitely sweet his canticle of praise to the divinity! What joy…..what striving within our heart to spring up to heaven so as to hear it forever!

Treatise on the Love of God, Tan Books, Rockford, Ill., 1975, Vol 1, Book V, p263. 

There is, of course, a wealth of scholarship devoted to Saint Francis de Sales and the Sacred Heart.  I warmly recommend the work of Susanne  A.K. Koch who has done a great job in exploring this literature.   Read her Here.

One piece of  St. Francis' wisdom which struck home to me today as I reflected on the plants and vines at the bottom of the icon.  It is a well known quote from the saint:

“Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.”

Jesus in the icon is shown as the source of living water that feeds our soul and enables it to grow.  This  element of the icon now makes me think that we are being invited to bloom where He has planted us! 

I think that  it is about time I read a little more about this gentle saint for whom the heart was such an important idea.  So on this his feast day let us pray:  that the love of God burning in our hearts will help us to grow and bloom where we are planted.  And let us keep in mind the prayer used in the mass today:

..O Lord kindle in our hearts that divine fire of the Holy Spirit with which you wonderfully inflamed the most gentle soul of Saint Francis de Sales.

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