The religious reformation that took place during Francis' time brought with it a confusion over the truths of religion. People of all walks of life were searching for some direction, and Francis was ardently sought after for spiritual counsel. He responded to these spiritual seekers in a simple, yet impressive way. Francis wrote letters — thousands of letters! Because of his hectic schedule as spiritual leader of the diocese, he would often have to steal time in the morning or before bed just to reply to the many queries which the faithful would pose. It is estimated that he wrote over 10,000 such letters, but most have been destroyed. From the letters that are preserved, we get a glimpse of the profound simplicity of this spiritual director. Whether writing to members of religious orders, well-to-do nobles, or even simple laborers, Francis faithfully gave instructions on a wide variety of issues affecting the daily lives of believers: from raising children to fulfilling duties and dealing with death. And it was precisely in the midst of these otherwise mundane affairs that Francis taught his spiritual children to find God. Ever humble and always encouraging, his letters of spiritual direction endeared him to all who sought his wisdom.
One of those with whom Francis shared spiritual advice deserves particular mention — ► Jane de Chantal. Through written correspondence with her, and by means of personal encounters whenever their travels would permit, these two saints entered into a spiritual friendship that would blossom and bear fruit in the living legacy now known as Salesian spirituality.
What his letters of spiritual direction reveal is Francis' "inspired common sense" and his keen awareness of the "practical" dimension to holiness. Always drawing on the positive, he was able to teach people to find God wherever they were and to love God in whatever they were doing. Along the way, Francis exemplified the virtues of true spiritual friendship, building relationships that had as their foundation and focus the common desire to love God more and more. In a world where interpersonal relationships so often are superficial or directed only to self-serving aims, Francis' advice and example demonstrate for us the value of relationships centered on divine love.
For more on the "Patron of Journalists and Writers" ...
► "St. Francis de Sales: Patron of Journalists"
For more of the Salesian Legacy ...
► Celebrating the Bishop of Geneva
► Celebrating the Christian Humanist
► Celebrating the Lawyer and Cathedral Provost
► Celebrating the Doctor of the Church