Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Homily for St Francis de Sales celebration

Francis de Sales was a seventeenth century bishop and spiritual teacher in Geneva. He taught that a life of prayer, or what we might call a spiritual practice, is important for all Christians, not just for the clothed religious or ordained clergy, but that each one’s devotions should be appropriate for the individual’s life circumstances. The life of prayer of a married woman with children, for example, would be different from that of a professed nun, just as the prayer of a labourer would be different from that of a priest. But each should have his or her own practice of prayer.

He used the metaphor of a bee gathering nectar: the bee goes to the flowers, but doesn’t damage them in the process, and similarly a person’s spiritual life should not be harmful to daily life, but enhance it. Like a jewel dipped in honey so that its colours shine brighter, so our daily life can be sanctified and sweetened by our prayer and devotion.

De Sales taught a form of meditation that starts with reflection on a Biblical theme, and then relates it to daily life in order to ground it. At the end of the period of meditation a resolution is to be made, so that some change – even a small one – takes place in the life of the one praying. The last step is to “make a little nosegay” (bunch of flowers) from the fruits of the meditation, to take into the rest of the day and revisit often, for refreshment.

What little nosegay can we take from today’s readings about wisdom, saltiness and light? May I offer a reflection from the Franciscan Richard Rohr:

“Wisdom is the freedom to be truly present to what is right in front of you…. People who are fully present know how to see fully, rightly, and truthfully. Presence is the one thing necessary for wisdom, and in many ways, it is the hardest thing of all. Just try to keep 1) your heart space open, 2) your mind without division or resistance, and 3) your body not somewhere else—and all at the same time!”

 [From The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, pp. 59-60]

This attentive presence, this wisdom, is prayer.

In your times of silent reflection on the word of God, let this wisdom of attentive presence honey-glaze your daily life. Make a little nosegay to take with you. And know that this is prayer. 

SSJD Lucy Reid, priest-in-charge, St Aidan’s, Toronto

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