It is almost the feast of St. Francis de Sales (24 January), a day I joyfully celebrate. Although he lived in the 1600s, St. Francis continues to teach me much about the “cloister” in which I'm privileged to find myself. Francis lived and wrote in an age when intense devotion to Christ was considered appropriate for those in cloisters, but not so much for persons in the world. Francis de Sales challenged this way of thinking. He has left a rich legacy for those of us who want to live totally for God, whatever our state in life.
St. Francis was a bishop, founder of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, and he's a saint and Doctor of the Church. He is patron of the deaf and of Catholic writers, and his own books remain (for the most part) readily available today. Letters he wrote to his friends and spiritual directees help direct my own life 400 years later. St. Francis de Sales is one of my most beloved patrons as I strive to cloister my heart for God.
"Almost all those who have hitherto written about devotion have been concerned with instructing persons wholly withdrawn from the world…. My purpose is to instruct those who live in town, within families, or at court, and by their state of life are obliged to live an ordinary life as to outward appearances.” (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life).
“A strong, resolute soul can live in the world without being infected by any of its moods, find sweet springs of piety amid its salty waves, and fly through the flames of earthly lusts without burning the wings of its holy desires for a devout life. True, this is a difficult task, and therefore I wish that many souls would strive to accomplish it with greater ardor than has hitherto been shown.” (Introduction to the Devout Life).
"It is an error, or rather a heresy, to wish to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the mechanic’s shop, the court of princes, or the home of married people.” (Introduction to the Devout Life).
“Always remember… to retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others. This mental solitude cannot be violated by the many people who surround you since they are not standing around your heart but only around your body. Your heart remains alone in the presence of God.” (Introduction to the Devout Life).