Written by Sherry
Thursday, 24 January 2008 08:21
In honor of the Feast of St. Francis de Sales today, I thought I'd repost something I wrote last summer about the network of friends that gathered around Francis and, together, changed an entire nation. This is also related to Fr. Mike's intriguing post below on Vocations Work in which he describes the remarkable initiative of John Jacques Olier, who was a spiritual heir of Francis in many ways.
I've been working on the Building Intentional Community Day that will be held in Colorado Springs this August 31 and, in the process, was inspired to attempt to diagram the relationships between the major players in the 17th century Catholic revival in France.
In their case, it truly was the pursuit of God in the company of friends - and their friendship changed the spiritual atmosphere of an entire nation. This interlinked network of 11 people known as the "generation of saints" (and here I am only acknowledging the most visible personalities - there were many hundreds and thousands of fellow travelers with which only specialists in the period are familiar)were:
"all intimately acquainted with, and more important, were inspired to become holy and zealous from personal contact with each other. They visited each other frequently or kept up active correspondence about their visions, prayers, sense of sin, and missionary activities. In a way, they set out as a group to remake the Church . . .”
Paris in the Age of Absolutism, Orest Ranum
They were remarkable for their diversity:
A Cardinal, a Bishop, three priests including one who had grown up a peasant, two young widows with children, a Parisian housewife, a single woman, a soldier. Today, the same group is recognized for including four canonized saints, one blessed, one Doctor of the Church, and six founders of religious congregations.
Among the many fruits of their collaboration:
1) Re-evangelized large areas of France, especially the countryside, parts of which were being evangelized for the first time in history
2) Fostered a distinctly lay spirituality for the first time and inventions like the "retreat" to nourish the personal spiritual lives of lay and ordained>
3) Renewal of the diocesan priesthood
4) Successful establishment of the "new" seminary system for forming priests
5) New, more systematic and effective methods of compassion for the poor
6) Establishment of the first "active" non-enclosed women's religious communities
7) A vibrant new missionary outreach around the world
8) Four new religious communities
8) The founding of one of the world's great cities: Montreal
Anyway, here's the Powerpoint slide I came up with:
The green lines represent personal friendships, the orange lines spiritual direction or mentoring; and the blue lines founders. Many times, such relationships overlapped as between Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal who were dear friends as well co-founders.
As you study the network of relationships, what difference would it have made if they had not had each other?
“In fact, even cursory glances through the Gospels confirm that the work Jesus did in the lives of his disciples occurred because the disciples were in relationship, not simply with him, but with each other.
That manner of growth in spiritual depth – in the context of community – is not accidental. It is part of how people are built.
We were created to seek God and we were created to find him with others.”
- Richard Lamb