On December 28, 2022, Pope Francis released Totum Amoris Est, an Apostolic Letter celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of the death of St. Francis de Sales.
St. Francis is one of the great spiritual masters in the Church’s history and a Doctor of the Church. Francis was born two months premature to the noble Sales family in Thorens, France, on August 21, 1567, the firstborn of twelve children. As a young man, he studied in Paris and Padua, obtaining doctorate degrees in both civil and canon law in preparation for a life as a lawyer and nobleman. During this time, he found peace in the radical and liberating love of God: “loving him without asking anything in return and trusting in divine love; no longer asking what will God do with me: I simply love him, independently of all that he gives me or does not give me.” This powerful experience of the love of God led him to a priestly vocation, despite the protestations of his father. Nonetheless, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1593 in Geneva, and in 1602 became the Bishop of Geneva.
One of his great contributions to the spiritual heritage of the Church was his conviction that holiness was not only a pursuit for clergy and religious, but for everyone, according to their vocation and state in life. His book, Introduction to the Devout Life, was written to guide the lay faithful towards holiness and true devotion:
Almost all those who have written concerning the devout life have chiefly in view persons who have altogether left the world; or at any rate they have taught a manner of devotion that would lead to such total retirements. But my object is to teach those who are living in towns, at court, in their own households, and whose calling obliges them to a social life, so far as externals are concerned….I endeavor by this book to afford some help to those who are undertaking this noble work with a generous heart.Introduction to the Devout Life, Preface
Pope Francis has done the Church a great service by once again pointing the faithful to this Doctor of the Church. It’s well worth your time to read the apostolic letter in full. In the meantime, I’d like to propose four takeaways for missionary disciples from Totum Amoris Est.
- Always ask: where is the greatest love to be found?
- The primacy of relationship and charity in evangelization
- Adapt your missionary message to your audience
- Choose joy steeped in love
Each point deserves its own treatment, so I’ll treat these as a series of posts. Click here to start with the first takeaway.
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