My Patron Saint
Not long after discovering the beauty of the Communion of Saints, and long before my confirmation into the Roman Catholic Church, I decided I wanted to share in the wonder of this Truth by claiming for myself a Patron Saint. I knew next to nothing about those holy individuals the Church had declared to be Saints, so I hardly knew where to begin to find one. That same day, I turned on EWTN just in time to catch the end of a program which mentioned St. Francis deSales success in bringing followers of the "Reform" movement back to Mother Church. I was impressed with this tidbit of information, but thought little more about it.
A few days later, I went out to the local Catholic book store to look for a book about the lives of saints. I found Butlers's Lives of the Saints, purchased and took it home and immediately began to look through it. Discovering that the book is organized chronologically according the each saint's feast day, I first looked to see which saint is honored on my birthday -- St. Keyne, virgin (Sixth Century?). I read the account of this saint's life, but wasn't particularly moved by it. I then began to leaf through the book and found St. Francis deSales. Remembering what I'd heard on EWTN about him, I started to read. About halfway through, I looked back up to the top of the entry to find out when his feast day was.
January 24 -- my husband, Ed's, birthday!
Excited by this seeming "coincidence," I continued to read. At the very end of the entry, I learned St. Francis deSales is the patron saint of journalists. Being a journalist, that was all the confirmation I needed. He became my patron saint that day. I soon obtained and began to read his "Introduction to a Devout Life." I highly recommend it. The beauty of this book is its focus on improving the spiritual lives -- not of religious -- but of ordinary people, living in a ungodly world.
I'll let St. Francis himself explain his reasons for writing the "Introduction to the Devout Life."
"Almost all those who have hitherto written about devotion have been concerned with instructing persons wholly withdrawn from the world or have at least taught a kind of devotion that leads to such complete retirement. 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. Frequently, on the pretext of some supposed impossibility, they will not even think of undertaking a devout life... I shall show to such men that just as the mother of pearl fish lives in the sea without taking in a single drop of salt water, just as near the Chelodonian islands springs of fresh water may be found in the depths of the sea, and just as the firefly passes through flames without burning its wings, so also 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."
The Catholic Controversy
Much later in my journey, I obtained St. Francis' "The Catholic Controversy." I got sidetracked, however, and the book stayed on the shelf unread until months later -- after I had gotten involved in amateur online apologetics and at the suggestion of a few anti-Catholic Evangelicals -- had begun to read James White's "The Roman Catholic Controversy." It was then that I remembered St. Francis deSales was not just a wonderful spiritual director, but an effective apologist. I found many of the insights contained in "The Catholic Controversy" to be unparalleled by any modern-day apologist.
Having lived with Protestantism in its various forms for nearly 500 years, our frame of reference is far different from that of St. Francis, who wrote this book a mere 80 years after Luther's posting of the 95 Theses. Many of the inconsistencies and "absurdities" of Protestantism were more apparent to him than to many of us today. Today's apologists rely heavily in our arguments on the outcome of the "reformation," the more than 20,000 different denominations that have developed, and rightly so. At its very inception, St. Francis foresaw this outcome. Here are some of my favorite quotes from "The Catholic Controversy."
"Now how can an honest soul refrain from giving the rein to the ardor of a holy zeal, and from entering in a Christian anger ... considering with what presumption those who do nothing but cry, Scripture, Scripture, have despised, degraded and profaned this living Testament of the eternal Father ... ? What will become of us if everybody takes leave, as soon as he knows two words of Greek, and the letters of Hebrew, thus to turn everything topsy turvy?"
"In regard to 'what is and is not Scripture,' consider how the French 'reformers" claimed to recognize the truncated Canon they accepted. 'We know these books to be canonical and a most safe rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the Church, as by the testimony and interior persuasion of the Holy Spirit."
"Try to harmonize, I pray you, this spirit and his persuasions, who persuades the one to reject what he persuades the other to receive. You will say perhaps that Luther is mistaken. He will say as much of you. Which is to be believed? Luther ridicules Ecclesiastics, he considers Job a fable. Will you oppose him your persuasion? He will oppose you his. So this spirit, divided against himself, will leave you no other conclusion except to grow thoroughly obstinate, each in his own opinion."
* * *
" ... your first ministers had no sooner got on their feet, they had no sooner begun to build a tower of doctrine and science which was visibly to reach the heavens, and to acquire them the great and magnificent reputation of reformers, than God, wishing to traverse this ambitious design, permitted amongst them such a diversity of language and belief, that they began to contradict one another so violently that all their undertaking became a miserable Babel and confusion."
" ... here is one of the most successful artifices adopted by the enemy of Christianity and of unity in our age ... He knew the curiosity of men, and how much one esteems one's own judgment; and therefore he has induced his sectaries to translate the Holy Scriptures ... and to maintain this unheard-of opinion that everyone is capable of understanding the Scriptures."
" Do you not perceive the stratagem? All authority is taken away from Tradition, the Church, the Councils, the Pastors: what further remains? The Scripture. The enemy is crafty. If he would tear it all away at once, he would cause an alarm; he takes away a great part of it in the very beginning, then first one piece, then the other, at last he will have you stripped entirely, without Scripture and without the Word of God."
"But I inform you," wrote St. Francis, "that the holy Council of Trent does not reject translations in the vulgar tongue printed by the authority of the Ordinaries; only it commands that we should not begin to read them without leave of superiors. This is a very reasonable precaution against putting this sharp and two-edged sword into the hands of one who might kill himself therewith."
Use this link to order St. Francis deSales "Catholic Controversy"
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