The Saint Project

Love We Need To Pray For

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The opening prayer for the votive Mass for The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus goes, “Clothe us, Lord God, with the virtues of the Heart of your Son and set us aflame with his love, that, conformed to his image, we may merit a share in eternal redemption.” Look at all that is being asked in this prayer, we are asking God to give us what we need to become saints, meriting a share in eternal redemption.

The words, “set us aflame with his love” really stuck with me as I said the opening prayer. We are not simply asking that we become more loving, but to have a love that has as its source the love that flows from Christ. These words are a prayer to live out what Christ himself has asked of us when he said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34 RSV)

This is a love that all of us need to see, to receive, and to give. Too many times we see examples of the opposite in our culture. We see it in the news, in politics, on social media, the workplace, you name it. It seems we have gone from having constructive opinions to feeling justified sometimes to have hatred for someone. Christ even addressed the hatred of those we consider enemies when he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43-44) Elsewhere he says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32 RSV)

By asking to be set aflame with the love of Christ, we are asking to have the strength to love even when it is the most difficult. To love like Christ has loved us is to become selfless just like him. When we start seeking this, we are another step closer in our growth in holiness, in being a lover of God by loving others as he has loved us.

We Are All Called to Be Saints

The wisdom and direction in the spiritual life that St. Francis de Sales possessed is relevant today. Being that St. Francis is declared a Doctor of the Church, the Church is telling us that his life and teachings are worth our attention. The relevance of his teaching is found in what he says about holiness. During his time, as we still find today, some people thought it was up to clergy or religious to be holy people. I even came head to head with that perception as I began to share my choice to discern the priesthood. I remember one person who had said something about my choice to respond to something religious, that she supposed some people were called to that. I remember bits of the conversation and that my response was that she was right about it in regard to ordination, but not so much that only some people are called to be religious. In other words, of course priests are called to be holy but so is everyone else. 

In the introduction of Introduction to the Devout Life we see Francis speaking of this call to holiness:

I have addressed my advice to an imaginary “Philothea,” adapting what was written for a particular person to apply to the common needs of a wider number. I have chosen a name appropriate for all who seek after a holy life, since “Philothea” means “a lover of God” and the soul which seeks the love of God begins to be in love.

Francis de Sales: The Complete Introduction to the Devout Life, pg. 5, Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts 2013

His writings and thoughts that were originally for one person are arranged for a wider number of people, people who are lovers of God. Lumen Gentium, a document from Vatican II, echoes this view that holiness is for all:

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ.

Lumen Gentium § 40 

The teaching of Francis de Sales and Vatican II is relevant for all people, that all the faithful are called to fullness of the new life they have received in Christ. This new life brings us into relationship with God, into His grace and life, that is meant to remain and be fulfilled in Heaven. It is a place where the only people who get in are those that have been sanctified: saints. If it is Heaven that a person wants to arrive in they ought not to ignore the fact that one needs to be holy to be in the presence of the Holy One (there is purgatory but that is another post). 

St. Francis de Sales wrote and gave plenty of direction to those that sought it. Using his words, the path to holiness or sanctity is us growing in the love we have for God and all that He does for us. The call to holiness is us loving back the one who loves more than anything we can imagine.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 RSV