“Let us be what we are and be that well, in order to bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork we are.” – St. Francis de Sales
Salesian Spirituality developed out of the life and teachings of Ss. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. It developed out of De Sales’ experience as bishop of a small diocese and advisor to a wide variety of people who were interested in living out their faith in their daily lives. Most of his advice was given through letters of spiritual direction written in his spare time that were later collected and published in his classic work Introduction to the Devout Life. They continue to guide all those seeking to live out their baptismal commitment by “living Jesus” in all aspects of their life. The following concepts below provide a basic idea of Salesian Spirituality:
- All people are called to holiness, not just a select few. It is a “heresy” to banish the devout life from any career or lifestyle.
- Since all people are called to holiness, then the means to achieve that holiness must be readily available. One lives the “devout life” by passionately and joyfully meeting the demands of one’s state in life for the love of God. It is not what you do in your life but how and for whom you do it. We are called to do the ordinary “passionately well.”
- The devout life is relational. It is in the living out of our relationships in love that one lives the devout life.
- All in life is to be done through LOVE and nothing through force. Love in this case is an act of the will, not a sentiment of the heart. It is seeing good in another and choosing and acting to make that goodness grow. We should accentuate the positive rather than condemn the negative. We should assume a positive stance towards everyone. “The measure of our love is to love without measure.”
- HUMILITY – living in self-truthfulness about who we are, both positive and negative, and about who God is towards us – is an essential virtue. “Come and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.” A Salesian person is unpretentious, natural and approachable.
- Humility leads us to GENTLENESS towards our neighbor. Because one is so aware of his or her own needs and weakness, one extends to another person similar understanding and compassion. Gentleness is not weaknesses, but rather controlled, directed and loving strength. It might also be described as knowing how to react to life appropriately and proportionately. To quote de Sales: “There is no nothing so strong as gentleness and nothing so gentle as real strength.”
- CIVILITY and RESPECT must mark the behavior of a truly “gentle” devout Christian.
- The PRESENT MOMENT is where a Christian lives life. The past is over. The future is yet to be. “NOW is the time of salvation.”
- Because we have a Savior, we are always OPTIMISTIC. We already know how things are going to end. Sin, death, and the things which deny life will not triumph.
- A truly devout life enhances, does not detract from, one’s life. Real devotion never inconveniences others.
- The devout life is a process. It only happens with grace, perseverance and patience over a lifetime. One is always striving to be devout.
- Salesian Spirituality is primarily a matter of the conversion of the heart. It is therefore something interior.
- We are called to be patient with everyone, especially ourselves.
- We are called to a “liberty of spirit” – something which includes obedience but excludes “constraint, scruples and anxiety.”
- Salesian spirituality flows from the premise that, made in the Divine Image, everyone is called to holiness and that God, who cannot be outdone in generosity, wills that all be saved (cf. I Tim 2:4).
North American Salesian Network
The North American Salesian Network (NASN) is an organization of both lay and religious groups that live the Salesian teachings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. NASN facilitates the sharing of Salesian resources, educational services, vocational efforts, and a variety of resources, bringing this optimistic, joy-filled spirituality to people throughout the world.