Spiritual Directory

The Spiritual Directory of St. Francis de Sales

For us, the best way to please God is to practice our Directory well. (Fr. Louis Brisson, OSFS)



SFS-SJD
Francis de Sales & Jane de Chantal

The Spiritual Directory of St. Francis de Sales serves at the rule of religious life for the Visitation Sisters of Holy Mary, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales.  It was compiled by St. Jane Frances de Chantal and is comprised of many of the advisements Francis would give to those he served as Spiritual Director.

The practice of The Spiritual Directory is the cornerstone of Oblate life. Fr. Brisson tells us that, “It is [our] own particular hallmark. Without the Directory there can be no Oblate.” The Directory is our particular means of sanctification:

Let no one imagine that the Directory does not contain much doctrine. Many great things do not appear very impressive. In fact, they may seem rather insignificant. The Directory is a small book. Yet within it lies all of Christianity. Within it are all the marvels of Christianity, all that has changed and saved the world. It is among the greatest and most extraordinary of God’s works.



THE
SPIRITUAL DIRECTORY
of the
Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales

Oblate-Shield

Official Text
Approved by the
GENERAL COUNCIL
of the
OBLATES OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

February 19, 1973

My dear confreres, rely on my long experience. I am absolutely convinced that this small book, The Spiritual Directory of Saint Francis de Sales provides everything that is necessary for our progress in virtue. In itself, it provides for all our needs. When trouble overwhelms us, it teaches us how to support it; when a difficulty arises, it gives us the key to victory over it; when we have committed a fault, it gives us the means to repair the damage.  Since we have souls to convert, let us practice days of fidelity to the Spiritual Directoryand we will win them.”

Blessed Louis Brisson, OSFS
Founder- First Superior General
Troyes, September 20, 1902



TABLE OF CONTENTS

(click on heading to go to its text)

PART I  – INTRODUCTORY TEXTS

Preface
Intentions and Wishes of Our Father

PART II – THE SPIRITUAL DIRECTORY

Article 1 – Rising and the Direction of Intention
Article 2 – Meditation and Preparation of the Day
Article 3 – Liturgy of the Hours
Article 4 –  Mass
Article 5 –  Examination of Conscience
Article 6 – Meals and Recreation
Article 7 – Silence
Article 8 – Retiring
Article 9 – Confession
Article 10 – Holy Communion
Advice of St. Francis de Sales on the Directory

PART III – VARIOUS COUNSELS OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

Duties of Novices toward their Novice Master
Duties of Oblates toward the Superior
Useful Instructions

Endnotes



PART ONE[i]
INTRODUCTORY TEXTS

PREFACE[ii]

Come, O sons blessed from all eternity, and as was said to Ezechiel and to St. John the Evangelist:[iii] Come, take hold of this book and eat it, swallow it, fill your heart and nourish your soul with it. Let its words remain night and day before your eyes that you may meditate on them and in your hands that you may put them into practice,[iv] and let your entire being praise God for them.[v] This book will prove bitter to your interior, for it will lead to the perfect mortification of your self-love. It will, on the other hand, be sweeter than honey in your mouth, because there is no consolation equal to that of mortifying our self-love in order to let live and reign in us the love of Him who died for us. In this way your bitterness will be transformed into the sweetness of a perfect peace,[vi] and you will be filled with true happiness.

I ask you, my sons, nay rather I beg and exhort you, be strong, firm, preservering, unchanging and so remain in order that nothing may separate you from Jesus Christ who has brought you together, nor from that community which can keep you one with Him, so that, all of you having but one heart and one mind,[vii] He Himself may be your only mind and heart.

Blessed the man who lives this Rule, for it is reliable and true.[viii] May the grace, peace[ix] and consolation of the Holy Spirit be given abundantly to all who follow it.  Amen. Live Jesus!

INTENTIONS AND WISHES OF OUR FATHER,
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES[x]

The intention of our holy Father was that our whole life and all of our works be dedicated to union with God, so that we might assist in the renewal of the Church and the salvation of our neighbor by our prayer, works and good example, and that we might excel in every kind of virtue- this he desired more than anything else.

The desire drew from his fatherly heart, aflame with zeal of the Holy Spirit, the following three wishes which he wrote on the first pages of the Profession Book.

1 – The Humble Glory of the Congregation

We have no bond but the bond of love, which is the bond of perfection.[xi] For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion.[xii] How then could there be any bond stronger than the bond of love which is the bond of perfection? The love of Christ impels us.[xiii]

2 – Prayer to Jesus Christ Our Lord[xiv]

O true God, who will will grant me so great a favor that the Almighty heed my wish and Himself write this book, so that I may wear it over my shoulders like a cloak and place it on my head like a crown, that I may proclaim it at each step and offer it to Him as to a king?  Yes, Lord Jesus, listen to the cry my heart makes for your service: You, yourself write in this book.  Never allow anyone to put his name in it except by Your inspiration and invitation, so that it may be a cloak of honor on my shoulders and a crown of glory on my head. Thus, in all my prayers to You, I will mention the names written therein as a song of joy and praise, and offer the list of them as a fragrant bouquet to Your Divine Providence.

Grant, O Jesus, that the year in which each Oblate writes his offering in this book be for him a year of sanctification; the day, a day of salvation; and the hour, an hour of lasting blessing. May the hearts which you have brought together in Your name and in that of Your dear Mother be not scattered, those You have called together be not dispersed, and those You have joined together be not separated. Grant rather that the names found on these perishable pages be written forever In the Book of the Living with the just who reign with You in the life of unceasing happiness.  So be it.  Amen.

3 – Wish Addressed to the Members of the Congregation[xv]

Therefore, my brothers and sons whom I love and long for you who are my joy and my crown, continue, my dear ones, to stand firm in the Lord. I Invite you, I even implore all of you, to have one and the same love and to live in common accord about this vocation in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and in His Mother, Our Lady.  Amen.

+Francis de Sales
Bishop of Geneva
Annecy, 1611



PART TWO
THE SPIRITUAL DIRECTORY
[xvi]

Article 1
Rising and Direction of Intention

Rising of the Oblates

First of all, upon awakening, the Oblates are to direct their minds completely to God by some holy thought such as the following:

Sleep is the image of death and
awakening that of resurrection;

or they may think of that voice that will ring out on the last day:

O dead arise and come to judgment;

or they may say with Job:

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that
on the last day I will rise again.[xvii] My God,
grant that this be to eternal glory; this hope
rests in my inmost being;[xviii]

at other times they may say:

On that day, O God, You will call me, and I
will answer You, You will stretch forth
Your right arm to the work of Your hands;
You have counted all my steps.[xix]

The Oblates will make these holy aspirations or others which the Holy Spirit may suggest, for they do have the freedom to follow His inspirations.

After the Angelus they will make the morning exercise, adoring Our Lord from all the depths of their being and thanking Him for all His benefits. In union with the loving offering which the divine Savior made of Himself to His eternal Father on the tree of the cross, they will offer him their heart, its affections and resolutions, and their whole being and beg for his help and blessings.  They will greet Our Lady and ask for her blessing as well as that of their guardian angel and holy patrons. If they wish, the may say the Our Father. All of this should be done quickly and briefly.

As they begin to dress, they will make the sign of the cross and say:

Cover me, Lord with the cloak of innocence
and the robe of love. My God, do not let me

appear before you stripped of good works.

The Direction of Intention

The Oblates who wish to thrive and advance in the way of Our Lordshould, at the beginning of their actions, both exterior and interior, ask for His grace and offer to His divine goodness all the good they will do. In this way they will be prepared to bear with peace and serenity all the pain and suffering as coming from the fatherly hand of our good God and Savior.  His most holy intention is to have them merit by such means in order to reward them afterwards out of the abundance of His love.

They should not neglect this practice in matters which are small and seemingly insignificant, nor even if they are engaged in those things which are agreeable and in complete conformity with their own will and needs, such as drinking, eating, resting, recreating, and similar actions. By following the advice of the Apostle, everything they do will be done in God’s name to please Him alone.[xx]

Article 2
Meditation and Preparation of the Day
[xxi]

Meditation

For meditation they will form themselves by following the instructions in the Introduction to the Devout Life,the Treatise on the Love of God, the Spiritual Conferencesand other good books in harmony with these. They will particularly heed the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the direction given them. They should never lose time on subtleties nor on supereminent, but unproductive abstractions.[xxii] These are nothing more than delusions and deceptions.  The serious practice of this exercise is one of the most Important in the religious state and in the spiritual life.

The Preparation of the Day

To form themselves for meditation the Oblates will prefer to all other means the exercise of the preparation of the day. Since the preparation makes provision for all their actions, they will make use of it according to varying circumstances. By this means they will endeavor to be disposed to carry out their activities competently and commendably.

Invocation

They will invoke the help of God saying:

Lord if you do not care for my soul,
it is useless that another should do so.[xxiii]

They will ask Him to make them worthy to spend the day with Him, without offending Him. For this purpose, the words of the psalm may be helpful:

Teach me to do your will for you are my God.
Your good spirit will guide me by the hand on
level ground,[xxiv] and Your divine majesty by its
inexpressible love and boundless charity
will give me true life.

Foresight

This is simply a preview or conjecture of all that could happen during the course of the day. Thus, with the grace of Our Lord, they will wisely and prudently anticipate occasions which could take them by surprise.

Plan of Action

The Oblates will carefully plan and seek out the best means to avoid any faults. They will also arrange in an orderly fashion what, in their opinion, is proper for them to do.

Resolution

They will make a firm resolution to obey the will of God, especially during the present day. To this end, they will use the words of the royal prophet David:

My soul, will you not cheerfully obey the
holy will of God, seeing that your salvation
comes from Him?[xxv]

Surely this God of infinite majesty and admittedly worthy of every honor and service can only be neglected by us through a lack of courage. Let us, therefore, be consoled and strengthened by this beautiful verse of the psalmist:

Let evil men do their worst against me.
The Lord, the king, can overcome them all.
Let the world complain about me to its heart’s
content. This means little to me because he
who holds sway over all the angelic spirits
is my protector.[xxvi]

Recommendation

They will entrust themselves and all their concerns into the hands of God’s eternal goodness and ask Him to consider them as always so commended. Leaving to Him the complete care of what they are and what He wants them to be, they will say with all their heart:

I have asked you one thing, O Jesus, my Lord
And I shall ask you again and again, namely,
That I may faithfully carry out your loving will
all the days of my poor and pitiable life.[xxvii]

I commend to you, O gracious Lord, my soul
my life, my heart, my memory, my understanding.
and my will. Grant that with and in all these, I may
serve You, love You, please and honor You forever.[xxviii]

Article 3
Liturgy of the Hours

It is recommended that the Oblates show simplicity and readiness[i] in praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  Each time they begin, they should place themselves in the presence of God and, in imitation of St. Bernard, ask themselves what they are about to do.

They can also use this method in all their other exercises, so that they may bring to each one the spirit proper to it. They should not have the deportment and expression at the Liturgy of the Hours as at recreation. In exercises which directly concern the honor and service of God, their spirit should be humble, serious, devout, and genuinely loving.

Before beginning the Liturgy of the Hours, the Oblates will stir up in themselves similar affections. Then, after the act of adoration, they will offer this action to Our Lord for His glory, for the honor of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady and Mother, and for the salvation of all creation. When they say:

O God, come to my assistance,

they should think that Our Lord answers:

Be attentive to My love.

In order to maintain the proper respect and attention, they should consider from time to time what an honor and privilege it is for them to perform here on earth the same role that the angels and saints fulfill in heaven, and that they are praising the same Lord whose majesty makes the highest seraphim tremble.

Article 4
Mass[i]

First of all they should place themselves in the presence of God. When the celebrant invites the faithful to repentance they should acknowledge their sins, be truly sorry for them and ask God’s pardon.

At the Gospel, they will rise promptly to give witness to the fact that they are ready to walk in the way of its precepts, saying interiorly:

Jesus Christ was made obedient to death,
even death on the cross.[ii]

As they make the sign of the cross, they will declare:

May God be in my mind, on my lips and in
my heart, that I may accept His holy Gospel.

If the Profession of Faith is to be said, they should recite it, affirming interiorly their willingness to live and die in the belief of the Church.

After the Sanctus they should very humbly and reverently reflect on the blessings conferred by the Passion and death of our Savior. They ought to implore Him to will their application to the salvation of the whole world, especially to their own and that of all the members of the Church, for the glory and happiness of all the saints and for the relief of the souls in purgatory.

At the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament they are to adore it with deep contrition of heart. Then they will offer it with the celebrant to God the Father for the remission of their own sins and those of the whole world, and offer themselves with the priest and the entire Church.[iii] After the elevation they will thank Jesus Christ for His Passion and for the institution of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.

When the celebrant says the Our Father, they will say it with him with great humility and devotionjust as if they were hearing him saying it to the Father and they were repeating it word for word.

If someone does not wish to receive Communion, sacramentally, he ought to do so spiritually, drawing close to Our Lord by a holy desire to be united with Him and to receive Him into his heart.

At the final blessing, they should recall that Jesus Christ is giving them His blessing at the same time.

Article 5
Examination of Conscience

The Oblates should examine their conscience twice daily, in the evening and at midday.

In the evening, they will thank Our Lord for all His benefits, especially for His passion, His divine sacraments, the grace of their vocation and for having willed to preserve them during the day, providing for all their needs through His sweet goodness.[iv]

They must confess and acknowledge before God that the day has not passed without their having offended Him in some way. Because everyone is blind to His own concerns, they should ask for the grace and light of the Holy Spirit to know their faults clearly.

Then they will begin by reviewing their actions, words and thoughts since their last examination of conscience. Reciting some penitential formula, they will humbly ask Our Lord pardon for their faults.

They will make a firm resolution to correct themselves with the help of God’s grace, which they should request with all the love and devotion within their power.

After this they will recommend their soul, their body, their whole being to the mercy of God. They will pray for the Church, their parents and relatives,  all those toward whom they have a special obligation; they ought not forget the poor souls in purgatory.  They should greet Our Lady, their guardian angel and holy patrons.

If in their examination they find no faults, let them humble themselves profoundly before God and thank Him, admitting nevertheless that they have committed some faults about which they have neither recollection nor awareness.

To make this examination easier, it will be helpful for them when they commit some fault during the day to examine themselves right away, consider briefly their motive, humble themselves before God and make a mental note of this fault in order to include it in the examination that evening.

At the midday examination such formality is not necessary. They need only consider briefly how they have conducted themselves during the morning. If any fault is found, they should add it to the preceding ones and make an act of contrition with a firm purpose of amendment.

To help their memory have a correct knowledge of their faults, they should consider how they have conducted themselves at meditation, at the Liturgy of the Hours, during silence, and at community gatherings. If they were engaged in some special work, they will reflect upon what matters were discussed, for here there is danger of failing.

In addition to this examination common to all, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales may make a particular one. This concerns the practice of a special virtue most useful to them and directly opposed to those imperfections towards which they feel themselves more inclined.

Article 6
Meals and Recreation

Meals

The Oblates should not go to the refectory merely to eat, but to obey God and to take part in a community exercise.[i] If some tend to be too particular or too eager in eating, they should, upon entering the refectory, make a firm resolution and invoke the grace and help of Our Lord to courageously exercise self-control.

Let him who is too particular consider the gall offered to Our Lord at the height of His bitterest sufferings. Let him who is too eager think of the abstinence and strict fasts of the Fathers of the desert and of so many other saints who so effectively mortified their appetite.

They should never leave the table without having denied themselves in some way. Nevertheless, they ought to eat without hesitation or objection any foods given them for their wellbeing. With a spirit of indifference they are to accept from the hand of the Lord what they like as well as what they do not like, be it food or anything else.

Recreation[i]

When the Oblates recreate, they will ask Our Lord for the grace to say and do only that which contributes to his glory. Let them not come to recreation with a sad and disagreeable countenance, but rather with a pleasant and affable one.  Just as the Oblates should recreate in a spirit of simplicity and openness, so, too, should they take pleasure in speaking often of good and holy topics.

If anyone is inclined to speak too much about himself or is subject to other faults like this, let him, in beginning recreation, briefly recall this imperfection and resolve to be on guard against it. To this end,he should implore the grace of the Holy Spirit and the help of his guardian angel.

They ought not to think that there is little virtue in recreating properly. They should not come, therefore, out of habit, or as a matter of form, but with preparation and devotion.

Article 7
Silence[ii]

When the Oblates begin work, they should say interiorly:

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.[iii]O my God,
make me worthy to accomplish Your holy Will.

On entering the appropriate place to do their assigned tasks, they should, in a more special way, put themselves in the presence of God, asking for His grace to make use of silence in accordance with the holy purpose for which it was instituted. This purpose is not only the prevention of idle chatter, but also the curtailing of wandering and useless thoughts while speaking with God, and the obtaining of new strength to work unceasingly in His divine service.

They may make use of their meditation, looking at Our Lord in the mystery which they considered and dwelling on certain points which they particularly appreciated.  If, for example, they had meditated on the mystery of the scourging and if the gentle and loving glance which our blessed Savior cast from time to time upon those who were flogging Hiim touched their heart, they should often recall this and then offer the following plea:

O sweet Jesus, look down on me with
Your merciful eyes,

or

Lord, take away from me anything that might
be displeasing in Your sight.

They may remain quietly at the feet of Our Lord, listen to what he will say to their heart, consider His goodness and love, and speak to Him from time to time with heartfelt aspirations, and with these and similar ejaculatory prayers:

To Almighty God:

O God, You are my Father.
My God, have mercy on my weakness.
O Lord, let me live only for you.

To the Blessed Virgin:

Mother of Mercy, pray for me.

To their guardian angel:

O glorious angel, my protector, pray for me.

In like manner they should address the saints toward whom they have a special devotion.

At each hour, let them regret hours wasted and recall that they will have to give an account of this hour and of all moments of their life. Let them remember that they are approaching eternity, that hours are centuries for the damned, that they are running toward death, and that perhaps their last hour may soon be at hand.

After such thoughts, the Oblates should make devout aspirations that God be merciful to them at that last hour.  This certainly will happen for those who have been very faithful in doing this.  They ought to practice this at all times and on all occasions.  By this means they will grow and progress daily from virtue to virtue, even to the perfection of divine love.[iv]

Those who suffer from some strong temptation or emotion can find courage and strength in considering the pains of Our Lord, picturing Him undergoing them.

When they experience difficulty in the practice of virtues, they will be enlightened and aided if they consider Him in the exercise of those virtues which He practiced while on earth.

Article 8
Retiring

While undressing, the Oblates should keep their mind attentive as much as possible to the point to be taken for meditation.

In bed they ought to remember that Our Lord and some saints used to sleep on the cold ground and how much they are obliged to love and serve Him, since His gentle goodness provides for their slightest comforts in such a fatherly way.  Lying there, they should picture to themselves that one day they will be like this in the grave and ask God to assist them at the hour of death.  Let them act as if they were really seeing Our Lord with their own eyes, for He really sees them in this action as well as in any other.

They should always try to fall asleep with some good thought.

Thoughts of St. Francis de Sales for the Night[v]

If they awaken during the night, they will stir up their heart immediately with these words:

At midnight someone shouted: The groom is here!
Come out and greet him![vi]

From this view of the darkness around them, they will turn to a consideration of the darkness of their own soul and of all sinners and offer the following prayer:

O Lord, since Your merciful heart made You come down
from heaven to earth to visit us, please enlighten those
who lie prostrate in the darkness of ignorance and in
the shadow of eternal death; if it be Your will, guide them
also into the path of interior peace.[vii]

At times they will turn to their God, their Savior, and say:

You neither slumber nor sleep, You who guard the Israel
of our souls.[viii] The most intense darkness of midnight
can present no obstacle to Your divine activity; at that
hour You were born of the holy Virgin, Your Mother;
at that hour, too, You can cause Your heavenly graces
to be born in our souls and completely fill us with
Your choicest blessings. Merciful Redeemer, so
enlighten my poor blind heart with the beautiful rays
of Your grace that it may never remain in any way in the
death of sin; O, I beg You, do not allow my invisible
enemies to say: We have overcome him.[ix]

Finally, after having considered the darkness and the imperfections of their soul, they may say with Isaias:

Watchman, watchman, does much of the night of our
imperfections still remain?[x]

And they will hear him answer:

The morning of good inspirations has come;
why do you love the darkness more than the light?[xi]

In addition, they may use these holy words:

Neither the sun nor its rays are my principal light,
but God alone, who is as merciful to me by night
as He is by day.

Article 9
Confession

When the Oblates wish to go to confession, they will prepare themselves in this manner:

In a spirit of deep humility at the feet of their crucified Lord, they will ask for  the grace and light of the Holy Spirit to discern their faults well. Then, they should recall everything they have found in their daily examinations since their previous confession and consider for a moment if there is anything else. After this, let them humbly ask Our Lord for pardon and for the grace to correct themselves. For this purpose they will make a firm resolution, especially concerning the more important things they have noticed. They will renounce their faults and attempt to stir up true sorrow for them, however slight they may be, because it is always too great an evil to have been displeasing to the sovereign goodness of our Savior who is so merciful to us each day.

After having noticed their current faults, they should add something from the past which is clearly sinful and make an act of contrition for all these together. Then they will go humbly to their confessor honoring God and the sacred priesthood in the person of the priest. They ought to look upon him in confession as an angel whom God sends to reconcile them to His most divine goodness.

Let them be brief and clear in their confession. Let them never confess out of routine or scrupulosity, but rather out of devotion and attention as in an action of great importance and value.

Article 10
Holy Communion
[i]

The principal intention which the Oblates should have at Holy Communion is union with Our Lord.

To prepare themselves better for this union, it would be good, in their prayers and recollection the evening before, to raise their thoughts somewhat to Our Lord in this sacrament. They should stir up in their soul a holy reverence and spiritual joy that they should be so blessed as to receive our gentle Savior.  Then they ought to renew their decision to serve Him fervently.  When they have received Him, they can reaffirm this decision, not by a vow, but by a good and holy resolution.

At the moment of communion, they could use some mental or vocal aspirations such as:

that of St. Francis:

Who am I Lord, and who are You?

or perhaps that of St. Elizabeth:

Where does this blessing come from- that
my Lord should come to me?[ii]

or that of St. John the Evangelist:

Yes, come, Lord Jesus.[iii]

– or others like these.

After Holy Communion they should consider Our Lord seated in their heart as on His throne and bring before Him, one after another, their faculties and senses to hear His commands and promise Him fidelity.

They can also summon their soul to some holy affections[iv]such as:

Fear of displeasing and losing the Lord:

they will say with David

My Lord, be not far from me.[v]

or with travelers on the road to Emmaus:

Stay with us, Lord. It is nearly evening.[vi]

Confidence and courage:

again with David:

I will fear no evil because You are at my side, Lord.[vii]

Love:

with the Spouse they will say:

My lover belongs to me and I to him; he will rest in my
heart; I have found him whom my heart loves. I will
not let him go.[viii]

Thanksgiving:

O Lord, because You have given me this great grace,
I will bless You eternally and forever and I will make
Your praises as countless as the stars of the sky.[ix]

Determination to serve the Lord:

with the words of Jacob:

The Lord shall be my God and the stone of my heart,
heretofore hardened, will be His abode.[x]

They can also think of the interior fervor of Our Lady,[xi]her devotion, her humility, her confidence and her courage when the angel told her that the Holy Spirit would come into her.  They can recall, too, that at the same time that she understood that God was giving her His heart, namely His Son, she in turn gave herself to God and her soul was overwhelmed with love.  They, too, receive a similar grace in Communion. It is not an angel, but Jesus Christ Himself who assures them that in this action the Holy Spirit comes into them and in a way Christ is conceived and born in them. O God, what delight and peace!

Consequently after this consideration the soul can truly say as did this holy Lady:

I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according
to His word which He spoke from His sacred mouth that
whoever feeds on Him remains in Him and He in us,
and that whoever feeds on Him will live for Him, by
Him and in Him and will live forever.[xii]

For both Holy Massand Holy Communion, the Oblates may use these thoughts or such others as the Holy Spirit will suggest to them.

Each month, every Oblate will offer one Holy Communion for each of the following intentions:

  1. the renewal of his vows
  2. the Church, the pope and the clergy
  3. the preservation of the Congregation and the maintenance therein of union and mutual charity
  4. the conversion of sinners and of those who do not  belong to the faith; and
  5. all the needs of the people

Advice of St. Francis de Sales on the
Spiritual Directory[xiii]

It is true that the Directory proposes many exercises. Yet it is good and fitting to keep one’s interior orderly and busy in the beginning. When, however, after a period of time, persons have put into practice somewhat this multiplicity of interior actions, have become formed and habituated to them and spiritually agile in their use, then the practices should coalesce into a single exercise of greater simplicity: either into a love of complacence, or a love of benevolence, or a love of confidence, or of union and reunion of the heart to the will of God. This multiplicity becomes reality.

Moreover, if there be someone, even in the novitiate, who fears too much this submission to the exercises indicated, provided this fear does not come from whim, presumption, contempt, or annoyance, a prudent director may lead him by another way, even though ordinarily, as experience has shown, the practices of the Directory are useful.[xiv]

Part III
Various Counsels of St. Francis de Sales[xv]

Duties of Novices toward their Novice Master

The Novices should have a cordial affection, filial confidence, and respect for their Novice Master. They should show gratitude and appreciation for his care and service in their formation. Let them follow his directions humbly, conscientiously give him an account of their actions, and speak to him in the same manner as indicated for the Superior. They shall obey their director with simplicity in all that he tells them to do.

Duties of Oblates toward the Superior

The Oblates will show great respect for the Superior, seeing God in him and revering him as a spokesman of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, when they are given corrections or advice, they should avoid thinking that this is done through emotion or ill will; on the contrary, they should be convinced that it is a true sign of love for them and of a desire to see them persevere in their vocation and attain a high degree of holiness.

It is especially recommended that they continue to be open with the Superior in complete simplicity and sincerity.[xvi] At the same time, Superiors should take great care to preserve the trust of those in their charge, loving and respecting them.

This counsel is of such great importance for maintaining the spirit of the Institute in its perfection that when it is absent, so also will be the spirit of the Congregation. If it is preserved, it will enrich heaven with souls.

Useful instructions

All Oblates must be very attentive and committed to perfecting themselves according to their own Institute by an exact observance. They should bring to bear on this all the insights they may receive from readings, conferences, prayer, confession, and preaching, as well as form other sources. They are never to take from these anything contrary to their own Institute, for however good it may seem to be, or may in fact be, it will not be so for them- I do assure them.

Everyone must perfect himself according to his vocation.  Since the principles of all the virtues and perfection are contained in their Constitutions, theSpiritual Directory, and the other writings of St. Francis de Sales, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales should fear nothing more than reaching the point of neglecting them and thereby becoming lax in this exactitude which is so necessary.

The Oblates ought to strive continually for a true and sincere humility of heart.

If it should happen that someone speaks to another curtly or even just slightly contrary to humility, he ought to ask pardon at once; in like manner, his confrere will use some expression of cordiality in his regard.

They should show themselves completely dedicated to the practice of this priceless maxim:

Ask for nothing, refuse nothing.[xvii]

They should always be disposed to do and suffer whatever comes to them from God and holy obedience. This will foster in them that holy peace and serenity so frequently recommended to them.  For this, they will find it helpful not to complain among themselves, but only to the superior, about their trials, dislikes, aversions, difficulties, and even about their physical discomforts.

On occasions of great and extraordinary distress, public or private, the Superior, after consulting in each case with his councilors, may order prayers, penitential practices, and other exercises.

The Oblates must have a great respect for the word of God, listening to it with reverent attention whatever its source may be.  They should act in the same manner toward all holy things and virtues.


Endnotes

[i] References to the works of St. Francis de Sales are made from the Annecy edition of the Ouveres de Saint François de Sales and are indicated by OEA, followed by volume and page number(s); those made to the writings of St. Jane de Chantal are from Sainte. Jeanne-Françoise Frémyot de Chantal: sa vie et ses ouveres (Paris: E. Plon, 1877) and are indicated by JCh, followed by volume and page number(s).

Because Saint Francis de Sales used the Vulgate and because of his method of paraphrasing Sacred Scripture, the Scriptural texts have been translated according to his usage. However, in so far as possible, the translation of The New American Bible (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1970) has been used.

The explanatory notes added by the Committee to Edit the Spiritual Directory for the Wilmington/Philadelphia Province are indicated by the notation: “Editors’ Note.” Because of the resultant change in the numbering of the footnotes, the number of the references in the official French edition will be given in parentheses, e.g., (Fr.21)

[ii] This preface was not a part of the original Directory. It is a section of the preface written by Saint Francis de Sales for the Constitutions of the Visitation:  “Préface de François de Sales evesque de Geneve aux Soeurs de la Visitation d’Annessi” (OEA XXV, 23-24). This exhortation has been used in editing the Spiritual Directory for use by the Oblates to indicated the importance of the Spiritual Directory for them.

[iii] Ezek 3:1; Rev 10:8-10

[iv] Josh 1:8

[v] Ps 103:1

[vi] Isa 38:17

[vii] Acts 4:32

[viii] Rev 1:3; 22:6-7

[ix] Rev 1:4

[x] Saint Jane Frances de Chantal composed the text of “L’Intention de nostre Pere” for the beginning of the Custom Book of 1624. She added it to the Spiritual Directory for the first time in the edition entitled: Regle de Saint Agustin et Constitutions et Directoire pour les Soeurs Religieuses de la Visitation, Lyon, 1633 (cf. Archives de la Visitation d’Annecy, Sales (Fr. De) Série Oeuvres I, no. 6) The text of the wishes comes from the hand of St. Francis de Sales. They were written in June 1611 in the Profession Book (OEA XXV, 135-136) Saint Jane Frances de Chantal used this text as an introduction to the Custom Book of 1624. She had it added to the Spiritual Directory for the first time in the edition entitled: Vive Jesus. Directoire des choses spirituelles pour les Soeurs de la Visitation, 1631 (cf. Archives de la Visitation d’Annecy, Sales (Fr. De) Série Oeuvres I, no. 5)

[xi] Col 3:14.

[xii] Cant 8:6. Editor’s note: “Stern…relentless”: “In human experience, death and the nether world are inevitable, unrelenting, and, in the end, they always triumph. Love, which is just as certain of victory, matches its strength against the natural enemies of life” (The New American Bible, p.916, note 8, 6f)

[xiii] 2 Cor. 5:14

[xiv] In imitation of the one made by Job, 31:35-37

[xv] In imitation of St. Paul, Phil. 4:1

[xvi] All the texts of this original Spiritual Directory are contained in the manuscript of the Coustumier ord·pour la direction des Soeurs de la Visitation of 1624, in the section entitled: “Directoire des choses spirituelles,” articles 10-18 (cf. cf. Archives de la Visitation d’Annecy, Série Observance B, no. 1). Fomerly this text was preserved with such conscientious fidelity that its orginal form and content can be recognized in the Custom Book of 1624.

[xvii] Job 19:25

[xviii] Job 19:26

[xix] Job 14:15-16

[xx] 1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17

[xxi] The original Spiritual Directory of 1624 does not include the article on meditation. At the end of the Spiritual Directory, St. Jane Frances de Chantal added these words: “Nothing has been said about meditation because the Introduction to a Devout Life is sufficient to form people in it.” She changed this text in the edition of 1628 and added it to the article: “Du lever des Soeurs.” This addition has been retained in all the other editions of the Spiritual Directory, Visitandine and Oblate.

Father Brisson had the “Preparation of the Day” added in the first Spiritual Directory of the Oblates. This text is taken from the Spiritual Exercises known under the name of the Rule of Padua (OEA XXII, 21-26). In the (Oblate) edition of 1925 the article on rising was divided into (a) rising and (b) meditation in general and the exercise of the preparation in particular.

[xxii] Editor’s note: In French, the expression used here is “vaines suréminences.” At the turn of the sixteenth century certain authentically spiritual persons were discussing the “supereminent life” in holiness. Each was giving his own nuance to its description. This life was characterized essentially by the desire to place the soul in relationship with divine essence directly through an abstract, non-conceptual union. The humanity of Christ was to be by-passed so as to find God alone. These ideas are difficult to express accurately. They lend themselves readily to misunderstanding. In chapter 2, part III of the Introduction to a Devout Life, Saint Francis de Sales adverts to this matter (OEA III, 131, 133). In his preface to the Treatise on the Love of God, he wrote that he did not intend to speak of a “certain supereminently perfect life,” adding “I can neither censure authors nor authorize censors fo a doctrine which I do not understand” (OEA IV, 13). For further information, consult  Dictionnaire de Spiritualité (Paris: Gabriel Beauchesne et ses Fils, 1937), Tome I, cols. 1449-1450; E.J. LaJeunie, St. François de Sales (Paris: Edition Guy Victor, 1966) II, 194 ff; L. Cognet, Histoire de la Spiritualité Chrétienne (Paris: Aubier, 1966) 233 ff. For a brief review of the teachings of St. Francis de Sales on prayer as related to these ideas of the “supereminent life,” see his letter to St. Jane de Chantal in April, 1606 (OEA XIII,162) and also the end of Conference XVIII (OEA VI, 347-351; The Spiritual Conferences of St. Francis de Sales, translated by Dom Mackey, Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1962, 359-363).

[xxiii] (Fr. 21) Ps 127:1

[xxiv] (Fr. 22) Ps 143:10

[xxv] (Fr. 23) Ps 62:2

[xxvi] (Fr. 24) Ps 99:1

[xxvii] (Fr. 25) Ps 27:4; 40:9

[xxviii] (Fr. 26) Ps 31:6; Luke 23:46

[i] Editor’s note: “readiness or promptness,” i.e., correspondence of the hour with its true canonical time, insofar as possible. Cf. Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 94; Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, no. 11


[i] (Fr. 27) The article “Comm’il faut oiur la sainte messe” in the manuscript of 1624 is called “L’exercise de la Messe” by Saint Francis de Sales in 1618 (OEA VI, 442). The interior acts recommended in it follow the thoughts of the Liturgy.

[ii] (Fr. 28) Phil. 2:8

[iii] Editor’s note: The teaching of Saint Francis de Sales is also found in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The consecration of the Mass involves two actions: immolation and oblation. The ministerial priest alone, acting in the person of Christ, brings about the immolation through the words spoken over the bread and wine. Since these are separate signs, they mystically indicate Christ’s death, i.e., the separation of His Body and Blood.

The oblation or offering of the Victim is performed both by the priest and the faithful. A sacrifice is always the act of the community, in this case the Church. Since the priest is the representative of this community when he offers Christ, the Victim, the members of the community offer it with him.

In addition, in sacrifice the victim also represents the people; it is offered in place of them. On Calvary in a bloody manner, and in the Mass in an unbloody way,  Jesus as Victim represents the people and is offered in place of them. Thus when the priest and people offer Christ in the consecrated species to His Heavenly Father, they also offer themselves with Him (cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Churchnos. 10,11,28; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priestsnos. 2,5).

[iv] Editor’s note: “sweet,” cf. Saint Francis de Sales Treatise on the Love of God, translated by John K. Ryan, Garden City, N.Y. : Image Books, 19163, vol. I, 25-26

[i] (Fr. 29) OEA IX, 351.

[i] Editor’s note: This article has been translated with a view to recreation taken outside of community as well as in community. The last paragraph would seem to apply more directly to community recreation.

[ii] (Fr. 30) Cf. Rule of the Congregation of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Constitutions 88 and 106, Troyes-Allentown, 1967-1968, and Eichstätt, 1973.

[iii] (Fr. 31) 1 Sam 3:9-10

[iv] (Fr. 32) Ps. 84:8; Prov 4:18

[v] (Fr. 33) The cited text comes to us from the Exercises Spirituels known as the Rule of Padua (OEA XXII, 30-33). Father Brisson had it added to “complete the article on retiring” (Chapter of December 23, 1874,Tilburg edition, I,16). If preferred, one may follow the attraction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

[vi] (Fr. 34) Matt 25:6

[vii] (Fr. 35) Luke 1:78-79

[viii] (Fr. 36) Ps. 121:7

[ix] (Fr. 37) Ps. 131:4

[x] (Fr. 38) Isa 21:11-12

[xi] (Fr. 39) John 3:19

[i] (Fr. 40) In 1628 Saint Jane de Chantal changed the title from “Comm’il faut aller a la sainte communion” to the present title. It has been preserved because Fr. Brisson had the order of procedure in going to communion given to the Sisters of the Visitation suppressed in the Oblate Spiritual Directory.

[ii] (Fr. 41) Luke 1:43

[iii] (Fr. 42) Rev. 22:20

[iv] Editor’s note: “affections,” cf. Saint Francis de Sales, Treatise on the Love of God,bk. VI, ch. 6 (OEA IV 301-306); Introduction to the Devout Life, part II, ch. 6 (OEA III, 80-81); Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, I, col. 235

[v] (Fr. 43) Ps. 38:22

[vi] (Fr. 44) Luke 24:29

[vii] (Fr. 45) Ps. 23:4

[viii] (Fr. 46) Cant 2:16; 1:13; 3:4

[ix] (Fr. 47) Gen 22:16-17

[x] (Fr. 48) Gen 28: 21-22

[xi] (Fr. 49) Under the direction of Fr. Brisson to omit everything which did not pertain to the Oblates, the thoughts concerning the Blessed Mother were omitted in the (Oblate) edition of 1874. However, Fr. Brisson did retain this passage in the Spiritual Directory of the Visitation which he used to indicate the omissions and changes which he made. Since these thoughts contain a profound theological meaning, we have inserted them in this edition.

[xii] (Fr. 50) Luke 1:38; John 6:50, 55-59

[xiii] (Fr. 51 Editor’s note: In the original Spiritual Directory the title for this section is:

“Advis de Nostre Tres Honnore Pere sur le Directoire” The text for these counsels comes from a letter of St. Francis de Sales in February 1620 (OEA XIX, 147; cf JCh IV, 365, V, 189). In the manuscript of the Custom Book of 1624 this letter is used as a conclusion.

[xiv] Editor’s note: In the Treatise on the Love of God, St. Francis de Sales explains these various kinds of love. Love of complacency is an act of the will by which the will is joined and united with the good which God possess in Himself. It draws God into one’s heart, i.e, the divine perfections in so far as one is capable of receiving them.

Love of benevolence is a love of God for His own good. It desires for Him all the honor, glory, acknowledgement which is possible to give Him, as a certain exterior good due to His goodness. It casts the human heart into God with all its actions and affections, consecrating them to Him.

Love of confidence is a simple and filial trust in God. It is something like a sleep of love in the arms of the Savior, and is illustrated by Mary Magdalene at His feet, or John, the Apostle, resting his head on the Master’s breast. It does not move one to make sensible acts, either of the understanding or of the will. Cf. Treatise on the Love of God, bk 1, ch. 7 (OEA IV40-46), ch 13 (OEA IV, 70-72); bk 6, ch 8 (OEA IV 330-333); bk 7, ch 5 (OEA V, 22-25); bk 8 ch 2 (OEA V, 62-64)

Fr. Brisson also cmments on this three-fold love: By love of complacency the soul accepts with an interior satisfaction all that it meets: disgust, consolations, dryness, unfruitfulness, health, sickness, as being sent by God. It is a state which is very perfect, yet it is only the first state of the spiritual life. By the second, the love of confidence, the soul not only accepts what comes from God, but it places its reliance in it as only being able to be very good and very profitable. It casts itself into God’s arms, gives Him all care of it. Finally, the last state is the union of the heart with God’s will. The soul only wills what God wills. It is at this price that our Holy Founder dispenses us from the practice of the Directory. It is certain that when the soul has come to will only God alone, it has no need of a long preparation for holy Mass, Office, meditation.” Cf. Chapitre du 20 Mars 1879,“ Les Epreuves: Avis sur le directoire,” Tilburg edition, Vol. I, 40-41

[xv] (Fr. 52) These texts are not part of the original Spiritual Directory. In the Custom Book of 1624 they constitute the following articles: VIII “Du devoir des Novices envers leur Maitresse”; XX: “Plusieurs advis de nostre tres honore Seigneur et Fondateur concernant la prattique des vertus et “Du devoir des Novices envers leur Maitresse”;; XXI: “ De l’humilité et pauvreté”; and XXII: “De la charité” (cf. OEA XXV, 166- 174). In the edition of the “Little Directory” of 1631, they are added as separate articles of the Spiritual Directory under these titles “Du devoir des Novices envers leur Maitresse”; “Du devoir des soeurs envers la Superieure”“Documents fort utiles.” This addition has been preserved by the Visitation since 1631.

In these three articles Fr. Brisson chose those texts which he found more suitable for the life of the Oblates. From the original text he preserved 30 percent of the first article, 70 percent of the second, and 60 percent of the third. This new edition of the Spiritual Directory offers the essence of these articles (20, 50 and 30 percent respectively of the original text).

[xvi] (Fr. 53) Code of Canon Law, Canon 630, §5.

[xvii] (Fr. 54) This text mentions the “document de nostre Bienheureux Pere: ‘Ne rien demander et ne rien refuser’” (JCh IV, 475). This maxim had already been copied and distributed beforehand as a separate counsel for the Sister of the Vistation.