Pope Francis published an apostolic letter on December 28 marking the 400th anniversary of the death of Visitation Order co-founder, St. Francis de Sales, titled "Everything Pertains to Love," which he believes summarizes the "spiritual legacy" of de Sales.
The letter offers insight into how Pope Francis understands Salesian Spirituality and how he sees its importance today. He speaks to the life of St. Francis de Sales, and the lessons one can learn from de Sales' writings.
Pope Francis writes that in a moment of "epochal change," "we are challenged to be a Church that is outward-looking and free of all worldliness, even as we live in this world, share people’s lives and journey with them in attentive listening and acceptance. That is what Francis de Sales did when he discerned the events of his times with the help of God’s grace. Today he bids us set aside undue concern for ourselves, for our structures and for what society thinks about us, and consider instead the real spiritual needs and expectations of our people."
De Sales wrote, "We were created by God to fly, to spread our wings in response to the call to love, but once we fall to earth, unless we choose to open those wings to the wind of the Spirit, we risk never again being able to fly," Pope Francis cites in the letter.
In his own words, "Each person therefore is responsible for cooperating with his or her own fulfilment, with spreading his or her wings with confident trust before the gust of God’s wind," says Pope Francis.
Pope Francis also takes de Sales' writings on devotion and interprets it as the following: "Devotion is far from something abstract. Rather, it becomes a style of life, a way of living immersed in our concrete daily existence. It embraces and discovers meaning in the little things: food and dress, work and relaxation, love and parenthood, conscientiousness in the fulfilment of our duties. In a word, it sheds light on the vocation of each individual."
De Sales often wrote of balance, and Pope Francis sees that de Sales believed the Christian life was not one without joy. "Saint Francis astutely traces it [joy] to the love made manifest by the incarnate Son," writes Pope Francis, later saying, "They [de Sales' writings] reveal not only a clear and insightful understanding of the relationship between God and humanity, but also the deep bond of affection between Francis de Sales and the Lord Jesus."
It is unusual for a Pope to write such a letter devoted to the life of a Saint, but Pope Francis saw the wisdom in Salesian Spirituality and its applications to today's rapidly-changing world.
- Spiritual Life