Author WENDY M. WRIGHT
Publisher DARTON, LONGMAN and TODD
This is one of the “Traditions in Christian Spirituality” series of books and focuses on the distinctive history and teachings of the Salesian Tradition to be found in the Roman Catholic Church. Many who are unfamiliar with the many orders and foundations under the aegis of the Pope will not have heard of this particular tradition. The name is derived from its founder Francis De Sales, a French bishop from the Savoy area nearby to Switzerland but in fact, part of France. He ministered in the early part of the seventeenth century and alongside his long time helper and correspondent Jane De Chantal is regarded as the father of a distinctive approach to the Christian devotional life. To him and Jane, the gospel poured forth in a flood of joy and mercy from the heart of God, from the heart of Jesus and was directed to the hearts of men and women who responded back to God and out flowed to their fellow man from that same heart. Over the years he developed this ‘heart religion’ that, in so many ways will strike a chord in those who themselves are seeking a real devotional life with the Lord and also desiring to live loving their neighbor. For Francis, love was the beginning, end and the means of the entire Christian life.
My own excursions into his writings reveal an extremely warm and tenderhearted man who was totally committed to the Lord Jesus and convinced that the way to win others was by love. He wrote of ‘the little virtues’ and of their practice, of spiritual friendship and prayer and service and indicated that without fail these would lead us into life transformation and likeness to Jesus. This particular book shows something of the teaching of Francis De Salle but the bulk covers ground as to the historical development of this foundation as it was continued and in some cases, rediscovered in later centuries. This history indicates the differing directions a movement like this can take. The extremes of the worship of the sacred heart where, it almost seems as though the idea of the sacred heart has eclipsed the preciousness of fellowship with Jesus Whose heart it is. On the other hand, throughout the last four centuries great works of charity have developed from the sacrifice manifested in the lives of those who espoused the teachings of this man and his friend Jane. It seems that multitudes have found in the writings of Francis a help to walk in holiness and love to God. He showed how it is entirely possible, and to be desired to walk in a loving devotional life with God in the midst of a busy occupation and family life. For this reason he did not establish a monastic order as such but lived among men and women and encouraged others to do the same. He was a good and gentle man and his writings and their effects carry a warm devotional tenderness to be coveted by us all.