Feast of St Francis de Sales Patron Saint of Christian Writers

I started off this morning in need of some colour to brighten up a grey clouded day and was looking for a poem for January but along the way I became attracted to a few other items of interest and so the search for the poem was displaced.

I note that today is the feast of St Francis de Sales, patron of Christian writers and journalists so it's a good one to reflect on what makes a good piece of writing.

So here are a few pieces for reflection that caught my eye today gathered from the "rag and bone store" of the web,  my inbox and some of my own reflections.

There is plenty of content and meaning to reflect on here in addition to effective use of different writing styles.

Image of Francis de Sales from here

Short video on Francis de Sales

The items below are on different topics but perhaps they sit together well under the umbrella of Buechner's comments below.

Frederick Buechner

If the church is not a place where we not only learn something about what it means to be human but also a place where seeds of a fuller humanity are planted in us and watered, to grow, then all our hymns and prayers and preachments are vanity.
Source: Now and Then
Now one from Richard Rohr.




You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel of vinegar,” says Francis de Sales.

Enlightenment cannot be manufactured, manipulated, or delivered on demand. It is always passed on from another. 

Jesus both claims to be the Light of the World and then says the same for us too! (See John 8:12 and Matthew 5:14-16.) It is surprising that most do not connect these two scriptures. 

Wisdom is not a do-it-yourself project. It is a mystery of transmission, contagion, and the passing on of life, as Francis de Sales did so well through his many loving messages in very hostile 17th-century Geneva.
I always tell people who ask if they can quote me that if it is true wisdom then I have no copyright to it. I learned it from someone else. If it is true wisdom it is always “common domain.”
Enlightenment is not about knowing as much as it is about unknowing; it is not so much learning as unlearning. It is more about entering a vast mystery than arriving at a mental certitude. 

Enlightenment knows that grace is everywhere, and the only reasonable response is a grateful heart and the acknowledgment that there is more depth and meaning to everything. A too quick and easy answer is invariably a wrong one.                   

 and this one is from Richard Rohr's blog entry today at Unpacking Paradoxes:

"Do not choose a coward’s explanation
that hides behind the cause and the effect."

Leonard Cohen continues to be a prophet of the soul in these words from his song, "Alexandra Leaving", which is inspired by C.P. Cavafy's poem "The God Abandons Antony". 

They both call us to clear headed courage and surrender in the face of loss. 

We want to draw a straight line between some evil cause or bad person--and the effect that we are suffering. It is never a straight line nor a single cause, nor one explanation. 

No discovery of a villian can take away your pain in the presence of loss. 

I think Cohen is largely right when he calls this "a coward's explanation". 

Perfect cause and total effect give us someone to blame, a focused point where we can transfer our hurt. But it is often not true, avoids the good and necessary lessons for the soul, and wastes time in diversionary tactics. 

Yet this story line is much of history. The soul and Cohen follow Cavafy's advice to Mark Antony, "Listen with deep emotion, but not with whining, [which are] the pleas of a coward". 

God, give me the active grace to remember this at the right time, which seems to be much of the time."

 It may well help further understanding of  Richard Rohr's post above  to read the whole of Constantine.P. Cavafy's poem The God Abandons Antony with some explanation, so here is a link you may find useful.

C.P. Cavafy image from here

These are both well written articles for consideration.

Franciscan Brother Dan Horan's  thought provoking article at Dating God yesterday and his post today and the NCR article that Brother Dan cites is here.

This is also worth a read From Religion Dispatches


Finally in lieu of the undiscovered January poem to brighten up the grey day ( which was where I began my post ), instead I found a brightly coloured image that stimulated a few thoughts.

For me, this image acts as a metaphor that delightfully portrays the fluctuating emotions and passion of our common life journeys,  the hot air of our paltry words and ego inflating successes, the ever futile attempts to know one another, the search for God and truth, the container of the house as church in which we all should be able to dwell in harmony, instead riven with division, rancour and strife- exclusion of many people as ballast to keep the hierarchical institution afloat- the image replays itself over and over again.

What I desire is to be carried above ourselves to see the heavenly visions and dream dreams, to enjoy the playful exhilirating ride that faith in God can sometimes be. 

It intrigues me that the balloon driven house is falling.... now why is that I wonder ??

Is it that we are weighted down by striving for too much knowing and learning as Richard Rohr says.


T.S. Eliot posed the same question: "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

Is it that we are not allowing ourselves to surrender to necessary undoing and unlearning due to lack of attention to spend time and energy on finding ways of listening to The Holy Spirit ?

Pneuma (πνεύμα) is an ancient Greek word for "breath," and in a religious context for "spirit" or "soul." Pneuma, "air in motion, breath, wind...

Come Holy Spirit, fill our house with the pneuma of your wisdom, and generative life force; give us your currents of warm mobile air to raise us up; empty us out so a greater outpouring of your truth can rush to fill us.

Maybe our falling is necessary as Ricky Cox says:

"True enlightenment is not sought and never found. It is not an addition.  It is experienced by becoming less – from the discarding of things, like a gem that is cut to reveal its brilliance."

John the Baptist was infused with the Holy Spirit to know that he must become less to allow Jesus to fulfil his divine mandate and mission.

As Richard Rohr says in his book Falling Upward, A Spirituality For The Two Halves of Life: "The genius of the gospel was that it included the problem inside the solution. The falling became the standing. The stumbling became the finding;the dying became the rising."

We have to live long enough to see the bigger picture.

Rohr says :

" I fell many times relationally, professionally,emotionally and physically in my life, but there was always a trampoline effect that alowed me to finally fall upward. No falling down was final but actually contributed to the bounce.......... ( actually, now I look at the balloon image more closely again, it does get a bounce to reset every now and again.)

Those events that lead us to catastrophise out of all proportion must be business as usual for God- at least six billion times a day.

Like good spiritual directors do, God must say after each failure of ours,  " Oh, here is a great opportunity. Let's see how we can work with this......"

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