Saturday 24 December 2022

Roses Among Thorns: Simple Advice for Renewing Your Spiritual Journey - Francis de Sales and Christopher O. Blum (Translator)

Roses Among Thorns: 
Simple Advice for Renewing Your Spiritual Journey
St. Francis de Sales
Christopher O. Blum (Translator)
ISBN 9781622822065

This was one of two books I was reading by Saint Francis de Sales in parallel. The other was along with the Ascension Catholic Classics Podcast and was Introduction to the Devout Life. This one I was reading as part of Father Mark Goring’s Saint Mark’s School or Reading. Both were excellent reads. It was also an exercise in patience reading only 1 or 2 of the reflections in this volume per day. The description of this book is:

“From the thousands of personal letters by St. Francis de Sales comes this short, practical guide that will develop in you the soul-nourishing habits that lead to sanctity.

St. Francis de Sales is widely regarded as one of the greatest spiritual advisors in the history of the Church, and we have drawn from his letters the wisest advice for those prepared to take the next step on their spiritual journey.”

The chapters in this volume are:

Seasons of Life
Jesus the Gardener
Roses Among Thorns
Choosing Virtue
A Pattern of Devotion
Jesus in Our Heart
Peace of Soul and Humility
Christian Maturity
Oppressed in Conscience
Accepting God’s Will
The Visitation
Maintaining Peace of Soul
Loving God
Bearing Jesus
Bearing Our Crosses
Facing Temptation
The Burden of Work
Too Busy to Pray
Perseverance in Worship
Parents and Teachers
A Devout Life
Blessed Joseph
Confidence amid Tribulation
A Strong Heart
John the Baptist
Ordered Desires
Impatience or Self-Love
In the Desert
Christian Liberty
Perseverance in Prayer
Judge Your Feelings
Be Patient
Pardon Your Heart
A Time of Depression
Our Daily Bread
Oppressed by Pain
The Envy of the Angels
A Quiet Life
The Ascension
Not into Temptation
St. Peter in Chains
A Time of Fear
The Baptist amid the Thorns
God’s Vigilance
The Assumption
A Spiritual Vintage
Beautiful Devotion
The Imagination in Prayer
The Peace of God
A Time of Illness
The Presence of God
A Time of Separation
The Death of a Loved One
Interior Desolation
Last Things
Prepare for Death
The Passage of Time

In the forward the Most Rev. James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln sates:

“I became a Catholic in 1975, and shortly after my conversion, I was given a copy of St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life. The wisdom of this saint formed my spirituality and my early practice of the Faith. I still return to St. Francis de Sales and recommend his writings regularly to those beginning the path of discipleship.”

And also:

“Today, more than ever, Catholic men and women need clear instruction in the path of Christian discipleship. We have, unfortunately, lost many of the great practices of piety and devotion that form Catholic culture and Catholic conscience. There is beauty in mortification, in order, and in piety; and the work of St. Francis captures that beauty.

St. Francis de Sales gives direction in prayer, devotion, discernment, and mortification, in a way that can be understood and implemented in the midst of ordinary life. He understands clearly the movements of the soul, the affectations and temptations that draw us from Jesus Christ. He also understands the antidote. His work is a guidebook for anyone who seeks a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Roses Among Thorns offers newly translated meditations from the works of St. Francis de Sales that Catholic men and women — lay, clerical, or religious — can reflect on prayerfully. This book can be used as a devotional or in spiritual direction or in the sacrament of penance.

St. Francis de Sales understood that Christ is revealed as one heart speaks to another. I pray that the heart of the great saint, reflected in these meditations, will reflect to you the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.”

A sample reflection is:

Our Daily Bread

You say that you do nothing when you pray. Yet what do you desire beyond what you are doing, which is presenting to God your nothingness and misery?

The most effective appeal that beggars make is simply to place their open wounds and needs before us. Yet, you say, sometimes you do not even accomplish that, and you remain like a phantom or a statue. But even this is no small thing. In the palaces of princes and kings, statues are placed for no other purpose than for the prince to look upon them. Content yourself to be in God’s presence in that way; he will bring the statue to life when it pleases him to do so.

Trees require sunlight to bear fruit. Some do so earlier, others later, some annually, others only every third year, and none of them bears the same way as the others. We should be happy to be able to remain in the presence of God and be content that he will make us bear fruit sooner or later, either daily or now and then, according to his good pleasure.

I highlighted over thirty passages my first time through this volume. A sampling of them are:

“Only in heaven will everything be springtime in its beauty, autumn in its fruitfulness, and summer in its ardor. There will be no winter there; but here winter is necessary for the work of abnegation and for the thousand minor but beautiful virtues that we exercise in a fallow time.”

“Do not be anxious. Rouse yourself to serve the Lord with steadfastness, attentiveness, and meekness. That is the true way to serve him. If you can refrain from trying to do all things, but instead attempt to do only some one thing, then you will do much.”

“Our task is to let our hearts be ever united to his, and our wills to his pleasure.”

“If you were able to stir your heart a little more deeply to the practice of meekness and true humility, you would be courageous. But you must frequently think of it. Prepare yourself to do so first thing each morning, and God will send you a thousand consolations.”

“There are three things we must do to be at peace: have a pure intention to desire the honor and glory of God in all things; do the little that we can unto that end, following the advice of our spiritual father; and leave all the rest to God’s care.”

“Humility makes us accept pains with meekness, knowing that we deserve them, and good things with gratitude, knowing that we do not.”

“It will surely come, that hour for which you long, on the day that sovereign providence has named in the secret of his mercy, and then it will come with thousands of secret consolations.”

“After having made this exercise two or three times, you can shorten or vary it as you find best, but you should frequently recall it by short aspirations.”

“It is better for you to assist at Mass every day than not to do so on the pretext of having more time to pray at home. It is better not only because the real presence of the humanity of our Lord cannot be replaced by his presence in our minds, but also because the Church strongly desires that we attend Mass. We can consider this desire as advice that to follow is a kind of obedience when we can do so rightly and, by our good example, be of use to others.”

“You must before all things observe the general commandments of God and of the Church, which are established for all faithful Christians, and without which it is not possible to have any devotion.”

“God desires from us more fidelity to the little things that he places in our power than ardor for great things that do not depend upon us.”

“Be patient with all, but especially with yourself. Do not trouble yourself about your imperfections. Always have the courage to pick yourself back up and begin again every day, for there is no better path to success in the spiritual life than always to begin again and never to think that you have done enough.”

“In order to be devout, not only must we want to do the will of God, we must do it joyfully.”

I hope those few quotes and sample meditation give you a feel for this volume. It is an excellent little read. It can be read through from beginning to end or flipped to random pages to read that specific reflection. Or used the list and pick and choose as they apply to your life at the moment. It is easy to see why this is a classic. It is a book that can be read again and again and each time the reader would benefit in a new way. A great read that I can easily recommend.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan!

For a list of all books that are part of Father Mark Goring's Saint Mark’s School of Reading click here.

Books by Saint Francis de Sales:
Introduction to the Devout Life
The Sign of the Cross
The Art of Loving God
Roses Among Thorns
Finding God's Will for You

Sermons of St. Francis de Sales:
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Prayer
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Advent and Christmas

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