Friday, August 4, 2017

St. Francis de Sales is Setting Me Straight

Did you ever start something but didn't finish it until much later than you anticipated which, in hindsight, was perfect timing? Have you ever wanted to send someone something -- a letter or a gift -- but didn't get around to sending it until days or weeks later, not knowing that they were struggling with something and that your gift arrived when they most needed it? That's what I'm experiencing with Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

I started reading it during Lent but didn't make it past page 44 for some reason. After I decided to give myself time to work on my relationship with God, I started rereading it and it feels like he's talking directly to me. So far, in the first 20 pages, he's touched on exactly what I recently went through and what I need to work on now.

St. Francis de Sales talks about giving up sinful ways, but how it's much easier to have the intention to give it than giving it up along with the affection for the sin, which tempts us and makes it easier for us to fall back into that particular sin.

"... there are penitents who forsake sin, yet without forsaking their sinful affections; that is to say, they intend to sin no more, but it goes sorely against them to abstain from the pleasures of sin;-- they formally renounce and forsake sinful acts, but they turn back many a fond lingering look to what they have left, like Lot'a wife as she fled from Sodom."

When I read this (pages 16-17 on my Kindle edition), I had this "aha! This is the first thing I need to work on" moment. Yep. You got me, St. Francis. I'm ashamed to admit it but that's exactly what happened in over the course of a year (July 2016 through last month) when a group I recently detached myself from became part of my social life and I began having second thoughts and (a bit of) regret over having given up the lifestyle I had from my teen years up to when I was 20, only a year before I reverted to the faith.

I knew that these people live in a way and do a lot of what is contrary to Church teachings but they presented everything in this attractive little package -- and they were all so nice despite what they did -- and I found it very hard to resist the temptation. I mean, I did -- which I'm sure was all the Holy Spirit and saints interceding for me -- but it did a lot of damage to my relationship with God because this all happened right after I cut toxic friendships out of my life and was in a vulnerable place. Needless to say, that led to my struggling with the faith and, well, if you've been reading this blog over the last couple of weeks, you know the rest.

"... If you seek to lead a devout life, you must not merely forsake sin; but you must further cleanse your heart from all affections pertaining to sin; for, to say nothing of the danger of relapse, these wretched affections will perpetually enfeebled your mind, and clog it, so that you will be unable to be diligent, ready and frequent in good works, wherein nevertheless lies the very essence of all true devotion."

I read this and I immediately went "... I have to give up *insert social media platform,* don't I?" It wouldn't be impossible but it would be hard for me because it's been helpful on my quest to repair my relationship with God. Still, there was a lot of temptation to slip up so I had to do something slightly drastic that I normally wouldn't do: I blocked everyone and whoever was associated with them to avoid seeing any of their updates on my feed. I unfollowed the core group of people weeks ago but weak little me used to say "Oh, that's a new picture that popped up on my feed... it'll just be a quick peek to see how they're doing." Some days were easier than others on this front. Some days my self-control is great. Other days (most days, let's be honest here), I'm too weak. That's why I knew I had to block everyone.

I hate blocking people on social media (I feel like rude doing it and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings) but I actually went ahead and spent quite some time going on a blocking spree. I know they won't notice but I've already noticed the big difference for me. My feed is quieter and I feel less stressed out. Most importantly, I don't get distracted or tempted to "check in" on anyone... because I can't. I've done all I can to make sure that temptation won't be there.

I can't allow myself to hate these people (I think I'm incapable of it, anyway) and I will pray for them. What was that quote (also by St. Francis de Sales) that I shared on the blog's FB page? "Love your neighbor with a great, charitable love, but befriend only those with whom you can be mutually supportive in virtue." It may sound harsh to some people but it's important to be careful about who you surround yourself with because they can either help lead you to Heaven... or help lead you astray. Learn from my mistakes, y'all -- especially you younger readers.

I feel like a terrible person for the blocking and everything I just wrote but I have to be honest with myself and know what needs to change in order for me to get back on the right track. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my struggle with the faith took the biggest hit when I started feeling like I didn't have what I took to remain a faithful Catholic but being surrounded by the folks I was introduced to last summer only caused more problems.

I'm not blaming them because they didn't do it on purpose but having them in my life didn't help. I had to retreat a little, get back into more frequent contact with friends who are good for me (who challenge and inspire me and my faith), and now I'm making sure that I don't fall back into all of that mess. It will all make more sense once the third novel is out because I'm taking a lot of what I went through in the last year and incorporating it into the third novel. That's all I'm saying.

Earlier today I went to Adoration (First Fridays FTW!) and I just sat there and asked God to help me through whatever else I'm going to have to face in order to better my relationship with Him. I didn't want to leave Adoration (I rarely do when I'm there) but I had to because I knew I have a number of things to do that I couldn't put off. It was in that moment that I knew that I'm on the right track once again. I know a couple of local Adoration chapels that are opened either perpetual or, at least, are open during most of the day so I think I'm going to visit Jesus more frequently, and even take Introduction to the Devout Life with me.

I look forward to seeing what else St. Francis de Sales has in store for me. I know he'll help set me straight and that it'll be quite beneficial for me. Also, I'm sure that between him and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (who've been my tag-team patron saints this year; they came out of nowhere, lol), I'm going to grow a lot in my spiritual life over the next couple of months. Who has two thumbs and is uber excited about that? This gal!

Alright, that's enough stalling. I have a couple more things to do -- including work on the novel -- so I should skedaddle and get to it.

I hope you all had a lovely week and that you have a blessed weekend. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

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