Sunday, March 4, 2012

Heavenly Conversation: St. Francis de Sales

The source of the following excerpt is: The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent

This particular passage is from the saint’s sermon for the second Sunday of Lent, on “Eternal Happiness”. It comes from the middle of the sermon; I was quite taken with the description of the heavenly conversation enjoyed by the saints.

Let me remark first of all that in eternal felicity we will know each other, since in this little spark of it which the Savior gave to His Apostles He willed that they recognize Moses and Elias, whom they had never seen. If this is true, O my God, what contentment will we receive in seeing again those whom we have so dearly loved in this life! Yes, we will even know the new Christians who are only now being converted to our holy Faith in the Indies, Japan, and the Antipodes. The good friendships of this life will continue eternally in the other. We will love each person with a special love, but these particular friendships will not cause partiality because all our affections will draw their strength from the charity of God which, ordering them all will make us love each of the blessed with that eternal love with which we are loved by the Divine Majesty.

O God! What consolation we will have in these heavenly conversations with each other. There our good angels will give us greater joy than we can imagine when we recognize them and they speak to us so lovingly of the care they had for our salvation during our mortal life, reminding us of the holy inspirations they gave us, as a sacred milk which they drew from the breast of the Divine Goodness, to attract us to seek the incomparable sweetness we now enjoy. “Do you remember,” they will say, “the inspiration I gave you at such a time, in reading that book, or in listening to that sermon, or in looking at that image?” For example, St. Mary of Egypt’s good angel will remind her of the inspiration which converted her to Our Lord and which was the foundation of her heavenly destiny. O God! Will not our hearts melt with indescribable delight in hearing these words?

Each of the saints will have a special conversation according to his rank and dignity. One day our glorious Father, St. Augustine (of whom I speak, since I know it pleases you), {6} had a desire to see triumphant Rome, the glorious St. Paul preaching, and Our Lord among the people curing the sick and working miracles. Oh, my dear souls, what consolation this great saint now has in contemplating the heavenly Jerusalem in its triumph, the great Apostle Paul (I do not say great in body for he was small, but great in eloquence and sanctity) preaching and intoning those praises he will give throughout eternity to the Divine Majesty in glory! But what incomparable consolation for St. Augustine to see Our Lord work the perpetual miracle of the blessed felicity which His death has acquired for us! Imagine the divine conversation these two saints might have with each other, with St. Paul saying to St. Augustine: “My dear Brother, do you not recall that in reading my epistle [Rom. 13:12-14] you were touched by an inspiration which moved you to be converted, an inspiration which I had obtained for you from the divine mercy of our good God by the prayer I offered for you at the very moment you were reading what I had written?” Will not this, dear Sisters, bring an incomparable sweetness to our holy Father’s heart?

Let us imagine this: Suppose that Our Lady, St. Magdalene, St. Martha, St. Stephen and the Apostles were to be seen for the space of a year in Jerusalem, as for a great jubilee. Who among us, I ask you, would wish to remain here? For myself, I think we would embark at once, exposing ourselves to the peril of all the hazards which fall upon travelers, so that we might experience the grace of seeing our glorious Mother and Mistress, Magdalene, Mary Salome, and the others. After all, pilgrims expose themselves to all these dangers only to go and revere the places where these holy persons have placed their feet. If this is so, my dear souls, what consolation will we receive when, entering Heaven, we will see the blessed face of Our Lady, all radiant with the love of God! And if St. Elizabeth was so carried away with joy and contentment when, on the day of Our Lady’s visitation, she heard her intone that divine canticle, the Magnificat [Lk. 1:39-55], how much more will our hearts and souls thrill with inexplicable joy when we hear this sacred Chantress intone the canticle of eternal love! Oh, what a sweet melody! Without doubt, we will be carried away and experience most loving raptures which, however, will take from us neither the use of reason nor of our faculties. Both will be marvelously strengthened and perfected by this divine meeting with the holy Virgin, to better praise and glorify God, who has given her and each of us so many graces – among them, that of conversing familiarly with her.

But, you may ask, if it is true, as you say, that we will converse with all those in the heavenlyJerusalem, what will we say? Of what shall we speak? What will be the subject of our conversation? O God! My dear Sisters! What subject? Surely of the mercies which the Lord has shown us here on earth and by which He has made us capable of entering into the joy of a happiness which alone can satisfy us. I say “alone” because in this word “felicity” every sort of good is comprised. They are, however, but one single good, the joy of God in eternal felicity. It is this unique good which the divine lover in the Canticle of Canticles asked from her Beloved (she practices true wisdom here, for following the advice of the wise man [Eccles. (Sir.) 7:40], she considers the end, and then, in light of this, the means). “Kiss me,” she cries, “O my dear Beloved, with the kiss of your mouth.” [cf. Cant. 1:1 (2)]. This kiss, as I shall soon exclaim, is nothing other than the happiness of the blessed.

But of what else will we speak in our conversations? Of the death and Passion of our Lord and Master. Ah, do we not learn this in the Transfiguration, in which they spoke of nothing so much as the excess He had to suffer in Jerusalem, excess which was none other, as we have already seen, than His sorrowful death? Oh, if we could comprehend something of the consolation which the blessed have in speaking of this loving death, how our souls also would expand in thinking of it!

Let us pass on, I pray you, and say a few words about the honor and grace that we will have in conversing even with our incarnate Lord. Here, undoubtedly, our felicity will reach an inexpressible and unutterable height. What will we do, dear souls, what will we become, I ask you, when through the Sacred Wound of His side we perceive that most adorable and most lovable Heart of our Master, aflame with love for us – that Heart where we will see each of our names written in letters of love! “Is it possible, O my dear Savior,” we will say, “that You have loved me so much that You have engraved my name in Your Heart?” It is indeed true. The Prophet, speaking in the name of Our Lord, says to us: “Even if it should happen that a mother forget the child she carried in her womb, I will never forget you, for I have engraved your name in the palms of my hand.” [Is. 49:15-16]. But Jesus Christ, enlarging on these words, will say: “Even if it were possible for a woman to forget her child, yet I will never forget you, since I bear your name engraved in My Heart.”

Other Lenten meditations on this blog:

A Sacrifice to God is a Contrite Spirit
Temptation: St. Francis de Sales

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