One of the important messages of the pontificate of St. John Paul II is the universal call to holiness. St. Francis de Sales gave practical advice to people of different vocations for the sanctification their daily lives.
St. Francis exhorted married couples to have mutual love that is not merely natural and human, but supernatural. He said with St. Paul, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church…. Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph 5:22, 25).
The saint pointed out that the first result of the love of holy matrimony is the indissoluble union of the hearts. The second result of this love is inviolable fidelity.
He explained, “In olden times finger-rings were wont to be graven as seals. We read of it in Holy Scripture, and this explains the meaning of the marriage ceremony, when the Church, by the hand of her priest, blesses a ring, and gives it first to the man in token that she sets a seal on his heart by this sacrament, so that no thought of any other woman may ever enter therein so long as she, who now is given to him, shall live.
“Then the bridegroom places the ring on the bride’s hand, so that she in her turn may know that she must never conceive any affection in her heart for any other man so long as he shall live who is now given to her by Our Lord Himself.”
The third end of marriage is procreation and the bringing up of children. The saint wrote, “And surely it is a great honour to be permitted to increase the number of souls whom God will save, and who will serve Him through all eternity; your part being to bring forth those bodies, into which He will infuse an immortal soul.”
Love and life
St. Francis cautioned married couples not to turn love into jealousy. He wrote, “Of a truth, jealousy never arises where love is built up on true virtue, and therefore it is a sure sign of an earthly, sensual love, in which mistrust and inconstancy is soon infused.
“It is a sorry kind of friendship which seeks to strengthen itself by jealousy; for though jealousy may be a sign of strong love, it is certainly no sign of a good, pure, perfect attachment; and that because perfect love implies absolute trust in the person loved, whereas jealousy implies uncertainty.”
Children are the great blessing of God in marriage. The mother of St. Bernard offered her children to Christ as soon as they were born. St. Francis pointed out that as soon as children are capable of exercising reason, both parents should carefully seek to impress on their hearts the love of God.
St. Francis recommended the celebration of the anniversary of a wedding with confession, Communion, and fervent prayer.
Pure of heart
St. Paul said, “Honour widows that are widows indeed.” St. Francis pointed out that a true widow is a widow not only in body, but also in heart; that is, she will have an inviolable resolution to continue in the state of holy widowhood.
The saint also pointed out that the renunciation of a second marriage must be done in purity and simplicity, so as to centre all affections more wholly on God. Prayer should be the continual exercise of a woman in the state of holy widowhood.
The saint urged the unmarried to keep their hearts pure so that they can more fittingly give and commit themselves either in marriage or in the state of holy virginity.
“Have you noticed how human love consists of little things? Well, divine love also consists of little things,” said St. Josemaria Escriva.