Holiness in Daily Life: St. Francis de Sales, Blessed John Henry Newman, and St. Josemaría Escrivá

Most of us aren’t called to be priests or monks or nuns, yet so many spiritual authors assume that their readers live in convents, monasteries, or rectories. So what about the spiritual life of everyone else? Here are three takes on holiness in daily life (from St. Francis de Sales, Blessed John Henry Newman, and St. Josemaría Escrivá) for those called to be a Saint in the home and the workplace.

St. Francis de Sales is my favorite Saint outside of the Holy Family, and his Introduction to the Devout Life is a spiritual masterpiece. It was written to a laywoman who wanted to know how she could be holy while living in the secular world. In this talk (presented on July 12th at Christ the King Church in Topeka, KS), I take a look at Francis’ answer to that question, as well as the answers given by Blessed John Henry Newman, St. Josemaría Escrivá (the founder of Opus Dei), and the Second Vatican Council.


    1. You are a good example of what the three saints are getting at regarding the laity and their state in life. Often, the laity don’t have the time that monks, priests and nuns might have for prayer, contemplation and study. But, even the desire to have the time is a holy aspiration and prayer. And this very desire is probably one of the greatest gifts God could give to a person, even if he never does get the time in his life that he desires to study and meditate on God and corollary subject matter. The desire itself is ‘Love for God’, and this is the first and chief commandment that we are taught before all others. And as the love for God is eternal, we will never get enough of it anyway, the closer we get to God, the more of Him we want…and therefore we might always feel we never have enough time for loving, learning about, praying to and studying God. But, that you say it’s ‘good stuff’ certainly indicates that you desire and want to love God intensely, and according to what Joe related of these saints, I’m sure they would consider that desire itself a prayer…like the groaning of the spirit that St. Paul talks about.

      See, Craig, how you can inspire spiritual reflection and conversation? And just with a tiny reflection of 7 words and an exclamation mark? 🙂

  1. There were so many interesting points in this talk, that it would be very hard to even categorize them, but I like the fact that prayer is something that we are taught to do by Christ, and not merely to talk about. One author, I think it was Thomas A’Kempis wrote, It is better to love, than to know how to define it. And this seems to be the case with prayer also…it’s better to pray, than to talk about it in a logical, or scholarly, way…even though these same saints are actually doing this. And also to be noted is that Joe mentions that Christians learn about prayer by watching others pray, and how just merely watching can impart a degree of faith and knowledge to others. St. Francis of Assisi mentioned this also, when he related that he and another Friar walked through a city with their hands folded, eyes looking down, and in meditation, when he told his companion they were going out to preach to the people. But when he finally went through the city and returned to where they started the brother was asked when they were going to preach to the people. And he said “…but brother, we just finished preaching to the people”. This story is probably the original source of the saying attributed to St. Francis ” Preach always, and when necessary, use words.”

    So, the imitation of Christ as revealed in the Gospel stories, and imitation of others in His Church, even without the need for words, is a very powerful witness to the Gospel message, because it is actually putting the words of Christ and the Church into practice, an not just believing in them. Jesus teaches this when He says: ” My mother and my brethren are they who hear the word of God, AND DO IT.” So, even as the saints in the talk noted, It is the ‘doing’ part that is most important. We can talk about the faith, and prayer, and the Gospel of Christ, for instance, but are we actually ‘Good Samaritans’ when the time comes in our life to be one? Do we ‘pray always’ that we enter not into temptation so as to fall into sin? Do we seek to be the ‘least and servant of all’ so as to be closer to God and an imitator of Jesus like when He washed His disciples’ feet? To do all of these things is as Jesus said…to be His ‘mother, and brethren’, because we are ‘doing’ what he said, and not just hearing what He said… and thinking that merely ‘hearing’ about prayer or good works is sufficient for being a disciple of Christ.

  2. I’m of the ever growing opinion that teaching the ‘lives of the saints’ are the best way to teach true Christianity, as they show by their examples how to follow Christ. People are too confused these days concerning doctrine due to the influence of so many Protestant sects, each teaching their own brand of Christianity, and the regular Joe thinks he can’t straighten it all out and understand what’s going on. so he doesn’t even try. This is one of the ‘fruits of Protestantism…confusion on a mass scale.

    And Jesus Himself acknowledged this to some degree in the Gospel when the people didn’t believe in His person, or doctrine…and so it is said: “The Jews therefore came round about him, and said to him: How long dost thou hold our souls in suspense? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them: I speak to you, and you believe not: the works that I do in the name of my Father, they give testimony of me.”

    Confused people often don’t have the mental capacity to understand deep the things of Gospel doctrine, especially when they need to compare and contrast the with hundreds of different Christian organizations so as to try to get the doctrine right. So, if the Church is to follow Christ, it is to follow and do His works also, so that this might be a witness to weak, and intellectually deficient, souls. That is, Christian ‘works’ can inspire and teach people about Christ to all of the weak souls who don’t have the time or patience to study doctrine. And there are multitudes of them.

    So, both in our own lives and examples some of these can find Christ, and also by reading or hearing about the virtuous lives of the saints, they can also find Him. Just as people who read the Gospel can find Christ through noting His’ good works’, so also they can find Him through the ‘good works’ of His disciples and followers in every generation. And this can be accomplished by reading about them and what they did in their own time here on Earth.

    Joe just brings up three, here, but there are thousands of others just waiting to be read about, and discussed with others. So, let’s imitate Joe, and spread the lives of the saints to others. They are so much fun to read that people don’t even realize that they are receiving an immense amount of doctrine as well. And Joe’s talk above also demonstrates this: the utility for evangelization endeavors of using the saints as excellent resources for catechizing others.

    ( To practice what I preach…this morning I’m going out to my local Farmers Market to give out selections from “The Little Flowers of St. Francis” to the folk who I encounter there of every type. I have about 200 pages front and back printed on 110lb. index stock in 2 color, with parts 1,2 and 3 put in a transparent plastic bag so the people don’t destroy them by folding and putting them into their pockets before getting home. The heavy paper also indicates that they are important in substance, so they are more likely to pay attention when they read. Also, this work on St. Francis is good for beginners in Christian Spirituality. In my experience most everyone likes it, as the stories are simple to understand, and a joy to read.)

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