St. Francis de Sales & Red Zone Thinking

Francis de salesYesterday was the feast day of St. Francis de Sales. He was particularly known for emphasizing that, though each Christian is to seek holiness, we each need to approach this differently due to our individual vocations. In his Introduction to the Devout Life, quoted in the morning’s Office of Readings, he wrote: “devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient: for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.”

But even given these differences, his writings suggest that he would certainly agree that what we are calling Red Zone Thinking would, nevertheless, apply across that board. In one of his lesser known works, The Directory, he wrote, in his discussion of Praying Throughout the Day:

“Upon the stroke of the hour lament that many hours of your life have been uselessly spent. You ought to call to mind: that you must give an account of this present hour and every minute of your life, that you are approaching eternity, that hours seem like ages to the souls in hell, that your own death is swiftly approaching, that your last hour may soon be at hand. After these reflections, say a fervent prayer that God may be merciful to you at that last hour. There is absolutely no doubt that this will be the case if you have been very faithful to this way of acting. Practice it at all times and on all occasions.”

I’m guessing that the majority of us “moderns”—even the more religious among us—might think it absurd to think that God will hold us accountable for “every minute” of our lives. But maybe this is more indicative of how flippantly most of us take “every minute” of our lives, and how mindlessly we recite the words of the Confiteor at every Mass: “I confess to almighty God … that I have greatly sinned, in my THOUGHTS and in my WORDS, in WHAT I HAVE DONE and in WHAT I HAVE FAILED TO DO…”.

Red Zone Thinking involves taking all this a bit more urgently:

“Okay, Lord, up until now, I haven’t taken any of this very seriously. But starting now, with the mercy of Your forgiveness, and the help of Your grace—recognizing that my “last hour may soon be at hand”—let me be more cognizant of my thoughts, words, and actions, always remembering that You stand beside me, not just in judgement, but to help me walk, and talk, and think in ways that are more pleasing to You, and more helpful to every person You’ve placed in my life! In the time You’ve given me, may everyone I meet see and hear You in me.”

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