One of the contemporaries of St. Vincent who influenced him on his journey of conversion was St. Francis de Sales. The two famous books of St. Francis de Sales, namely, “Love of God” and “Introduction to Devout Life,” played an important role in his spiritual growth.
Francis de Sales wrote about the purpose of the book “Love of God” in a letter wrote to Mgr. De Villars, in the year 1609:
“I am thinking of doing a little book on the love of God. I don’t intend to treat it speculatively, but from the practical standpoint of keeping the commandments of the fist tablet. This will be followed by another book describing the practice of charity in keeping the commandments of the second tablet. Both books could be reduced to a single handy volume.”
In the preface to the book he wrote again as a short prayer to Mother Mary;
“Inspire me and all who read to offer ourselves, our loves as holocausts to God. Inspire us so to live and die that we may come to life again eternally, that we may burn with the fire of charity which our Lord, Your Son so greatly wished to kindle in our hearts; for which he worked, for which he longed unceasingly, until it brought him to death, death on a cross.”
St. Vincent, was one among many who were inspired by this book. He said about the book: “It is a universal remedy for the feeble, a spur to the slothful, a ladder for those who would reach perfection. Were everyone to give it the study it deserves, none should escape its fire.”
St. Vincent in his affective and effective love combined both tablets of the love commandment as described by St. Francis de Sales in his book. In this Jubilee year, it will be very fitting if we could take some time to read and study this book, which inspired St. Vincent in his love for God and neighbor.
In the first part of the book St. Francis speaks about variety of impulses, feelings, emotions, and passions in our heart. Among these various powers and faculties of heart, the first and basic passion is love. Love determines the activity of various emotions and passions in our heart. Our passions and emotions are good or bad, vicious or virtuous, in exact proportion to the goodness or badness of the love from which they spring.
In the book, he distinguishes various kinds of love, such as selfish love and unselfish love, carnal love and spiritual love, gratifying love, friendship, affection and finally there is the eminent affection which he uses for God’s love or Charity. According to Francis de Sales, love at its highest is Charity. But for earthly minded people, the physical love seems stronger and real. But the reality is different. St. Francis writes; “Love is like fire, the finer the fuel, the brighter the flame.”
About the Author:
Fr. Binoy Puthusery, C.M. is a Vincentian priest belonging to the Southern Indian Province. He was ordained as priest on December 27, 2008 and soon after served as an assistant parish priest in Tanzania. In 2011, after two years of ministry, he was appointed as Spiritual Director to the Vincentian Sisters of Mercy, Mbinga Tanzania, where he still is today.