It has been said that one of the greatest mistakes in our Christian life is to polarize what we believe about God from the reality of our everyday lives. We compartmentalize our faith, isolating it from the nitty-gritty of life. That seems to be our personal application of separating CHURCH and STATE—the state of keeping our secular life separate from our spiritual life.
Writing four-and-a-half centuries ago, Saint Francis de Sales pointed out that mistake. The crux of his teaching was to integrate our faith life with our workaday world. He said that it was not merely an error but a heresy to suppose that “a devout life is necessarily banished from the soldier’s camp, the merchant’s shop, the prince’s court, or the domestic hearth.” He did not write for those in the walled spirituality of the cloister but for men and women busy in the everyday workplace, at home or in the public arena.
De Sales explained his practical spirituality simply and beautifully in the following excerpt from his most famous book, AN INTRODUCTION TO A DEVOUT LIFE:
“If you hope to succeed in whatever you do,
place your trust totally in God’s providence.
Cooperate with Him, then rest secure
that whatever happens, will be best for you.
Think of a little child
walking with her father:
One hand clings tightly to his
but with the other
she gathers fruit from trees along the way.
Imitate the child.
With one hand go ahead and gather
what you need of the world’s good things,
but with the other hold on to your Heavenly Father,
checking regularly whether or not
He approves of what you are doing with your life.
Above all, beware of letting go of your Father
to free up both your hands
to gather more of the world’s goods.
You will find that by yourself
you will stumble and fall.
And when your gathering does not require
all your attention,
turn your mind to God as often as you can.
Like a sailor returning to port, look to the sky
and not just to the waves that carry you.”