A few years ago I stumbled upon a book called A Year With the Saints, and instead of reading it cover to cover, I pick it up every once in a while and read one of the twelve chapters, each one corresponding to a different virtue. It’s always the virtue I’m especially lacking at the moment: I read the chapter on Simplicity when I was feeling especially frazzled, the chapter on Humility when I was acting particularly haughty, and the chapter on Diligence when it seemed that everything I did, I put in half the effort – or less – than I should. It was this chapter on diligence, peppered with quotes from the presumably diligent St. Francis de Sales, that stuck with me, and comes back to me, ironically, as summer begins.
Diligence is not the virtue we’d normally think of when we imagine how we want to live out our summer. No one wishes anyone a diligent holiday; no one writes, “Hope you have a diligent summer!” in anyone’s yearbook at the end of the school year. Simplicity, Joy, Gratitude, these are summer virtues. But St. Francis de Sales’ four suggestions on how to be diligent – or rather, on the obstacles to diligence – strike me, strangely, as the perfect guide to having a simple, joyful, and gratitude-filled summer.
- Don’t Be Pre-Occupied
“Perform faithfully what God requires of you each moment, and leave the thought of everything else to Him. I assure you that to live in this way will bring you great peace,” says St. Jane Frances of Chantal.
I am, above all, the most impatient with my children when I am on my phone. When I’m trying to send an email, in the middle of responding to a text, or even just reading something for my own enjoyment, their disruption of my task or interruption of my leisure rarely deserves the annoyance with which I respond to them. It’s always because I’m trying to do two things at once: respond to the email or text, or read, and be present with my children at the same time. St. Frances de Sales was the king of uni-tasking; whatever he did, whether work or play, he gave his whole self to, as though nothing else in the world mattered. It is said (by St. John Vianney, no less!) that when in the middle of writing, St. Frances de Sales would pause “with the letter of a word half-formed in order to reply to an interruption.” This is the ability to live in the present moment, to give all that we are to each moment, to each person before us, and it makes a great initial resolution for us this summer.
Can I be more present with the people before me (not pre-occupied with my phone, my thoughts of work, my to-do list, etc.) this summer? Can I leave the letter of the word half-formed and give them all of me?