Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Spiritual Bouquet of St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales is the author of Introduction to the Devout Life, sort of a how-to guide to applying the scriptures to every day life.

In Chapter 9″, the first of ten preparatory meditations, this Doctor of the Church writes, “At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.” This was a new idea to me, and it has helped to create a marked improvement in my prayer life.

What is a Spiritual Bouquet?

From what I have seen and read, there are three different kinds of spiritual bouquets: the doctrinal bouquets, given to us through the saints; prayer bouquets, made up of the standard prayers of the church; and there are personal bouquets, as described in the first quote of this article.

Spiritual Bouquets from the Saints

In the Preface to this wonderful book, St. Francis de Sales describes a girl who arranges common flowers into beautiful bouquets.

“The flower-girl Glycera was so skilled in varying the arrangement and combination of her flowers, that out of the same kinds she produced a great variety of bouquets; so that the painter Pausias, who sought to rival the diversity of her art, was brought to a standstill, for he could not vary his painting so endlessly as Glycera varied her bouquets.”

He goes on to compare this flower girl to the Holy Spirit, working through the Saints in the various ways the describe God’s revelation:

“Even so the Holy Spirit of God disposes and arranges the devout teaching which He imparts through the lips and pen of His servants with such endless variety, that, although the doctrine is ever one and the same, their treatment of it is different, according to the varying minds whence that treatment flows.”

So we see that although we have one set of flowers, the doctrine provided to us through scriptures and Holy Mother Church, these flowers can be arranged into a vast variety of bouquets. St. Francis de Sales has arranged one for us. Other bouquets – very different – are from St. John of the Cross, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and a host of others who put their spiritual thoughts on paper. Other Saints arranged their bouquets through the actions of their lives – Mother Theresa, though not canonized yet, is a modern example. Still others give us devotions such as the Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As fallible and sinful men, we need these bouquets so that we can come to a more full understanding of God’s plan of salvation, and His very real love for us. What a blessing that the Holy Spirit has provided so many different ways to learn and grow in the faith!

Prayer Bouquets

An apologist on Catholic Answers forums describes spiritual bouquets this way:

“A “spiritual bouquet” is a group of prayers gathered together for a particular intention. The idea is that each prayer is like a flower and that the group is like a bouquet mystically offered as a gift to God for a particular intention. That is why, for example, you’ll sometimes see Catholics organize “spiritual bouquets” for particular purposes, such as for the intentions of the Pope in honor of his birthday. Those who participate promise a certain amount of prayers and devotions for the intention and then the list is compiled and given to the person whose intentions are being remembered in prayer.”

A good example here are the rosary campaigns we do for Forty Days for Life, where a basket is kept in the church, collecting markers for the number of rosaries prayed for the campaign. It is a beautiful way to compound the power of prayer for very specific intentions.

Personal Spiritual Bouquets

But what did St. Francis say in Chapter 9?

“At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.”

In this case, at the end our prayers and meditations, we think back over our prayer time, searching for those nuggets that we want to remember and contemplate over the course of the day. I find as I do this now, that the benefits of my prayer time are greatly enhanced. My prayers stay with me over the course of the day, and I am more likely to learn something.

The richness of our faith is truly inspiring! St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!

Thoughts on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

When the economic crisis hit back in 2008, Atlas Shrugged jumped to the top of the best seller list – a favorite of libertarian-leaning folks. I had a basic idea of the story, and an understanding that it espoused free-market capitalism and was strongly anti-socialist. When I ran across it in the books on CD section of the library, I thought I would see what all the hype was about. After finishing about a third of the book, I decided that it was better for my soul to put it down. This post attempts to explain why.

There are basically two types of people in Ayn Rand’s universe. I say in her universe, because based on what I read, this novel was intended as a fictional portrayal of her philosophy of objectivism. The first type, to which most belong, are unexceptional, selfish drones, who worship statism, government-guaranteed equality of outcome, and the charitable cause of the day. They hate people who succeed and don’t work enough to succeed themselves. This is the typical stereotype of the liberal socialist.

The second type are the achievers. They work single-mindedly at their jobs, love success and the trappings that goes with it, and feel it is their right to use and abuse anyone around them to achieve their success. They are fundamentally selfish and care nothing for other people. It is the typical stereotype of the capitalist.

So, from my viewpoint, their are no morally redeeming characters in this book. The achievers are supposed to be the heroes, but they are just a bunch of narcissistic jerks. They think that neglecting your family, committing adultery, greed, lying and other deceits are all ok as long as they are committed in the interest of making yourself happy. Apparently, this is a key feature of objectivism: “The proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or rational self-interest.” Morality based on self-interest. Really? It is no surprise that objectivism rejects the idea of a Creator. I would hazard to guess that for Rand, the atheism came first and the corrupt philosophy came as a result of that. Much like communism, in that regard, although I am sure she wouldn’t like the comparison.

So, in Atlas Shrugged, there is a false dichotomy between the corrupt and lazy socialists and the narcissistic and selfish capitalists. No charitable loving Christian types to be found. In fact, in the third of the book which I read, there was not a single example of one person simply loving another. The closest facsimiles to love that I could see were hero-worship and lust. And now that I write that, it occurs to me that one of the symptoms of today’s sick culture is in fact the confusion of lust and sometimes hero-worship for love. Did Rand help bring that about, or was she only an early echo?

What concerns me is the popularity of this book. It is a perfectly fine thing to “get the government off our backs”. But not at the expense of total moral degradation.

5 Things I Think I Think (week ending Feb 4)

1. I think the majority of “news” publicized by the networks and papers consists of :

  • manufactured stories designed to titillate the most vulgar of our appetites
  • political us vs. them pieces designed to influence the next election
  • scare stories designed to make us too anxious to miss the next update
  • entertainment “news” that reads like twitter updates from a soap opera

2. I think that in two weeks of not following the news, I have missed nothing. The three big stories – revolution in the Middle East, the big winter storm, and the cyclone in Australia – I absorbed through conversations with others.

3. I think that too many parents really don’t care how their kids do in school. I was at my son’s karate studio recently.  A mother who clearly hadn’t seen her son all day showed up at 6:30 to pick him up. (They run an after school care.) She glanced at a homework or test summary and said, “Wow! That’s the worst you’ve ever done!” The boy, probably a first grader, answered, “Sorry bout that”. The mother responded, “Me too” and shoved the paper, crumpling it, into his backpack. Neither of them seemed particularly “sorry bout that”, though I hope I’m wrong.

4. I think that the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is way cooler than I had realized. It is also called, though most don’t realize it (I never did) the Feast of the Purification of Mary.  This link about the Presentation of the Lord is interesting reading. Makes me wish it were a Holy Day of Obligation.

5. I think I still don’t miss cable TV. In fact, I think I am still happy about it!