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St. Francis de Sales’ 6 words to hold onto when life is really hard

mom, baby, child, sick

Tomsickova Tatyana | Shutterstock

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 01/23/23

I didn't think his advice would work, but begrudgingly, I tried it and was pleasantly shocked!

So much of what we read or watch online today is written to “go viral” or “get clicks.” The advice we see is trendy and will quickly change with the next fad. 

So where can we go when we are looking for trustworthy, time-tested wisdom to guide us in our lives?

Well, we can go to the Church. As St. Peter once said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). And so we can go to the Catechism, the Bible, and the many writings of saints and theologians.

The wisdom of the Church is time-tested and trustworthy. It’s not here to sell you something, but to show you how to live a holy, purposeful life. 

Spiritual writings don’t vie for your attention and flatter your ego so that you will watch all the account’s videos on the Instagram page. Instead, the saints write in a way that’s straightforward, honest, and full of wisdom. 

Even though they were written long ago, it’s surreal how relevant the saint’s writings are to our lives today. They speak right to our hearts: “Cor ad cor loquitur” (heart speaks to heart), as St. John Henry Newman would say.

Listening to the saints

Lately I’ve been taking a hard look at how much advice I get from the internet. I keep thinking that I want to order my life according to the time-tested words of saints, rather than the ephemeral hot takes of influencers and pundits. 

So in 2023, I’m making an effort to spend more time on spiritual reading and less on online articles and videos. It’s not easy! That social media habit is so hard to kick. 

Audiobooks are an easy alternative option for me, so lately I’ve been listening to an audiobook of St. Francis de SalesIntroduction to the Devout Life while folding laundry and cleaning.

One phrase from it really stuck with me. He wrote, “Say frequently in the midst of your contradictions, ‘This is the path to heaven.'”

When I first read that, I have to admit I held back a laugh. Really, St. Francis? I thought. You think I’m going to remember to say that in the midst of my daily chaos

But I had resolved to get more advice from the saints, so begrudgingly, I forced myself to try it. 

A surprisingly effective tactic

Very soon after reading it, I had a perfect opportunity to try out St. Francis de Sales’ advice when my kids got sick with a stomach bug. As I washed soiled sheets, scrubbed stink out of the carpet, held back hair, and hugged sad and sick little humans into the wee hours of the night, I somehow remembered to say to myself, “This is the path to heaven.”

I was shocked what a difference it made! It really is a helpful and effective little tactic. 

When I said it, I remembered: Yes, right here, in the midst of this mess and turmoil and many contradictions. This is my path to heaven. This is the battle I was sent into the world to fight.

Saying these words draws me out of whatever struggles I’m facing to see things with an eternal perspective instead. I would compare it to hiking a really difficult trail and pausing from looking down at your feet to look up, remember why you’re doing this, and appreciate your glorious destination up ahead.

There are so many contradictions you might be facing, including starting a new school or job, moving house, enduring illness, or even grieving a loved one. In all of them, I hope to give you the gift of these six words: “This is the path to heaven.”

They remind me that, as St. Therese said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.” When we look at our present reality through an eternal perspective, when we see our life in light of heaven, everything changes.

Suddenly our contradictions seem like fleeting phantoms in the night, and the abundance of our blessings shines with the glory of the sun. These words help me remember that these contradictions, however big they seem, are really just “momentary light afflictions, producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Catholic LifestyleFrancis de SalesMotherhoodParentingSaints
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