Monday, February 13, 2012

Francois Fenelon - The Wise Old Monk

Francois Fenelon is one of my favorite monks. Not that I know a lot of monks to compare him with, but his writings are awesome.

A little bit about him:
He was alive during the late 1600's and early 1700's. He did so much to influence the church back in his day, but I will focus on his writings. He wrote letters to people of his time answering questions about life and character and such and then, some of those letters were compiled into a book called "Christian Perfection". His point of view is so counter-cultural -- definitely old-school and conservative. They call Francois a "Quietist" because he stresses dying-to-self with the sovereignty of God and our need for "quiet" obedience. I love his perspective and applaud most of what he says. I don't agree with him 100%, but he has my vote for Monk of the Year. He'll really make ya think....

I want to share a couple of my favorite excerpts from him.
This one's on our walk in life, and help in dissipation and sadness.

"What would one say of a man who, on a voyage, instead always going on without stopping, should pass his time anticipating the falls which he could make, and, when he does make one, in looking back to see the place where he has fallen? 'Go forward, go forward always,' you would tell yourself. I say the same thing to you. Go forward without looking behind you, and without stopping. 'Go forward.' says the Apostle, 'so that you are always in greater abundance." The abundance of the love of God, it is true, will correct you more than your own anxieties and your returnings wrapped up in yourself."
"Often sadness comes because, seeking God, we do not feel his presence enough to satisfy ourselves."
"Only be faithful in turning yourself simply to God, from the moment that you see your fault. You may well quibble with yourself. It is not with yourself that you should take your measures. When you take yourself to task for your wretchedness, I only see in your stand you alone with yourself. Poor council, in which God does not take part! Who will reach you his hand to get you out of the mire? Will it be you? Ah, it is you yourself who plunged you into it, and who cannot get you out.
  Besides, this mud is yourself. The whole basis of your trouble is that you cannot get out of yourself. Do you hope to get out of it by always communing with yourself, and feeding your sensibility by contemplating your weaknesses? You only make yourself pity yourself by all this introversion."
"The irreligious, in the midst of pleasures, have a strained joy, because they are never content with their condition. They would like to get rid of some distasteful things, and still to enjoy some delights which they lack.
  On the contrary, the faithful soul has a will which is not strained in anything. It accepts freely all that God gives it of sorrow. It wants it. It loves it. It embraces it. It would not want to leave it even if it only costs a single wish to do so, because this wish would be a selfish desire, and contrary to its abandon to Providence, which it wants never to anticipate anything.
  If anything is capable of enlarging and freeing the heart, it is this abandon."

Christian Perfection, page 95, Francois Fenelon

Pretty cool eh? It's a heavy read, I have to go over the words 8 times, but the thick language is inspiring and it drips with insight-fulness. Goodness... So, quit quibbling with yourself in selfishness... and seek only God's will...

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