How do the words “father” and “daughter” affect a relationship with one’s spiritual director?
St. Francis de Sales began a letter in June 1619 to Madame Angelique Arnauld, writing:
“So I shall no longer be 'Monsieur' for you, nor you 'Madame' for me; the time-old, cordial and loving names of father and daughter are more Christian, sweeter and at the same time of greater power in that they bear witness to the holy love which Our Lord wants us to have for one another.”
There is something powerful in this identity we have as children of God. We are not merely things crafted by the Creator, but He has made us a family. Life is a journey of learning to obey our Father in order to properly navigate through this world.
In our latest chat, we will consider how these terms of father and daughter are theological in nature. We will discover how this is the basis for giving us the proper disposition for leaning on God’s mercy and learning to be properly joyful.
We will also discuss whether it is possible for someone to avoid even venial sins. And also confront the heresy of Jansenism. Read the chat below to learn more!
If you like the chat below, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday! We read a passage of St. Francis de Sales and then gather great insights and sharing!
"Father" and "Daughter"
Visitation Sister: Tonight’s topic sort of ties in with Father’s Day.
Question 1: What is the significance of these familiar terms, “father” and “daughter” that we use in our faith? Are they just formal niceties?
Caroline: They could be if they are just used as cultural titles.
Visitation Sister: But actually, they are theological, no?
Denise: Ok. I think of them more than niceties. They are endearing, closer to God’s love.
Visitation Sister: Based, of course, on our experience as humans.
Denise: Of course, they must be theological.
Caroline: They are theological too, but most people don’t know it.
Visitation Sister: Is that because of poor catechesis?
Denise: I would say yes.
Caroline: I think so–I know I complain about that a lot! People are responsible too to go study, but it also has to be available in the parish.
Visitation Sister: Daughter is somewhat more easily explained than father, I suppose. We are made in the image and likeness of God and adopted by God, and if we are female, then obviously daughters.
Denise: Yes, daughters.
Visitation Sister: Except that today even gender is questioned.
Denise: Not in my mind.
Visitation Sister: Or mine.
Denise: We must not cooperate.
Visitation Sister: But father is harder to explain, I suppose.
Caroline: We were created male and female. We also live in a fallen world where a person can be ill through no fault of their own. So, if a person’s biology is messed up, they will be too.
Visitation Sister: Yes.
Denise: I think of father as the head, as the one who orders.
Visitation Sister: Any kind of physical discomfort affects us.
Caroline: Yes, and then the final battle is over the family, and families are being torn apart.
Visitation Sister: Yes, we are in that battle now, Caroline.
God Is Pure Spirit
Question: Why do you believe God reveals himself to us as “father”? God is pure spirit (cf. John 4:24) and has no sex/gender. So, what does this term “father” mean? What can it teach us about biological/earthly fatherhood?
Caroline: Father is the source of life, which the mother receives.
Visitation Sister: He is the creator, from whom the persons of the Trinity proceed.
Denise: A good question.
Visitation Sister: Father is the head, but is that because in the godhead God the father is the one from whom the others proceed?
Denise: Yes. I believe this is true.
Caroline: Yes, I think so. But human fathers aren’t to act as though they are God with their wives and children.
Visitation Sister: Also true!
Caroline: Human fathers are the head, but they act in cooperation, not in dictatorship.
Visitation Sister: Good distinction.
Denise: But they do have the authority, from God the Father, to head the household, a distinct difference from the mother.
Denise: Spiritual authority over the household.
Caroline: Sure. I’m quibbling about the right way to exercise that.
Denise: I do not mean tyrant. I just see so much confusion. I recall an era when everything was turned upside down, and I suppose it is the same today still. Worse. Did St. Francis ever speak of a chastisement coming upon us?
Is the End Upon Us?
Visitation Sister: Not that I know of, no. He was an optimist too. Of course, I have not read all he wrote, much is not translated yet.
Denise: Yes, there is!
Visitation Sister: Where, Denise?
Caroline: I am amazed at how many people are posting openly about private revelation all over the internet.
Visitation Sister: Yes, and we were warned about that too. Though many of it all agrees.
Caroline: I’m wary of the ones that say they know the exact time. Jesus said not even he knows that.
Denise: There is a group called Divine Will, they have videos on YouTube and Vassula Ryden. I agree about timing. Jesus tells us to see the signs but does not say a time.
Caroline: Although he did tell St Faustina that this was the last chance for mercy.
Denise: Oh, he did, Caroline, thank you.
Question: Discuss St. Francis’s nuance of describing joy as “grave.” By grave he explains, “I do not mean gloomy, or affected, somber, disdainful or haughty, but I mean holy and charitable.” What does this mean?
Denise: Is grave meaning a deep joy?
Visitation Sister: Serious joy, I guess, not frivolous joy.
Patricia: Holy and charitable joy is grave in that it is a serious obligation, I think.
Denise: Something to think about Patricia. Is it an obligation?
Caroline: Yes, because joy is the opposite of despair, and despair is a sin.
Patricia: I think it’s an obligation for those who seek conscious contact with God.
Denise: Everything we receive is from God, it is his grace not our own. Except we are to cooperate with his will.
Is it Possible to Not Sin?
Question: Discuss this slight disagreement with St. Francis and this other priest about whether someone can go a day without committing a venial sin. Do you think this is possible or not?
Caroline: Probably not.
Denise: I believe it is true we cannot, be it in action word or thought.
Visitation Sister: One can have many negative thoughts throughout the day, whether that is a venial sin or not I do not know, but I do know that monks used to confess their thoughts to their spiritual father.
Caroline: The thought might not be a sin, but it could lead to sin if we are not watchful.
Patricia: We can probably not go a full day without at least a venial sin. This is why a trusted spiritual director is so important. The struggle is real.
Denise: It is quite real.
Visitation Sister: Yet so few go to confession, and many say they don’t have sins.
Denise: Yes, if we linger on a thought. Confession is so important. It casts aside the evil one promptly.
Caroline: Yes, examination of conscience is scary. Society tells us we are all good people, so we don’t have to worry.
Denise: I think of confession as a revealing of how the devil is working in us.
Caroline: Yes, I have. I still do sometimes.
Patricia: Examination of conscience should be daily, I think. Perhaps confession should also be daily.
Denise: Yes, Patricia, especially now.
Visitation Sister: Daily confession vs a person with scruples? How can one know which it is?
Denise: Oh dear. Good point, Sr Susan.
Caroline: Yes, because it could be either, are there any saints’ stories?
Patricia: Scruples may be more common than we think. We have to ask our confessor and abide by his word.
Denise: How easy it could be to fall into scruples!
Caroline: Far too easy!
Finding the Right Direction
Visitation Sister: So, the point Patricia made about the director is important.
Denise: If one has a director, or access. Either way, God will provide what we need if our desire is him.
Patricia: So, in this time of pandemic, how can we attend daily confession?
Denise: This would depend on a holy priest willing to shepherd his people.
Visitation Sister: Maybe in a monastery with a chaplain.
Caroline: Depends on the day and the speaker.
Denise: One parish nearby is very strict and obedient to the governor. Another parish has never abandoned the people, although early on took sensible precautions.
Patricia: True. In my case, getting to a monastery from my apartment is not possible alone. I would say that the pandemic persists, because I am still required to wear a mask at church.
Denise: Oh dear. I’m sorry.
Denise: To be near a monastery would be such a gift, I think. I think of it, going to Mass with sisters. It would be divine.
Visitation Sister: Our neighbors here like having us around.
Patricia: Indeed, it would!
Denise: They are surely blessed!
Caroline: I bet they do, Sister!
Visitation Sister: One woman told us that her guests remarked that her apartment seemed so peaceful, she answered that it is because of the presence of Jesus in the monastery.
Patricia: Oh, how lovely.
Caroline: He is doing it, and the neighbors don’t know.
Denise: The one parish I attend, the priest has begun offering adoration every day after Mass for one hour. And open for confessions. Every day. I believe this is grace from God and upon him for doing as God wills him as a priest.
Swayed by Jansenism
Question: The note in the text tells us that this woman eventually was swayed by Jansenism for a time. In brief, Jansenism is a belief that God’s grace makes an effect on us without an assent from our free will and that God can dictate our futures in this way. This is a heresy. What makes this wrong? Don’t we need God’s grace in order to do anything? How might God being father help dispel this idea of Jansenism?
Caroline: We do need grace for everything, but we must accept it, or leave Jesus standing at the door.
Denise: He will see us through this.
Patricia: I do trust that he will.
Visitation Sister: God bless each of you and have a wonderful feast of the Sacred Heart next Friday!
If you liked the chat above, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday!