Book offers meditations based on Francis de Sales' letters

St. Francis de Sales.

When Dr. Christopher Blum first read "Introduction to the Devout Life," he knew that he would be personally indebted to St. Francis de Sales.

Inspired to read various other letters written by the saint, Blum decided to compile a book of meditations that would give readers advice for renewing their spiritual journey.

Printed by Sophia Institute Press, “Rose Among Thorns” is the first English publication in this form of St. Francis de Sales’ letters. The book, according to Blum, will help any reader who is “trying to be the rose among the thorns.”

“This book seeks to encourage Christians, particularly suited for people in the middle decades of their life, who are really in the thorns of life and struggling with the fact that they have been trying to live a good, Christian life for 30 years and don’t feel like they are saints yet. This book is speaking to that person. And since I myself am that person, I found it very helpful,” he told CNA.

A philosophy and Catholic culture professor at the Denver, Colo.-based Augustine Institute, Blum read thousands of St. Francis’ letters. He translated the letters from French and edited them for the meditations in the book.

“It was not as daunting procedure as you might think,” he commented, explaining that he filtered through and picked “only the passages that seemed most likely to be appreciated today.”

Blum wanted the letters of St. Francis de Sales to be read as if the saint was personally speaking to the reader.

“What I did in translating was to remove all the particularities from the letters, anything that would identify it as dealing with this or that person or private concerns, so now they really read like meditations,” he said.

The title “Rose Among Thorns” was a prominent illustration St. Francis himself used. “I think it is a nice image of spirituality, which he is famous for having pioneered,” Blum reflected, “that a life in the world for a Christian is life among thorns.”

The primary spiritual focus of the book is centered on meekness, which Blum explained is “a characteristic that is maybe a little hard for us to understand. We think that to be meek is to be personally unimpressive, or the wallflower at the dance.”

However, St. Francis describes meekness as a fundamental example of charity.

“St. Francis’ advice to cultivate meekness is really a concrete way of making us better prepared to express the joy of the Gospel that Pope Francis is calling us to,” Blum emphasized.


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September 21, 2014

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    “Paths to Just Peace: Interfaith Celebration of International Peace Day,” cosponsored by Pax Christi Southern California and Campaign Nonviolence, 12:30-5 p.m., Holy Spirit Retreat Center, 4316 Lanai Rd., Encino. (818) 784-4515

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