Today is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, while Tuesday is the feast of St. John Chrysostom, Thursday is the feast of St. Francis de Sales, and Saturday is the feast of St. John Bosco. These four feast days warm our hearts with grace during the cold winter days of January. We are still in Bethlehem with the Holy Family, even if the Liturgy remains quiet in this regard. During these days, we meditate on the power of the grace flowing from the Sacred Humanity of the Divine Babe.
In the Conversion of St. Paul, we see the power of grace and the freedom it brings as it commands and rules us. Only God, the Author of freedom, can command in a way that brings more freedom. In taking hold of the life of St. Paul as he traveled on the road to Damascus, the Lord Jesus, Who is God from God, sovereignly commanded Paul’s entire will freely to choose to serve Him. By a singular grace, He not only converted him, but even endowed him with the grace of being a true Apostle, witnessing the Resurrection even after He had ascended into Heaven. In the Conversion of Paul, we learn that grace does not limit or restrain our freedom, but rather that grace sets us free because God is the Creator of our freedom.
St. John Chrysostom testifies to the power and beauty of grace especially in his love for the moral sense of Sacred Scripture. Chrysostom is the great moralizer of the Bible, commenting again and again on that spiritual sense of God’s Word whereby we learn what we must do to grow in holiness and be saved. St. John teaches us that the fullest reading of the Gospel always includes putting the truths we encounter there into practice in our lives.
St. Francis de Sales teaches us the ways of grace by directing and guiding us in the pursuit of personal holiness. The famous author of the Introduction to the Devout Life is our teacher in the way of prayer and discipleship, teaching us the sweetness of the life of grace and the ease of the yoke of Christ. St. Francis shows us that the grace flowing into our hearts from the Christ Child is sanctifying and liberating, making us to be like Him in all things, Who became like us in all things save sin.
St. John Bosco, who named his religious congregation (the Salesians) after Francis de Sales, shows us by his own joyful following of the grace of Christ that the divine life flowing from the Infant Savior means that we put His teachings into concrete action by loving our neighbor. St. John made it his life’s work to give spiritual and material care for the orphans of Turin in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. He shows us that grace is real and that it really transforms minds and hearts and lives by making us to live in a new way in Christ.
These four saints, whom we celebrate this week, succeeded each other in history, living in different periods of time. They have in common their deep love for the saving grace of Jesus Christ, which is revealed still in these Epiphany days as we await His Presentation in the Temple and the Purification of His Most Pure Mother. Through their intercession, may we never spend a single moment of our lives outside of the grace of Jesus Christ, which is so necessary for salvation.
Fr. Joseph Previtali