From Paul, servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion; and to give them the hope of the eternal life that was promised so long ago by God. He does not lie and so, at the appointed time, he revealed his decision, and, by the command of God our saviour, I have been commissioned to proclaim it. To Titus, true child of mine in the faith that we share, wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our saviour. – Paul to Titus
In 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke of these missionary saints in his general audience (part of the series he did on the Apostles, gathered in this volume and other similar titles by different publishers. Study guide that I wrote here.). After going over what Scripture and Tradition reveal to us about the two, he concluded:
To conclude, if we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of certain very significant facts. The most important one is that in carrying out his missions, Paul availed himself of collaborators. He certainly remains the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches.
Yet it clearly appears that he did not do everything on his own but relied on trustworthy people who shared in his endeavours and responsibilities.
Another observation concerns the willingness of these collaborators. The sources concerning Timothy and Titus highlight their readiness to take on various offices that also often consisted in representing Paul in circumstances far from easy. In a word, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, realizing that this also entails a service to the Church herself.
Lastly, let us follow the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the Letter addressed to him: “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men” (Ti 3: 8).
Through our commitment in practice we can and must discover the truth of these words, and precisely in this Season of Advent, we too can be rich in good deeds and thus open the doors of the world to Christ, our Saviour.
In case you missed it, Saturday was the memorial of St. Francis de Sales – and from today, here’s a good introductory post to that saint at the Word on Fire site from seminarian and blogger Joe Heschmeyer:
It would have been easy for him to give up, but by the grace of God, he didn’t. His persistence paid off. Over the span of a few years, fruit began to sprout up. Ultimately, the mission was a huge success, with nearly every one of the 72,000 souls living in the Chablais returning to Catholicism. Mackey describes it this way: “At the end of four years the whole country was Catholic, the parishes organized, churches being restored and scarcely one hundred Calvinists remained.”
This legacy continues to the present day, in the form of a continual Catholic presence. For example, the great Church of Saint Hippolytus, built in the 12th century, became Calvinist in 1536. Under the influence of St. Francis de Sales, it returned to the Catholic Church in 1594, and remains Catholic today.
So what contributed to the success of St. Francis’ mission to the Chablais? Certainly, his natural talents play some role, but I would suggest that God made great use of his charity and his persistence.
He combined a solid orthodoxy with an intense pastoral devotion. On doctrine, he wouldn’t move an inch; pastorally, there was nothing he wouldn’t do. In fact, he coined the saying, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” He lived out Matthew 18:12 in a radical way, going to extreme (sometimes life-threatening) ends to save even a few souls. He’s the Patron Saint of the Catholic press, because of the way that he used media (at the time, printed tracts and books) to evangelize when all of the other doors were shut, and to provide spiritual direction. He’s also the Patron Saint of the deaf, for an even more radical reason: in order to teach a deaf man about God, St. Francis invented a form of sign language.
After becoming Bishop of Geneva, he visited every one of his diocese’s 450 parishes, five abbeys, six conventual priories, four Carthusian monasteries, and five convents. Even those who disagreed with his theology couldn’t doubt his love for the people of God. Rightly has he been called the “Gentleman Saint,” and named the Doctor of Charity.