"The Godfather" holds a certain fascination for me. I am mesmerized by the incredible acting and compelling story. What most intrigues me is the way the author juxtaposed the external life of affluence, influence and gentility with the violence, lies and crime that marked their livelihood. One of the most disturbing yet compelling scenes occurs during the Baptism of one of the family's children, interrupted with scenes of revenge enacted upon the enemies of the family. How is it that a man could take on the responsibility of being a Godparent in the sacred rite of Baptism while knowing full well that during that very ceremony heinous crimes were being committed at his command? It is unconscionable, even absurd, and rightfully repugnant.
As extreme an example as this is, it is not far from our own penchant for sin. We are surrounded by temptation and often succumb. Our "hidden lives" are in opposition to the life we present for public view. What begins as a small diversion can grow to proportions seemingly uncontrollable and engulfing. In the day-to-day realities of business and work there are lies, cheating, stealing, deceit, greed and broken trust, even among those called by Christ. It's as if we say, day after day, "this is business, not personal," implying a separation of holiness from the mundane realities of the lives of the laity.
For St. Francis de Sales, and for us, there is no separation of the call to holiness from the businessman, the housewife, the student, or the laborer. Virtue, prayer, and devotion are not solely the domain of the religious and ordained. We are called to elevate our work, our labors and our duties through true devotion to remove the painful realities of sin. He called the faithful to be acutely aware of their sins while courageously and consistently replacing them with grace and virtue. He encouraged slow, methodical purging of the effects of sin by first identifying them, then confessing them, and finally replacing them with holy devotion. First and foremost, we must examine our conscience:
"How can we fight against them unless we see them, or overcome them unless we face them? Our victory does not consist in being unconscious of them but in not consenting to them, and not to consent to them is to be displeased with them." (Introduction to the Devout Life)As we begin this novena let us follow the direction of the beloved St. Francis de Sales by calling to mind our sins and expressing true contrition to God. Let us consider our work and business dealings, our duties and responsibilities and discover where sin has tainted them. Let us lift up our voices in asking the Holy Spirit to help us conquer these sins through grace and devotion. Most especially, let us realize that our vocation in life is lifted up by humility, prayer and devotion, sanctifying our own lives and the lives of those we come in contact with.
"It is an error, or rather a heresy, to wish to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the mechanic's shop, the court of princes or the home of married people. [True devotion] not only does no injury to one's vocation or occupation, but on the contrary, adorns and beautifies it." (Introduction to the Devout Life)It's not just business. It's personal.