Our relationship with God must be reflected in our relationships with others . . .
Sr. Anne-Marguerite Potchen, VHN
In preparation for this evening, I spent some time in chapel praying and reflecting on how to develop my presentation, and the thought came to me to focus on the word “Legatus.” This is obviously a Latin noun: Legatus, legate … ah yes, ambassador!
Right away I thought of St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “You are an ambassador of Christ.” Now, I thought, I have something I can work with. Then the idea came to me to check for a website to find out more about the organization. I was obviously not the first person to whom the Holy Spirit whispered my new-found inspiration because on the home page I read: “Legatus, the Latin word for ambassador, exists to help you become an ‘ambassador for Christ’ (2 Cor 5: 20) and to help you meet the challenges of balancing the responsibilities of faith, family, business and community.” The bubble of my creative idea was burst.
As I reflected on it, though, the concept of ambassadors and Salesian Spirituality are definitely a good fit. Perhaps, this is true because St. Francis de Sales was often called to fill the role of ambassador for his Duke to the French court — as well as for his bishop to the Holy See.
An ambassador is a representative. Put another way, we could say that an ambassador makes present the one represented. As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to make Christ present to all around us. This necessitates a very personal response to the call to holiness of life.
Long before the Second Vatican Council, St. Francis de Sales underscored this call and response to holiness in his book The Introduction to the Devout Life. In it he writes, “Devotion must be adapted to the strength, activities and duties of each particular person.” The Salesian motto “Live Jesus” is a concise way of stating the Christocentric focus of St. Francis de Sales’ spirituality. We are to make Jesus live again on this earth. We are to be His ambassadors. In essence it’s a formation of the heart since, as St. Francis de Sales counsels us, “Whoever has Jesus in his heart will soon have Him in all his outward ways.”
This personal call to holiness is lived in context, not in isolation. It must touch all aspects of our daily lives. In an authentic manner, holiness is relational: Our relationship with God must be reflected in our relationships with others. Our lives cannot be lived in disconnected compartments; the integration of faith and the professional life lends a continuity and intentionality to all our activities.
When Catholic ethics and morals are considered, the life of Christ can be manifested through us in the choices we make, the conversations we engage in, the consistency of our decision-making and the manner in which we conduct business. In all our activities, we show Christ to the world: We are truly His ambassadors. Saint Francis de Sales’ most quoted scripture text is from St. Paul to the Galatians: “I live now, not I but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
This transformation of our lives into the life of Christ is rooted in an active prayer life. It is in prayer that the incongruities of our lives can be recognized and, with the grace of God, redeemed. In The Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales guides his directees to “reflect on the Lord and learn to speak, act, and will as He did. In this way you ‘put on the mind of Christ.’” Holiness seen from the perspective of our role as ambassadors of Christ is about daily witness in our families, businesses and acquaintances.
The concept of ambassadors of Christ in business shares common ground with the ideal of Salesian leadership. The founders of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary were both called upon to exercise leadership: St. Francis de Sales was the bishop of Geneva and St. Jane de Chantal, as a married woman, was a chatelaine and, as a religious, was the superior of several monasteries of the order.
The model of Salesian leadership is that of the loving servant, the Good Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep. The image of the Good Shepherd is one of a loving, caring leader who looks out for the best interest of the flock but also of each individual member of the flock as well. Authority in this type of leadership employs the power of persuasion. “All through love, nothing by force” is St. Francis de Sales’ method of governance. It’s a gentle yet firm way of leading others. Saint Francis encouraged others to “be who you are called to be, and be that well.” Salesian leadership empowers others to fulfill their potential as ambassadors of Christ.
So, although St. Peter is the patron of Legatus, perhaps you can claim the author of The Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales, as a spiritual guide as well!
Sister Anne-Marguerite Potchen, VHM, is a member of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, a contemplative order founded by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. Her community is based in Tyringham, Mass. This article is from an address she gave to Legatus’ Western Massachusetts Chapter on May 18, 2011.