On December 3, author and professor Dr. Christopher Blum delivered a talk to the students and faculty of Christendom College titled “Charity’s Burning Lamp: St. Francis de Sales and the Renewal of the Catholic Mind.” Following the talk, Blum and Christendom history professor Chris Shannon signed copies of their new co-authored book, “The Past as Pilgrimage: Narrative, Tradition and the Renewal of Catholic History.”
Blum, professor and academic dean at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colo., began his talk with an overview of the challenges that St. Francis’ generation faced in light of the religious conflicts of the sixteenth century. He remarked that de Sales’ work and writings offered solace and guidance to a people undergoing great cultural and spiritual upheaval.
“To a Christendom wearied by struggle and bewildered by rapid change, he brought the calm, steady determination of the Gospel,” said Blum. “The challenges that we face today are much like those he confronted. The burning lamp of his charity can be a beacon to guide us through the labyrinth of secularist society and the labors of the new evangelization.”
Blum then spoke about de Sales’ apostolic life and labors, and the aspects of his teaching that most profit us today.
“For de Sales, there was but one end to be sought in life, the love of God,” Blum explained.
Blum examined the saint’s most popular book, “An Introduction to the Devout Life,” and pointed to it as one of the most important manifestations of St. Francis de Sales’ spiritual thought. He examined many aspects of the book, including St. Francis’ emphasis on the importance of patience, perseverance, and constancy in the face of tribulation. It is this patience in the life of virtue, said Blum, that St. Francis de Sales saw as key to living a life of charity.
“The wise and good bishop knew that for most of us, the life of charity is made up of daily victories in which we practice the little, creaturely virtues that spring from a humble trust in God’s Providence,” Blum concluded. “What is needed to rekindle the flame of our charity, he tells us, is a courage that is a little more vigorous and resolute.”
Following his talk, students gathered round Blum and Shannon to ask questions and to get their copies of “The Past as Pilgrimage” inscribed.
“This book grew out of our years working together at Christendom and reflecting on the philosophical nature of Catholic history in light of our shared experience in the classroom,” Shannon said. “It is our hope that this book will inspire Catholic scholars to think more deeply about the relation between faith and reason as it relates specifically to the teaching and writing of history.”
This insightful lecture by Blum can be downloaded at Christendom on iTunes U, christendom.edu/itunesu.