The founder of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Fr. Louis Brisson, believed that the Spiritual Directory of Francis de Sales was the key to interpreting all of Salesian spirituality. The Directory was a rule of life Francis designed for the early Visitation sisters. The rule helped people live in the presence of God at every moment of the day (rising, at meals, before going to bed, etc.). Fr. Brisson highlighted the importance of the direction of intention for the life of the Oblates, and for all people, as the key to performing every action in an attempt to live in conformity with God’s will. As stated for the Oblates (though it should be applied to all who seek to live Salesian spirituality), the instructions in the Directory for the direction of intention read,
“The Oblates who wish to thrive and advance in the way of Our Lord should, at the beginning of their actions, both exterior and interior, ask for his grace and offer to his divine goodness all the good they will do. In this way they will be prepared to bear with peace and serenity all the pain and suffering they will encounter as coming from the fatherly hand of our good God and Savior” (Directory, Article 1).
The direction of intention is a popular prayer in Oblate schools, parishes, and other ministries. Many people familiar with the prayer may wonder what it has to do with a concern for social justice. In an article written a number of years ago, Fr. Anthony Ceresko, OSFS, suggested a new way to interpret the direction of intention given the changed global situations of our time from the time of Francis or Brisson. While noting that Francis focused on individual actions and how those actions brought one closer to or further from God, Ceresko writes,
“Each action in some way possesses the possibility of moving this world and our human community toward a better, more life-enhancing direction or ever deeper into chaos and death…Over and above our “personal advancement in holiness,” each of our actions also involves us in God’s creative and salvific purpose for humankind and for the universe.”[i]
None of our actions occurs in a vacuum: all have an impact on our wider community. Ceresko continues,
“Through a “right intending” of our deeds, God becomes not only the constant companion in our everyday actions. God and God’s plan for our world and our human community becomes more explicitly the end and goal of everything in which we are engaged. Our personal transformation in terms of a closer union with God in prayer and in awareness of God’s presence in each action is joined to the potential of these deeds to achieve a transformation of human society and the creation of a more just and peaceful human community.”[ii]
Ceresko concludes his article with a new form of the direction of intention which he believes captures Francis’ intention and our responsibility as people who live in today’s world:
My God, give me your grace. I offer you all the good that I shall do in this action and all the pain and suffering to be found in it. Stay close to me and help me to see how what I am doing can advance “Christ’s blessed hold upon the universe.” Amen.
A commitment to peace and justice brings with it the reality of suffering: our own suffering and the need to enter into the suffering of other people. Ceresko has done a great service for us by demonstrating how traditional Salesian concepts and prayers can give purpose to our mission to promote justice, while also realizing the costs that any attempt to follow Christ carries with it.