We celebrate the feast of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal on August 12 each year. She was born in Dijon, France where her dad was the head of parliament. She was married at age 21 and had six children with her husband, Baron. Three of those children died in infancy, which makes her a beautiful holy friend for women who experience infant loss.
In their castle, Jane restored daily Mass and sought to serve her community with charitable works. After only being married for seven years, her husband was killed. She was left a widow with three young children to care for. She was depressed and unsure of what to do until she met Saint Francis de Sales who became her spiritual director.
After three years of spiritual direction, Francis wanted to start a religious community that welcomed women who were otherwise not allowed to enter other orders. These women would not be cloistered and would serve their community with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. There was pushback and the religious sisters ended up having to be cloistered.
Saint Jane continued to experience great suffering and darkness in her life as a nun. Saint Francis de Sales died followed by her son, her daughter-in-law, and son-in-law.
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal is a great friend for wives, widows, mothers, mothers who have lost children, and those who suffer. She is the patron saint of our work here at Be A Heart.
Saint Jane had many worries, anxieties, and fears. Her husband had been murdered and she had 6 children to care for on her own. In her morning prayer, she would envision herself floating on her back in the ocean and, one by one, letting each affliction to float away like a buoy into God’s hands. She would then go about her day trusting that God would care for her. Inevitably though, the buoy would return with the same fears, worries and anxieties so the next day she would practice the meditation again. Until the day when one buoy didn’t return and she was free from that particular affliction.
Find a comfortable position that you can sit for the next 15 minutes. Rest your hands in your lap and close your eyes. Pay attention to how you are breathing. Don’t change it just yet. Notice if your breaths are short and shallow or long and deep.
pause for 5 breaths
Now silently count to five as you breathe in through your nose. Hold the breath at the top for 2 counts and then exhale for five counts. Do this on your own five more times.
You can return to your normal breathing or if you’re enjoying the deeper breathing, happily do what your body calls for. With your eyes closed and your body relaxed, see yourself walking into ocean. Don’t worry, the water is warm and feels good on your tired body. Maybe in a net dragging behind you, you have heavy buoys of all the things you had to leave behind to join us today. It takes strength to pull them through the water. Worries of school starting or juggling kids and working from home. Worries of a sick parent or a sick child. Worries of your finances or job. Fears of the future. Sorrows of being single in this season of life. They are all weighing you down as you get deeper in the water. Now lay back in the water. Notice how weightless you feel with the water fully supporting you. The soft waves almost rock you. Take a deep breath and exhale as you relax more. For the next several minutes sit in silence and imagine that it is God holding you there in that water. His love for you is as big as the sea. He has room to hold your buoys for you.
Take them out of the bag, one by one, and release them over head. Tell Him what they are. Let the water take them as they float away from you.
As you have let go completely and let God hold everything for you, notice if your physical body is more relaxed. Has your shoulder tension released? There in the water, without that bag of buoys pulling on you, notice that God has plenty of room to hold everything for you. You are not alone.
For the last few minutes, rest in His gaze on you. Let your body fill with His joy and peace and love that we only find in Him. Let yourself really feel the love of the Father.
pause for three minutes.
As you open your eyes and begin to move your hands, remember that this is a place that you can always return to. Tomorrow your buoys will likely have returned and so you’ll have to let go of them again. It is a daily practice and one that unites us with our God who delights in walking with us. He lives within our hearts as tangibly as Jesus lived within Mary’s womb leading up to the first Christmas. If we cannot find peace along the journey, it will not await us there. As you go back into your life, may you be like Our Lady who brought hope to the world.
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Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash
If you have children, this is a good activity to talk about stress, worries, anxiety, etc. and show how God cares for us. Especially as children begin school again (maybe the first time back in a classroom in a year or more), it is never too young to teach them how to deal with feelings. Talk to them about how a buoy works and that you can pretend that each concern is a ball.
Get a beach ball (or any kind of ball) and have them float on their back. Ask them to think about something that is worrying them. And then ask God to take care of them, to keep them safe, to watch over their lives. And let go of the ball overhead. Have them watch as the ball floats away. God is like the big pool (or lake or ocean!) that can handle all of our daily worries.
Teach them that they can do this prayer in their mind when they want to pray!
And of course, if you don't have kids, you can do this yourself!
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