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On Devotion

February 24, 2011

Lately it seems like everything’s been coming up St. Francis de Sales, and his classic book Introduction to the Devout Life in particular. It’s a book I’ve been curious about for a long time. I think my big sister (and godmother) gave me a copy in college. But I never read it.

Anyway, in recent weeks, it came up not only in this great blog post from Conversion Diary – 4 Ways to Place Yourself in the Presence of God – but also in conversation with several different friends and one memorable homily. So I cracked it open yesterday.

I’ve been really happy with the spiritual director I’ve been working with for about a year now. I’ve had spiritual directors before, but they never really worked out for me. I’ve learned that it makes a big difference having one specifically trained in spiritual direction (I didn’t even realize that there was a distinction until this last year). This spiritual direction is extremely helpful for me, but I find that I’m still catching up on some of the details, like a sense of what living a good, balanced life should look like and even, at times, finding the words to talk about what’s going on in my prayer life and things like that.

I’m only a few pages into the book so far, but it looks like it will be extremely helpful. These paragraphs spoke volumes to me on what exactly the concept of devotion means.

As there is only one true devotion while there are many imitations, unless you know how to recognize the true you may easily be deceived and waste your time in pursuit of what is merely false and superstitious…

One who is bent on fasting considers himself devout on this account even though his heart is full of bitterness. He fears to moisten his tongue with wine or even water, in the name of sobriety, yet does not hesitate to drink deep of his neighbour’s blood by calumny and detraction…

Another cheerfully opens his purse to give alms to the poor, yet will not open his heart to forgive his enemies; another will forgive his enemies yet will not pay his debuts until forced to do so by the law. Such people are often considered devout though they certainly are not…

Real living devotion, Philothea, presupposes the love of God; is in fact that very love, though it has many aspects. In so far as this love adorns the soul and makes us pleasing to God it is called grace; in so far as it empowers us to do good, it is called charity; when it is so perfect that it moves us, not merely to do good, but to do good carefully, frequently and readily, then it is called devotion…

In fact, then, devotion is nothing else but that spiritual alertness and vivacity which enables us to co-operate with charity promptly and wholeheartedly; and as it is the work of charity to make us keep generally and universally all God’s commandments, so it is the work of devotion to make us do so promptly and diligently. No one, then, who fails to keep God’s commandments can be counted either good or devout, for to be good one must have charity while to be devout one must not only have charity but practise it cheerfully and with alacrity…

In conclusion, then, charity is to devotion what the fire is to the flame, for charity is a spiritual fire which is called devotion when it breaks into flame, which, added to charity, makes it ready, active and diligent not only in keeping God’s commandments but also in practising the heavenly counsels and inspirations.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda Nelson permalink
    March 7, 2011 7:32 pm

    Hi Alicia, hope you and your family are well. I’m reading this book right now as well. In case you’re interested, every 1st Saturday at St. Stanislaus Canon Meney has been leading a book discussion on this. We’re only on the 3rd chapter if you want to jump in and join us. No pressure–just a thought:) It’s after the 900am mass. May Our Dear Lord and St. Francis de Sales bless your Lenten season.

    • March 10, 2011 4:17 pm

      Thanks so much for letting me know. Unfortunately it won’t work out for me. I’m sure it’s a wonderful way to study the book!

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