Sunday, 24 January 2010
St Frances de Sales on Devotion
From the introduction to the ‘Devout Life’ by St Francis de Sales.
At the creation God commanded the plants to bear fruit each according to its kind and he likewise commands Christians, the living branches of the vine, to bear fruit by practising devotion according to their state in life.
The practice of devotion must differ from the gentleman and the artisan, the servant and the prince, for widow, young girl or wife. Further, it must be adapted to their particular strength, circumstances and duties. Is the solitary life of the Carthusian suited to a Bishop? Should those who are married practice the poverty of the Capuchin? If workmen spent as much time in church as religious, if religious were subjected to the same pastoral calls as a bishop, such devotion would be ridiculous and cause intolerable disorder.
Yet this foolish mistake is often made. True devotion never causes harm, but rather perfects everything we do; a devotion which conflicts with anyone’s state of life is undoubtedly false.
The bee sucks honey from the flowers without injuring them, leaving them as whole and fresh as when it found them. Devotion goes further, not only is it unharmful to any state of life, it adorns and beautifies it. Precious stones of all kinds when steeped in honey become more brilliant thereby, each one according to its colour, so every one becomes more loveable ad more perfect in his vocation if he combines it with devotion.
It makes the care of family peaceful, the love of husband and wife more sincere, the service of one’s king more faithful, and every task more pleasant and a joy. It is not only erroneous, but a heresy, to hold that life in the army, the workshop, the court, or the home is incompatible with devotion. Purely contemplative, monastic or religious devotion cannot be practised in these callings; yet these are not the only kinds of devotion; there are many others more suitable for those who live in the world and capable of leading them to perfection.
Wherever we find ourselves we may not only may, but should, seek perfection.