Characteristics of True Devotion
by Rev. J.N.Grou, SJ
Translated by Rev. Samuel H. Frisbee, S.J.
[Editor's note: This material was published in 1894. Some editing was done
to make it more readable. You may find that it is too "traditional" at times;
however, if the author says something that makes you uncomfortable, this may
be a good issue for thought and meditation. For example, traditional
spirituality speaks about hating the world. What this means is hating anything
that draws you away from God. The earth itself was created by God and is good
(Gen. 1:31); the world is the "human world". Our appetites, our personal
desires that are not centered on God, are the problem. Living only for the
physical, for "worldly" things, and not the spiritual is a mistake.]
This text is presented, not because I personally accept everything the
author says, but because it shows how far someone can go in the spiritual
life, and the serious demands that life makes on us. We have received the
commandment from Jesus, in Matt. 22:37-38 "He said to him, 'You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all
your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment."
The question then is how do I love God with all my soul, heart, and
mind? Grou's discussion of devotedness to God can help to formulate an answer,
to show a way to effectively respond to Jesus' command.
Date of last addition: 6/19/98
TRUE DEVOTION DEFINED.
"WHAT is devotion? Each one defines it in his own way. To a
worldling, devotion consists in believing in God and in holding some principles
of religion. To a saint, it consists in being absorbed and lost in God. Between
these two extremes there is almost an endless number of definitions, which are
more or less exact as they approach one or recede from the other. To define it
exactly, I adhere to the word itself and to the idea which it expresses. The
word "devotion" comes from the Latin, and in our language it precisely signifies
the state of being devoted or a consecration. Therefore, to be devout is the
same thing as to be devoted or consecrated to God. It is upon the idea which the
term of "being devoted" offers to the mind that I shall ground whatever I have
to say on devotion, after having premised that, when God and our duties towards
him are in question, the word should be taken in its most serious and broadest
Now, in English as well as in Latin, we know no expression that
is stronger than that of "being devoted," in order to express intimate
attachment, absolute and voluntary dependence, affectionate zeal,-- in a word, a
disposition of the mind and heart of wholly submitting one's self to the will of
another, of anticipating his wishes, of embracing his interests, and of
sacrificing everything for his sake. Thus we say of a child, a servant, a
[citizen], that he is devoted to his father, to his master, to his [country]. We
also say that a man is devoted to ambition, or to any other passion, when he
only thinks of satisfying it; when he seeks every means, directs all his views
and enterprises to that purpose, and when it so absorbs him that he hardly can
pay attention to any other object.
The being devoted to God comprises all this in the very highest
degree; and it adds, besides, a consecration, in virtue of which he who is
consecrated belongs no longer to himself, --has no longer a right over himself;
but belongs by an act of religion, the most sacred and the most irrevocable, to
the Supreme Being to whom he has devoted himself.
Such is the idea which I form to myself of devotion, by
explaining the word according to its precise signification. The practice of it,
I own, has its beginning, its progress, and its perfection; but the act of
consecration should be full, entire, and perfect in the will at the very moment
in which it is formed. Without going further, and from this simple definition,
we may already judge how rare devotion is among Christians, and whether we
ourselves be devout.
WHAT WE OWE GOD; THE MOTIVES FOR
THE devotedness which we owe to God is singular in its kind; it
is founded on titles which appertain to him alone, and which he cannot share
with any one else. God is our first beginning and our last end. He has created
us, and he preserves us every moment. We are indebted to him for all the
advantages we possess both of soul and body: the heavens, the earth, and all the
good things we enjoy are the work of his hands and the gifts of his liberal
beneficence1. He disposes at pleasure of every event, and his providence has only
our welfare in view in all its designs and arrangements.
He has made us to know him, to love him, to serve him, and
thereby to [be welcome to live with] him through all eternity. [We were
e]nriched, from our very origin, with all the benefits of nature and of grace...
but having fallen from that supernatural state through the disobedience of our
first parents, God has reinstated us in it by an admirable invention of his
love: giving us his own Son, ... that he might have only mercy for
To the general benefit of redemption, add those blessings which
are particular-- [membership in] the Catholic Church, the true
religion2, a good education, so many graces of preservation, so many sins
forgiven, the tender reproaches and secret invitations to return to him, the
many marks, in short, of a special love.
God is our sovereign good, and, to speak justly, he is our only
good. As we have received all from him, so also do we expect all from him in
future, as we can be happy only through him. He is our King, our Lawgiver, our
Rewarder, the Supreme Arbiter of our destiny. Add to this what he is in himself,
the eternity and the infinity of his being and of his perfections. Crown all
this with what he is to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Pause now for a moment; reflect on each one of these titles,
which I have barely mentioned; weigh the force of each; estimate its full value;
appreciate the claims it has upon you, the sentiments it demands from you, and
the obligations it imposes upon you. After having considered each separately,
reunite them, and conceive, if you can, the immense extent of the duties which
they entail upon you. Measure the capacity of your heart; see if it could
discharge the debts which it owes to God, although it were to exhaust itself in
respect, love, gratitude, and submission; judge whether your devotedness,
[however far] you may carry it, will ever bear any proportion to so many claims
THAT EVERY OTHER DEVOTEDNESS SHOULD BE
TO THAT WHICH WE OWE TO GOD.
THAT every other act of devotedness, even the most lawful,
cannot enter into comparison with this is most evident. But besides, every act
of devotedness that should stand in opposition to it, that should in the least
[encroach] upon it, or even that were not entirely subordinate to it, would be
an outrage which God necessarily must condemn and punish. The homage, the
respect, the love, the obedience, which we pay to any creature whatever, are no
farther just and pleasing to God than he himself commands and authorizes them;
no farther than when they keep within the bounds which he has prescribed; no
farther than when they are referred to him, and are the expression of the
supreme homage, of the infinite respect, of the unparalleled love, and of the
absolute obedience which are due to him alone. The true Christian knows but one
devotedness, of which all the others are only an extension and an application,
namely, that which is due to God. He consecrates to him alone his mind, his
heart, and his body; for him alone does he breathe, think, and act; God is the
principle, the motive, and the end of all the duties he fulfills towards his
THAT THE FIRST OBJECT OF OUR DEVOTION SHOULD BE THE GLORY
AND THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS WILL.
THE first and grand object of devotion or devotedness (for I
shall make use of these two terms indifferently) is, then, the glory of God and
the accomplishment of his will. God himself, in all his works, can have no other
motive, and he does not allow a Christian to do so; rather, he absolutely
forbids him to substitute any other. We exist only to glorify God, and we can
glorify him only by loving and obeying him. This glory of God must hold the
first place in our thoughts and in our desires; it must be the spring of all our
actions. Every other intention, however good, however holy, should have in our
hearts only the second place.
This it is which our Lord teaches in the prayer he has given
us. The first petitions relate only to God and to the interests of his glory.
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name"; let all rational
creatures praise thee, adore thee, and... celebrate thy holiness; let them
imitate thee, in becoming holy themselves because thou art holy, and perfect as
thou art perfect; and be thou hallowed in them and by them. "Thy Kingdom come":
may all creatures acknowledge thee for their only Sovereign; may they establish
thee the absolute Master of their hearts, and may they invite thee to exercise
over them that supreme dominion of which thou art so jealous! "Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven". The angels and the blessed know no other law than
thy will; it is the principle of the order, of the peace, and of the charity
which reigns among them, and they place all their happiness in accomplishing it.
May it be the same here below among men; may they use their liberty solely in
submitting it, not only to thy orders, but also to thy good pleasure, and to the
appointments of thy adorable providence! Such ought to be the most intimate and
the most ardent aspirations of true devotion. Are they ours? Does the heart
accompany the lips that utter them daily? Do our intentions and actions bespeak
the sincerity of our prayer?
THAT THE SECOND OBJECT OF MAN'S DEVOTION SHOULD BE HIS OWN
THE REASONS WHY HE SHOULD SEEK IT.
THE second object of the truly devoted man is his own
sanctification. He wishes it effectually, not as an embellishment and as a
perfection of his soul, but as something which God has commanded, which is
pleasing to him, and which contributes to his glory. It is not to please himself
in his virtues that he endeavors to acquire them, but to please God. Indeed, he
is not anxious to know even if he is pleasing God ; but acting with uprightness
and simplicity, he looks not for any testimony to be given him of the worth of
his actions. In like manner, if he carefully shuns every sin and every
imperfection, it is not merely because it is a stain and a deformity of the
soul, but because it is an offense against God; a disorder that displeases the
infinite holiness and purity of his looks; an object that is odious to him, and
which provokes his indignation. Thus, while he is sorry with respect to God for
a fault committed, he is well pleased with the feeling of shame and humiliation
which this fault occasions in him.
He aims at holiness, not to appropriate it to himself nor to
possess it as his own property, but to offer it in homage to God, to give to him
all the glory of it as to the only source of holiness.
He wishes to become a saint, not in his own way and according
to his own ideas, but according to the views and the ideas of God. He is not
ignorant that his sanctification is much more the work of God than his own; that
far from being able of himself to do anything towards it, he would only spoil
the work were he to attempt to begin it. He knows that God must begin, continue,
and finish the work; that his part is only to leave the whole to the great
Artificer 3, to put no obstacle in the way, and to second the design of the First
Mover4 by his consent and co-operation.
Finally, he is not led to aspire to a sublime holiness by a
false elevation of sentiment, or by a jealous emulation of certain privileged
souls; but he only wishes to fill up the measure of holiness to which God calls
him; to correspond with the graces which he has received, and to be faithful...
[being] pleased at having received but one talent, provided he makes good use of
it, as if he had received two or even five.
THE THIRD OBJECT OF DEVOTION: OUR
THE third object of devotion, that which interests us the most,
is our own happiness. It is inseparably annexed to our being devoted to God. To
be happy is to be united to the Sovereign Good; and devotion commences this
union here below, in order to consummate it in eternity. Our happiness is also a
necessary consequence of our sanctification; for it is a fixed principle, that
what tends to render the soul better tends on that very account to render it
happier. Perfection and happiness are linked together as cause and effect. This
is true even with regard to God, in whom happiness is not so much a perfection
as it is the result of his in finite perfections. It is, therefore,
incontestable that devotion, rightly understood and rightly practiced, is the
source, and the only source, of the solid happiness that man can enjoy on
But this transient happiness is but a mere shadow when compared
to the eternal beatitude promised by God to those who have been devoted to him.
In providing for his own glory he has not neglected our welfare; on the
contrary, he will have our interest to depend on his glory, and that, in our
submission to his will, we should find all the advantages of both this and the
life to come. If devotion does not always produce such an effect here below, the
fault is not to be attributed to it, but to those who misconceive its nature and
err in its practice.
In the all-just and the infinitely simple ideas of the divine
mind, our sanctification and happiness are reduced to God's glory, and are
blended with it. Where God sees the glory which he expects from us, there he
sees our holiness, there our happiness. For this reason the truly devoted man
considers his sanctification as only a means of glorifying God, and his own
happiness as included in that glory of God of which it is the consequence. Thus
he makes this glory his principal object and the chief end of his actions from
this conviction that, even without thinking of it especially, he will become
holy and happy in proportion as he promotes God's glory. He does not exclude the
other two objects--God forbid! He even thinks of them often; but the first
prevails and overshadows, as it were, the other two.
It is not so with the ordinary devout man. The object to which
he gives the preference and his greatest attention is his salvation. He has only
this view in mind; he does what he thinks proper to assure it; he shuns what he
judges may expose it to danger. This is the measure of his holiness, and beyond
it he hardly proceeds. As to the glory of God, he seldom acts directly for that
end, though he will admit of nothing that may be opposed to it. Thus does the
love of his own interest, which he considers above everything else, induce him
to invert the order in which God wishes him to put these three objects. From
thence arise all the defects of his devotion.
QUALITIES OF TRUE DEVOTION TO GOD. OF THE SPIRIT OF
- LET us come to the detail of the qualities which
characterize devotedness to God. No one is ignorant that devotion is
supernatural, in [whatever] light we may view it: supernatural in its object,
which is God, known, not merely by reason, but by faith; supernatural in its
motives, in its means, and in its end; supernatural inasmuch as it is
impossible for man to conceive the idea of it by the mere light of his reason,
or to embrace it by the power of his will alone, or to put it in practice by
his own strength only; supernatural because far from being favorable in any
thing to corrupt nature, it combats it, and aims at reforming it.
- We can only, therefore, be drawn to devotion by the action
of grace, which enlightens the mind, solicits the will, and strengthens the
free-will. We can only maintain ourselves in it, advance in it. or attain to
the perfection of it, by the help of grace.
And as, exclusive of certain graces which entirely precede
the action of the soul, God grants others only by means of prayer; it follows,
that the first thing that devotion inspires is an attraction for prayer; or,
rather, it is itself that "spirit of grace and of prayer" which God promises
by his prophet 5 "to pour out upon" his people. It is a
"spirit of prayer, " that is to say, a disposition, an habitual tendency of
the soul, to rise up towards God and to unite itself to him, by adoring his
supreme majesty, by giving thanks for his blessings, by asking pardon for past
offenses, by soliciting the helps which are needful to our weakness. It is a "
spirit of grace," because this disposition and this tendency are the effect of
I say an habitual disposition which always subsists in the
depth of the will, which constantly keeps it bent towards God, and which, as
occasion or need requires, forms positive and formal acts, that are expressed
by word of mouth or by the heart. These positive acts cannot be continual; but
the interior affection, which produces and animates them, may and ought to be
so. And it is this habitual elevation of the soul to God which is meant by the
precept of Jesus Christ, "that we ought always to pray, and not to
- If you have this spirit of prayer, Christian reader, you
have true devotion. But you have it not yet if you are led to pray only by
duty or necessity, and not by relish and desire. You do not possess it if the
exercise of it be painful and repugnant to you; if it cost you a great effort;
if you find it irksome, and are listless, tepid, and willfully distracted in
it; if you count the moments; if you curtail it as much as you can; in short,
if you pay God as a bad debtor pays his debts. We may in this manner say many
prayers, through habit, human respect, and by rote-because the rule or our
state of life demands it [such as being a religious order] --without having
the spirit of prayer; nothing is more common.
- (Editors note: this warning is to everyone who prays. Night
prayers, meal prayers, attendance at Eucharist by lay people as well as by
those who have committed their lives to God as priests, deacons, monks or nuns
can be without a spirit of prayer. In this case, our prayer should be to pray
for the spirit of prayer so we will come to prayer and engage in it with
"relish and desire".)
THAT DEVOTION TO BE TRUE MUST BE
- THE spirit of prayer is evidently an interior spirit,
because it is a spirit of grace; the "Spirit which ask for us with unspeakable
groanings; the Spirit of the Son, which God has sent into our hearts, crying
Abba, Father"7 that is to say, implanting in us a filial affection, which is like a
continual cry of the heart towards God our Father. This divine Spirit dwells
in the inmost recesses of the soul, deeper than all else; and it is upon the
noblest faculties of the soul--on our understanding, our will, and our
liberty-- that it exercises its power. True devotion, therefore, is
essentially interior: it resides in the very depths of the heart, whence it
inspires good thoughts and sentiments. From within it diffuses itself without,
and gives life to all the exterior works of piety.
- What, indeed, would be a devotion merely exterior which
consisted only in words and vain protestations or, at most, in actions that
did not proceed from the heart? It would be but a phantom of devotion, which
might deceive men who judge only from appearances, but which could not deceive
God, whose eye penetrates the heart. Provided one renders useful services, men
pay little attention to the good-will of him who serves them. But what need
has God of our homage ! It is only pleasing to him inasmuch as it tends to his
glory8, and it alone conduces to his glory when it is sincere and springs
from the heart.
Devotion is also interior because it withdraws the soul from
the exterior objects that cause distraction, bringing it back to itself and
concentrating it in God, who causes his presence to be felt within. Hence,
devotion teaches the soul to restrain the senses, to regulate the imagination,
to suppress vain thoughts, to quiet emotions, to restrict its desires and to
collect all its strength, in order to keep itself united to the object to which
it is devoted. By this interior union with God, the soul sanctifies not only its
vocal and mental prayers, not only the practice of its duties and good works,
but also all animal actions, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, and such as
seem to be the most indifferent, as conversations and proper recreation, all of
which it refers to the glory of God, according to the advice of the
Devotion gives an experimental knowledge of that saying of
Christ, "The kingdom of God is within you,"10 words of which no one can comprehend the meaning but he who is truly
devout. God, by the operation of his grace, exercises this dominion over the
soul which is devoted to him, and renders it attentive to his voice, by which,
at every instant, he makes known to it his will. And as this voice is infinitely
delicate, and as it cannot be heard in the distraction, the tumult, and the
excitement of the passions, the soul that has once felt its charms, and knows
how beneficial it is to be docile to it, studies to keep itself in recollection,
in calmness, in certain interior solitude, and in the greatest attention, that
it may lose none of the instructions and admonitions which God may give. Thus a
servant devoted to his master, and who is always ready to do his will, never
permits himself to be distracted by other matters; he is attentive to the
master's words, tries to understand them, observes his looks, his gestures, and
the smallest sign of his wishes.
This attention should be continual, since the action of grace
on the soul is continual. It is a thread that directs the soul and which it must
constantly keep in hand, and which it cannot let go for a moment without going
astray. Thus whosoever has seriously given himself to God experiences that his
interior admonitions are continual and are very sensibly felt until he has
acquired a habit of acting in all by the spirit of grace. Then this spirit
having become familiar, and as it were natural, he follows it almost without
being conscious of it, but its influence on all his actions is only
Should it be objected, that so close and continued an attention
must be very painful, I answer, in the first place, that a truly devout [person]
will never make such an objection, it would never even occur to him. This is
clear to every one who understands the meaning of being devoted to God. I
answer, in the second place, that if it be painful, it is sweetened by love, and
that habit makes easy that which cost much in the beginning.
THAT DEVOTION SHOULD APPEAR IN EXTERNAL ACTIONS.--REASONS
WHICH PROVE THIS.
IT would, however, be a gross illusion to imagine that devotion
should be wholly interior, and, under pretense that God looks within, to
suppress vocal prayer and other external marks of piety. We are men, not pure
spirits. It is proper that the body should share in the homage of the soul, and
that our chief organs should be employed in the praises of God. We have received
them for this purpose, and it is the noblest use we can make of them. The whole
man should adore and pray.
Besides, the soul itself stands in need of being roused and
supported in its piety by what affects the senses. Hence the external
accessories of worship, the order and the majesty of the ceremonies, the
variations and harmony of music, the sight of pictures and of other pious
objects, are necessary means to entertain devotion. The respectful and humble
posture of the body, the bended knee, the folded hands, the eyes modestly cast
down or raised up towards Heaven, are so many expressions of reverence and
attention of the soul in prayer, which naturally and imperceptibly lead it to
accompany its feelings with these external signs.
Add to this the edification11 which we owe to our neighbor, who can only judge of our piety from what
appears externally. Again, as religion is the first bond of society, it exacts a
common, public, and consequently an external worship, in which men address the
same supplications and offer the same prayers to God, and animate one another to
sing his praises. The ecclesiastical ministry, which is of divine institution,
is also an evident proof of the necessity of an external worship.
There was never one truly devout, even in the greatest
solitude, who had not stated times in the day for vocal prayer. The interior
spirit itself inspires even those who are the most contemplative to make use of
Whether, therefore, we pray to God in public or in private, we
should so attend to mental prayer as not to omit that which is vocal. The former
could not long be kept up without the latter, and would infallibly degenerate
into a proud and dangerous idleness. It is as difficult to discharge properly
the duty of vocal prayer, unless it be joined to the practice of mental prayer,
which is the source from whence the interior spirit flows,--as it is difficult
for the soul to support itself in pure contemplation without the occasional aid
of vocal prayer. Even in contemplation, the soul frequently expresses its
affections and transports by words, looks, sighs, tears, and other motions which
are almost forced from it; and this proceeds from the union of soul and body and
from their mutual correspondence.
THE ERROR OF THOSE WHO EXCLUDE MENTAL PRAYER FROM
If it be an abuse to exclude vocal prayer from devotion, it is
a much more common fault to banish from it mental prayer. This may be excusable
[among] youth,... but is it pardonable in persons of riper years, and who are
better informed, not to know how to pray but with a book in hand! to imagine
that they are idle unless they move their lips, and that God does not hear them
unless they articulate their petitions, often loud enough, too, to disturb
[others]. How many pious [people] go to church, loaded with books, in which all
their devotion is contained! You see them take up one after the other to seek a
method of hearing mass,12 or for confession and communion. The acts and the formulas are ready
drawn up, they have only to pronounce them; and provided they have omitted none,
they think they have properly discharged their duty, and that God demands no
more. Nevertheless, the least act formed by the heart, the slightest feeling of
their own, would be more pleasing to God, and more beneficial to themselves. But
their heart is cold, dry, and empty; it says nothing amidst this rapid flow of
In vain do they allege that prayers ready made move them and
nourish their devotion. I can hardly believe it of those methodical acts, in
which are expressed in fine language sentiments that are foreign to those who
recite them, and perhaps to him who composed them. I admit that they move at
first on account of their novelty, and that the imagination is affected by them
much more than the heart. People tire after a time of forms that recur daily;
they cease to make an impression, and they are repeated mechanically and by
rote; then others are sought for which have no better effect. Soon all methods
are exhausted and the poor soul knows not where to turn.
Why not begin early the habit of recollection--of seeking in
the heart, as David did, the prayer which we wish to make to
God,13 of complaining to him of our coldness and insensibility, and of
conjuring him to supply our spiritual poverty? Would it be praying wrongly
humbly to acknowledge in God's presence our misery, to implore the assistance of
his grace! and if, at intervals, we feel some good sentiments, to ascribe them
with gratitude to the Author of all good!
When the source of devotion is in the heart, it is
inexhaustible; the affections which flow from it continually vary, and produce
each time a fresh delight. In order to express them there is no need of studied
speeches; the simplest, the most natural, and the most lively expressions
immediately present themselves. Even the silence of a heart touched and softened
is more eloquent than words; and frequently it has no other resource than
silence to show God all it feels.
Is it not clear that these methodical formulas of prayer
encourage idleness and dispense with the preparation for prayer which the wise
man enjoins.14 The opening and reading of the book is all the preparation [and is thus
[Some people say] they cannot meditate; their head will not
bear it. I own that meditation is painful to those who are not used to
reflection... [I]f they have a good thought it soon vanishes, and on this
account they make use of books.
If you tell them to keep themselves at rest, and gently to draw
down the dew from heaven by fervid and short acts, repeated from time to time,
they condemn this rest as a state of idleness, and express their aversion to
this manner of prayer; yet this is the prayer of interior souls. Hence, they are
not interior, and they dread to be so. Still, they flatter them selves that they
are devout, because they speak much and for a long time with God; but this only
serves to fatigue their lungs without inflaming the heart.
Let them say what they will, self-love guides their prayers;
they pray more to please themselves than to please God. Their object is to bear
witness to themselves that they have prayed; and they think they have a palpable
proof of it when they have recited so many forms of prayer that they lose their
breath. For the same reason many speak aloud, that the ear may be an additional
witness. St. Anthony, who doubtless was truly devout, was not of this way of
thinking; for being asked which was the best manner of praying, he answered, "It
is when we pray without being aware of it,"
THAT IT IS AN ABUSE TO MULTIPLY TOO MUCH THE PRACTICES OF
ANOTHER abuse of external devotion is that of multiplying its
practices so much that the day is hardly long enough to finish them. The old
methods are kept and new ones daily assumed. This constrains the mind and
encroaches on its liberty; it often trenches on the duties of one's state of
life, as action is left for prayer; or if both are tried at once, the attention
is so divided that neither is done as it should be. It is certainly good to
intermix some ejaculatory prayers with our occupations, and now and then to
suspend our work, in order to recollect one's self in God. But such prayers
should be short, and come rather from the heart than the lips.
Some persons whom I have seen here [in Paris] place all their
devotion in remaining a long time in church, in running to hear sermons, in
being present at every Benediction... [T]hey are burdened with so many practices
and prayers, that they need a confessor to relieve them, if they are not so much
attached to them that they will not consent to give up a single one.
Their intention is good. Each of these practices of itself is
good, but there is need of moderation in everything, and in pious exercises and
practices more than in anything else. Neither the mind nor the heart is kept
busy by such an accumulation of practices. The imagination alone is exercised,
and how lively, ardent, and unstable it is, especially among devout persons, is
well known. If the interior spirit did nothing else but regulate this excess,
and give rise to a devotion which is orderly, moderate, and reasonable, it would
be a sufficient reason to engage pious souls to embrace it.
THAT WE MUST GIVE OURSELVES TO GOD WITHOUT RESTRICTION
AND WITHOUT RESERVE
- TRUE devotion admits of no reserve. It consists in
surrendering ourselves wholly to grace, and in being resolved to go as far as
it will lead us. This absolute surrender to grace consists in removing all the
obstacles which are a hindrance to its action as soon as we know them; in
following it step by step with an exact fidelity, and never anticipating it
nor rushing into any of the excesses of an indiscreet fervor. People are
liable to this fault in the first transports of their ardor. Several saints
have blamed themselves for it, and in particular St. Bernard, who ruined his
stomach at an early period by excessive abstinence. There is also often in
this temptation of the devil, who, on our entering the spiritual career,
endeavors to exhaust our strength, that he may prevent us from finishing it,
and even make us turn back. We shall, however, be in no danger of falling if,
in regard to fasting, vigils, and especially corporal penance, we consult a
wise [spiritual] director15 and follow his advice...
- It is now always a bad will that prompts us to make secret
reserves [i.e. limits] to our devotion... The usual cause of these reserves
is, that, seeing before us the vast career of sanctity, and consulting only
our present strength, we judge ourselves incapable of continuing to the end.
We, therefore, enter upon it because we are of good will; but we form a plan
for ourselves, conformable to our actual weakness, to which we mean to confine
ourselves without going farther.
- This is a gross error which proceeds partly from ignorance,
partly from a self-love desirous to spare itself, and partly also from the
devil, who is jealous of our progress. We ought to bear in mind that grace is
the only source of our strength; that it will increase in proportion as we are
faithful; that God always measures the greatness of his helps by the greatness
of the difficulties: so that, the more we advance, the greater is our ardor to
run, and the more easily we surmount obstacles. What should we say of a child
who, not reflecting that his strength will insensibly increase with age,
should measure, according to his present weakness, the burden which he is to
carry when he becomes a man, and would not believe that he then could carry
twenty times more!
- Whosoever you may be, then, who mean to give yourself to
God, give yourself to him wholly and entirely. Do not make terms [or
conditions or limits] with him. Fear but one thing-that of not being generous
enough. Be persuaded that the least reserve will weaken you, even in those
things which you freely consent to do; and, on the contrary, your burden will
be the lighter the less you seek to diminish it. This will seem a paradox only
to him who does not consider that God displays all the power of his grace in
favor of a noble and generous soul, who spares no pains to please him; and
that a narrow and contracted heart constrains him, in spite of himself, to use
reserve on his part.
- It is not my purpose to explain, in detail, what it is to
have no reserve with God, nor what kinds of reserve are openly or secretly
blended with most devotions: this would exceed the narrow limits of this work.
Practice will teach souls of good will more than it would be possible for me
THAT TRUE DEVOTION ADMITS OF NO
- TRUE devotion admits of no division-- "The Lord thy God
shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve."16 Such is the law of devotedness. Adoration,which comprises the homage
of the mind and of the heart, excludes all reserve; and the service which
belongs to God alone excludes all division. Every other service besides his is
only lawful inasmuch as it flows from and depends upon his service. Christ has
declared that no one can serve two masters,17 such as God and the World, whose wills are contrary, whose laws are
opposed to one another, and consequently whose service is incompatible. God
wants all for himself; the world also wants all for itself. There is no
possibility of reconciling their pretensions, which are mutually destructive
of each other. I, therefore, must make a choice, and if I love the one, I must
hate the other; if I obey one, I must despise the orders of the other.
- How is it possible to misapprehend so obvious a truth? And
yet almost all who aim at devotion undertake to reconcile the interests of God
with those of the world; they pretend to unite in the same heart the love of
God and the love of the world, and by wishing to belong to both they belong to
neither. We might say of all such what the prophet Elias said to the
Israelites: " How long do you halt between two sides! If the Lord be God,
follow him; but if Baal, then follow him."18
- People think that they no longer side with the world because
they have renounced what is criminal and evidently dangerous in it. They are
no longer slaves to voluptuousness19, which is the chief divinity of the world; but they are still slaves
to [self-]interest and false honor. They follow in regard to these two objects
the maxims which are reproved by the Gospel, making a great account of riches,
of nobility, of dignities, of whatever elevates and distinguishes them; loving
or desiring these things, either for themselves or for those dear to them;
envying them in others and using every endeavor to preserve them or to acquire
them. On a thousand occasions they adopt the judgment of the world and conform
their conduct to it. They are jealous of its esteem and are afraid of losing
it by declaring themselves too openly in favor of piety, and they retain it at
the expense of virtue in spite of the reproaches of their conscience. They
dread its censure and ridicule, and they manage to shield themselves from it;
thereby the service of God suffers. They are tormented and violently drawn on
both sides; human respect enslaves them and keeps them continually in mortal
agonies. They wish to belong to God, and blush at being thought to belong to
him; they pray to him by stealth, and as carefully conceal themselves in the
discharge of their duties of piety as if they were doing some bad action. What
slavery ! What torment ! But, at the same time, what infidelity, what
cowardice, what perfidy!
- Is this being devoted to God? Does he then deserve to be
served only in secret? Is it a shame to acknowledge him for our Master? They
do not wish to attract notice, they say. If by this they mean making [a]
parade of their devotion, displaying it with pomp and ostentation, seeking to
be seen and applauded in the good works they do, they are right, and they
observe the precept of the Gospel.20 But between such display and trembling
through fear of being looked upon as a servant of God--as one devoted to the
glory and the interests of so great and so good a Master--there is a middle
way. This consists in going on freely and frankly in our duties, without
taking heed whether we be noticed or not; in following the dictates of our
conscience uprightly; in paying to God, without affectation, but always
openly, the homage which he expects from us for his own glory and for the
edification of our neighbor, and in doing in secret only that which he himself
wishes that we should conceal from others.
- The truly devout man well knows how to keep this middle
path. He is not afraid to have it known that he serves God with all his heart,
and that he holds the world in contempt and abhorrence. He plainly expresses
this when and where it is necessary, and when he ought to trample under foot
all human respect. But he is not less careful to conceal certain practices of
piety, certain good works, of which he wishes that God alone should be
witness. Thus does he reconcile what Jesus Christ says: "So let your light
shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father
who is in heaven,"21 and what he says in another place: "When you pray you shall not be as
the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of
the streets, that they may be seen by men. But enter into thy chamber, and,
having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret." He has always in his mind
the sentence pronounced by our Savior: " Every one that shall confess me
before men, I will also confess him before my Father; but he that shall deny
me before men, I will also deny him before my Father." 22
- I know that there are cases in which prudence authorizes
caution. ... There are cases where the deference which is due to a father, to
a husband, ... who may be unfavorable to piety, requires that we should
carefully hide from them what might offend or irritate them. This was the
practice among the early Christians in their domestic persecutions. For the
sake of peace they did not declare themselves to their parents, their masters,
or their pagan friends; the brother shunned the look of his brother who was
watching him, the wife that of her husband, and, in general, the faithful that
of the unbeliever. Today, more than ever, there are occasions in which we
ought to observe the same line of conduct. About this we should consult a
prudent confessor and follow his advice.
- But when we are not responsible to any one for our actions,
and the most we have to fear is the powerless censure of the worldly, we
should not hesitate to bid it defiance, boldly to stand up, and openly to
declare what we are, and what we mean to be. Are the
partisans23 of the world afraid to show themselves? Were we ourselves afraid when
we were of that number? The shortest way is to break with the world
absolutely, heart and will; to assume a manner of seeing, judging, speaking,
and of acting entirely opposed to it; to have no other relations with it than
those which are indispensable and compatible with the most delicate piety, and
in other respects to renounce its commerce, its pleasures, its esteem; to be
above its censures, and to rejoice like the Apostles24 and all the true disciples of Jesus Christ, that it should criticize,
blame, despise, calumniate, and persecute us.
- Our devotedness to God demands these dispositions of us, and
it will produce them in us if it be sincere. When one has taken this part with
resolution, he is soon rewarded, even in this life. He is loosed from many
chains, outwardly free and inwardly at peace. God is satisfied, conscience
makes no reproaches, and the world itself admires and approves the contempt he
has for it.
THAT DEVOTION IS FOR PERSONS OF EVERY
- TRUE, devotion belongs to every age and to every condition;
it extends to every situation and to every action in life. As soon as the
Christian comes to the first use of reason, he [should] consecrate to God his
earliest thoughts and his budding affections. It is of these first-fruits God
is the most jealous, as right order demands that the devotedness of our
childhood to God should be the first-fruit of the development of the soul. In
that happy age when all is candor and innocence, the more the mind is
disengaged from prejudices, the more the heart is free from passion, the purer
is the conscience, the more also is the child susceptible of a sincere,
tender, simple, and ingenuous piety. " Suffer the little children to come unto
me,"25 said Christ. They are unconscious of malice; the world has not
seduced nor perverted them; they are free from all stain ; their newly-created
soul is flexible to all the movements of grace. The kingdom of heaven is so
adapted to them that, in a more advanced age, in order to enter into it, we
must become as much as possible little children.
- [Young people], give yourselves, therefore, to God, and
respond to his sweet invitations... It is to you particularly that it is said:
"O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in
him." Ps. 34:8 NRSV. Let yourselves be early inebriated with his divine love.
This will preserve you from the flattering but poisoned liquor which the world
will one day put before you.
- And you parents, and you who have the charge of children or
direct their consciences, hasten to bend them under the yoke of the Lord.. It
is good to have carried it from the earliest years; the soul then is easily
fashioned to it, and should it in future unfortunately shake it off, it will
more readily take it upon itself again.
- The more we advance in the light of reason, the less
excusable we are in refusing to devote ourselves to God. The passions, it is
true, begin to solicit indulgence, and their tumultuous clamors tend to drown
the voice of grace; but in their first uprisings they are easily silenced, or,
at least, it is easy to preserve the heart from their seduction: pious
practices, good books, good instruction and examples, and the frequent use of
the sacraments, will baffle all their attempts.
- The age of manhood, when reason is in its vigor, the heart
more consistent and the character more settled, would be the fittest time for
grace to act upon the soul and incline it to devotion, if the cares of life,
the thorns of ambition, and bad habits formerly contracted, were not
obstacles. But there is no obstacle which an upright mind and a resolute will
may not overcome [with God's help]. Upon what plausible pretext can a
Christian dispense with devoting himself to God, in that period of life in
which he sees more clearly than ever the necessity and the advantages of so
doing! If he be then more seriously taken up with his temporal concerns, is it
not just that he should think of that permanent settlement which his labor
ought to procure for him in heaven! that he should direct to that object,
which is the only one of real importance, all his projects and all his
- In old age, when the passions, having become extinct...;
when experience has dispelled the charms and illusions of the world; when
objects make but a faint impression on the enfeebled senses; when infirmities
and decay warn us of an approaching dissolution, and that we are on the brink
of eternity,-- everything invites, everything urges us to give to God the last
moments at least of life, and repair, as far as can be, by a fervent and solid
piety, the loss of so many years of which we have robbed him by a shameful and
perhaps criminal course. There is no more time for delay, death is rapidly
approaching; it will be too late when the last sickness surprises
- The levity of childhood, the impetuosity of youth, the
private and public occupations of riper years, the debility of old age cannot,
then, be considered as reasons for dispensation, or any excuse. We cannot but
conclude that every age has its own difficulties and that tin every stage of
life, if we mean to belong to God, we must do violence27 to ourselves.
THAT DEVOTION EXTENDS TO ALL CONDITIONS OF
- THE same judgment must be formed of the various states in
society. Each one offers a favorable and unfavorable side to devotion, and
none has any just cause for exemption. Greatness has its dangers for
salvation, from which no one can be preserved without God's special
protection,-- a protection we have no right to expect but in proportion to our
devotedness to his service. Offices of public trust bring great obligations,
and expose us to great temptations. How can we expect to discharge these
duties and overcome these temptations without solid devotion? Cares and
occupations multiply and hardly leave us time to breathe; but, if the heart be
with God, we shall find ourselves free in the midst of all these troubles,
they will even become so many occasions of testifying our obedience and our
- How many have sanctified themselves in military life, where
the obstacles seem insurmountable ! How many in the magistracy ! How many even
whilst entrusted with the public funds ! I except, indeed, some states in
themselves opposed to salvation and proscribed by the Gospel, in which no one
is obliged to engage which are only tolerated in well-regulated governments.
But, such excepted, I boldly advance there is no state of life in which saints
have not been formed, and actually are formed today. Would God, the Author of
the different states of society, have established one in which it were morally
impossible to be saved? If in some there are greater difficulties, there he
has given greater help, as all those who have abandoned themselves to his
guidance have happily experienced.
- Devotion is also suited to every situation. It is equally
beneficial and equally necessary in health and in sickness, in prosperity and
in adversity, in wealth and in poverty, in joy and in sadness, amid the good
things of this life and when overwhelmed with its evils;--amid the good things
that we may guard against their abuse, amid evils that we may be enabled to
support them. As these evils are incomparably more common here below than the
good things, and as all human resources are oft times insufficient, it follows
that devotedness and submission to the holy will of God are the only solid
comfort which remain to a Christian amidst afflictions and crosses, whatsoever
maybe their nature.
- Finally, devotion, by its very nature, extends to every
action; and there is not one which it is not calculated to sanctify. [Ours]
would not be a perfect devotedness, [if we] did it not subject to God's
dominion whatever can be subjected to it... It is God's intention that all
[our actions] be referred to him, and that they be done for his glory.
Therefore, the truly devoted [person] consecrates them all to him without
exception, and by this consecration sanctifies them. He knows that where a
rational being should act according to reason, a Christian should act
according to [his faith]; that it is not sufficient to act in the state of
grace, but that he moreover ought to act in addition through a principle of
grace; just as, in order to act reasonably, it is not enough for a man to have
the use of reason, but he must apply it to what he actually does. This
principle, which is unquestionably true, will lead us a great way, if we take
pains to examine it.
- It therefore is a mistake to fancy ourselves devoted because
we daily acquit ourselves, almost by routine, of a certain number of pious
exercises, whilst in other respects we live at our ease, indulging without
restraint all kinds of thoughts, actions, and desires, provided they have
nothing criminal in them. God, in this way, would only be attended to at
certain times in the day, and the rest would be at our own disposal. But this
is not as it should be. Every moment belongs to Him; He will have us employ
all our time in a manner worthy of him and of our Christian profession. We are
not at liberty to dispose of time at our own pleasure; to waste it... The
duties of our state in life, our work, and some ... relaxation that may be
allowed to nature, ought to fill up the vacant hours of the day; but nothing
ought to interrupt that incessant prayer of the heart, which Jesus Christ and
the Apostle have recommended to us. The object of [our prayer] is to draw down
the blessing of God upon our actions, in which his grace is the more necessary
the more we are exposed to dissipation28, to act from merely human impulse, and to commit many faults which
often escape our notice. (Editor's note: An even more important object of our
prayer is to draw us closer to God, into a relationship that is first like a
friendship, then a love more like the devoted love of a spouse. This may also
have the result of drawing us away from "dissipation".)
THAT LOVE IS THE ONLY FOUNDATION OF
- Love alone can produce devotedness. It is love that gives it
birth, growth, and perfection; and the practice of devotedness in turn
nourishes and strengthens love. We may define devotion, [as] 'the love of God
reduced to practice'... [Think of something to which you are devoted, a
person, an idea or cause, a hobby or interest. Think of the time, money and
effort you spend on it. How much] more affectionate, more eager, more ardent
and generous ought [we be in our devotion to God]? (As an example think of
those devoted to Star Trek, or football. Think of how much someone immerses
themselves in their interest?)
- When He [God] commands us to love him with all our heart,
with all our soul, with all our strength ( Matt. 22:37), does he not
equivalently command us to be entirely devoted to him?... [A] failure in [our]
devotion is a failure in the observance of this precept; and we may apply to
devotion what is said of love of God, that it is 'the fulfilling of the
- Hence perfect devotion, like "perfect love casts out
fear..."30 Fear sees in God a Master, a Judge, an
Avenger, and serves him in this character; devotion sees in him a Father whom
[we]... respect and obey because [we] love him. (Serving God out of fear and
terror is actually a selfishness. The fearful avoid sin not because it
disappoints a loving father but because they fear punishment. They want to
avoid hell, not because they would be separated from their loving Father, but
to spare themselves eternal sorrow and pain.)...
- Grou, pp. 19-100.
ON FATAL EFFECTS OF SELF~LOVE DEVOTION.
- [What] becomes of all those devotions of which
self-love30b is the basis? How false they are! How deceitful and yet how common! I
do not speak of that gross self-love which is the parent of passions and
vices. I speak of a spiritual self-love which glides artfully into pious
practices,-of a self-love which has also its capital vices; which is proud,
avaricious, envious, voluptuous, greedy, vindictive, and slothful; which is
blind also, and the more dangerous as the objects to which it is attached are
- In fact, are those devoted people rare who nourish a secret
pride, and who, like the Pharisee in the Gospel, are full of self-esteem and
contempt for their neighbor? who appropriate to themselves the graces and the
gifts of God and dread nothing so much as to be stripped of them; who envy
those whom they think to be more favored or more advanced; who relish with
passion heavenly consolations ; who are greedy of them and insatiable; who are
passionate, full of hatred, gall, and malice, and all, as they imagine,
through a zeal for God's cause; in short, who are given to remissness,
effeminacy, idleness, and to all that is flattering to nature?
- I own that in the beginning, and even in the progress of the
spiritual life, we are more or less liable to these excesses on account of our
natural imperfection. Self-love finding itself deprived of temporal comforts
on entering into the path of piety, has recourse to those which are spiritual.
It seizes them and desires to make them its prey, attaching itself to them all
the more strongly as they are of a more excellent nature. But the man truly
devoted constantly labors to oppose self-love, to pursue it from place to
place and to dislodge it from every quarter where it may take refuge. This
warfare is his main object, and he thinks that he fails if he relaxes ever so
little or grows faint in his attacks. As the spirit of religion detaches a man
from temporal things, the spirit of devotion detaches him from spiritual
things, for it does not allow him to take complacency in them, nor to ascribe
them to himself, nor to claim any right to them, but it leads him by degrees
to renunciation to divest himself of these objects and to be in perfect
poverty with regard to them. He has everything and is attached to nothing. God
gives and takes as He pleases; and he is neither afflicted nor elated.
- The opposite vices do not show themselves at first on
account of their subtlety; but in proportion as we advance, divine light
teaches us to distinguish them, and all our fidelity consists in drawing down
upon us this light, in receiving it with gratitude, and in using it for our
amendment. Before we can entirely up root these delicate views, it will cost
us long and painful efforts. We will stand in need of great courage; we must
use extreme violence to ourselves30c,-it will be the work of our whole life. But at last, if we correspond
with grace, we shall effect it, and we shall free ourselves as much as
possible from the tyranny of self-love. God, who sees our good-will, by
sending us merciful trials, will accomplish what of ourselves we could not
THAT DEVOTION GIVES BIRTH TO CONFIDENCE.
THE GOOD EFFECTS AND NECESSITY OF THIS
- DEVOTION, being the daughter of love, is the mother of
confidence; for the more we love God, the more we confide in him; the one is
the rule and the measure of the other. The love of God is not a blind love,
but a love founded on the knowledge of his infinite goodness towards his
creatures. It is this knowledge which leads us to commit to him all our
interests, never to mistrust him, to believe, in spite of his apparent rigor,
that he means to save us, and that, in fact, he will save us if we preserve
our confidence. "Throw yourself into his arms," says St. Augustine; "he will
not withdraw and let you fall." I add to this thought of the holy Doctor,
that, should he seem sometimes to withdraw himself from you, it is because he
means to try you and to see how far your confidence will extend, in order to
increase your reward. As this virtue is that which honors him the most, it is
also that which he exercises the most, and in strong and generous souls he
pushes the trial to the last extremity.
- Confidence is a mean between two opposite vices: presumption
and pusillanimity, both of which proceed from the same source: self-love. We
are presumptuous when we rely too much on ourselves. We are pusillanimous
when, relying only on ourselves, we realize how weak is our support. The
presumptuous man says: "Nothing will ever shake me." The
pusillanimous30d says, on the contrary: "The slightest breath will upset me." The man
possessing confidence, considering himself, admits with the pusillanimous that
a trifle can upset him; but, looking up to God, he adds that nothing is
capable of shaking him. He thus unites both sentiments, which, being
separately vicious, become a virtue when joined together.
- Nothing is more necessary or more frequently in demand in
the career of devotion than confidence. God delights in exercising Our faith.
He constrains us to shut our eyes and to walk in the dark. He apparently
bewilders us, so that we no longer know where we are nor whither we are going.
He makes us lose our foot hold, takes from us all knowledge of our interior
state, forbids us all reflection on Ourselves; and, if we look out for any
assurance, he leaves us a prey to the keenest anxiety. Why does he thus deal
with us? To force us to renounce the conduct of ourselves and to abandon
ourselves entirely to him.
- What would become of faith, and of what use would it be,
were we always clearly to see the state of our soul; were we in formed of the
reasons for which God wills or permits the events which befall us from time to
time, and were we able to trace step by step the way and the progress of his
operations? The confidence of the blind man in his guide is grounded on the
fact that he himself is not able to see. The more unknown to him the road
through which he is led, and the more dangerous and surrounded with
precipices, the greater is the confidence shown; and thus he shows no
solicitude, he makes no inquiries, as he is confident of not being misled and
of being safely conducted to his journey's end.
- On our devoting ourselves to God, our confidence in him
should be boundless. To withdraw it, under any pretense whatever, is to take
ourselves back and to become our own leaders. To fix it within certain limits,
which we are determined not to exceed, is to put a restriction to our
devotedness. Now nothing is more injurious to God, or more prejudicial to our
spiritual profit. Is it not to doubt the goodness of God or his infinite power
to believe either that he will not or cannot rescue us from all the
difficulties, and from the greatest dangers in which we engage ourselves upon
his word and through a blind submission to his guidance? It is absolutely
impossible that God should fail such a soul, and that he should not succor it
opportunely; that would be to fail to himself. But it belongs to him alone to
judge how far the trial is to go, and to mark the precise moment in which he
will afford relief. Let us, therefore, abandon ourselves to him, and let us
say with Job, "Although he should kill me, I will trust in him." Job xiii.
- Grou, pp. 100-106.
THAT DEVOTION BEGETS SELF-KNOWLEDGE, AND CONSEQUENTLY
- DEVOTION does not lead less to self-knowledge than to the
knowledge of God; and as confidence is the fruit of the knowledge of God,
humility is likewise the fruit of the knowledge of one's self.
- Man does not and cannot know himself well by the light of
nature alone; and it is through the want of this knowledge that he is proud.
But the moment he devotes himself to God a heavenly light shines upon him and
opens his eyes; he begins to see himself such as he is: full of miseries,
weak, repugnant to all good, and prone to all evil.
- Recollection rendering him attentive to himself, he soon
learns that he has two natures, one the enemy of the other, and that the
spiritual life is but a series of combats in which he must engage and do
violence to himself. Experience instructs him still better. On trial he finds
how difficult it is to overcome himself and to struggle against his evil
inclinations; how much time and labor it costs him to correct the smallest of
the faults into which he frequently falls; how painful the practice of virtue
is, however much be the love which he has conceived for it ; what resistance
he makes to grace: into what slothfulness, negligences, infidelities he falls
daily; how frail his will is, how weak his resolutions, how fruitless his best
desires; what power the world, the flesh, and the devil have over him; and
how, without a special and continual assistance from God, he would fall at
every instant. [Editor's note: However, one should never give up or be
discouraged. Salvation is a free gift of mercy and love. No one will ever
deserve heaven; it will be God's gift. When we respond to God's love with our
own, we discover how meager is our capacity to love Him. Nevertheless, the
journey itself is important. Whether any one would consider us to be
successful in our spiritual journey, God will bless those who are engaged in
the journey, those who seriously try to put God first.]
- Grou, pp. 100-101.
MORTIFICATION31 OF THE SENSES,
ANOTHER QUALITY OF DEVOTION.
- DEVOTION is no less the friend of mortification than of
humility; indeed, humility is really the main branch of mortification, its
object being to make us die to...[the] love of our own excellence. The other
two branches are the death (I) of the inordinate affection which we have for
our bodies, and (2) of the natural propensity which leads us to do our own
will in all things, and to refer everything to ourselves.
- He who is truly devoted spares himself no more in these
latter two objects than in the first. He knows that mortification is what God
especially demands of him; for prayer is more the work of God than his own.
Now all devotion is comprised in the practice of prayer and of mortification.
The more progress we make in both, the more devoted we become, and vice versa.
There is then a division of offices made between God and the soul which is
devoted to him: God, ordinarily, takes care of prayer, and the soul takes care
of mortification; not that God does interfere in, mortification, or that the
soul does not co-operate with him in prayer; but prayer is principally the
work of grace, and mortification that of the will.
- Mortification of the flesh is indispensable for two
Principal reasons : first, because the inordinate love of our body, the
inclination to sensual pleasures, and the aversion to pain are the source
of[many] sins; and, Second, because "the sensual man perceiveth not these
things that are of the spirit Of God,"30e.5 and has no relish for them.
- Hence, when a soul gives itself to God, an attraction for
exterior mortification is the first thing with which he inspires it. Those who
are indifferent or remiss on this point are not truly devoted. In the first
fervor one is apt to exceed in this particular, and will go too far, unless
restrained by the advice of a prudent director.
- What is essential is, never to allow our-selves anything
merely with the view of gratifying our senses; never to go in search of any
pleasure30e, even innocent, because it ceases to be innocent the moment we attach
ourselves to it and relish it for its own sake; finally, so to regulate that
which it is proper to grant to the wants of our body as not to exceed the
bounds of what is sufficient. As these bounds have no determined measure, to
avoid perplexity and uneasiness on that head, we should earnestly pray God
that he himself would direct us, and follow with great docility the lights he
will give us. In this point, as well as in all others of a similar nature, God
grants the spirit of wisdom and of discretion to all those who ask for it and
who are of good will.
- From this kind of mortification, which should rather be
termed temperance and sobriety, nothing can dispense. But it is not so with
regard to austerities. Age, or delicacy of constitution, are just motives for
dispensation; great labor of mind or body may supply their place. There are
even times in the spiritual life in which God--to deprive the soul of every
support--permits hardly any. He who is truly devoted is resolved to do...
whatever he shall know to be the will of God; and, to avoid mistake, he will
take advice [i.e. spiritual direction, and psychological counseling if
THAT MORTIFICATION OF THE WILL IS ESSENTIAL TO
- THE mortification of the will is by far more important, more
extensive, and, in practice, more difficult than that of the flesh. It knows
no bounds nor exceptions; it never should be suspended, and there is no danger
of carrying it too far. Were I to expose here all the kinds of death to self
through which the will must pass, in order to be absolutely lost in the will
of God and to be made one and the self-same thing with his will, it would be
the matter of a long treatise. Suffice it to say, that [each person's
sacrifice] is different according to God's designs on the soul... [Discovery
of God's design for you cannot easily be formulated] until it is personally
- Remember, that to be truly devout is to be devoted to God,
and consequently in all things to have no will but his. I say in all things;
and God only knows how far this devotedness should extend, since man, by
devoting himself, gives back his will, that God may dispose of it according to
His own good pleasure. For this purpose, therefore, man must resolve to die to
his will, and to second God, in all that He shall do or permit with the view
of destroying it.
- Do not, however, be alarmed before hand, nor give reins to
your imagination about things that perhaps will never happen. Wait calmly till
God manifests his designs. Anticipate nothing, fear nothing, reject nothing,
neither offer yourself for anything in particular. Leave all to him. He is
infinitely wise; he knows the most secret recesses of your will, and he knows
how to bring it round to his own purposes. He will begin with the easiest
things, and will gradually lead you to others that will cost you more; and, in
this manner, he will lead you, if he thinks proper, to the greatest
sacrifices. But he will dispose of all with so much force and sweetness, and
will prepare your will in such a way, that it will resist less and less, till
at last it will almost lose the power of resistance. All you can give him
through your free consent, he will surely incline you to give; and what will
not be in your power to give, he will induce you to let him take, in virtue of
the absolute offering you have already made of yourself.
- Such is the plan which God ordinarily follows. He solicits
the soul to give a general and indistinct consent to all that he may be
pleased to ordain. This consent once given, he unfolds his particular
intentions, either by the events of his providence and the unforeseen
circumstances in which he places the soul, or by the temptations and trials to
which he exposes it. He proportions his graces and helps to each situation,
and the soul has nothing else to do but to yield accordingly to the will of
God, as the occasion may require. At first it submits with reluctance and
after many struggles, then with promptness, and at last with joy It reaches
such a height as no longer to feel interior resistance to anything whatsoever,
no longer to desire anything, no longer to fear anything, to have a holy
indifference to everything, provided the good pleasure of God be accomplished
in its regard. It has then reached the highest degree of conformity, because
its will is not only united to God's will, but it is one and the same thing
- This is the limit of interior mortification, and at the same
time that of devotion. If [our spiritual life does not go in this direction],
it is no longer devotedness, or it is very imperfect devotedness. Let us
humble ourselves and be confounded, [i.e. it's ok to be confused, trust God].
Perhaps we fancy ourselves devoted, and we have not as yet a true idea of
devotion. "Those who belong to Jesus Christ," says St. Paul, " have crucified
their flesh"30f they have fastened it to the cross, after the example of their
Master. Is our flesh crucified as that of Christ was,--I do not say during his
passion, but throughout the whole course of his life? "Those who belong to
him," says the same Apostle, "live not now to themselves, but unto him who
died for them, and rose again."30g Have we reached this state? Do we labor to
attain it? Is Jesus Christ our life? Is his will our will! Do we conceive what
it is to live no longer for self, but for Christ !
- St. Ignatius on going to his martyrdom said: "I begin to be
a disciple of Jesus Christ." The love of his Master was consuming him; he was
burning with the desire of being crushed by the teeth of the wild beasts, yet
he dared not say, "I: am a disciple of Jesus Christ," but, "I begin to be so;
I am only in the first stage;" and what he said he sincerely believed. But we
imagine that we do enough, that we even do more than we ought for Jesus
Christ; we fancy that we have almost attained perfection! Once more let us
humble ourselves. The saints thought very differently of devotion from what we
do. They did not flatter themselves that they were devoted; such a title would
have shocked their humility; they used to say that they were in constant
exercise to become so; they considered themselves as serving an
apprenticeship, and this even at the end of their career.
- Grou, pp. 120-30.
VARIOUS QUALITIES OF DEVOTION
- DEVOTION is uniform and invariable. It is a permanent
adherence of the heart to God, independent of all the vicissitudes of the
spiritual life. It is always the same, in aridity as well as in consolation,
in privation as in abundance, in the storm of temptation as in the calm of
peace, when abandoned by God as when enriched with the favors of a most
intimate union. "Whatever way God deals with me," says the devoted soul, "he
is always the same, and deserves at all times faithfully to be served alike."
MY devotedness should never vary, because he who is its object is
- Devotion is simple and has only one intention. "God alone"
is its motto. It studies to purify its motives, raising itself above
everything that it may see only God and his will. It has no double look to God
and to self; it sees itself only in God and in his good pleasure, which is
everything to it.
- It is fervent--that is to say, it is always determined to do
and to suffer what pleases God, cost what it will. For ferver does not consist
in those passing emotions which a sensible grace produces in the soul.
Beginners are apt to be deceived by this; at such times they think themselves
capable of everything, and they invite God to put them to the test. But let
this sensible effect of grace cease, they soon change their notions and their
language and they feel all their weakness. True fervor resides in the depths
of the will, and it endures as long as the will does not yield to tepidity, to
remissness, to sloth; as long as it preserves the same ardor, the same
courage, the same activity.
- Devotion is faithful, carrying its attention and exactness
to an extreme delicacy, yet without scruple or anxiety. It is faithful in
little as in great things,--faithful in what is of perfection as in what is of
obligation,-faithful to the smallest sign as to the most express commandment.
The principle from which it never swerves is, that nothing is little in the
service of so great a Master, whose will alone sets a value on things, and
that we cannot better testify our love than by anticipating his wishes without
waiting for a precise command.
- Devotion is discreet, always attentive to guide itself
according to the spirit of God; no ways inconsiderate, imprudent, nor
excessive; a friend to order, doing everything in the proper time and place,
knowing when to be firm or when it should condescend to the weakness of
others; exact in its pious practices, or at times relaxing its regularityin
behalf of charity.
- Devotion does not listen to the imagination, which is the
stumbling-block of most pious people, which troubles and disconcerts them;
forges for them a thousand vain phantoms, and is always beguiling them to
undertake something and then to abandon it leading them into extravagance,
caprice, much levity, and inconstancy. Devotion particularly aims at
conquering... these [mistakes]. By so doing, it secures great peace of mind,
an evenness of temper which nothing disturbs, a serenity of soul which is
reflected externally, and shows a placid countenance in the most trying
SOME OTHER QUALITIES OF DEVOTION.
- DEVOTION is docile, is not attached to its own ideas, and
readily submits them to those who have authority over it [such as a religious
superior or for a layman a spiritual director/priest confessor]; sacrificing
to them even that which may seem a conviction and a persuasion; obeying them
in spite of the greatest repugnance; adhering to no practice against their
will, and making no change in its conduct without their advice.
- It does not judge itself either adversely, lest it be
discouraged, nor favorably, lest it become presumptuous; equally on its guard
against a false humility, which is never satisfied with its progress and finds
fault with all its actions, and against a false confidence, which applauds
itself for whatever it does and easily presumes on its advancement. It thinks
that it is more humble and more safe not to examine itself, nor to pronounce
on its state, but to allow those to judge who are charged with its conduct,
and to believe them with the same simplicity, whether they approve or
- Severe towards itself, true devotion is indulgent to others;
prudently consuiting their weaknesses; taking for its own share what is most
painful and difficult; and carrying itself at all times a greater burden than
- It is active without haste, deliberate without slowness,
grave without affectation, cheerful without levity30h. It is not triffing nor scrupulous, nor restless, nor rigid, nor
remiss, but keeps in everything the just mean, inclining rather to mercy than
to a too exacting justice.
- Although zealous for virtue, and always ready to undertake
those good works which Providence may throw in its way, it does not go in
search of them, but waits. It does not propose, nor meddle, nor intrigue
[plot]; it does not interfere in everything, and take part in everything, as
if nothing could be well done unless it direct and assume the charge. It has
nothing to do with the affairs of others; it does not inquire about them, nor
look curiously upon them, nor pass judgment upon them; it is with the greatest
circumspection that it engages in them, when induced by charity, and then it
[works tirelessly for] their success...
- Its zeal does not consist in incessantly inveigling bitterly
against abuses even the most real. It bewails them before God, and beseeches
him to put things in order; but for itself it bears with them, if it be not
charged to correct them; and if it be [i.e. has the duty to correct], it does
it with as much meekness and patience as efficacy,--without hurry,
precipitancy, or violence. Attentive to its own reformation, it does not set
itself up as a reformer. It is too much taken up with its own failings to pay
attention to those of others; either it does not see them, or it excuses them;
or, if it cannot excuse them, it is silent, unless it speaks of them through a
motive of charity and for the good of the persons interested.
- It is a declared enemy of what are called
coteries30i, of parties, cabals, and exclusive associations. ...it [chooses] some
people with whom it may form a holy intercourse, and with whom it may
confidentially converse on holy things; but these unions are the work of
grace. There is nothing affected nor mysterious in them, nor anything which
shows a contempt of others, as if they were unworthy to be admitted into its
society. Much less does it form parties to give popularity to a certain
preacher, or a particular director, and to raise them by depressing others.
This party-spirit characterizes false devotion, and true piety holds it in
- Grou, pp. 130-39.
THE MAN TRULY DEVOUT REGARDS
EVERYTHING IN RELATION TO ETERNITY AND TO THE WILL OF
- The truly devoted man is one who no longer belongs to time.
From the moment that he consecrates himself to God, he is transported, as it
were, into the region of eternity; he thinks only on eternity, not with fear,
but with joy, as his ultimate destination. He regards everything with
reference to eternity, and he has constantly in his thoughts these words of a
saint, "What is this to eternity?" What importance is anything to me which
passes away with time! I am in this world only as in a place of trial. I am
here to serve my apprenticeship in that which I am to do eternally. I am
destined to love God, and to be forever happy in the possession of him. This
is my end. That uncertain and very small number of days which is allotted me
upon earth, is only given me that I may love God through choice, in order to
merit as a reward to love him forever. Everything here below should be for me
an exercise of love. But love aspires only to give, to sacrifice, to suffer
for the object which it loves, to immolate itself at its own good pleasure.
This, therefore, is all I have to do; this is the employment of every moment
of my life. He whom I love deserves all, and expects all from me. He has loved
me with an eternal love, with a love wholly gratuitous and disinterested; with
a love to which mine, however ardent it may be, can never approach. As the
price of his love, he asks for mine; and if he had not been the first to love
me, though he had promised me nothing, I should still have a thousand motives
for loving him.
- The will of God is the only rule of the truly devoted man.
In all that happens to him, he sees only that; he attaches himself to that; he
blesses it for every thing; he is always contented, provided it be
accomplished. He is intimately persuaded that God wills nothing and permits
nothing that does not turn to the advantage of those who love him. Whatever
comes from his hand--and everything comes from it, except sin--is a blessing
to him; and crosses, more than anything else, afford him joy, on account of
the resemblance they give to Jesus Christ, the chief and model of souls
devoted to God.
- Everything helps him to unite himself more and more to him
whom he loves; obstacles turn into means. Nothing stops him; he overcomes and
breaks down all impediments; he removes every medium that hinders him from
joining himself immediately to God, mind to mind, and heart to heart. This
holy union is the motive of all his actions and the center of all his desires.
And therefore whatever he loves, he loves it only in God and for God.
- Let no one believe, as some falsely imagine, that on account
of this his heart is indifferent and insensible. There is no heart more
affectionate, more tender, more compassionate, more generous, more grateful,
than that of the man truly devoted. His love for his neighbor is modeled after
the infinite love of God; indeed, it is but an extension of that which he has
for God. Love for his neighbor is a substantial love, a delicate love, an
obliging love, which nothing can weaken, and which, on the contrary, is
increased by that which seemingly should extinguish it. This, however, does
not hinder it being true, in a very just sense, that God is all to the truly
devoted man, and that every thing else is nothing; because God is his only
good and the term of all his affections, which only pass through creatures to
fasten themselves on him.
CONDUCT OF THE TRULY DEVOUT MAN IN REGARD TO HIS
- [L]et us look more particularly at the conduct devotion
inspires towards our neighbor; for it is upon this point it is most unjustly
attacked, and therefore it is necessary to vindicate it from the malignity of
- [S]ince devotion [to God] is nothing else but the practice
of the purest charity in what regards our neighbor, it has all the
characteristics which St. Paul attributes to charity.32 Follow me now in the development of these characteristics, applying
them to the devoted people with whom we may be acquainted, do justice to those
in whom they shine, notwithstanding the shadows scattered here and there from
- The man truly devoted, then, is "patient; bare all things,
endure all things from his neighbor." This endurance is one of the most
necessary things in the intercourse of life, and that in which one is most
exercised, because the practice of it is continual, and contributes more than
anything to the maintenance of domestic peace. It is most needed in the home
circle, and with those with whom we habitually live; as the husband and wife
with regard to each other, the master with regard to his servants, parents
with regard to their children. In general, those who live together, or have
frequent intercourse with one another, are constantly exposed to show their
natural character such as it is, their whims and a thousand little natural
defects. I venture to say that it is easier to be patient on great occasions,
when motives of religion sustain us and the fear of offending God puts us on
our guard, than to refrain in many trivial circumstances from sallies of
ill-humor in words or conduct, which are overlooked or deemed of no
consequence. Nevertheless, the want of endurance has sometimes sad
consequences. The imagination is enkindled and magnifies the smallest faults;
the temper is exasperated; simple repugnance grows into an aversion ; we can
no longer see nor bear each other; offense is taken at whatever happens; from
words we proceed to malicious acts, open animosity, and declared hostility.
The matter in the beginning was nothing; it has ended in an incurable hatred.
It is just here that the practice of devotion is of great advantage, teaching
us to bear with the failings of others as we wish that they should bear with
- The devoted man is " full of kindness" --always disposed to
oblige. His property, his time, his talents, his credit, belong less to
himself than to others. At what ever moment you apply to him, whatsoever you
may ask, if it be in his power, he is ready to grant it; he leaves everything,
he sacrifices even his exercises of piety, when the interest of his neighbor
requires it. He is a stranger to those vain offers, those excuses and evasions
which are so common in the world, where, provided that it cost nothing, a
great show of good will is set forth, and it is sought to impose on men by the
appearance of sincerity. His offers are sincere; he is a slave to his
promises; and, when he excuses himself, it is in such manner as to make it
felt that it is really painful to him to be unable to grant what is
- It is of him alone that it can be said, that " he envies
not;" that he beholds the prosperity of another with as much and more pleasure
than his own; that he envies neither the talents nor the success of others,
neither the applause nor the rewards they receive. How should he envy them
that which he desires not? He is the first to acknowledge their merit; to
praise it, to commend and to set it forth to the best advantage. He is not
even jealous of their virtue, of their holiness, or of the graces which God
bestows on them, though these are the only treasures he aspires to; indeed,
whatever be his desire of loving God, he wishes that others may surpass him in
love. How rare a thing is it to be wholly exempt from this base sentiment, yet
so natural to man, from which devotion alone can set him free.
- The devout man "deals not perversely," with levity or with
indiscretion: a disposition so important, and of such consequence in society.
Much superior is this point to politeness, which only saves the appearances;
devotion extends this rule to the judgments and the affections, whence flow
all external demonstrations, of which we do not always have control unless we
are attentive to what passes within.
- Far from being "puffed up" with the temporal or spiritual
advantages which he has over others, the truly devoted man disregards them;
or, if he thinks of them, he only finds in them motives of
humiliation;33 whereas, he who is not truly devoted is always secretly comparing
himself with his neighbor, to give himself the preference and congratulate
himself at being "not [like] the rest of men." Luke18:1134. The truly devoted man tries all he can to forget himself, and the
judgments which he forms of himself tend only to make him
despise35 himself. This is the most intimate conviction of his heart.
- No one is less "ambitious" than he. As much as others are
flattered with distinctions and preferments, so much is he averse to them. He
thinks so little of elevating himself, of being above others..., that, on the
contrary, he prefers ... to seek the last place, and to obey. He is still more
exempt from spiritual ambition, [i.e. that others think him to be holy or
- The devout man "seeks not his own interest," but is always
ready to sacrifice it for the sake of peace and to preserve charity. His
great, his only interest, is on account of God to live in peace with all
- He is a stranger to anger, harsh expressions, and to the
spirit of contradiction. Meekness accompanies all his words and rules all his
proceedings. He chooses rather to yield, when he is in the right, than to
maintain his opinion with warmth. Nothing wounds him, nothing offends him,
nothing irritates him. One would think that he is insensible, and that he
observes nothing, yet his feelings are extremely delicate and nothing out of
the way escapes him.
- While the man of false devotion is scandalized at
everything, and misconstrues everything, "he thinks no evil," and interprets
everything in good part, endeavoring as far as he call to see and represent
things in a favorable light, to extenuate real wrongs, and to justify the
intention when the action cannot be excused. As he has no malice, he suspects
none in others, and, to give credit to an evil report, he must be compelled by
- Grou., pp. 158-170.
THE TRULY DEVOUT MAN POSSESSES
THE ONLY TRUE HAPPINESS THAT
CAN BE ENJOYED ON EARTH
- SO far as what personally regards the devout man, devotion
procures him the only true happiness to be enjoyed upon earth, It never has
happened that one truly devout had reason to repent his being so, and it will
happen. It will be said that he... combats and renounces himself, grant it;
and it is precisely in this that he finds peace, equanimity of soul, and joy.
It is certain, both from and the principles of faith, and demonstrated by
constant and universal experience, that the good
things of this world, riches, honors, and pleasures, cannot satisfy the soul,
but only provoke its hunger, without appeasing it;
that the passions are the principal source of the misfortunes which oppress
mankind; and that, for the inevitable evils of this life, no other philosophy
than that of religion can help. us to bear them, or teach us the proper use of
- It is also certain and demonstrated by experience that, God
being man's only good, devotion which brings him to God --which tends to unite
him to God--is the true and the only principle of his happiness; that it
preserves him from sin, which is his sovereign evil; that it secures him from
the misfortunes which are the fruit of his own passions; that in regard to the other evils, whether natural or occasioned by
the injustice and the malice of man, it teaches him to overcome them with
patience, and to draw from them wonderful advantages;
while in regard to temptations, trials, and other spiritual sufferings, it
persuades him that they are not evils, but real blessings; that they are
remedies which expiate sin, or preserve him from it, --occasions to practice
virtue, as well as means to sanctify him and to dispose him to divine union.
Thus it lifts him above all human accidents, above the vicissitudes of the
spiritual life, even above himself, and establishes him in an unalterable
- On the other hand, God, who is rich in mercy and who never
suffers himself to be outdone ingenerosity, devotes himself, if I may be
allowed to say so, to the man who is devoted to him; he treats him as his
child, he takes care of him as "the apple of his eye" (it is the expression
which he himself makes use of)(Zech. 2:8) he lavishes upon him his aid, his
consolations, his favors; in short, he is eager to convince him, by the
strongest and most assured proofs, that he gains all in sacrificing all to
him, and that the highest happiness of the creature is only to be found in the
privation of everything else, and even of itself, in order to secure the
possession of the infinite good.
- Let not the reader accuse me of falsehood or exaggeration.
on the contrary, let him be assured that all that has been said falls far
short of the reality. We have on this subject the unanimous testimony of the
saints; I refer you to them. You have their writings; consult them, and see if
they say less than I do. There is not one amongst them who has not borne
witness that he was happy in God's service, that he had never been happy
before, and that it is the only way of being happy. Should you say that you
have not experienced this happiness, although you have served God for many
years, that must proceed from your not serving him with the same devotedness
as the saints; from your blending, with your devotion, much negligence, much
laxity, and much reserve; from your seeking yourself instead of seeking God,
and from your self-love, which tyrannizes over your soul by fear, by desire,
by vain regrets, and idle forebodings, by murmurs, interior rebellions, and by
the resistance it opposes to the reign of the love of God.
THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THE GRAND MODEL
OF PERFECT DEVOTEDNESS.
- IF the reader ask for a model of perfect I devotion. what
other can be proposed than that which has been given to us all in the person
of Jesus Christ? Listen to this Divine M.aster, and study his conduct. He came
upon earth only to teach us in what true devotion consists. All the lessons of
his heavenly doctrine are reducible to that of devotedness. His whole life was
nothing else but the most absolute devotedness practiced in the most excellent
- The moment he came into the world he, devoted himself to God
his Father as a victim to repair the outrages done to his glory, and to effect
[human] reconciliation. From that instant the great cross which he was to
carry was offered to him; that cross comprised the whole course of his life,
and was to become every day harder and heavier from the manger to his last
gasp. It united to an Incomprehensible degree every kind of suffering and
opprobrium [i.e. scornful reproach or contempt] which could be borne by a soul
sustained by all the power of the divinity. It was to exhaust on him the
scourge of divine justice. It was to equal and surpass all the pains due to
man's enormous and innumerable iniquities. His soul, infinitely illuminated
with the divine light, measured the extent of this cross, distinctly knew all
its rigors, foresaw and felt beforehand its unutterable torments.
- He accepted it with all the submission, all the love, all
the generosity that a God- Man Was capable of. It was always present to his
thoughts; it was always dear to his heart. He continually hastened by his
desires the consummation of his sacrifice; and the extreme vehemence of these
desires was perhaps the greatest of his torments. For, howsoever great the
excess of it may have been, his love went incomparably beyond, and made him
wish to suffer still more, if it could bet for the glory of his Father and for
- This is the sublime,the divine model of devotedness: this
the most faithful and the only true expression God deserves on our part, and
of the service we owe to him. It is only in view of this wonderful devotedness
that God is pleased to be satisfied with ours, weak, imperfect, and unworthy
as it is of his sovereign majesty. Our devotedness,
[no matter] how far it may reach, [nor] how great ...it may be conceived to
be, is of no value in itself. It is insufficient to expiate the smallest of
our offenses and to merit for us the least degree of
glory [such as the glory of heaven]. There never was but one devotedness in
itself pleasing to God,--that of Jesus Christ. He accepts only that; he
regards only that, and from it ours derives all its value.
- Let us, therefore, cast our eyes upon this perfect and
unique Model, and let us, at the very beginning, imprint deeply in our minds
this grand truth, that God is so much above us, or, to speak more properly
that God is so much all, and we so much nothing, that it is impossible for us,
by the highest and most generous devotedness that can be imagined, I do not
say to attain to what he has a right to expect from us, but even to do
anything that may draw down upon us his least regard, or may render us worthy
of the slightest mark of his benevolence. [God loves us if we are devoted to
him or not. Cf. Matt. 5:45-48. However, that love is not earned by anything we
do. No matter how devoted we may become we do not earn his love, or regard. It
is his free gift. Our devotedness is our response to the gift of his love. We
give our own love in return, and our lives devoted to him in return.]
- After this, having profoundly humbled and annihilated
ourselves37, let us entreat him to inspire us himself with an act of devotedness
that he will deign to accept, and implore him to make us produce this act with
all the love that can enter into the human heart, and to support us by the
power of his grace in the faithful and constant accomplishment of all the
sacrifices which such an act implies.
- Finally, because we are ... prone to sin from the perversity
of our will, because there is nothing that is good in us which is not a gift
of God,--let us unite our devotedness to that of Jesus Christ, conjuring this
divine Savior to communicate to it some share of the merits of his
devotedness, to offer if to his Father with his own, and to prevail on him,
through his all powerful mediation, graciously to accept it.
THREE EFFICACIOUS MEANS TO ACQUIRE TRUE DEVOTION.
- DOUBTLESS the essential point is rightly to apprehend the
act of devotedness, and to form it in the heart with a full and entire will;
for all depends upon knowing the nature and the qualities of our engagement
with God, and on generously embracing all its obligations. We may well say
here that the beginning is half of the whole.
- But it is only the half; we must come to the practice.
Perhaps you will wish to know by what means. I will not answer this question
in full here.... I will, however, propose here three general means which will
lead those who observe them very far.
- In the first place, the fact of our being devoted should be
constantly present to our mind, according to the example of Jesus Christ. The
moment when we devote ourselves, whether in prayer or at communion, is a
moment of fervor and of a strong and sensible grace. Then the soul is, as it
were, lifted above itself and transported to God. But this moment soon passes
; the fervor declines; the sensible impression of grace
vanishes.38 The soul comes back to itself and returns to its former state. A
thousand unavoidable cares which distract it will cause it to lose sight of
the engagement which it has contracted, if it be not careful to recall it
often, and to render the recollection habitual. This recollection rouses and
supports it, animates its languor and excites its courage, and is at once a
curb, to check it and a spur to urge it on.
- The second means consists in conforming ourselves in all
respects to the example of Jesus Christ, as persons devoted to God--that is to
say, to no longer dispose.of our ourselves, to no longer form views and
projects of any kind whatever, but to leave ourselves in the hands of God, and
to undertake nothing but by the inspiration of his grace; for,indeed,he never
fails to manifest his will to a soul determined to accomplish it. We must
admit neither fear nor desire concerning any other objects than those which
belong to our devotedness; but we must ever fear whatever may make us swerve
from it, ardently desiring to be faithful. We must consider ourselves [from
then on] as being under the special guidance of Providence, and leave the care
of our interior to God without solicitude, without too much reflection on our
state, without curiously inquiring into the reasons of what happens to us. We
must accept with equal thankfulness what comforts us and what afflicts us,
what troubles us and what composes us, what contradicts us and what gratifies
us, what depresses us, and what lifts us up. We must believe without
hesitation that God has in view only our welfare, and that, provided we adhere
to his will, things [which appear] the most adverse will turn out to our
- Thus to exercise ourselves in submitting to every event,
whether temporal or spiritual, is not the work of one day, but the business of
our whole life. We must be a long while apprentices in this science before we
become masters; and then we only become skillful after repeated faults by
which we are humiliated and corrected. But it is indispensable to enter from
the beginning into this general disposition, without which there is no
practice of devotedness.
- The third means is to have Jesus Christ aIways before our
eyes in order to copy him, and express him in our interior and exterior
conduct. We must entreat him to form in us his own image, and to hold us under
his hand, like an immovable and well-stretched canvas, ready to receive all
the traits of this adorable original. For it is Christ himself who works upon
our souls and sketches his own portrait, to which he afterwards adds colors
and the finest strokes of the pencil when we put no obstacle in his
- As God made the material world by his Son, it is also by him
that he makes the spiritual and supernatural world; and this world only
becomes what it ought to be by its resemblance to Jesus Christ. The saints of
the Old Testament were figures of him, and those of the New Testament have no
other model; and when all the traits of the God-Man shall have been imprinted
upon the elect,according to the designs of the eternad Father, the universe
will come to an end. 'For', says St. Paul, 'whom God fore-knew, he also
predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son.'" (Rom. 8:
- Grou, pp. 190-195.
Work in progress...more to
1. beneficence (be-nèf´î-sens) noun
- 1.The state or quality of being kind, charitable, or beneficial.
- 2.A charitable act or gift. (Excerpted from The American Heritage®
Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin
Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further
reproduction and distribution in accordance with the Copyright Law of the
United States. All rights reserved.)
2. The Catholic Church believes that it correctly knows and
teaches what can be known about God and what he has revealed to us. In this
sense it is the true religion and the only true church. That does not mean that
Catholics think all others are lost, instead it merely believes that they are
mistaken at times about some things. The Catechism of the
Catholic Church says about our Protestant brothers and sisters:
- "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth" are found
outside the visible confines of the
- Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope,
and charity, with the other interior gifts
- of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements." Christ's Spirit
uses these Churches and ecclesial
- communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness
of grace and truth that Christ has
- entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and
lead to him, and are in
- themselves calls to "Catholic unity." Sec. 819
- Even non-christians are not necessarily lost if they follow faithfully the
dictates of their conscience.
- "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of
Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless
- seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions
to do his will as they know it through the
- dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. "
- 3. artificer (är-tîf´î-ser) noun
- 1. A skilled worker; a crafts person.
- 2. One that contrives, devises, or constructs something: "The labyrinth .
. . was built by Daedalus, a most skillful artificer" (Thomas Bulfinch).
- (Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language,
Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed
from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance
with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.)
4. Prime Mover, First Cause, i.e. the creator. "In
metaphysics, Aristotle argued for the existence of a divine being, described as
the Prime Mover, who is responsible for the unity and purposefulness of nature."
Encarta® 98 Desk Encyclopedia © & 1996-97 Microsoft Corporation. All rights
5. Zach. xii, 10.
6. Luke 18:1 "Then Jesus told them a parable about their need
to pray always and not to lose heart." NRSV.
7. Rom. viii. 26 ; Gal: iv. 6.
8. glory (glôr´ê, glor´ê) noun plural glories
- 1. Great honor, praise, or distinction accorded by common consent; renown.
- 2. Something conferring honor or renown.
- 3. A highly praiseworthy asset: Your hair is your crowning glory.
- 4. Adoration, praise, and thanksgiving offered in worship.
- 5. Majestic beauty and splendor; resplendence: The sun set in a blaze of
- 6. The splendor and bliss of heaven; perfect happiness.
(Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language,
Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed
from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance with
the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.)
9. I Cor. x. 31.
10. Luke xvii. 21.
11. edification (èd´e-fî-kâ´shen) noun:
Intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement; enlightenment.
- (Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language,
Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed
from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance
with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.)
12. This was written at a time when only Latin was used at
mass. Today, it would clearly be an abuse to use a prayer book during mass. We
are to enter into the action of the mass, to listen and respond. A book becomes
a barrier to being moved, or affected by the action of the mass, the sacrifice
of Christ for our sins, the joy of the resurrection, and the gift of His Body
and Blood at the Last Supper.
13. Ps. xviii. 15. (Perhaps he is referring to Ps. 17:15
"As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be
satisfied, beholding your likeness. " NRSV.)
14. cf. Sir. 18:23 "Before making a vow, prepare
yourself; do not be like one who puts the Lord to the test." NRSV. Since a vow
is a promise to God, the author must be saying that a promise to pray, or be
devoted to God, which includes prayer, must be taken seriously. There must be
15. Although one choice for a spiritual director is a
priest confessor, any experienced person can be suitable. This is especially
true of women religious. Perhaps the best approach is to pray that the Lord lead
you to a good director with whom you can share your approach to prayer and your
progress. Never undertake a private vow, or a harsh penance, or try to "over do
it" in prayer without the guidance of someone experienced and sensible.
16. Matt. iv. 10.
17. Matt. vi. 24.
18. The NRSV renders it in 1Kgs. 18:21 "Elijah then came
near to all the people, and said, 'How long will you go limping with two
different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow
19. voluptuous (ve-lùp´chÁ-es) adjective
- 1. Giving, characterized by, or suggesting ample, unrestrained pleasure to
the senses: voluptuous sculptural forms; a voluptuous ripe fruit; a full,
- 2. a. Devoted to or indulging in sensual pleasures. b. Directed toward or
anticipating sensual pleasure: voluptuous thoughts. c. Arising from or
contributing to the satisfaction of sensuous or sensual desires. (Excerpted
from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition
© 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO
Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance with the
Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.)
20. Matt. vi. 18.
21. Matt. v. 16.
22. Matt. v. 32.
23. partisan (pär´tî-zen) noun: "A fervent,
sometimes militant supporter or proponent of a party, cause, faction, person, or
idea." (Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English
Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version
licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in
accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights
24. Acts 5:41.
25. Mark 10:14.
26. It will not be too late for repentance, and with
repentance salvation, but it will be too late to develop the devotedness which
the author recommends. Some may find that the course of their lives will cause
them to refuse repentance, or they may not have the chance for repentance.
Clearly people must not wait, but act now to draw close to God. He loves you, so
simply love Him back as your first step in becoming devoted to Him.
- (One person who had left the church, declaring himself a non-believer, was
dying of cancer. When I called him and offered to receive him back into the
church he thanked me but ask me not to come. He did not say he did not
believe; he said it would be a denial of all that he had said and done.)
- 27. I do not think he means physical violence to
ourselves but do violence to self-indulgence, and to complacency. This means
doing violence to the assumptions that we have from our modern consumer
orientated society which is more and more hostile to a God-centered life.
Violence may also be done to those who live in societies where the state is
first and God cannot be first. Even democracies have a kind of conditioning
that pushes its citizens to put the nation and culture first, rather than God.
Further corrosion to the soul comes from employment in a company that makes
profit into god, and a corporate culture which permits every form of evil so
long as the corporate goals or achieved.
- 28. dissipation (dîs´e-pâ´shen) noun
- 1. The act of dissipating or the condition of having been dissipated.
- 2. Wasteful expenditure or consumption.
- 3. Dissolute indulgence in sensual pleasure; intemperance.
- 4. An amusement; a diversion.
- (Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English
Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic
version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and
distribution in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All
- 29. Rom. 13:10 "Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law."
- 30. 1John 4:18 "There is no fear in love, but perfect
love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has
not reached perfection in love."
- 30b. The self love the author is talking about is not
psychologically necessary self esteem . It is the use of persons, things, or
even prayer to enhance our opinion of ourselves, especially when the opinion
is over blown and unwarranted. Because love is a giving of ourselves, a going
out of ourselves, even a denial of our interests for the sake of the one
loved, self love is its opposite. In the case of prayer, we are not interested
in surrendering to God, but in making ourselves look good. Matt. 6:2 "So
whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites
do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by
others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward." Matt. 6:5 "And
whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and
pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by
others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. " NRSV.
- 30c. This does not mean physical violence, in my
opinion. However, we do violence to our assumptions and preferences. Our
culture tells us that "all pleasure is good", "take care of number 1",
"promote yourself because no one else will", "use any means to get ahead",
"revenge is good", "he who dies with the most toys wins", etc. Dropping these
cultural assumptions in favor of being devoted to God involves great change.
It feels like we are doing violence to ourselves because we are violently
changing who we are.
- 30d. pusillanimous (pyÁ´se-làn´e-mes)
adjective: Lacking courage; cowardly.
- Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the
English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic
version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution
in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights
30e. There is nothing inherently wrong with pleasure,
although the author speaks of innocent gratification of the senses that cease
to be innocent once we desire them. A more contemporary attitude would seek a
balance between gratification of the senses and devotion to the spiritual.
Pleasure is also God's gift, and we should thank Him for this wonderful gift.
1Cor. 10:31 "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything
for the glory of God. " 2Cor. 9:8 "And God is able to provide you with every
blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may
share abundantly in every good work." 1Tim. 4:4 "For everything created by God
is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with
thanksgiving... " 1Tim. 6:17 "God ... richly provides us with everything for
- However, St.Paul also says in Phil. 3:8 "More than that, I regard
everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my
Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them
as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ ..." NRSV. Although something may
be permitted, not everything is useful. We should ask the question of what
value is this to heaven? Even if something is ok, will it help me to grow
spiritually? 1Cor. 2:14 "Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of
God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to
understand them because they are spiritually discerned." He goes on to say
that people in Corinth continued to act according to the flesh, the
non-spiritual. 1Cor. 3:3 ..."for you are still of the flesh. For as long as
there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and
behaving according to human inclinations?" NRSV.
- 30e.5. 1Cor. 2:14.
- 30f. Gal. 5:24 "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have
crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." NRSV.
- 30g. 2Cor. 5:15 "And he died for all, so that those who
live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised
- 30h. levity (lèv´î-tê) noun, plural levities
- 1. Lightness of manner or speech, especially when inappropriate;
2. Inconstancy; changeableness.
- (Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the
English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic
version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution
in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights
- 30i. coterie (ko´te-rê,
- A small, often select group of persons who associate with one another
frequently. [A clique.]
Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the
English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic
version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution
in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights
- 31. Self-sacrifice, mortification, are important parts of
traditional spirituality. Mortification is the "discipline of the body and the
appetites by self-denial or self-inflicted privation." (Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English
Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version
licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in
accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights
32. 1 Cor. 13.4-9. "Love is
patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It
does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not
rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things,
believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
- 33. This may sound odd to modern ears but there is
logic behind it. Being "puffed up" is a product of self-love, i.e. a love
directed towards oneself rather than outward to God or to others. True
humility, in my personal view, is an accurate self-knowledge. Further, a
healthy self-love, or appreciation of ourselves, is not the same as seeing
ourselves as somehow better than others just because we have a greater skill,
talent, memory, money, job, or status. God loves us all, Pope and people,
scientist and pizza man.
- 34. Luke 18:11-14 (NRSV): "The Pharisee, standing
by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other
people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast
twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' But the tax collector,
standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast
and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down
to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will
be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."
- 35. This unfortunate choice of words comes from a
time before modern psychology. No one should ever despise himself. What the
author means is a frequent examination of conscience will reveal failures,
weaknesses and imperfections. Traditional spirituality tended to cause people
to look at this rather than at progress because of the danger of a false
pride. As I said in note 33 above, what is needed is accurate self-knowledge,
and an appreciation of ourselves as beloved of God even with our personal mix
of good and bad. Along with this self-knowledge comes the awareness that
others are often better, and we will never love God as much as He loves us. I
find these two truths to be somewhat humbling.
- 36. How different this is than the American media
who seem to gleefully publish any evil report about any public figure. Then
the average people, who are insatiable for this "news", believe the worst
easily. How many lives are ruined by gossip, detraction, and calumny?
- 37. He means, I feel, that we put to death that part of
ourselves that serves our own selfish interest rather than serving God.
- 38. This sounds a lot like the charismatic experience.
Prayer to recieve the Holy Spirit may result in a sensible experience of his
presence and grace. This is followed by furvor for some period of time, the
"honymoon", but the soul returns to its normal state. Then, spiritual progress
is made by determination assisted by quiet grace.
- 39. "We know that all things work together for good for
those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he
foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son..." Rom.
The Characteristics of True Devotion, by Rev. J.N.Grou, S.J., Benziger
Brothers (1895). Imprimatur, +Michael Augustine, Archbishop of New York, 1894.
The book itself is part of the St. Patrick Seminary Library, Menlo Park, CA.
This web page is the responsibility of Rev. Roger J. Smith, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
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