By Saint Francis De Sales
Trans. by Michael Day
These daily reflections are my own and do not represent the teachings of the Catholic Church or of Catholic Match....Feel free to read along and discuss...
Part I: Embracing the Devout Life
I. True Devotion
Summary of Major Points:
A. Everyone depicts devotion according to his own liking and fancy.
Analysis: If there is 'true devotion" than there must also be 'false devotion". What is 'false devotion"?
B. Real living devotion presupposes the love of God.
Analysis: It would seem that going through the motions in exercising charity and ignoring the devotion of one's heart is 'false devotion". The Lord's commandment is to love the Lord they God with all they heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul, and with all they strength. And to love thy neighbor as thyself. Clearly, outward religious practice without love of God is false devotion.
C. Definition of "Grace"-The love of God that adorns the soul and makes us pleasing to God.
D. Definition of "Charity"-The Love of God that empowers us to do good. This would include love of neighbor and the love of God--encapsulated in the ten commandments.
E. Definition of "Devotion"-The love of God that is so perfect that it moves us, not merely to do good, but to do good carefully, frequently, and readily. That spiritual alertness and vivacity which enables us to co-operate with charity promptly and wholeheartedly.
F. Definition of "Sinners"-Those who receive grace at baptism, plus the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) but who lack the exercise of charity. Potential must be actualized. "Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 3.17).
G. Definition of "The Good"-Those who possess charity but lack devotion. Outward devotion but not inward devotion.
H. Definition of the "The Devout"-Those who transform the will and who conform their will with God's will. Those who not only have charity but practice it cheerfully and with alacrity.
J. Analogies used by St. Francis De Sales: Fire is to Flame as Charity is to Devotion; Fire lacks form and discipline, but when fire breaks into flame it is ready, active, and diligent. So it is with devotion when it is added to charity.
Analysis: Obedience to God's commandments is one thing, the Love of God's commandments is something else, something superior. The latter entails the former but the inward state of chartity with devotion is different than the inward state of charity without devotion. I guess this only becomes problematic when we divorce the Love of God's commandments from the practice of them. But we can't separate the flame from the fire. In the same way, we can't claim devotion without the practice of charity. But St. Francis seems to be saying that we can practice charity without being devout.
Reflections: It is easy to think you are devout because you perform acts of charity. This is what our Lord pointed out to the Pharisees..."This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."(Matt. 15.8). It seems to me that St. Francis isn't talking about hypocrisy--like the Pharisees were guilty of; "for they say, and do not". But rather a practice of charity, or obedience to God's commandments, without a transformation of the will that would make God's will our own will. Devotion is the cheerful and eager practice of charity, a higher level of conformity to Christ.