Devotion Must Be Practiced in Different Ways

On January 24, the Church celebrated the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, one of my favorite saints and a doctor of the Church, who is arguably most known for his work Introduction to the Devout Life (a must-read spiritual classic if you haven’t read it!). With that said, below is an excerpt from this famous work of St. Francis offered to us by the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours to be used for meditation on his feast day.

Below is the second reading from the Office of Readings for Monday in Ordinary Time, the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor:

When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.

Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfills all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.

Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.

It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.

Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.
St. Francis de Sales


Do you ever feel like you’re not praying enough?

I know I do. So often I commit to praying certain prayers and doing certain spiritual exercises each day, only to get to the end of the day not having done all those prayers and exercises, feeling like I have failed God.

Well, the other day I read the above excerpt from St. Francis de Sales’ spiritual masterpiece and what he said rocked me.

I’m overcommitting myself to too many spiritual exercises. Out of my zeal and desire to please God I desire to imitate his saints and many of his priests and religious today, and I attempt to turn my whole day into prayer. Which I believe is the right intention!

However, so often by doing this I either fail to keep the prayers I committed to or I prevent myself from fulfilling my duties as a husband and father.

Well, St. Francis’ words made it clear to me: “Devotion must be practiced in different ways.”

Not everyone’s devotional life should look the same. What is true devotion for a cloistered religious is not true devotion for a bishop. And what is true devotion for a bishop is not true devotion for a married person.

I realized that it’s better to be consistent in small things than sporadic in big things. 

And so that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve selected certain spiritual exercises that I’ve decided to be faithful to. Even if it is a small number of spiritual exercises.

What devotions or spiritual exercises do you try to be faithful to each day?

Let me know below in the comment box!

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