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Introduction to the Devout Life
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John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
3. If there are any passages that you found particularly meaningful, please share them here.


MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) Part 1, chap 1

"In short, devotion is simply a spiritual activity and liveliness by means of which Divine Love works in us, and causes us to work
briskly and lovingly; and just as charity leads us in a general
practice of all God's Commandments, so devotion leads us to practice readily and diligently."


message 3: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments quoting St. Austin (whoever he is), "It often happens that the office of teaching serves as the foundation for learning." Whether I am trying to prepare a lesson for youth catechumens or retreatants with an intellectual disability, my understanding is often stretched. Conversely, if I can't explain something to a preschooler, I probably don't understand it myself.

"We must enlarge our contrition as much as possible; we must extend it to everything that has the least relation to sin." (Part I,ch.8)


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "quoting St. Austin (whoever he is), "It often happens that the office of teaching serves as the foundation for learning."..."

Where is this quote? I can't find it.


message 5: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments in the author's preface, next-to-last paragraph, explaining why he is undertaking this writing despite being so far from devout himself


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
I still can't find it:-(
I'm reading the book in the Spanish original and there is no preface, the book goes directly to the first part, chapter 1: Description of the true devotion.
In chapter 4, which speaks about the need of a spiritual director, there's a quotation by Avila (St. John of Avila), but I think it differs from yours.


message 7: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments Sorry about that. I am using a pretty old-looking book, doesn't even have a publication date or list the translator.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
Is it possible that there is a typo in your edition and St.Austin in your quote may be St.A(ug)ustin? He is very much quoted in the book.


message 9: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments Sure it is. The book also has errors in the Scripture citations so wasn't very carefully edited.


message 10: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
I have the 2002 Random House Spiritual Classics edition, which includes the author's preface. The closest I can find is the following: "And St. Augustine, writing to the devout Flora, says that giving is a claim to receive, and teaching a way to learn."


message 11: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments I love his down-to-earth treatment of prayer and the various forms it can take for different people at different times in our lives.
"Prayer places our understanding in the brightness and light of God, and exposes our will to the heat of heavenly love...It is the water of benediction, which makes the plants of our good desires grow green and flourish, which washes our souls from their imperfections, and quenches the thirst of passion in our hearts."
"Begin all your prayers, whether mental or vocal, with a lively sense of the presence of God." (Part 2 ch. 1)
The notion of "retreating" often into the wounds of Christ (or whatever speaks to us) intrigues me. Does anyone do that?


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
"Although playing, dancing, adorning oneself, attending to honest performances and to banquets is lawful, if one comes to be too much involved in them, it is contrary to devotion and greatly dangerous. What is wrong is not doing them, but being involved in them." (Part 1 ch. 23 - my translation)

I have read other advisers in devotion saying things like "if you do like it, don't do it. You should offer God your renunciation to everything you like," and then go on to advise eating and drinking just things that you don't like or even abhor.

I think this is a mistake. This advise by Francis of Sales is more to the point. Doing things you like is lawful, but you shouldn't be too much involved with them, otherwise they end up working against devotion.


message 13: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
Manuel wrote: ""Although playing, dancing, adorning oneself, attending to honest performances and to banquets is lawful, if one comes to be too much involved in them, it is contrary to devotion and greatly danger..."

When you get further on, there is a point where he tackles that and says it is better to just eat what you are served without making a fuss about whether or not you like it rather than to insist on only eating things you don't like - why should those preparing food for you be put to such bother.


message 14: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments In Part 2 chapter 13 he has so many lovely metaphors for "aspirations" throughout the day: falling at the foot of the cross, stretching out a hand to Him, clasping Him to your heart like a nosegay..., and finding in everything we observe some image of the spiritual life, e.g. flowers that "follow" the sun, pretty flowers with no fragrance...

Reading his suggestions in chapter 14 about how to participate in Mass made me so grateful we live now, when we can attend Mass in our own language. All he could give uneducated folk hearing Mass in Latin was a general idea of the movement of the liturgy, whereas we can pray all the deep and rich prayers of the liturgy along with the celebrant. We're also blessed to have so much encouragement around us to daily Mass and communion rather than living in a time when people thought themselves unworthy of that.

I'm not sure I wholly agree with his assertion that corporate liturgical prayer (praying the Office) is always better than private prayer.


message 15: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments In Part 3 ch. 3, he cites Charles Borromeo's patience when reproved by another good man. I suspect it is often the case that strong personalities clash/disagree because each has clearly seized an aspect of the greater truth and can't appreciate a different perspective.

I'm finding this section on virtues and vices much less striking than his treatment of prayer. I don't think "honor" or reputation matters to me, though as I write this I can't help thinking of the Pharisee thankful he isn't like other men. God be merciful to me, a Pharisee! Or perhaps "honor" was more important to people in St. Francis' time than in ours?


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "I don't think "honor" or reputation matters to me..."

About this, Lois McMaster Bujold wrote:
Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself... Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will.
(A civil campaign, ch. 15)


message 17: by Nicole (last edited Oct 24, 2016 08:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nicole | 18 comments I am reading a copy published by Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. though it lists Joseph F. Wagner, Inc. and The Peter Reilly Company as previous publishers. I can't find where it lists a translator by name.

I'm only about one third through the book (to Part II, chapter XVI,) but thus far my favorite part was in Part I, Chapter IX, Meditation I, the affections and resolutions. "Alas, my soul, thou wert once a thing of naught, and even such wouldst thou be still, unless God had called thee into being." And in the same part; "I will live a new life following from henceforth in God's holy ways, and glorifying in the existence He has given me, I will employ it wholly in obeying His will as I shall learn it..."


message 18: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
Manuel wrote: "Jill wrote: "I don't think "honor" or reputation matters to me..."

About this, Lois McMaster Bujold wrote:
Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself... ..."


Perhaps the difference between "honor" (upright conduct, honesty in all things, etc.) and "honors" (public reputation and accolades)? As Manuel suggests, I am not sure how one lives a Christian life without honor, though as Francis points out, a care for honors is antithetical to that life.


message 19: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
"Of a truth, this is not easy" (after describing the effort for a layman to lead a devout life as "hovering amid the flames of earthly lusts without singeing the wings of its devout life."


message 20: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
"[A]nd even so, we all color devotion according to our own likings and dispositions."

The obvious (so much wisdom is, once someone wise points it out) point that devotion is not in doing the pious practices that come easy to you all the while ignoring your impious actions that cause real harm to others. But in identifying where in your life you need improvement and engaging the practices to change those. If I struggle with gluttony, perhaps I should fast more often?


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
I laughed with this quote (my translation):

Some are proud and arrogant because they ride on a brave steed, or they carry a plume of feathers in their hat, or they wear luxurious clothes; but is there anyone who cannot see that this is crazy? For if there is glory in these things, it belongs to the horse, the bird or the tailor.


message 22: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
Manuel wrote: "I laughed with this quote (my translation):

Some are proud and arrogant because they ride on a brave steed, or they carry a plume of feathers in their hat, or they wear luxurious clothes; but is t..."


Exactly, or today, they drive a nice sports car or wear bespoke suits (now that we don't wear hats much except to ward off the cold or the sun, I'm not sure what the parallel of the plumed feathers would be). I noted this as well.


message 23: by John (last edited Oct 30, 2016 05:03AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
"No indeed, my child, the devotion which is true hinders nothing, but on the contrary it perfects everything; and that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of any one is, you may be sure, a spurious devotion."

and

"Be sure that wherever our lot is cast we may and must aim at the perfect life."


message 24: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments "We perform our actions soon enough when we perform them well."

"We have not near so much love as we stand in need of...sufficient wherewith to love God; and yet, wretches as we are, we lavish it away foolishly on vain and frivolous things, as if we had some to spare."

"We readily move our hand to the pain that we feel, and the tongue to the love we entertain. If you are in love with God, you will often speak of him in your familiar discourse."

"[Our judgments of each other] are rash, because the principal malice of sin depends on the intent in the heart, which is an impenetrable secret to us."

"When we cannot excuse [another's] sin, let us at least render it worthy of compassion, attributing it to the most favorable cause, such as ignorance or infirmity."


message 25: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
Jill wrote: ""[Our judgments of each other] are rash, because the principal malice of sin depends on the intent in the heart, which is an impenetrable secret to us."

"When we cannot excuse [another's] sin, let us at least render it worthy of compassion, attributing it to the most favorable cause, such as ignorance or infirmity." "


I also noted these as well. Perhaps most relevant to my daily life as I mentally judge people for choices that seem wrong to me, I need to remember that even objectively evil acts can only be fully understood with an understanding of the heart, and that the Christian duty is to assume the best possible interpretation and allow God to judge.


message 26: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
"[The] soul which aims at the dignity of becoming the spouse of Christ, must . . . pare and shave away every impediment which can hinder the Love of God."

"The ordinary purification, whether of body or soul, is only accomplished by slow degrees, step by step, gradually and painfully."

"[It] is our privilege in this war that we are certain to vanquish so long as we are willing to fight."


message 27: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
"In both [meditation and work] you are fulfilling God's Will, and you should be able to turn from one to the other in a devout and humble spirit."

"If you foresee having to meet someone who is hot-tempered and irritable, you must not merely resolve to guard your own temper, but you must consider by what gentle words to conciliate him."


message 28: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
I find his distinction between humility and abjection interesting, and the idea that true humility is rejoicing in one's abjection.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
There is a slight inconsistency in chapters 31 and 32 of the third part: first he considers chess acceptable as an amusement, and then he attacks "forbidden games" such as dice and cards because

Is it not occupation, to have the spirit oppressed and tense by continuous attention, and agitated by constant concerns, apprehensions and worries?

However, this paragraph is also perfectly applicable to chess. Then, in the next paragraph, he states the real reason why "forbidden games" should not be practised:

In the game, there is no joy but that of profit. Is not an iniquity, a joy that can only be achieved at the cost of the loss and displeasure of the companion?


message 30: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Seymour | 1827 comments Mod
I had a little difficulty with that and am thinking about it. I enjoy playing poker, but usually avoid it because I can't afford to lose significant amounts and frankly rarely have the time. But on the occasion when I do play, it is the skill at playing the cards dealt and outplaying your opponents that I enjoy. Sweeping the table with fantastically good cards is not as much fun as playing bad cards skillfully. Would I feel the same if the stakes were significant? Probably not. So maybe he is right after all?


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
John wrote: "I had a little difficulty with that and am thinking about it. I enjoy playing poker, but usually avoid it because I can't afford to lose significant amounts and frankly rarely have the time..."

In general, I agree that playing for money should be avoided, but notice that in chapter 33 Sales accepts dancing in special cases, for reasons that could also be applied to games:

If, on occasion from which you cannot excuse yourself, you are forced to go to the dance, seek in your dance the greatest decency.

I do play cards at home with my wife to pass the time (of course, not for money, just for the fun). Also many bridge clubs are nearer to chess clubs than to other card games (you play for points,not for money). And Sales always leaves some degree of liberty for well-formed people, as in chapter 34:

To play and to dance lawfully, it is necessary to do it for recreation and not as a pursuit, for a short time, without tiring or surrendering oneself, and just once in a while; because he who makes it an ordinary thing, turns recreation into an occupation.

I once played ten chess games in the same day. The result was, I passed most of the next night playing games in my dreams. It was worst than a nightmare. I never did it again.

I like Sales thoughtfulness, he always tries to leave the door open for special cases.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1415 comments Mod
I'd like to be able to quote here the whole of chapter 1 in the fourth part, Don't listen to the words of the children of the world, for they are, almost to the last word, applicable now.


message 33: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 654 comments "Although all things turn and change around us, we should remain constantly immovable; ever looking and aspiring towards God. No matter what course the ship may take..., no matter by what wind it may be driven,--never will the needle of the compass point in any other direction than towards the fair polar star. Let everything be in confusion, not only around us, but even within us; let our soul be overwhelmed with sorrow or joy; with sweetness or bitterness...yet the point of our heart, our spirit and our superior will, which is our compass, must incessantly tend towards the love of God, its Creator, its Saviour, in a word, its only sovereign good." (Part 4, ch. 13)
perhaps especially apt this election week

"...the enemy, who amuses souls with these false consolations, to make them rest contented, lest they should search any further after the true and solid devotion, which consists in a constant, resolute, prompt, and active will to reduce to practice whatever we know to be pleasing to God." (same chapter)


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