IDL33 – Part 2 – Chapter 9 – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Part 2 – Chapter 9 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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PART 2 – CHAPTER IX. FOR THE DRYNESS WHICH MAY BE EXPERIENCED IN MEDITATION

IF it should happen, Philothea, that you have neither relish nor consolation in your meditation, I implore you not to be in the least troubled thereat, but sometimes open the door to vocal prayers: complain to our Lord, confess your unworthiness, ask him to come to your aid, kiss his image if you have it, say to him these words of Jacob: I will not let you go, Lord, unless you bless me; or those of the woman of Canaan: Yes, Lord, I am a dog, but the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters. At other times, take a book in your hand and read it with attention, until your spirit be awakened and restored within you; sometimes stir up your heart by some posture or movement of exterior devotion, prostrating yourself on the ground, crossing your hands upon your breast, embracing a crucifix; that is, if you are in some private place.

But if after all this you obtain no consolation, be not troubled, however great your dryness may be, but continue to keep yourself in a devout attitude before your God. How many courtiers there are that go a hundred times a year into the prince’s presence-chamber without hope of speaking to him, but only to be seen by him and to pay their respects. So also, my dear Philothea, should we come to holy prayer, purely and simply to pay our respects and give proof of our fidelity. If it please the divine Majesty to speak to us and to converse with us by his holy inspirations and interior consolations, it will doubtless be a great honour for us, and a very delightful pleasure; but if it please him not to show us this favour, leaving us there without so much as speaking to us, as though he saw us not and as though we were not in his presence, we must not, for all that, depart, but, on the contrary, we must remain there before this sovereign Goodness, with a devout and peaceful mien; and then infallibly will he be pleased with our patience, and will take notice of our diligence and perseverance, so that another time when we come again before him, he will favour us, and will converse with us by his consolations, making us realize the sweetness of holy prayer. But even though he should not do so, let us be satisfied, Philothea, that it is an exceeding great honour for us to be near him and in his presence.

 

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IDL32 – Part 2 – Chapter 8 – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Part 2 – Chapter 8 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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This is a Discerning Hearts recording read by Correy Webb

PART 2 – CHAPTER VIII. OF THE CONSIDERATIONS, WHICH ARE THE SECOND PART OF THE MEDITATION

ABOVE all things, Philothea, when you quit your meditation, bear in mind the resolutions and intentions which you have formed, in order to practise them carefully during the day. This is the great fruit of meditation, without which oftentimes it is not only useless, but hurtful, because virtues meditated upon and not practised, sometimes puff up the spirit and the heart, making us think that we are such as we have resolved and determined to be, which doubtless is true if the resolutions are vigorous and solid; but they are not such, nay, rather vain and dangerous, if they be not put into practice. We must, therefore, by all means try to practise them, and to avail ourselves of the occasions, be they small or great, of putting them into practice. For example, if I have resolved to win by gentleness the hearts of those who offend me, I will seek that very day an opportunity of meeting them in order to greet them amicably; if I fail to meet them, I will at least try to speak well of them and pray to God on their behalf.

When you have finished this prayer of the heart, you must take care not to give any jolt to your heart, lest you spill the balm which you have received by means of your prayer; I mean by this, that you must keep silence for a little while, if possible, and move your heart quite gently from your prayer to your occupations, retaining, for as long a time as you can, the feelings and the affections which you have conceived. A man who receives some precious liquor in a beautiful porcelain vase to carry home with him walks carefully, not looking from one side to the other, but sometimes straight before him, for fear of stumbling over a stone or of making a false step, sometimes at his vase to see if it be well balanced.
You must act in like manner when you have finished your meditation: do not withdraw your thoughts from it all at once, but look only before you. For example, if you must meet someone, to whom you are obliged to speak, or listen, you cannot help it and you must put up with it, but in such a way that you are mindful also of your heart, so that the cordial of holy prayer may be spilt as little as possible. You must even accustom yourself to know how to pass from prayer to all sorts of actions which your vocation and profession justly and lawfully requires of you, though they seem very far removed from the affections which you have received in prayer. I mean that the advocate must learn to pass from prayer to pleading; the merchant to business; the married woman to the duties of her state and to the cares of her household, with so much gentleness and tranquillity that the spirit be not disturbed thereby; for, since both are according to the will of God, we must make the passage from the one to the other in a spirit of humility and devotion.

It may happen to you sometimes that immediately after the preparation you will find your affection stirred up towards God: then, Philothea, you must give it the reins, without trying to follow the method which I have given you; for although ordinarily the consideration ought to precede the affections and resolutions, yet if the Holy Spirit give you the affections before the consideration, you should not make the consideration, since it is only made in order to stir up the affections. In a word, whensoever the affections present themselves to you, you must receive them and make room for them, whether they come before or after all the considerations. And although I have placed the affections after all the considerations, I have only done so the better to distinguish the different parts of prayer; for at the same time it is a general rule that one must never restrain the affections, but always allow them free play when they present themselves. And this I say not only with regard to the other affections, but also with regard to the thanksgiving, the oblation, and the petitions, all of which may be made among the considerations; for they must not be restrained any more than the other affections, even though afterwards, in order to bring the meditation to a conclusion, it may be necessary to repeat and resume them. But as to the resolutions, they should be made after the affections, and at the end of the whole meditation, before the conclusion, because, as they represent to us particular and familiar objects, if we were to make them among the affections, they might be a cause of distraction to us. Among the affections and resolutions it is good to make use of colloquies, and to speak sometimes to our Lord, sometimes to the Angels, and to the persons represented in the mysteries, to the Saints and to oneself, to one’s own heart, to sinners, and even to inanimate creatures, as we see that David does in his psalms, and the other Saints in their meditations and prayers.

 

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IDL31 – Part 2 – Chapter 7 – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Part 2 – Chapter 7 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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PART 2 – CHAPTER VII. OF THE AFFECTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS, WHICH ARE THE THIRD PART OF THE MEDITATION

FINALLY, the meditation must be closed by three acts which should be made with as much humility as possible. The first is the act of thanksgiving by which we thank God for the affections and resolutions which he has given us, and for his goodness and mercy which we have discovered in the mystery upon which we have been meditating. The second is the act of oblation by which we offer to God this same goodness and mercy of his, the death, the blood, and the virtues of his Son, and, together with these, our own affections and resolutions. The third is the act of petition, by which we demand of God and implore him to communicate to us the graces and virtues of his Son, and to bless our affections and resolutions, so that we may be able faithfully to put them into practice; then we pray in like manner for the Church, for our pastors, relations, friends and others, availing ourselves, for this purpose, of the intercession of our Lady, and of the Angels and Saints.

Lastly, I have noted that one should say the Pater noster and Ave Maria, which is the general and necessary prayer of all the faithful. To all this I have added that one should gather a little boutique of devotion. My meaning is as follows: Those who have been walking in a beautiful garden do not leave it willingly without taking away with them four or five flowers, in order to inhale their perfume and carry them about during the day: even so, when we have considered some mystery in meditation, we should choose one or two or three points in which we have found most relish, and which are specially proper to our advancement, in order to remember them throughout the day, and to inhale their perfume spiritually. Now we should do this in the place where we have made our meditation, either staying where we are, or walking about alone for a little while afterwards.

 

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IDL29-30 – Part 2 – Chapters 5 & 6 – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Part 2 – Chapters 5 & 6 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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PART 2 – CHAPTER V. OF THE CONSIDERATIONS, WHICH ARE THE SECOND PART OF THE MEDITATION

AFTER the action of the imagination, follows the action of the understanding, which we call meditation, which is no other thing than one or many considerations made in order to stir up our affections towards God and divine things: and herein meditation differs from study and from other thoughts and considerations which are not made to acquire virtue or the love of God, but for other ends and intentions, as, for example, to become learned, to write, or to argue. Having then confined your spirit, as I have said, within the enclosure of the subject upon which you intend to meditate, either by the imagination if the subject be something perceptible to the senses, or by the simple setting forth thereof, if it be something imperceptible, you will begin to make considerations on it, some examples of which you will find fully developed in the meditations which I have given you.

And if you find sufficient relish, light and fruit in one of these considerations, stay there without passing on to another, acting like the bees, who do not leave a flower so long as they find any honey there to gather. But if you do not find anything to your liking in one of these considerations after having dealt with it and tried it for a little while, pass on to another; but proceed quite gently and simply in this matter, without undue haste.


PART 2 – CHAPTER VI. OF THE SETTING FORTH OF THE MYSTERY, WHICH IS THE THIRD POINT OF THE PREPARATION

MEDITATION produces good movements in the will or affective part of our soul, such as the love of God and of our neighbour, the desire of heaven and eternal glory, zeal for the salvation of souls, imitation of the life of our Lord, compassion, admiration, joy, fear of God’s displeasure, of judgement and of hell, hatred of sin, confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, confusion for our bad lives in the past; and in these affections our spirit should expand and extend itself as much as possible. And if you desire to be helped in this matter, take in hand the first volume of the Meditations of Dom Andres Capiglia, and read the preface, for he shows therein how to enlarge these affections; and Father Arias does the same more fully still in his Treatise on Prayer.

However, Philothea, you must not dwell upon these general affections to such an extent that you omit to convert them into special and particular resolutions for your correction and amendment. For example, the first word that our Lord spoke on the cross will doubtless stir up in your soul a good affection of imitation—namely, the desire to pardon your enemies and to love them. But I say now that this is of little value, if you do not add to it a special resolution to this effect: Well then! I will not hereafter be offended by such or such annoying words, which such or such a person, a neighbor of mine perhaps, or a servant, may say of me, nor by such or such an affront which may be put upon me by this person or by that: on the contrary, I will say and do such or such a thing to gain him, and appease him, and so also in other matters. By this means, Philothea, you will correct your faults in a very short time, whereas by the affections alone you will do so but slowly and with difficulty.

 

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IDL27-28 – Part 2 – Chapters 3 & 4 – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Part 2 – Chapters 3 & 4 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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PART 2 – CHAPTER III. OF THE INVOCATION WHICH IS THE SECOND POINT OF THE PREPARATION

THE invocation is made in this manner: your soul having realized that she is in the presence of God, prostrates herself with profound reverence, acknowledging her unworthiness to appear before so sovereign a Majesty, and nevertheless, knowing that his goodness desires it she asks of him the grace to serve him well, and to adore him in this meditation. If you wish to do so, you may make use of some short and ardent words, such as these of David: Cast me not away, O God, from thy face, and take not the favor of thy Holy Spirit from me. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant,61 and I will consider thy wonders.

Give me understanding and I will search thy law, and I will keep it with my whole heart. I am thy servant, give me understanding; and other similar words. You would do well also to invoke your good Angel, and the holy persons who are concerned in the mystery upon which you are meditating: as in that of the death of our Lord, you may invoke our Lady, St John, St Mary Magdalen and the good thief, in order that the interior sentiments and movements which they received may be communicated to you: and in the meditation on your own death, you may ask your good Angel, who will be present at it, to inspire you with fitting considerations; and so also with other mysteries.


PART 2 – CHAPTER IV. OF THE SETTING FORTH OF THE MYSTERY, WHICH IS THE THIRD POINT OF THE PREPARATION

AFTER these two ordinary points of the meditation, there is a third which is not common to all sorts of meditations; it is that which is called by some the composition of place, and by others the interior lection. This is no other thing than to represent to the imagination the scene of the mystery upon which the meditation is made, as though it were actually taking place in our presence. For example, if you wish to meditate upon our Saviour on the cross, you will imagine yourself to be on mount Calvary, and that you see there all that was done and said on the day of the Passion; or, if you will (for it is all one), you will imagine that the crucifixion is taking place in the very spot where you are, in the way described by the Evangelists.

The same applies to meditations on death, as I have noted in the meditation on this subject, and also to that on hell, and to all similar mysteries which are concerned with things visible and perceptible to the senses; for as regards other mysteries, such as the greatness of God, the excellence of virtue, the end for which we are created, which are invisible things, there is no question of making use of this kind of imagination. It is true that we may very well employ some sort of similitude and comparison to help us in our consideration of such mysteries; but that is somewhat difficult to find, and I only wish to treat with you very simply, and in such a way that your mind may not be wearied with much seeking.

Now, by means of this imaginary scene we confine our spirit within the mystery upon which we intend to meditate, so that it may not range hither and thither, just as we confine a bird within a cage, or as we put jesses on a hawk so that it may remain upon the fist. Yet some will tell you that, in the representation of these mysteries, it is better to make use of the simple thought of faith, and of a simple apprehension entirely mental and spiritual, or else to consider that the things are done within your own spirit; but that is too subtle for a commencement, and until such time as God may raise you higher, I counsel you, Philothea, to remain in the low valley which I have shown you.

 

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IDL26 – Part 2 – Chapter 2: A Short Method for Meditation – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Part 2 – Chapter 2 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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PART 2 – CHAPTER II. A SHORT METHOD FOR MEDITATION: AND FIRST, OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD, WHICH IS THE FIRST POINT OF THE PREPARATION

BUT perhaps you do not know, Philothea, how to make mental prayer; for it is a thing which unhappily few persons in this age of ours know how to practise. For this reason, I will give you a simple and brief method to that end, until such time as, by reading some of the good books which have been composed on this subject, and above all by practice, you may be more fully instructed. I note first the preparation, which consists in two points, the first of which is to place yourself in the presence of God, and the second to invoke his assistance. I am now going to set forth four principal ways of placing yourself in the presence of God, which you may make use of in this preparation.

The first consists in a lively and attentive apprehension of the omnipresence of God, which means that God is in everything and everywhere, and that there is not any place or thing in this world where he is not most assuredly present; so that, just as the birds, wherever they fly, always encounter the air, so, wherever we go, or wherever we are, we find God present. Everyone knows this truth, but everyone is not attentive to grasp it. Blind men, even though they see not a prince who is present with them, fail not to behave with respect, if they are told of his presence; but the truth is that, since they do not see him, they easily forget that he is present, and having forgotten it, they lose yet more easily respect and reverence. Alas! Philothea, we do not see God who is present with us; and, although faith tells us of his presence, yet, since we do not see him with our eyes, we forget it very often, and behave as though God were very far from us; for although we know well that he is present in all things, yet if we do not think about it at all, it is just as if we knew it not. Therefore, before prayer we must always stir up our souls to an attentive thought and consideration of this presence of God. Such was the way in which David apprehended God’s presence, when he cried out: If I ascend into heaven, O my God, thou art there; if I descend into hell, thou art present; and thus we should make use of the words of Jacob, who when he saw the holy ladder said: How terrible is this place! Indeed the Lord is in this place and I knew it not. He means to say that he was not thinking of it; for he could not be ignorant that God was in everything and everywhere. When therefore you come to prayer, you must say with all your heart, and to your heart: O my heart, my heart, God is truly here.

The second way of placing yourself in this holy presence, is to think that not only is God in the place where you are, but that he is in a very special manner in your heart and in the depth of your spirit, which he quickens and animates with his divine presence, since he is there as the heart of your heart, and the spirit of your spirit; for as the soul, being spread throughout the body, is present in every part thereof, and yet resides in a special manner in the heart, so God, being present in all things, is present nevertheless in a special manner in our spirit and therefore David called God the God of his heart;57 and St Paul said that we live and move and are in God.58 In the consideration therefore of this truth, you will stir up in your heart a great reverence for God, who is so intimately present there.

The third way is to consider our Saviour, who in his humanity looks from Heaven upon all persons in the world, but particularly upon Christians who are his children, and more especially upon those who are in prayer, whose actions and behaviour he observes. Now this is not a mere imagination, but a most certain truth; for, though we do not perceive him, yet he looks upon us from above. St Stephen saw him thus at the time of his martyrdom. So that we may truly say with the Spouse; Behold he stands behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices.

The fourth way consists in making use of the imagination alone, representing to ourselves the Saviour in his sacred humanity, as though he were near to us, just as we are wont to represent our friends to ourselves saying: I imagine that I see such a one who is doing this or that; it seems to me that I see him, or some such thing. But if the most holy Sacrament of the altar be present, then this presence will be real and not merely imaginary; for the species and appearances of the bread are as it were a tapestry, behind which our Lord really present sees and observes us, though we see him not in his own form.

You will make use then of one of these four ways of putting your soul in the presence of God, before prayer; and you must not seek to make use of them all together, but only one at a time, and that briefly and simply.

 

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IDL25 – Part 2 – Chapter 1: – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Part 2 – Chapter 1 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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PART 2 – CHAPTER I. THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER

INASMUCH as prayer places our understanding in the clearness of the divine light, and exposes our will to the warmth of heavenly love, there is nothing which so purges our understanding of its ignorance and our will of its depraved inclinations; it is the water of benediction, which, when our souls are watered therewith, makes the plants of our good desires revive and flourish, cleanses our souls of their imperfections, and quenches the thirst caused by the passions of our hearts.

But above all I recommend to you prayer of the mind and heart and especially that which has for its subject the life and passion of our Lord; for by beholding him often in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with him; you will learn his disposition, and you will form your actions after the model of his. He is the light of the world, and therefore it is in him, by him, and for him that we must be enlightened and illuminated; he is the tree of desire, in the shadow of which we must seek refreshment; he is the living well of Jacob, for the cleansing of all our stains. In fine, as children by listening to their mothers, and prattling with them, learn to speak their language, so we, by keeping close to the Saviour in meditation, and observing his words, his actions, and his affections, shall learn, with the help of his grace, to speak, to act, and to will like him.
We must stop there, Philothea, and believe me, we cannot go to God the Father, but by this door; for just as the glass of a mirror could not catch our reflection if the back thereof were not covered with tin or lead, so the Divinity could not well be contemplated by us in this world below if it were not united to the sacred humanity of the Saviour, whose life and death are the most appropriate, sweet, delicious and profitable subjects which we can choose for our ordinary meditations. The Saviour does not call himself for nothing, the bread which came down from heaven, for, as bread should be eaten with all sorts of meat, so the Saviour ought to be meditated upon, considered, and sought after in all our prayers and actions. His life and death have been arranged and distributed into diverse points by many authors, in order to serve for meditation: those whom I recommend to you are St Bonaventure, Bellintani, Bruno, Capiglia, Granada, and Da Ponte.

Spend an hour in meditation every day, sometime or other before the midday meal, if possible in the early part of your morning, because your mind will be less distracted and more refreshed after the repose of the night. But do not spend more than an hour therein, unless your spiritual Father should expressly say so.

If you can perform this exercise in the church, and find sufficient quiet there, it will be a very convenient and suitable thing for you, because no one, neither father nor mother nor wife nor husband nor anyone else, can well hinder you from staying an hour in the church; whereas, if you be in any sort of subjection to others, you might not be able to promise yourself so uninterrupted an hour in your own house.

Begin all your prayers, be they mental or vocal, with the presence of God, and make no exception to this rule, and you will soon perceive how profitable it will be to you.

If you will take my advice, you will say your Our Father, your Hail Mary and the Creed in Latin; but you will also take care to understand exactly what the words mean in your mother tongue, so that, while saying them in the language of the Church, you may nevertheless relish the admirable and delicious meaning of these holy prayers, which you should say, fixing your attention earnestly upon their meaning and stirring up your affections thereby; not hurrying in order to say many of them, but taking care to say from your heart those which you do say; for one single Pater said with feeling is worth more than many recited quickly and in haste.

The rosary is a very profitable kind of prayer, provided that you understand how to say it properly; and in order to do so, provide yourself with one or other of the little books which explain how it should be recited. It is also good to say the litanies of our Lord, of our Lady, and of the Saints, and all the other vocal prayers which are to be found in approved manuals and prayer-books, yet on the understanding that, if you have the gift of mental prayer, you always reserve for that the principal place; so that if after making mental prayer you cannot say any vocal prayers at all, either because of your many occupations, or for some other reason, be not disturbed on that account, but merely say, before or after your meditation, the Lord’s Prayer, the Angelic Salutation, and the Apostles’ Creed.

If, while saying your vocal prayers, you feel your heart drawn and invited to interior or mental prayer, do not resist the attraction, but allow your mind to go gently in that direction, and be not concerned at not having finished the vocal prayers which you had intended to say; for the mental prayer, which you will have made in their stead, is more pleasing to God and more profitable for your soul. I accept the office of the Church, if you are under an obligation to say it; for in that case you must fulfill your obligation.

If it should happen that all your morning passes without this holy exercise of mental prayer, either because of your many occupations, or for some other reason (which you ought to guard against as far as possible), try to repair this loss after the midday meal, at some hour which is as far removed as possible from it, because if you should make your prayer soon after your meal, before properly digesting your food, you would be much troubled by drowsiness, and your health might suffer thereby. But if you cannot make mental prayer at all during the day, you must repair this loss by multiplying ejaculatory prayers, and by reading some book of devotion, together with some penance which may prevent the repetition of this failure; and at the same time make a firm resolution to resume the practice on the following day.

 

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IDL24 – All Evil Inclinations Must be Purged Away – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Chapter 24 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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PART 1 – CHAPTER XXIV. All Evil Inclinations Must be Purged Away

FURTHERMORE, my daughter, we have certain natural inclinations, which are not strictly speaking either mortal or venial sins, but rather imperfections; and the acts in which they take shape, failings and deficiencies. Thus S. Jerome says that S. Paula had so strong a tendency to excessive sorrow, that when she lost her husband and children she nearly died of grief: that was not a sin, but an imperfection, since it did not depend upon her wish and will. Some people are naturally easy, some oppositions; some are indisposed to accept other men’s opinions, some naturally disposed to be cross, some to be affectionate—in short, there is hardly anyone in whom some such imperfections do not exist. Now, although they be natural and instinctive in each person, they may be remedied and corrected, or even eradicated, by cultivating the reverse disposition. And this, my child, must be done.

Gardeners have found how to make the bitter almond tree bear sweet fruit, by grafting the juice of the latter upon it, why should we not purge out our perverse dispositions and infuse such as are good? There is no disposition so good but it may be made bad by dint of vicious habits, and neither is there any natural disposition so perverse but that it may be conquered and overcome by God’s Grace primarily, and then by our earnest diligent endeavour. I shall therefore now proceed to give you counsels and suggest practices by which you may purify your soul from all dangerous affections and imperfections, and from all tendencies to venial sin, thereby strengthening yourself more and more against mortal sin. May God give you grace to use them.

 

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IDL23 – Putting Away Inclination for Dangerous Things – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Chapter 23 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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PART 1 – CHAPTER XXIII. It is needful to put away all Inclination for Useless and Dangerous Things

SPORTS, balls, plays, festivities, pomps, are not in themselves evil, but rather indifferent matters, capable of being used for good or ill; but nevertheless they are dangerous, and it is still more dangerous to take great delight in them. Therefore, my daughter, I say that although it is lawful to amuse yourself, to dance, dress, feast, and see seemly plays,—at the same time, if you are much addicted to these things, they will hinder your devotion, and become extremely hurtful and dangerous to you. The harm lies, not in doing them, but in the degree to which you care for them. It is a pity to sow the seed of vain and foolish tastes in the soil of your heart, taking up the place of better things, and hindering the soul from cultivating good dispositions.

It was thus that the Nazarites of old abstained not merely from all intoxicating liquors, but from grapes fresh or dried, and from vinegar, not because these were intoxicating, but because they might excite the desire for fermented liquors. Just so, while I do not forbid the use of these dangerous pleasures, I say that you cannot take an excessive delight in them without their telling upon your devotion. When the stag has waxed fat he hides himself amid the thicket, conscious that his fleetness is impaired should he be in need to fly: and so the human heart which is cumbered with useless, superfluous, dangerous clingings becomes incapacitated for that earnest following after God which is the true life of devotion. No one blames children for running after butterflies, because they are children, but is it not ridiculous and pitiful to see full-grown men eager about such worthless trifles as the worldly amusements before named, which are likely to throw them off their balance and disturb their spiritual life? Therefore, dear child, I would have you cleanse your heart from all such tastes, remembering that while the acts themselves are not necessarily incompatible with a devout life, all delight in them must be harmful.

 

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IDL22 – The Necessity of Purging Venial Sins – Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Chapter 22 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales

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This is a Discerning Hearts recording read by Correy Webb

CHAPTER XXII. The Necessity of Purging away all tendency to Venial Sins.

AS daylight waxes, we, gazing into a mirror, see more plainly the soils and stains upon our face; and even so as the interior light of the Holy Spirit enlightens our conscience, we see more distinctly the sins, inclinations and imperfections which hinder our progress towards real devotion. And the selfsame light which shows us these blots and stains, kindles in us the desire to be cleansed and purged therefrom. You will find then, my child, that besides the mortal sins and their affections from which your soul has already been purged, you are beset by sundry inclinations and tendencies to venial sin; mind, I do not say you will find venial sins, but the inclination and tendency to them. Now, one is quite different from the other. We can never be altogether free from venial sin, —at least not until after a very long persistence in this purity; but we can be without any affection for venial sin. It is altogether one thing to have said something unimportant not strictly true, out of carelessness or liveliness, and quite a different matter to take pleasure in lying, and in the habitual practice thereof. But I tell you that you must purify your soul from all inclination to venial sin; —that is to say, you must not voluntarily retain any deliberate intention of permitting yourself to commit any venial sin whatever. It would be most unworthy consciously to admit anything so displeasing to God, as the will to offend Him in anywise. Venial sin, however small, is displeasing to God, although it be not so displeasing as the greater sins which involve eternal condemnation; and if venial sin is displeasing to Him, any clinging which we tolerate to mortal sin is nothing less than a resolution to offend His Divine Majesty. Is it really possible that a rightly disposed soul can not only offend God, but take pleasure therein?

These inclinations, my daughter, are in direct opposition to devotion, as inclinations to mortal sin are to love: —they weaken the mental power, hinder Divine consolations, and open the door to temptations; —and although they may not destroy the soul, at least they bring on very serious disease. “Dead flies cause the ointment to send forth a stinking savor,” says the Wise Man. He means that the flies which settle upon and taste of the ointment only damage it temporarily, leaving the mass intact, but if they fall into it, and die there, they spoil and corrupt it. Even so venial sins which pass over a devout soul without being harbored, do not permanently injure it, but if such sins are fostered and cherished, they destroy the sweet savor of that soul—that is to say, its devotion. The spider cannot kill bees, but it can spoil their honey, and so encumber their combs with its webs in course of time, as to hinder the bees materially. Just so, though venial sins may not lose the soul, they will spoil its devotion, and so cumber its faculties with bad habits and evil inclinations, as to deprive it of all that cheerful readiness which is the very essence of true devotion; that is to say, if they are harbored in the conscience by delight taken therein. A trifling inaccuracy, a little hastiness in word or action, some small excess in mirth, in dress, in gaiety, may not be very important, if these are forthwith heeded and swept out as spiritual cobwebs;—but if they are permitted to linger in the heart, or, worse still, if we take pleasure in them and indulge them, our honey will soon be spoilt, and the hive of our conscience will be cumbered and damaged. But I ask again, how can a generous heart take delight in anything it knows to be displeasing to its God, or wish to do what offends Him?

Glory be to Jesus. Amen.

 

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