Part 2 – Chapter 1 of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
This is a Discerning Hearts recording read by Correy Webb
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.
For other chapters of the Introduction to the Devout Life audiobook visit here –