Part 2 – Chapter 8 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 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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