Monday, June 20, 2011

St. Francis de Sales on true devotion

I thank God for the gift of reflection amidst scandal and disillusion. While it is heartbreaking to witness a champion of faith crumble in the face of adversity, a situation such as this can actually call us to reexamine our own understanding of what it means to live a life of devotion. What is true devotion to God and how do we seek to live this life in Christ?

St. Francis de Sales has a thought-provoking insight about spiritual devotion in his spiritual masterpiece, Introduction to the Devout Life, “There is only one true devotion but there are many that are false and empty. If you are unable to recognize which kind is true, you can easily be deceived and led astray by following one that is offensive and superstitious.”

Just how easy is it to be led astray? Very easy. Super easy. So easy that if we are not constantly vigilant, especially when we are doing some good work, our weaknesses will be found. Do we struggle with obedience, detachment from worldly possessions? Are we hot-tempered or arrogant? Do we prefer the affection and adulation that we get from others over the glorification of God and the furthering of His Kingdom? Do we rationalize disobedience or attachment to wealth in order to promote the mission that has become our own twisted creation?

It is easy for us to point fingers at someone else and say that these are not our problems, but just as quickly these same weaknesses could be on the brink of taking down any one of us. What are we to do? Again, I turn to St. Francis de Sales.

“Genuine, living devotion, Philothea, presupposes the love of God, and hence it is simply true love of God. Yet it is not always love as such. Inasmuch as divine love adorns the soul, it is called grace, which makes us pleasing to his Divine Majesty. Inasmuch as it strengthens us to do good, it is called charity. When it has reached a degree of perfection at which it not only makes us do good but also do this carefully, frequently, and promptly, it is called devotion.”

I hope that whenever we experience disappointments, whether it be with friends or relatives, coworkers or people in roles of leadership and ministry and especially with ourselves, the sadness of detaching from our worldly affections will draw us more deeply into the love of Christ and into the joy of sharing in the communion of truly devoted believers.

Deo gratias. Let’s all continue to pray for each other.


  1. I love St. Francis' reflections. I'm glad you do also. Sometimes God gives us consolations in the words spoken to us by others, but I often find them in the words written so long ago by the saints, but still applicable to this poor soul today. Father's Day was yesterday; one of the greatest gifts my father ever gave me was the love of reading. I am sure he is aware how thankful I am to him.

  2. I'm so happy Anne at Imprisoned In My Bones highlighted the Catholic Blog Community on "Pay It Forward" today. I found you through her post.

    Your reflection question is very thought provoking. It's going to be running around my head all day.

    I wanted to let you know about a Meme called “Pay It Forward” @ A Life-Size Catholic Blog. If you can find time to link up (today, or any Tuesday) with this new Meme it’s a great way to grow our blogging community. Check it out at:

    Many blessings…

  3. Such good advice! Mahalo Beth!

  4. Beth, this is wonderfully practical advice. You can never go wrong in following the words of St. Francis de Sales! Thanks for this post.