By St. Francis de Sales
Many of us have a great desire for a life that is pleasant and happy! With many beautiful examples and explanations, Saint Francis de Sale shows us in this five part book how this can be accomplished even here below through the practice of a truly devout life.
In the first part, we are presented with what true devotion really is in order to distinguish it from the many false devotions. The Saint tells us that it implies the love of God in the highest form. He goes on to assure us that this true devotion makes the works of truly devout souls easy and pleasant, and that it is suited to everyone without exception.
Step by step, we are guided through the different stages of purifying ourselves in order to grow closer to God. Included in this section are ten valuable meditations that even those very new to meditation will find useful and edifying!
The second part of the book explains the necessity of prayer and presents for us in detail a plan for meditation, spelling it out for us so simply and beautifully that we can hardly say anymore that we do not know how to meditate! The Saint encourages us with a gentle reminder not to be disheartened if we do not find consolation in our prayers but to remain strong in our resolution.
If we have but a feeble appreciation for our daily prayers, the following pages are calculated to instill in us a greater love for our prayer life. Speaking of the Mass, the book inspires us with confidence, calling it ‘the heart of devotion’ and telling us that God gives Himself to us in it, ‘bestowing upon us freely all His favours and graces’, and gives us a very useful, short plan to follow even if we can only attend spiritually, which many will find useful particularly in our present day.
Many other useful counsels follow, including the invocation of Saints and how to receive the Sacraments devoutly, helping us to understand how truly wonderful these are! On speaking of how to Communicate, ‘receiving for love’s sake what love alone can give’, the Saint helps us to understand with one of his usual beautiful metaphors, telling us that ‘as the hares amidst our snowy mountains grow white from living in the snow, so by perpetually worshipping and adoring beauty, goodness and purity in this Divine Sacrament, you too will become beautiful, good and pure’. How can this not be our greatest desire?
In the third part, he speaks of the virtues, telling us to cultivate the most excellent rather than the most showy, comparing these to comets, which are not really to be compared in the stars either in grandeur or quality, as are acts of discipline of the heart. We are given many helpful practices in virtue, which will prove very valuable to the soul desiring to become holy.
In the fourth part, he gives us counsels against temptations, encourages us, and offers helping guides for different states of the soul, with stories of the Saints to paint the truths he wishes to teach us clearly in our minds.
The fifth part, Spiritual Review, contains exercises to confirm us in our resolutions, and the Saint ends this beautiful masterpiece with a Glory Be!
May we be truly strengthened in our good resolutions and inspired to courageously strive after what we have first only desired, for as the introductory quote, from the Saint himself, tells us, ‘...the Holy Spirit, speaking by all the Saints, and our blessed Lord Himself assure us that a devout life is a lovely, a pleasant, and a happy life.’