Francis de Sales (4)
The following exercises can be done by individuals, shared between spiritual friends, or used in the contest of a small group. Choose one or more of the following.
1. Practice the spiritual discipline with which you are at least familiar, the one you have yet to engage in with joy or regularity. Take a week to discover the joys of that spiritual discipline. Use Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline or Dallas Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines as a guide in these uncharted waters.
2. Paul encouraged us to keep all the commandments by keeping this one: Love your neighbor as yourself (Rom. 13:9). This week do something loving for your neighbor. Treat the people around you as you would wish to be treated.
3. Find a spiritual friend. Francis encourages us to seek the help of a “good person to guide and lead you.” Look for a person who shares your love and commitment to God, and ask that person to meet with you for regular prayer and encouragement and guidance.
4. The world distorts holy devotion, says Francis, because it sees only the outer actions, which appear bitter and unbearable. This week begin changing these false opinions by sharing the joy of prayer, fasting, solitude, etc., with those who do not know God. Be bold as you proclaim the joy you receive in your spiritual life.
I’m glad for the teaching of Francis de Sales because it helps to clarify a major point of confusion in our day. It is generally assumed today that devotion means a series of religious duties to add to an already overcommitted schedule. But such is simply not the case. By themselves, the externals of religion are dry, dead, dusty stuff. No, we all need the heartfelt habit that Francis calls “charity,” by which he simply means the ability to do good to all people.
Francis de Sales reminds us that on the vertical plane “true devotion” means a head-over-heels, white-hot love of God. On the horizontal plane it means a strength free of guile to serve others. May God stir up within us deep-seated yearnings for this one and only “true devotion.”