30 March 2007
The Soul's Best Friend
St. Francis de Sales' classic spiritual guidebook, "Philothea, or Introduction to the Devout Life", begins with the following observation of the Christian soul:
"YOU aim at a devout life, dear child, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God’s Divine Majesty. But seeing that the small errors people are wont to commit in the beginning of any under taking are apt to wax greater as they advance, and to become irreparable at last, it is most important that you should thoroughly understand wherein lies the grace of true devotion;—and that because while there undoubtedly is such a true devotion, there are also many spurious and idle semblances thereof; and unless you know which is real, you may mistake, and waste your energy in pursuing an empty, profitless shadow."
Now, many readers will already be familiar with this work, but I invite any sincere Catholic to read this book as soon as practicable. The Salesian spirituality, that holiness is possible in every state of life, and that the desire for holiness is a sign that God's grace will bestow the means for holiness, is a life-changing spirituality.
There are many Catholics today who would believe that such an attitude is an invention of the Second Vatican Council and some of the newer religious movements. Not so. St. Francis de Sales taught this roughly 400 years ago.
My spiritual director told me once that Christ wants to be the best friend of our souls. So much does He love us, that he waits for our free decision to give ourselves to Him. He will not coerce us in the slightest, but sends graces and consolations even before we respond to His call.
When we grow in devotion, we allow Christ to enter in and become our soul's best friend.
St. Francis urges the soul to give up sin, but also to give up the attachment to sin; this attachment makes our efforts to do good works, spiritual and corporal (what he calls the essence of devotion), feeble and inconstant. He then provides aids to grow in this devotion-- first taking the soul through a series of meditations to incite love of God and repudiation of sin, leading to a general confession with one's confessor, and then providing a series of chapters containing practical spiritual advice for growing in true devotion.
In honor of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Oratory my family and I attend, and co-patron of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, I wanted to post this recommendation for the benefit of all who would read it. Easy to read, profound in content, eminently practical and effective in its advice.
The book can be bought at amazon.com, TAN books, and many other places. God bless.