Introduction to the Devout Life
Francis of Sales, St. (1567-1622)
Preface by the Author
DEAR reader, I request you to read this Preface for your own
satisfaction as well as mine.
The flower-girl Glycera was so skilled in varying the arrangement and
combination of her flowers, that out of the same kinds she produced a
great variety of bouquets; so that the painter Pausias,  who sought
to rival the diversity of her art, was brought to a standstill, for he
could not vary his painting so endlessly as Glycera varied her
bouquets. Even so the Holy Spirit of God disposes and arranges the
devout teaching which He imparts through the lips and pen of His
servants with such endless variety, that, although the doctrine is ever
one and the same, their treatment of it is different, according to the
varying minds whence that treatment flows. Assuredly I neither desire,
nor ought to write in this book anything but what has been already said
by others before me. I offer you the same flowers, dear reader, but the
bouquet will be somewhat different from theirs, because it is
differently made up.
Almost all those who have written concerning the devout life have had
chiefly in view persons who have altogether quitted the world; or at
any rate they have taught a manner of devotion which would lead to such
total retirement. But my object is to teach those who are living in
towns, at court, in their own households, and whose calling obliges
them to a social life, so far as externals are concerned. Such persons
are apt to reject all attempt to lead a devout life under the plea of
impossibility; imagining that like as no animal presumes to eat of the
plant commonly called Palma Christi, so no one who is immersed in the
tide of temporal affairs ought to presume to seek the palm of Christian
And so I have shown them that, like as the mother-of-pearl lives in the
sea without ever absorbing one drop of salt water; and as near the
Chelidonian Isles springs of sweet water start forth in the midst of
the ocean  and as the firemoth  hovers in the flames without
burning her wings; even so a true steadfast soul may live in the world
untainted by worldly breath, finding a well-spring of holy piety amid
the bitter waves of society, and hovering amid the flames of earthly
lusts without singeing the wings of its devout life. Of a truth this is
not easy, and for that very reason I would have Christians bestow more
care and energy than heretofore on the attempt, and thus it is that,
while conscious of my own weakness, I endeavour by this book to afford
some help to those who are undertaking this noble work with a generous
It is not however, my own choice or wish which brings this Introduction
before the public. A certain soul, abounding in uprightness and virtue,
some time since conceived a great desire, through God's Grace, to
aspire more earnestly after a devout life, and craved my private help
with this view. I was bound to her by various ties, and had long
observed her remarkable capacity for this attainment, so I took great
pains to teach her, and having led her through the various exercises
suitable to her circumstances and her aim, I let her keep written
records thereof, to which she might have recourse when necessary. These
she communicated to a learned and devout Religious, who, believing that
they might be profitable to others, urged me to publish them, in which
he succeeded the more readily that his friendship exercised great
influence upon my will, and his judgment great authority over my
So, in order to make the work more useful and acceptable, I have
reviewed the papers and put them together, adding several matters
carrying out my intentions; but all this has been done with scarce a
moment's leisure. Consequently you will find very little precision in
the work, but rather a collection of well intentioned instructions,
explained in clear intelligible words, at least that is what I have
sought to give. But as to a polished style, I have not given that a
thought, having so much else to do.
I have addressed my instructions to Philothea,  as adapting what was
originally written for an individual to the common good of souls. I
have made use of a name suitable to all who seek after the devout life,
Philothea meaning one who loves God. Setting then before me a soul, who
through the devout life seeks after the love of God, I have arranged
this Introduction in five parts, in the first of which I seek by
suggestions and exercises to turn Philothea's mere desire into a hearty
resolution; which she makes after her general confession, by a
deliberate protest, followed by Holy Communion, in which, giving
herself to her Saviour and receiving Him, she is happily received into
His Holy Love. After this, I lead her on by showing her two great means
of closer union with His Divine Majesty; the Sacraments, by which that
Gracious Lord comes to us, and mental prayer, by which He draws us to
Him. This is the Second Part.
In the Third Part I set forth how she should practise certain virtues
most suitable to her advancement, only dwelling on such special points
as she might not find elsewhere, or be able to make out for herself. In
the Fourth Part I bring to light the snares of some of her enemies, and
show her how to pass through them safely and come forth unhurt. And
finally, in the Fifth Part, I lead her apart to refresh herself and
take breath, and renew her strength, so that she may go on more bravely
afterwards, and make good progress in the devout life.
This is a cavilling age, and I foresee that many will say that only
Religious and persons living apart are fit to undertake the guidance of
souls in such special devout ways; that it requires more time than a
Bishop of so important a diocese as mine can spare, and that it must
take too much thought from the important duties with which I am
But, dear reader, I reply with S. Denis that the task of leading souls
towards perfection appertains above all others to Bishops, and that
because their Order is supreme among men, as the Seraphim among Angels,
and therefore their leisure cannot be better spent. The ancient Bishops
and Fathers of the Primitive Church were, to say the least, as devoted
to their duties as we are, yet they did not refuse to undertake the
individual guidance of souls which sought their help, as we see by
their epistles; thereby imitating the Apostles, who, while reaping the
universal world-harvest, yet found time to gather up certain individual
sheaves with special and personal affection. Who can fail to remember
that Timoyour, Titus, Philemon, Onesimus, Phekla, Appia, were the
beloved spiritual children of S. Paul, as S. Mark and S. Petronilla
were of S. Peter (for Baronius and Galonius have given learned and
absolute proof that S. Petronilla was not his carnal but spiritual
daughter). And is not one of S. John's Canonical Epistles addressed to
the "elect lady" whom he loved in the faith?
I grant that the guidance of individual souls is a labour, but it is a
labour full of consolation, even as that of harvesters and
grape-gatherers, who are never so well pleased as when most heavily
laden. It is a labour which refreshes and invigorates the heart by the
comfort which it brings to those who bear it; as is said to be the case
with those who carry bundles of cinnamon in Arabia Felix. It is said
that when the tigress finds one of her young left behind by the hunter
in order to delay her while he carries off the rest of her cubs, she
takes it up, however big, without seeming over-weighted, and speeds
only the more swiftly to her lair, maternal love lightening the load.
How much more readily will the heart of a spiritual father bear the
burden of a soul he finds craving after perfection carrying it in his
bosom as a mother her babe, without feeling weary of the precious
But unquestionably it must be a really paternal heart that can do this,
and therefore it is that the Apostles and their apostolic followers are
wont to call their disciples not merely their children, but, even more
tenderly still, their "little children."
One thing more, dear reader. It is too true that I who write about the
devout life am not myself devout, but most certainly I am not without
the wish to become so, and it is this wish which encourages me to teach
you. A notable literary man has said that a good way to learn is to
study, a better to listen, and the best to teach. And S. Augustine,
writing to the devout Flora,  says, that giving is a claim to
receive, and teaching a way to learn.
Alexander caused the lovely Campaspe,  who was so dear to him, to be
painted by the great Apelles, who, by dint of contemplating her as he
drew, so graved her features in his heart and conceived so great a
passion for her, that Alexander discovered it, and, pitying the artist,
gave him her to wife, depriving himself for love of Apelles of the
dearest thing he had in the world, in which, says Pliny, he displayed
the greatness of his soul as much as in the mightiest victory. And so,
friendly reader, it seems to me that as a Bishop, God wills me to frame
in the hearts of His children not merely ordinary goodness, but yet
more His own most precious devotion; and on my part I undertake
willingly to do so, as much out of obedience to the call of duty as in
the hope that, while fixing the image in others' hearts, my own may
haply conceive a holy love; and that if His Divine Majesty sees me
deeply in love, He may give her to me in an eternal marriage. The
beautiful and chaste Rebecca, as she watered Isaac's camels, was
destined to be his bride, and received his golden earrings and
bracelets, and so I rely on the boundless Goodness of my God, that
while I lead His beloved lambs to the wholesome fountain of devotion,
He will take my soul to be His bride, giving me earrings of the golden
words of love, and strengthening my arms to carry out its works,
wherein lies the essence of all true devotion, the which I pray His
Heavenly Majesty to grant to me and to all the children of His Church
that Church to which I would ever submit all my writings, actions,
words, will and thoughts.
ANNECY, S. Magdalene's Day, 1608.
 1 Pausias of Sicyon (B.C. 368); see Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxv. 11-40. A
portrait of Glycera, the young flower-girl whom he loved, with a
garland of flowers, was one of his masterpieces. It was called the
Stephane-plocos [ Stephane - plokos ], or garland wreather, and was
purchased by L. Lucullus at Athens for two talents.
 These islands are in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Gulf of Lycia.
 The address to Philothea by name has been omitted, as being
somewhat stiff and stilted, and the term child or daughter used
instead, but the omission in no way alters the sense or application of
 This is probably the person mentioned as "our most religious
daughter Flora" in S. Augustine's Treatise "On care to be had for the
Dead", addressed to his fellow Bishop Paulinus. See Library of the
Fathers, S. Augustine's Short Treatises, p. 517.2 Plin. Hist. Nat. l.
xxv. c. 10.
 Plin. Hist. Nat. l. xxv. c. 10.
Table of Contents.
Preface by the Author . . . 2
Table of Contents . . . . 7
COUNSELS AND PRACTICES SUITABLE FOR THE SOUL'S
THE FIRST ASPIRATION AFTER A DEVOUT LIFE TO THE POINT WHEN IT
ATTAINS A CONFIRMED RESOLUTION TO FOLLOW THE SAME.
I. What True Devotion is . . . 13
II. The Nature and Excellence of Devotion . . . 15
III. Devotion is suitable to every Vocation and
Profession . . . 17
IV. The Need of a Guide for those Who Would enter upon and advance
in the Devout Life . . . 19
V. The First Step must be Purifying the Soul . . . 21
VI. The First Purification, namely, from Mortal Sin . . . 23
VII. The Second Purification, from all Sinful Affections . . . 25
VIII. How to effect this Second Purification . . . 26
IX. First Meditation--Of Creation . . . 27
X. Second Meditation--Of the End for which we were Created . . . 29
XI. Third Meditation--Of the Gifts of God . . . 31
XII. Fourth Meditation--On Sin . . . 33
XIII. Fifth Meditation--On Death . . . 35
XIV. Sixth Meditation--On Judgment . . . 37
XV. Seventh Meditation--Of Hell . . . 39
XVI. Eighth Meditation--On Paradise . . . 41
XVII. Ninth Meditation On the Choice open to you between Heaven and Hell . . . 43
XVIII. Tenth Meditation--How the Soul chooses the Devout Life . . . 45
XIX. How to make a General Confession . . . 47
XX. A hearty Protest made with the object of confirming the Soul's resolution to serve
God, as a conclusion to its Acts of Penitence . . . 48
XXI. Conclusion of this First Purification . . . 50
XXII. The Necessity of Purging away all tendency to Venial Sins . . . 51
XXIII. It is needful to put away all Inclination for Useless and Dangerous Things . . . 53
XXIV. All Evil Inclinations must be purged away . . . 54
CONTAINING SUNDRY COUNSELS AS TO UPLIFTING THE
SOUL TO GOD IN
PRAYER AND THE USE OF THE SACRAMENTS.
I. The Necessity of Prayer . . . 55
II. A short Method of Meditation. And first, the Presence of God, the First Point
of Preparation . . . 58
III. Invocation, the Second Point of
Preparation . . . 60
IV. The Third Point of Preparation, representing the Mystery to be meditated to your
Imagination . . . 61
V. Considerations, the Second Part of Meditation . . . 62
VI. The Third Part of Meditation, Affections and Resolutions . . . 63
VII. The Conclusion and Spiritual Bouquet . . . 64
VIII. Some Useful Hints as to Meditation . . . 65
IX. Concerning Dryness in Meditation . . . 67
X. Morning Prayer . . . 68
XI. Evening Prayer and Examination of Conscience . . . 70
XII. On Spiritual Retirement . . . 71
XIII. Aspirations, Ejaculatory Prayer and Holy Thoughts . . . 73
XIV. Of Holy Communion, and how to join in it . . . 77
XV. Of the other Public Offices of the Church . . . 79
XVI. How the Saints are united to us . . . 80
XVII. How to Hear and Read God's Word . . . 82
XVIII. How to receive Inspirations . . . 83
XIX. On Confession . . . 85
XX. Of Frequent Communion . . . 88
XXI. How to Communicate . . . 90
CONTAINING COUNSELS CONCERNING THE PRACTICE OF VIRTUE.
I. How to select that which we should chiefly
Practise . . . 92
II. The same Subject continued . . . 96
III. On Patience . . . 99
IV. On Exterior Humility . . . 103
V. On Interior Humility . . . 106
VI. Humility makes us rejoice in our own Abjection . . . 110
VII. How to combine due care for a Good Reputation with Humility . . . 113
VIII. Gentleness towards others and Remedies against Anger . . . 116
IX. On Gentleness towards Ourselves . . . 119
X. We must attend to the Business of Life carefully, but without Eagerness or
Over-anxiety . . .121
XI. On Obedience . . . 123
XII. On Purity . . . 125
XIII. How to maintain Purity . . . 127
XIV. On Poverty of Spirit amid Riches . . .129
XV. How to exercise real Poverty, although actually Rich . . . 131
XVI. How to possess a rich Spirit amid real
Poverty . . . 134
XVII. On Friendship: Evil and Frivolous Friendship . . . 136
XVIII. On Frivolous Attachments . . . 138
XIX. Of Real Friendship . . . 140
XX. Of the Difference between True and False Friendship . . . 142
XXI. Remedies against Evil Friendships . . . 144
XXII. Further Advice concerning Intimacies . . . 147
XXIII. On the Practice of Bodily Mortification . . . 149
XXIV. Of Society and Solitude . . . 153
XXV. On Modesty in Dress . . . 155
XXVI. Of Conversation; and, first, how to Speak of God . . . 157
XXVII. Of Unseemly Words, and the Respect due to Others . . . 158
XXVIII. Of Hasty Judgments . . . 160
XXIX. On Slander . . . 164
XXX. Further Counsels as to Conversation . . . 168
XXXI. Of Amusements and Recreations: what are allowable . . . 170
XXXII. Of Forbidden Amusements . . . 171
XXXIII. Of Balls, and other Lawful but Dangerous Amusements . . . 172
XXXIV. When to use such Amusements rightly . . . 174
XXXV. We must be Faithful in Things Great and Small . . . 175
XXXVI. Of a Well-balanced, Reasonable Mind . . . 177
XXXVII. Of Wishes . . . 179
XXXVIII. Counsels to Married People . . . 181
XXXIX. The Sanctity of the Marriage Bed . . . 187
XL. Counsels to Widows . . . 188
XLI. One Word to Maidens . . . 192
CONTAINING NEEDFUL COUNSELS CONCERNING SOME
I. We must not trifle with the Words of worldly
Wisdom . . . 193
II. The need of a Good Courage . . . 196
III. Of Temptations, and the difference between experiencing them and consenting
to them . . . 197
IV. Two striking illustrations of the same . .
V. Encouragement for the Tempted Soul . . . 201
VI. When Temptation and Delectation are Sin . . . 202
VII. Remedies for Great Occasions . . . 204
VIII. How to resist Minor Temptations . . . 206
IX. How to remedy Minor Temptations . . . 207
X. How to strengthen the Heart against Temptation . . . 208
XI. Anxiety of Mind . . . 209
XII. Of Sadness and Sorrow . . . 211
XIII. Of Spiritual and Sensible Consolations,
and how to receive them . . . 213
XIV. Of Dryness and Spiritual Barrenness . . . 218
XV. In Illustration . . . 222
CONTAINING COUNSELS AND PRACTICES FOR RENEWING
CONFIRMING THE SOUL IN DEVOTION.
I. It is well yearly to renew Good Resolutions
by means of the following Exercises . . 225
II. Meditation on the Benefit conferred on us by God in calling us to His Service . . . 227
III. Examination of the Soul as to its Progress in the Devout Life . . . 229
IV. Examination of the Soul's Condition as regards God . . . 231
V. Examination of your Condition as regards yourself . . . 233
VI. Examination of the Soul's Condition as regards our Neighbour . . . 234
VII. Examination as to the Affections of the Soul . . . 235
VIII. The Affections to be excited after such Examination . . . 236
IX. Reflections suitable to the renewal of Good Resolutions . . . 237
X. First Consideration--Of the Worth of Souls . . . 238
XI. Second Consideration--On the Excellence of Virtue . . . 239
XII. The Example of the Saints . . . 240
XIII. The Love which Jesus Christ bears to us . . . 241
XIV. The Eternal Love of God for us . . . 243
XV. General Affections which should result from these Considerations,
and Conclusion of the Exercise . . . 244
XVI. The Impressions which should remain after
this Exercise . . . 245
XVII. An Answer to Two Objections which may be made to this Book . . . 246
XVIII. Three Important and Final Counsels . . . 247
Indexes . . . 249
COUNSELS AND PRACTICES SUITABLE FOR THE SOUL'S GUIDANCE
FROM THE FIRST ASPIRATION AFTER A DEVOUT LIFE TO THE POINT WHEN
IT ATTAINS A CONFIRMED RESOLUTION TO FOLLOW THE SAME.
CHAPTER I. What true Devotion is.
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. Arelius was wont to paint all his pictures
with the features and expression of the women he loved, and even so we
all colour devotion according to our own likings and dispositions. One
man sets great value on fasting, and believes himself to be leading a
very devout life, so long as he fasts rigorously, although the while
his heart is full of bitterness;--and while he will not moisten his
lips with wine, perhaps not even with water, in his great abstinence,
he does not scruple to steep them in his neighbour's blood, through
slander and detraction. Another man reckons himself as devout because
he repeats many prayers daily, although at the same time he does not
refrain from all manner of angry, irritating, conceited or insulting
speeches among his family and neighbours. This man freely opens his
purse in almsgiving, but closes his heart to all gentle and forgiving
feelings towards those who are opposed to him; while that one is ready
enough to forgive his enemies, but will never pay his rightful debts
save under pressure. Meanwhile all these people are conventionally
called religious, but nevertheless they are in no true sense really
devout. When Saul's servants sought to take David, Michal induced them
to suppose that the lifeless figure lying in his bed, and covered with
his garments, was the man they sought; and in like manner many people
dress up an exterior with the visible acts expressive of earnest
devotion, and the world supposes them to be really devout and
spiritual-minded, while all the time they are mere lay figures, mere
phantasms of devotion.
But, in fact, all true and living devotion presupposes the love of
God;--and indeed it is neither more nor less than a very real love of
God, though not always of the same kind; for that Love one while
shining on the soul we call grace, which makes us acceptable to His
Divine Majesty;--when it strengthens us to do well, it is called
Charity;--but when it attains its fullest perfection, in which it not
only leads us to do well, but to act carefully, diligently, and
promptly, then it is called Devotion. The ostrich never flies,--the hen
rises with difficulty, and achieves but a brief and rare flight, but
the eagle, the dove, and the swallow, are continually on the wing, and
soar high;--even so sinners do not rise towards God, for all their
movements are earthly and earthbound. Well-meaning people, who have not
as yet attained a true devotion, attempt a manner of flight by means of
their good actions, but rarely, slowly and heavily; while really devout
men rise up to God frequently, and with a swift and soaring wing. In
short, devotion is simply a spiritual activity and liveliness by means
of which Divine Love works in us, and causes us to work briskly and
lovingly; and just as charity leads us to a general practice of all
God's Commandments, so devotion leads us to practise them readily and
diligently. And therefore we cannot call him who neglects to observe
all God's Commandments either good or devout, because in order to be
good, a man must be filled with love, and to be devout, he must further
be very ready and apt to perform the deeds of love. And forasmuch as
devotion consists in a high degree of real love, it not only makes us
ready, active, and diligent in following all God's Commands, but it
also excites us to be ready and loving in performing as many good works
as possible, even such as are not enjoined upon us, but are only
matters of counsel or inspiration. Even as a man just recovering from
illness, walks only so far as he is obliged to go, with a slow and
weary step, so the converted sinner journeys along as far as God
commands him but slowly and wearily, until he attains a true spirit of
devotion, and then, like a sound man, he not only gets along, but he
runs and leaps in the way of God's Commands, and hastens gladly along
the paths of heavenly counsels and inspirations. The difference between
love and devotion is just that which exists between fire and
flame;--love being a spiritual fire which becomes devotion when it is
fanned into a flame;--and what devotion adds to the fire of love is
that flame which makes it eager, energetic and diligent, not merely in
obeying God's Commandments, but in fulfilling His Divine Counsels and
CHAPTER II. The Nature and Excellence of Devotion.
THOSE who sought to discourage the Israelites from going up to the
Promised Land, told them that it was "a land which eateth up the
inhabitants thereof;"  that is, that the climate was so unhealyour
that the inhabitants could not live long, and that the people thereof
were "men of a great stature," who looked upon the new-comers as mere
locusts to be devoured. It is just so, my daughter, that the world runs
down true devotion, painting devout people with gloomy, melancholy
aspect, and affirming that religion makes them dismal and unpleasant.
But even as Joshua and Caleb protested that not only was the Promised
Land a fair and pleasant country, but that the Israelites would take an
easy and peaceful possession thereof, so the Holy Spirit tells us
through His Saints, and our Lord has told us with His Own Lips, that a
devout life is very sweet, very happy and very loveable.
The world, looking on, sees that devout persons fast, watch and pray,
endure injury patiently, minister to the sick and poor, restrain their
temper, check and subdue their passions, deny themselves in all sensual
indulgence, and do many other things which in themselves are hard and
difficult. But the world sees nothing of that inward, heartfelt
devotion which makes all these actions pleasant and easy. Watch a bee
hovering over the mountain yourme;--the juices it gathers are bitter,
but the bee turns them all to honey,--and so tells the worldling, that
though the devout soul finds bitter herbs along its path of devotion,
they are all turned to sweetness and pleasantness as it treads;--and
the martyrs have counted fire, sword, and rack but as perfumed flowers
by reason of their devotion. And if devotion can sweeten such cruel
torments, and even death itself, how much more will it give a charm to
ordinary good deeds? We sweeten unripe fruit with sugar, and it is
useful in correcting the crudity even of that which is good. So
devotion is the real spiritual sweetness which takes away all
bitterness from mortifications; and prevents consolations from
disagreeing with the soul: it cures the poor of sadness, and the rich
of presumption; it keeps the oppressed from feeling desolate, and the
prosperous from insolence; it averts sadness from the lonely, and
dissipation from social life; it is as warmth in winter and refreshing
dew in summer; it knows how to abound and how to suffer want; how to
profit alike by honour and contempt; it accepts gladness and sadness
with an even mind, and fills men's hearts with a wondrous sweetness.
Ponder Jacob's ladder:--it is a true picture of the devout life; the
two poles which support the steps are types of prayer which seeks the
love of God, and the Sacraments which confer that love; while the steps
themselves are simply the degrees of love by which we go on from virtue
to virtue, either descending by good deeds on behalf of our neighbour
or ascending by contemplation to a loving union with God. Consider,
too, who they are who trod this ladder; men with angels' hearts, or
angels with human forms. They are not youthful, but they seem to be so
by reason of their vigour and spiritual activity. They have wings
wherewith to fly, and attain to God in holy prayer, but they have
likewise feet wherewith to tread in human paths by a holy gracious
intercourse with men; their faces are bright and beautiful, inasmuch as
they accept all things gently and sweetly; their heads and limbs are
uncovered, because their thoughts, affections and actions have no
motive or object save that of pleasing God; the rest of their bodies is
covered with a light shining garment, because while they use the world
and the things of this life, they use all such purely and honestly, and
no further than is needful for their condition--such are the truly
devout. Believe me, dear child, devotion is the sweetest of sweets, the
queen of virtues, the perfection of love. If love is the milk of life,
devotion is the cream thereof; if it is a fruitful plant, devotion is
the blossom; if it is a precious stone, devotion is its brightness; if
it is a precious balm, devotion is its perfume, even that sweet odour
which delights men and causes the angels to rejoice.
 Numb. xiii. 32.
CHAPTER III. Devotion is suitable to every Vocation and Profession.
WHEN God created the world He commanded each tree to bear fruit after
its kind;  and even so He bids Christians,--the living trees of His
Church,--to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his
kind and vocation. A different exercise of devotion is required of
each--the noble, the artisan, the servant, the prince, the maiden and
the wife; and furthermore such practice must be modified according to
the strength, the calling, and the duties of each individual. I ask
you, my child, would it be fitting that a Bishop should seek to lead
the solitary life of a Carthusian? And if the father of a family were
as regardless in making provision for the future as a Capucin, if the
artisan spent the day in church like a Religious, if the Religious
involved himself in all manner of business on his neighbour's behalf as
a Bishop is called upon to do, would not such a devotion be ridiculous,
ill-regulated, and intolerable? Nevertheless such a mistake is often
made, and the world, which cannot or will not discriminate between real
devotion and the indiscretion of those who fancy themselves devout,
grumbles and finds fault with devotion, which is really nowise
concerned in these errors. No indeed, my child, the devotion which is
true hinders nothing, but on the contrary it perfects everything; and
that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of any one is, you may
be sure, a spurious devotion. Aristotle says that the bee sucks honey
from flowers without damaging them, leaving them as whole and fresh as
it found them;--but true devotion does better still, for it not only
hinders no manner of vocation or duty, but, contrariwise, it adorns and
beautifies all. Throw precious stones into honey, and each will grow
more brilliant according to its several colour:--and in like manner
everybody fulfills his special calling better when subject to the
influence of devotion:--family duties are lighter, married love truer,
service to our King more faithful, every kind of occupation more
acceptable and better performed where that is the guide.
It is an error, nay more, a very heresy, to seek to banish the devout
life from the soldier's guardroom, the mechanic's workshop, the
prince's court, or the domestic hearth. Of course a purely
contemplative devotion, such as is specially proper to the religious
and monastic life, cannot be practised in these outer vocations, but
there are various other kinds of devotion well-suited to lead those
whose calling is secular, along the paths of perfection. The Old
Testament furnishes us examples in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David,
Job, Tobias, Sarah, Rebecca and Judith; and in the New Testament we
read of St. Joseph, Lydia and Crispus, who led a perfectly devout life
in their trades:--we have S. Anne, Martha, S. Monica, Aquila and
Priscilla, as examples of household devotion, Cornelius, S. Sebastian,
and S. Maurice among soldiers;--Constantine, S. Helena, S. Louis, the
Blessed Amadaeus,  and S. Edward on the throne. And we even find
instances of some who fell away in solitude,--usually so helpful to
perfection,--some who had led a higher life in the world, which seems
so antagonistic to it. S. Gregory dwells on how Lot, who had kept
himself pure in the city, fell in his mountain solitude. Be sure that
wherever our lot is cast we may and must aim at the perfect life.
 Gen. i. 12.
 It is probable that S. Francis here means to indicate Amadeo IX.,
Duke of Savoy, who died 1472.
CHAPTER IV. The Need of a Guide for those who
upon and advance in the Devout Life.
WHEN Tobias was bidden to go to Rages, he was willing to obey his
father, but he objected that he knew not the way;--to which Tobit
answered, "Seek you a man which may go with you:"  and even so,
daughter, I say to you, If you would really tread the paths of the
devout life, seek some holy man to guide and conduct you. This is the
precept of precepts, says the devout Avila,--seek as you will you can
never so surely discover God's Will as through the channel of humble
obedience so universally taught and practised by all the Saints of
olden time. When the blessed Teresa read of the great penances
performed by Catherine of Cordova, she desired exceedingly to imitate
them, contrary to the mind of her Confessor, who forbade her to do the
like, and she was tempted to disobey him therein. Then God spoke to
Teresa, saying, "My child, you art on a good and safe road:--true,
you seest all this penance, but verily I esteem your obedience as a yet
greater virtue:"--and thenceforth S. Teresa so greatly loved the virtue
of obedience, that in addition to that due to her superiors, she took a
vow of special obedience to a pious ecclesiastic, pledging herself to
follow his direction and guidance, which proved an inexpressible help
to her. And even so before and after her many pious souls have
subjected their will to God's ministers in order the better to submit
themselves to Him, a practice much commended by S. Catherine of Sienna
in her Dialogues. The devout Princess S. Elisabeth gave an unlimited
obedience to the venerable Conrad; and one of the parting counsels
given by S. Louis to his son ere he died was, "Confess yourself
often,--choose a single-minded, worthy confessor, who is able wisely to
teach you how to do that which is needful for you."  "A faithful
friend," we are told in Holy Scripture, "is a strong defence, and he
that hath found such an one hath found a treasure;"  and again: "A
faithful friend is the medicine of life; and they that fear the Lord
shall find him."  These sacred words have chiefly reference, as you
see, to the immortal life, with a view to which we specially need a
faithful friend, who will guide us by his counsel and advice, thereby
guarding us against the deceits and snares of the Evil One:--he will be
as a storehouse of wisdom to us in our sorrows, trials and falls; he
will be as a healing balm to stay and soothe our heart in the time of
spiritual sickness,--he will shield us from evil, and confirm that
which is good in us, and when we fall through infirmity, he will avert
the deadly nature of the evil, and raise us up again.
But who can find such a friend? The Wise Man answers:--"He that fears
the Lord:"  that is to say, the truly humble soul which earnestly
desires to advance in the spiritual life. So, daughter, inasmuch as it
concerns you so closely to set forth on this devout journey under good
guidance, do you pray most earnestly to God to supply you with a guide
after His Own Heart, and never doubt but that He will grant you one who
is wise and faithful, even should He send you an angel from Heaven, as
He sent to Tobias.
In truth, your spiritual guide should always be as a heaven-sent angel
to you;--by which I mean that when you have found him, you are not to
look upon him, or trust in him or his wisdom as an ordinary man; but
you must look to God, Who will help you and speak to you through this
man, putting into his heart and mouth that which is needful to you; so
that you ought to hearken as though he were an angel come down from
Heaven to lead you thither. Deal with him in all sincerity and
faithfulness, and with open heart; manifesting alike your good and your
evil, without pretence or dissimulation. Thus your good will be
examined and confirmed, and your evil corrected and remedied;--you will
be soothed and strengthened in trouble, moderated and regulated in
prosperity. Give your guide a hearty confidence mingled with sacred
reverence, so that reverence in no way shall hinder your confidence,
and confidence nowise lessen your reverence: trust him with the respect
of a daughter for her father; respect him with the confidence of a son
in his mother. In a word, such a friendship should be strong and sweet;
altogether holy, sacred, divine and spiritual. And with such an aim,
choose one among a thousand, Avila says;--and I say among ten thousand,
for there are fewer than one would think capable of this office. He
must needs be full of love, of wisdom and of discretion; for if either
of these three be wanting there is danger. But once more I say, ask
such help of God, and when you have found it, bless His Holy Name; be
steadfast, seek no more, but go on simply, humbly and trustfully, for
you are safe to make a prosperous journey.
 Tob. v. 3.
 "Confesse-toi souvent, eslis un confesseur idoine, qui soit
prudhomme, et qui te puisse seurement enseigner a faire les choses qui
te seront necessaires."
 Ecclus. vi. 14.
 Ecclus. v. 16.
 Ecclus. vi. 17.
CHAPTER V. The First Step must be Purifying the Soul.
"THE flowers appear on the earth,"  says the Heavenly Bridegroom,
and the time for pruning and cutting is come. And what, my child, are
our hearts' flowers save our good desires? Now, so soon as these begin
to appear, we need the pruning-hook to cut off all dead and superfluous
works from our conscience. When the daughter of a strange land was
about to espouse an Israelite, the law commanded her to put off the
garment of her captivity, to pare her nails, and to shave her head;
 even so the soul which aims at the dignity of becoming the spouse
of Christ, must put off the old man, and put on the new man, forsaking
sin: moreover, it must pare and shave away every impediment which can
hinder the Love of God. The very first step towards spiritual health is
to be purged from our sinful humours. S. Paul received perfect
purification instantaneously, and the like grace was conferred on S.
Magdalene, S. Catherine of Genoa, S. Pelagia, and some others, but this
kind of purgation is as miraculous and extraordinary in grace as the
resurrection of the dead in nature, nor dare we venture to aspire to
it. The ordinary purification, whether of body or soul, is only
accomplished by slow degrees, step by step, gradually and painfully.
The angels on Jacob's ladder had wings, yet nevertheless they did not
fly, but went in due order up and down the steps of the ladder. The
soul which rises from out of sin to a devout life has been compared to
the dawn, which does not banish darkness suddenly, but by degrees. That
cure which is gradually effected is always the surest; and spiritual
maladies, like those of the body, are wont to come on horseback and
express, while they depart slowly and on foot. So that we must needs be
brave and patient, my daughter, in this undertaking. It is a woeful
thing to see souls beginning to chafe and grow disheartened because
they find themselves still subject to imperfection after having made
some attempt at leading a devout life, and well-nigh yielding to the
temptation to give up in despair and fall back; but, on the other hand,
there is an extreme danger surrounding those souls who, through the
opposite temptation, are disposed to imagine themselves purified from
all imperfection at the very outset of their purgation; who count
themselves as full-grown almost before they are born, and seek to fly
before they have wings. Be sure, daughter, that these are in great
danger of a relapse through having left their physician too soon. "It
is but lost labour to rise up early and late take rest," unless the
Lord prosper all we do.
The work of the soul's purification neither may nor can end save with
life itself;--do not then let us be disheartened by our
imperfections,--our very perfection lies in diligently contending
against them, and it is impossible so to contend without seeing them,
or to overcome without meeting them face toe face. Our victory does not
consist in being insensible to them, but in not consenting to them. Now
to be afflicted by our imperfections is certainly not to consent
thereto, and for the furtherance of humility it is needful that we
sometimes find ourselves worsted in this spiritual battle, wherein,
however, we shall never be conquered until we lose either life or
courage. Moreover, imperfections and venial sins cannot destroy our
spiritual life, which is only to be lost through mortal sin;
consequently we have only need to watch well that they do not imperil
our courage. David continually asks the Lord to strengthen his heart
against cowardice and discouragement; and it is our privilege in this
war that we are certain to vanquish so long as we are willing to fight.
 Cant. ii. 12.
 Deut. xxi. 12.
CHAPTER VI. The First Purification, namely, from Mortal Sin.
THE first purification to be made is from sin;--the means whereby to
make it, the sacrament of penance. Seek the best confessor within your
reach, use one of the many little books written in order to help the
examination of conscience.  Read some such book carefully,
examining point by point wherein you have sinned, from the first use of
your reason to the present time. And if you mistrust your memory, write
down the result of your examination. Having thus sought out the evil
spots in your conscience, strive to detest them, and to reject them
with the greatest abhorrence and contrition of which your heart is
capable;--bearing in mind these four things:--that by sin you have lost
God's Grace, rejected your share in Paradise, accepted the pains of
Hell, and renounced God's Eternal Love. You see, my child, that I am
now speaking of a general confession of your whole life, which, while I
grant it is not always necessary, I yet believe will be found most
helpful in the beginning of your pursuit after holiness, and therefore
I earnestly advise you to make it. Not unfrequently the ordinary
confessions of persons leading an everyday life are full of great
faults, and that because they make little or no preparation, and have
not the needful contrition. Owing to this deficiency such people go to
confession with a tacit intention of returning to their old sins,
inasmuch as they will not avoid the occasions of sin, or take the
necessary measures for amendment of life, and in all such cases a
general confession is required to steady and fix the soul. But,
furthermore, a general confession forces us to a clearer selfknowledge,
kindles a wholesome shame for our past life, and rouses gratitude for
God's Mercy, Which has so long waited patiently for us;--it comforts
the heart, refreshes the spirit, excites good resolutions, affords
opportunity to our spiritual Father for giving the most suitable
advice, and opens our hearts so as to make future confessions more
effectual. Therefore I cannot enter into the subject of a general
change of life and entire turning to God, by means of a devout life,
without urging upon you to begin with a general confession.
 S. Francis suggests Grenada, Bruno, Arias, Augez, authors little
known now, though we have the substance of their teaching in numerous
valuable helps for those who are preparing for confession: such as
"Pardon through the Precious Blood," "Helps for Confirmation and First
Communion" (Masters), "Manual for Confession," "Repentance," (Rev. T.
T. Carter), "Hints to Penitents" (Palmer), Brett's "Guide to Faith and
Piety," Crake's "Bread of Life" (Mowbray), "Paradise of the Christian
CHAPTER VII. The Second Purification, from all Sinful Affections.
ALL the children of Israel went forth from the land of Egypt, but not
all went forth heartily, and so, when wandering in the desert, some of
them sighed after the leeks and onions,--the fleshpots of Egypt. Even
so there are penitents who forsake sin, yet without forsaking their
sinful affections; that is to say, they intend to sin no more, but it
goes sorely against them to abstain from the pleasures of sin;--they
formally renounce and forsake sinful acts, but they turn back many a
fond lingering look to what they have left, like Lot's wife as she fled
from Sodom. They are like a sick man who abstains from eating melon
when the doctor says it would kill him, but who all the while longs for
it, talks about it, bargains when he may have it, would at least like
just to sniff the perfume, and thinks those who are free to eat of it
very fortunate. And so these weak cowardly penitents abstain awhile
from sin, but reluctantly;--they would fain be able to sin without
incurring damnation;--they talk with a lingering taste of their sinful
deeds, and envy those who are yet indulging in the like. Thus a man who
has meditated some revenge gives it up in confession, but soon after he
is to be found talking about the quarrel, averring that but for the
fear of God he would do this or that; complaining that it is hard to
keep the Divine rule of forgiveness; would to God it were lawful to
avenge one's self! Who can fail to see that even if this poor man is
not actually committing sin, he is altogether bound with the affections
thereof, and although he may have come out of Egypt, he yet hungers
after it, and longs for the leeks and onions he was wont to feed upon
there! It is the same with the woman who, though she has given up her
life of sin, yet takes delight in being sought after and admired. Alas!
of a truth, all such are in great peril.
Be sure, my daughter, that if you seek to lead a devout life, you must
not merely forsake sin; but you must further cleanse your heart from
all affections pertaining to sin; for, to say nothing of the danger of
a relapse, these wretched affections will perpetually enfeeble your
mind, and clog it, so that you will be unable to be diligent, ready and
frequent in good works, wherein nevertheless lies the very essence of
all true devotion. Souls which, in spite of having forsaken sin, yet
retain such likings and longings, remind us of those persons who,
without being actually ill, are pale and sickly, languid in all they
do, eating without appetite, sleeping without refreshment, laughing
without mirth, dragging themselves about rather than walking briskly.
Such souls as I have described lose all the grace of their good deeds,
are probably few and feeble, through their spiritual languor.
CHAPTER VIII. How to effect this Second Purification.
THE first inducement to attain this second purification is a keen and
lively apprehension of the great evils resulting from sin, by means of
which we acquire a deep, hearty contrition. For just as contrition, (so
far as it is real,) however slight, when joined to the virtue of the
Sacraments, purges away sin; so, when it becomes strong and urgent, it
purges away all the affections which cling around habits of sin. A
moderate, slight hatred makes men dislike its object and avoid his
society; but when a violent, mortal hatred exists, they not only abhor
and shun the person who excites it, but they loathe him, they cannot
endure the approach of his relations or connexions, nor even his
likeness or anything that concerns him. Just so when a penitent only
hates sin through a weakly although real contrition, he will resolve to
avoid overt acts of sin; but when his contrition is strong and hearty,
he will not merely abhor sin, but every affection, every link and
tendency to sin. Therefore, my daughter, it behooves us to kindle our
contrition and repentance as much as we possibly can, so that it may
reach even to the very smallest appearance of sin. Thus it was that the
Magdalen, when converted, so entirely lost all taste for her past sin
and its pleasures, that she never again cast back one thought upon
them; and David declared that he hated not only sin itself, but every
path and way which led thereto. This it is which is that "renewing of
the soul" which the same Prophet compares to the eagle's strength. 
Now, in order to attain this fear and this contrition, you must use the
following meditations carefully; for if you practise them steadfastly,
they (by God's Grace) will root out both sin and its affections from
your heart. It is to that end that I have prepared them: do you use
them one after another, in the order in which they come, only taking
one each day, and using that as early as possible, for the morning is
the best time for all spiritual exercises;--and then you will ponder
and ruminate it through the day. If you have not as yet been taught how
to meditate, you will find instructions to that purpose in the Second
 Ps. ciii. 5, Bible version.
CHAPTER IX. FIRST MEDITATION: Of Creation.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God. 2. Ask Him to inspire your
1. Consider that but a few years since you were not born into the
world, and your soul was as yet non-existent. Where wert you then, O
my soul? the world was already old, and yet of you there was no sign.
2. God brought you out of this nothingness, in order to make you what
you are, not because He had any need of you, but solely out of His
3. Consider the being which God has given you; for it is the foremost
being of this visible world, adapted to live eternally, and to be
perfectly united to God's Divine Majesty.
Affections and Resolutions.
1. Humble yourself utterly before God, saying with the Psalmist, O
Lord, I am nothing in respect of You--what am I, that You shouldst
remember me? O my soul, you wert yet lost in that abyss of
nothingness, if God had not called you forth, and what of you in such
2. Give God thanks. O Great and Good Creator, what do I not owe You,
Who didst take me from out that nothingness, by Your Mercy to make me
what I am? How can I ever do enough worthily to praise Your Holy Name,
and render due thanks to Your Goodness?
3. Confess your own shame. But alas, O my Creator, so far from uniting
myself to You by a loving service, I have rebelled against You
through my unruly affections, departing from You, and giving myself up
to sin, and ignoring Your Goodness, as though You hadst not created me.
4. Prostrate yourself before God. O my soul, know that the Lord He is
your God, it is He that hath made you, and not you yourself. O God, I
am the work of Your Hands; henceforth I will not seek to rest in myself,
who am nought. Wherein hast you to glory, who art but dust and ashes?
how canst you, a very nothing, exalt yourself? In order to my own
humiliation, I will do such and such a thing,--I will endure such
contempt:--I will alter my ways and henceforth follow my Creator, and
realise that I am honoured by His calling me to the being He has given;
I will employ it solely to obey His Will, by means of the teaching He
has given me, of which I will inquire more through my spiritual Father.
1. Thank God. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and praise His Holy Name with
all your being, because His Goodness called me forth from nothingness,
and His Mercy created me.
2. Offer. O my God, I offer You with all my heart the being You hast
given me, I dedicate and consecrate it to You.
3. Pray. O God, strengthen me in these affections and resolutions. Dear
Lord, I commend me, and all those I love, to Your neverfailing Mercy.
OUR FATHER, etc.
At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a
little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the
sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.
X. SECOND MEDITATION: Of the
for which we were Created.
1. PLACE yourself before God. 2. Ask Him to inspire your heart.
1. God did not bring you into the world because He had any need of you,
useless as you are; but solely that He might show forth His Goodness in
you, giving you His Grace and Glory. And to this end He gave you
understanding that you might know Him, memory that you might think of
Him, a will that you might love Him, imagination that you might realise
His mercies, sight that you might behold the marvels of His works,
speech that you might praise Him, and so on with all your other
2. Being created and placed in the world for this intent, all contrary
actions should be shunned and rejected, as also you should avoid as
idle and superfluous whatever does not promote it.
2. Consider how unhappy they are who do not think of all this,--who
live as though they were created only to build and plant, to heap up
riches and amuse themselves with trifles.
Affections and Resolutions.
1. Humble yourself in that hitherto you have so little thought upon all
this. Alas, my God, of what was I thinking when I did not think of
You? what did I remember when I forgot You? what did I love when I
loved You not? Alas, when I ought to have been feeding on the truth, I
was but filling myself with vanity, and serving the world, which was
made to serve me.
2. Abhor your past life. I renounce ye, O vain thoughts and useless
cogitations, frivolous and hateful memories: I renounce all worthless
friendships, all unprofitable efforts, and miserably ungrateful
self-indulgence, all pitiful compliances.
3. Turn to God. You, my God and Saviour shalt henceforth be the sole
object of my thoughts; no more will I give my mind to ideas which are
displeasing to You. All the days of my life I will dwell upon the
greatness of Your Goodness, so lovingly poured out upon me. You shalt
be henceforth the delight of my heart, the resting-place of all my
affections. From this time forth I will forsake and abhor the vain
pleasures and amusements, the empty pursuits which have absorbed my
time;--the unprofitable ties which have bound my heart I will loosen
henceforth, and to that end I will use such and such remedies.
1. Thank God, Who has made you for so gracious an end. You hast made
me, O Lord, for Yourself, that I may eternally enjoy the immensity of
Your Glory; when shall I be worthy thereof, when shall I know how to
bless You as I ought?
2. Offer. O Dearest Lord, I offer You all my affections and
resolutions, with my whole heart and soul.
3. Pray. I entreat You, O God, that You wouldest accept my desires
and longings, and give Your Blessing to my soul, to enable me to fulfil
them, through the Merits of Your Dear Son's Precious Blood shed upon the
Cross for me. OUR FATHER, etc. Gather your little spiritual bouquet.
CHAPTER XI. THIRD MEDITATION. Of the Gifts of God.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God. 2. Ask Him to inspire your
1. Consider the material gifts God has given you--your body, and the
means for its preservation; your health, and all that maintains it;
your friends and many helps. Consider too how many persons more
deserving than you are without these gifts; some suffering in health or
limb, others exposed to injury, contempt and trouble, or sunk in
poverty, while God has willed you to be better off.
2. Consider the mental gifts He has given you. Why are you not stupid,
idiotic, insane like many you think of? Again, God has favoured you with
a decent and suitable education, while many have grown up in utter
3. Further, consider His spiritual gifts. You are a child of His
Church, God has taught you to know Himself from your youth. How often
has He given you His Sacraments? what inspirations and interior light,
what reproofs, He has given to lead you aright; how often He has
forgiven you, how often delivered you from occasions of falling; what
opportunities He has granted for your soul's progress! Dwell somewhat
on the detail, see how Loving and Gracious God has been to you.
Affections and Resolutions.
1. Marvel at God's Goodness. How good He has been to me, how abundant
in mercy and plenteous in loving-kindness! O my soul, be you ever
telling of the great things the Lord has done for you!
2. Marvel at your own ingratitude. What am I, Lord, that You
remember me? How unworthy am I! I have trodden Your Mercies under
root, I have abused Your Grace, turning it against Your very Self; I have
set the depth of my ingratitude against the deep of Your Grace and
3. Kindle your gratitude. O my soul, be no more so faithless and
disloyal to your mighty Benefactor! How should not my whole soul serve
the Lord, Who has done such great things in me and for me?
4. Go on, my daughter, to refrain from this or that material
indulgence; let your body be wholly the servant of God, Who has done so
much for it: set your soul to seek Him by this or that devout practice
suitable thereto. Make diligent use of the means provided by the Church
to help you to love God and save your soul. Resolve to be constant in
prayer and seeking the Sacraments, in hearing God's Word, and in
obeying His inspirations and counsels.
1. Thank God for the clearer knowledge He has given you of His benefits
and your own duty.
2. Offer your heart and all its resolutions to Him.
3. Ask Him to strengthen you to fulfill them faithfully by the Merits of
the Death of His Son. OUR FATHER, etc. Gather the little spiritual
CHAPTER XII. FOURTH MEDITATION. On Sin.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God. 2. Ask Him to inspire your
1. Consider how long it is since you first began to commit sin, and how
since that first beginning sin has multiplied in your heart; how every
day has added to the number of your sins against God, against yourself
and against your neighbour, by deed, word, thought and desire.
2. Consider your evil tendencies, and how far you have followed them.
These two points will show you that your sins are more in number than
the hairs of your head, or the sand on the seashore.
3. Apart from sin, consider your ingratitude towards God, which is in
itself a sin enfolding all the others, and adding to their enormity:
consider the gifts which God has given you, and which you have turned
against the Giver; especially the inspirations you have neglected, and
the promptings to good which you have frustrated. Review the many
Sacraments you have received, and see where are their fruits. Where are
the precious jewels wherewith your Heavenly Bridegroom decked you? with
what preparation have you received them? Reflect upon the ingratitude
with which, while God sought to save you, you have fled from Him and
rushed upon destruction.
Affections and Resolutions.
1. Humble yourself in your wretchedness. O my God, how dare I come
before Your Eyes? I am but a corrupt being, a very sink of ingratitude
and wickedness. Can it be that I have been so disloyal, that not one
sense, not one faculty but has been sullied and stained;--not one day
has passed but I have sinned before You? Was this a fitting return for
all my Creator's gifts, for my Redeemer's Blood?
2. Ask pardon;--throw yourself at the Lord's Feet as the prodigal son,
as the Magdalene, as the woman convicted of adultery. Have mercy, Lord,
on me a sinner! O Living Fountain of Mercy, have pity on me, unworthy
as I am.
3. Resolve to do better. Lord, with the help of Your Grace I will never
again give myself up to sin. I have loved it too well;--henceforth I
would abhor it and cleave to You. Father of Mercy, I would live and
die to You.
4. In order to put away past sin, accuse yourself bravely of it, let
there not be one sinful act which you do not bring to light.
5. Resolve to make every effort to tear up the roots of sin from your
heart, especially this and that individual sin which troubles you most.
6. In order to do this, resolve steadfastly to follow the advice given
you, and never think that you have done enough to atone for your past
1. Thank God for having waited till now for you, and for rousing these
good intentions in your heart. 2. Offer Him all your heart to carry
them to good effect. 3. Pray that He would strengthen you.
CHAPTER XIII. FIFTH MEDITATION: Of Death.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God. 2. Ask His Grace. 3. Suppose
yourself to be on your deathbed, in the last extremity, without the
smallest hope of recovery.
1. Consider the uncertainty as to the day of your death. One day your
soul will quit this body--will it be in summer or winter? in town or
country? by day or by night? will it be suddenly or with warning? will
it be owing to sickness or an accident? will you have time to make your
last confession or not? will your confessor or spiritual father be at
hand or will he not? Alas, of all these things we know absolutely
nothing: all that we do know is that die we shall, and for the most
part sooner than we expect.
2. Consider that then the world is at end as far as you are concerned,
there will be no more of it for you, it will be altogether overthrown
for you, since all pleasures, vanities, worldly joys, empty delights
will be as a mere fantastic vision to you. Woe is me, for what mere
trifles and unrealities I have ventured to offend my God? Then you will
see that what we preferred to Him was nought. But, on the other hand,
all devotion and good works will then seem so precious and so
sweet:--Why did I not tread that pleasant path? Then what you thought
to be little sins will look like huge mountains, and your devotion will
seem but a very little thing.
3. Consider the universal farewell which your soul will take of this
world. It will say farewell to riches, pleasures, and idle companions;
to amusements and pastimes, to friends and neighbours, to husband, wife
and child, in short to all creation. And lastly it will say farewell to
its own body, which it will leave pale and cold, to become repulsive in
4. Consider how the survivors will hasten to put that body away, and
hide it beneath the earth--and then the world will scarce give you
another thought, or remember you, any more than you have done to those
already gone. "God rest his soul!" men will say, and that is all. O
death, how pitiless, how hard you art!
5. Consider that when it quits the body the soul must go at once to the
right hand or the left. To which will your soul go? what side will it
take? none other, be sure, than that to which it had voluntarily drawn
while yet in this world.
Affections and Resolutions.
1. Pray to God, and throw yourself into His Arms. O Lord, be You my
stay in that day of anguish! May that hour be blessed and favourable to
me, if all the rest of my life be full of sadness and trial.
2. Despise the world. Forasmuch as I know not the hour in which I must
quit the world, I will not grow fond of it. O dear friends, beloved
ones of my heart, be content that I cleave to you only with a holy
friendship which may last forever; why should I cling to you with a
tie which must needs be broken?
I will prepare for the hour of death and take every precaution for its
peaceful arrival; I will thoroughly examine into the state of my
conscience, and put in order whatever is wanting.
Thank God for inspiring you with these resolutions: offer them to His
Majesty: intreat Him anew to grant you a happy death by the Merits of
His Dear Son's Death. Ask the prayers of the Blessed Virgin and the
Saints. OUR FATHER, etc.
Gather a bouquet of myrrh.
CHAPTER XIV. SIXTH MEDITATION: On Judgment.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God. 2. Intreat Him to inspire
1. When the time comes which God has appointed for the end of this
world, and after many terrible signs and warnings, which will overwhelm
men with fear,--the whole earth will be destroyed, and nothing then
2. Afterwards, all men, save those already risen, shall rise from the
dead, and at the voice of the Archangel appear in the valley of
Jehoshaphat. But alas, with what divers aspects! for some will be
glorious and shining, others horrible and ghastly.
3. Consider the majesty with which the Sovereign Judge will appear
surrounded by all His Saints and Angels; His Cross, the Sign of Grace
to the good and of terror to the evil, shining brighter than the sun.
4. This Sovereign Judge will with His awful word, instantly fulfilled,
separate the evil and the good, setting the one on His Right Hand, the
other on His Left--an eternal separation, for they will never meet
5. This separation made, the books of conscience will be opened, and
all men will behold the malice of the wicked, and how they have
contemned God; as also the penitence of the good, and the results of
the grace they received. Nothing will be hid. O my God, what confusion
to the one, what rejoicing to the other! Consider the final sentence of
the wicked. "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared
for the devil and his angels." Dwell upon these awful words. "Go," He
says--forever discarding these wretched sinners, banishing them for
ever from His Presence. He calls them "cursed:" O my soul, what a
curse: a curse involving all other maledictions, all possible evil, an
irrevocable curse, including all time and eternity; condemning them to
everlasting fire. Think what that eternity of suffering implies.
6. Then consider the sentence of the good. "Come," the Judge says--O
blessed loving word with which God draws us to Himself and receives us
in His Bosom. "Blessed of My Father"--O blessing above all blessings!
"inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world."
O my God, and that Kingdom will know no end!
Affections and Resolutions.
1. Tremble, my soul, at the thought. O God, who will be my stay in that
hour when the pillars of the earth are shaken?
2. Abhor your sins, which alone can cause you to be lost when that
fearful day comes. Surely I will judge myself now, that I be not
judged;--I will examine my conscience, accuse, condemn, punish myself,
that the Judge may not condemn me then. I will confess my faults, and
follow the counsels given me.
Thank God for having given you means of safety in that terrible Day,
and time for repentance. Offer Him your heart, and ask for grace to use
it well. OUR FATHER, etc.
Gather your bouquet.
CHAPTER XV. SEVENTH MEDITATION: Of Hell.
1. PLACE yourself in God's Presence.2. Humble yourself, and ask His
Aid.3. Picture to yourself a dark city, reeking with the flames of
sulphur and brimstone, inhabited by citizens who cannot get forth.
1. Even so the lost are plunged in their infernal abyss;--suffering
indescribable torture in every sense and every member; and that because
having used their members and senses for sin, it is just that through
them they should suffer now. Those eyes which delighted in impure
vicious sights, now behold devils; the ears which took pleasure in
unholy words, now are deafened with yells of despair;--and so on with
the other senses. 2. Beyond all these sufferings, there is one greater
still, the privation and pain of loss of God's Glory, which is for ever
denied to their vision. If Absalom cared not to be released from exile,
if he might not see his father's face,  how much sorer will it be
to be deprived for ever of the blessed vision of God?
3. Consider how insupportable the pains of Hell will be by reason of
their eternal duration. If the irritating bite of an insect, or the
restlessness of fever, makes an ordinary night seem so long and
tedious, how terrible will the endless night of eternity be, where
nought will be found save despair, blasphemy and fury!
Affections and Resolutions.
1. Read the Prophet's descriptions of the terrors of the Lord,  and
ask your soul whether it can face them--whether you can bear to lose
your God for ever?
2. Confess that you have repeatedly deserved to do so. Resolve
henceforth to act differently, and to rescue yourself from this abyss.
Resolve on distinct definite acts by which you may avoid sin, and
thereby eternal death.
Give thanks, offer yourself, pray.
 2 Sam. xiv. 32.
 Isa. xxxiii. 14. "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring
fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?"
CHAPTER XVI. EIGHTH MEDITATION: On Paradise.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.2. Invoke His Aid.
1. Represent to yourself a lovely calm night, when the heavens are
bright with innumerable stars: add to the beauty of such a night the
utmost beauty of a glorious summer's day,--the sun's brightness not
hindering the clear shining of moon or stars, and then be sure that it
all falls immeasurably short of the glory of Paradise. O bright and
blessed country, O sweet and precious place!
2. Consider the beauty and perfection of the countless inhabitants of
that blessed country;--the millions and millions of angels, Cherubim
and Seraphim; the glorious company of Apostles, martyrs, confessors,
virgins, and saints. O blessed company, any one single member of which
surpasses all the glory of this world, what will it be to behold them
all, to sing with them the sweet Song of the Lamb? They rejoice with a
perpetual joy, they share a bliss unspeakable, and unchangeable
3. Consider how they enjoy the Presence of God, Who fills them with the
richness of His Vision, which is a perfect ocean of delight; the joy of
being for ever united to their Head. They are like happy birds,
hovering and singing for ever within the atmosphere of divinity, which
fills them with inconceivable pleasures. There each one vies without
jealousy in singing the praises of the Creator. "Blessed art You for
ever, O Dear and Precious Lord and Redeemer, Who dost so freely give us
of Your Own Glory," they cry; and He in His turn pours out His
ceaseless Blessing on His Saints. "Blessed are ye,--Mine own for ever,
who have served Me faithfully, and with a good courage."
Affections and Resolutions.
1. Admire and rejoice in the Heavenly Country; the glorious and blessed
2. Reprove the coldness of your own heart for having hitherto so little
sought after that glorious abode. Why have I so long lingered
indifferent to the eternal happiness set before me? Woe is me that, for
the sake of poor savourless earthly things, I have so often forgotten
those heavenly delights. How could I neglect such real treasures for
mere vain and contemptible earthly matters?
3. Aspire earnestly after that blessed abode. Forasmuch, O Dear Lord,
as You hast been pleased to turn my feet into Your ways, never will I
again look back. Go forth, my soul, towards your promised rest, journey
unweariedly to that hoped-for land; wherefore shouldest you tarry in
4. Resolve to give up such and such things, which hinder you on the
way, and to do such others as will help you thitherwards.
Give thanks, offer, pray.
CHAPTER XVII. NINTH MEDITATION: On the Choice upon to you
between Heaven and Hell.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.2. Humble yourself before Him,
and ask His inspiration.
1. Imagine yourself alone with your good angel in an open plain, as was
Tobit on his way to Rages. Suppose the Angel to set before you
Paradise, full of delights and joys; and on the other hand Hell, with
all its torments. Contemplate both, kneeling in imagination before your
guardian Angel. Consider that you are most truly standing between Hell
and Paradise, and that both the one and the other are open to receive
you, according to your own choice.
2. Consider that the choice you make in this life will last for ever in
3. Consider too, that while both are open to receive you according to
your choice, yet God, Who is prepared to give the one by reason of His
Justice, the other by reason of His Mercy, all the while desires
unspeakably that you should select Paradise; and your good Angel is
urging you with all his might to do so, offering you countless graces
on God's part, countless helps to attain to it.
4. Consider that Jesus Christ, enthroned in Heaven, looks down upon you
in loving invitation: "O beloved one, come unto Me, and joy for ever in
the eternal blessedness of My Love!" Behold His mother yearning over
you with maternal tenderness--" Courage, my child, do not despise the
Goodness of my Son, or my earnest prayers for your salvation." Behold
the Saints, who have left you their example, the millions of holy souls
who long after you, desiring earnestly that you may one day be for ever
joined to them in their song of praise, urging upon you that the road
to Heaven is not so hard to find as the world would have you think.
"Press on boldly, dear friend,"--they cry. "Whoso will ponder well the
path by which we came hither, will discover that we attained to these
present delights by sweeter joys than any this world can give."
1. O Hell, I abhor you now and for ever; I abhor your griefs and
torments, your endless misery, the unceasing blasphemies and
maledictions which you pourest out upon my God;--and turning to you,
O blessed Paradise, eternal glory, unfading happiness, I choose you
for ever as my abode, your glorious mansions, your precious and abiding
tabernacles. O my God, I bless Your Mercy which gives me the power to
choose--O Jesus, Saviour, I accept Your Eternal Love, and praise You
for the promise You hast given me of a place prepared for me in that
blessed New Jerusalem, where I shall love and bless You for ever.
2. Dwell lovingly upon the example set before you by the Blessed Virgin
and the Saints, and strive to follow where they point you. Give
yourself up to your guardian Angel, that he may be your guide, and gird
up your courage anew to make this choice.
XVIII. TENTH MEDITATION:
How the Soul chooses the Devout Life.
1. PLACE yourself in the Presence of God.2. Humble yourself before Him,
and ask His Aid.
1. Once more imagine yourself in an open plain, alone with your
guardian Angel, and represent to yourself on the left hand the Devil
sitting on a high and mighty throne, surrounded by a vast troop of
worldly men, who bow bareheaded before him, doing homage to him by the
various sins they commit. Study the countenances of the miserable
courtiers of that most abominable king:--some raging with fury, envy
and passion, some murderous in their hatred;--others pale and haggard
in their craving after wealth, or madly pursuing every vain and
profitless pleasure;--others sunk and lost in vile, impure affections.
See how all alike are hateful, restless, wild: see how they despise one
another, and only pretend to an unreal self-seeking love. Such is the
miserable reign of the abhorred Tyrant.
2. On the other hand, behold Jesus Christ Crucified, calling these
unhappy wretches to come to Him, and interceding for them with all the
Love of His Precious Heart. Behold the company of devout souls and
their guardian Angels, contemplate the beauty of this religious
Kingdom. What lovelier than the troop of virgin souls, men and women,
pure as lilies:--widows in their holy desolation and humility; husbands
and wives living in all tender love and mutual cherishing. See how such
pious souls know how to combine their exterior and interior duties;--to
love the earthly spouse without diminishing their devotion to the
Heavenly Bridegroom. Look around--one and all you will see them with
loving, holy, gentle countenances listening to the Voice of their Lord,
all seeking to enthrone Him more and more within their hearts.
They rejoice, but it is with a peaceful, loving, sober joy; they love,
but their love is altogether holy and pure. Such among these devout
ones as have sorrows to bear, are not disheartened thereby, and do not
grieve overmuch, for their Saviour's Eye is upon them to comfort them,
and they all seek Him only.
3. Surely you have altogether renounced Satan with his weary miserable
troop, by the good resolutions you have made;--but nevertheless you
have not yet wholly attained to the King Jesus, or altogether joined
His blessed company of devout ones:--you have hovered betwixt the two.
4. The Blessed Virgin, S. Joseph, S. Louis, S. Monica, and hundreds of
thousands more who were once like you, living in the world, call upon
you and encourage you.
5. The Crucified King Himself calls you by your own name: "Come, O my
beloved, come, and let Me crown you!"
1. O world, O vile company, never will I enlist beneath your banner; for
ever I have forsaken your flatteries and deceptions. O proud king,
monarch of evil, infernal spirit, I renounce you and all your hollow
pomp, I detest you and all your works.
2. And turning to You, O Sweet Jesus, King of blessedness and of
eternal glory, I cleave to You with all the powers of my soul, I adore
You with all my heart, I choose You now and ever for my King, and
with inviolable fidelity I would offer my irrevocable service, and
submit myself to Your holy laws and ordinances.
3. O Blessed Virgin Mother of God, you shall be my example, I will
follow you with all reverence and respect.
O my good Angel, bring me to this heavenly company, leave me not until
I have reached them, with whom I will sing for ever, in testimony of my
choice, "Glory be to Jesus, my Lord!"
CHAPTER XIX. How to make a General Confession.
SUCH meditations as these, my daughter, will help you, and having made
them, go on bravely in the spirit of humility to make your general
confession;--but I entreat you, be not troubled by any sort of
fearfulness. The scorpion who stings us is venomous, but when his oil
has been distilled, it is the best remedy for his bite;--even so sin is
shameful when we commit it, but when reduced to repentance and
confession, it becomes salutary and honourable. Contrition and
confession are in themselves so lovely and sweet-savoured, that they
efface the ugliness and disperse the ill savour of sin. Simon the leper
called Magdalene a sinner,  but our Lord turned the discourse to
the perfume of her ointment and the greatness of her love. If we are
really humble, my daughter, our sins will be infinitely displeasing to
us, because they offend God;--but it will be welcome and sweet to
accuse ourselves thereof because in so doing we honour God; and there
is always somewhat soothing in fully telling the physician all details
of our pain.
When you come to your spiritual father, imagine yourself to be on Mount
Calvary, at the Feet of the Crucified Saviour, Whose Precious Blood is
dropping freely to cleanse you from all your sin. Though it is not his
actual Blood, yet it is the merit of that outpoured Blood which is
sprinkled over His penitents as they kneel in Confession. Be sure then
that you open your heart fully, and put away your sins by confessing
them, for in proportion as they are put out, so will the Precious
Merits of the Passion of Christ come in and fill you with blessings.
Tell everything simply and with straightforwardness, and thoroughly
satisfy your conscience in doing so. Then listen to the admonitions and
counsels of God's Minister, saying in your heart, "Speak, Lord, for Your
servant hears." It is truly God to Whom you hearken, forasmuch as He
has said to His representatives, "Whoso hears you, hears Me." 
Then take the following protest, as a summary of your contrition,
having carefully studied and meditated upon it beforehand: read it
through with as earnest an intention as you can make.
 S. Mark xiv. and S. Luke vii. 39.
 S. Luke x. 16.
CHAPTER XX. A hearty Protest made with the
object of confirming
the Soul's resolution to serve God, as a conclusion to its acts of Penitence.
I, THE undersigned,--in the Presence of God and of all the company of
Heaven, having considered the Infinite Mercy of His Heavenly Goodness
towards me, a most miserable, unworthy creature, whom He has created,
preserved, sustained, delivered from so many dangers, and filled with
so many blessings: having above all considered the incomprehensible
mercy and loving-kindness with which this most Good God has borne with
me in my sinfulness, leading me so tenderly to repentance, and waiting
so patiently for me till this--(present) year of my life,
notwithstanding all my ingratitude, disloyalty and faithlessness, by
which I have delayed turning to Him, and despising His Grace, have
offended Him anew: and further, remembering that in my Baptism I was
solemnly and happily dedicated to God as His child, and that in
defiance of the profession then made in my name, I have so often
miserably profaned my gifts, turning them against God's Divine
Majesty:--I, now coming to myself prostrate in heart and soul before
the Throne of His Justice, acknowledge and confess that I am duly
accused and convicted of treason against His Majesty, and guilty of the
Death and Passion of Jesus Christ, by reason of the sins I have
committed, for which He died, bearing the reproach of the Cross; so
that I deserve nothing else save eternal damnation.
But turning to the Throne of Infinite Mercy of this Eternal God,
detesting the sins of my past life with all my heart and all my
strength, I humbly desire and ask grace, pardon, and mercy, with entire
absolution from my sin, in virtue of the Death and Passion of that same
Lord and Redeemer, on Whom I lean as the only ground of my hope. I
renew the sacred promise of faithfulness to God made in my name at my
Baptism; renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, abhorring
their accursed suggestions, vanities and lusts, now and for all
eternity. And turning to a Loving and Pitiful God, I desire, intend,
and deliberately resolve to serve and love Him now and eternally,
devoting my mind and all its faculties, my soul and all its powers, my
heart and all its affections, my body and all its senses, to His Will.
I resolve never to misuse any part of my being by opposing His Divine
Will and Sovereign Majesty, to which I wholly immolate myself in
intention, vowing ever to be His loyal, obedient and faithful servant
without any change or recall. But if unhappily, through the promptings
of the enemy, or human infirmity, I should in anywise fail in this my
resolution and dedication, I do most earnestly resolve by the grace of
the Holy Spirit to rise up again so soon as I shall perceive my fall,
and turn anew, without any delay, to seek His Divine Mercy. This is my
firm will and intention,--my inviolable, irrevocable resolution, which
I make and confirm without any reserve, in the Holy Presence of God, in
the sight of the Church triumphant, and before the Church militant,
which is my mother, who accepts this my declaration, in the person of
him who, as her representative, hears me make it. Be pleased, O
Eternal, All-Powerful, and All-Loving God,--Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit, to confirm me in this my resolution, and accept my hearty and
willing offering. And inasmuch as You hast been pleased to inspire me
with the will to make it, give me also the needful strength and grace
to keep it. O God, You art my God, the God of my heart, my soul, and
spirit, and as such I acknowledge and adore You, now and for all
eternity. Glory be to Jesus. Amen.
CHAPTER XXI. Conclusion of this First Purification.
HAVING made this resolution, wait attentively, and open the ears of
your heart, that you may in spirit hear the absolution which the Lord
of your soul, sitting on the throne of His Mercy, will speak in Heaven
before the Saints and Angels when His Priest absolves you here below in
His Name. Be sure that all that company of blessed ones rejoice in your
joy, and sing a song of untold gladness, embracing you and accepting
you as cleansed and sanctified. Of a truth, my daughter, this is a
marvellous deed, and a most blessed bargain for you, inasmuch as giving
yourself to His Divine Majesty, you gain Him, and save yourself for
eternal life. No more remains to do, save to take the pen and heartily
sign your protest, and then hasten to the Altar, where God on His side
will sign and seal your absolution, and His promise of Paradise, giving
Himself to you in His Sacrament, as a sacred seal placed upon your
renewed heart. And thus, dear child, your soul will be cleansed from
sin, and from all its affections. But forasmuch as these affections are
easily rekindled, thanks to our infirmity and concupiscence (which
maybe mortified, but which can never be altogether extinguished while
we live), I will give you certain counsels by the practice of which you
may henceforth avoid mortal sin, and the affections pertaining thereto.
And as these counsels will also help you to attain a yet more perfect
purification, before giving them, I would say somewhat concerning that
absolute perfection to which I seek to lead you.
CHAPTER XXII. The Necessity of Purging away all tendency to Venial Sins.
AS daylight waxes, we, gazing into a mirror, see more plainly the soils
and stains upon our face; and even so as the interior light of the Holy
Spirit enlightens our conscience, we see more distinctly the sins,
inclinations and imperfections which hinder our progress towards real
devotion. And the selfsame light which shows us these blots and stains,
kindles in us the desire to be cleansed and purged therefrom. You will
find then, my child, that besides the mortal sins and their affections
from which your soul has already been purged, you are beset by sundry
inclinations and tendencies to venial sin; mind, I do not say you will
find venial sins, but the inclination and tendency to them. Now, one is
quite different from the other. We can never be altogether free from
venial sin,--at least not until after a very long persistence in this
purity; but we can be without any affection for venial sin. It is
altogether one thing to have said something unimportant not strictly
true, out of carelessness or liveliness, and quite a different matter
to take pleasure in lying, and in the habitual practice thereof. But I
tell you that you must purify your soul from all inclination to venial
sin;--that is to say, you must not voluntarily retain any deliberate
intention of permitting yourself to commit any venial sin whatever. It
would be most unworthy consciously to admit anything so displeasing to
God, as the will to offend Him in anywise. Venial sin, however small,
is displeasing to God, although it be not so displeasing as the greater
sins which involve eternal condemnation; and if venial sin is
displeasing to Him, any clinging which we tolerate to mortal sin is
nothing less than a resolution to offend His Divine Majesty. Is it
really possible that a rightly disposed soul can not only offend God,
but take pleasure therein?
These inclinations, my daughter, are in direct opposition to devotion,
as inclinations to mortal sin are to love:--they weaken the mental
power, hinder Divine consolations, and open the door to
temptations;--and although they may not destroy the soul, at least they
bring on very serious disease. "Dead flies cause the ointment to send
forth a stinking savour," says the Wise Man.  He means that the
flies which settle upon and taste of the ointment only damage it
temporarily, leaving the mass intact, but if they fall into it, and die
there, they spoil and corrupt it. Even so venial sins which pass over a
devout soul without being harboured, do not permanently injure it, but
if such sins are fostered and cherished, they destroy the sweet savour
of that soul--that is to say, its devotion. The spider cannot kill
bees, but it can spoil their honey, and so encumber their combs with
its webs in course of time, as to hinder the bees materially. Just so,
though venial sins may not lose the soul, they will spoil its devotion,
and so cumber its faculties with bad habits and evil inclinations, as
to deprive it of all that cheerful readiness which is the very essence
of true devotion; that is to say, if they are harboured in the
conscience by delight taken therein. A trifling inaccuracy, a little
hastiness in word or action, some small excess in mirth, in dress, in
gaiety, may not be very important, if these are forthwith heeded and
swept out as spiritual cobwebs;--but if they are permitted to linger in
the heart, or, worse still, if we take pleasure in them and indulge
them, our honey will soon be spoilt, and the hive of our conscience
will be cumbered and damaged. But I ask again, how can a generous heart
take delight in anything it knows to be displeasing to its God, or wish
to do what offends Him?
 Eccles. x. 1.
CHAPTER XXIII. It is needful to put away all
Useless and Dangerous Things.
SPORTS, balls, plays, festivities, pomps, are not in themselves evil,
but rather indifferent matters, capable of being used for good or ill;
but nevertheless they are dangerous, and it is still more dangerous to
take great delight in them. Therefore, my daughter, I say that although
it is lawful to amuse yourself, to dance, dress, feast, and see seemly
plays,--at the same time, if you are much addicted to these things,
they will hinder your devotion, and become extremely hurtful and
dangerous to you. The harm lies, not in doing them, but in the degree
to which you care for them. It is a pity to sow the seed of vain and
foolish tastes in the soil of your heart, taking up the place of better
things, and hindering the soul from cultivating good dispositions. It
was thus that the Nazarites of old abstained not merely from all
intoxicating liquors, but from grapes fresh or dried, and from vinegar,
not because these were intoxicating, but because they might excite the
desire for fermented liquors. Just so, while I do not forbid the use of
these dangerous pleasures, I say that you cannot take an excessive
delight in them without their telling upon your devotion. When the stag
has waxed fat he hides himself amid the thicket, conscious that his
fleetness is impaired should he be in need to fly: and so the human
heart which is cumbered with useless, superfluous, dangerous clingings
becomes incapacitated for that earnest following after God which is the
true life of devotion. No one blames children for running after
butterflies, because they are children, but is it not ridiculous and
pitiful to see full-grown men eager about such worthless trifles as the
worldly amusements before named, which are likely to throw them off
their balance and disturb their spiritual life? Therefore, dear child,
I would have you cleanse your heart from all such tastes, remembering
that while the acts themselves are not necessarily incompatible with a
devout life, all delight in them must be harmful.
CHAPTER XXIV. All Evil Inclinations must be purged away.
FURTHERMORE, my daughter, we have certain natural inclinations, which
are not strictly speaking either mortal or venial sins, but rather
imperfections; and the acts in which they take shape, failings and
deficiencies. Thus S. Jerome says that S. Paula had so strong a
tendency to excessive sorrow, that when she lost her husband and
children she nearly died of grief: that was not a sin, but an
imperfection, since it did not depend upon her wish and will. Some
people are naturally easy, some oppositions; some are indisposed to
accept other men's opinions, some naturally disposed to be cross, some
to be affectionate--in short, there is hardly anyone in whom some such
imperfections do not exist. Now, although they be natural and
instinctive in each person, they may be remedied and corrected, or even
eradicated, by cultivating the reverse disposition. And this, my child,
must be done. Gardeners have found how to make the bitter almond tree
bear sweet fruit, by grafting the juice of the latter upon it, why
should we not purge out our perverse dispositions and infuse such as
are good? There is no disposition so good but it may be made bad by
dint of vicious habits, and neither is there any natural disposition so
perverse but that it may be conquered and overcome by God's Grace
primarily, and then by our earnest diligent endeavour. I shall
therefore now proceed to give you counsels and suggest practices by
which you may purify your soul from all dangerous affections and
imperfections, and from all tendencies to venial sin, thereby
strengthening yourself more and more against mortal sin. May God give
you grace to use them.
CONTAINING SUNDRY COUNSELS AS TO UPLIFTING THE SOUL TO
GOD IN PRAYER AND THE USE OF THE SACRAMENTS.
CHAPTER I. The Necessity of Prayer.
1. PRAYER opens the understanding to the brightness of Divine Light,
and the will to the warmth of Heavenly Love--nothing can so effectually
purify the mind from its many ignorances, or the will from its perverse
affections. It is as a healing water which causes the roots of our good
desires to send forth fresh shoots, which washes away the soul's
imperfections, and allays the thirst of passion.
2. But especially I commend earnest mental prayer to you, more
particularly such as bears upon the Life and Passion of our Lord. If
you contemplate Him frequently in meditation, your whole soul will be
filled with Him, you will grow in His Likeness, and your actions will
be moulded on His. He is the Light of the world; therefore in Him, by
Him, and for Him we shall be enlightened and illuminated; He is the
Tree of Life, beneath the shadow of which we must find rest;--He is the
Living Fountain of Jacob's well, wherein we may wash away every stain.
Children learn to speak by hearing their mother talk, and stammering
forth their childish sounds in imitation; and so if we cleave to the
Savior in meditation, listening to His words, watching His actions and
intentions, we shall learn in time, through His Grace, to speak, act
and will like Himself. Believe me, my daughter, there is no way to God
save through this door. Just as the glass of a mirror would give no
reflection save for the metal behind it, so neither could we here below
contemplate the Godhead, were it not united to the Sacred Humanity of
our Saviour, Whose Life and Death are the best, sweetest and most
profitable subjects that we can possibly select for meditation. It is
not without meaning that the Saviour calls Himself the Bread come down
from Heaven;--just as we eat bread with all manner of other food, so we
need to meditate and feed upon our Dear Lord in every prayer and
action. His Life has been meditated and written about by various
authors. I should specially commend to you the writings of S.
Bonaventura, Bellintani, Bruno, Capilla, Grenada and Da Ponte. 
3. Give an hour every day to meditation before dinner;--if you can, let
it be early in the morning, when your mind will be less cumbered, and
fresh after the night's rest. Do not spend more than an hour thus,
unless specially advised to do so by your spiritual father.
4. If you can make your meditation quietly in church, it will be well,
and no one, father or mother, husband or wife, can object to an hour
spent there, and very probably you could not secure a time so free from
interruption at home.
5. Begin all prayer, whether mental or vocal, by an act of the Presence
of God. If you observe this rule strictly, you will soon see how useful
6. It may help you to say the Creed, Lord's Prayer, etc., in Latin, but
you should also study them diligently in your own language, so as
thoroughly to gather up the meaning of these holy words, which must be
used fixing your thoughts steadily on their purport, not striving to
say many words so much as seeking to say a few with your whole heart.
One Our Father said devoutly is worth more than many prayers hurried
7. The Rosary is a useful devotion when rightly used, and there are
various little books to teach this. It is well, too, to say pious
Litanies, and the other vocal prayers appointed for the Hours and found
in Manuals of devotion,--but if you have a gift for mental prayer, let
that always take the chief place, so that if, having made that, you are
hindered by business or any other cause from saying your wonted vocal
prayers, do not be disturbed, but rest satisfied with saying the Lord's
Prayer, the Angelic Salutation, and the Creed after your meditation.
8. If, while saying vocal prayers, your heart feels drawn to mental
prayer, do not resist it, but calmly let your mind fall into that
channel, without troubling because you have not finished your appointed
vocal prayers. The mental prayer you have substituted for them is more
acceptable to God, and more profitable to your soul. I should make an
exception of the Church's Offices, if you are bound to say those by
your vocation--in such a case these are your duty.
9. If it should happen that your morning goes by without the usual
meditation, either owing to a pressure of business, or from any other
cause, (which interruptions you should try to prevent as far as
possible,) try to repair the loss in the afternoon, but not immediately
after a meal, or you will perhaps be drowsy, which is bad both for your
meditation and your health. But if you are unable all day to make up
for the omission, you must remedy it as far as may be by ejaculatory
prayer, and by reading some spiritual book, together with an act of
penitence for the neglect, together with a steadfast resolution to do
better the next day.
 S. Bonaventura, Louis of Grenada, and Da Ponte's works are still
available and are admirable helps to meditation. Among more modern
works might be suggested Isaac Williams on the Passion, Avrillon's Lent
Guide, &c. &c.
CHAPTER II. A short Method of Meditation.
And first, the Presence of God, the First Point of Preparation.
IT may be, my daughter, that you do not know how to practise mental
prayer, for unfortunately it is a thing much neglected nowadays. I
will therefore give you a short and easy method for using it, until
such time as you may read sundry books written on the subject, and
above all till practice teaches you how to use it more perfectly. And
first of all, the Preparation, which consists of two points: first,
placing yourself in the Presence of God; and second, asking His Aid.
And in order to place yourself in the Presence of God, I will suggest
four chief considerations which you can use at first.
First, a lively earnest realisation that His Presence is universal;
that is to say, that He is everywhere, and in all, and that there is no
place, nothing in the world, devoid of His Most Holy Presence, so that,
even as birds on the wing meet the air continually, we, let us go where
we will, meet with that Presence always and everywhere. It is a truth
which all are ready to grant, but all are not equally alive to its
importance. A blind man when in the presence of his prince will
preserve a reverential demeanour if told that the king is there,
although unable to see him; but practically, what men do not see they
easily forget, and so readily lapse into carelessness and irreverence.
Just so, my child, we do not see our God, and although faith warns us
that He is present, not beholding Him with our mortal eyes, we are too
apt to forget Him, and act as though He were afar: for, while knowing
perfectly that He is everywhere, if we do not think about it, it is
much as though we knew it not. And therefore, before beginning to pray,
it is needful always to rouse the soul to a steadfast remembrance and
thought of the Presence of God. This is what David meant when he
exclaimed, "If I climb up to Heaven, You art there, and if I go down
to hell, You art there also!"  And in like manner Jacob, who,
beholding the ladder which went up to Heaven, cried out, "Surely the
Lord is in this place and I knew it not"  meaning thereby that he
had not thought of it; for assuredly he could not fail to know that God
was everywhere and in all things. Therefore, when you make ready to
pray, you must say with your whole heart, "God is indeed here."
The second way of placing yourself in this Sacred Presence is to call
to mind that God is not only present in the place where you are, but
that He is very specially present in your heart and mind, which He
kindles and inspires with His Holy Presence, abiding there as Heart of
your heart, Spirit of your spirit. Just as the soul animates the whole
body, and every member thereof, but abides especially in the heart, so
God, while present everywhere, yet makes His special abode with our
spirit. Therefore David calls Him "the Strength of my heart;"  and
S. Paul said that in Him "we live and move and have our being." 
Dwell upon this thought until you have kindled a great reverence within
your heart for God Who is so closely present to you.
The third way is to dwell upon the thought of our Lord, Who in His
Ascended Humanity looks down upon all men, but most particularly on all
Christians, because they are His children; above all, on those who
pray, over whose doings He keeps watch. Nor is this any mere
imagination, it is very truth, and although we see Him not, He is
looking down upon us. It was given to S. Stephen in the hour of
martyrdom thus to behold Him, and we may well say with the Bride of the
Canticles, "He looks forth at the windows, shewing Himself through
the lattice." 
The fourth way is simply to exercise your ordinary imagination,
picturing the Saviour to yourself in His Sacred Humanity as if He were
beside you just as we are wont to think of our friends, and fancy that
we see or hear them at our side. But when the Blessed Sacrament of the
Altar is there, then this Presence is no longer imaginary, but most
real; and the sacred species are but as a veil from behind which the
Present Saviour beholds and considers us, although we cannot see Him as
Make use of one or other of these methods for placing yourself in the
Presence of God before you begin to pray;--do not try to use them all
at once, but take one at a time, and that briefly and simply.
 Ps. cxxxix. 7.
 Gen. xxviii. 16.
 Ps. lxxiii. 26.
 Acts xvii. 28.
 Cant. ii. 9.
CHAPTER III. Invocation, the Second Point of Preparation.
INVOCATION is made as follows: your soul, having realised God's
Presence, will prostrate itself with the utmost reverence,
acknowledging its unworthyss to abide before His Sovereign Majesty;
and yet knowing that He of His Goodness would have you come to Him, you
must ask of Him grace to serve and worship Him in this your meditation.
You may use some such brief and earnest words as those of David: "Cast
me not away from Your Presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me."
 "Shew me Your Ways, O Lord, and teach me Your paths."  "Give me
understanding, and I shall keep Your Law: yea, I shall keep it with my
whole heart."  "I am Your servant, O grant me understanding." 
Dwell too upon the thought of your guardian Angel, and of the Saints
connected with the special mystery you are considering, as the Blessed