Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 1, Chapter 3

Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 1, Chapter 3

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; [8] 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 fulfils 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, [9] 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
wheresoever our lot is cast we may and must aim at the perfect life.

[8] Gen. i. 12.

[9] It is probable that S. Francis here means to indicate Amadeo IX.,
Duke of Savoy, who died 1472.