I’m a chicken. A big one.
Reading The Rule of St. Benedict and Mother Teresa’s Humility List has been a big wake-up call. Despite the fact that life has been movin’ right along, I have gotten myself into a bit of a rut of spiritual inaction; but, encountering the saints in this way has been manna for my hungry soul. The challenge in both St. Benedict’s and Mother Teresa’s guidance, however, has been the required further interpretation for married laity. While I’m glad to give it a shot, St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life offers direct instruction for the lifestyle.
St. Francis discusses what true devotion is in Chapter 1, and I have to confess that his clear definition was entirely fresh to me. I guess I previously thought devotion to be a step or two beyond feeling love for God or another person; much like being in love or knowing with unwavering certainty that you would die for the cause, so to speak. The definition as provided by St. Francis is remarkably simple, yet another challenge from the Church Triumphant:
But, in fact, all true and living devotion presupposes the love of God…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. - Part 1, Chapter 1
Now for the chicken part:
St. Francis has this great analogy addressing the different types of souls. He says that ostriches don’t fly, chickens fly briefly and rarely, but eagles and swallows soar almost constantly. And so it is with souls – some people never get off the ground because they never focus on God; “well-meaning people” as St. Francis puts it, who haven’t developed true devotion, attempt flight by good actions, but it’s inconsistent and infrequent; and those who are truly devout fly to God swiftly and frequently.
I know I’m a chicken and in retrospect, I think I have been for a good portion of my life. The thing about being an ostrich, chicken, or eagle is that it’s not limited to your spiritual life; the behavior spreads to other areas too. What’s been so freeing, though, is that in coming across St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction and more specifically his definition of devotion, I feel capable of achieving new heights. Now that I know what it is, I can practice true devotion in my relationship with God as well as my marriage. Humility, obedience, and devotion all work together so well. To be a truly devout Catholic or devoted wife, I should strive serve God, serve quickly, and serve humbly.