Monday 26 December 2022

Introduction to the Devout Life - Francis de Sales, Gregory Pine, Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, and Matthew K. Minerd - Ascension Catholic Classics

Introduction to the Devout Life 
Francis de Sales
Ascension Catholic Classics
ISBN 9781954881587
eISBN 9781954881594

Reading this volume was a bit of a different process. It is the first in a new series from Ascension press called Catholic Classics, and there is a podcast version by Gregory Pine and Jacob Bertrand Janczyk. I listened to the podcast in the morning and then read the associated sections in the afternoon. In essence I worked through the book twice. I did find I had to seep up Gregory and Jacob, but even with that it was great to listen to their commentary each day, and read their commentary before the different sections of the book. The description of this edition of this book is:

“The first book of the Catholic Classics series, Introduction to the Devout Life is an updated translation of St. Francis de Sales’ original text that makes this key work of Catholic Tradition approachable to modern readers.

Written as a letter to St. Francis’ lay cousin, this classic yet relevant text features advice on the questions that members of the Catholic laity often ask themselves, such as:

Is living a holy life possible for those called to a vocation other than the religious life?
What does spiritual meditation and prayer look like amid the demands of daily life?
How can virtues be pursued and vices rooted out when temptations and occasions of sin abound?
Why can setting aside daily time for silent prayer and meditation seem like such a daunting task?
And more!

Written by Doctor of the Church St. Francis de Sales to offer sound preaching and clear instruction for Catholics and translated by Matthew K. Minerd to renew Catholics’ understanding and appreciation of this classic Catholic work, Introduction to the Devout Life promises that “it is possible to have an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus, regardless of the demands of everyday life.”

This special version includes:

The full English translation of St. Francis de Sales’ 17th century work (which is not available in all translations)
Language updates that make the text accessible without changing its meaning or message
Expert commentary from Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P. and Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, O.P. introducing each section
This beautiful book provides inspiration and guidance for all Catholics to deepen their personal relationship with God while living out their unique vocation.”

The sections and chapters in this edition are:

About the Catholic Classics
Editor’s Remarks by Matthew K. Minerd
Introduction by Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., and Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, O.P.
Author’s Dedicatory Prayer by St. Francis de Sales
Author’s Preface by St. Francis de Sales

Part 1: On the Counsels and Exercises
Commentary on Part 1 by Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., and Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, O.P.
     1: What Is True Devotion to God?
     2: The Nature and Excellence of Devotion
     3: Devotion Is Suitable to All Kinds of Vocations and Professions
     4: On the Need for Guidance for Those Seeking to Live a Devout Life and Make Progress in It
     5: We Must Start by Purifying Our Souls
     6: The First Purification: From Mortal Sin
     7: The Second Purification: From Desire for Sinful Deeds
     8: How to Undertake This Second Purgation
     9: First Meditation: On Creation
     10: Second Meditation: On the End for Which We Were Created
     11: Third Meditation: On the Benefits Bestowed by God
     12: Fourth Meditation: On Sin
     13: Fifth Meditation: On Death
     14: Sixth Meditation: On Judgment
     15: Seventh Meditation: On Hell
     16: Eighth Meditation: On Heaven
     17: Ninth Meditation: How to Make Heaven Your Heart’s Choice
     18: Tenth Meditation: How the Soul Chooses to Live the Devout Life
     19: How to Make a General Confession
     20: A Genuine Profession So That the Soul May Firmly and Surely Resolve to Serve God
     21: Conclusion of This First Purification
     22: On the Need to Purify Ourselves from Affections Drawing Us to Venial Sins
     23: We Must Purify Ourselves of Attachment to Useless and Dangerous Things
     24: That We Must Purify Ourselves from Evil Inclinations

Part 2: Instructions for Elevating the Soul to God Through Prayer and the Sacraments
Commentary on Part 2 by Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., and Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, O.P.
     1: On the Necessity of Prayer
     2: A Brief Method of Meditation, Beginning with Awareness of God’s Presence, Which Is the First Thing to Be Done in Preparation
     3: The Second Point of Preparation for Meditation: The Invocation of God’s Assistance
     4: The Second Point of Preparation: How to Propose a Mystery for Consideration
     5: The Second Part of Meditation: Considerations
     6: The Third Part of Meditation: Affections and Resolutions
     7: On the Conclusion and the Spiritual Bouquet
     8: Some Very Useful Advice Regarding Meditation
     9: On the Dryness Sometimes Experienced in Meditation
     10: Morning Exercises
     11: Evening Exercises and Examination of Conscience
     12: On Spiritual Recollection
     13: Acts of Aspiration, Brief and Frequent Prayers, and Holy Thoughts
     14: On the Most Holy Mass and How We Should Partake in It
     15: Concerning Public and Communal Exercises
     16: How We Are to Honor and Invoke the Saints
     17: How We Should Hear and Read God’s Word
     18: How We Ought to Receive Inspirations
     19: On Holy Confession
     20: On Frequent Communion
     21: How We Are to Receive Communion

Part 3: Certain Counsels for the Practice of the Virtues
Commentary on Part 3 by Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., and Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, O.P.
     1: How to Choose the Virtues to Be Practiced in Particular
     2: Continued Discussion of the Choice of Virtues
     3: On Patience
     4: On External Humility
     5: On Interior Humility
     6: That Humility Makes Us Love Our Own Abjection
     7: How to Retain Our Good Name While Also Practicing Humility
     8: On Meekness Toward Our Neighbors and Remedies Against Anger
     9: On Meekness Toward Ourselves
     10: That We Must Deal with the Affairs of Life Diligently but Without Eagerness or Anxiety
     11: On Obedience
     12: On Chastity
     13: How to Maintain Purity
     14: On Poverty of Spirit Observed in the Midst of Riches
     15: How to Practice True Poverty, Even When You Are Rich
     16: How to Be Spiritually Rich of Spirit amid Real Poverty
     17: On Friendship—First and Foremost, Evil and Frivolous Ones
     18: On Flirtations
     19: True Friendships
     20: On the Difference Between True and Empty Friendships
     21: Advice and Remedies Against Evil Friendships
     22: Other Advice Regarding Friendships
     23: On Practices of External Mortification
     24: On Conversation and Solitude
     25: On Modest Dress
     26: On Conversation: First of All, How We Are to Speak About God
     27: On Modesty in Words and the Respect We Owe to Others
     28: On Rash Judgments
     29: On Detraction
     30: Further Counsels on Discourse
     31: On Hobbies and Recreation: Which Kinds Are Permitted
     32: On Forbidden Amusements
     33: Balls and Other Permissible but Dangerous Amusements
     34: When to Play or Dance
     35: That We Must Be Faithful on Both Great and Small Occasions
     36: That We Must Be Just and Reasonable
     37: On Desires
     38: Counsels for Married People
     39: On the Holiness of the Marriage Bed
     40: Counsels for Widows
     41: A Word to Virgins

Part 4: Necessary Counsels Concerning Temptations that Occur Frequently in the Christian Life
Commentary on Part 4 by Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., and Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, O.P.
     1: That We Must Not Bother Ourselves About What the Children of the World Say
     2: That We Must Be of Good Courage
     3: On the Nature of Temptations and the Difference Between Experiencing Them and Consenting to Them
     4: Two Beautiful Examples of This
     5: Encouragement for the Soul Experiencing These Temptations
     6: How Temptation and Delight Can Become Sinful
     7: Remedies for Great Temptations
     8: That We Must Resist Small Temptations
     9: How to Remedy Minor Temptations
     10: How to Strengthen the Heart Against Temptations
     11: On Anxiety
     12: On Sorrow
     13: On Spiritual and Sensible Consolations and How We Ought to Receive Them
     14: On Spiritual Dryness and Barrenness
     15: A Notable Example that Confirms and Exemplifies What We Have Said

Part 5: Exercises and Counsels for Renewing the Soul and Strengthening Her Devotion
Commentary on Part 5 by Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., and Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, O.P.
     1: That One Must Yearly Renew Good Intentions by Means of the Following Exercises
     2: Consideration of the Blessing Given to Us by God’s Calling Us into His Service, in Accord with the Profession Made Earlier
     3: On the Examination of Our Soul Concerning Its Advancement in the Devout Life
     4: An Examination of the State of the Soul in Relation to God
     5: An Examination of What the Soul Thinks of Itself
     6: Examination of Our Soul in Relation to Our Neighbors
     7: Examination Concerning Our Soul’s Affections
     8: Affections to Be Aroused After This Examination
     9: Reflections Suited to the Renewal of Our Good Resolutions
     10: First Consideration: The Excellence of Our Souls
     11: Second Consideration: The Excellence of the Virtues
     12: Third Consideration: The Examples of the Saints
     13: Fourth Consideration: Jesus Christ’s Love for Us
     14: Fifth Consideration: On God’s Eternal Love for Us
     15: General Affections Concerning the Previous Considerations, and the Conclusion to These Exercises
     16: The Sentiments That We Must Retain After These Exercises
     17: Response to Two Objections That Can Be Raised Against This Introduction to the Devout Life
     18: Three Final and Principal Counsels for This Introduction to the Devout Life

This edition has it’s:

Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert A. Pesarchick, Censor librorum, June 2, 2022

Imprimatur:, +Most Reverend Nelson J. Perez, Archbishop of Philadelphia, June 3, 2022

Now please note there are over 250 editions of this book in English. By several different translators. With and without commentary. Because the book is now in public domain many, many editions are just copies of each other. We are informed about this edition that:

“Introduction to the Devout Life presented here is a deep editing and reworking of an anonymous translation from 1891 of St. Francis de Sales’ early seventeenth-century spiritual masterpiece Introduction à la vie dévote.”

By the editor Matthew K. Minerd. It is uncertain if Minerd will be the editor of future volumes in the series, and I was a little disappointed that the next volume was not announced at the end of the book or podcast. Having both read and listened to this volume I highlighted 48 passages, a few of them are:

“It is true that this is difficult, and therefore, I could wish that many strive to live such a life with more ardor than has been done up to this point, and I, weak as I am, will strive in this treatise to provide some help for those who shall take up so worthy an enterprise with a generous heart.”

“For the rest, my dear reader, it is true that I write of the devout life without myself being devout, but certainly not without the desire to become so. And this desire is what gives me courage to undertake this attempt to instruct you. For as a famous learned man said,10 a good way to learn is to study, a better way is to hear, but the best way is to teach.”

“There are many things that we would like to do. Most of us would like to develop an exercise routine. Perhaps we would like to learn a foreign language or how to play a musical instrument. Unfortunately, though, we do not always get around to doing all the things we would like to do. Whether for lack of time, talent, commitment, or motivation, we leave quite a bit undone. What about our spiritual life, though? Have we gotten around to that? In this first part of the Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis helps us address this question.”

“I have written these meditations entirely for this purpose. Meditate upon them in order, taking only one per day, if possible in the morning, which is the most proper time for spiritual exercises. This will allow you to ruminate on it for the rest of the day. However, if you are not yet accustomed to meditation, see what is said in the second part concerning this topic.”

“Consider that it is quite true that you are set between heaven and hell and that both are opened up before you, all depending upon the choice you will make.”

“However, all these spiritual acts should be made briefly and fervently, before you leave your bedroom, if at all possible. Thus, by means of this exercise, all that you do throughout the whole day thereafter may flourish with the blessing of God.”

“Therefore, willingly join the confraternities established where you reside, especially those whose exercises are most fruitful and edifying. In so doing, you practice a kind of obedience acceptable to God, for although these confraternities are not commanded of us, they are, nevertheless, recommended by the Church, who, in witness of her approval of them, grants them certain privileges.”

“From this, I infer that frequent Communion is by no means inconsistent with the state of a parent, husband, or wife, so long as the person who receives Communion be prudent and discreet.”

“Begin your preparation for Holy Communion the night before, through many aspirations and brief and quick prayers of love, going to rest earlier so you may rise sooner in the morning. If you wake during the night, fill your heart and mouth immediately with some sweet words, so that your soul may be perfumed for the reception of her Spouse.”

“Our friend becomes our enemy when he would lead us to sin, deserving to lose his friendship when he would ruin and destroy his friend. Thus, one of the most infallible marks of false friendship is to see it formed with a sinful person, whatever kind his sins happen to be, for if he whom we love is vicious, without doubt our friendship is vicious also.”

“Let your speech be meek, frank, sincere, open, simple, and truthful. Guard yourself from equivocations, artifices, and dissimulations, for although it may not be advisable to say all sorts of truths at all times, nonetheless, it is never permissible that we speak something contrary to the truth.”

“Do not desire crosses, except in proportion to the patience with which you have borne those which have been already sent to you, for it is a mistake to desire martyrdom and not to have the courage to bear an injury.”

“However, God joins husband and wife by his own blood. Thus, this union is so strong that the soul would sooner separate from the body than husband from his wife. But the union meant here is not principally bodily but, rather, of the heart, affection, and love.”

“Thus, by means of the continual exercise of prayer, the sacraments, and confidence in God, our strength will come back to us, and we shall live a vigorous and happy life.”

“Throughout the day, or at least in the morning and evening, examine whether you have your soul in your hands or whether some passion or anxiety has not snatched it from you.”

“They should include things such as diligence in prayer, in the reception of the sacraments, in good works, in the amendment of your faults uncovered in self-examination, in avoiding the occasions of evil, and in following the counsels which are given to you.”

I hope those few quotes give you a feel for this book and this translation and edition. It is an excellent volume. And great to read or follow along with the pod cast. This book was a wonderful read. It challenged me personally and I know it will do the same for you. I am thankful for having read and to be slowly applying the lessons from this Saint and Doctor of the church. And I look forward to the other volumes from his pen. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next Catholic Classics from Ascension Press.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Saint Francis de Sales:
Introduction to the Devout Life
The Sign of the Cross
The Art of Loving God
Roses Among Thorns
Finding God's Will for You

Sermons of St. Francis de Sales:
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Prayer
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Advent and Christmas

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