"This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God?"

Thomas á Kempis

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St Francis de Sales (1567-1622) -  Bishop and Doctor of the Universal Church




by St Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church

PART V. Containing counsels and practices for renewing and confirming the soul in devotion.

3. Examination of the Soul as to its Progress in the Devout Life.

This second point is somewhat lengthy, and I would begin by saying that there is no need for you to carry it out all at once.

Divide it by taking your conduct towards God at one time, all that concerns yourself another time, all that concerns your neighbour, and fourthly, the examination of your passions.

It is neither necessary nor expedient that you make it upon your knees, always excepting the beginning and the end, which includes the affections. The other points of self-examination you may make profitably when out walking, or better still, in bed, that is, if you can keep wide awake and free from drowsiness; but to do this you must read them over carefully beforehand. Anyhow, it is desirable to go through this second point in three days and two nights at the most, taking that season which you can best manage; for if you go through it at too distant intervals you will lose the depth of impression which ought to be made by this spiritual exercise.

After each point of examination observe wherein you have failed, and what is lacking to you, and in what you have chiefly failed, so that you may be able to explain your troubles, get counsel and comfort, and make fresh resolutions.

It is not necessary entirely to shun all society on the days you select for this work, but you must contrive a certain amount of retirement, especially in the evening, so as to get to bed somewhat earlier than usual, with a view to that rest, bodily and mental, which is so important for serious thought.

And during the day make frequent aspirations to Our Lord, Our Lady, the Angels, and all the Heavenly Jerusalem. Everything must be done with a heart full of God's Love, and an earnest desire for spiritual perfection. To begin this examination,--

  1. Place yourself in the Presence of God.
  2. Invoke the Holy Spirit, and ask light of Him, so that you may know yourself, as S. Augustine did, crying out, "Lord, teach me to know Thee, and to know myself;" and S. Francis, who asked, "Who art Thou, Lord, and who am I?" Resolve not to note any progress with any self-satisfaction or self-glorification, but give the glory to God Alone, and thank Him duly for it.

    Resolve, too, that if you should seem to yourself to have made but little progress, or even to have gone back, that you will not be discouraged thereby, nor grow cool or indolent in the matter; but that, on the contrary, you will take fresh pains to humble yourself and conquer your faults, with God's Help.

Then go on to examine quietly and patiently how you have conducted yourself towards God, your neighbour and yourself, up to the present time.