"To do God's will -- this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. "

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Lord, take from me everything that hinders me from going to You. give me all that will lead me to You. Take me from myself and give me to Yourself."

St Nicholas Flue

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"There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectually cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good."

St Philip Neri

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

 

INTRODUCTION TO A DEVOUT LIFE

by St Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church

CONTENTS

 

Preface by the Author

 

PART I. 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.

1. What True Devotion is
2. The Nature and Excellence of Devotion
3. Devotion is suitable to every Vocation and Profession
4. The Need of a Guide for those Who Would enter upon and advance in the Devout Life
5. The First Step must be Purifying the Soul
6. The First Purification, namely, from Mortal Sin
7. The Second Purification, from all Sinful Affections
8. How to effect this Second Purification
9. First Meditation - Of Creation
10. Second Meditation - Of the End for which we were Created
11. Third Meditation - Of the Gifts of God
12. Fourth Meditation - On Sin
13. Fifth Meditation - On Death
14. Sixth Meditation - On Judgment
15. Seventh Meditation - Of Hell
16. Eighth Meditation - On Paradise
17. Ninth Meditation - On the Choice open to you between Heaven and Hell
18. Tenth Meditation - How the Soul chooses the Devout Life
19. How to make a General Confession
20. A hearty Protest made with the object of confirming the Soul's resolution to serve God, as a conclusion to its Acts of Penitence
21. Conclusion of this First Purification
22. The Necessity of Purging away all tendency to Venial Sins
23. It is needful to put away all Inclination for Useless and Dangerous Things
24. All Evil Inclinations must be purged away
   

PART II. Containing sundry counsels as to uplifting the soul to God in prayer and the use of the Sacraments

1. The Necessity of Prayer
2. A short Method of Meditation. And first, the Presence of God, the First Point of Preparation
3. Invocation, the Second Point of Preparation
4. The Third Point of Preparation, representing the Mystery to be meditated to your Imagination
5. Considerations, the Second Part of Meditation
6. The Third Part of Meditation, Affections and Resolutions
7. The Conclusion and Spiritual Bouquet
8. Some Useful Hints as to Meditation
9. Concerning Dryness in Meditation
10. Morning Prayer
11. Evening Prayer and Examination of Conscience
12. On Spiritual Retirement
13. Aspirations, Ejaculatory Prayer and Holy Thoughts
14. Of Holy Communion, and how to join in it
15. Of the other Public Offices of the Church
16. How the Saints are united to us
17. How to Hear and Read God's Word
18. How to receive Inspirations
19. On Confession
20. Of Frequent Communion
21. How to Communicate
   

PART III. Containing counsels concerning the practice of virtue

1. How to select that which we should chiefly Practise
2. The same Subject continued
3. On Patience
4. On Exterior Humility
5. On Interior Humility
6. Humility makes us rejoice in our own Abjection
7. How to combine due care for a Good Reputation with Humility
8. Gentleness towards others and Remedies against Anger
9. On Gentleness towards Ourselves
10. We must attend to the Business of Life carefully, but without Eagerness or Over-anxiety
11. On Obedience
12. On Purity
13. How to maintain Purity
14. On Poverty of Spirit amid Riches
15. How to exercise real Poverty, although actually Rich
16. How to possess a rich Spirit amid real Poverty
17. On Friendship: Evil and Frivolous Friendship
18. On Frivolous Attachments
19. Of Real Friendship
20. Of the Difference between True and False Friendship
21. Remedies against Evil Friendships
22. Further Advice concerning Intimacies
23. On the Practice of Bodily Mortification
24. Of Society and Solitude
25. On Modesty in Dress
26. Of Conversation; and, first, how to Speak of God
27. Of Unseemly Words, and the Respect due to Others
28. Of Hasty Judgments
29. On Slander
30. Further Counsels as to Conversation
31. Of Amusements and Recreations: what are allowable
32. Of Forbidden Amusements
33. Of Balls, and other Lawful but Dangerous Amusements
34. When to use such Amusements rightly
35. We must be Faithful in Things Great and Small
36. Of a Well-balanced, Reasonable Mind
37. Of Wishes
38. Counsels to Married People
39. The Sanctity of the Marriage Bed
40. Counsels to Widows
41. One Word to Maidens
    

PART IV. Containing needful counsels concerning some ordinary temptations.

1. We must not trifle with the Words of worldly Wisdom
2. The need of a Good Courage
3. Of Temptations, and the difference between experiencing them and consenting to them
4. Two striking illustrations of the same
5. Encouragement for the Tempted Soul
6. When Temptation and Delectation are Sin
7. Remedies for Great Occasions
8. How to resist Minor Temptations
9. How to remedy Minor Temptations
10. How to strengthen the Heart against Temptation
11. Anxiety of Mind
12. Of Sadness and Sorrow
13. Of Spiritual and Sensible Consolations, and how to receive them
14. Of Dryness and Spiritual Barrenness
15. In Illustration
   

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

1. It is well yearly to renew Good Resolutions by means of the following Exercises
2. Meditation on the Benefit conferred on us by God in calling us to His Service
3. Examination of the Soul as to its Progress in the Devout Life
4. Examination of the Soul's Condition as regards God
5. Examination of your Condition as regards yourself
6. Examination of the Soul's Condition as regards our Neighbour
7. Examination as to the Affections of the Soul
8. The Affections to be excited after such Examination
9. Reflections suitable to the renewal of Good Resolutions
10. First Consideration--of the Worth of Souls
11. Second Consideration--On the Excellence of Virtue
12. The Example of the Saints
13. The Love which Jesus Christ bears to us
14. The Eternal Love of God for us
15. General Affections which should result from these Considerations, and Conclusion of the Exercise
16. The Impressions which should remain after this Exercise
17. An Answer to Two Objections which may be made to this Book
18. Three Important and Final Counsels