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Saints' Discussion Forums  |  Forums  |  Saints' & Spiritual Life General Discussion  |  Topic: Duty Before Devotion 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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« on: March 26, 2017, 03:16:32 PM »


Many overly zealous people tend to be confused about the priority of duty, selflessness, and charity over private devotions and self-disciplines.  Here is what Father Faber writes about this subject in his book, At the Foot of the Cross:


“The seventh dolor contains also many lessons for ourselves, which are quite within the scope of those who are endeavoring to serve God in an ordinary way, while at the same time, like all the other sorrows of our Blessed Mother, it calls us to serve Him with a higher, more detached, and more disinterested love than we have ever done before.  We learn from the promptitude with which she left the tomb to do her work, and to fulfill in her cheerless desolation the will of God, how we ourselves should put duty before all other considerations, and, in comparison with it, estimate as nothing the highest spiritual consolations.  Now, as if Providence arranged it so on purpose, duty seems often to lead from the sensible enjoyment of Jesus.  Even in common domestic life the unselfishness of daily charity will lead us to sacrifice what looks like a religious advantage, to forfeit what it is hard not to persuade ourselves is a spiritual improvement, for an agreeableness which others do not particularly value, and which appears to be only a growth of acquired politeness or of natural kindliness, and not at all an obedience to a supernatural bidding of grace.

It is hard at all times to persuade ourselves that there is no spiritual advantage to be compared to the giving up of our own will, and that petty mortifications, which concern our own private ways, and the use of our time, and habits even of devotion, are, so long as they are painful to us, among the highest methods of sanctification.  It is necessary to add, so long as they are painful to us, for, unlike mortifications, when they cease to be painful they cease to be mortifications, and become symptoms of the world having got the better of us, and then unfortunately there is no discretion left us but the apparently selfish rudeness of those who have real cause to be afraid of their souls.  If the ordinary civilities of society may often claim our time and attention at the seeming sacrifice of spiritual sweetness and communion with our Lord, much more imperative is the jurisdiction which charity may lawfully exercise over us in this respect.  Unfortunately, spirituality tends to be selfish.

Our nature is so bad that good things acquire evil propensities from their union with us, and it is the best things which have the worst propensities.  So even the love of our Blessed Lord, when discretion does not guide it, may interfere with our love of others, and so come at last to be an untrue love of Him.  Untrue, because merely sentimental; for there is no divine love which is not at the same time self-denying.

To have to give up our own ways to those of others, to have our times of prayer at hours which we dislike, to accommodate our habits of piety to the habits of others, is certainly a delicate and perilous process, one needing great discretion, safe discretion, and an abiding fear of worldliness.  Nevertheless, it is often a most needful means of sanctification, especially to those whose duties, health, or position do not allow them to lead mortified and penitential lives.  The use of time, whether we consider the annoying weariness of punctuality and the supernatural captivity of regular hours, or whether we look at the unwelcome interruptions and somewhat excessive demands upon it made by the inconsiderations and importunity of others, is a most copious source of vigorous and bracing mortification for those who are trying to love God purely amid the inevitable follies and multifarious distractions of the world.  It is the especial mortification of priests.  But, if manners and charity may lawfully draw us from the sensible enjoyment of Jesus, it would be simply unlawful to deny the claims of duty to compel such an act of self-denial.  Yet it is a point in which pious people, especially beginners, almost invariably fail.

There are few households or neighborhoods in which the spiritual life has got an unjustly bad name, where the mischief has not been caused by the indiscretion of an ill-regulated piety in this respect, and, while it is to be hoped that we look upon such households or neighborhoods with an entirely unsympathetic coldness, it is not the less sad that the evil should be there, because it is not the less true that our Blessed Lord is the sufferer.  Beginners cannot easily persuade themselves that Jesus can be more really anywhere than in the sensible enjoyments of intercourse with Him.  The more advanced souls know well that Jesus unfelt is a greater grace than Jesus felt, in a multitude of instances; yet even with them practice falls below knowledge, because nature rebels to the very last against whatever limits the prerogatives of sense.”
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