We must distinguish True from False Devotion

September 14, 2021 • 2 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 2

You aspire to Devotion, Philothea, because, being a Christian, you know it to be a virtue extremely pleasing to the Divine Majesty.

But since small faults, committed in the beginning of any business, grow in the progress much greater, and become in the end almost irreparable, you must first know what the virtue of devotion is; for, since there is but one true kind, and many vain and counterfeit, if you cannot distinguish that which is true, you may easily be deceived, and attach yourself to some imprudent and superstitious devotion.

As Aurelius painted all the faces of his pictures to the air and resemblance of the woman he loved, so everyone paints devotion according to his own passion and fancy.

He that is addicted to fasting thinks himself very devout if he fasts, even though his heart be at the same time full of rancour; and scrupling to moisten his tongue with wine, or even with water, through sobriety, he makes no difficulty of drinking deep of his neighbour’s blood by detraction and calumny.

Another accounts himself devout if he recites daily a multiplicity of prayers, though he immediately afterwards utters the most disagreeable, arrogant, and injurious words amongst his domestics and neighbours.

Another cheerfully draws an alms out of his purse to relieve the poor, but cannot draw meekness out of his heart to forgive his enemies.

Another readily forgives his enemies, but by some means, never satisfies his creditors but by constraint.

These are esteemed devout, when, in reality, they are by no means so.

As Saul’s servants sought David in his house, Michol laid a statue in his bed, and covering it with David’s clothes, made them believe it was David himself; so many persons, by covering themselves with certain external actions belonging to devotion, make the world believe that they are truly devout, whereas they are actually nothing but statues and phantoms of devotion.

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