The relationship between Charity and Devotion

September 15, 2021 • 3 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 2
By St. Francis de Sales

True devotion, Philothea, presupposes, not a partial, but a thorough love of God.

For inasmuch as divine love adorns the soul, it is called grace, making us pleasing to the Divine Majesty: inasmuch as it gives us the strength to do good, it is called charity; but when it has arrived at that degree of perfection, by which it not only makes us act well, but also work diligently, frequently, and readily, then it is called devotion.

As ostriches never fly; as hens fly low, heavily, and but seldom; and as eagles, doves, and swallows fly aloft, swiftly and frequently, so sinners fly, not towards God, but direct all their courses on the earth, and towards worldly objects: and good people who have not as yet attained to devotion fly towards God by their good works, but rarely, slowly, and heavily; whereas devout souls fly up to Him by more frequent, prompt, and lofty flights.

In short, devotion is nothing but that spiritual agility and vivacity, by which charity works in us, or we by her, with alacrity and affection; and as it is the business of charity to make us observe all God’s commandments generally and without exception, so it 1s the part of devotion to make us observe them cheerfully and with diligence.

Wherefore, he who observes not all the commandments of God, cannot be esteemed either good or devout; since to be good, he must be possessed of charity, and to be devout, besides charity, he must show cheerfulness and alacrity in the performance of charitable actions.

As devotion, then, consists in a certain excellent degree of charity, it makes us not only active and diligent in the observance of God’s commandments, but it also excites us to the performance of every good work with an affectionate alacrity, not commanded, indeed, but only counselled.

For as a man newly recovered from any infirmity walks as much as is necessary for him, but slowly and at his leisure, so a sinner, just healed of his iniquities, walks as fast as God commands him, yet slowly and heavily, till such time as he attains to devotion; for then, like a man in sound health, he not only walks, but runs and springs forward in the way of God’s commandments, and, moreover, advances with rapidity in the paths of his heavenly counsels and inspirations.

To conclude: charity and devotion differ no more one from another than the fire does from the flame; for charity is a spiritual fire which, when inflamed, is called devotion. Hence it appears that devotion adds nothing to the fire of charity, but the flame, which makes it ready, active, and diligent, not only in the observance of the commandments of God, but also in the execution of his heavenly counsels and inspirations.

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