Profitable advice on the practice of Meditation

October 8, 2021 • 5 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 56
By St. Francis de Sales


Profitable advice on the practice of Meditation.

Above all things, Philothea, when you rise from meditation, remember the resolutions you have made, and, as occasion presents itself, carefully reduce them to practice that very day.

This is the great fruit of meditation, without which it is not only unprofitable, but frequently hurtful: for virtues meditated upon and not practised, often puff up the spirit, and make us imagine ourselves to be such as we have resolved to be. This, doubtless, would be true if our resolutions were strong and solid; but how can they be really such, but rather vain and dangerous, if not reduced to practice? We must, therefore, by all means, endeavour to practise them, and seek every occasion, little or great, to put them into execution.

For example: if I have resolved, by mildness, to become reconciled with such as offend me, I will seek this very day an opportunity to meet them, and kindly salute them; or, if I should not meet them, at least speak well of them, and pray to God for them.

After prayer, be careful not to cause violent agitation to your heart, lest the precious balm it has received thereby should fall from it. My meaning is, that you must, for some time, if possible, remain in silence, and gently remove your heart from prayer to your other employments, retaining as long as you can, a feeling of the affections you have conceived.

As a man that has received some precious liquor in a dish, in carrying it walks home gently, not looking aside, but straight before him, for fear of stumbling, and sometimes on his dish, lest he should spill the liquor, even so ought you to act when you finish
your meditation; suffer nothing to distract you, but look forward with caution; or, to speak more plainly, should you meet with anyone with whom you are obliged to enter into conversation, there is no other remedy but to watch over your heart, so that as little of the liquor of holy prayer as possible may be spilt on the occasion.

Nay, you must even accustom yourself to know how to pass from prayer to those occupations which your state of life lawfully requires, though ever so distant from the affections you have received in prayer: for example, let the lawyer learn to pass from prayer to pleading, the merchant to his commercial transactions, and the married woman to the care of her family, with so much ease and tranquility that their spirits may not be disturbed; for, since all of them are in positions according to the will of God, they must learn to pass from the one to the other in the spirit of humility and devotion.

You must also know that it may sometimes happen that immediately after preparation your affection will feel itself aspiring to God. In such a case, Philothea, you must lay aside the method I have before given; for although, generally speaking, the exercise of the understanding should precede that of the will, yet when the Holy Ghost gives you the latter before the former, you must not then seek the former, since it is used for no other purpose but to excite the latter.

In a word, whenever affections present themselves, we must expand our hearts to make room for them, whether they come before or after; and, although I have placed them after the considerations, I have done so merely to distinguish more plainly the parts of prayer; for, otherwise, it is a general rule never to restrain the affections, but always to let them have their free course when they present themselves; and this I say, not only with regard to the other affections, but also with respect to the thanksgiving, oblation, and petition which may likewise be used in the midst of the considerations, for they must no more be restrained than the other affections, though afterwards, for the conclusion of the meditation, they must be repeated and taken up again.

But as for resolutions, they are always to be made after the affections, and at the end, before the conclusion of the whole meditation; because as in these we represent to ourselves particular and familiar objects, they would put us in danger of distractions, should we mix up our affections with them.

Amidst our affections and resolutions, it is advisable to use conversations and to speak sometimes to our Lord, sometimes to the angels, the saints, and the persons represented in the mysteries; to ourselves, to our own hearts, to sinners, and even to insensible creatures, after the example of David in his Psalms, and of other saints, in their prayers and meditations.

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