Annual Retreat Exercise #3: An examination of the state of your soul towards God

October 19, 2021 • 4 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 268
By St. Francis de Sales

CHAPTER IV.

An examination of the state of your soul towards God.

How stands your heart with respect to mortal sin? Are you firmly resolved never to commit it, on any account whatsoever? Has this resolution continued with you from the time of your protestation till the present moment? In this resolution consists the foundation of this spiritual life.

How is your heart disposed with regard to the commandments of God? Do you find them good, sweet, and agreeable? Ah! my child, he whose taste is in good order and whose stomach is sound, loves good meats, and rejects the bad.

How is your heart affected with regard to venial sins? We cannot keep ourselves so pure as not to fall now and then into such sins; but are there none to which you have a particular inclination, or, which would be still worse, are there none to which you bear an affection and love?

How is your heart affected with relation to spiritual exercises? Do you love them? Do you esteem them? Do they not make you uneasy? Are you not disgusted with them? To which of them do you find yourself more or less inclined? To hear the word of God, to read it, to discourse of it, to meditate on it, to aspire to God, to go to confession, to receive spiritual advice, to prepare yourself for communion, to communicate, to restrain your affections; what is there in all this that is repugnant to your heart? and if you find anything to which your heart has less inclination, examine the cause from whence this dislike arises and apply the remedy.

How does your heart stand with regard to God Himself? Does it delight in the remembrance of God? Does this remembrance leave an agreeable sweetness behind it? “Ah!” said David, “I remembered God and was delighted.” Do you find a certain propensity in your heart to love God, and a particular satisfaction in relishing that love? Does your heart feel joy in reflecting on the immensity, goodness, or sweetness of God? If the remembrance of God comes to you amidst the occupations and vanities of the world, does it make room for itself? Does it seize upon your heart? Does it seem to you that your heart turns in that direction, and, as it were, runs to meet God? Certainly there are such souls to be found.

Is it not true that a loving wife, as soon as she learns the return of her husband after a long absence, or when she thinks she hears his voice, goes at once to meet him? Nothing keeps her heart from him; she gives up all other thoughts, in order to think on him alone. It is the same with souls that love God well; be they ever so busy, when the remembrance of God comes near them, they lose almost the thought of all things else, for joy to see that this dear remembrance is returned; and this is an extremely good sign.

How is your heart affected towards Jesus Christ? God and man? Are you pleased at being with Him? As bees are pleased with their honey, and wasps with corrupted things, so good souls find their contentment in thinking on Jesus Christ, and feel great love for Him; but the wicked take delight in vanities.

How is your heart affected towards our Blessed Lady, the saints, and your good angel? Do you love them well? Have you a special confidence in their patronage? Are you pleased with their representations, their lives, and their praises?

As to the tongue: how do you speak of God? Does it please you to speak well of Him, according to your condition and ability? Do you love to sing his praises?

As to works: consider whether you take the exterior glory of God to heart, and are emulous of doing something for his honour; for such as love God, love, like David, the adorning of his house.

Can you find that you have forsaken any affection, or renounced anything for the sake of God? for it is a great sign of love, to deprive ourselves of anything in favour of Him whom we love. What, then, have you hitherto forsaken for the love of God?

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