Monday, December 20, 2010

12/20/10 - What is the Condition of My Soul?

Introduction to the Devout Life - St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)  .Book 5, Chapter 1.
Our earthly nature easily falls away from its higher tone by reason of the frailty and evil tendency of the flesh, oppressing and dragging down the soul, unless it is constantly rising up by means of a vigorous resolution, just as a bird would speedily fall to the ground if it did not maintain its flight by repeated strokes of its wings. In order to this, my daughter, you need frequently to reiterate the good resolutions you have made to serve God, for fear that, failing to do so, you fall away, not only to your former condition, but lower still; since it is a characteristic of all spiritual falls that they invariably throw us lower than we were at the beginning.
There is no clock, however good, but must be continually wound up; and moreover, during the course of each year it will need taking to pieces, to cleanse away the rust which clogs it, to straighten bent works, and renew such as are worn. Even so, any one who really cares for his heart’s devotion will wind it up to God night and morning, and examine into its condition, correcting and improving it; and at least once a year he will take the works to pieces and examine them carefully --  mean his affections and passions -- so as to repair whatever may be amiss.
In Book 5 of Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales gives a great series of meditations to perform on an annual basis.   I do them at the end of the calendar year, and for this year I'm starting today.
The meditations are designed to take a look at yourself and gauge the "condition" of your soul.  You look at your prayer life, your love for God, love for self, and love for others.  You look at how far you've come over the last year - have you changed spiritually?  You look honestly and deeply at your own sins -- identifying the ones you keep coming back to, and considering why you've placed that particular hurdle between yourself and God.  You emerge making spiritual resolutions for the year to come.
As St. Francis de Sales says, "It is by testing the passions of the soul, one by one, that we ascertain our spiritual condition, just as one who plays the lute tries every string, touching those which are discordant, either raising or lowering them. Thus having tried our soul as to love, hate, desire, fear, hope, sadness and joy, if we find our strings out of tune for the melody we wish to raise, which is God’s Glory, we must tune them afresh with the help of His Grace, and the counsel of our spiritual father."
If you're interested at all, you can find them online at this link: