St. Francis (1567-1622) defines “true devotion” as the love of God in its highest form. He notes that our devotional practices will vary according to our state of life (be it bishop, monk, husband, wife, maiden, widow, etc.) yet he insists that true devotion perfects every sort of Christian life. In An Introduction to the Devout Life, his most famous work, this Doctor (or “teacher”) of the Church lays out lessons for growing in the love of God.
After stating the importance of having a spiritual guide, he describes how the soul can be purified from mortal sins and affections for them; through a thorough general confession and using ten evocative meditations: on God’s creation, our purpose, God’s mercies, our sins, our death, our judgment, Hell, Paradise, our choice for Paradise, and our choice for a devout life. He says we must next lay aside our attachments to venial sins, and purify ourselves from even neutral things which are unhelpful or potentially dangerous for our souls. The remainder of his book is full of good counsel on prayer, practicing virtue, and the soul’s trials and consolations; such as:
»Devote one hour to mental prayer daily, preferably in the morning at a church (where, unlike home, you won’t be interrupted.)
» Realize God is ever with you and within you.
» At night, review your day: thank God, ask for mercy, make resolutions, and request help.
» “Your chief aim in Holy Communion should be to advance, strengthen, and comfort yourself in the Love of God.”
» Choose a specific virtue to focus on growing.
» The more you appreciate God’s mercies, the more you will love Him.
» Good recreation becomes harmful when given excessive time, energy, or importance.
» “Put yourself into your neighbor’s place, and him in yours, and then you will judge fairly.”
» The world opposes true devotion and is an unjust judge; partial and indulgent to its own children, harsh and rigorous toward God’s.
» Feeling a temptation is not the same as yielding or consenting to it (which is sin.)
» As a frightened child flees to her parent’s arms, so fly to God amid temptation for mercy and help.