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Are You Prepared for Eternal Life?

February 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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An Introduction to the Devout Life (Week 14 of 14)

Reflect that virtue and devotion alone can satisfy your soul in this world; behold how lovely they are; consider the virtues and their opposing vices. How precious is patience compared with revenge, gentleness compared with anger and passion, humility compared with arrogance and ambition, liberality compared with avarice, charity compared with envy, temperance compared with excess! For one admirable property attendant on acts of virtue is, that they leave an exceeding delight and sweetness in the soul after their practice, whereas acts of vice leave her injured and enfeebled. Why, then, do we not seek to acquire such satisfaction? – An Introduction to the Devout Life, Part V, Chapter XI, Paragraph I.

Are You Prepared for Eternal Life?

Sometimes I’m a lazy mom. I try to plan our family dinners at least a week in advance, paying attention to nutritional and food variety, while also making sure to stay within the family budget. But sometimes, I’m short on either time or energy (or both), and it's just easier to toss out frozen pizza, pb&j, or even pancakes leftover from breakfast. If this happens often enough, our family will be out of shape, sloppy and enfeebled, to use a word from Saint Francis de Sales.

Virtue works the same way.  For the most part, I have to take measured steps to practice it, being very intentional, much like I am when planning our meals (only in this case, there is much more at stake than my physical health). When I am rushed or tired, virtue often goes out the window and I end up throwing out whatever I’ve got on hand – and sometimes that can be shortsighted, sloppy and not particularly good for anyone around. Take this route often enough, and my soul will suffer great injury in this life, and worse, eternal damnation in the next.

God desires that we pursue virtue in this life, that we may be better equipped for the next. But he doesn’t keep the benefits of virtue hidden. He allows us to taste the sweetness of its effects, and to desire more, especially as we find ourselves resting in the vile aftertaste of their opposing vices. But practicing virtue requires that we reach beyond our human nature alone.  Left to our own devices, we can do nothing good. We must partake in the Supernatural Life in order to pursue sanctity. That is, in the life of God, Himself.

According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

All virtues have as their final scope to dispose man to acts conducive to his true happiness. The happiness, however, of which man is capable is twofold, namely, natural, which is attainable by man’s natural powers, and supernatural, which exceeds the capacity of unaided human nature. Since, therefore, merely natural principles of human action are inadequate to a supernatural end, it is necessary that man be endowed with supernatural powers to enable him to attain his final destiny.  

My daughter and I are reading a great book that explains this beautifully. In A Map of Life, Frank Sheed writes:

Heaven is [often] thought of as the reward of a good life. As such, it has only a kind of accidental connection with this life. It is better to think of heaven, not only as a reward, but also as the result of a good life. A simple comparison may make clear the distinction. If a student passes an examination, he may be rewarded in one of two ways: he may either get a mere prize – a tennis racquet say… – or he may be admitted to a further course of study that his success in the examination has proved him to be fitted for. The tennis racquet has no real connection to the examination he has passed, but the further course of study has; it is a true result of it. To an immense number of people, heaven is rather like the tennis racquet, and, as such, is not really understood at all. But think of it as the further course, resulting from a life well lived, and instantly the connection is seen. This life is not only a test that a man must pass in order to obtain the reward of heaven, it is also a preparation a man must successfully undergo in order to live the life of heaven.  

From this, it follows that whatever is necessary to enable a man to live the life of heaven must, in some way or other, be acquired by man in this life; otherwise this life would not be a preparation for heaven. And this consideration brings us to the most important point in the whole of Catholic teaching, the doctrine to which all others whatsoever are related, an understanding of which is necessary if Catholicism is to be understood at all. We may approach it in this way. If we were offered a journey to another planet, we should be wise to refuse, because the breathing apparatus we have by nature was made for the atmosphere of this world. In our atmosphere it works; in a totally different atmosphere it would not work, and we should die of suffocation. This illustration points the way to the truth, namely, that the equipment that is adequate to life in one world may not be at all adequate to life in another. And God has told us that our human nature, while adequate to the ordinary life of this world, is not adequate to the life of the world to come. If we were to enter heaven with only the powers of our human nature, we should no more be able to live there than, in the illustration I have given, we should be able to live on another planet with no powers beyond those of our nature.  

And just as we should need some extra powers of breathing not contained in our nature, to live on another planet, so we need extra powers in our soul, not contained in our nature, in order that we may live the life of heaven. These powers not ours by nature, which are necessary in order that we may live a life totally above our nature, are what is called in Catholic teaching, the Supernatural Life…

Which leads us to the need for a life of devotion.  To enter a life of devotion is to enter into the Supernatural Life. According to Saint Francis de Sales, true devotion

…implies the love of God. Indeed it is itself a true love of Him in the highest form, for whereas divine love enlightening our soul is called Grace, and makes us pleasing in His sight; so giving us power to do good, it is called Charity; and when it reaches that point of perfection wherein it not only causes us to do good, but to do it earnestly, frequently, and readily, then it is called Devotion. – An Introduction to the Devout Life, Part I, Chapter I

Throughout this book, Saint Francis de Sales has guided us along the path of true devotion. If our ultimate goal is heaven, and the purpose of our life on earth is to prepare ourselves for that end, a life of devotion is not only desirable, it is a necessity. But it doesn’t have to be a grueling necessity. Saint Francis de Sales makes very clear that a life of true devotion will not only prepare us for our ultimate destiny, but will make this life one of great joy.

 

Reading Assignment:

NONE

Note: NEXT WEEK, WE BEGIN OUR NEW BOOK: Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe

You can order a copy of the book from the EWTN Religious Catalogue or from your preferred retailer.

Discussion Questions:

1. What was your favorite part of An Introduction to the Devout Life?  Why?

2.What part of An Introduction to the Devout Life was most challenging for you?  Why?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts
For More Information on the Book Club:  http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • Camila

    Vicky,
    Thanks for this frank post. You are a true inspiration to me. I have wrestled with the idea of virtue, I know it needs grace and I know it needs effort. What I have experienced is something more like crossing a canyon with no visible sign of a bridge. So the Lord says, ‘take one step’ and the minute you lift your feet then trust that He’ll provide the ground underneath and voila – He does! every-single-time – — but, but, but we need to take the step. One step at a time – we lift it off comfortable and stable ground to conquer new grounds (trusting) God will give the grace and He does. Soon enough we cross to other side and we look back, and see no bridge yet we know we’ve cross the canyon. It was only by the grace of God yes! but also by your own very little effort in trusting every single step of the way…. Does this make any sense to you?

    • Vicki

      Absolutely! Trust is a big issue. As with everything else, submission seems to be the key. The minute we let go of all of our preconceived notions or hangups or fears and take a leap in Faith, it’s amazing what God can accomplish in us. Like you said – it’s all about taking that first step…

      • Camila

        Hey Vicky,
        I just came out of a day of reflection (a neat Opus Dei ministry, they even have childcare!) anyway, the priest was talking about what to give up for lent. He suggested we prayerfully pick a virtue and give up the vice that oposses it. Isn’t this a great idea?

        Patience is my virtue for this coming lent.

        • Vicki

          Great timing! Patience is a perfect choice – it seems that every time I lose my patience, I open a Pandora’s box full of vices:)!

          • LizEst

            With all the snow out there, all I could think of was viceicles! The vices that get bigger, longer and heavier as they cling to us and as we add to them! Gotta knock them down before they bring the whole house down, the temple of the Holy Spirit which we are! Gotta melt them with the fire of God’s love!

          • Camila

            You made me laugh Liz! It is 75 degrees here down south! I will send some warmth your way….

          • LizEst

            Yes, we could definitely use it. It is snowing yet again today…and plenty of it. Thanks.

          • Camila

            Lol

    • Mary L

      Hello Camilla. Thank you for sharing. I just got home from adoration and had not yet read today’s post. Your insight about taking one step at a time was a confirmation for me of what I heard The Lord saying during my quiet time before Him. One step at a time, without rushing, without urgency to resolve or fix. Take a step, trust and stay awake. Can’t do this if I’m spiritually ‘sleepwalking!’

      • Camila

        Dear Mary, You have no idea how much joy I felt upon reading your post! Praise God, isn’t He so incredibly good?!

  • Patti Knudsen

    After having read “Introduction to the Devout Life” for the first time, the main thought that comes to mind is “why didn’t I read this book when I was younger??” I believe it would have had the same profound effect on me….but then I thought, “it came to you when it was supposed to.” Didn’t Jesus tell his apostles there were things they could not know, could not yet understand….but in time they would come to? So I have concluded that I don’t think I was wise enough, and probably not OPEN to living “the devout life” in all of its aspects until now. Now, it’s all I want to do. I hope I’m not too late! Great selection. A book I intend to keep permanently on my nightstand. I have truly enjoyed every thought and insight shared during this reading. Looking forward to the next book. P.S. I had to buy a bookcase just for my “book club selections.” Wonderful…wonderful. Thanks to all.

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