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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:


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!

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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 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

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