Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the Executive Director and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
How do you grow in devotion? From St. Peter of Alcantara, we find advice that is very relevant to us in the here and now.
Nine Means to Acquire Devotion, from Finding God through Meditation, by St. Peter of Alcantara
The things which promote devotion are many, of which we will handle a few.
Completion of the exercise: First, it helps much devotion if those exercises be undertaken with a generous resolution, ready to undergo whatever difficulty shall occur for the obtaining of this precious pearl. For it is certain that nothing is excellent which is not difficult, of which kind is devotion, especially in beginnings.
Custody of the heart: Secondly, a diligent custody of the heart from every vain and unprofitable consideration, from affections, strange love, and turbulent motions, does much promote devotion. For it is evident that every one of these is no little hindrance, seeing this virtue chiefly requires a quiet heart, free from all inordinate affection and so well composed as the strings of a well-tuned instrument.
Custody of the senses: Thirdly, custody of the senses, especially the eyes, tongue, and ears, seeing by these, the heart is much distracted. For those things which enter in through the eyes and ears do strain the mind with divers imaginations and consequently disturb and trouble the peace and tranquillity of the soul. Wherefore, one not without cause said that he that meditates must be deaf, blind, and dumb; for by how much less he wanders abroad, with greater recollection will he rejoice at home.
Solitude: Fourthly, solitude helps devotion much, for it does not only remove the occasions of sin, and take away the causes which chiefly disturb the heart and senses, but it makes a solitary man to rouse up himself from temporal things, to be present to himself and converse incessantly with God. To which, the opportunity of the place does admonish which admits no other society.
Reading of spiritual books: Fifthly, the reading of spiritual books does not a little nourish devotion, because it provides profitable matter for consideration, lifts the mind above all things created, stirs up devotion, and causes a man to sooner adhere to the consideration of those things which, in reading, offered him a more pleasant taste than wherewith the heart abounds and that they may more frequently occur to his memory.
Continual memory of God: Sixthly, continual memory of Almighty God and daily imagination of his sacred presence, that always you are in his sight, with a frequent use of aspirations, which St. Augustine calls ejaculatory prayers; for these do guard the palace of the mind, conserving devotion in her fervor, that a man is always willing to pious actions and ready to holy prayer. This counsel is one of the principal instruments of a spiritual life and the only remedy for those who have neither time nor place with opportunity to insist to long prayer and meditation; and they which do thus bestow their labor to frequent aspirations will, in a short time, profit much.
Perseverance: Seventhly, perseverance in good exercises, that so times and places be duly observed, especially morning and evening, as fittest times for prayer.
Corporal austerities: Eighthly, corporal abstinence and corporal austerities do much help devotion, fasting from meat, a frugal table, a hard bed, hair cloth, discipline, and the like. As they originally proceed from devotion of the mind, so they do not a little cherish, conserve, and nourish the root from whence they spring, which is devotion.
Works of mercy: Lastly, works of mercy are a great spur to devotion, because they increase the confidence we have to appear before God and to be presented before his sacred Majesty. They do accompany our prayers; and, finally, they merit that they be sooner heard by God, especially seeing they proceed from a merciful heart.
Finding God through Meditation, by St. Peter of Alcantara, brings the wisdom of the great saint into your hands. St. Peter directed St. Teresa of Avila on difficult questions she had about prayer and she turned to this work for guidance.
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