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Why the spiritual life is different for everyone


Jeffrey Bruno

Philip Kosloski - published on 03/08/20

Each of us is created unique and unrepeatable and what works for some people will not for others.

Do the lives of the saints ever intimidate you? They lived such holy and courageous lives, many of them spending the entire night in prayer, or never eating a single bit of food during the day. How could we possibly live-up to their example?

The good news is that we will never have the same spiritual life as them! We don’t (and should not) copy everything they did!

St. Francis de Sales explains in his Introduction to the Devout Life, “When God created the world He commanded each tree to bear fruit after its kind; and even so He bids Christians, — the living trees of His Church, — to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his kind and vocation.”


Read more:
Finding your vocation is simpler than you think

Each of us is created by God unique and unrepeatable, and what works for some people will not work for others. St. Francis de Sales proceeds to offer a few concrete examples.

I ask you, my child, would it be fitting that a Bishop should seek to lead the solitary life of a Carthusian? And if the father of a family were as regardless in making provision for the future as a Capuchin, if the artisan spent the day in church like a Religious … would not such a devotion be ridiculous, ill-regulated, and intolerable? Nevertheless such a mistake is often made, and the world, which cannot or will not discriminate between real devotion and the indiscretion of those who fancy themselves devout, grumbles and finds fault with devotion.

Basically, St. Francis de Sales is trying to argue that everyone’s devotional life will look different and should look different. A mother or father should not spend their entire day in church, while their children are running around the house without any food. A parish priest shouldn’t lock himself in his rectory to pray like a hermit and only come out on Sundays. Each individual has a unique vocation and your prayer life will reflect that vocation.

This doesn’t mean that a working man or woman has an “excuse” to avoid praying every day. On the contrary, it requires them to actively discern how they can incorporate their spiritual lives within the vocation that they are living.

St. Francis de Sales affirms this central truth, urging us to pursue perfection within the vocation God has called us.

Of course a purely contemplative devotion, such as is specially proper to the religious and monastic life, cannot be practiced in these outer vocations, but there are various other kinds of devotion well-suited to lead those whose calling is secular, along the paths of perfection. The Old Testament furnishes us examples in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David, Job, Tobias, Sarah, Rebecca and Judith; and in the New Testament we read of St. Joseph, Lydia and Crispus, who led a perfectly devout life in their trades … Be sure that wheresoever our lot is cast we may and must aim at the perfect life.

Remember, it is the quality of our prayer that counts, not the quantity, even if a saint recommends praying such and such prayers every day. Don’t worry about what your prayer life “looks” like, but the content of it and how you are growing in your relationship with God.


Read more:
A prayer to help discern your vocation

PrayerSpiritual Life
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