Sunday hints for the spiritual life (Sensible devotion)
Happy Sunday and God bless you! In our age, we are blessed with plenty religious zeal, so much so that many of us don’t even know where to start from and where to end in our relationship with God. At the end, we end up making a lot of mistakes. One of those mistakes that Saints, our spiritual mentors and spiritual inspirers have identified and prayed against is the quest and zest for sensible devotions. So, we shall take a look at this reality that is mistakenly glorified instead of God our ultimate end.
Sensible devotions are conscious attachment of our thoughts, feelings and words to the consolations and satisfactions that we receive as we relate with God and things pertaining to God. Sensible devotions result sometimes when we pray to God, worship God, and embark on some missions in the name of God, etc. It is important to quickly state that sensible devotions are not bad in themselves. The problem is remaining in them instead of seeing them as stepping stones to advance our relationship with and in God. Sensible devotions are actually gifts of God to enable especially beginners in the spiritual life and those who are perpetually weak to be drawn by their delights to God just as animals are drawn by sensible objects.
It is because of the dangers of our likelihood of indulging in sensible devotions and remaining stuck in them that Saints and spiritual mentors like Francis de Sales and Louis Maria de Montfort cautioned and prayed against sensible devotions. For instance, St. Francis de Sales said, “Two mistakes I find common among spiritual persons. One is that they ordinarily measure their devotion by the consolations and satisfactions which they experience in the way of God, so that if these happen to be wanting, they think they have lost all devotion.” The admonition is that if your love of God is based on consolations, satisfactions, extraordinary manifestations and so on without the understanding that these gifts may decline with time leading sometimes to spiritual dryness or spiritual aridity then there are indications for spiritual wreck. More so, if we treasure them too much, they may lead us to complacency and very high self-esteem that may lead us to pride! God forbid!!
Hence, in order to avert the dangers of sensible devotions, our great Saint and spiritual mentor – Louis Maria de Montfort, prayed to Mary in this fashion, “Hail Mary, beloved Daughter of the eternal Father! Hail Mary, admirable Mother of the Son! Hail Mary, faithful Spouse of the Holy Spirit! Hail Mary, my dear Mother, my loving Mistress, and my powerful Sovereign! … I do not ask thee for visions, revelations, sensible devotion or spiritual pleasures.” This prayer reminds us that we are sensible beings that should be open to perceptible impressions. However, they are only supposed to be pointers to the ultimate reality and object of our devotions – God. They are to motivate us in order to focus and pay more attention to our interior formation which will last and fetch us more and lasting goods.
Finally, the Church throughout the centuries has taught us to always revere the Word of God and the Sacraments. The sacraments for instance are usually sensible words and materials that are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into inward graces. The inward graces we receive by the utterances of words on sensible materials refer to God. Thus, let us always focus on God from our sensible devotions. Let us not shortchange God for our sensible devotions. God bless you!