From An Introduction to the Devout Life
At creation God commanded plants to bear fruit, each according to its kind. (Genesis 1:11-12) In the same way, he commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his church (John 15:5), to produce fruits of devotion, each according to ability and state in life.
It must be obvious that devotion ought to be practiced differently by the gentleman, the artist, the employee, the prince, the widow, the celibate, the spouse.
That is not all. Each person ought to adapt the practice of devotion to his or her strength, duties of state and particular obligations.
Do you think, Philothea, that it would be appropriate for a bishop to want to live in solitude like a Carthusian, or for married people to practice the poverty of Capuchins, or for the worker and the craftsman to spend their days in church like religious, or for religious to be constantly occupied with temporal affairs? Would that not result in a devotion which is really nonsense and altogether useless?
And yet this travesty exists. The world simply does not recognize, or wish to recognize, the difference between true devotion and the lack of discernment in those who think themselves devout. Therefore, it murmurs and criticizes the devotion which, in fact, is nowhere to be found in these kinds of nonsense.
No, Philothea, devotion spoils nothing when it is true. Quite the contrary, it perfects everything. When it proves incompatible with one’s legitimate vocation this is simply because it is a false devotion. Bees draw honey from flowers without harming them, leaving them as fresh and as intact as before. True devotion does even better: not only does it not spoil a vocation or one’s legitimate duties, but it actually enhances them. Care for one’s family is more peaceful, love between spouses is more sincere, service to the state is more faithful; all occupations are more agreeable.
Be certain of this: It is an error, a heresy even, to want to banish the devout life from the company of soldiers, the shops of artisans, the courts of princes, and the homes of married people.
It is true, Philothea, that a devotion that is purely contemplative, monastic, or religious cannot be practiced in these circumstances. But there are other ways for those who live in the midst of the world to become perfect. Is that not what Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Sarah, Rebecca, and Judith did in the Old Testament? And in the New Testament did not Saint Joseph, Saint Crispin, and Saint Lydia (Acts 16:14-15, 40) become perfectly devout in their shops? Saint Anne, Saint Martha (Luke 10:38-41; John 11:1-39, 12:2) and Saint Monica did so in their homes, did they not? Were not Saint Sebastian and Saint Maurice soldiers? Were not Constantine, Saint Helen, Saint Louis, and Saint Edward perfectly devout as monarchs?
Some people actually lose perfection in solitude, which is generally a favorable climate for perfection; whereas others become perfect in the very midst of the world. No matter where we are, Philothea, we must aspire to a perfect life.