Introduction to the Devout Life (Image Classics)

by Francis De Sales

Paperback, 1972





Francis de Sales's Introduction to the Devout Life has remained a uniquely accessible and relevant treasure of devotion for nearly four hundred years. As Bishop of Geneva in the first quarter of the seventeenth century, Francis de Sales saw to the spiritual needs of everyone from the poorest peasants to court ladies. The desire to be closer to God that he found in people from all levels of society led him to compile these instructions on how to live in Christ. Francis's compassionate Introduction leads the reader through practical ways of attaining a devout life without renouncing the world and offers prayers and meditations to strengthen devotion in the face of temptation and hardship.


Image (1972), Edition: Reissue, 352 pages


(96 ratings; 4.5)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ctpress
All true and living devotion presupposes the Love of God

This spiritual classic is written not by a monk for monks but by a catholic bishop advising a young wife of an ambassador to live a pious life. Mme. de Charmoisy found it difficult to maintain a devout spirit in the midst of all the glamour of
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courtly life. So she wrote to Frances de Sales for advise.

Francis de Sales starts with an explanation of what a devout life is. Then follows very practical advise on prayer introducing topics to meditate on and several resolutions. In the third section he describes various virtues and how to pursue them - then there's a section on temptations and how to overcome them. The last part focuses on the conscience and how to maintain a pure heart and a love for God.

I found Francis de Sales very balanced in his understanding of spiritual formation and direction - of course when he gets practical on "worldly" things like card playing, how to dress etc. time and culture has changed in the last 400 years.

What was specially helpful was the section on virtues - when he talks about patience, humility, gentleness, purity, poverty of spirit and the chapters on true and false friendships. These parts I will return to, no doubt.
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LibraryThing member deanc
Francis De Sales (1577-1622), a Roman Catholic priest and one of the 33 Doctors of the Church (so honored by Pope Pius IX in 1877), published this work in 1609. It is a collection of lessons or meditations, grouped into five parts, on the "purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way,
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the three levels of thought and conduct that are required for a completely moral and religious life" (from the Translator's Introduction of the Image Books edition, p. 6). Each meditation is addressed to "Philothea" (lit. "lover of God"), a pseudonymn for a young female member of the French nobility to whom De Sales served as spiritual director (i.e., mentor or tutor). He published them for the benefit of "all who aspire to devotion."

Laced with references to Scripture and the writings of earlier devotional masters, most of these meditations have to do with specific, practical aspects of living a life wholly consecrated to God. Topics covered include the purging of sin from one's life, death, Paradise, Hell, partaking of the sacraments, humility, speech, temptation, chastity, spiritual poverty, pastimes, marital relations, spiritual dryness, prayer, contentment, propriety in dress, friendships, and much more. While his instruction is legalistic or trite in places, there are many useful suggestions, helpful reminders, and challenging ideas to guide thoughtful readers toward a more devout Christian life.

If you're not a Catholic you will likely take some of his teachings with a grain of salt, such as the occasional references to venial and mortal sins, invoking the aid of the Blessed Virgin and the saints, etc. Although four centuries have passed since De Sales wrote the Introduction, much of it remains as relevant--and desperately needed--today as it was then. It should be the on the reading list of all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.
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LibraryThing member allenkeith
This is a proven classic and is often referenced by those leading others in their quest for a deeper devotional life in Christ. It has had more than forty editions since it was first published by St. Francis de Sales in 1609. It gives much detail on how to think and act in the various conditions
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and situations of life that may otherwise impede one's path toward greater holiness. In other words it is practical - so much so that it sometimes it feels a bit tedious. To avoid this I suggest reading a few chapters at a time. St. Francis, a Doctor of the Church, has outstanding qualifications both from the standpoint of education as well as practical experience. He received a doctorate in both civil and canon law, and a masters in arts and philosophy. However, it was his winsome unassuming Christlike qualities that caused many - both of the common and noble classes of society - to seek his guidance even some who were his former adversaries.
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LibraryThing member MorganGMac
This is definitely one of the most inspiring books I've read. Francis De Sales was a spiritual adviser to a lay woman and wrote letters to direction and encouragement to her. When others in the church read them, they urged him to publish a book of spiritual direction that would be applicable to all
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lay persons, based on the letters he'd already written. The book keeps the letter format, addressing an allegorical character, Philothea ('lover of God').
Francis de Sales does not beat around the bush. His intent is to offer clear, specific advice to lay people on how to live a devout life, as opposed to a life of mediocre attention to God. He spends quite a bit of time talking about how we must recognize our sinfulness and God's ever-abundant greatness. Then, he goes into the daily practice of the devout life, everything from meditative prayer, reading scriptures and inspirational books, and attending mass to forming intentional friendships, responding to irritating people with love, and controlling even our smallest sinful inclinations. This is not just a general inspiration type book - it's very specific, but it's a wonderful reminder that we should consider how every single aspect of our lives should be devoted to God, even the seemingly insignificant ones.
It is written for a Catholic audience, but 90% of it would be just as beneficial to non-Catholic Christians. If you wanted to bypass references to Mary, the Eucharist, Confession, ad the saints, you'd still derive a huge amount of inspiration from this classic devotional text. I'd recommend this to everyone.
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LibraryThing member BeardedPapa
Where have I been all my life to not discover this book and this discipline. I feel that at age 70 I am starting all over in my spiritual walk.
LibraryThing member pmackey
Introduction to the Devout Life is one of the best books I've read on Christian formation. Written in the 17th Century, Francis De Sales' practical and grace-filled advice is ageless. De Sales' advice is Catholic-centric, nevertheless the book should be read by Christians of all denominations.
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Introduction to the Devout Life is a timeless gem and I was truly blessed by reading it.
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LibraryThing member clifforddham
Referred to as "the most popular self-help book." There is a Dover edition. "Be who you are, and be that well."
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