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Introduction to the Devout Life Paperback – April 9, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Devout life does not require withdrawal from the world. This was the central insight of Saint Francis de Sales, a 16th-century priest whose Introduction to the Devout Life has not gone out of print in almost four centuries. Francis served the church at a dangerous time in a dangerous place: during the Reformation, in Calvinist areas of France, when celebrating mass was punishable by death. He was a popular minister and a prolific letter writer whose correspondence was cherished for its clear and direct instruction in the ways of piety. The book collects passages from many of those letters, organized as one message addressed to the allegorical character Philothea (which means "lover of God"). The book includes long sections about prayer, temptation, and how to maintain and renew devotion to God. But it is most distinguished by its discussion of how to live a holy life in the secular world. Each chapter (such as "How to Combine Due Care for a Good Reputation with Humility") is frank, uncannily modern, and precise. --Michael Joseph Gross

From the Inside Flap

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 sevenjteenth 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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (April 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725623
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By J. Miller on March 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Francis de Sales' devotional classic takes seriously the call to holy living and develops a focus on the perfection of the human character to an unprecedented degree and to a degree which, most likely, God intended. Addressed to "Philothea," she who would love God, it teaches us how to make an offering of our lives.

The book is divided into five major parts:

1. "Instructions and Exercises Needed to Lead the Soul from Its First Desire for the Devout Life Until Brought to a Full Resolution to Embrace It"

2. "Various Instructions for Elevating the Soul to God by Prayer and the Sacraments"

3. "Instructions on the Practice of Virtue"

4. "Necessary Counsels Against the Most Frequent Temptations"

5. "Exercises and Instructions for Renewing the Soul and Confirming It In Devotion"

Though the subheadings constitute an exhaustive and sometimes exhausting 119 chapters, down to the finest details of rules for widows and virgins, the overall effect is an intense and intentional focus on the innerworkings of the thoughts and desires of all of life. He is clearly indebted to Francis, Bernard, Augustine, and Gregory of Nazianzen.

The first part guides the readers through a series of (ten) meditations that motivate us to purify ourselves from sin and resolve to be wholly committed to a virtuous life. It is a study in self-purgation.

Secondly, de Sales walks us through meditations, retreats, and sacraments that bring us into the presence of God. We are reminded that this must be done with joy if it is to have meaning at all (p. 99).

Thirdly, we are coached on the virtues of humility and patience and chastity.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By antonina31 on March 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
I was skeptical about starting this book, because most of the saints' writings I have read have been very theological or spiritual in nature, basically above my head. This one is practical and easy to follow. It makes sense for an everyday person who is just trying to grow closer to God. It applies to each individual no matter what your vocation or job and is specifically directed at those who are NOT priests or religious (although they probably would benefit, as well). This is a classic! A winner that will be read and re-read for years to come!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is a good one for anyone wanting to draw closer to God. Even though this book was written almost fourhundred years ago the topics discussed here are as applicable today as they were then. Francis wrote these collections of spiritual instructions to teach as many people as possible to lead a devout life. The book talks of sin and how it affects our relationship with God, and then goes into the necessity of prayer and gives practical advice on how to pray. Some other topics covered are the necessity of living the virtues such as purity, humility and courage. This book will help you learn how to be more focused on God in the midst of every day life which sometimes can make it hard to stay focused on the most important thing.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an astoundingly helpful book. St. Francis de Sales manages to give all the benefit that you can reap from a spiritual guidance book. In one of the first chapters, he recommends finding an actual spiritual director- best advice. In conjunction with doing so, this is one of the most wonderful little treasures I have come across. It pertains to all people, of all states, too. I have other books- Divine Intimacy, Words of Love, Divine Mercy in My Soul, School of Jesus Crucified... each is priceless. But this little book is especially good- St. Francis speaks so simply, clearly and beautifully, and it is set up that one can easily pick it up and turn to the subject/chapter that he wants particular counsel on right away. This can help you advance quickly in the spiritual life, with confidence and love!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Bambino on June 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
Father Ryan Erlenbush of the New Theological Movement has said that if one has not read Introduction to the Devout Life, then one has no business reading any other spiritual work, regardless of its merits. This is probably true. This classic work by de Sales is an amazing introduction to how to practically, PRACTICALLY live your life day by day in whatever vocation you have while doing and incorporating all those things you need to be doing to grow in holiness. What it means to have friends, the balance between work and play, sufferings, humiliations, virtues, are just some of the many topics that St de Sales covers. Early in the book he spends a couple dozen pages going over prayer. He discusses how to meditate step by step, and he gives many examples and suggestions of what the daily life of prayer should look like. After this is when he gets into questions of practicality that I mentioned above. Another important thing to mention is how gentle St Francis de Sales is. While there is certainly no dichotomy between St Francis de Sales and someone like St Alphonsus, they had different styles and ways of communicating themselves. St Francis is much more gentle, and hence is usually more appealing to someone first learning about spiritual matters. I find myself coming back to this book time and time again. It is not the kind of book that you read once and put back on the shelf. Rather, you will find more and more insights and more and more things to take home with multiple readings. Such is to be expected from one of the greatest saints in history.
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