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Introduction to the Devout Life Paperback – April 9, 2002


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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: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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The writing style is comfortable and accessible for me.
Amazon Customer
And is it so beautifully written in English, even translated from the original French, that today St. Francis is the patron saint of journalists.
Patricia Fulda
Highly recommend for anyone who wants to have a more personal relationship with our Lord.
Jeanette Rousseaux

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 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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18 of 19 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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16 of 18 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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By DianeMarie 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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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Matthew McGuire on July 10, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
S. Francis de Sales was reknowned even within his lifetime for his abililty to reach common people - those burdened with jobs and families. He famously converted a substantial region of rural France back from Calvinism, through his preaching, pamphleteering, and robust, public defense of the Catholic Faith.
The Introduction to the Devout Life is compiled from advice he gave in letters, and is rather well-organized, considering the source. His advice is entirely relevant and accessible to modern readers who wish to practice sanctity in everyday life.
The Vintage Spiritual Classic edition is part of a pan-religious fufu series, encompassing texts from Buddhism to Catholicism to Sufi Islam, but the translation is clear, and the book itself durable. I'd recommend as a less expensive alternative an edition from any Catholic publishing house, like Tan, Sophia, or Ignatius Press
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Fulda on March 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is probably my favorite devotional book. It was written at a time when devotion was generally confined to religious groups who were withdrawn from the world. St. Francis wrote this book for everyone: young men and women, householders, widows, servants, etc. It is a series of letters that he sent to a woman he was advising and the first line of the first letter reads, approximately, "You aspire to devotion, my dear child, because you know it to be pleasing to God."

Virtually everything St. Francis wrote about is just as applicable today as it was 400 years ago. And is it so beautifully written in English, even translated from the original French, that today St. Francis is the patron saint of journalists.
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