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Introduction to the Devout Life (Image Classics)

4.38  ·  Rating Details ·  2,942 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
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 pun ...more
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Published (first published 1609)
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Mar 24, 2016 7jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want to really get a start on devout life
Shelves: religion
This book was written for people with desire to be closer to God, a desire DeSales found on all levels of society, and the reason he wrote this book. It's aimed at laypeople, to show how devout life is possible no matter what one does in life, that devout life is not just for the clergy or monastic life. It's written to an imagined devout woman, but really it's written to anyone who is interested in this subject, and even non-Catholic people will find plenty of useful hints in here.

The work on t
Debi Harris
Jul 20, 2007 Debi Harris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book a few times, and although it's about 400 years old, it's a gem. It's broken up into small "chapters" so it's great to read just one little tidbit each day....
Jun 02, 2008 booklady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone serious about the spiritual life
February 4, 2012: Finished it today and it has renewed my enthusiasm to reread all the spiritual classics and not just read them, but live them. EXCELLENT BOOK!

As January 24th is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, patron saint of writers and journalists, I decided it was as good a reason as any to begin reading this—his most popular work—again. Have loved and learned so much from it before and look forward to doing so again. In the Introduction to IttDL St. F
E.A. Bucchianeri
I apologize for taking so long to write this it is!
Everyman’s (and Woman’s!) ‘How-To Become a Saint’ Manual

Spiritual exercises, devotions, finding a spiritual director ~ that’s all difficult mystic twaddle just for priests, monks and nuns who have given up the world for the religious life, right?

Wrong! Every Christian is called to work on their faith, spirituality is like a garden that must be tended on a continual basis if it is to produce fruit. In this classic spiritual ‘how-to’
Julie Davis
Dec 29, 2012 Julie Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good Story #51. Julie and Scott post a podcast discussion of Introduction to the Devout Life on the feast day of St. Francis de Sales. We swear we didn't plan it that way... what are the odds?


I really liked this book and could see it being an annual read since so many of the points are good for everyday life. I'd say the weakest points, or perhaps simply those where the book shows its age, are in de Sales' many examples from natural history. It really lets the air out of an example wh
I came into this book thinking it would help a lot with my discernment (to be or not to be a nun?), and it turned into a wonderful journey through my whole Catholic life. The first half, I must say, made me feel very, very small and unworthy; my spiritual life suffers tremendously compared to St. Frances de Sales and the other saints that he writes about; however, the second half was so gentle and so uplifting, with so many bee analogies and a million different ways of saying kindly, "It's okay! ...more
Second reading.

Introduction to the Devout Life (1608)

St. Francis offers some powerful advice and help on how to immediately undertake a spiritual journey. The ten meditations in the
“But my object is to teach those who are living in towns, at court, in their own households, and whose calling obliges them to a social life, so far as externals are concerned." (p. 2) This is St. Francis’ intention here.

“I have arranged this Introduction in five parts:”

• first of which I seek by suggestions and exe
Christian Engler
Saint Francis de Sales-patron saint of authors and writers and eminent Doctor of the Catholic Church-is quite deserving of his posthumous honors and titles, for with Introduction to the Devout Life (among his numerous other books and pamphlets), he gives to not only Catholics around the world but humanity in general, a religious, imformative yet readable work of theology that will aid in answering some of the fundamental questions of human existence. But more importantly, in the Introduction to ...more
May 30, 2009 Karina marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist
A good translation is so important*. I've seen some translations online that honestly are hard to read and boring due to all the old expressions (they seem to just drag on and on - rather than crisply conveying what they are meant to convey). So far the best translation I saw was this 1885 edition. Obviously, it would be out of print. ;) I'll keep searching.

* The same thing about the difference translation makes -- I'm thinking about Story of a Soul (a great translation is in Project Gutenberg)
Mar 30, 2016 Léas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholic, spiritual
No wonder this is such a classic in the realm of spiritual reading. St. Francis' advice is incredibly practical and down-to-earth. Sometimes when I read spiritual works I get a little overwhelmed by all the emotions and vague "love God" directions. I always wonder, "Ok, but HOW do I do that? How am to live?" I should have read this book years earlier, because St. Francis lays an excellent groundwork for living a devout life.

But if you don't want to feel called on the carpet, you better pass, bec
Connie Rossini
Feb 17, 2013 Connie Rossini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
From my 100-word recommendations on my blog, Contemplative Homeschool:

The classic spiritual guide for lay people. Practical and specific advice. 20 pages of guided meditations, plus further chapters on how to pray well. Does not mince words, yet remains realistic and compassionate. Discusses humility, chastity, friendship, courage, and other virtues. How to attend Mass and make a good confession. How to make a yearly examination of your progress. You will want to read it again and again.

One crit
May 24, 2012 Shawna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ive spent a long time asking and looking around for a solid devotional book. something w lots depth and wisdom that would challenge and shake me up a bit. this book gave me everything i was looking for and more. it's hard to move through this book fast. not only is it 400 years old but sometimes each sentence demands serious contemplation for a few days. i am excited to re read it - and move through it on my own time. probably best to journal along side as there are many reflective questions and ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Teri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the few books that "stays on my nightstand." I really just mean that it is one of those books that I will refer back to again and again for spiritual help. I'd never put it away, it needs to be a regular reference.
Mar 22, 2008 Mari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone of any faith interested in spiritual discipline
Recommended to Mari by: lesley
"Diseases of the soul as well as those of the body come posting on horseback but leave slowly and on foot. In this enterprise we must have courage and patience..."
Sam Ruddick
Jun 18, 2017 Sam Ruddick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, what to say about this one?

You've got to adjust to the language, for sure, and by that I don't mean you gotta be able to read old-timey talk. I mean you gotta kind to learn to disregard words like hate and humiliation. I mean, I think if the cat were to write it today, he would use different language. He wouldn't say you have to hate your own soul while you're striving to become pure in the eyes of the Lord. I'm not sure he said that exactly, but a lot of stuff like that. Stuff on that vib
Nathaniel Turner
This book is a superb example of Francis de Sales' pastoral style and earnest faith. Everything in here is worthwhile Christian reading, regardless of your faith background. I cannot speak highly enough of Francis' exhortations to the faithful. You may disagree that the goal of Christian living is devotion, or holiness, but you cannot claim that following the advice set forth here will make you a lesser Christian.

There is one section which strikes me as being particularly poignant in a "post-Chr
When St. Francis De Sales wrote "Introduction to the Devout Life" in the 16th Century, he probably didn't know that his book would continue to be one of the most widely read books on Christian spirituality 400 years later. Yet, that is exactly what it is. ITTDL is in fact one of the most widely read books in history, ranking up there with the Bible and the "Imitation of Christ". St. Francis wrote this book for a lay woman who wanted to live a deeper spiritual life, and its discussion of spiritua ...more
Dad Bowers
Apr 22, 2011 Dad Bowers rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: only to strong believers doing research.
Shelves: devotional
This medieval saint is writing to help a young lady in the faith. He is a keen observer of men and their ways and writes out many ideas on relationships and character that one doesn't see often. He is Catholic, and this comes out so often, but at the same time his Jesuit like urge to meditate, to seek intimacy with God is something we evangelicals often need in our walk with God. Some of his illustrations form classic writers like Pliny and Plato are cute, one wonders how the medieval mind could ...more
Carsten Thomsen
"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 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 med
Tandava Brahmachari
The beginning of the book offers a number of different meditations, which unfortunately came before his instructions on how to practice them. Most of the rest of the book flows relatively smoothly, though, offering lots of practical advice for living a spiritual life. I think the fact that it was written for lay people trying to live spiritually it the midst of a materialistic world makes it pretty accessible, even to the extent of not seeming to be quite as old as I know it is. (Perhaps the tra ...more
Apr 25, 2008 Mathew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read most of St. Francis de Sales "Catholic Controversy" and had heard only good things about his "Introduction". What I particularly enjoy is his insistence on different spiritual acts for people in different states of life.

I'm certain many zealous Catholics will agree with me that the general quality of homilies nowadays is low but luckily we have the doctors and saints of the Church to give us what St. Peter calls "the pure rational milk" so we might grow in love for God.

By the way, as
Kevin de Ataíde
St. Francis de Sales' perennial classic of spiritual direction. I place this book in the same league as that classic The Imitation of Christ by Thomas of Kempis. But there is a great difference. St. Francis de Sales is deeply influenced by the thought of St. Philip Neri and embraces some elements of the life of the laity that were previously thought sinful. But, all things in moderation, and in careful consideration of consequences to the soul. This theology for the laity I find elements of most ...more
Jul 27, 2013 Todd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite its age, it makes for a very practical and direct guide to a life devoted to sanctity, especially a secular life led by a typical lay person, for whom the book was intended. A strong focus on a personal relationship with a single confessor may turn out to be difficult for many of today's Catholic Christians, but probably remains very good advice. He also focuses on daily prayer and meditation as a part of a daily routine. Easy to read. Taken seriously, it could be an invaluable personal ...more
Jessica Snell
Oct 25, 2011 Jessica Snell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: devotional, christian
This took me almost all year to read, because I read it a bit at a time, but it was amazing. I would be starting back at the beginning again – it seems like the sort of book one could profitably read every year – except that I have another of his that I want to start in its place.

You know how the first time you read C.S. Lewis, you thought, “how could I not have seen the world this way before? Of course! It’s all so clear!”? This is that kind of book. God be praised for his servant, Francis de
Aug 24, 2010 Fran rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had I not stumbled across "Letters of Spiritual Devotion" first, I would have skipped this title, thinking it was only for holy men and women, and not for the ordinary people of the world aspiring to fill the spiritual void within, as they live the ordinary life, as was his intention with this book. "Letters.." inspired me to read more about the man and his times, which led to the desire to read more of his writings.
Nov 21, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went to a Catholic school from Kindergarten to 12th grade (13yrs). When I graduated I never felt a great connection to God. However, as the years have passed and I've fallen and gain many experiences throughout the realities in life I have been drawn close to our Creator. This book seems to be the perfect guide to living an ideal life. Even if one is not Christian, living their lives by these standards would surely live in true fulfillment and leave a positive contribution to this world.
Frédéric Bey
L'oeuvre de Saint François de Sales est, 400 ans après avoir été écrite, toujours aussi actuelle dans son propos et facile d'accès. C'est clairement et avec simplicité, sans citations ou renvois aux textes bibliques, que l'auteur prodigue ses conseils avisés à qui voudrait prendre de la distance avec une monde trop matérialiste. Un texte qui, malgré son français de l'âge d'or classique, est très facile à aborder.
Scott D.
Discussed with Julie D. on the A Good Story is Hard to Find Podcast:
Episode 51: Introduction to the Devout Life.

It's difficult for me to rate books like this on the same scale I rate fiction. I learned a great deal from this book, and ought to re-read it soon.
Jana L.
Oct 31, 2015 Jana L. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual
St. Francis de Sales writes, in a series of letters, a remarkably practical guide to living a devout life. The book is unique in that St. Francis specifically wrote it as applicable to Christians in all vocations, not just the religious one. Because they are letters, the book as a whole is a little uneven, but it is still beautiful and has a lot to offer Christians even 400 years later.
Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 16, as one of Eleven Books on Prayer, Belief, and Reflection.

Included in the "Spiritual Reading" section of Fr. John McCloskey's 100-book Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan.

Listed by Patrick Madrid in the Reading Plan of Search and Rescue in Phase 1 (Preliminary).
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The Catholic Book...: 5. Devout Life 3 8 Mar 21, 2017 08:51PM  
The Catholic Book...: 3. Quotes 33 21 Nov 11, 2016 06:19AM  
The Catholic Book...: 4. Vatican II 2 12 Nov 03, 2016 03:44AM  
The Catholic Book...: Introduction 2 7 Oct 04, 2016 01:29AM  
The Catholic Book...: October 2016 BOTM - Results 3 14 Oct 02, 2016 12:04PM  
  • The Way of Perfection
  • True Devotion to Mary
  • Fire Within: Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and the Gospel - On Prayer
  • Uniformity with God's Will
  • Abandonment to Divine Providence
  • The Spirit of the Liturgy
  • Life of Christ
  • Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue (Classics of Western Spirituality)
  • Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul
  • I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux
  • The Spiritual Exercises
  • The Soul of The Apostolate
  • The Way
  • He Leadeth Me
  • The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth
  • Apologia Pro Vita Sua (A Defense of One's Life)
  • Love and Responsibility
Francis de Sales, C.O., T.O.M., A.O.F.M. Cap. was a Bishop of Geneva and is honored as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

He became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation.

He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the De
More about Francis de Sales...

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“If, when stung by slander or ill-nature, we wax proud and swell with anger, it is a proof that our gentleness and humility are unreal, and mere artificial show.” 60 likes
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