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Introduction to the Devout Life

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  4,025 ratings  ·  190 reviews
First published in the early 17th century, it has proven its value as a daily spiritual guide and helpful reference for living an authentic Christian life. Written specifically for laymen, it began as letters from Saint Francis to a married woman who was seeking holiness amidst the distractions of her life of wealth and status. It contains treasures of wisdom for every ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1609)
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Madeline Friedman
If you are looking to deepen your faith, understand your faith, this book is for you! I found this edition the most authentic one:
Mar 24, 2016 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
Debi Harris
Jul 20, 2007 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 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.
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’
Jeff Miller
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Been reading this every couple of years for Lent. This time I got the audiobook version since I know I will keep coming back to it.

What I love about this book is that each time through you find something helpful to your current situation and it just clicks. Figure it will remain that way since I have so many imperfections to work on.
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 ...more
Jan 28, 2013 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.
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
MUST, MUST read for all who are interested in furthering their religious life. Simply brilliant.
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
Julie Davis
Dec 29, 2012 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
May 30, 2009 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)
Connie Rossini
Feb 17, 2013 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.

Manuel Alfonseca
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent devotional book, not in the least dated because it was written over four centuries ago. He is not too strict, and always leaves some degree of liberty for well-formed people, as in chapter 34:

To play and to dance lawfully, it is necessary to do it for recreation and not as a pursuit, for a short time, without tiring or surrendering oneself, and just once in a while; because he who makes it an ordinary thing, turns recreation into an occupation.
Julia Sullivan
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This amazing book is a guide to life, in five parts, then in short two-page "well-intentioned instructions", all collected and completed during the busy life of Francis de Sales' work as bishop. Because he was so busy, he says, "I have sought to give clear, intelligible words, but as to a polished style, I have not given that a thought..."

Written for the whole person, living in the world, to nourish a virtuous life of devotion to God.
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
Jesús  Erro
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wishes to be free from sin and to approach God.
I have been able to collect good ideas from this devotional classic. I broaden my review at this blog post (Spanish)
Apr 25, 2008 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
May 24, 2012 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
Jul 27, 2013 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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian, devotional
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
Mar 22, 2008 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..."
The first copy I read was translated and edited by Allan Ross, Dover Publications. I am now reading a translation by MaryMarc, edited by Marciano Guerrero. This one is a more modern translation.
Sam Ruddick
Jun 18, 2017 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
Frederik Vandelannoote
Very clear introduction into the religious life...this book is written for the normal layman. Very practical in nature with lots of examples. One of the best i have read until now.
St. Francis de Sales was a master of metaphor and illustration. I want to keep this book around forever because I love so many of the witty, memorable analogies he uses to illuminate spiritual points.
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This literally took me a year to read but it was worth it. Full of so much wisdom. I'll be referencing it a lot, I'm sure.
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very helpful book. No wonder why St. Francis de Sales is a Doctor of the Church.
Jonathan Drnjevic
Treasures of wisdom abound in this text. Very helpful to anyone seeking to live a spiritually rich Christian life.
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The Catholic Book...: 5. Devout Life 3 10 Mar 21, 2017 08:51PM  
The Catholic Book...: 3. Quotes 33 22 Nov 11, 2016 06:19AM  
The Catholic Book...: 4. Vatican II 2 13 Nov 03, 2016 03:44AM  
The Catholic Book...: Introduction 2 10 Oct 04, 2016 01:29AM  
The Catholic Book...: October 2016 BOTM - Results 3 15 Oct 02, 2016 12:04PM  

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Francis de Sales, C.O., T.O.M., A.O.F.M. Cap. (French: François de Sales; Italian: Francesco di Sales) was a Bishop of Geneva and is honored as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. His father sent him to a good school when he was young, and he received spiritual formation from the Jesuits. After a disturbing spiritual fear of being condemned, he eventually resolved his problem and decided to ...more
“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.” 69 likes
“Be who you are and be that well.” 45 likes
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