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Introduction to the Devout Life (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 8 Apr 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1 edition (8 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725623
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 870,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
You aim at a devout life, dear child, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God's Divine Majesty. Read the first page
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This book carefully read could change your life. It tells you how to live close to God, how to pray, how to examine your inner life, the need for a mentor or spiritual guide. Exercises in growing in Christian in the text. If you take to it, you will value this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 42 reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Thorough 19 Mar. 2007
By J. Miller - Published on
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. He tells us how to keep poor in spirit, even in the presence of wealth (which seems a striking compromise for such a devoted work, p. 150). Here he becomes more specific and pragmatic. We are to have friendships that are not self-seeking or guided by pleasure. We should surround ourselves with virtuous people, like a drone needs bees to make honey (p. 177). We are to dress properly and govern our speech with caution. He warns against alcohol, gambling, and dancing (p. 196). Finally, widows and virgins are challenged to faithful abstinence.

The fourth is the negative side of the third, warning against the vices. This involves concern for pleasure, anxiety, sorrow, and spiritual dryness. It is primarily a resistance to inward tendencies, sounding like depression. He recommends a focus on external works, like embracing the crucifix, confession, and communion (p. 242).

Fifth, we are to practices the exercises that will daily renew our souls. This primarily comes in the form of self-awareness. We are to examine our souls in relations to its progress, its relation to God and neighbor. He gives us five considerations to keep us focused on the things that matter: the excellence of the soul, the excellence of virtue, the example of the saints who have gone before, the love of Christ, and God's eternal love.

Pragmatically, like the writings of Dallas Willard, the book opens up the possibility and reality of giving the soul and piety a kind of serious and sustained attention which is unfamiliar in modern American society. You walk away from the book wondering what the modern example of this sixteenth century manual looks like.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Spiritual Growth for Normal People 26 Mar. 2008
By antonina31 - Published on
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!
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Great spiritual advice from a great saint 4 Jan. 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on
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.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Quite frankly indispensable 11 Nov. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on
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!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Practicality from the Gentle Doctor 25 Jun. 2013
By Bobby Bambino - Published on
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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