During his lifetime, St. Francis de Sales gave spiritual direction to many individuals. Introduction to the Devout Life is a compilation of letters and notes used in the spiritual direction of his cousin, Madame Marie de Charmoisy, the wife of an ambassador of the Duke of Savoy. The correspondence began when Madame de Charmoisy, in Annecy, confided to Francis her desire for piety amidst the struggles and distractions associated with life at court. When Madame de Charmoisy returned to Paris, she showed the letters to her confessor, Jesuit Father Jean Fourier, who encouraged De Sales to publish them. It was first published in January 1609.
While the letters are addressed to “Philothea” (Lover of God), they include the substance of correspondence with others as well as Marie de Charmoisy. De Sales explained: “I address my words to Philothea, since I wish to direct what was first written to one person alone to the general benefit of many souls; …”
Unlike many other writings in this category, it is distinguished by addressing itself to all Christians in any state of life, rather than to just those who have been called to a religious vocation. St. Charles Borromeo had a great influence on Francis de Sales because of his pastoral approach to bringing devotion to the Christian in the world.
De Sales said, “My purpose is to instruct those who live in town, within families, or at court, and are obliged to live an ordinary life as to outward appearances.” “It is an error, or rather a heresy, to wish to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the mechanic’s shop, the court of princes, or the home of married people. … Wherever we may be, we can and should aspire to the perfect life.”
The “Introduction” is composed of five parts or “books”, each pertaining to a stage in the Christian’s spiritual journey.
- Part I: Attaining a Firm Resolution to the Devout Life
- Part II: Prayer and the Sacraments
- Part III: The Practice of Virtue (patience, meekness, humility, obedience, chastity, and poverty)
- Part IV: Some Ordinary Temptations and how to overcome them
- Part V: Renewing and Confirming the Soul in Devotion
There are two audio versions of this book available.
To download a free audio version of this book from Maria Lectrix Audio, use the link below:
Or to listen to the version from CCEL, click here:
For an online text, click the link below: