Thursday, October 17, 2013

Practicing a Devout Life

Here is the story of St. Francis de Sales, with his advice on how to improve one’s personal spiritual life. He became the Roman Catholic Bishop of Geneva in 1602, and he began writing  this book in 1609, continuing to revise through five editions, with its final publication in 1619.

Paraclete Press includes it in its series called Giants. The title is The Complete Introduction to the Devout Life and its more than 400 pages were translated by and with commentary from Fr. John Julian, OJN (Order of Julian of Norwich). Now available from Paraclete Press at, it is a hefty book and a fascinating read. Fr. Julian says that from its first publication it was one of the five most popular books at that time on “serious Christian spiritual development.” Fr. Julian’s translation and commentary gracefully helped us to take it all in and think about using it for our own spiritual growth.

Francis’s father wanted him to study law and he did eventually receive doctoral degrees in both law and theology, but his personal goal was to be a priest and in December 1593 he was ordained priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Annecy in France. In December 1602, Francis became bishop and was “very hands-on” as a bishop, “highly valuing personal contact with his people.” He was much sought after for answers to their spiritual questions. He often sent them a written reply and these collections of answers later became part of his several books. Many are included in the Introduction, which is made up of five parts.

Part One discusses one’s first longing for the devout life and a final firm resolution to embrace it. Part Two contains suggestions for raising the soul to God by prayer and sacraments. Part Three has much advice on the practice of the virtues, such as patience, humility, gentleness, obedience, chastity and others. Part Four includes advice on dealing with temptations, and Part Five suggests practices to renew the soul and strengthen it in devotion.

—Lois Sibley