Introduction to the Devout Life
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Introduction to the Devout Life (Introduction à la vie dévote) was written by St. Francis de Sales, the first edition being published in 1609. The final edition was published in 1619, prior to the death of Francis in 1622. It enjoyed wide popularity, and was well received in both Protestant and Catholic circles, evidenced by its translation into all major languages of the day. It is typically categorized as a form of reading known as lectio divina ("divine reading"), based on the Christian monastic practice of spiritual reading. Like the more popular and universal The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, it is considered a spiritual classic in the Christian tradition [as by its inclusion in the online Christian Classics Ethereal Library and many other such collections] and more specifically, the Roman Catholic sense, because of its reference to the necessity of sacraments as a means of obtaining grace and growing in virtue.
Unlike many other writings in this category, it is distinguished by addressing itself to all Christians in any state of life, rather to just those who have been called to a religious vocation. This is because the text of the work began in 1602 as a series of letters addressed to Mme. de Charmoisy, whom Francis addresses as Philothea ("Lover of God"). The correspondence began when de Charmoisy, the wife of an ambassador of the Duke of Savoy, confided to Francis her desire for piety amidst the struggles and distractions associated with the courtly life.
The "Introduction" is composed of five parts or "books", each pertaining to a stage in the Christian's spiritual journey.
Counsels and Practices Suitable for the Soul's Guidance from the First Aspiration After a Devout Life to the Point When it Attains a Firm Resolution to Follow the Same.
Containing Counsels Concerning the Practice of Virtue.
Containing Needful Counsels Concerning Some Ordinary Temptations.
Containing Counsels and Practices for Renewing and Confirming the Soul in Devotion.