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Introduction to the Devout Life by St Francis de Sales

October 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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An Introduction to the Devout Life (Week 1 of 14)

The back of the book says it all:

As no sensible person would make a long road trip without first consulting a map, so the person intent upon gaining Heaven should first resort to a competent guide to reach that Goal of all goals. And no better guide to Heaven exists than “An Introduction to the Devout Live” by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), Doctor of the Church. It is at once easy to read, being laid out in short chapters, yet thorough, authoritative, reliable, kind and gentle – a mirror of its author. It is a book, moreover, for all, because all are called to the devout life. True devotion to God, the author points out, “adorns” every vocation. The devout life, moreover, is “a lovely, a pleasant, and a happy life.”

Addressed almost as a personal letter to Philothea, the “lover of God” – which genuinely represents the reader – the book covers: our first desire to lead a devout life to our full resolution to do so, how we should approach God in prayer and the Sacraments, the practice of 16 important virtues, remedies against ordinary temptations, and becoming confirmed in our practice of devotion. St. Francis says, “Devotion is spiritual agility and vivacity, by means of which charity works in us, or we in her, with love and readiness; and as charity leads us to obey and fulfill all God’s Commandments, so devotion leads us to obey them with promptitude and diligence.

An Introduction to the Devout Life is a book to be read with pencil in hand. It is a book to be read again and again. It is a book to make your guide for the rest of your life. It goes to the heart of becoming good. Its aim is to help you be rid of sin – and even the inclinations to sin. Alone, its 10 brief meditations in Part I will orient you toward God for the rest of your life. No one will come away from a serious reading of the entire Introduction to the Devout Life without being profoundly impressed and without being motivated to enter upon the devout life…which leads ultimately to God and to Heaven.


Due to the life-changing nature of An Introduction to the Devout Life, we plan to spend 14 weeks of learning and discussion, to provide ample time for contemplation and discernment. Following is a tentative reading schedule:


Week 1 Part 1: Chapter 1-11 – THIS WEEK!!!

Week 2 Part 1: Chapter 12-24

Week 3 Part 2: Chapter 1-12

Week 4 Part 2: Chapter 13-21




Week 5 Part 3: Chapter 1-5

Week 6 Part 3: Chapter 6-11

Week 7 Part 3: Chapter 12-18


CHRISTMAS BREAK – 12/23 & 12/31


Week 8 Part 3: Chapter 19-27

Week 9 Part 3: Chapter 28-35

Week 10 Part 3: Chapter 36-41

Week 11 Part 4: Chapter 1-11

Week 12 Part 4: Chapter 12-15

Week 13 Part 5: Chapter 1-18

Week 14 Conclusion


Reading Assignment:  Part 1: Chapters 1-11 for discussion next Tuesday

Discussion Questions:

1.  Have you read this book before?

2.  Any comments you'd like to make before we begin?


NOTE REGARDING TRANSLATIONS: I am reading the TAN version published in 1994. In case you have a difficult time finding that version, I'm also recommending TAN’s current version of the book. I believe they are the same translation. I do plan to note passages by chapter rather than page number, so you should be able to follow along regardless of your translation.

Happy Reading!

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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  • Terri Lynn West

    I have read this book a long time ago. Perfect for me right now. I will enjoy this study!
    Comment I never have done a study with you all before. How does this work?

    • LizEst

      Go here for instructions: If you are already signed up to get the daily updates for our site, then you probably know that Tuesday is the day to comment on the book club readings of the week, according to the schedule above. Just comment like you have done by asking this question today! God bless you, Terri Lynn…and welcome. We are honored you are joining us!

      • Terri Lynn West

        Thankyou Liz I am honored! I cant find my book LOL I must have loaned it to someone… so for now I am using an online version

        • LizEst

          Thanks for posting that link. It will be most helpful for all who might like to get it in this format.

  • Mary Ann Bernard

    I read this book about eleven years ago. I’m up for another go-round. This will be my first time participating here as well 🙂

  • DianeVa

    I read this many years ago when I was first “a new creation in Christ”. I was touched by it but admit I was not ready to truly benefit from the guidance it has to offer. I look forward to this with great expectation and to hearing all the wonderful comments prompted by the Holy Spirit which makes it more fruitful as we share our journey together.

    • LizEst

      Yes, this is what happens. As we grow in our journey to God, we are changed. We are not the same as we were years ago. God bless you, DianeVa!

  • Mary_Ellen_Davis

    I remember reading parts of this book as a young girl, pulling it from my mother’s bookcase, the one next to the rocking chair in the sitting room. I’ve picked it up again three times as an adult but have never finished it, most recently this spring. I look forward to finally working my way through this masterpiece.

    • Vicki

      I love this image – that of a young girl reading parts of this beautiful book in her mother’s living room! God Bless You – and your mother, for having such reading available to you:)! We’re so glad you’ll be joining us!

  • idaloren

    Yes! Read this book before in parts a long time ago as well, and the past weeks I’ve been reading some chapters for reflection and guidance. I love St. Francis de Sales (he is one of my patron saints) and I love how in this book he can be very specific on his instructions (especially now that I’m still looking for a spiritual director). Extremely helpful, and how beautifully he writes. Sadly I probably can’t comment as much because of my busy schedule, but I’d love to see others’ insights and experiences on the book. Looking forward to the posts! 🙂

  • Jim

    Looking forward to this. I have been reading “The Spiritual Combat” slowly over the last few weeks and I notice a lot of common ground in the two books. It will be helpful to read the same or similar points made by another author — makes the concepts more clearly understood.

    • Vicki

      Jim, Spiritual Combat is another fabulous book – I found it quite challenging. If you’re interested, you can check out our discussion – we started the book in June 2012. Here is the link to the page of posts where we began – you can peruse them by following dates – the first post was June 18, 2012: – We’re thrilled that you’ll be joining us for Intro to the Devout Life!

      • Jim

        Thanks! Can’t wait, this will be my first time joining in.

  • Sara

    Looking forward to participating in my first book study on this site with this book. I have not read it, but it looks like exactly what I have been searching for and I can’t wait to get started.

    • LizEst

      Welcome Sara! We are happy you are joining us. If you have not already signed up to receive our updates, please go to this link and follow the instructions there:
      We look forward to your participation…and God bless you!

  • Robert Kraus

    I can’t wait! This book was recommended to me a while ago in the midst of spiritual struggles and will timely now. I started but never finished it, and I look forward to reading and praying slowly through it in everyone’s company. 🙂

  • Mary Monfort

    Just happened to come across this site while perusing information on Elisabeth Leseur to present at my Ladies Bible Study reflection on saints tomorrow. I love her story & her book! How fortuitous to discover this group. I was just thinking about taking An Introduction to the Devout Life, which I’ve never read but have on hand, on an upcoming silent retreat. Looking forward to participating in your book club! 🙂

    • Vicki

      We’re thrilled that you’ve found our site and will be joining us – welcome!

      • Mary Monfort


        • LizEst

          Terrific, Mary! Good show!

    • LizEst

      I second Vicki’s welcome below! Since you are new to the site, please go here and follow the instructions so that you will receive notifications of the posts:
      We look forward to your participation! God bless you, Mary!

      • Mary Monfort

        I did go and send my email right after posting my comment. Saw your instructions to Terri Lynn below. Thanks!

        • LizEst

          Terrific, Mary. Good show!

  • Karen

    I’ve read it before, cover to cover, and then would read parts I needed to read at certain times of my life. But I’ve been meaning to read it again and this is a perfect motivator!! It’s one of 3 books I consider must reads….over and over. The Bible, The Imitation of Christ, and this book. Thank you so much for choosing it for your next book study.

  • Betsy Rheaume

    I first read this book in 1999 when I entered the church. Recently, I’ve been thinking about rereading it, so this is very timely that I’m able to participate in the discussion. Can’t wait to get started!

  • Lincoln Wood

    This is one of my favorite books on the spiritual life. Thanks for choosing this book. I look forward to reading it along with you.

    • LizEst

      …and we are honored you are joining us, Deacon Wood. Welcome…and God bless you!

  • irene compton

    I am so excited to read this book. I bought the Kindle edition since I got notice late. I’ve only read the introduction and am already booked! Thanks for your insights.

  • Sanctus 3

    The notice for this next book comes while I am also reading St. Francis’ Treatise on the Love of God. Maybe a brief citation from it can help get us ready for the ITTDL: Seeing that nothing can content it, the soul cries out: “Ah! I am not then made for this world, there is a sovereign good on which I depend, some infinite workman who has placed in me this endless desire of knowing, and this appetite which cannot be appeased! And therefore I must tend and extend towards Him, to unite and join myself to the goodness of Him to whom I belong and whose I am!”

  • Alexandra Campbell

    Loved this book when I first read it in 2006 as a revert! Look forward to reading it again!

    • LizEst

      Hi Alexandra! I’ve been thinking about you and prayed for you today… before even seeing your comment here. God bless you! I’ve read this at least twice. It’s always interesting to see how we’ve grown in our faith life from one reading to the next. God bless you!

      • Alexandra Campbell

        Thank you Liz! So sweet of you to remember me! I will bring the book with me on silent individual retreat in the Hermitage at the Carmelite (discalced) House of Prayer in Oakville (Napa) California next Monday through Friday. Google it to see beautiful photos if you have time. The friars are awesome: some from India some from Ireland. For dinner they bring out the wine and tell hilarious jokes and stories! Divine Office, confession, mass, spiritual direction in a setting of vineyards and orange trees and a mid twentieh century brick mansion given (i think) to the Carmelite Friars! A great place to start re -reading this classic work!

  • Lisa Tuckett

    Just found your site. I’ve had this book o my shelf for years but haven’t gotten to it. Now I look forward to reading it with you and the rest of the club!

    • LizEst

      Welcome Lisa! We are happy you are joining us. If you haven’t yet signed up to get our mailings, please go to this link and follow the instructions so you don’t miss any post, then come and comment here when Vicki updates the site. Here is the link: God bless you! Looking forward to your contributions to our discussion.

  • CatholicKath

    When I first began to seek a deeper faith my priest mentioned this book. It has been a couple of years, so I look forward to returning to it again with you and seeing what new things I can learn along the way. Very excited that you are doing this book. God bless.

  • patyc

    I’m new and Its my first time in this book club, I’m excited and bought the book by kindle

  • Chris Baker

    I’ve read it several times! Good to be reading it again. I’ve just recently set a reminder in my calendar to pray the prayer in Pt I, Ch XX.

    Note that much in the first part of IDL is not just reading, but praying and doing! LIVE, JESUS!

  • Victoria Campbell

    Vicki, thank you so much for choosing this book. To those who have prayed for me on my journey with breast cancer thank you! I am now done with radiation and 1 step closer to being done with this journey that started in January. I have been blessed with the uplift and prayers of an extended faith community.

    This book is heaven sent! I had actually downloaded it and struggled with reading some months ago. This past weekend I returned to our Savannah Diocese Cursillo weekend as a team member and the fire was reignited to grow in my relationship with our awesome God. Hearing again the words of the rollos/talks rekindled a fire that life had gotten in the way of and hopefully has reoriented me to stay on course with my piety, study and action. Pray for me!

    Over the weekend, I received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Areas of my life that are in need of healing spiritually are apparent and I am once again resolved to rekindle and work toward more devotion to God. In the months leading up to this past weekend, I had taken some tentative steps forward but just as many steps backward. My biggest obstacle poor use of my time. I believe wholeheartedly that Cancer was a reminder from God that our time here on earth is not infinite and how am I using it? I have started Spiritual direction… I realize that my prayer life, heart prayer, is lacking both in time devoted and in my need to be silent talk to God and listen not just be intellectual in my approach to learning about God and my devotion. So to answer question 1, yes my affection for worldly pursuits has gotten in the way and the remedy is to work toward more love and devotion toward God.

    The other part that spoke to me was Chapter XI, Meditation III. My need for gratitude as I find I am frequently sidetracked by the crosses of this world and focus on the negative rather than looking with gratitude to all that God has blessed me with. In the Affections and Resolutions, ” Stir yourself up to gratitude. Well then, O my heart, be no longer faithless, ungrateful and disloyal to this great Benefactor…withdraw your heart from such and such pleasures, consecrate it to the service of God who has done so much for it.” My resolution and inspiration from this is to make more time for prayer and other devotions rosary, visiting the blessed sacrament and to be faithful in more daily mass attendance.

    • LizEst

      Victoria–You continue to be in my prayers. And, I’m so happy you posted today. I was a little concerned that we had not heard from you in a little bit. Glad you are done with radiation. How is your friend for which you also asked prayers for?

  • Deborah

    What exciting tags associated with this bookclub and book! Faith, Grace, Holiness, Meditations, Mental Prayer, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Life…makes me want to clap my hands in happy anticipation. I am just waiting for my copy of the book to arrive in the post and then I can join you all, but am enjoying the comments by everyone. This will be my first time reading “Introduction to the Devout Life”. See you all again next week.

  • hopeisfree8900

    Thank you Vicki for inviting me to join even though I am a bit late. I promise to do my best to catch up on the reading over the weekend, and I look forward to future postings regarding this classic addition to my personal library. I already feel very much at home here.
    Victoria, you are in my prayers as well. Your post touched me since I recently recovered from kidney cancer. Stay strong and connected. God has BIG plans for you!
    Alexandra, I am also in Napa!

  • Jessica Kessel

    I was thrilled to discover this book club and then to find out that this was the book chosen for the next few weeks. I have tried twice before to read this book and haven’t made it very far into before I lost interest. I am hoping this time it will stick!

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