Francois Fenelon: The Apostle of Pure Love-A Biography  -     By: Peter Gorday
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Francois Fenelon: The Apostle of Pure Love-A Biography

Paraclete Press / 2012 / Paperback

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Product Description

Fenelon was a 17th-century French archbishop who, amid the splendor and decadence of Versailles, became a trusted advisor to many in the court of Louis XIV. Later exiled for political reasons, he worked hard to improve the lot of peasants. His letters of counsel and spiritual meditations are considered masterpieces. 288 pages, softcover. Paraclete.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 280
Vendor: Paraclete Press
Publication Date: 2012
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 1557258015
ISBN-13: 9781557258014

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    Chad Helms
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Publisher's Description

Discover the wisdom of this controversial theologian whose counsel and meditations have found a wide audience for more than three centuries.


François Fénelon was a seventeenth-century French archbishop who rose to a position of influence in the court of Louis XIV. Amid the splendor and decadence of Versailles, Fénelon became a wise mentor to many members of the king’s court as well as to the controversial Madame Guyon. Later exiled from Versailles for political reasons, Fénelon set out to improve the lot of peasants of his diocese and to deepen the spiritual life of all with whom he came in contact. Until his death, he corresponded with those at court who had become his spiritual "children."

Twenty-first century Christians are rediscovering the wisdom of this spiritual thinker. Together with Pascal—who was an old man in Fenelon’s youth—he showed how it was possible to have devotion and faith in the Age of Enlightenment. He battled heresies, faced charges of heresy himself, and wrote masterful books of insight into the spiritual life.


"Peter Gorday’s life of Fenelon is a gem. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in Fenelon or Christian mysticism in general." –Dr. Chad Helms, Professor of Modern Foreign Languages, Presbyterian College, and editor of Fenelon: Selected Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality)

"Gorday traces the complex situation in Fenelon’s time and the varying perspectives of his interpreters. He declares him not cunning but tough as a thinker. In this book, we get not only a fascinating story but also a subtle guide to self-examination." -Dr. Eugene TeSelle, Emeritus, Vanderbilt Divinity School; author of Augustine the Theologian

Author Bio

Peter Gorday, PhD, is a priest of the Episcopal Church serving parishes in Georgia and North Carolina, and is the author of two other books as well as journal articles on the history of biblical interpretation.

Product Reviews

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  1. Gender: Female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Excellent, highly readable biography of a great Spiritual Director, his important responsibilities, his sweet spirit.
    June 27, 2016
    Gender: Female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    A fine biography by a Protestant scholar---which may make the book more acceptable to any Protestants who want to read about this priest who became spiritual director to personages at the court of Louis XIV, tutor to Louis' sons, and who became a close friend of the controversial Madam Guyon. (It seems they became mutual spiritual directors to one another, she taking on a motherly role with him!) Although by a Protestant, there is nothing in the narrative that would ruffle a Catholic reader. Interestingly, at the end, the author sees Fenelon's brand of Religion of the Heart as what we need in our time rather than Pascal's same, though more emotional kind of Religion of the Heart experience. Dr. Gorday deftly differentiates between the two modes of thought, linking Fenelon's with the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Probably most readers would not agree with his conclusion without having read through the careful narrative which examines Fenelon's Pure Love from various angles, and the thinking of Madam Guyon helps serve as an illuminative foil. Even though the book is scholarly, the author's style is casual and his explanations of concepts, such as that of a Classical education, Platonism, Jansenism, the doctrine of Pure Love, and other terms that the reader may be unfamiliar with are easy to understand. This author comes across with an engaging "teacherly" manner. Not at all stuffy.

    Having read quotes from Fenelon's writings in the old classic devotional entitled Daily Strengths for Daily Needs, and having liked them especially well, I wanted to know more about the man who wrote them. I'd also been wanting for a long time to know more about Madame Guyon. Fenelon felt that her writings seemed too unorthodox to Church leaders because her use of language was misleading and so her ideas seemed more at fault than they actually were. Madame Guyon was sent to prison by the King, not by the Church authorities. I wasn't aware of that fact.

    Both Fenelon and Guyon were seeking great simplicity and honesty in their spiritual lives, and the doctrine of Pure Love, so-called, informed those understandings.

    This is an excellent and valuable book with plenty of historical insights into the French court, the difficulties to spiritual life for the important figures involved in court life, and conflicts among the Catholic leadership of that time and place. It's a pity that more readers who might greatly appreciate this particular biography have not taken advantage of the opportunity to acquire it at a low cost. It is well worth having. It is really a Good Read.
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