Category Archives: Francois de Fenelon

François Fénelon – (1651-1715), French theologian and writer
François Fénelon (specifically François de Salignac de la Motte-Fénelon) was born on August 6, 1651, at Fénelon Castle in Périgord. Fénelon studied at the seminary Saint-Sulpice in Paris, where he was ordained as a priest. Fénelon published his pedagogical work Traité de l’éducation des filles (Treatise on the Education of Girls) in 1681, which brought him much attention, not only in France, but abroad as well. At this time, he met Jacques Bénigne Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux, who soon became his patron and through whose influence Fénelon was contracted by Louis XIV to carry out the re-conversion of the Hugenots in the provinces of Saintonge and Poitou in 1686 and was appointed in 1689 as educator of his grandson and potential successor, the Duc de Bourgogne. Because of this position, he gained much influence at the court.
He was inducted into the Académie Française in 1693 and named Archbishop of Cambrai in 1695. During his time as the educator and teacher of the Duke, Fénelon wrote several entertaining and educational works, including the extensive novel Les Aventures de Télémaque, fils d’Ulysse (The Adventures of Telemachus, son of Ulysses), which depicted the ideal of a wise king. When this novel began circulating anonymously among the court, having been fragmentarily published in 1699 without his knowledge, Louis XIV, who saw many criticisms of his absolutistic style of rule in Télémaque, stopped the printing and banned Fénelon from court. Fénelon then retreated to his bishopric in Cambrai, where he remained active writing theological and political treatises until his death on January 17, 1715.

In Church history, Fénelon is known especially for his part in the Quietism debate with his earlier patron Bossuet. In his work Explication des maximes des Saints sur la vie intérieure (Explanation of the Adages of the Saints on the Inner Life) in 1697, he defended Madame du Guyon, the main representative of Quietistic mysticism. He provided proof that her “heretical” teachings could also be seen in recognized saints. In 1697, Fénelon called on the pope for a decision in the Quietism debate. After long advisement, the Pope banned the Explication in 1699. Fénelon complied with the pope’s decision immediately and allowed the remaining copies of his book to be destroyed.

The Death of Self

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The Death of Self

…And the very proof that God loves you is that He does not spare you, but lays upon you the cross of Jesus Christ. Whatever spiritual knowledge or feelings we may have, they are all a delusion if they do not lead us to the real and constant practice of dying to self. And it is true that we do not die without suffering. Nor is it possible to be considered truly dead while there is any part of us which is yet alive. This spiritual death (which is really a blessing in disguise) is undeniably painful. It cuts “swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are.” The great Physician who sees in us what we cannot see, knows exactly where to place the knife. He cuts away that which we are most reluctant to give up. And how it hurts! But we must remember that pain is only felt where there is life, and where there is life is just the place where death is needed. Our Father wastes no time by cutting into parts which are already dead. Do not misunderstand me: He wants you to live abundantly, but this can only be accomplished by allowing Him to cut into that fleshly part of you which is still stubbornly clinging to life. Don’t expect God to deal with those vulgar, wicked desires which you renounced forever when you gave yourself away to Him. But, He will deal with the parts of you that are still alive. He might even test your faith with restrictions and trials of all kinds.

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