Francois Fenelon

François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon (1651–1715) was a French archbishop, theologian, and writer whose excursions into the contemplative life, especially the quietism espoused by Madame Jeanne Guyon, caused controversy in the church of his day. His writings remain as an encouragement and source of spiritual growth for many Christians today. Fénelon, descended from a long line of nobility, started his higher studies in 1672 at Saint Sulpice seminary in Paris. He was ordained a priest in 1676 and appointed director of Nouvelles Catholiques (“New Catholics”), a college for women who taught converts from French Protestantism. Fénelon, while never supportive of Protestantism, was nonetheless critical of harsh treatment toward Huguenots (French Protestants) and the many forced conversions that occurred under King Louis XIV. Fénelon instead held open meetings with Protestants to share the Catholic doctrine in a nonthreatening environment. Fénelon’s first important work, Traité de l’éducation des filles (Treatise on the Education of Girls), was conservative overall but also suggested noncoercive concepts for educating females that were very innovative for his day. His second and best-known work, Les Aventures de Télémaque (The Adventures of Telemachus), outlined Fénelon’s political beliefs through the account of Telemachus’s search for Ulysses. It was written during Fénelon’s time as tutor to Louis, Duke de Bourgogne, the grandson and heir to Louis XIV.

Books by Francois Fenelon

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