Fenelon: Biography

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Francois Fenelon was born in 1651 in France into a family of French nobility. He received a thorough education as a young boy. In 1667, at age 12, he was sent to the University of Cahors, where he studied rhetoric and philosophy. At a young age, he was very spiritually inclined, and so his relatives arranged for him to study theology at the College du Plessis. Fenelon exhibited such keenness of mind and deep spiritual inclination as a teenager that when he was 15, he was asked to give a public sermon.

Fenelon’s Life in the Church

When he was 24, Fenelon was ordained as a priest. Because he belonged to the nobility, he quickly rose through the church ranks.  In 1690, Fénelon was appointed to serve as the tutor of the young Duke of Burgundy, who stoody second in line of succession for the French throne. As tutor, Fénelon was charged with guiding the character formation of the man who later became king of France. He was well-suited to the task, and he shaped the charac-ter of the young duke in such a way that Fenelon received commendation even from his enemies. As tutor, he wrote several works for the benefit of the young duke.

The most famous of these works for the young duke was The Adventures of Telemachus, Son of Ulysses. Although written as a novel about the son of Ulysses, the work was actually a satire attacking the philosophy of the divine right of kings and of absolute monarchs. In Telemachus, Fenelon wrote, “Good kings are rare and the generality of monarchs bad.” 
The work was an immediate best seller, and it became one of the most famous works of the century.

In 1696, the King appointed Fenelon to become the archbishop of Cambrai, France, although he continued to serve as the tutor to the duke. While serving as archbishop, Fenelon had the opportunity to become the spiritual advisor of a small, but committed, number of men and women at the Court of Louis XIV, including the king himself. In fact, under Fenelon’s wise spiritual direction, Louis XIV sought to live a life of true spirituality in the midst of a court that was otherwise shamelessly immoral. Fenelon was also a friend and spiritual advisor to Madame Guyon. When her orthodoxy was attacked by the Church, Fenelon came to her defense. As a result of his defense of Madame Guyon, Fenelon was removed from his post as the duke’s tutor. <br> <br>

During his association with these people, Fenelon wrote them many letters, containing profound spiritual wisdom.  His spiritual letters have since been collected into book form, called Let Go, and they continue to inspire, challenge, and bless Christians in the 21st century.

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