often offered the only education for girls in Catholic areas, which further heightened the feminization of religion.
While many Catholic womenjoined confraternities or engaged in charitable activities, a few advocated a more interior form of devotion. Louise Francoise de la Valliere (1644-1710) was during the 1660s the mistress of Louis XIV, by whom she had four children. After she fell out of favour with the king and went through a near-fatal illness, she had a spiritual conversion and withdrew from Paris to a nearby Carmelite convent. She wrote a series of prayers to God repenting for her earlier life and presenting a model of redemption through direct mystical encounters, Reflexions sur la miséricorde deDieu. Marguerite de la Sabliere (1640-93) was a Huguenot and the organizer of a popular salon in Paris who converted to Catholicism in 1680 and became a solitary penitent, emphasizing unquestioning submission to the will of God in Máximes chretiennes and Pensees chrétiennes.
The best-known female mystic of this period was Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Mothe Guyon (1647-1717), a French woman who was very much influenced by the writings of Saint Francis de Sales. Madame Guyon taught that one should try to lose one's individual soul in God, reaching inner peace through prayer and the pure and disinterested love of God, an idea generally termed 'quietism'. She felt herself called to spread this mystical method, and in 1685 she published Moyen court etfacile defaire l'oraison. Her ideas attracted women and men, including High Church officials such as Archbishop Fenelon, who later wrote that he had learned more from her than from any theologian. Madam Guyon was imprisoned several times on the orders of Bishop Bossuet, the most influential French ecclesiastic of the period, who was particularly incensed that her quietism, detachment, and lack of concern for external religious structures tookher in spiritual terms out of his power. If such ideas spread further, wrote Bossuet, they would lead to an intolerable lack of respect for authority. Her writings were placed on the Index of Forbidden Books, and though she always asserted she was submissive to the Catholic Church, after her death her ideas became better known among Protestants than Catholics. Her writings began to be published in Holland in the early eighteenth century, and in translation they became popular with Methodists in Britain and North America. They are available inpaperback versions from many Christian publishers today, advertised for their guidance in prayer and spirituality, not as historical documents.
Saint Francis de Sales provided the initial inspiration for another group of women who emphasized personal holiness and spiritual renewal. During the early seventeenth century, he advised the abbess of Port-Royal, Angelique
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