January 23, 2018

St. Francis de Sales, Bishop, Founder and Doctor

St. Francis de Sales

Memorial - January 24th 

St. Francis de Sales, a gentle saint, encouraged and celebrated the sanctity of both the ordained and the laity. Born in 1567 in Savoy, France, it was assumed that he would follow his father into law. Therefore, it came as a great surprise to the elder de Sales when his son announced that he had decided to pursue an ecclesiastical life instead. Francis would go on to win numerous souls to Christ.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1593, from 1594 to 1598 Francis labored at the difficult and dangerous task of preaching to the Protestants of Chablais, effecting the return of some 70,000 souls to the Catholic faith. In 1602 he became bishop of Genf. His zeal for souls is attested in 21,000 extant letters and 4,000 sermons showing how he applied St. Paul's words: "I have become all things to all men."

Most widely known is the saint's Introduction to the Devout Life, which, together with his Treatise on the Love of God, are considered seminal works of Christian literature. Francis' Introduction proves to the world that true piety makes persons virtuous and happy. A holy friendship existed between him and St. Frances de Chantal. In cooperation with her he founded the Visitation Nuns in 1610. Out of love for his own poor diocese, he refused several opportunities for advancement, including the cardinalate. In recognition of the Introduction and his various other writings, Francis was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1877.

How Francis developed a gentle and amiable disposition is a story in itself; he was not born a saint. By nature his temperament was choleric, fiery; little was needed to throw him into a state of violent anger. It took many years before he mastered his impatience and mercurial temper. Even after he became bishop, there were instances, as for example, when someone rang a bell before he had finished preaching. Through perseverance he did attain perfect self-mastery.

You may epitomize St. Francis de Sales' character in two words, kindliness and lovableness — virtues that were the secret of his success. His writings reflect his kindheartedness and sweet disposition. O God, who for the salvation of souls willed that the Bishop Saint Francis de Sales become all things to all, graciously grant that, following his example, we may always display the gentleness of your charity in the service of our neighbor. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.

1 comment :

Michael Dowd said...

"Read and act on 'Introduction to the Devout Life' it will change your life. In the introduction Francis claims he is not particularly devout himself. I like that. He is one of us."