Friday, May 05, 2006

Saint Francis de Sales

Francis was born in a castle in France. When he was baptized, his mother said, "Now, my son, you are the friend of the angels, the brother of Jesus, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and a member of the Church. Now you must belong to God forever."

His wealthy family provided him with an excellent education. When Francis was nine years old, he received Holy Communion. He said, "Jesus is the teacher of holiness. I go to Him because I want Him to teach me how to become a saint. Of what use to me is all I learn in school if I do not become holy?"

Francis studied law at the University of Padua. By the age of twenty-four, he was a Doctor of Law. He returned home, and led a hard-working life as Senate advocate. He was not really interested in important positions or a social life.

In his heart, Francis was listening to a call that kept coming back like an echo. It seemed to be an invitation from the Lord telling him to "Leave all and follow Me." Francis finally tried to explain his struggle to his family.

His father was very disappointed. He wanted Francis to be a great man of the world. Francis spent lots of time in prayer, finally his gentle ways won over the family and Francis became a priest on December 18, 1593.

In those times Christians were bitterly divided. Father Francis offered to go to a dangerous area of France to win back Catholics who had become Protestants. His father tried to stop him. He said it was bad enough that he had allowed Francis to become a priest, he was not going to let him die as a martyr as well.

Francis knew that the Lord would protect him. He and his cousin, Father Louis de Sales, began their long walk to the Duchy of Chablais. The two priests soon learned how to live with insults and physical discomforts and their lives were often in danger.

Francis explained the teachings of the Catholic faith in very simple and clear language. And his gentle way with everyone slowly brought many back to the Roman Catholic Church.
When he was thirty-five years old, Francis became the bishop of Geneva, Switzerland. He travelled and preached and worked with children whenever he could.

He was a good friend of Saint Vincent de Paul. With the help of Saint Jane de Chantal, he started a religious order of sisters in 1610. These women are called the order of the Visitation.

Francis wrote wonderful books about the spiritual life and the way to become holy. They are considered spiritual "classics."

Bishop de Sales died at Lyons on December 28, 1622, at the age of fifty-six. Because of his good work that brought many people back to God and the Church, he was given the special title "Doctor of the Church." He is also the Patron Saint of journalists. His feast day is January 24th.

Father in heaven, You prompted St. Francis de Sales to become all things to all men for the salvation of men. May his example inspire us to dedicated love in the service of our brothers. Amen.

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