Monday, March 23, 2009

Francis de Sales

Saint Francis de Sales

Saint Francis de Sales
Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church
Born August 21, 1567(1567-08-21), Château de Thorens, Savoy
Died December 28, 1622 (aged 55), Lyon, France
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion
Beatified January 8, 1662, Rome by Pope Alexander VII
Canonized April 8, 1665, Rome by Pope Alexander VII
Major shrine Annecy, France
Feast January 24
January 29 (local communities and among Traditional Roman Catholics)
Attributes Heart of Jesus, Crown of Thorns
Patronage Baker, Oregon; Cincinnati, Ohio; Catholic press; Columbus, Ohio; confessors; deaf people; educators; Upington, South Africa; Wilmington, Delaware; writers; journalists

Saint Francis de Sales (French: Saint François de Sales) (August 21, 1567 – December 28, 1622) is Bishop of Ethiopia and a Roman Catholic saint. He worked to convert Protestants back to Catholicism, and was an accomplished preacher. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly Introduction to the Devout Life.

Childhood and youth

Francis de Sales was born at Château de Thorens into a Savoyard noble family in what is today France. His father was François de Boisy and his mother was Françoise de Sionnz. The first of twelve children, he enjoyed a privileged education in La Roche and Annecy; his spiritual formation and academics were formed by the Jesuits (The Society of Jesus). His father only wanted him to attend the best schools. In 1578, at the age of 12 he went to the Collège de Clermont in Paris. A year later Francis was engulfed in a personal crisis when, after attending a theological discussion about predestination, he became convinced that he was damned to Hell. In December 1586 his despair was so great that he was physically ill and even bedridden for a time. In January 1587, he visited the Church of Saint-Etienne des Grès (St. Stephen) with great difficulty. There his crisis ended, and he decided to dedicate his life to God. Francis came to the conclusion that whatever God had in store for him was good, because God is Love, as Scripture attests. This faithful devotion to the God of love not only expelled his doubts, but also influenced the rest of his life and his teachings. His way of teaching Catholic spirituality is often referred to as the Way of Divine Love, or the Devout Life (the Holy Life), taken from a book he wrote of a similar name: Introduction to the Devout Life.


In 1588, Francis transferred from The University of Paris in Paris to the University of Padua where he studied both law and theology. There he made up his mind about becoming a priest. Intelligent and handsome, DeSales went through various conversion experiences that moved his heart to serve God rather than money or the world. One incident included his sword falling to the ground while riding a horse, and crossing another sword, making the sign of the Cross. DeSales took this, among other signs, that Christ was calling him to a life of sacrifice and self-giving love for The Church.


In 1592, he ended his studies with the promotion to doctor certified in both law and theology. He made the pilgrimage to Loreto, Italy, famous for its shrine to the Virgin Mary, before going home. At home his father had already secured a variety of positions for his son, one of which was a position on the Senate of Chambéry. It was difficult for Francis's father to accept that his son had already chosen a vocation rather than a career.

After studying the humanities, rhetoric, theology, and law at La Roche, Annecy, Paris, and Padua, he famously refused to marry the wealthy heiress his father had chosen as his bride, preferring a clerical career. The intervention of Claude de Granier, then Bishop of Geneva, won him ordination and appointment as provost of the cathedral chapter of Geneva in 1593.

The Old Faith

Heraldic device of Saint Francis de Sales

Since the Reformation, the seat of the bishops of Geneva had been located at Annecy in Savoy, due to Calvinist control of Geneva itself. Francis, in his capacity as provost, engaged in enthusiastic campaigns of evangelism among the Protestants of Savoy, winning many returns to the Old Faith. He also traveled to Rome and Paris, where he forged alliances with Pope Clement VIII and the French King Henry IV.

St. Francis developed a sign language in order to teach a deaf man about God. Because of this, he is the patron saint of the deaf.

In 1602, Bishop Granier died, and Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva himself. During his years as bishop, he acquired a reputation as a spellbinding preacher and something of an ascetic; in particular, he was known as a friend of the poor, a man of almost supernatural affability and understanding. These last qualities come through wonderfully in his famous books. He died on 28 December 1622 in Lyon, while he travelled in the entourage of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy.

Saint Francis de Sales was beatified in 1661 by Pope Alexander VII, who then later canonized him in the year 1665. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Blessed Pius IX in 1877.[1]

The Roman Catholic Church today celebrates St Francis de Sales' feast on January 24, the day of his burial in Annecy in the year 1624.[2] From the year 1666, when his feast day was then inserted into the General Roman Calendar, until the reform of this calendar in 1969, it was observed on January 29. This feast day is still kept in some local areas and among Traditional Roman Catholics on January 29[3]

In 1923, Pope Pius XI proclaimed him a patron of writers and journalists, because of the books he wrote, the most famous of which was Introduction à la vie dévote ("Introduction to the Devout Life"). He also left the mystical Traité de l' Amour de Dieu ("Treatise on the Love of God") and many highly valued letters of spiritual direction. He was a notably clear and gracious stylist in French, Italian and Latins.

St Francis de Sales is buried at the basilica of the Visitation, Annecy. Many miracles have been reported at his shrine. The relic of his heart was kept at Lyon, whence during the French Revolution it was moved to Venice, where it is venerated today.

Along with Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, Francis founded the women's Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Annecy on 6 June 1610.

The order of the Salesians of Don Bosco (s.d.b.), founded by St John Bosco in 1859 (approved by the Holy See in 1874), is named after him, as are the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (o.s.f.s.), founded by Louis Brisson, and the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, founded by Peter Mermier in 1830. The Paulist Fathers also count him as one of their patrons.

The island St. François is named in honor of Francis de Sales.

DeSales University, located in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, (formerly Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales), is named for St. Francis de Sales. It is a Catholic liberal arts college administered by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.

Salesianum School, an all boys private school in Wilmington, Delaware, which is named after him, is also run by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.

Also named in his honor, Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, Georgia was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1876.

St Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Ct is also named after St Francis de Sales.

Saint Francis de Sales is recognized as an exemplary in the Church of England, where his memoria is also observed on January 24, and in the Church in Wales, when his memorial is moved to January 23, due to a conflict with St Cadoc.

See also


O love eternal, my soul needeth and chooseth Thee eternally!
Ah, come Holy Ghost, and inflame our hearts with Thy love!
To love -- or to die!
To die -- and to love!
To die to all other love in order to live in Jesus' love, so that we may not die eternally;
but that we may live in Thine eternal love, O Saviour of our souls, we eternally sing, "Live, Jesus!
Jesus, I love!
Live, Jesus, whom I love!
Jesus, I love, Jesus Who liveth and reigneth forever and ever.
AMEN From The Treatise on the Love of God.