Our Patron - St. Francis de Sales

Bishop and Doctor of the Catholic Church
st francis de sales is the patron of msfs

Introduction to the Life of Saint Francis de Sales

S t. Francis de Sales, bishop of Geneva and a doctor of the Church, is renowned for the clarity of his teaching and preaching. Intellectually and spiritually tormented in his youth by debates over predestination, Saint Francis, upon arriving at a proper understanding of the question, was better able to treat with charity the Calvinists of Geneva, many of whom he brought back to the Catholic Church. He remains today a model of (in the words of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which as taken Saint Francis as one of its three chief patron saints) "living the truth in charity.

August 21, 1567 Savoy, France

Born

December 28, 1622 Lyon, France

Died

January 24

Feast Day

April 8, 1665, by Pope Alexander VII

Canonization

Biography of St. Francis de Sales in Chronological Order

Year

Description

1567 21st Aug., Birth of Francis, Thorens Savoy
1573-78 Schooling at La Roche and Annecy
1577 First Communion / Confirmation
1578-81 Grammar Studies in Paris
1584-88 Arts and Philosophy in Paris
1588-92 Law at Padua, Doctorate in Law
1592 Advocate to the Senate of Chambery
1593 Provost, of Geneva diocese, ordained priest
1594-98 Missionary of the Chablais Province of Savoy
1595 Circulates leaflets on the true faith
1599 In Rome as emissary ad limina of his Bishop. Appointed Co-adjutor Bishop of Geneva
1600 "Defense of the Standard of the Cross"
1602 In Paris, on a religious and diplomatic mission. Consecrated Bishop of Geneva.
1604 Meets Jane de Chantal at Dijon, France
1609 "Introduction to the Devout Life"
1610 Foundation of the Order of the Visitation
1616 "Treatise on the Love of God"
1622 Dies at Lyons on December 28th.
1661 Beatification by Pope Alexander VII,
1665 Canonization by Pope Alexander VII,
1877 Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX
1923 "Rerum Omnium" Pius XI, Tri-centenary of death.
1967 "Sabaudiae Gemma" Paul VI, Fourth Centenary of birth
1986 Visit to Annecy, Discourse of Pope John Paul II
2002 Letter of Pope John Paul II, 400th. Anniversary SFS as Bishop

The Life of Saint Francis de Sales

Bishop of Geneva, Doctor of the Universal Church. born at Thorens, in the Duchy of Savoy, 21 August, 1567; died at Lyons, 28 December, 1622. His father, François de Sales de Boisy, and his mother, Françoise de Sionnaz, belonged to old Savoyard aristocratic families. The future saint was the eldest of six brothers. His father intended him for the magistracy and sent him at an early age to the colleges of La Roche and Annecy. From 1583 till 1588 he studied rhetoric and humanities at the college of Clermont, Paris, under the care of the Jesuits. While there he began a course of theology. After a terrible and prolonged temptation to despair, caused by the discussions of the theologians of the day on the question of predestination, from which he was suddenly freed as he knelt before a miraculous image of Our Lady at St. Etienne-des-Grès, he made a vow of chastity and consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 1588 he studied law at Padua, where the Jesuit Father Possevin was his spiritual director. He received his diploma of doctorate from the famous Pancirola in 1592. Having been admitted as a lawyer before the senate of Chambéry, he was about to be appointed senator. His father had selected one of the noblest heiresses of Savoy to be the partner of his future life, but Francis declared his intention of embracing the ecclesiastical life. A sharp struggle ensued. His father would not consent to see his expectations thwarted. Then Claude de Granier, Bishop of Geneva, obtained for Francis, on his own initiative, the position of Provost of the Chapter of Geneva, a post in the patronage of the pope. It was the highest office in the diocese, M. de Boisy yielded and Francis received Holy Orders (1593).

From the time of the Reformation the seat of the Bishopric of Geneva had been fixed at Annecy. There with apostolic zeal, the new provost devoted himself to preaching, hearing confessions, and the other work of his ministry. In the following year (1594) he volunteered to evangelize Le Chablais, where the Genevans had imposed the Reformed Faith, and which had just been restored to the Duchy of Savoy. He made his headquarters in the fortress of Allinges. Risking his life, he journeyed through the entire district, preaching constantly; by dint of zeal, learning, kindness and holiness he at last obtained a hearing. He then settled in Thonon, the chief town. He confuted the preachers sent by Geneva to oppose him; he converted the syndic and several prominent Calvinists. At the request of the pope, Clement VIII, he went to Geneva to interview Theodore Beza, who was called the Patriarch of the Reformation. The latter received him kindly and seemed for a while shaken, but had not the courage to take the final steps. A large part of the inhabitants of Le Chablais returned to the true fold (1597 and 1598). Claude de Granier then chose Francis as his coadjutor, in spite of his refusal, and sent him to Rome (1599).

Pope Clement VIII ratified the choice; but he wished to examine the candidate personally, in presence of the Sacred College. The improvised examination was a triumph for Francis. "Drink, my son", said the Pope to him. "from your cistern, and from your living wellspring; may your waters issue forth, and may they become public fountains where the world may quench its thirst." The prophesy was to be realized. On his return from Rome the religious affairs of the territory of Gex, a dependency of France, necessitated his going to Paris. There the coadjutor formed an intimate friendship with Cardinal de Bérulle, Antoine* Deshayes, secretary of Henry IV, and Henry IV himself, who wished "to make a third in this fair friendship" (être de tiers dans cette belle amitié). The king made him preach the Lent at Court, and wished to keep him in France. He urged him to continue, by his sermons and writings, to teach those souls that had to live in the world how to have confidence in God, and how to be genuinely and truly pious - graces of which he saw the great necessity.

On the death of Claude de Granier, Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva (1602). His first step was to institute catechetical instructions for the faithful, both young and old. He made prudent regulations for the guidance of his clergy. He carefully visited the parishes scattered through the rugged mountains of his diocese. He reformed the religious communities. His goodness, patience and mildness became proverbial. He had an intense love for the poor, especially those who were of respectable family. His food was plain, his dress and his household simple. He completely dispensed with superfluities and lived with the greatest economy, in order to be able to provide more abundantly for the wants of the needy. He heard confessions, gave advice, and preached incessantly. He wrote innumerable letters (mainly letters of direction) and found time to publish the numerous works mentioned below. Together with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, he founded (1607) the Institute of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, for young girls and widows who, feeling themselves called to the religious life, have not sufficient strength, or lack inclination, for the corporal austerities of the great orders. His zeal extended beyond the limits of his own diocese. He delivered the Lent and Advent discourses which are still famous - those at Dijon (1604), where he first met the Baroness de Chantal; at Chambéry (1606); at Grenoble (1616, 1617, 1618), where he converted the Ambrose Maréchal de Lesdiguières. During his last stay in Paris (November, 1618, to September, 1619) he had to go into the pulpit each day to satisfy the pious wishes of those who thronged to hear him. "Never", said they, "have such holy, such apostolic sermons been preached." He came into contact here with all the distinguished ecclesiastics of the day, and in particular with St. Vincent de Paul. His friends tried energetically to induce him to remain in France, offering him first the wealthy Abbey of Ste. Geneviève and then the coadjutor-bishopric of Paris, but he refused all to return to Annecy.

In 1622 he had to accompany the Court of Savoy into France. At Lyons he insisted on occupying a small, poorly furnished room in a house belonging to the gardener of the Visitation Convent. There, on 27 December, he was seized with apoplexy. He received the last sacraments and made his profession of faith, repeating constantly the words: "God's will be done! Jesus, my God and my all!" He died next day, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. Immense crowds flocked to visit his remains, which the people of Lyons were anxious to keep in their city. With much difficulty his body was brought back to Annecy, but his heart was left at Lyons. A great number of wonderful favours have been obtained at his tomb in the Visitation Convent of Annecy. His heart, at the time of the French Revolution, was carried by the Visitation nuns from Lyons to Venice, where it is venerated today. St. Francis de Sales was beatified in 1661, and canonized by Alexander VII in 1665; he was proclaimed Doctor of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX, in 1877.

His Works

St. Francis de Sales was a prolific writer. The collection of all his writings in French, known as the Complete Works (Oeuvres Completes}, Annecy edition, number 26 volumes. Fr. Andre RAVIER insists that “St. Francis De Sales is the promoter of Christian action and commitment through genuine contemplation”; and advises that the Saint’s writings be read in the right perspective, namely, as a work born of lived experience, oriented toward meaningful action and leading to Evangelical commitment”.

“The writings of Francis de Sales, filled with celestial doctrine are a bright light in the Church, pointing out to souls an easy and safe way to arrive at the perfection of a Christian life.’ (Breviarium Romanum, 29 January, lect, VI.)

The Principal Works of St. Francis De Sales

1. Controversies

During his mission to reconvert the inhabitants of the Chablais region, since people were forbidden to attend his preaching, Francis prepared handwritten leaflets on the Catholic faith, which he would slip under the doors of the houses of the Calvinists. These writings were collected into a book now known as The Catholic Controversy. By the end of his missionary apostolale, Francis had persuaded about 72,000 Calvinists to return to the Catholic Church.

2. The Defence of the Standard of the Cross, a demonstration of the virtue
  • of the True Cross
  • of the Crucifix
  • of the Sign of the Cross
  • an explanation of the Veneration of the Cross.
3. An Introduction to the Devout Life

"An Introduction to the Devout Life", a work intended to lead "Philothea", the soul living in the world, into the paths of devotion, that is to say, of true and solid piety. Every one should strive to become pious, and "it is an error, it is even a heresy", to hold that piety is incompatible with any state of life. In the first part the author helps the soul to free itself from all inclination to, or affection for, sin; in the second, he teaches it how to be united to God by prayer and the sacraments; in the third, he exercises it in the practice of virtue; in the fourth, he strengthens it against temptation; in the fifth, he teaches it how to form its resolutions and to persevere. The "Introduction", which is a masterpiece of psychology, practical morality, and common sense, was translated into nearly every language even in the lifetime of the author, and it has since gone through innumerable editions.

4. The Treatise on the Love of God

"Treatise on the Love of God", an authoritative work which reflects perfectly the mind and heart of Francis de Sales as a great genius and a great saint. It contains twelve books. The first four give us a history, or rather explain the theory, of Divine love, its birth in the soul, its growth, its perfection, and its decay and annihilation; the fifth book shows that this love is twofold - the love of complacency and the love of benevolence; the sixth and seventh treat of affective love, which is practised in prayer; the eight and ninth deal with effective love, that is, conformity to the will of God, and submission to His good pleasure. The last three resume what has preceded and teach how to apply practically the lessons taught therein.

5. Spiritual Conferences

"Spiritual Conferences"; familiar conversations on religious virtues addressed to the sisters of the Visitation and collected by them. We find in them that practical common sense, keenness of perception and delicacy of feeling which were characteristic of the kind-hearted and energetic Saint.

6. Sermons

"Sermons". - These are divided into two classes: those composed previously to his consecration as a bishop, and which he himself wrote out in full; and the discourses he delivered when a bishop, of which, as a rule, only outlines and synopses have been preserved. Some of the latter, however, were taken down in extenso by his hearers. Pius IX, in his Bull proclaiming him Doctor of the Church calls the Saint "The Master and Restorer of Sacred Eloquence". He is one of those who at the beginning of the seventeenth century formed the beautiful French language; he foreshadows and prepares the way for the great sacred orators about to appear. He speaks simply, naturally, and from his heart. To speak well we need only love well, was his maxim. His mind was imbued with the Holy Writings, which he comments, and explains, and applies practically with no less accuracy than grace.

7. Letters

"Letters", mostly letters of direction, in which the minister of God effaces himself and teaches the soul to listen to God, the only true director. The advice given is suited to all the circumstances and necessities of life and to all persons of good will. While trying to efface his own personality in these letters, the saint makes himself known to us and unconsciously discovers to us the treasures of his soul.

There are also many other writings of St. Francis in which however we may no less discover “that heaven-sent doctrine which, like a stream of living water has watered the vineyard of the Lord . . . and has helped greatly in achieving the well-being of the people of God.” (Apostolic Letter of Pius IX. 16 Nov. 1877) [quoted in Rerum Omnium, Pius XI. 20). The books which he wrote are marked with an authentic wealth of doctrine, a profundity of thought, a natural beauty adorned with grace. (Taken from Salesian Spirituality-A Souce Book, by Fr. Noel Rebello msfs).

Prayer

O love eternal, my soul needs and chooses you eternally! Ah, come Holy Spirit, and inflame our hearts with your 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 your 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 lives and reigns forever and ever.
Amen.

Novena to St. Francis de Sales (To be prayed for nine days)

O blessed Francis de Sales, who on earth did excel in a life of virtue, especially in the love of God and neighbor, I earnestly ask you to take me under your compassionate care and protection. Obtain for me conversion of mind and heart. Grant that all people, especially (names of those whom you wish to include) may experience the depth of God’s redeeming and healing love.

Teach me to fix my eyes on the things of heaven even as I walk each day with my feet planted firmly on the earth. Help me, through the practice of virtue and the pursuit of devotion, to avoid anything that would otherwise cause me to stumble in my attempt to follow Christ and to be an instrument of the Holy Spirit.

Encouraged by your prayers and example, help me to live fully my sacred dignity with the hope of experiencing my sacred destiny: eternal life with God. Receive also this particular need or concern that I now lift up in prayer. (mention your particular need).

O God, for the salvation of all, you desired that St. Francis de Sales—preacher, missionary, confessor, bishop and founder— should befriend many along the road to salvation. Mercifully grant that we, infused with the humility and gentleness of his charity, guided by his wisdom and sharing in his spirit may experience eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.