Today we honor St. Francis de Sales. Going beyond honoring him, we take him as an example of how we might overcome life’s difficulties.
The oldest of six in a well-to-do family from where France borders on Switzerland and italy, Francis was sent to the University of Padua where he obtained a doctorate degree in law. His father had a lucrative post prepared for him. At that time France’s intellectual circles, weary of Rome’s high living, were going over to Calvin’s simplistic approach to Christianity. Going along with Calvinism, Francis was floored by his personal conviction that he was predestined for hell. His health and his prospects fell away. Then, one day, visiting a Catholic Church, he heard the simple words, “God is love.” So touched was he that he disappointed his father by abandoning a law practice, giving his life to letting people know that God is love.
Returning to his hometown of Annecy in Savoy, he entered the service of the bishop of Geneva, Switzerland. However, with Geneva having gone over to Calvinism, it was death for Catholics who ventured into that old city. When that bishop died Frances was consecrated as Geneva’s bishop.
AS bishop Francis devoted himself to ordinary people, writing a marvelous guide for them in his “Introduction to a Devout Life.”
He shared his preference for ordinary people with a widowed mother of six, Jane Frances de Chantal. He backed her in bringing widows like herself to the service of ordinary people. Jane Frances said, “I like sick people. I’m on their side.” Her Sisters gave themselves to visiting the needy, and that resulted in their being called “Visitation Sister.” Unfortunately, Rome’s fondness for keeping women cooped up, led to a decision to convert the Visitation Sisters to a cloistered order.