Called to holiness – Saint Francis De Sales

Francis de Sales was born August 21, 1567, into a noble family.  He was baptized Francis Bonaventura after two great Franciscan saints.  He had five younger brothers.  His father wanted him to be a lawyer or politician, so he attended the best schools.  He began college in 1583. Because he was a nobleman, he had his own servant and a priest tutor. To please his father her took classes in horseback riding, dancing, and fencing.

One day while he was horseback riding he fell from his horse three times.  Each time he fell from his horse, the sword came out of its scabbard. Each time it fell in the shape of the cross.

In 1584, he attended a theological discussion convincing him of his spiritual failing. He became very depressed through December of 1586. His sorrow made him physically ill and bedridden for a time. In January of 1587, he began to pray. He dedicated his life to God and joined the Minim Order. He completed college and went to Italy. He enrolled in another university studying law theology. He decided to become a priest.

He didn’t tell his father of his decision. While he was gone, his father had found him a job as a senator, and chosen him a bride.  His father had wanted a political-military career for him instead of the priesthood. The Bishop of Geneva helped Francis offering him one of the highest offices in the diocese.  Francis was ordained a priest in 1593.

During the Protestant Reformation, Francis decided he should lead an expedition to bring 60,000 people back to the Church. For three years he walked through the country, but no one would talk to him or even open their door to him. So he wrote little pamphlets to explain the true Catholic faith and slide them under the doors.

People wouldn’t come to him, so he went to the children.  Parents saw how kind he was playing with the children, so they began to talk to them. By the time Francis returned home he had returned 40,000 people to the Catholic Church.

He was friends with Pope Clement VIII and Henry IV of France. He gave Lenten sermons at the palace.

In 1602, the Bishop died. Francis was made Bishop of Geneva. He met Jane de Chantal and when they became friends they began to become saints. After years of working with Jane, he made up his mind to form a new religious community. He was always preaching and even teaching a deaf man, so he could take first Communion. He regularly wrote letters to give spiritual help. He also wrote two important books Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God. He makes it clear that people are called to be saints.

At this time, most people believed only priests, bishops, nuns, and monks could become holy. Francis taught every Christian was called to holiness. His teaching was the groundwork for the Second Vatican Council and the universal call to holiness. He said every career, and every state of life, Christians can become more and more like Christ.  That’s what holiness really means.

While traveling, Francis suffered a stroke and died on December 28, 1622.  In 1661, he was beatified by Pope Alexander VII. Pope Alexander VII made him a saint in 1665.  Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church in 1877.  He is the patron saint of writers and journalists.  

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