Saint Francis de SalesBishop and Doctor of the Church
Feast day – January 24
“Prayer brings our mind into the brightness of divine light, and exposes our will to the warmth of divine love. Nothing else can so purge our mind from its ignorance, and our will from its depraved affections. It is a blessed fountain which, as it flows, revives our good desires and causes them to bring forth fruit, washes away the stains of infirmity from our soul, and calms the passions of our hearts.”
St. Francis de Sales
St. Francis de Sales was born in 1567 in the Castle of Sales in Savoy France, close to the Swiss border. He came from a wealthy and noble family. St. Francis eventually studied at the University of Padua where his brilliant writings and mind were discovered.
At first, his father refused to allow St. Francis to be ordained, trying instead to marry him off, but eventually he relented and St. Francis was ordained on December 18, 1593. Following his ordination he was assigned to Protestant missionary territory in Chablais, France, causing his father to fear Francis would be martyred. At the time, there were over 30,000 Protestants and only about 100 Catholics.
During his ministry there, he suffered many attacks on his life. Since there was such a small number of Catholics in the area, St. Francis began writing them letters, which were then passed from household to household. Eventually even the Protestant hardliners were intrigued by this young priest. Many of the people converted back to Catholicism and the bishop deemed it now safe enough to visit the area. St. Francis was soon appointed Bishop of Geneva in 1602.
St. Francis is remembered for two great contributions to the spirituality of the everyday person; “Introduction to a Devout Life” and “Treatise on the Love of God”.
St. Francis died on December 28, 1622 in the Chablais region. At the time, there remained only about 100 Protestants in the area. He was canonized in 1665 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877 when Pope Pius XI named him the patron saint of journalists.
St. John Bosco was a great fan of St. Francis de Sales and began an order of priests named in his honour. The Salesian order of priests is renowned world-wide for their dedication to and work with youth. St. Francis was ahead of his time, anticipating liturgical and theological reform centuries before the Second Vatican Council.
On the 400th anniversary of his birth, Pope Paul VI wrote of St. Francis:
“No one of the recent Doctors of the Church more than St. Francis de Sales anticipated the deliberations and decisions of the Second Vatican Council with such a keen and progressive insight. He renders his contribution by the example of his life, by the wealth of his true and sound doctrine, by the fact that he has opened and strengthened the spiritual ways of Christian perfection for all states and conditions of life. We propose that these three things be imitated, embraced and followed.”