Saint of the Day – 24 January – St Francis de Sales CO, OM, OFM (Cap)- Doctor of the Church / “The Gentleman Saint” (1567-1622 aged 55) Bishop of Geneva – Patron of against deafness, authors, writers (proclaimed on 26 April 1923 by Pope Pius XI), Catholic press, confessors, deaf people, journalists (proclaimed on 26 April 1923 by Pope Pius XI), teachers, educators, Champdepraz, Aosta, Italy, 8 dioceses – Also known as “The Gentle Christ of Geneva”, Francis of Sales, Franz von Sales – His motto ‘Non-excidet’ – (no failure)
He became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.
Francis de Sales was born on 21 August 1567 in the Château de Sales into the noble Sales family of the Duchy of Savoy, in what is today Thorens-Glières, Haute-Savoie, France., the eldest of 13 children. His father was François de Sales, Lord of Boisy, Sales and Novel. His mother was Françoise de Sionnaz, the only child of prominent magistrate, Melchior de Sionnaz and a noblewoman. He was baptised Francis Bonaventura, after two great Franciscan saints. His father wanted him, the first of his six sons, to attend the best schools in preparation for a career as a magistrate. He therefore enjoyed a privileged education in the nearby town of La Roche-sur-Foron and at the age of eight, at the Capuchin college in Annecy.
From early youth, Saint Francis de Sales had a great desire to devote himself entirely to the service of God, although his father had other plans for him. With the pious Abbe Deage as his tutor, Francis was a student at the University of Paris from his fourteenth to his twentieth year; and after studying jurisprudence at the University of Padua for four more years, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Law. Francis was also a skilled swordsman who enjoyed fencing, an expert horseman and a superb dancer. Then Francis studied at the University of Padua and received a doctorate in civil and canon law. His father wanted him to marry but Francis desired to be a priest. In 1593 he finally obtained the consent of his father to enter the sacred ministry; and since he had devoted much time to the study of theology during his student years, he was ordained a priest six months later.
Not long afterwards Saint Francis de Sales volunteered for the difficult and dangerous task of leading the people of the province of Chablais back to the fold of the Church, after the protestant reformation. Several times he miraculously escaped death at the hands of assassins. But he persevered in his heroic and patient efforts and after four years succeeded in converting a large number of Calvinists. It was here that Francis began to write and distribute a weekly essay, explaining some doctrines of faith. For two years, he and his friends had these essays printed. Francis preached with power and charm in simple, clear language. His gentleness and love drew many hearts to God. The majority of the Chablais inhabitants accepted the Catholic faith.
In 1599 he was appointed coadjutor to his bishop and in 1602 he became bishop of Geneva, a position which he filled in an exemplary manner for twenty years. When Francis was appointed bishop of Geneva, he not only wrote for and encouraged priests, but he also took an interest in the candidates for priesthood. Francis even conducted the examinations to see if the candidates were fit for this vocation. He also trained laypeople to teach catechism. Francis often gave spiritual guidance to people.
At Dijon, in 1604, Saint Francis de Sales became acquainted with St Jane de Chantal, for whom and through whom he founded the nursing and teaching order known as Visitation Nuns. He died at Lyons on December 28, 1622.
Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal, medal 1867
The body of the holy bishop was exhumed ten years after his death and was found perfectly preserved. When the body was once again exhumed at a later date, only bones and dust remained.
St Frances de Sales was beatified in 1661, and canonized in 1665. He was declared a doctor of the Church in 1877