St. Francis de Sales (Shutterstock image)
From “Let the saints be your guide,” by Emily Stimpson Chapman (OSV Newsweekly)
Born in 1567 in France to a wealthy noble family, St. Francis de Sales knew as a child that he wanted to serve God as a priest. His plan, however, was thrown into question when he heard a theological discussion about predestination.
The Calvinist position — that some people were predestined for hell and others for heaven — convinced the 17-year-old de Sales that the doors of heaven were barred against him. In 1587, however, while praying before a statue of Our Lady of Deliverance, de Sales’ doubts subsided, and he became firmly convinced of God’s love. On that day, de Sales resolved to dedicate his life to helping others overcome their own spiritual doubts.
Despite his father’s protests, de Sales was ordained to the priesthood in 1593. Soon afterward, he began working to win Calvinists back to the Catholic Faith, traveling throughout nearby Switzerland. By the time de Sales returned to France, more than 40,000 people had returned to the Church.
Installed as bishop of Geneva in 1602, de Sales next devoted himself to the formation of both his priests and their congregations, believing (contrary to popular opinion at the time) that holiness was as much for the laity as for the ordained. He also offered spiritual direction to whomever asked for it, counseling some in person and many more in writing.
“I have more than 50 letters to answer,” he once wrote to a friend. “If I tried to hurry over it all, I would be lost. So I intend neither to hurry or to worry. This evening, I shall answer as many as I can. Tomorrow I shall do the same, and so I shall go on until I have finished.”
In 1665, 43 years after his death, the Church declared Francis de Sales a saint. Two centuries later, in 1877, it declared him a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of writers and journalists.
St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!
The Prayer of St. Francis de Sales
Be at Peace
Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life;
rather look to them with full hope as they arise.
God, whose very own you are,
will deliver you from out of them.
He has kept you hitherto,
and He will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will bury you in his arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for you today
will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering,
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.
St. Francis de Sales, 1567-1622