SAINT FRANCIS OF SALES
Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Francis was born of noble and pious parents, near Annecy, 1566, and studied with brilliant success at Paris and Padua. On his return from Italy he gave up the grand career which his father had marked out for him in the service of the state, and became a priest.
When the Duke of Savoy had resolved to restore the Church in the Chablais, Francis offered himself for the work, and set out on foot with his Bible and breviary and one companion, his cousin Louis of Sales. It was a work of toil, privation, and danger. Every door and every heart was closed against him. He was rejected with insult and threatened with death. But nothing could daunt or resist him, and ere long the Church burst forth into a second spring. It is stated that he converted 72,000 Calvinists.
He was then compelled by the Pope to become Coadjutor Bishop of Geneva, and succeeded to the see in 1602. At times the exceeding gentleness with which he received heretics and sinners almost scandalized his friends, and one of them said to him, “Francis of Sales will go to Paradise, of course; but I am not so sure of the Bishop of Geneva: I am almost afraid his gentleness will play him a shrewd turn.” “Ah,” said the Saint, “I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity. Is not God all love? God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a Lamb; God the Holy Spirit is a Dove-that is, gentleness itself. And are you wiser than God?”
In union with St. Jane Frances of Chantal he founded at Annecy the Order of the Visitation, which soon spread over Europe. Though poor, he refused provisions and dignities, and even the great see of Paris.
He died at Avignon, 1622.
Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed. 
St Francis de Sales (1567 – 1622)
He was born near Annécy, in Savoy, studied the law, and was ordained to the priesthood despite the opposition of his father. His first mission was to re-evangelize the people of his home district (the Chablais), who had gone over to Calvinism. Always in danger of his life from hostile Calvinists, he preached with such effectiveness that after four years most of the people had returned to the Church. He was then appointed bishop of Geneva, and spent the rest of his life reforming and reorganising the diocese, and in caring for the souls of his people by preaching and spiritual guidance.
St Francis taught that we can all attain a devout and spiritual life, whatever our position in society: holiness is not reserved for monks and hermits alone. He wrote that “religious devotion does not destroy: it perfects,” and his spiritual counsel is dedicated to making people more holy by making them more themselves. In his preaching against Calvinism he was driven by love rather than a desire to win: so much so, that it was a Calvinist minister who said “if we honoured anyone as a saint, I know of no-one since the days of the Apostles more worthy of it than this man.”
St Francis is the patron saint of writers and journalists, who would do well to imitate his love and his moderation: as he said, “whoever wants to preach effectively must preach with love.”
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