St. Francis de Sales
Early years of life:

Francis de Sales was born to a noble family on the 21st August 1567 at the Chateau de Sales, near Annecy in Savoy, France. His father was Francois de Sales, Lord of Boisy, Sales and Novel, and his mother was Francoise de Sionnz, his father wanted him to attend the best schools, and he enjoyed a privileged education in the nearby towns of La Roche-Sur-Foron and Annecy and his spiritual formation and academics were entrusted to the Jesuits. He even excelled in sword-fencing.

Francis was destined by his father to be a lawyer so that the young man could eventually take his elder's place as a senator from the province of Savoy in France. For this reason Francis was sent to Padua to study law. Sales came to the conclusion that whatever God had in store for him was good, because "God is love", as Scripture attests. This faithful devotion to the God of love not only expelled his doubts, but also influenced the rest of his life and his teachings. His way of teaching Catholic spirituality is often referred to as the Way of Divine Love.

In 1588 Sales transferred from the University of Paris to the University of Padua in Italy, where he studied both law and theology. There he made up his mind about becoming a priest. Intelligent and handsome, he went through various conversion experiences that moved his heart to serve God rather than money or the world. One incident included his sword falling to the ground while riding a horse, and crossing another sword, making the sign of the Cross. He interpreted this, among other signs, that Jesus Christ was calling him to a life of sacrifice and self-giving love for the Church.

Provost and bishop

Francis declared his intention of embracing the ecclesiastical life. After receiving his doctorate, he returned home and in due time, told his parents he wished to enter the priesthood. His father strongly opposed Francis in this and only after much patient persuasiveness on the part of the gentle Francis did his father finally consent. Francis was ordained and elected provost of the Diocese of Geneva, in 1593.

During the time of the Protestant reformation and just over the mountains from where Francis lived was Switzerland -Calvinist territory. Francis decided that he should lead an expedition to convert the 60,000 Calvinists back to Catholicism. But by the time he left, his expedition consisted of himself and his cousin. His father refused to give him any aid for this crazy plan and the diocese was too poor to support him. For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed on his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow. He slept in haylofts if he could, but once he slept on a tree to avoid wolves. Francis' unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors. He had remarkable success. By the time, Francis left to go home, he is said to have converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism.

In 1602, he was the Bishop of Geneva. For twenty years he was a man who lived 'for others', Sales acquired a reputation as a spellbinding preacher and was equally known as a friend of the poor, a man of almost supernatural affability and understanding. He breathed his last on 27th December 1622.

Despite the resistance of the populace of Lyon to moving his remains from that city, Sales was buried on 24 January 1623 in the church of the Monastery of the Visitation in Annecy, which he had founded with Chantal, who was also buried there. Their remains were venerated there until the French Revolution. Many miracles have been reported at his shrine.

Sales' heart was kept in Lyon, in response to the popular demand of the citizens of the city to hold onto his remains. During the French Revolution, however, it was taken to Venice, where it is venerated today.

Francis de Sales was beatified in 1661 by Pope Alexander VII, who then canonized him four years later. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1877.

The Roman Catholic Church currently celebrates St. Francis de Sales' feast on the 24 January, the day of his burial in Annecy in 1624

Along with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Sales founded the women's Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Annecy on 6th June 1610.

Mystical writer

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'. In these he showed how the ordinary person could achieve the height of truth and the depth of love towards God and man while pursuing their normal careers 'in the world'. He was counselor and guide to over 70,000 people young and old, prince and pauper, priest and peasant.

His language was simple and direct. He was fond of saying, “You can catch more flies with a spoon of honey than with a barrelful of vinegar.” He had spent a lifetime taming a fiery temper into a mellow meekness, moulding his sharp wit into charming courtesy, transforming his innate reservedness into an ever expanding generosity.

It is recorded in his biography that he said, “If a man were to pluck out one of my eyes, I would look on him kindly with the other.” of such stuff was St. Francis de Sales made: to look kindly for truth, for beauty and for love.

He is patron saint of journalists because of the tracts and books he wrote.

St. Francis developed a sign language in order to teach a deaf man about God. Because of this, he is the patron saint of the deaf.

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