Tuesday, January 24, 2006
St. Francis de Sales
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Memorial (1969 Calendar): January 24
Double (1954 Calendar): January 29

Today the Church celebrates the life of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (1567-1622). St. Francis was a lawyer before he felt called to the priesthood. He received the message "Leave all and follow Me," so he left to be ordained a priest. His family fiercely opposed his vocation, but he still followed God. Through a devoted prayer life and his gentle manners, he won over his family.

At 35 years of age, St. Francis became bishop of Geneva. He was a preacher, writer, and spiritual director. He was also a good friend to St. Vincent de Paul. St. Francis died on December 28, 1622, and was canonized on April 19, 1665. He is a Doctor of the Church. He is the author of many works that continue to work for the good of souls even today.

The Office of the Church shares the following account of his life:
Francis was born of pious and noble parents, in the town of Sales, from which the family took their name. From his earliest years, he gave pledge of his future sanctity by the innocence and gravity of his conduct. Having been instructed in the libei al sciences during his youth, he was sent early to Paris, that he might study Philosophy and Theology; and in order that his education might be complete, he was sent to Padua, where he took, with much honour, the degree of doctor in both civil and canon law. He visited the sanctuary of Loreto, where he renewed the vow he had already taken in Paris of perpetual virginity, in which holy resolution he continued till death, in spite of all the temptations of the devil and all the allurements of the flesh. 
He refused to accept an honourable position in the Senate of Savoy, and entered into the ecclesiastical state. He was ordained Priest, and was made Provost of the Diocese of Geneva, which charge he so laudably fulfilled that Granier, his Bishop, selected him for the arduous undertaking of labouring, by the preaching of God's word, for the conversion of the Calvinists of Chablais and the neighbouring country round about Geneva. This mission he undertook with much joy. He had to suffer the harshest treatment on the part of the heretics, who frequently sought to take away his life, calumniated him, and laid all kinds of plots against him. But he showed heroic courage in the midst of all these dangers and persecutions, and by the divine assistance converted, as it is stated, seventy-two thousand heretics to the Catholic faith, among whom were many distinguished by the high position they held in the world and by their learning. 
After the death of Granier, who had already made him his Coadjutor, he was made Bishop of Geneva. Then it was that his sanctity showed itself in every direction, by his zeal for ecclesiastical discipline, his love of peace, his charity to the poor, and every virtue. From a desire to give more honour to God, he founded a new Order of Nuns, which he called of the Visitation, taking for their Rule that of St Augustine, to which he added Constitutions of admirable wisdom, discretion, and sweetness. He enlightened the children of the Church by the works he wrote, which are full of a heavenly wisdom, and point out a safe and easy path to Christian perfection. In his fifty-fifth year, whilst returning from France to Annecy, he was taken with his last sickness, immediately after having celebrated Mass, on the Feast of St John the Evangelist. On the following day, his soul departed this life for heaven, in the year of our Lord 1622. His body was taken to Annecy, and was buried, with great demonstration of honour, in the Church of the Nuns of the above mentioned Order. Immediately after his death, miracles began to be wrought through his intercession, which being officially authenticated, he was canonized by Pope Alexander the Seventh, and his Feast was appointed to be kept on the twenty-ninth day of January, and he was declared a Doctor of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX, after consultation with the Sacred Congregation of Rites.
Rerum Omnium Perturbationem:
Whoever attentively reviews the life of St. Francis will discover that, from his earliest years, he was a model of sanctity. He was not a gloomy, austere saint but was most amiable and friendly with all, so much so that it can be said of him most truthfully, "her conversation (wisdom) hath no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness, but joy and gladness." (Wisdom, viii, 16) Endowed with every virtue, he excelled in meekness of heart, a virtue so peculiar to himself that it might be considered his most characteristic trait. His meekness, however, differed altogether from that artificial gentility which consists in the mere possession of polished manners and in the display of a purely conventional affability. It differed, too, both from the apathy which cannot be moved by any force and from the timidity which does not dare to become indignant, even when indignation is required of one. This virtue, which grew in the heart of St. Francis as a delightful effect of his love of God and was nourished by the spirit of compassion and tenderness, so tempered with sweetness the natural gravity of his demeanor and softened both his voice and manners that he won the affectionate regard of everyone whom he encountered.

Encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on January 26, 1923
Prayer by St. Francis de Sales:

Lord, I am yours, and I must belong to no one but you. My soul is yours, and must live only by you. My will is yours, and must love only for you. I must love you as my first cause, since I am from you. I must love you as my end and rest, since I am for you. I must love you more than my own being, since my being subsists by you. I must love you more than myself, since I am all yours and all in you. AMEN.

Prayer Source: Treatise on the Love of God by Saint Francis de Sales



Prayer:

O God, by Whose will blessed Francis, Thy Confessor and Bishop, became all things to all men in his zeal for souls: graciously fill us with the sweetness of Thy love, and grant that by the light of his counsel and with the help of his merits we may attain eternal joy. Though our Lord.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal


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