Tag Archives: St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis De Sales (1567-1622)

Feast Day: January 24
Canonization: April 19, 1665
Patron Of Journalists, Teachers, The Deaf, Catholic Press, Catholic Writers

Centuries before Vatican II’s ‘universal call to holiness,’ St. Francis de Sales called it ‘heresy’ to say religious devotion was incompatible with the layman’s life of a soldier, tradesman, prince, or married woman.

“It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world,” he wrote in his 1609 spiritual classic The Introduction to the Devout Life.

Francis was born in 1567 to a noble family in the Kingdom of Savoy, near Geneva, Switzerland. His father envisioned a legal career for him, but Francis felt called to the Church. His father finally consented upon Francis’ heartfelt persuasiveness. He was thus ordained a priest, and later as bishop, shepherded the Diocese of Geneva.

He untiringly evangelized the Calvinist stronghold in Geneva. By preaching and distributing inspiring pamphlets on true Catholic teaching – the first known use of tracts for evangelization – it is believed the gentle-mannered Francis brought some 50,000 people back to the Catholic Church. In 1877, Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church.

On A Mission

Patrick Madrid’s new book draws remarkable lessons from St. Francis de Sales . . .

MadridOn A Mission
Patrick Madrid
Servant, 2013
138 pages, $15.99 paperback

In his new book, subtitled Lessons from St. Francis de Sales, Madrid uses the saint’s example to illustrate the zeal, principles, and attitude of one who sets out to live and share the faith. Christ sent his apostles to evangelize and, by virtue of our baptism, we are called to do the same.

The Legatus mission statement is a template for such a life. But how to start? How can we accomplish anything in today’s culture? Madrid shares his own time-tested methodology for teaching Catholics how to prepare themselves to learn, live and spread the faith.

Order: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Called to make Christ known

Our relationship with God must be reflected in our relationships with others . . .

Sr. Anne-Marguerite Potchen, VHN

In preparation for this evening, I spent some time in chapel praying and reflecting on how to develop my presentation, and the thought came to me to focus on the word “Legatus.” This is obviously a Latin noun: Legatus, legate … ah yes, ambassador!

Right away I thought of St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “You are an ambassador of Christ.” Now, I thought, I have something I can work with. Then the idea came to me to check for a website to find out more about the organization. I was obviously not the first person to whom the Holy Spirit whispered my new-found inspiration because on the home page I read: “Legatus, the Latin word for ambassador, exists to help you become an ‘ambassador for Christ’ (2 Cor 5: 20) and to help you meet the challenges of balancing the responsibilities of faith, family, business and community.” The bubble of my creative idea was burst.

As I reflected on it, though, the concept of ambassadors and Salesian Spirituality are definitely a good fit. Perhaps, this is true because St. Francis de Sales was often called to fill the role of ambassador for his Duke to the French court — as well as for his bishop to the Holy See.

An ambassador is a representative. Put another way, we could say that an ambassador makes present the one represented. As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to make Christ present to all around us. This necessitates a very personal response to the call to holiness of life.

Long before the Second Vatican Council, St. Francis de Sales underscored this call and response to holiness in his book The Introduction to the Devout Life. In it he writes, “Devotion must be adapted to the strength, activities and duties of each particular person.” The Salesian motto “Live Jesus” is a concise way of stating the Christocentric focus of St. Francis de Sales’ spirituality. We are to make Jesus live again on this earth. We are to be His ambassadors. In essence it’s a formation of the heart since, as St. Francis de Sales counsels us, “Whoever has Jesus in his heart will soon have Him in all his outward ways.”

This personal call to holiness is lived in context, not in isolation. It must touch all aspects of our daily lives. In an authentic manner, holiness is relational: Our relationship with God must be reflected in our relationships with others. Our lives cannot be lived in disconnected compartments; the integration of faith and the professional life lends a continuity and intentionality to all our activities.

When Catholic ethics and morals are considered, the life of Christ can be manifested through us in the choices we make, the conversations we engage in, the consistency of our decision-making and the manner in which we conduct business. In all our activities, we show Christ to the world: We are truly His ambassadors. Saint Francis de Sales’ most quoted scripture text is from St. Paul to the Galatians: “I live now, not I but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

This transformation of our lives into the life of Christ is rooted in an active prayer life. It is in prayer that the incongruities of our lives can be recognized and, with the grace of God, redeemed. In The Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales guides his directees to “reflect on the Lord and learn to speak, act, and will as He did. In this way you ‘put on the mind of Christ.’” Holiness seen from the perspective of our role as ambassadors of Christ is about daily witness in our families, businesses and acquaintances.

The concept of ambassadors of Christ in business shares common ground with the ideal of Salesian leadership. The founders of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary were both called upon to exercise leadership: St. Francis de Sales was the bishop of Geneva and St. Jane de Chantal, as a married woman, was a chatelaine and, as a religious, was the superior of several monasteries of the order.

The model of Salesian leadership is that of the loving servant, the Good Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep. The image of the Good Shepherd is one of a loving, caring leader who looks out for the best interest of the flock but also of each individual member of the flock as well. Authority in this type of leadership employs the power of persuasion. “All through love, nothing by force” is St. Francis de Sales’ method of governance. It’s a gentle yet firm way of leading others. Saint Francis encouraged others to “be who you are called to be, and be that well.” Salesian leadership empowers others to fulfill their potential as ambassadors of Christ.

So, although St. Peter is the patron of Legatus, perhaps you can claim the author of The Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales, as a spiritual guide as well!

Sister Anne-Marguerite Potchen, VHM, is a member of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, a contemplative order founded by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. Her community is based in Tyringham, Mass. This article is from an address she gave to Legatus’ Western Massachusetts Chapter on May 18, 2011.

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

Feast Day: January 24

Doctor of the Church: 1877

Born into a noble family in what is today France, de Sales was the first of 12 children. At the age of 13, he was engulfed in a personal crisis after attending a theological discussion about predestination. Convinced that he was damned to Hell, he became physically ill and even bedridden for a time.

His crisis ended when he came to the conclusion that whatever God had in store for him was good because God is Love. His new conviction shaped his life and teaching.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1593. In the post-Reformation period, he evangelized among the Protestants and won many back to the faith. In 1602, he was consecrated bishop of Geneva.

He met St. Jane de Chantal in 1604. Six years later, they founded the women’s Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary — known as the Salesian or Visitation sisters.

As bishop, he garnered a reputation as a spellbinding preacher. He was a friend to the poor and had a supernatural affability and wisdom. These qualities come through wonderfully in his famous books. De Sales’ spirituality is often referred to as the Way of Divine Love.

In his lifetime, the way of holiness was only for monks and nuns — not for ordinary people. De Sales changed that by giving spiritual direction to regular lay people. He had grown in holiness while involved in a very active occupation, so why couldn’t others? His most famous book, Introduction to the Devout Life, was written for ordinary folks. Originally composed as letters, it became an instant success all over Europe.

The Salesian Order (SDB), founded by St. Don Bosco in 1859, is named after him, as are the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (OSFS) and the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales (MSFS).

This column is produced for Legatus by the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate for high school-age teens and college-age young adults. On the web: deadtheologianssociety.com.