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January 24:
St. Francis de Sales

Francis was born at the de Sales castle in Savoy, France, on August 21, 1567. His wealthy family provided him with an excellent education. By the age of twenty-four, Francis was a Doctor of Law. He returned to Savoy and led a hard-working life. He did not seem interested in important positions or a social life. In his heart, Francis was listening to a call that kept coming back like an echo. It seemed to be an invitation from the Lord to become a priest. Francis finally tried to explain his struggle to his family. His father was very disappointed. He wanted Francis to be a great man of the world. Family influence could have accomplished that goal. Instead, Francis became a priest on December 18, 1593.

Father de Sales lived in times when Christians were bitterly divided. He volunteered to go to a dangerous area of France to win back Catholics who had become Protestants. His father protested. He said it was bad enough that he had permitted Francis to become a priest. He was not going to let him be a martyr as well. But Francis believed that the Lord would protect him. He and his cousin, Father Louis de Sales, set out on foot for the Duchy of Chablais. The two priests soon learned how to live with insults and physical discomforts. Their lives were frequently in danger. Little by little, however, people returned to the Church.

Francis eventually became the bishop of Geneva, Switzerland. With the help of St. Jane de Chantal, he started a religious order of sisters in 1610. These women are called the order of the Visitation. Francis wrote wonderful books about the spiritual life and the way to become holy. The books, Treatise on the Love of God and Introduction to the Devout Life, are still in print today. They are considered spiritual "classics."

Bishop de Sales died on December 28, 1622, at the age of fifty-six. He was declared a saint by Pope Innocent X in 1665. Because of his heroic dedication to the Church, he was given the special title "Doctor of the Church." He is also the patron saint of journalists.

Reflection: "In as much as divine love adorns the soul, it is called grace, which makes us pleasing to his Divine Majesty. In as much as it strengthens us to do good, it is called charity."—St. Francis de Sales
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