Who was Saint Francis de Sales?

Who was Saint Francis de Sales?

Francis de Sales is celebrated on January 24. Discover the life of the patron saint of writers and journalists.

A pious and devoted existence

Born on August 21, 1567 at the Château de Sales, in Thorens-Glières (Haute-Savoie), François de Sales grew up in a Catholic family, belonging to the Savoyard aristocracy. His father, who held the noble position of butler to Count Sébastien de Luxembourg-Martigues, was also Lord of Sales.

From childhood, François de Sales manifested a strong desire to meet God. At 11 years old, he already showed great maturity with regard to his spirituality and nourished the desire to join the Church. His father has other ambitions for him. In September 1587, he sent François to study in Paris at the college of the Jesuit Fathers, known as the college of Clermont, which today became the Lycée Louis-le-Grand.

The young boy shows aptitude for science, grammar and rhetoric. He fervently initiated himself into theology, notably by studying the doctrine of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. At the age of 21, François left college for the University of Padua to study law, strongly encouraged by his father. Curious and conscientious by nature, François could not ignore the learning of the sacred texts to which he was introduced in Paris. Always in a personal approach, and without his father’s knowledge, the student continues his spiritual journey with Italian fathers.

In 1591, François obtained his doctorate and returned to Savoy where he renounced the titles of nobility that his position as eldest conferred on him. In 1593, he was ordained a priest. From then on, he rigorously led a life of prayer and penance.

Patron saint of writers and journalists

François de Sales was not looking to make a career as a writer; his daily life was already occupied by his preaching activities. However, he produced considerable work. Some of his works are considered masterpieces of spiritual literature.

His books join his fight against the Calvinists. Appointed bishop of Geneva in 1602, Francis witnessed the rise of Protestantism in the city, following the Reformation. A true itinerant preacher, François de Sales goes to meet families, prisoners, the poor, the sick… To reach those he cannot meet or who refuse him, he writes and prints texts which he displays in the streets . These will form The book of controversies.

It seeks to support the faithful in their total commitment to religious life. In his treatise Introduction to the devout life, it gives concrete attitudes to follow in married and family life, in prayer.

In 1616, François de Sale wrote a second essay, Treatise on the love of God. He places at the center of this text, the divine love that he never ceased to want to transmit throughout his existence.

Founder of the Order of the Visitation of Saint Mary

Francis de Sales devotes himself entirely to his pastoral charge, in his diocese, but also outside. In 1604, while traveling to Dijon, he met Jeanne de Chantal, a widow who was raising her four children alone. The two became friends and in 1610 founded the order of the Visitation of Sainte-Marie in Annecy. It is a contemplative feminine order that welcomes women, regardless of their age or state of health.

He died in Lyon in 1622. An influential figure in the Catholic Church in Haute-Savoie, his tomb is in the church of Saint-François, known as “the Italians”, located in old Annecy.

His dedication and his important theological work quickly made him a model of holiness. Francis de Sales was beatified in 1622 by Pope Alexander VII. He was canonized in 1665 and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1877 by Pius IX.

Even today, you can discover the Sales chapel, built in 1672 on the remains of the Sales castle, precisely on the site of the birthplace of Saint Francis. It is still possible to visit the family’s second home, Thorens Castle, located 200 meters from the previous one.

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