Francis the Son
Born to nobility in the Savoy region of France in Thorens, France, on August 21, 1567, Francis Bonaventure de Sales, named after two saints, was the eldest son of Monsieur Francis de Boisy and Madam Frances de Sionnaz or Madam Frances de Boisy. Francis was born prematurely during his mother’s seventh month of pregnancy. Though Baby Francis was weak, he was able to grow into a strong and healthy child. During Francis de Sales’ time, many people were named after the estate their family owned and resided. Since Francis de Sales’ grandmother gave a piece of land called Boisy to Francis de Sales’ parents when they got married, Francis de Sales’ father, formerly known as Francis de Nouvelles, now became known as Francis de Boisy. When Francis de Sales’ parents were married, his dad was 43 and his mom was 14.
Francis de Boisy was a fine soldier, a skilled diplomat, a devoted husband, strong-willed, and very faithful to his Catholic heritage.
Francis de Sales’ mother, who also came from a wealthy family, had a gracious and practical faith and took care to give her son a deep religious formation.
Francis de Sales was the oldest of 13 children. Unfortunately, five of Francis’ siblings died during infancy. Of the ones that passed infancy, there were 6 boys and 2 girls. In order from birth, there was Gallois, who was nine years apart from Francis, then Louis, Jean Francois, Gasparde, Bernard, Melchior, Janus, and Jeanne who 26 years younger than Francis. Growing up, the siblings would get so boisterous sometimes in their disagreements that their father would hold court in the kitchen to settle their squabbles.
Francis de Sales’ next-door neighbors, only a few minutes away from his castle, were his dad’s brother, Louis de Sales, and his family. Francis grew up playing a lot with Uncle Louis’ sons, Louis, Aime, and Gaspard.
Francis the Child
As a child, Francis de Sales was obedient, truthful, and habitually generous to those less fortunate than himself. He was responsive in matters of religion, and seemed to have loved books and knowledge.
Though Francis de Sales lived a happy childhood and was called to live a life of holiness, he was not without sin. One day, there was a carpenter in the de Sales castle that was working with a red ribbon and needle. Francis de Sales saw the colorful red ribbon and needle and took them. When the carpenter complained that his ribbon and needle were missing, the little “thief” was asked and Francis immediately confessed his fault.
As his punishment, Francis was caned in front of all the help of the castle.
Francis the Pious
As a member of a noble family, Francis de Boisy made sure his eldest son would attend the best schools in preparation for a career in law and politics. Starting at the age of 6, Francis de Sales was sent to a boys’ schools called the College de la Roche and College de Annecy. Boys’ schools at that time were often named “colleges.” Francis de Sales had his own servant and priest tutor named, Abbé Déage, who would accompany Francis wherever he went. In addition to attending the best schools, Monsieur de Boisy enrolled Francis de Sales in fencing, dancing, and horse riding.
At an early age, Francis de Sales was very pious. After he received his first communion and confirmation at the age of 10, he visited Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and prayed the rosary every day and read books about the lives of saints. A year after Francis de Sales’ confirmation, he decided to dedicate his life to the Church and shaved his beloved long and curly blonde hair, in a process called tonsure, as a first act of consecration to the Priesthood. His father initially refused for him to take the tonsure, but seeing how greatly disappointed his son was, he agreed, believing his son’s pious tendencies would diminish as he grew older.
Francis the Tormented
In 1583, Francis attended the Jesuit College of Clermont at the University of Paris, Francis, and wrote in regard to his studies, “In Paris, I studied many things to please my father, and theology to please myself.”
When Francis de Sales was 17, he attended a theological discussion about predestination, the theory that all events have been willed by God, usually with reference to the eventual fate of a person’s soul. This teaching caused Francis de Sales to be tormented, confused and stressed, to the point that it made him physically ill and even bedridden for a time.
At a time of great hopelessness, Francis de Sales visited an old parish, St. Stephen the Great in Paris. There, he prayed the "Memorare" and knelt before the Black Madonna statue of Our Lady of Good Deliverance.
With those words, a simple act of unrestrained love for God, his torment ended. He immediately regained the peace of his soul, and with it his bodily health.
From that moment on, he never again despaired the love of God for all people, nor God’s good plans for His children.
The Plans of Francis de Boisy
After Francis de Sales studied humanities in Paris, he went on to study for his doctoral degree in both civil and canon law from the University of Padua. While at the University of Padua, Francis de Sales continued to secretly study theology and took Antonio Possevino, a Jesuit Priest, as his spiritual director.
Francis de Sales earned his doctorate degrees at the age of 25, and soon after had to overcome the most challenging hurdle in his desire to become a priest: his father’s plans for him. Monsieur de Boisy bought land to secure the future of Francis de Sales, which changed Francis de Sales’ name to Francis de Villaroger. Monsieur de Boisy pushed his son to take the necessary steps to become a senator of Savoy after being admitted as a lawyer.
Francis the Secret Keeper
Francis de Sales was a very patient man. He knew for thirteen years that he had a vocation to the priesthood before he mentioned it to his family. Francis de Sales was afraid to tell his father his secret of becoming a priest because of his insistence that he follow a life of nobility. Francis de Sales did, however, confide only to his mother and a few friends his desire for a life in the Church. Madam de Boisy kept her son’s secret from her husband.
Not only was Monsieur de Boisy determined for his son to live a life as a nobleman, he was on the lookout for a woman to marry Francis. Francis de Sales was known to be a tall, blonde, handsome, blue-eyed, sought-after bachelor. His father had selected Frances Suchet, daughter of noble Savoy heir, Jean Suchet, to be Francis de Sales’ wife.
But Francis de Sales refused to marry, preferring to stay focused on his chosen path. A huge struggle then ensued between Francis de Sales and his father regarding Francis de Sales’ future. Not long afterwards, Francis again annoyed his father by declining the honor offered him by the prince of Savoy to be a senator, an unusual compliment to one so young.
Francis de Sales wanted God’s will to be unquestionably clear before he embarked on a journey to the priesthood, and waited for an undeniable sign.
The sign came one day while Francis de Sales was out riding his horse. A splendid horseman, he nevertheless found himself thrown from his horse three times. Even more remarkable was the fact that each time he fell without reason, his scabbard and sword landed on the ground in the shape of a cross. Taking this as the clear sign of God’s will that he was waiting for, Francis de Sales was ready to say yes to the priesthood.
The day came for Francis de Sales to reveal his secret to his father.
With Francis’ cousin Father Louis de Sales present, along with Fr. Francis Deronis, who had the document granting Francis permission to enter the priesthood from the Bishop, Francis de Sales finally had the courage to ask his father for permission to join the priesthood. He declared that he wished to ask his father for only one thing, “if it pleases you to grant it to me, I shall never again ask you for anything… May it please you to permit me to enter the Church.”
Monsieur de Boisy brought up the argument that so tormented Francis’ secret heart: “I was hoping that you would be the staff of my old age… you have brothers whom you ought to serve as a father when I am gone, as I go dying from one day to another.”
But Francis had reflected on this a long time: “Father, I will serve you until my last breath. I promise every kind of service to my brothers.”
Francis de Boisy grew silent; he wept, and finally said to Francis: “Do then, by God’s command, what you say He inspires you to do.” And he added - with the generosity of his faith: “I give you my blessing in His Name.” Monsieur de Boisy then shut himself in his study.
Francis the Ordained
Because Francis de Sales joined the seminary, Claude de Granier, then Bishop of Geneva, signed over to Francis de Sales’ younger brother, Gallois, his rights of family succession. A while back before Bishop de Granier signed Francis’ rights of succession, the bishop was so impressed by Francis' character, he is reported to have made this prophetic utterance to those about him: "This young man will be a great personage some day! He will become a pillar of the Church and my successor in this see."
Francis de Sales was already so well prepared by his purity of life and by his theological studies that there was no need for the usual delay for him to become a priest. On the very day his father gave his consent, Francis put on priestly clothing, and three weeks later took minor orders.
With some of the old, informal medieval procedures still sometimes in use in the Church at the time, Francis de Sales was able to go through the steps of minor orders, sub-deacon, deacon, and ordination to the priesthood in just 6 months. This was a very short timeframe in that era of the church for the process in becoming a priest.
Francis de Sales received his Sacrament of Holy Orders at the age of 26 in 1593. A few days after his ordination, Francis had the joy of baptizing his youngest sister Jane, the last born of the de Boisys. Bishop de Granier appointed Francis de Sales, provost of the cathedral chapter of Geneva, one of the highest offices in the diocese.
Initially, things did not go well at the start of Francis de Sales’ priesthood. Many parishioners felt Fr. Francis was mocking them in his homilies, and several people reported to the bishop that this noble-turned-priest was controlling and self-centered. However, his style of preaching was so simple that it charmed his listeners; scholar though he was, he refrained from filling his sermons with Greek and Latin quotations and theological jargon, in the prevailing fashion. Notwithstanding, there with apostolic zeal, the new provost devoted himself to preaching, hearing confessions, ministering to the poor, and devoting himself to the needs of the humblest with special care.
Francis the Missionary
Within 18 months of his ordination, Fr. Francis volunteered to go to one of the highly non-Catholic areas from which priests had been exiled, to serve and re-evangelize the persecuted Catholics there. He would attempt a dangerous mission trip in an area of the Swiss Alps called the Chablais, where he would attempt to convert the 60,000 people who had fallen sway to a type of Protestantism called Calvinism. With no money to support the mission from the bishop or his father, Francis and his cousin, Louis de Sales left for Chablais, a hotbed of predestination-the very theological concept that had terrified him so profoundly in September of 1594.
When winter set in, Fr. Francis faced very treacherous travel to and from Thonon, the capital of the Chablais region, to celebrate the Eucharist at an abandoned Catholic church.
One day, returning from a missionary trip, Francis de Sales was in the woods when he heard a pack of wolves lustily howling after him. He had just enough time to climb a huge chestnut tree to save himself from the wolves. He tied himself to a branch with his sash so that he would not fall. The next morning, farmers found him frozen, untied him, took him down to their home, warmed him up, and cared for him. Thus, they brought Fr. Francis back to life.
Francis the Writer
Despite Francis’ efforts to convert people to Catholicism, Francis' unusual perseverance kept him working. No one would listen to him; no one would even open their door.
For three years things continued like this. Three years, and not a single convert! Even his cousin deserted him because converting the people of Chablais seemed hopeless. Monsieur de Boisy also made multiple pleads for his son to come back home.
Resentful Calvinists did their best to silence Fr. Francis’ message and slander his name. Calvinist followers were forbidden to even listen to anything Fr. Francis had to say. This sort of situation would possibly incite some to violence, and others to throw in the towel. Francis de Sales did neither. Instead, he took to the pen. He found a way to get under the door.
Fr. Francis made leaflets and posters with simple explanations of Catholic doctrines, and had each one copied many times - by hand of course! Writing down his sermons, he would slip them under the doors of the hostile villagers, trusting God to work on their hearts one sheet at a time.
These teachings were then posted and distributed all around Thonon, so that those who might be afraid to listen to Fr. de Sales’ message would be able to discreetly read his leaflets. These teachings were later published in one volume called “Controversies.” This is the first record we have of religious tracts being used to communicate with people.
Francis the Instrument
Francis always made sure to be an instrument for God in converting people back to Catholicism. In an attempt to befriend the men in the Chablais, Francis used his gift of having a photographic memory to win card games. Unsuspectingly, Francis would bankrupt the men at the end of their game and told them he would give back all their money if they came to hear him speak at Mass on Sunday.
Most of these men of course didn’t want to part ways with their money, so they begrudgingly went to Sunday Mass to hear Fr. Francis so they could get their money back!
Parents also initially wouldn't come to Fr. Francis out of fear. So Francis went to the children. When the parents saw how kind he was as he played with the children, they began to talk to him.
Unfortunately in Francis’ mission, there were some occasional bumps in the road. One day, two men swirling their swords sprang up from behind a bush and advanced towards Francis. Francis went towards them, stared at them and talked to them calmly. They were stupefied. They confessed that they had nothing against him. They had been hired to kill him and they begged his pardon. The courageous and eloquent Fr. Francis even managed to convert the hired hitmen to the Catholic faith!
Through the success of Fr. Francis’ efforts, Catholics who had just about given up on their faith returned to it, and those who had stood courageously for the truth were encouraged by the growing numbers of the faithful. By Lent of 1595, 17 months after arriving in Chablais, it was finally safe enough in the city of Thonon for Francis to move closer to those he was serving. He was then able to begin celebrating daily mass in the Chapel of St. Stephen.
Francis continued in Thonon for a few more years, while his father constantly begged him to return home, and his mother secretly sent him financial support. Through Fr. Francis’s efforts, in 1598 the faithful of Chablais saw, for the first time in 63 years, the administering of the sacraments of confirmation and ordination. Healing was truly taking place for these previously persecuted Catholics, and their hearts were filled with hope.
As things in Thonon began to calm down, Francis did return to his family for a visit. While there, he was struck with a mysterious illness, from which he almost died. Could it have had anything to do with the writing he was doing on demons and exorcisms? Whatever the cause, he recovered under the loving and constant care of his mother.
By the time Francis left the Chablais to go home, he is said to have converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism.
Because of Francis de Sales’ work in the Chablais, he developed a great reputation as a writer, preacher, and debater in defense of the Catholic faith. This is why Francis de Sales is known as the patron of writers and journalists.
Francis the Humble
Early on in Francis de Sales’ priesthood, Bishop de Granier was already thinking of appointing Fr. Francis as his coadjutor (assistant bishop and eventual successor) because the bishop appreciated the excellent qualities and holiness of Francis.
There were several times Bishop de Granier hinted at the idea to Francis that he wanted to make Francis a bishop, but with great humility Francis always turned the other way.
Finally in 1597, the bishop sent Fr. Pierre Critain to persuade Fr. Francis to accept the coadjutorship. When Fr. Pierre went to talk with Fr. Francis, Francis refused point blank. He would do everything that the bishop might want except accepting the episcopacy.
Fr. Pierre responded bluntly, “The Bishop reflected and prayed a long time for light. He sought the opinion of the best of his clergy and the nobility. Everyone wants to see you elected bishop. It is the Holy Spirit who wants you as the Bishop.”
Francis said, “You will tell the Bishop that I have never desired to be a bishop, but since he wishes it and since he commands it, I am ready to obey and to serve God in all things.”
In January 1601, Francis de Boisy began to feel very ill. Francis visited his father when it was possible to spare some time amidst his activities. As Monsieur de Boisy’s health began to deteriorate, he called his children and gave them his final instructions and blessings. He told them to regard their brother Francis as their father and protector. Monsieur de Boisy died on April 6, 1601.
On September 29, 1602, Bishop de Granier died and, on the Feast of Immaculate Conception, Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva. He refused to be called bishop and to wear any vestment or take any rank other than that of the Provost.
Francis the Friend
In 1604, while preaching a Lenten series, he met Jane Frances de Chantal, a recently widowed mother of four children. At their first sight of each other, there was instant recognition from the visions they had each had of the other. This was the beginning of one of the great spiritual friendships in Christian history.
So began Bishop Francis’s ministry of personal spiritual direction. Luckily for us, most of St. Francis’s spiritual guidance in the coming years was done in writing, and so his writings spelled out clearly for us the essence of Salesian spirituality.
From these letters of council to Madame de Chantal, to his mother, and to other women who came to Bishop de Sales for spiritual direction, was born his most well-known and well-loved book, Introduction to the Devout Life. It is evident in his writing that Bishop de Sales was highly influenced by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius - no doubt one of his favorite saints!
Bishop de Sales had one more dream - to found a religious community for women which would combine contemplative prayer with active service. This was a new idea in his time, since most nuns lived in cloister and did not leave to visit the sick or poor - or for any other reason.
Madam de Chantal suggested the name of the order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, an idea which the bishop liked better than his own idea of Daughters of Saint Martha.
In 1610, Jane de Chantal joined a few other women for a year in novitiate, with the new order under the direction of Bishop Francis de Sales. Jane was to be named the Mother Foundress of this new order, which soon found opposition to its goal of visiting the sick.
People of the time were used to cloistered nuns, and even though Bishop de Sales and Madam de Chantal had the support of Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, the Archbishop of Lyons would not allow a relaxed, uncloistered congregation in his archdiocese. St. Francis humbled himself and gave in to Archbishop de Marquemont’s demands. Mother de Chantal struggled with the decision a bit more than the bishop did, but, with the reorganization, the order spread quickly throughout France and into Italy.
Bishop Francis’s teachings to his new order would eventually be gathered into what many call this mystical writer’s greatest work of literature - Treatise on the Love of God. Through a series of carefully written chapters, Francis offers practical suggestions for navigating through the temptations presented by the world and for making true progress on one's spiritual journey. His insights on the nature of prayer, the value of the sacraments, the role of friendship, the character of virtue, and the importance of devotion are timeless in their relevance.
The Treatise on the Love of God was written for individuals more advanced in the spiritual life. Francis remained as the spiritual advisor for the sisters of the Visitation and guided many of them to lofty peaks of holiness. He often recounted how grateful he was to God for the wisdom he gained from his correspondence with these holy women.
The Treatise speaks not only of the nature of God's love for humanity but of the possibilities within humanity for a return of this love. He sees all reality flowing from the loving heart of a providential God. Creation and, to an even greater degree, salvation, is witness to this incomparable love of humanity. The human's appropriate response is a joyful and total union of the human will with the loving will of God. The human mind and will find their fullest meaning when a person discovers and freely embraces the love of God.
Love of God for Francis naturally leads to love for all persons. His life became a model of selfless service to his God, his king, the pope, and the countless individuals who called upon him for advice.
Francis the Model Bishop
One of the most important challenges he faced in the diocese was the reform of the clergy. He organized diocesan synods, reorganized administrative structures, and initiated the practice of parish visitations, twice visiting the entirety of his diocese (with horseback as his only mode of transportation). Life among the religious of several monasteries and orders was deplorable at the time of Francis de Sales, as many lacked discipline, daily prayer, and poverty.
Bishop Francis also formed the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) in his diocese and personally taught catechism classes.
In 1605, a young man named Martin, a deaf-mute from birth, came almost daily to a house in Roche, France, where Bishop de Sales was staying, to ask for alms. He was a strong young man fit for all kinds of work, and the Bishop's housekeeper often allowed him to help her in payment for the Bishop's generosity. One day a servant introduced Martin to the Bishop.
As a result of his handicap, Martin, who was about 25 years old, had never received any kind of education -- or instruction in the Catholic faith. It was presumed by all of the educated people of that age (the 17th century) that a deaf-mute was a mentally handicapped person and that trying to educate or trying to communicate religious truths to such a person would be a waste of time.
At the time of their meeting, Bishop de Sales was visibly disturbed and touched with pity for the unfortunate Martin. St Francis realized that the poor man would remain forever ignorant of God and the rich mysteries of the Faith and that his lack of instruction would forever keep him from receiving the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.
After considering young Martin's deprived condition for a time, Francis determined that he would undertake the instruction of the young man.
By inventing a type of sign language, Bishop Francis personally began to teach Martin about the Catholic faith. Martin, as was soon clear, was highly intelligent and a very good pupil. After a period of time, through his gentle patience and persistence and with the signs and gestures he had invented for the purpose, Francis succeeded in instructing Martin about God and His love for all men. All went so well that eventually Martin was able to receive the Holy Eucharist for the first time in 1606. Two years later, Martin was confirmed.
Bishop Francis eventually hired Martin as his gardener. Martin prayed fervently, examining his conscience every evening before retiring, regularly confessed his sins to the Bishop, and assisted devoutly at the Bishop's Mass whenever he could.
Sixteen years later, no one would be more affected by the death of Francis de Sales than his faithful servant, Martin. Deaf Martin was very sad, as he felt his life had lost its meaning with the death of his dear friend. He would visit his master's last resting place almost every day. A few weeks later after his Bishop Francis’ death, Martin became weak and sick until he died because of sadness. He went to Paradise together with his teacher and protector.
It is because of Martin’s story that Francis de Sales is also Patron of Catechists, the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired.
In addition to the extensive amount of writing and traveling that St. Francis did, there are also many miracles attributed to him during his life. One of the most spectacular was the healing of a little girl. Bishop de Sales received word of the death of a little girl - the granddaughter of a dear friend. The bishop immediately began to pray fervently for her. Those who were with the child reported that, in the very same hour when Francis had received the news and begun to pray, the little girl opened her eyes. She said she had seen and heard the “holy Papa of Geneva.” The girl grew up to enter the Order of the Visitation.
Francis the Beloved
Bishop Francis continued to work hard and travel often, despite his increasingly poor health. He could never say no to those who needed him.
Francis de Sales’ younger brother, John Francis, also became a priest. In 1621, John Francis de Sales became coadjutor bishop for the Diocese of Geneva. His help was welcomed by Francis, whose health was failing under the ever-increasing duties.
In December 1622, Bishop de Sales was required to travel in the entourage of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, for the Duke's Christmas tour in Avignon, France. While traveling to Avignon, Francis stopped at a newly established Visitation convent in Lyon. When he arrived at the convent he had a short meeting with Mother de Chantal and asked her to visit two monasteries of the Visitation not very far and come back.
When saying goodbye, Mother de Chantal exclaimed fervently, “My Father, I am certain that you will be canonized one day and I hope to take part in your canonization.”
“God could work that miracle, my Mother,” Francis replied very gravely, “but they who are to negotiate my canonization are not yet born.” These were their last words with each other.
The convent of the Visitation provided him with a cottage on their grounds, where he stayed for a month.
One of the young sisters he met there was in tears. When asked why she was crying, she answered, “My Lord, it is because you will die this year!” She begged him to pray for his life, and promised that she would do the same. But the bishop told her that he was tired and so heavy he could barely carry himself.
He had no wish to pray for healing. He assured the young sister that she was in good care with Mother de Chantal, and also with another dear friend of his who had recently taken the position of spiritual director of the Visitation order - Vincent de Paul. Bishop Francis continued preaching and giving the nuns instruction and advice through Christmas.
After an extremely busy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day schedule there at the convent, Bishop Francis’ strength finally gave out and he suffered a stroke on December 26th.
He was in and out of consciousness, but finally, at nightfall, on December 28, on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, after Francis said the word, “Jesus,” at the age of 55, he left behind the trials of this world.
Francis de Sales the Saint
After Francis de Sales died, despite the resistance of the citizens of Lyon to moving his remains from that city, Francis’ body, except his heart, which stayed in Lyon, was moved to Annecy. Francis de Sales was buried on January 24, 1623, in the church of the Monastery of the Visitation in Annecy, which he had founded with Chantal, who was also buried there.
The body of Bishop de Sales remained in a tomb near the high altar in the Monastery until the French Revolution, when it was removed for fear of desecration. De Sales' heart, which was kept in Lyon, also was moved because of the French Revolution. His heart was taken to Venice, Italy, the place it is venerated today. Many miracles have been reported at his shrine.
On the day of Francis de Sales’ death, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Mother de Chantal was in Grenoble with her Sisters of the Visitation. She was kneeling in prayer when she heard a distinctive voice say, “He is no more.”
At the passing of her beloved mentor, Mother de Chantal immediately began the work of having her dear friend’s sainthood (of which she had no doubt!) officially recognized by the Church.
She gathered Francis de Sales’ written notes, sermons, conferences and letters to present and also prepared her own depositions. In one she wrote, “...our dear Father never did anything for the sake of escaping hell, or of deserving heaven; he performed all his actions simply and solely for the love of God.”
Much to the credit of the heartfelt efforts of Mother de Chantal (who is, by the way, known to us today as St. Jane Frances de Chantal), Francis de Sales was canonized just 43 years after his death.
Francis de Sales’ cause for sainthood was immediately introduced at Rome. In 1626 a commission was appointed which took the evidence of 5,000 witnesses to the heroic virtues of St. Francis de Sales and the miracles wrought by him. Even a Calvinist of Geneva said of him, “If we honored any man as a saint, I know none more worthy that this man since the days of the Apostles.” Because various obstacles arose, it was not until 1661 that Francis de Sales was beatified by Pope Alexander VII in 1661 and canonized by him in 1665. In 1877, Francis de Sales was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church during the pontificate of Pope Pius IX.
Some people have slightingly called Francis de Sales the Apostle of “the upper classes.”
Certainly the Bishop of Geneva considered that they have souls to save as well as the lowly. He was as courteous to a queen as to a washerwoman, and he treated kings and princes with as much deference as though they were artisans and labourers.
Francis was princely, polite, and courteous to everyone. Throughout his life he lived a life of virtuous excellence, preaching meekness, humility and gentleness. Undoubtedly, he practiced what he preached. All in all, he was a perfect gentleman, a true nobleman, a holy priest, a valiant saint.
St. Francis de Sales is known as "The Gentleman Saint" because of his patience and gentleness. The ironic thing is when his body was examined, it was found that his heart was sound, but his liver was burnt up, one lung was wounded by a sword, part of the brain was covered with blood, and inside his gallbladder were three hundred little hard balls like the beads of a rosary. This phenomenon, the doctors explained, was caused by the extreme efforts he had made during his life to restrain his natural propensity toward anger.
In the heart of Salesian spirituality is the idea simply be who you are, to be the person God made you to be. God welcomes each and everyone of us to live for Christ exactly how we are, faults and all. We don’t have to be perfect to come to God; we just need to be willing to accept ourselves, all our talents and all our flaws.
St. Francis de Sales always made sure he knew who he was: a child of God destined to serve God with all the gifts and talents given to him by God. He says it perfectly, ‘Be who you are, and be that well.” Let’s not stress and agonize about all our flaws. Let’s embrace them and live fully in God’s glory!