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. He was given the special title “Doctor of the Church.” He is also the patron saint of journalists.
The person who possesses Christian meekness is affectionate and tender towards everyone: he is disposed to forgive and excuse the frailties of others; the goodness of his heart appears in a sweet affability that influences his words and actions, presents every object to his view in the most charitable and pleasing light. – St. Francis de Sales
O God, who for the salvation of souls willed that the Bishop Saint Francis de Sales become all things to all, graciously grant that, following his example, we may always display the gentleness of your charity in the service of our neighbor. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.