St. Francis de Sales: Model Evangelist
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), a theologian and the patron saint of writers has long been my mentor and model, and one of my most powerful intercessors. As a theologian and a writer, I look to him for guidance and for assistance in my work. His unique methods of evangelization have also greatly inspired me. As Catholics, we are all called to be missionaries and witnesses to the truth by virtue of our Baptism. St. Francis de Sales is a saint whose virtues we can learn from and emulate, when it comes to sharing the Gospel message with others.
Francis was born at the Chateau de Sales in Swiss Savoy (modern France) on August 21, 1567, to a noble family. He was a frail and delicate child, but very intelligent, humble, kind, loving, patient and gentle, obedient, and truthful.
At the age of thirteen, Francis studied theology at the University of Paris and immediately afterward earned a doctorate in law. His father desired that he become a lawyer and politician. However, he felt called to the priesthood and was ordained during the time of the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church at this time was losing many of its parishioners to the new churches of the Protestant Reformation and Francis set out to restore Catholicism to the area around Lake Geneva known as Chablais.
For three years, he trudged through the countryside, his feet frozen and bleeding, as he trampled through the snow. No one would listen to him, so he wrote out his sermons, copying them by hand in the form of leaflets, and placed them under doors. He spent hours answering letters and preaching to lay persons. It is said that he converted 40,000 people by the time he left to return home.
In 1602, Francis was appointed Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland – the heart of Calvinist territory. Through his persuasive preaching and his gentleness, he convinced many to return to their Catholic faith. His motto was, “He who preaches with love, preaches effectively.”
As Bishop of Geneva, his words of inspiration and wise counsel led many people to live out the gospel message in their lives. He founded the Order of the Visitation with St. Jane Francis de Chantal, a good friend, with whom he shared his spiritual beliefs. He remained active throughout his life, using his talent for writing to assist him in ministering to others. St. Francis de Sales is a Doctor of the Universal Church and patron of the Catholic press.
His most important written works are Introduction to the Devout Life and A Treatise on the Love of God.
Quotes from St. Francis de Sales:
“The highest degree of meekness consists in seeing, serving, honoring, and treating amiably, on occasion, those who are not to our taste, and who show themselves unfriendly, ungrateful, and troublesome to us.”
“Keep your heart very wide to receive in it all sorts of crosses and resignations or abnegations, for the love of Him who has received so many of them for us.”
“Faithfully attend to your obligations, but know that you have no greater obligation than that of your salvation and of the saving progress of your soul on the way to true devotion.”
“Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, not even if your whole world seems upset. If you find that you have wandered away from the shelter of God, lead your heart back to Him quietly and simply.”
“How beautiful it is to behold a person destitute of all attachment, ready for any act of virtue or charity, gentle to all, indifferent as to any employment, serene in consolations and tribulations, and wholly content if only the will of God is done!”
Do not look forward in fear
to the changes of life;
rather look to them with full hope
as they arise.
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cared for you today
will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering,
Or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace
And put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
~St. Francis de Sales
~ copyright Jean M. Heimann January 2015
Prayer to St. Francis De Sales
O Glorious St. Francis, model of the interior life, and full of zeal for the salvation of souls! Obtain for me the grace to employ all my faculties, not for my own sanctification alone, but for that of my neighbor also; that continually spreading abroad the sweet odor of Jesus Christ by my words and works, I may attain with thee the blessedness promised to the merciful: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy;” and that I may one day have a share in the glory which thou dost enjoy in paradise with the angels and saints, where those who edify and instruct to justice shall shine as stars for all eternity (Dan. xii. 3).
Prayer for Writers (taken from Saintly Support: A Prayer for Every Problem)
May the Lord guide me and all those who write for a living. Through your prayers, St. Frances de Sales, I ask for your intercession as I attempt to bring the written word to the world. Let us pray that God takes me in the palm of His hand and inspires my creativity and inspires my success. St. Francis de Sales, you understand the dedication required in this profession. Pray for God to inspire and allow ideas to flow. In His name, let my words reflect my faith for others to read. Amen.