jeudi 24 janvier 2013

Saint FRANÇOIS de SALES, évêque, confesseur et Docteur de l'Église



BENOÎT XVI



AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE



Salle Paul VI



Mercredi 2 mars 2011



Saint François de Sales


Chers frères et sœurs,

«Dieu est le Dieu du cœur humain» (Traité de l’Amour de Dieu, I, XV): dans ces paroles apparemment simples, nous percevons l’empreinte de la spiritualité d’un grand maître, dont je voudrais vous parler aujourd’hui, saint François de Sale, évêque et docteur de l’Eglise. Né en 1567 dans une région frontalière de France, il était le fils du Seigneur de Boisy, antique et noble famille de Savoie. Ayant vécu à cheval entre deux siècles, le XVIe et le XVIIe, il rassemblait en lui le meilleur des enseignements et des conquêtes culturelles du siècle qui s’achevait, réconciliant l’héritage de l’humanisme et la tension vers l’absolu propre aux courants mystiques. Sa formation fut très complète; à Paris, il suivit ses études supérieures, se consacrant également à la théologie, et à l’Université de Padoue celles de droit, suivant le désir de son père, qu’il conclut brillamment par une maîtrise in utroque iure, droit canonique et droit civil. Dans sa jeunesse équilibrée, réfléchissant sur la pensée de saint Augustin et de saint Thomas d’Aquin, il traversa une crise profonde qui le conduisit à s’interroger sur son salut éternel et sur la prédestination de Dieu à son égard, vivant avec souffrance comme un véritable drame spirituel les questions théologiques de son époque. Il priait intensément, mais le doute le tourmenta si fort que pendant plusieurs semaines, il ne réussit presque plus à manger et à dormir. Au comble de l’épreuve, il se rendit dans l’église des dominicains à Paris, ouvrit son cœur et pria ainsi: «Quoi qu’il advienne, Seigneur, toi qui détiens tout entre tes mains, et dont les voies sont justice et vérité; quoi que tu aies établi à mon égard...; toi qui es toujours un juge équitable et un Père miséricordieux, je t’aimerai Seigneur (...) je j’aimerai ici, ô mon Dieu, et j’espérerai toujours en ta miséricorde, et je répéterai toujours tes louanges... O Seigneur Jésus, tu seras toujours mon espérance et mon salut dans la terre des vivants» (I Proc. Canon., vol. I, art. 4). François, âgé de vingt ans, trouva la paix dans la réalité radicale et libératrice de l’amour de Dieu: l’aimer sans rien attendre en retour et placer sa confiance dans l’amour divin; ne plus demander ce que Dieu fera de moi: moi je l’aime simplement, indépendamment de ce qu’il me donne ou pas. Ainsi, il trouva la paix, et la question de la prédestination — sur laquelle on débattait à cette époque — s’en trouva résolue, car il ne cherchait pas plus que ce qu’il pouvait avoir de Dieu; il l’aimait simplement, il s’abandonnait à sa bonté. Et cela sera le secret de sa vie, qui transparaîtra dans son œuvre principale: le Traité de l’amour de Dieu.

En vainquant les résistances de son père, François suivit l’appel du Seigneur et, le 18 décembre 1593, fut ordonné prêtre. En 1602, il devint évêque de Genève, à une époque où la ville était un bastion du calvinisme, au point que le siège épiscopal se trouvait «en exil» à Annecy. Pasteur d’un diocèse pauvre et tourmenté, dans un paysage de montagne dont il connaissait aussi bien la dureté que la beauté, il écrivit: «[Dieu] je l’ai rencontré dans toute sa douceur et sa délicatesse dans nos plus hautes et rudes montagnes, où de nombreuses âmes simples l’aimaient et l’adoraient en toute vérité et sincérité; et les chevreuils et les chamois sautillaient ici et là entre les glaciers terrifiants pour chanter ses louanges» (Lettre à la Mère de Chantal, octobre 1606, in Œuvres, éd. Mackey, t. XIII, p. 223). Et toutefois, l’influence de sa vie et de son enseignement sur l’Europe de l’époque et des siècles successifs apparaît immense. C’est un apôtre, un prédicateur, un homme d’action et de prière; engagé dans la réalisation des idéaux du Concile de Trente; participant à la controverse et au dialogue avec les protestants, faisant toujours plus l’expérience, au-delà de la confrontation théologique nécessaire, de l’importance de la relation personnelle et de la charité; chargé de missions diplomatiques au niveau européen, et de fonctions sociales de médiation et de réconciliation. Mais saint François de Sales est surtout un guide des âmes: de sa rencontre avec une jeune femme, madame de Charmoisy, il tirera l’inspiration pour écrire l’un des livres les plus lus à l’époque moderne, l’Introduction à la vie dévote; de sa profonde communion spirituelle avec une personnalité d’exception, sainte Jeanne Françoise de Chantal, naîtra une nouvelle famille religieuse, l’Ordre de la Visitation, caractérisé — comme le voulut le saint — par une consécration totale à Dieu vécue dans la simplicité et l’humilité, en accomplissant extraordinairement bien les choses ordinaires: «... Je veux que mes Filles — écrit-il — n’aient pas d’autre idéal que celui de glorifier [Notre Seigneur] par leur humilité» (Lettre à Mgr de Marquemond, juin 1615). Il meurt en 1622, à cinquante-cinq ans, après une existence marquée par la dureté des temps et par le labeur apostolique.

La vie de saint François de Sales a été une vie relativement brève, mais vécue avec une grande intensité. De la figure de ce saint émane une impression de rare plénitude, démontrée dans la sérénité de sa recherche intellectuelle, mais également dans la richesse de ses sentiments, dans la «douceur» de ses enseignements qui ont eu une grande influence sur la conscience chrétienne. De la parole «humanité», il a incarné les diverses acceptions que, aujourd’hui comme hier, ce terme peut prendre: culture et courtoisie, liberté et tendresse, noblesse et solidarité. Il avait dans son aspect quelque chose de la majesté du paysage dans lequel il a vécu, conservant également sa simplicité et son naturel. Les antiques paroles et les images avec lesquelles il s’exprimait résonnent de manière inattendue, également à l’oreille de l’homme d’aujourd’hui, comme une langue natale et familière.

François de Sales adresse à Philotée, le destinataire imaginaire de son Introduction à la vie dévote (1607) une invitation qui, à l’époque, dut sembler révolutionnaire. Il s’agit de l’invitation à appartenir complètement à Dieu, en vivant en plénitude la présence dans le monde et les devoirs de son propre état. «Mon intention est d'instruire ceux qui vivent en villes, en ménages, en la cour [...]» (Préface de l’Introduction à la vie dévote). Le document par lequel le Pape Pie ix, plus de deux siècles après, le proclamera docteur de l’Eglise insistera sur cet élargissement de l’appel à la perfection, à la sainteté. Il y est écrit: «[la véritable piété] a pénétré jusqu’au trône des rois, dans la tente des chefs des armées, dans le prétoire des juges, dans les bureaux, dans les boutiques et même dans les cabanes de pasteurs [...]» (Bref Dives in misericordia, 16 novembre 1877). C’est ainsi que naissait cet appel aux laïcs, ce soin pour la consécration des choses temporelles et pour la sanctification du quotidien sur lesquels insisteront le Concile Vatican ii et la spiritualité de notre temps. L’idéal d’une humanité réconciliée se manifestait, dans l’harmonie entre action dans le monde et prière, entre condition séculière et recherche de perfection, avec l’aide de la grâce de Dieu qui imprègne l’homme et, sans le détruire, le purifie, en l’élevant aux hauteurs divines. Saint François de Sales offre une leçon plus complexe à Théotime, le chrétien adulte, spirituellement mûr, auquel il adresse quelques années plus tard son Traité de l’amour de Dieu (1616). Cette leçon suppose, au début, une vision précise de l’être humain, une anthropologie: la «raison» de l’homme, ou plutôt l’«âme raisonnable», y est vue comme une architecture harmonieuse, un temple, articulé en plusieurs espaces, autour d’un centre, qu’il appelle, avec les grands mystiques, «cime», «pointe» de l’esprit, ou «fond» de l’âme. C’est le point où la raison, une fois parcourus tous ses degrés, «ferme les yeux» et la connaissance ne fait plus qu’un avec l’amour (cf. livre I, chap. XII). Que l’amour, dans sa dimension théologale, divine, soit la raison d’être de toutes les choses, selon une échelle ascendante qui ne semble pas connaître de fractures et d’abîmes. Saint François de Sales l’a résumé dans une phrase célèbre: «L’homme est la perfection de l’univers; l’esprit est la perfection de l’homme; l’amour, celle de l’esprit; et la charité, celle de l’amour» (ibid., livre X, chap. I).

Dans une saison d'intense floraison mystique, le Traité de l'amour de Dieu est une véritable somme, en même temps qu'une fascinante œuvre littéraire. Sa description de l'itinéraire vers Dieu part de la reconnaissance de l'«inclination naturelle» (ibid., livre I, chap. XVI), inscrite dans le cœur de l'homme bien qu'il soit pécheur, à aimer Dieu par dessus toute chose. Selon le modèle de la Sainte Ecriture, saint François de Sales parle de l'union entre Dieu et l'homme en développant toute une série d'images de relation interpersonnelle. Son Dieu est père et seigneur, époux et ami, il a des caractéristiques maternelles et d’une nourrice, il est le soleil dont même la nuit est une mystérieuse révélation. Un tel Dieu attire l'homme à lui avec les liens de l'amour, c'est-à-dire de la vraie liberté: «Car l’amour n’a point de forçats ni d’esclaves, [mais] réduit toutes choses à son obéissance avec une force si délicieuse, que comme rien n’est si fort que l’amour, aussi rien n’est si aimable que sa force» (ibid., livre I, chap. VI). Nous trouvons dans le traité de notre saint une méditation profonde sur la volonté humaine et la description de son flux, son passage, sa mort, pour vivre (cf. ibid., livre IX, chap. XIII) dans l’abandon total non seulement à la volonté de Dieu, mais à ce qui Lui plaît, à son «bon plaisir» (cf. ibid., livre IX, chap. I). Au sommet de l'union avec Dieu, outre les ravissements de l'extase contemplative, se place ce reflux de charité concrète, qui se fait attentive à tous les besoins des autres et qu'il appelle «l’extase de l’œuvre et de la vie» (ibid., livre VII, chap. VI).

On perçoit bien, en lisant le livre sur l'amour de Dieu et plus encore les si nombreuses lettres de direction et d'amitié spirituelle, quel connaisseur du cœur humain a été saint François de Sales. A sainte Jeanne de Chantal, à qui il écrit: «[…] car voici la règle générale de notre obéissance écrite en grosses lettres: il faut tout faire par amour, et rien par force; il faut plus aimer l'obéissance que craindre la désobéissance. Je vous laisse l'esprit de liberté, non pas celui qui forclos [exclut] l'obéissance, car c'est la liberté de la chair; mais celui qui forclos la contrainte et le scrupule, ou empressement» (Lettre du 14 octobre 1604). Ce n'est pas par hasard qu'à l'origine de nombreux parcours de la pédagogie et de la spiritualité de notre époque nous retrouvons la trace de ce maître, sans lequel n'auraient pas existé saint Jean Bosco ni l'héroïque «petite voie» de sainte Thérèse de Lisieux.

Chers frères et sœurs, à une époque comme la nôtre qui recherche la liberté, parfois par la violence et l'inquiétude, ne doit pas échapper l'actualité de ce grand maître de spiritualité et de paix, qui remet à ses disciples l'«esprit de liberté», la vraie, au sommet d'un enseignement fascinant et complet sur la réalité de l'amour. Saint François de Sales est un témoin exemplaire de l'humanisme chrétien avec son style familier, avec des paraboles qui volent parfois sur les ailes de la poésie, il rappelle que l'homme porte inscrite en lui la nostalgie de Dieu et que ce n'est qu'en Lui que se trouve la vraie joie et sa réalisation la plus totale.

* * *

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française! À l’école de saint François de Sales, puissiez-vous apprendre que la vraie liberté inclut l’obéissance et culmine dans la réalité de l’amour. N’ayez pas peur d’aimer Dieu par-dessus tout! Vous trouverez en Lui seul la vraie joie et la pleine réalisation de votre vie! Avec ma bénédiction!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana




Saint François de Sales

Évêque et Docteur de l'Église

(1567-1622)

Saint François de Sales naquit au château de Sales, en Savoie, de parents plus recommandables encore par leur piété que par la noblesse de leur sang. Nommer ce saint, c'est personnifier la vertu de douceur; il fut le saint aimable par excellence et, sous ce rapport particulièrement, le parfait imitateur de Celui qui a dit: "Apprenez de Moi que Je suis doux et humble de coeur." Ce sera là toujours le cachet et la gloire de François de Sales.

Toutes les vertus, du reste, lui étaient chères, et sa vie, depuis son enfance, nous en montre le développement progressif, constant et complet. Jeune enfant, au collège, il était le modèle de ses condisciples, et dès qu'ils le voyaient arriver, ils disaient: "Soyons sages, voilà le saint!"

Jeune homme, il mena la vie des anges. Prêtre, il se montra digne émule des plus grands apôtres, par ses travaux et par les innombrables conversions qu'il opéra parmi les protestants. Évêque, il fut le rempart de la foi, le père de son peuple, le docteur de la piété chrétienne, un Pontife incomparable.

Revenons à sa douceur; elle était si étonnante que saint Vincent de Paul pouvait dire: "Que Dieu doit être bon, puisque l'évêque de Genève, Son ministre est si bon!" Un jour ses familiers s'indignaient des injures qu'un misérable lui adressait, et se plaignaient de le voir garder le silence: "Eh quoi! dit-il, voulez-vous que je perde en un instant le peu de douceur que j'ai pu acquérir par vingt ans d'efforts?"

"On disait communément, écrit sainte Jeanne de Chantal, qu'il n'y avait pas de meilleur moyen de gagner sa faveur que de lui faire du mal, et que c'était la seule vengeance qu'il sût exercer." -- "Il avait un coeur tout à fait innocent, dit la même sainte; jamais il ne fit aucun acte par malice ou amertume de coeur. Jamais on n'a vu un coeur si doux, si humble, si débonnaire, si gracieux et si affable qu'était le sien."

Citons quelques paroles de François lui-même: "Soyez, disait-il, le plus doux que vous pourrez, et souvenez-vous que l'on prend plus de mouches avec une cuillerée de miel qu'avec cent barils de vinaigre. S'il faut donner en quelque excès, que ce soit du côté de la douceur." -- "Je le veux tant aimer, ce cher prochain, je le veux tant aimer! Il a plu à Dieu de faire ainsi mon coeur! Oh! Quand est-ce que nous serons tout détrempés en douceur et en charité!"

Saint François de Sales mourut à Lyon, le jour des saints Innocents.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950



Saint François de Sales

Évêque d’un diocèse savoyard, la sainteté de François de Sales fit de lui un modèle de l’épiscopat, et la vénération générale l’entoura. Les nécessités de l’apostolat et de la direction le déterminèrent non seulement à fonder l’ordre de la Visitation, mais surtout à devenir l’un des premiers grands auteurs spirituels de langue française. De plus, il manifeste des dons littéraires remarquables. À tous ces titres, Saint François de Sales demeure l’une des hautes figures du catholicisme européen de la période moderne.

Né de François de Boisy et de Françoise de Sionnaz, François reçut à sa naissance le nom de Sales, du lieu de sa naissance, le château de Sales près de Thorens: il appartenait à la bonne noblesse savoyarde. L’aîné de neuf frères et sœurs, il eut comme premier précepteur le chapelain du château, Jean Déage, qu’il garda auprès de lui jusqu’à la mort de celui-ci en 1610. Élève au collège de La Roche en 1574, puis à celui d’Annecy en 1576, il vint en 1582 terminer ses études à Paris, chez les jésuites du Collège de Clermont. C’est là qu’à la fin de 1586 il traversa une terrible tentation de désespoir, due à l’incertitude au sujet de sa prédestination; il en sortit par un acte de total abandon à Dieu qu’il fit devant Notre Dame de Bonne Délivrance à Paris.

Après qu’il eut achevé sa philosophie, son père l’envoya, durant l’été 1588, à Padoue où il étudia le droit et commença en outre, par goût personnel, des études de théologie. Il était dès lors attiré par le sacerdoce et, à son retour en Savoie, au printemps 1592, il obtint de son père l’autorisation d’entrer dans les ordres. Nommé prévôt de l’église Saint-Pierre de Genève, prébende qui fait de lui le deuxième personnage du diocèse, il reçoit la prêtrise le 18 décembre 1593. L’évêque de Genève résidant à Annecy, Claude de Granier, l’entoure d’amitié et d’estime, et lui confie d’abord une difficile mission de conversion des protestants dans la région de Chablais. Pendant quatre ans, François s’adonne à la controverse, et même rencontre trois fois à Genève le fameux Théodore de Bèze. Il obtient quelques succès, mais comprend progressivement combien il importe de placer le combat sur un terrain plus intérieur, et il commence à se vouer avec passion à la direction de quelques âmes choisies. En octobre 1597, il devient le coadjuteur de son évêque. Celui-ci lui confie diverses missions délicates, d’abord à Rome, où Clément VIII le nomme coadjuteur de Genève (mars 1599), puis en janvier 1602, à Paris, auprès d’Henri IV. Il y fréquente le milieu dévot groupé autour de Mme Acarie et de Bérulle, et déjà il jouit d’un grand crédit. Au cours de son voyage de retour, en septembre 1602, il apprend la mort de Claude de Granier et il est sacré à son tour évêque de Genève, le 8 décembre, dans l’église où il avait été baptisé, à Thorens.

Il s’absorbe dès lors tout entier dans sa charge pastorale, parcourant inlassablement son vaste diocèse, visitant les paroisses, donnant la confirmation, prêchant et confessant, se préoccupant de la réforme des maisons religieuses. Son zèle et son dévouement font l’admiration de toute la France où on le considère bientôt comme le modèle de la sainteté épiscopale. La direction des âmes demeure au premier plan de ses activités et l’oblige à tenir une abondante correspondance spirituelle. En outre, il accepte volontiers de donner des prédications en d’autres diocèses. Au cours d’un carême prêché à Dijon en 1604, il fait la connaissance d’une jeune veuve, sœur de l’évêque du lieu, Jeanne de Chantal. Il ne tarde pas à reconnaître en elle une âme exceptionnelle, et elle devient sa fille spirituelle d’élection, liée à lui par une affection intime et profonde. C’est grâce à Mme de Chantal qu’il peut réaliser, en juin 1610, l’un de ses vœux les plus ardents en fondant, à Annecy, la Visitation dont elle est la première supérieure: cet ordre féminin contemplatif est conçu pour accueillir même les personnes âgées ou de santé fragile auxquelles les autres ordres sont interdits. Par la suite, le gouvernement et la direction des visitandines deviennent l’une de ses charges les plus chères. La réputation de François de Sales, en lui attirant la confiance de Charles-Emmanuel, duc de Savoie, l’obligea à assumer diverses missions diplomatiques. L’une d’elles lui procura, en 1618, l’occasion d’un troisième séjour à Paris, au cours duquel il se lia avec Richelieu et Vincent de Paul et devint le directeur de la mère Angélique Arnauld, abbesse de Port-Royal. Sentant sa santé décliner, il prit, en 1620, comme coadjuteur, son frère Jean-François qu’il forma pour être son successeur. Au retour d’un voyage à Avignon avec le duc de Savoie, il mourut à la Visitation de Lyon, le 28 décembre 1622. Béatifié en 1662 et canonisé en 1665, Saint François de Sales fut déclaré docteur de l’Église en 1877.

Spiritualité

Saint François de Sales n’a jamais cherché à faire une carrière d’écrivain. Écrits dans les rares instants de loisir que lui laissait une existence surchargée d’occupations, ses ouvrages ont un caractère occasionnel. Il n’en a pas moins produit une œuvre relativement considérable. Ses premiers livres sont consacrés à la controverse avec les protestants. Dès le temps des missions du Chablais, il avait fait imprimer des tracts destinés à être distribués aux protestants, mais c’est longtemps après sa mort qu’ils furent réunis en un volume intitulé Controverses (1672); en revanche, pour défendre contre les pasteurs calvinistes le culte de la Croix, il avait publié lui-même la Défense de l’étendard de la sainte Croix (Lyon, 1600). En mars 1608, le Père Jean Fourier, jésuite de Chambéry, ayant eu connaissance des lettres écrites par Saint François à sa cousine Mme de Charmoisy, le pressa d’en tirer un traité spirituel. L’évêque y consentit et en fit l’Introduction à la vie dévote , qui parut à Lyon en décembre 1608, et dont il donna la version définitive en 1619. À cette date, d’innombrables éditions et traductions avaient attesté l’extraordinaire succès de l’ouvrage. Les expériences mystiques de Mme de Chantal, et aussi les siennes, l’avaient amené, dès 1607, à songer à écrire un Traité de l’amour de Dieu, mais il ne put y travailler que très lentement et reprit plusieurs fois sa rédaction, si bien que l’œuvre parut seulement en juillet 1616, à Lyon. D’autres ouvrages furent publiés à titre posthume, dont spécialement les Épîtres (1626) et les Entretiens (1629). Dès 1637, Jeanne de Chantal fit donner une édition des Œuvres complètes reprise et augmentée en 1641. Une excellente édition critique a été faite de 1892 à 1964 par les visitandines d’Annecy. On y trouve en particulier tout ce qui reste de l’abondante correspondance du saint, soit 2100 lettres ou fragments.

La dévotion dans la vie quotidienne

Les préoccupations de Saint François de Sales sont au départ surtout pratiques et ascétiques et elles visent l’ensemble des chrétiens. Il cherche à conduire le fidèle à un engagement total de sa personne dans la vie religieuse qui constitue à ses yeux la "dévotion". Cet engagement s’impose à tous comme une exigence générale, quelle que soit la situation où l’on se trouve placé; mais, en même temps, il ouvre à chacun la voie de la sainteté qui n’est plus désormais l’apanage de ceux qui se sont retirés du monde: de cette manière. Pour y parvenir, il propose à ses lecteurs, dans l’Introduction , un certain nombre d’attitudes concrètes, extérieures et intérieures, qui rendent la perfection à la fois accessible et compatible avec les exigences de la vie ordinaire. Il le fait avec une souplesse, une pénétration et un sens de l’humain dont ses contemporains ont été tellement frappés qu’ils lui ont reproché parfois de sacrifier l’austérité du christianisme; reproche injuste, car, dans les faits, le saint se montrait souvent très sévère, comme en ont témoigné tous ses dirigés. Mais il est sans cesse préoccupé de s’en tenir aux limites des possibilités de l’être humain, d’où la grande importance, dans ses œuvres comme dans sa correspondance, accordée à l’analyse intérieure réelle et concrète: à ce titre, il a fortement contribué à accréditer le psychologisme dans les cadres de la spiritualité chrétienne, et à inaugurer un type de direction qui met au premier plan l’adaptation au cas individuel. Servi par des qualités littéraires peu communes, il a, dans l’Introduction, donné à la littérature spirituelle d’inoubliables pages, par exemple sur la prière, les obligations familiales, la vie conjugale, où la solidité du fond se joint à la beauté et à la poésie de la forme, créant ainsi une spiritualité de la vie quotidienne et du devoir d’état qui est demeurée une constante de la pensée chrétienne.

Écrite pour un très vaste public, l’Introduction s’en tient aux formes habituelles de la vie intérieure et aux problèmes immédiatement pratiques. Pourtant, dès cette date, à travers les expériences mystiques de Mme de Chantal, et aussi à cause de sa propre évolution spirituelle, le saint découvrait des horizons plus vastes, et cet enrichissement se manifeste dans le Traité de l’amour de Dieu. Avec beaucoup de ses contemporains, Saint François de Sales considère la volonté comme la faculté essentielle de l’esprit humain, celle dans laquelle, pour ainsi dire, l’homme se résume. Tout le problème est donc, selon lui, de parvenir à la parfaite conformité de la volonté humaine à la volonté divine. D’autre part, sa formation humaniste se retrouve dans la vision délibérément optimiste qu’il veut garder de la nature humaine, que la chute n’a point entièrement viciée et pervertie. Même déchue, la créature garde encore une orientation spirituelle qui fait de Dieu le terme même de sa faculté de connaître et d’aimer, de telle sorte que Dieu est d’abord Dieu du cœur humain, que les affections se tournent spontanément vers lui, et que, malgré la faute originelle, l’homme a gardé la sainte inclination de l’aimer par-dessus toutes choses. Cependant, Saint François évite le reproche de pélagianisme en insistant sur le fait que le péché interdit désormais tout exercice naturel de cette inclination et qu’il faut nécessairement que la grâce intervienne. On doit reconnaître que, sur ce point, il se sépare du pessimisme augustinien, alors que par ailleurs sa pensée doit beaucoup à l’évêque d’Hippone.

Les voies de la contemplation

Fidèle au schéma volontariste commun à son époque, Saint François de Sales identifie amour et volonté. En situant la perfection de la vie spirituelle dans le plein développement de la charité, il est conduit à conclure que l’âme aime Dieu parfaitement lorsqu’elle a renoncé à toute volonté propre et qu’elle ne veut rien d’autre que ce que Dieu veut, et c’est là ce qu’elle doit atteindre. D’autre part, Dieu intervient pour la purifier passivement par les épreuves et les sécheresses. Ainsi, l’âme est conduite à un état que François désigne par le terme de "sainte indifférence", et qui correspond à la renonciation à tout désir. Cette "indifférence" doit s’étendre non seulement aux circonstances de la vie extérieure, mais aussi au développement de la vie intérieure, voire au salut qui ne doit pas être désiré pour lui-même.

À ce stade, ses vues sur la prière s’intériorisent. Dans l’Introduction, il s’en tenait à la prière vocale et à la méditation discursive. Dans le Traité, il ouvre à son disciple les voies de la contemplation, d’une contemplation éminemment affective, tout imprégnée de charité, et qui transcende le niveau notionnel et discursif. Sur ce point, le saint a été certainement influencé par les mystiques rhéno-flamands auxquels, tout en déplorant leur obscurité, il a emprunté quelques idées. Comme eux, il pense que la structure de l’âme est organisée autour d’un point central qu’il nomme "suprême pointe", lequel est le lieu de résidence des vertus théologales et le domaine privilégié de l’action divine. La "suprême pointe", qui se situe bien au-dessus de l’intelligence, a donc son exercice dans une contemplation amoureuse qui transcende toute conceptualisation, et qui, en même temps, amène l’âme au repos en Dieu et au parfait abandon.

La synthèse salésienne n’en a pas moins eu une influence décisive et permanente sur la spiritualité chrétienne. N’ayant pas fondé de congrégation masculine qui eût continué le développement de sa pensée, on ne saurait dire que François de Sales soit à l’origine d’un courant particulier; il n’existe pas, à proprement parler, d’école salésienne de spiritualité, comparable, par exemple, aux écoles bérullienne ou ignacienne. Mais, en fait, tous les auteurs religieux postérieurs ont subi, et en général profondément, son action, et tous ont été unanimes à le recommander comme un maître: à ce titre, il a réellement modelé la piété catholique à partir du premier tiers du XVIIe siècle.



Saint François de Sales

Mort à Lyon le 28 décembre 1622. Canonisé en 1665, fête en 1666, docteur en 1877.

Leçons des Matines avant 1960

AU DEUXIÈME NOCTURNE.

Quatrième leçon. François naquit au château de Sales (d’où sa famille tire son nom), de parents nobles et vertueux, et donna dès ses plus tendres années, par son innocence et sa gravité, des indices de sa sainteté future. Encore adolescent, il fut instruit dans les sciences libérales ; bientôt après, il se rendit à Paris où il se livra à l’étude de la philosophie et de la théologie, et afin que rien ne manquât à la culture de son esprit, il obtint à Padoue, avec les plus grands éloges, les honneurs du doctorat en l’un et l’autre droit. François renouvela dans le sanctuaire de Lorette le vœu de perpétuelle virginité par lequel il s’était lié à Paris ; et il ne put jamais être détourné de la résolution qu’il avait prise au sujet de cette vertu, ni par aucun des artifices du démon, ni par les attraits des sens.

Cinquième leçon. Ayant refusé une grande dignité dans le sénat de Savoie, il s’enrôla dans la milice de la cléricature. Initié au sacerdoce et fait prévôt de l’Église de Genève, François remplit si parfaitement les devoirs de cette charge que Mgr de Granier, son Évêque, le destina pour travailler comme un héraut de la parole divine, à la conversion des calvinistes du Chablais et des autres confins du territoire de Genève. Il entreprit cette campagne d’un cœur joyeux, mais il eut à souffrir les plus dures épreuves ; souvent les hérétiques cherchèrent à lui donner la mort, ils le poursuivirent de diverses calomnies et lui dressèrent beaucoup d’embûches. Au milieu de tant de périls et de combats, on vit toujours briller son insurmontable constance ; et l’on rapporte qu’aidé du secours de Dieu, il ramena à la foi catholique soixante-douze mille hérétiques, parmi lesquels il y en avait beaucoup de distingués par leur noblesse et leur science.

Sixième leçon. Après la mort de Mgr de Granier, qui avait eu soin de se le faire donner pour coadjuteur, François, consacré Évêque, répandit tout autour de lui les rayons de sa sainteté, par son zèle pour la discipline ecclésiastique, son amour de la paix, sa miséricorde envers les pauvres, et se rendit remarquable en toutes sortes de vertus. Pour l’accroissement du culte divin, il institua un nouvel Ordre de religieuses, sous le nom de la Visitation de la bienheureuse Vierge Marie et sous la règle de saint Augustin, à laquelle il ajouta des constitutions admirables de sagesse, de discrétion et de douceur. Il a aussi illustré l’Église par des écrits remplis d’une doctrine céleste, où il indique un chemin sûr et facile pour arriver à la perfection chrétienne. Enfin, âgé de cinquante-cinq ans, comme il retournait de France à Annecy, le jour de saint Jean l’Évangéliste, après avoir célébré la Messe à Lyon, il fut atteint d’une maladie grave, et, le lendemain, partit pour le ciel, l’an du Seigneur mil six cent vingt-deux. Son corps fut transporté à Annecy, et enseveli honorablement dans l’église dudit Ordre. Son tombeau commença aussitôt à être illustré par des miracles, dont le souverain Pontife Alexandre VII constata la vérité selon les règles. Il mit donc François au nombre des Saints en assignant pour sa Fête le vingt-neuvième jour de janvier, et le souverain Pontife Pie IX, après avoir pris l’avis de la Congrégation des Rites sacrés, l’a déclaré Docteur de l’Église universelle.


Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Voici venir au berceau du doux Fils de Marie l’angélique évêque François de Sales, digne d’y occuper une place distinguée pour la suavité de sa vertu, l’aimable enfance de son cœur, l’humilité et la tendresse de son amour. Il arrive escorté de ses brillantes conquêtes : soixante-douze mille hérétiques soumis à l’Église par l’ascendant de sa charité ; un Ordre entier de servantes du Seigneur, conçu dans son amour, réalisé par son génie céleste ; tant de milliers d’âmes conquises à la piété par ses enseignements aussi sûrs que miséricordieux, qui lui ont mérité le titre de Docteur.

Dieu le donna à son Église pour la consoler des blasphèmes de l’hérésie qui allait prêchant que la foi romaine était stérile pour la charité ; il plaça ce vrai ministre évangélique en face des âpres sectateurs de Calvin ; et l’ardeur de la charité de François de Sales fondit la glace de ces cœurs obstinés. Si vous avez des hérétiques à convaincre, disait le savant cardinal du Perron, vous pouvez me les envoyer ; si vous en avez à convertir, adressez-les à M. de Genève.

François de Sales parut donc, au milieu de son siècle, comme une vivante image du Christ ouvrant ses bras et convoquant les pécheurs à la pénitence, les errants à la vérité, les justes au progrès vers Dieu, tous à la confiance et à l’amour. L’Esprit divin s’était reposé sur lui dans sa force et dans sa douceur : c’est pourquoi, en ces jours où nous avons célébré la descente de cet Esprit sur le Verbe incarné au milieu des eaux du Jourdain, nous ne saurions oublier une relation touchante de notre admirable Pontife avec son divin Chef. Un jour de la Pentecôte, à Annecy, François était debout à l’autel, offrant l’auguste Sacrifice ; tout à coup une colombe qu’on avait introduite dans la Cathédrale, effrayée des chants et de la multitude du peuple, après avoir voltigé longtemps, vint, à la grande émotion des fidèles, se reposer sur la tête du saint Évêque : symbole touchant de la douceur de l’amour de François, comme le globe de feu qui parut, au milieu des Mystères sacrés, au-dessus de la tête du grand saint Martin, désignait l’ardeur du feu qui dévorait le cœur de l’Apôtre des Gaules.

Une autre fois, en la Fête de la Nativité de Notre-Dame, François officiait aux Vêpres, dans la Collégiale d’Annecy. Il était assis sur un trône dont les sculptures représentaient cet Arbre prophétique de Jessé, qui a produit, selon l’oracle d’Isaïe, la branche virginale, d’où est sortie la fleur divine sur laquelle s’est reposé l’Esprit d’amour. On était occupé au chant des Psaumes, lorsque, par une fente du vitrail du chœur, du côté de l’Épître, une colombe pénètre dans l’Église. Après avoir voleté quelque temps, de l’historien, elle vint se poser sur l’épaule du saint Évêque, et de là sur ses genoux, d’où les ministres assistants la prirent. Après les Vêpres, François, jaloux d’écarter de lui l’application favorable que ce symbole inspirait naturellement à son peuple, monta en chaire, et s’empressa d’éloigner toute idée d’une faveur céleste qui lui eût été personnelle, en célébrant Marie qui, pleine de la grâce de l’Esprit-Saint, a mérité d’être appelée la colombe toute belle, en laquelle il n’y a pas une tache.

Quand on cherche parmi les disciples du Sauveur le type de sainteté qui fut départi à notre admirable Prélat, l’esprit et le cœur ont tout aussitôt nommé Jean, le disciple bien-aimé. François de Sales est comme lui l’Apôtre de la charité ; et la simplesse du grand Évangéliste pressant un innocent oiseau dans ses mains vénérables, est la mère de cette gracieuse innocence qui reposait au cœur de l’Évêque de Genève. Jean, par sa seule vue, par le seul accent de sa voix, faisait aimer Jésus ; et les contemporains de François disaient : O Dieu ! si telle est la bonté de l’Évêque de Genève, quelle ne doit pas être la vôtre !

Ce rapport merveilleux entre l’ami du Christ et François de Sales se révéla encore au moment suprême, lorsque le jour même de saint Jean, après avoir célébré la sainte Messe et communié de sa main ses chères filles de la Visitation, il sentit cette défaillance qui devait amener pour son âme la délivrance des liens du corps. On s’empressa autour de lui ; mais déjà sa conversation n’était plus que dans le ciel. Ce fut le lendemain qu’il s’envola vers sa patrie, en la fête des saints Innocents, au milieu desquels il avait droit de reposer éternellement, pour la candeur et la simplicité de son âme. La place de François de Sales, sur le Cycle, était donc marquée en la compagnie de l’Ami du Sauveur, et de ces tendres victimes que l’Église compare à un gracieux bouquet d’innocentes roses ; et s’il a été impossible de placer sa mémoire à l’anniversaire de sa sortie de ce monde, parce que ces deux jours sont occupés par la solennité de saint Jean et celle des Enfants de Bethlehem, du moins la sainte Église a-t-elle pu encore placer sa fête dans l’intervalle des quarante jours consacrés à honorer la Naissance de l’Emmanuel.

C’est donc à cet amant du Roi nouveau-né qu’il appartient de nous révéler les charmes de l’Enfant de la crèche. Nous chercherons la pensée de son cœur, pour en nourrir le nôtre, dans son admirable correspondance, où il rend avec tant de suavité les sentiments pieux qui débordaient de son cœur, en présence des mystères que nous célébrons.

Vers la fin de l’Avent 1619, il écrivait à une religieuse de la Visitation, pour l’engager à préparer son cœur à la venue de l’Époux céleste : « Ma très chère fille, voilà le tant petit aimable Jésus qui va naître en notre commémoration, ces fêtes-ci prochaines ; et puisqu’il naît pour nous visiter de la part de son Père éternel, et que les pasteurs et les rois le viendront réciproquement visiter au berceau, je crois, qu’il est le Père et l’Enfant tout ensemble de cette Sainte Marie de la Visitation.

« Or sus, caressez-le bien ; faites-lui bien l’hospitalité avec toutes nos sœurs, chantez-lui bien de beaux cantiques, et surtout adorez-le bien fortement et doucement, et en lui sa pauvreté, son humilité, son obéissance et sa douceur, à l’imitation de sa très sainte Mère et de saint Joseph ; et prenez-lui une de ses chères larmes, douce rosée du ciel, et la mettez sur votre cœur, afin qu’il n’ait jamais de tristesse que celle qui réjouit ce doux Enfant ; et quand vous lui recommanderez votre âme, recommandez-lui quant et quant la mienne, qui est certes toute vôtre.

« Je salue chèrement la chère troupe de nos sœurs, que je regarde comme de simples bergères veillant sur leurs troupeaux, c’est-à-dire sur leurs affections ; qui, averties par l’Ange, vont faire l’hommage au divin Enfant, et pour gage de leur éternelle servitude, lui offrent le plus beau de leurs agneaux, qui est leur amour, sans réserve ni exception. »

La veille de la Naissance du Sauveur, saisi par avance des joies de la nuit qui va donner son Rédempteur à la terre, François s’épanche déjà avec sa fille de prédilection, Jeanne-Françoise de Chantal, et la convie à goûter avec lui les charmes de l’Enfant divin et à profiter de sa visite.

« Le grand petit Enfant de Bethlehem soit à jamais les délices et les amours de notre cœur, ma très chère mère, ma fille ! Hélas ! Comme il est beau, ce pauvre petit poupon ! Il me semble que je vois Salomon sur son grand trône d’ivoire, doré et ouvragé, qui n’eut point d’égal es royaumes, comme dit l’Écriture : et ce roi n’eut point de pair en gloire ni en magnificence. Mais j’aime cent fois mieux voir le cher enfançon en la crèche, que de voir tous les rois en leurs trônes.

« Mais si je le vois sur les genoux de sa sacrée Mère ou entre ses bras, ayant sa petite bouchette, comme un petit bouton de rose, attachée au lis de ses saintes mamelles, ô Dieu ! je le trouve plus magnifique en ce trône, non seulement que Salomon dans le sien d’ivoire, mais que jamais même ce Fils éternel du Père ne le fut au ciel ; car si bien le ciel a plus d’être visible, la Sainte Vierge a plus de perfections invisibles ; et une goutte du lait qui flue virginalement de ses sacrés sucherons, vaut mieux que toutes les affluences des cieux. Le grand saint Joseph nous fasse part de sa consolation, la souveraine Mère de son amour : et l’Enfant veuille à jamais répandre dans nos cœurs ses mérites !

« Je vous prie, reposez le plus doucement que vous pourrez auprès du petit céleste enfant : il ne laissera pas d’aimer votre cœur bien-aimé tel que vous l’avez, sans tendreté et sans sentiment. Voyez-vous pas qu’il reçoit l’haleine de ce gros bœuf et de cet âne qui n’ont sentiment ni mouvement quelconque ? Comment ne recevra-t-il pas les aspirations de notre pauvre cœur, lequel, quoique non tendrement pour le présent, solidement néanmoins et fermement, se sacrifie à ses pieds pour être à jamais serviteur inviolable du sien, et de celui de sa sainte Mère, et du grand gouverneur du petit Roi ? »

La nuit sacrée s’est écoulée, apportant avec elle la Paix aux hommes de bonne volonté ; François cherche encore le cœur de la fille que Jésus lui a confiée, pour y verser toutes les douceurs qu’il a goûtées dans la contemplation du mystère d’amour.

« Hé, vrai Jésus ! que cette nuit est douce, ma très chère fille ! Les cieux, chante l’Église, distillent de toutes parts le miel ; et moi, je pense que ces divins Anges, qui résonnent en l’air leur admirable cantique, viennent pour recueillir ce miel céleste sur les lis où il se trouve, sur la poitrine de la très douce Vierge et de saint Joseph. J’ai peur, ma chère fille, que ces divins Esprits ne se méprennent entre le lait qui sort des mamelles virginales, et le miel du ciel qui est abouché sur ces mamelles. Quelle douceur de voir le miel sucer le lait !

« Mais je vous prie, ma chère fille, ne suis-je pas si ambitieux que de penser que nos bons Anges, de vous et de moi, se trouvèrent en la chère troupe de musiciens célestes qui chantèrent en cette nuit ? O Dieu ! s’il leur plaisait d’entonner derechef, aux oreilles de notre cœur, cette même céleste chanson, quelle joie ! quelle jubilation ! Je les en supplie, afin que gloire soit au ciel, et en terre paix aux cœurs de bonne volonté.

« Revenant donc d’entre les sacrés Mystères, je donne ainsi le bonjour à ma chère fille : car je crois que les pasteurs encore, après avoir adoré le céleste poupon que le ciel même leur avait annoncé, se reposèrent un peu. Mais, ô Dieu ! que de suavité, comme je pense, à leur sommeil ! Il leur était avis qu’ils oyaient toujours la sacrée mélodie des Anges qui les avaient salués si excellemment de leur cantique, et qu’ils voyaient toujours le cher Enfant et la Mère qu’ils avaient visités.

« Que donnerions-nous à notre petit Roi, que nous n’ayons reçu de lui et de sa divine libérait lité ? Or sus, je lui donnerai donc, à la sainte Grand’Messe, la très uniquement fille bien-aimée qu’il m’a donnée. Hé ! Sauveur de nos âmes, rendez-la toute d’or en charité, toute de myrrhe en mortification, toute d’encens en oraison ; et puis recevez-la entre les bras de votre sainte protection ; et que votre cœur dise au sien : Je suis ton salut aux siècles des siècles. »

Parlant ailleurs à une autre épouse du Christ, il l’exhorte, en ces termes, à se nourrir de la douceur du nouveau-né :

« Que jamais votre âme, comme une abeille mystique, n’abandonne ce cher petit Roi, et qu’elle fasse son miel autour de lui, en lui, et pour lui ; et qu’elle le prenne sur lui, duquel les lèvres sont toutes détrempées de grâce, et sur lesquelles, bien plus heureusement que l’on ne vit sur celles de saint Ambroise, les saintes avettes, amassées en essaim, font leurs doux et gracieux ouvrages. »

Mais il faut bien s’arrêter ; écoutons cependant encore une dernière fois notre séraphique Pontife nous raconter les charmes du très saint Nom de Jésus, imposé au Sauveur dans les douleurs de la Circoncision ; il écrit encore à sa sainte coopératrice : « O Jésus, remplissez notre cœur du baume sacré de votre Nom divin, afin que la suavité de son odeur se dilate en tous nos sens, et se répande en toutes nos actions. Mais pour rendre ce cœur capable de recevoir une si douce liqueur, circoncisez-le, et retranchez d’icelui tout ce qui peut être désagréable à vos saints yeux. O Nom glorieux ! que la bouche du Père céleste a nommé éternellement, soyez à jamais la superscription de notre âme, afin que, comme vous êtes Sauveur, elle soit éternellement sauvée ! O Vierge sainte, qui, la première de toute la nature humaine, avez prononcé ce Nom de salut, inspirez-nous la façon de le prononcer ainsi qu’il est convenable, afin que tout respire en nous le salut que votre ventre nous a porté.

« Ma très chère fille, il fallait écrire la première lettre de cette année à Notre-Seigneur et à Notre-Dame ; et voici la seconde par laquelle, ô ma fille, je vous donne le bon an, et dédie notre cœur à la divine bonté. Que puissions-nous tellement vivre cette année, qu’elle nous serve de fondement pour l’année éternelle ! Du moins ce matin, sur le réveil, j’ai crié à vos oreilles : vive Jésus ! et eusse bien voulu épandre cette huile sacrée sur toute la face de la terre.

« Quand un baume est bien fermé dans une fiole, nul ne sait discerner quelle liqueur c’est, sinon celui qui l’y a mise ; mais quand on a ouvert la fiole, et qu’on en a répandu quelques gouttes, chacun dit : C’est du baume. Ma chère fille, notre cher petit Jésus était tout plein du baume de salut ; mais on ne le connaissait pas jusqu’à tant qu’avec ce couteau doucement cruel on a ouvert sa divine chair ; et lors on a connu qu’il est tout baume et huile répandue, et que c’est le baume de salut. C’est pourquoi saint Joseph et Notre-Dame, puis tout le voisinage, commencent à crier : Jésus, qui signifie Sauveur.

« Plaise à ce divin poupon de tremper nos cœurs dans son sang, et les parfumer de son saint Nom, afin que les roses .des bons désirs que nous avons conçus, soient toutes pourprées de sa teinture, et toutes odorantes de son onguent ! »

Le Pape Alexandre VII voulut composer lui-même la Collecte pour l’Office et la Messe du saint Prélat [2].

Conquérant pacifique des âmes, Pontife aimé de Dieu et des hommes, nous célébrons en vous la douceur de notre Emmanuel. Ayant appris de lui à être doux et humble de cœur, vous avez, selon sa promesse, possédé la terre [3]. Rien ne vous a résisté : les sectaires les plus obstinés, les pécheurs les plus endurcis, les âmes les plus tièdes, tout a cédé aux charmes de votre parole et de vos exemples. Que nous aimons à vous contempler, auprès du berceau de l’Enfant qui vient nous aimer, mêlant votre gloire avec celle de Jean et des Innocents : Apôtre comme le premier, simple comme les fils de Rachel ! Fixez pour jamais notre cœur dans cette heureuse compagnie ; qu’il apprenne enfin que le joug de l’Emmanuel est doux, et son fardeau léger.

Réchauffez nos âmes au feu de votre charité ; soutenez en elles le désir de la perfection. Docteur des voies spirituelles, introduisez-nous dans cette Vie sainte dont vous avez tracé les lois ; ranimez dans nos cœurs l’amour du prochain, sans lequel nous ne pourrions espérer de posséder l’amour de Dieu ; initiez-nous au zèle que vous avez eu pour le salut des âmes ; enseignez-nous la patience et le pardon des injures, afin que nous nous aimions tous, non seulement de bouche et de parole, comme parle Jean votre modèle, mais en œuvre et en vérité [4]. Bénissez l’Église de la terre, au sein de laquelle votre souvenir est encore aussi présent que si vous veniez de la quitter pour celle du ciel ; car vous n’êtes plus seulement l’Évêque de Genève, mais l’objet de l’amour et de la confiance de l’univers entier.

Hâtez la conversion générale des sectateurs de l’hérésie Calviniste. Déjà vos prières ont avancé l’œuvre du retour ; et le Sacrifice de l’Agneau s’offre publiquement au sein même de Genève. Consommez au plus tôt le triomphe de l’Église-Mère. Extirpez du milieu de nous lès derniers restes de l’hérésie Jansénienne, qui se préparait à semer son ivraie dans la France, aux jours mêmes où le Seigneur vous retirait de ce monde. Purgez nos contrées des maximes et des habitudes dangereuses qu’elles ont héritées des temps malheureux où cette secte perverse triomphait dans son audace.

Bénissez de toute la tendresse de votre cœur paternel le saint Ordre que vous avez fondé, et que vous avez donné à Marie sous le titre de sa Visitation. Conservez-le dans l’état où il fait l’édification de l’Église ; donnez-lui accroissement, dirigez-le, afin que votre esprit se maintienne dans la famille dont vous êtes le père. Protégez l’Épiscopat dont vous êtes l’ornement et le modèle ; demandez à Dieu, pour son Église, des Pasteurs formés à votre école, embrasés de votre zèle, émules de votre sainteté. Enfin, souvenez-vous de la France, avec laquelle vous avez contracté des liens si étroits. Elle s’émut au bruit de vos vertus, elle convoita votre Apostolat, elle vous a donné votre plus fidèle coopératrice ; vous avez enrichi sa langue de vos admirables écrits ; c’est de son sein même que vous êtes parti pour aller à Dieu : du haut du ciel, regardez-la aussi comme votre patrie.

[2] Cette attribution au pape de la rédaction de l’oraison de St François de Sales est erronée. Dans les papiers du cistercien Hilarion Rancati (2 septembre 1594 -17 avril 1663), soigneusement classes et conservés à l’Ambrosienne de Milan, on trouve traces de ses nombreuses activités comme Qualificateur du Saint Office, consulteur de la S. G. de Propaganda Fide et de la S. Congrégation des Rites.

A ce dernier titre (au ms. B 238 p. 431-432) on trouve des essais de composition d’une oraison liturgique pour le bienheureux François de Sales qui, décédé à Lyon, en l’aumônerie de la Visitation le 28 décembre 1622, sur les 8 heures du- soir, venait d’être béatifié à Saint-Pierre de Rome le 8 janvier 1662.

[3] Matth. 5, 4.

[4] I Johan. 3, 18.



Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum


Le grand saint de la mansuétude, de l’amabilité et de l’amour de Dieu, mourut à Lyon le 28 décembre 1622, mais ce jour étant déjà consacré au natale des Innocents à qui le saint était très dévot, sa mémoire fut retardée jusqu’aujourd’hui, anniversaire de la translation de son corps à Annecy.

La messe est celle du Commun des docteurs ; mais comme pour la fête de saint Hilaire, la première collecte est propre ; elle fut composée par Alexandre VII, à qui le saint avait prédit la vocation ecclésiastique et le suprême Pontificat. Deux florissants instituts religieux représentent actuellement dans l’Église la postérité spirituelle de saint François de Sales ; ce sont les religieuses de la Visitation, directement instituées par lui ; et la congrégation salésienne, que le bienheureux Don Bosco tira du cœur même et de l’esprit du saint évêque de Genève.

La caractéristique du saint évêque de Genève fut la douceur et l’humilité du cœur, vertus au moyen desquelles il convertit environ soixante-dix mille hérétiques à la foi catholique, et guida une foule d’âmes vers les sommets les plus élevés de la perfection. La rudesse des manières, le zèle impétueux et l’impatience ne sont pas toujours les meilleurs moyens pour conduire les âmes à Jésus-Christ, car la vertu, pour être aimée, doit se montrer aimable et se rendre accessible à tous les cœurs. Quel est le secret d’une telle abnégation ? La plénitude de l’amour de Dieu, parce que, comme le dit l’Apôtre, Charitas non quaerit quae sua sunt.


Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique


« On prend plus de mouches avec une cuillerée de miel, qu’avec cent tonneaux de vinaigre ».

Saint François. — Jour de mort : 28 décembre 1622, à Lyon (29 janvier, translation de ses reliques). Tombeau : église de la Visitation à Annecy (Savoie). Sa vie : François naquit le 21 août 1567 ; il fut ordonné prêtre en 1593 ; de 1593 à 1598, il fut chargé de la mission du Chablais qui se termina par la conversion de 70.000 protestants ; en 1602, il devint évêque de Genève. La douceur et l’amabilité résument toute sa vie, mais constituent aussi le secret de sa sainteté et de son influence. De ses nombreux écrits, où se reflètent la bonté et le charme de sa personne, le plus répandu, aujourd’hui encore, est l’ »Introduction à la vie dévote ». Ce livre est, avec l’ »Imitation de Jésus-Christ », le meilleur manuel de la perfection chrétienne. Ce petit livre prouve au monde que la piété est aimable et doit rendre les hommes aimables. Son amitié sainte avec sainte Françoise de Chantal est aussi très célèbre. Son « Introduction à la vie dévote » et ses autres écrits lui valurent d’être proclamé docteur de l’Église.

Son amabilité et sa douceur ont aussi leur histoire. Il ne les avait pas trouvées dans son berceau. Au contraire, il avait un tempérament violent et ardent, un esprit excessivement vif et impétueux. Il lui fallut de nombreuses années pour dompter son tempérament emporté et violent. Durant son épiscopat, ce tempérament l’emporta encore une fois, parce que, pendant un de ses sermons, on sonna avant qu’il eût terminé. Il arriva cependant à se dominer en « prenant toujours vite la colère au collet ». Faisons de même nous aussi.

La messe (In medio). — La messe est empruntée au commun des docteurs (cf. 14 janvier). L’Oraison seule est propre, elle caractérise très bien notre saint : elle parle d’abord du pasteur des âmes, qui a fait sienne la devise de saint Paul : je me suis fait tout à tous pour les sauver tous (1. Cor. X, 22) ; elle parle ensuite de sa douceur et la demande pour nous, comme fruit de Rédemption, en ce jour : « afin que, pénétrés de la douceur de ta charité, dirigés par ses avis et soutenus par ses mérites, nous obtenions les joies éternelles. »

Quand le saint du jour possède une vertu caractéristique ou une grâce spéciale (comme c’est le cas aujourd’hui), il faut en faire, non seulement à la messe et au bréviaire, mais pendant toute la journée, l’objet de nos méditations et le principe de nos résolutions. Le saint doit être notre maître. A l’Offrande de la messe, nous apporterons notre volonté de pratiquer cette vertu ; à la communion, nous recevrons la force et la grâce de la pratiquer. Aux heures de l’Office, notre prière et notre intention doivent avoir cette vertu pour objet. Lisons aujourd’hui, dans l’« Introduction », précisément le chapitre qui traite de la mansuétude et de la douceur. Ainsi le saint du jour nous deviendra plus familier, il sera notre maître et notre professeur de vertu.

La douceur d’après l’Introduction à la vie dévote. « Cette misérable vie n’est qu’un cheminement à la bienheureuse. Ne nous courrouçons donc point en chemin les uns avec les autres, marchons avec la troupe de nos frères et compagnons doucement et amiablement. Mais je vous dit nettement et sans exception, ne vous courroucez point du tout s’il est possible et ne recevez aucun prétexte quel qu’il soit pour ouvrir la porte de votre cœur au courroux, car saint Jacques dit tout court et sans réserve que « l’ire de l’homme n’opère point la justice de Dieu ». Il faut vraiment résister au mal et réprimer les vices de ceux que nous avons en charge, constamment et vaillamment, mais doucement et paisiblement. Rien ne mâte tant l’éléphant courroucé que la vue d’un agnelet et rien ne rompt si aisément la force des canonnades que la laine. On ne prise pas tant la correction qui sort de la passion, quoique accompagnée de raison que celle qui n’a aucune autre origine que la raison seule ; car l’âme raisonnable étant naturellement sujette à la raison, elle n’est sujette à la passion que par tyrannie ; et partant, quand la raison est accompagnée de passion, elle se rend odieuse, sa juste domination étant avilie par la société de la tyrannie... » Il est mieux, dit saint Augustin, de refuser l’entrée à l’ire juste et équitable que de la recevoir pour petite qu’elle soit, parce que, étant reçue, il est malaisé de la faire sortir. » Que si une fois elle peut gagner la nuit et que le soleil couche sur notre ire (ce que l’Apôtre défend) se convertissant en haine, il n’y a plus moyen de s’en défaire. »



Saint François de Sales

Évêque et docteur de l'Eglise

Introduction à la vie dévote (I. 3)

Dieu commanda en la création aux plantes de porter leurs fruits, chacune selon son genre : ainsi commande-t-il aux Chrétiens, qui sont les plantes vivantes de son Eglise, qu'ils produisent des fruits de dévotion, un chacun selon sa qualité et vacation. La dévotion doit être différemment exercée par le gentilhomme, par l'artisan, par le valet, par le prince, par la veuve, par la fille, par la mariée ; et non seulement cela, mais il faut accommoder la pratique de la dévotion aux forces, aux affaires et aux devoirs de chaque particulier. Je vous prie, Philothée, serait-il à propos que l'Evêque voulût être solitaire comme les Chartreux ? Et si les mariés ne voulaient rien amasser non plus que les Capucins, si l'artisan était tout le jour à l'église comme le religieux, et le religieux toujours exposé à toutes sortes de rencontres pour le service du prochain comme l'Evêque, cette dévotion ne serait-elle pas ridicule, déréglée et insupportable ? Cette faute néanmoins arrive bien souvent.

Non, Philothée, la dévotion ne gâte rien quand elle est vraie, ainsi elle perfectionne tout, et lorsqu'elle se rend contraire à la légitime vacation de quelqu'un, elle est sans doute fausse. L'abeille, dit Aristote, tire son miel des fleurs sans les intéresser, les laissant entières et fraîches comme elle les a trouvées ; mais la vraie dévotion fait encore mieux, car non seulement elle ne gâte nulle sorte de vocation ni d'affaires, ainsi au contraire elle les orne et embellit. Toutes sortes de pierreries jetées dedans le miel en deviennent plus éclatantes, chacune selon sa couleur et chacun devient plus agréable en sa vocation la conjoignant à la dévotion : le soin de la famille en est rendu paisible, l'amour du mari et de la femme plus sincère, le service du prince plus fidèle, et toutes sortes d'occupations plus suaves et amiables.

C'est une erreur ainsi une hérésie, de vouloir bannir la vie dévote de la compagnie des soldats, de la boutique des artisans, de la cour des princes, du ménage des gens mariés. Il est vrai, Philothée, que la dévotion purement contemplative, monastique et religieuse ne peut être exercée en ces vacations-là mais aussi, outre ces trois sortes de dévotion, il y en a plusieurs autres, propres à perfectionner ceux de dévotion, il y en a plusieurs autres, propres à perfectionner ceux qui vivent des états séculiers. Où que nous soyons, nous pouvons et devons aspirer à la vie parfaite.



Litanies de Saint François de Sales

Seigneur, ayez pitié de nous Seigneur, ayez pitié de nous

O Christ, ayez pitié de nous O Christ, ayez pitié de nous

Seigneur, ayez pitié de nous Seigneur, ayez pitié de nous

Jésus, écoutez-nous Jésus, écoutez-nous

Jésus, exaucez-nous Jésus, exaucez-nous

Père du Ciel qui êtes Dieu, ayez pitié de nous


Fils, Rédempteur du monde qui êtes Dieu, ayez pitié de nous

Saint-Esprit qui êtes Dieu, ayez pitié de nous

Sainte Trinité qui êtes un seul Dieu, ayez pitié de nous

Sainte Marie, sainte Vierge des Vierges, Mère du Sauveur, priez pour nous

Saint François de Sales, très digne pontife, chéri de Dieu et des hommes, priez pour nous

Saint François de Sales, fidèle disciple et imitateur de Jésus-Christ, priez pour nous

Saint François de Sales, enfant bien-aimé de Marie, priez pour nous

Saint François de Sales, qui avez miraculeusement recouvré la paix et l'espérance par l'intercession de la Mère de Dieu, priez pour nous

Saint François de Sales, guide et modèle de la vraie piété, priez pour nous

Saint François de Sales, parfait exemple de prudence et de charité, dans la conduite des âmes, priez pour nous

... qui avez eu la science pour enseigner les hommes, et l'onction pour les toucher, priez pour nous

... qui avez su joindre la force pour corriger les vices et la douceur pour gagner les cœurs, priez pour nous

... pasteur charitable qui avez exposé votre vie pour le salut de vos ouailles, priez pour nous

... qui étiez le soutien de la veuve et le père de l'orphelin, priez pour nous

... qui étiez le protecteur des pauvres et des opprimés, priez pour nous

... dont l'extérieur bon et affable, grave et modeste, rappelait Jésus-Christ conversant parmi les hommes, priez pour nous

... tout embrasé d'amour pour la croix du Sauveur, priez pour nous

... vrai miroir de douceur et d'humilité, priez pour nous

... qui, par votre zèle et votre douceur, avez gagné à l'Eglise plus de soixante-dix mille hérétiques, priez pour nous

... dont la patience et la sérénité n'ont jamais été altérées par les injures, les calomnies et les contradictions, priez pour nous

... qui voyiez en toutes choses le bon plaisir de Dieu, et qui mettiez votre bonheur à vous y conformer avec amour, priez pour nous

... qui avez pour principe de ne rien demander et de ne rien refuser priez pour nous

... qui vous reposiez dans le sein de la divine Providence, comme un enfant dans les bras de sa mère, priez pour nous

... qui aviez pris pour devise ou mourir ou aimer, parce que la vie sans amour de Dieu vous semblait pire que la mort, priez pour nous

... dont la vie, au milieu des plus grand travaux, était une oraison continuelle, priez pour nous

... imitateur de la pureté des anges, priez pour nous

... le plus dévot et le plus aimable des saints, priez pour nous
... fondateur d'une congrégation des vierges destinée à répandre en tous lieux la bonne odeur de Jésus-Christ, priez pour nous

Agneau de Dieu, qui effacez les péchés du monde, pardonnez-nous, Seigneur

Agneau de Dieu, qui effacez les péchés du monde, exaucez-nous, Seigneur!

Agneau de Dieu, qui effacez les péchés du monde, ayez pitié de nous, Seigneur!

Jésus, écoutez-nous Jésus, exaucez-nous



Agneau de Dieu, qui effacez les péchés du monde,

pardonnez-nous, Seigneur

Agneau de Dieu, qui effacez les péchés du monde,

exaucez-nous, Seigneur

Agneau de Dieu, qui effacez les péchés du monde,

Jésus-Christ, écoutez-nous

Jésus-Christ, exaucez-nous

Priez pour nous, saint François de Sales ;

- Afin que nous travaillions comme vous à imiter Jésus doux et humble de cœur.

Prions. Mon Dieu, qui, pour l'édification et le salut des âmes, nous avez présenté dans saint François de Sales le modèle le plus parfait de la douceur et de la piété, mettez dans nos âmes toute l'onction de sa religieuse amabilité, toute l'ardeur de sa charité et toute la profondeur de son humilité, afin que nous puissions partager un jour sa gloire dans le Ciel, et vous aimer avec lui dans tous les siècles. - Amen.



Prière de Saint François de Sales composée pour une future mère.

Dieu éternel, Père d'infinie bonté, qui avez ordonné le mariage pour accroître la race humaine et repeupler la Cité céleste et qui avez dévolu à la femme le rôle principal en cette tâche, c'est votre volonté que la fécondité apporte la preuve de votre bénédiction.

Jetez maintenant un regard sur moi, prosternée dans l'adoration devant la face de votre Majesté, afin de vous remercier pour la conception de l'enfant, don que avez fait à mon corps. Mais, Seigneur, puisque Vous avez agi ainsi dans votre bonté, étendez les bras de votre Providence et menez à la perfection l'œuvre que Vous avez commencée. Communiquez à ma gestation quelque chose de Votre divine excellence, et par votre assistance indéfectible, aidez-moi à porter cet enfant, fruit de votre pouvoir créateur, jusqu'à l'heure de l'enfantement. Dieu de ma vie, venez à mon aide, soutenez de votre main sacrée ma faiblesse et recevez ce fruit de mes entrailles ; préservez le nouveau-né qui vous appartient, jusqu'à ce que le sacrement du baptême le dépose dans le sein de votre épouse, l'Eglise, faites-le vôtre également par la Rédemption.

Sauveur de mon âme, vous qui sur la terre montrâtes tant de tendresse à l'égard des petits enfants assemblés autour de vous, recevez-en encore un autre, je vous prie, et adoptez-le parmi vos fils. Lorsqu'il vous appartiendra et pourra vous appeler Père, alors Votre nom sera sanctifié en lui et votre règne arrivera. C'est pourquoi, ô Rédempteur du monde, je voue, dédie et consacre mon enfant, de tout mon cœur, à Votre loi, à l'amour de Votre service et au service de Votre amour. Etant donné que Votre juste colère a assujetti la mère de la race humaine ainsi que sa postérité pécheresse à beaucoup de souffrances et de peines dans l'enfantement, j'accepte de vos mains, Seigneur, toutes les douleurs qui seront les miennes à cette heure. Je vous fais pourtant une prière : Au nom de la Sainte joie avec laquelle votre innocente Mère a enfanté, soyez miséricordieux à l'heure de ma délivrance envers la pauvre pécheresse que je suis et bénissez-moi, ainsi que l'enfant que Vous m'avez donné, de la bénédiction de votre amour éternel. Avec une complète confiance en votre bonté, je demande ce don en toute humilité.

Et vous, très sainte Vierge-Mère, incomparable souveraine, gloire sans pareille de toutes les femmes, ouvrez largement vos bras protecteurs et recevez dans le sein maternel de votre infinie délicatesse mes désirs et mes supplications, de sorte que votre Fils, dans Sa miséricorde, puisse daigner accueillir ma prière. O vous, la plus aimable de toutes les créatures, au nom de l'amour virginal dont Vous avez chéri saint Joseph, votre très cher époux, au nom des mérites infinis de la naissance de votre Fils, des entrailles sacrées qui L'ont porté, des mamelles qui L'ont allaité, je vous supplie d'obtenir pour moi ce que je demande.

Saints anges de Dieu, désignés pour me garder, moi et l'enfant que je porte, défendez-nous, gouvernez-nous, afin que, sous votre protection, nous puissions un jour atteindre à la gloire qui fait vos délices et en votre compagnie, louer et bénir le Seigneur et Maître de nous tous, qui vit et règne éternellement.



ENCYCLIQUE " RERUM OMNIUM "



sur saint François de Sales



adressée à tous les évêques



à l'occasion du troisième centenaire de sa mort



par sa Sainteté PIE XI


SA VIE ET SES VERTUS

Si on examine avec attention la vie de François de Sales, on voit qu'il fut dès ses premières années un modèle de sainteté, modèle non point froid et triste, mais aimable et accessible à tous, de sorte qu'on peut en toute vérité lui appliquer cette parole : Son commerce n'a point d'amertume, et sa compagnie n'est point ennuyeuse, mais procure joie et plaisir. (Sap. VIII,16)

La douceur, vertu distinctive de saint François

De fait, s'il a brillé de l'éclat de toutes les vertus, saint François s'est distingué par une exquise douceur d'âme qu'on est fondé à considérer comme sa note particulière et caractéristique. Sa douceur toutefois n'avait rien de commun avec cette amabilité affectée qui se dépense en civilités raffinées et s'étale en prévenances excessives ; elle était aux antipodes aussi bien d'une torpeur ou apathie que rien n'émeut, que d'une timidité qui n'a pas la force, même quand c'est nécessaire, de manifester une indignation.

Cette vertu prédominante, jaillie des profondeurs de l'âme de François de Sales comme une délicieuse fleur de charité puisqu'elle était faite surtout de compassion et d'indulgence, atténuait de suavité la gravité de son visage, se reflétait dans sa démarche et dans sa voix, et lui gagnait les égards empressés de tous.

Douceur compatissante du prêtre

Les historiens attestent que notre Saint avait accoutumé de recevoir sans la moindre difficulté et d'accueillir avec tendresse tous ceux, et plus spécialement les pécheurs et apostats, qui se pressaient à sa porte pour recevoir le pardon de leurs fautes et amender leur conduite ; s'occuper des condamnés détenus en prison était sa joie, et il les réconfortait, au cours de fréquentes visites, par les mille industries de sa charité ; il ne montrait pas moins d'indulgence dans ses rapports avec ses serviteurs, supportant avec une patience exemplaire leurs négligences et leurs manques de respect.

Douceur conquérante de l'apôtre du Chablais

S'étendant à tous, la mansuétude de François de Sales ne se démentit jamais à l'endroit de qui que ce fût, pas plus dans le malheur que dans la prospérité : ainsi, malgré leurs avanies, les hérétiques ne le trouvèrent jamais moins bienveillant ni moins affable.

L'année qui suit son ordination, il s'offre spontanément, sans l'assentiment et contre le gré de son père, à Granier, évêque de Genève, pour ramener à l'Église la population du Chablais ; bien volontiers l'évêque lui confie cette province étendue et inhospitalière ; saint François s'y dévoue avec tant de zèle qu'il ne recule devant aucune fatigue et ne se laisse même arrêter par aucun danger de mort.

Or, l'extrême étendue de sa science, la force et les ressources de son éloquence firent moins, pour procurer le salut à tant de milliers d'âmes, que la bonté souriante dont jamais il ne se départit dans l'exercice du saint ministère.

Il aimait à redire fréquemment cet adage qui mérite d'être retenu : Les Apôtres ne combattent qu'en souffrant et ne triomphent qu'en mourant ; et l'on a peine à croire avec quelle ardeur et quelle persévérance il soutint la cause de Jésus-Christ parmi ses chères populations du Chablais.

Pour leur porter les lumières de la foi et les consolations de l'espérance chrétienne, notre Saint allait par le fond des vallées et se glissait en rampant à travers les gorges étroites. Si les âmes fuient, il se met à leur poursuite, les appelant à grands cris : brutalement repoussé, il ne se décourage point ; assailli de menaces, il se remet à l'œuvre ; expulsé plus d'une fois des hôtelleries, il passe des nuits en plein air dans le froid et la neige ; il célèbre la Messe même si tout assistant fait défaut ; ses auditeurs se retirant presque tous, il continue de prêcher ; toujours il conserve une parfaite égalité d'âme, et il témoigne aux ingrats une charité souverainement aimable qui finit par triompher de ses adversaires, si obstinée que puisse être leur résistance.

Ce qu'était la douceur de saint François

Irascibilité native, vaincue par une lutte perpétuelle

D'aucuns penseront peut-être que François de Sales a hérité en naissant de ces qualités morales, et qu'il est une de ces natures spécialement privilégiées que la grâce de Dieu a prévenues du don de la douceur : erreur profonde ! Au contraire, il était, de par son tempérament physique même, d'un naturel difficile et enclin à la colère ; mais, s'étant fixé pour modèle le Christ Jésus qui a dit : Apprenez de moi que je suis doux et humble de cœur (Matth. XI,29), il surveilla constamment les mouvements de son âme et, en se faisant violence, réussit si bien à les comprimer et à les dompter, que nul n'a mieux rappelé que lui, en toute sa personne, le Dieu de paix et de mansuétude.

Sa biographie contient un trait qui est une preuve remarquable de ces combats intimes. Les médecins auxquels, après sa mort, sa sainte dépouille fut remise pour l'embaumement, trouvèrent le foie presque pétrifié et réduit en menus calculs ; ce phénomène leur révéla quelles violences et quels efforts il avait dû s'imposer pour dompter, cinquante années durant, son irascibilité native.

Ainsi donc, c'est à sa force d'âme, sans cesse alimentée par une foi robuste et un brûlant amour de Dieu, que François de Sales dut toute sa douceur, de façon qu'on peut lui appliquer à la lettre ce mot de la Sainte Écriture : De la force est sortie la douceur (Judic. XIV,14). Et par la douceur apostolique qui le distinguait, et qui, au dire de Jean Chrysostome, est la plus puissante des violences (Hom. 58 in Gen.), il ne pouvait manquer de jouir, pour attirer les cœurs, de ce pouvoir que promet aux doux l'oracle divin : Heureux les doux, car ils seront maîtres du monde (Matth. V,4).

Cette douceur n'excluait pas une courageuse fermeté

D'autre part, quelle était l'énergie morale de saint François, en qui il était permis de signaler un modèle de douceur, on le vit très clairement chaque fois qu'il eut à lutter contre les puissants pour la gloire de Dieu, les droits de l'Église et le salut des âmes.

Ce fut le cas lorsqu'il défendit l'immunité de la juridiction ecclésiastique contre le Sénat de Chambéry ; cette assemblée l'ayant menacé par lettre de lui retirer une partie de ses revenus, non seulement François de Sales fit au messager la réponse qui convenait à sa dignité, mais il ne cessa de protester contre cette injustice jusqu'à ce que le Sénat lui eût donné pleine satisfaction. C'est avec la même fermeté de caractère qu'il subit la colère du Prince, auprès de qui il avait, ainsi que ses frères, été calomnié ; il résista avec non moins de force aux prétentions des seigneurs pour la collation des bénéfices ecclésiastiques ; de même encore, après avoir tout essayé, il sévit contre les rebelles qui avaient refusé la dîme au Chapitre des chanoines de Genève.

C'est donc avec une liberté tout évangélique qu'il avait accoutumé soit de flétrir les vices publics, soit de démasquer les contrefaçons de la vertu et de la piété ; respectueux, autant que quiconque, de l'autorité des Princes, jamais cependant il ne consentit par ses actes à se faire complice de leurs passions ni à se plier aux excès de leur arbitraire.



Blason de Francois de Sales - Sa devise complète est Nunquam excidet

Saint François de Sales, évêque et docteur de l'Eglise

Il naît en 1567 dans une noble famille savoyarde restée catholique en pays calviniste, il était destiné à une brillante carrière juridique. Son père l'envoie étudier à Paris. Mais il y découvre la théologie et les problèmes de la prédestination. Scrupuleux, il se croit prédestiné à être damné. Le désespoir le submerge jusqu'au jour où il découvre le "souvenez-vous", la prière mariale attribuée à saint Bernard. Il retrouve la paix et ce sera l'un des grands messages de sa vie quand il pacifiera sainte Jeanne de Chantal. Ordonné prêtre à 35 ans, il est ensuite nommé évêque de Genève, mais réside à Annecy, car Genève est aux mains des calvinistes. Il ne s’épargnera rien pour annoncer l’évangile : ni visites dans son diocèse, ni catéchèses des petits enfants, ni visites aux condamnés, ni voyages apostoliques... C'est l'époque où l'Église romaine, face au protestantisme et à la doctrine de la prédestination, reprend courage et se lance dans le grand mouvement de la Contre-Réforme.  Il entreprend d'écrire des lettres personnelles aux gens qu'il ne peut atteindre. Puis il fait appel à l'imprimerie pour éditer des textes qu'il placarde dans les endroits publics et distribue sous les portes. Ces publications périodiques imprimées sont considérées comme le premier " journal " catholique du monde, et c’est pourquoi François de Sales est le patron des journalistes. Furent ainsi publiés les "Méditations", les "Épîtres à Messieurs de Thonon", et les "Controverses". Et pour toucher les illettrés, il se met à prêcher sur les places, au milieu des marchés... Parallèlement, il fréquente les plus grands esprits catholiques de l'époque, soutient la réforme des carmels de sainte Thérèse d'Avila, la fondation de l'Oratoire français par Pierre de Bérulle (1611) et fonde lui-même l'Ordre des Visitandines avec sainte Jeanne de Chantal pour mettre la vie religieuse à la portée des femmes de faible santé. Son "Introduction à la vie dévote" est un ouvrage qui s'adresse à chaque baptisé. Il y rappelle que tout laïc peut se sanctifier en faisant joyeusement son devoir d'état, en lequel s'exprime la volonté de Dieu. Ses écrits sont, par ailleurs, un des plus beaux témoins de la langue française classique qui commence à s’affirmer. Il meurt en 1622.



St. Francis de Sales

Bishop of Geneva, Doctor of the Universal Church. born at Thorens, in the Duchy of Savoy, 21 August, 1567; died at Lyons, 28 December, 1622. His father, François de Sales de Boisy, and his mother, Françoise de Sionnaz, belonged to old Savoyard aristocratic families. The future saint was the eldest of six brothers. His father intended him for the magistracy and sent him at an early age to the colleges of La Roche and Annecy. From 1583 till 1588 he studied rhetoric and humanities at the college of Clermont, Paris, under the care of the Jesuits. While there he began a course of theology. After a terrible and prolonged temptation to despair, caused by the discussions of the theologians of the day on the question of predestination, from which he was suddenly freed as he knelt before a miraculous image of Our Lady at St. Etienne-des-Grès, he made a vow of chastity and consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1588 he studied law at Padua, where the Jesuit Father Possevin was his spiritual director. He received his diploma of doctorate from the famous Pancirola in 1592. Having been admitted as a lawyer before the senate of Chambéry, he was about to be appointed senator. His father had selected one of the noblest heiresses of Savoy to be the partner of his future life, but Francis declared his intention of embracing the ecclesiastical life. A sharp struggle ensued. His father would not consent to see his expectations thwarted. Then Claude de Granier, Bishop of Geneva, obtained for Francis, on his own initiative, the position of Provost of the Chapter of Geneva, a post in the patronage of the pope. It was the highest office in the diocese, M. de Boisy yielded and Francis received Holy Orders (1593).

From the time of the Reformation the seat of the Bishopric of Geneva had been fixed at Annecy. There with apostolic zeal, the new provost devoted himself to preaching, hearing confessions, and the other work of his ministry. In the following year (1594) he volunteered to evangelize Le Chablais, where the Genevans had imposed the Reformed Faith, and which had just been restored to the Duchy of Savoy. He made his headquarters in the fortress of Allinges. Risking his life, he journeyed through the entire district, preaching constantly; by dint of zeal, learning, kindness and holiness he at last obtained a hearing. He then settled in Thonon, the chief town. He confuted the preachers sent by Geneva to oppose him; he converted the syndic and several prominent Calvinists. At the request of the pope, Clement VIII, he went to Geneva to interview Theodore Beza, who was called the Patriarch of the Reformation. The latter received him kindly and seemed for a while shaken, but had not the courage to take the final steps. A large part of the inhabitants of Le Chablais returned to the true fold (1597 and 1598). Claude de Granier then chose Francis as his coadjutor, in spite of his refusal, and sent him to Rome (1599).

Pope Clement VIII ratified the choice; but he wished to examine the candidate personally, in presence of the Sacred College. The improvised examination was a triumph for Francis. "Drink, my son", said the Pope to him. "from your cistern, and from your living wellspring; may your waters issue forth, and may they become public fountains where the world may quench its thirst." The prophesy was to be realized. On his return from Rome the religious affairs of the territory of Gex, a dependency of France, necessitated his going to Paris. There the coadjutor formed an intimate friendship with Cardinal de Bérulle, Antoine* Deshayes, secretary of Henry IV, and Henry IV himself, who wished "to make a third in this fair friendship" (être de tiers dans cette belle amitié). The king made him preach the Lent at Court, and wished to keep him in France. He urged him to continue, by his sermons and writings, to teach those souls that had to live in the world how to have confidence in God, and how to be genuinely and truly pious - graces of which he saw the great necessity.

On the death of Claude de Granier, Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva (1602). His first step was to institute catechetical instructions for the faithful, both young and old. He made prudent regulations for the guidance of his clergy. He carefully visited the parishes scattered through the rugged mountains of his diocese. He reformed the religious communities. His goodness, patience and mildness became proverbial. He had an intense love for the poor, especially those who were of respectable family. His food was plain, his dress and his household simple. He completely dispensed with superfluities and lived with the greatest economy, in order to be able to provide more abundantly for the wants of the needy. He heard confessions, gave advice, and preached incessantly. He wrote innumerable letters (mainly letters of direction) and found time to publish the numerous works mentioned below. Together with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, he founded (1607) the Institute of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, for young girls and widows who, feeling themselves called to the religious life, have not sufficient strength, or lack inclination, for the corporal austerities of the great orders. His zeal extended beyond the limits of his own diocese. He delivered the Lent and Advent discourses which are still famous - those at Dijon (1604), where he first met the Baroness de Chantal; at Chambéry (1606); at Grenoble (1616, 1617, 1618), where he converted the Ambrose Maréchal de Lesdiguières. During his last stay in Paris (November, 1618, to September, 1619) he had to go into the pulpit each day to satisfy the pious wishes of those who thronged to hear him. "Never", said they, "have such holy, such apostolic sermons been preached." He came into contact here with all the distinguished ecclesiastics of the day, and in particular with St. Vincent de Paul. His friends tried energetically to induce him to remain in France, offering him first the wealthy Abbey of Ste. Geneviève and then the coadjutor-bishopric of Paris, but he refused all to return to Annecy.

In 1622 he had to accompany the Court of Savoy into France. At Lyons he insisted on occupying a small, poorly furnished room in a house belonging to the gardener of the Visitation Convent. There, on 27 December, he was seized with apoplexy. He received the last sacraments and made his profession of faith, repeating constantly the words: "God's will be done! Jesus, my God and my all!" He died next day, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. Immense crowds flocked to visit his remains, which the people of Lyons were anxious to keep in their city. With much difficulty his body was brought back to Annecy, but his heart was left at Lyons. A great number of wonderful favours have been obtained at his tomb in the Visitation Convent of Annecy. His heart, at the time of the French Revolution, was carried by the Visitation nuns from Lyons to Venice, where it is venerated today. St. Francis de Sales was beatified in 1661, and canonized by Alexander VII in 1665; he was proclaimed Doctor of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX, in 1877.
The following is a list of the principal works of the holy Doctor:

(1) "Controversies", leaflets which the zealous missioner scattered among the inhabitants of Le Chablais in the beginning, when these people did not venture to come and hear him preach. They form a complete proof of the Catholic Faith. In the first part, the author defends the authority of the Church, and in the second and third parts, the rules of faith, which were not observed by the heretical ministers. The primacy of St. Peter is amply vindicated.

(2) "Defense of the Standard of the Cross", a demonstration of the virtue
·        of the True Cross;
·        of the Crucifix;
·        of the Sign of the Cross;
·        an explanation of the Veneration of the Cross.

(3) "An Introduction to the Devout Life", a work intended to lead "Philothea", the soul living in the world, into the paths of devotion, that is to say, of true and solid piety. Every one should strive to become pious, and "it is an error, it is even a heresy", to hold that piety is incompatible with any state of life. In the first part the author helps the soul to free itself from all inclination to, or affection for, sin; in the second, he teaches it how to be united to God by prayer and the sacraments; in the third, he exercises it in the practice of virtue; in the fourth, he strengthens it against temptation; in the fifth, he teaches it how to form its resolutions and to persevere. The "Introduction", which is a masterpiece of psychology, practical morality, and common sense, was translated into nearly every language even in the lifetime of the author, and it has since gone through innumerable editions.

(4) "Treatise on the Love of God", an authoritative work which reflects perfectly the mind and heart of Francis de Sales as a great genius and a great saint. It contains twelve books. The first four give us a history, or rather explain the theory, of Divine love, its birth in the soul, its growth, its perfection, and its decay and annihilation; the fifth book shows that this love is twofold - the love of complacency and the love of benevolence; the sixth and seventh treat of affective love, which is practised in prayer; the eight and ninth deal with effective love, that is, conformity to the will of God, and submission to His good pleasure. The last three resume what has preceded and teach how to apply practically the lessons taught therein.

(5) "Spiritual Conferences"; familiar conversations on religious virtues addressed to the sisters of the Visitation and collected by them. We find in them that practical common sense, keenness of perception and delicacy of feeling which were characteristic of the kind-hearted and energetic Saint.

(6) "Sermons". - These are divided into two classes: those composed previously to his consecration as a bishop, and which he himself wrote out in full; and the discourses he delivered when a bishop, of which, as a rule, only outlines and synopses have been preserved. Some of the latter, however, were taken down in extenso by his hearers. Pius IX, in his Bull proclaiming him Doctor of the Church calls the Saint "The Master and Restorer of Sacred Eloquence". He is one of those who at the beginning of the seventeenth century formed the beautiful French language; he foreshadows and prepares the way for the great sacred orators about to appear. He speaks simply, naturally, and from his heart. To speak well we need only love well, was his maxim. His mind was imbued with the Holy Writings, which he comments, and explains, and applies practically with no less accuracy than grace.

(7) "Letters", mostly letters of direction, in which the minister of God effaces himself and teaches the soul to listen to God, the only true director. The advice given is suited to all the circumstances and necessities of life and to all persons of good will. While trying to efface his own personality in these letters, the saint makes himself known to us and unconsciously discovers to us the treasures of his soul.

(8) A large number of very precious treatises or opuscula.

Migne (5 vols., quarto) and Vivès (12 vols., octavo, Paris) have edited the works of St. Francis de Sales. But the edition which we may call definitive was published at Annecy in 1892, by the English Benedictine, Dom Mackey: a work remarkable for its typographical execution, the brilliant criticism that settles the text, the large quantity of hitherto unedited matter, and the interesting study accompanying each volume. Dom Mackey published twelve volumes. Father Navatel, S.J., is continuing the work. We may give here a brief résumé of the spiritual teaching contained in these works, of which the Church has said: "The writings of Francis de Sales, filled with celestial doctrine are a bright light in the Church, pointing out to souls an easy and safe way to arrive at the perfection of a Christian life." (Breviarium Romanum, 29 January, lect. VI.)

There are two elements in the spiritual life: first, a struggle against our lower nature; secondly, union of our wills with God, in other words, penance and love. St. Francis de Sales looks chiefly to love. Not that he neglects penance, which is absolutely necessary, but he wishes it to be practised from a motive of love. He requires mortification of the senses, but he relies first on mortification of the mind, the will, and the heart. This interior mortification he requires to be unceasing and always accompanied by love. The end to be realized is a life of loving, simple, generous, and constant fidelity to the will of God, which is nothing else than our present duty. The model proposed is Christ, whom we must ever keep before our eyes. "You will study His countenance, and perform your actions as He did" (Introd., 2nd part, ch. i). The practical means of arriving at this perfection are: remembrance of the presence of God, filial prayer, a right intention in all our actions, and frequent recourse to God by pious and confiding ejaculations and interior aspirations.


Besides the Institute of the Visitation, which he founded, the nineteenth century has seen associations of the secular clergy and pious laymen, and several religious congregations, formed under the patronage of the holy Doctor. Among them we may mention the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, of Annecy; the Salesians, founded at Turin by the Venerable Don Bosco, specially devoted to the Christian and technical education of the children of the poorer classes; the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, established at Troyes (France) by Father Brisson, who try to realize in the religious and priestly life the spirit of the holy Doctor, such as we have described it, and such as he bequeathed it to the nuns of the Visitation.

Sources

MACKEY, OEuvres de St François de Sales (Annecy, 1892-); CHARLES-AUGUSTE DE SALES, Histoire du Bienheureux François de Sales (2nd ed., Paris, 1885); CAMUS, Esprit de S. François de Sales (2d ed., Paris, 1833); and in Collection S. Honore d'Eylau (Paris, 1904); Vie de S. François de Sales by HAMON (Paris); PÉRENNÈS (Paris); DE MARGERIE (Paris); STROWSKI, St. François de Sales (Paris); Annales Salesiennes in Revue Mensuelle (Paris, 1906, etc.). MACKEY has given an English translation of the Letters to Persons in the World, and of the Letters to Persons in Religion (London); he has also published noteworthy articles on St. Francis de Sales as an Orator (London) and St. Francis de Sales as a Director in Am. Eccl. Rev. (1898).

Pernin, Raphael. "St. Francis de Sales." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 24 Jan. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06220a.htm>.



Introduction à la Vie Dévote ; Traité de l' Amour de Dieu ; Les Entretiens de Saint François de Sales : http://www.abbaye-saint-benoit.ch/saints/francoisdesales/index.htm

St. Francis de Sales

Born in France in 1567, Francis was a patient man. He knew for thirteen years that he had a vocation to the priesthood before he mentioned it to his family. When his father said that he wanted Francis to be a soldier and sent him to Paris to study, Francis said nothing. Then when he went to Padua to get a doctorate in law, he still kept quiet, but he studied theology and practiced mental prayer while getting into swordfights and going to parties. Even when his bishop told him if he wanted to be a priest that he thought that he would have a miter waiting for him someday, Francis uttered not a word. Why did Francis wait so long? Throughout his life he waited for God’s will to be clear. He never wanted to push his wishes on God, to the point where most of us would have been afraid that God would give up!

God finally made God’s will clear to Francis while he was riding. Francis fell from his horse three times. Every time he fell the sword came out of the scabbard. Every time it came out the sword and scabbard came to rest on the ground in the shape of the cross. And then, Francis, without knowing about it, was appointed provost of his diocese, second in rank to the bishop.

Perhaps he was wise to wait, for he wasn’t a natural pastor. His biggest concern on being ordained that he had to have his lovely curly gold hair cut off. And his preaching left the listeners thinking he was making fun of him. Others reported to the bishop that this noble-turned- priest was conceited and controlling.

Then Francis had a bad idea — at least that’s what everyone else thought. This was during the time of the Protestant reformation and just over the mountains from where Francis lived was Switzerland — Calvinist territory. Francis decided that he should lead an expedition to convert the 60,000 Calvinists back to Catholicism. But by the time he left his expedition consisted of himself and his cousin. His father refused to give him any aid for this crazy plan and the diocese was too poor to support him.

For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow. He slept in haylofts if he could, but once he slept in a tree to avoid wolves. He tied himself to a branch to keep from falling out and was so frozen the next morning he had to be cut down. And after three years, his cousin had left him alone and he had not made one convert.

Francis’ unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors. This is the first record we have of religious tracts being used to communicate with people.

The parents wouldn’t come to him 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.

By the time, Francis left to go home he is said to have converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism.

In 1602 he was made bishop of the diocese of Geneva, in Calvinist territory. He only set foot in the city of Geneva twice — once when the Pope sent him to try to convert Calvin’s successor, Beza, and another when he traveled through it.

It was in 1604 that Francis took one of the most important steps in his life, the step toward holiness and mystical union with God.

In Dijon that year Francis saw a widow listening closely to his sermon — a woman he had seen already in a dream. Jane de Chantal was a person on her own, as Francis was, but it was only when they became friends that they began to become saints. Jane wanted him to take over her spiritual direction, but, not surprisingly, Francis wanted to wait. “I had to know fully what God himself wanted. I had to be sure that everything in this should be done as though his hand had done it.” Jane was on a path to mystical union with God and, in directing her, Francis was compelled to follow her and become a mystic himself.

Three years after working with Jane, he finally made up his mind to form a new religious order. But where would they get a convent for their contemplative Visitation nuns? A man came to Francis without knowing of his plans and told him he was thinking of donating a place for use by pious women. In his typical way of not pushing God, Francis said nothing. When the man brought it up again, Francis still kept quiet, telling Jane, “God will be with us if he approves.” Finally the man offered Francis the convent.

Francis was overworked and often ill because of his constant load of preaching, visiting, and instruction — even catechizing a deaf man so he could take first Communion. He believed the first duty of a bishop was spiritual direction and wrote to Jane, “So many have come to me that I might serve them, leaving me no time to think of myself. However, I assure you that I do feel deep-down- within-me, God be praised. For the truth is that this kind of work is infinitely profitable to me.” For him active work did not weaken his spiritual inner peace but strengthened it. He directed most people through letters, which tested his remarkable patience. “I have more than fifty letters to answer. If I tried to hurry over it all, i would be lost. So I intend neither to hurry or to worry. This evening, I shall answer as many as I can. Tomorrow I shall do the same and so I shall go on until I have finished.”

At that time, the way of holiness was only for monks and nuns — not for ordinary people. Francis changed all that by giving spiritual direction to lay people living ordinary lives in the world. But he had proven with his own life that people could grow in holiness while involved in a very active occupation. Why couldn’t others do the same? His most famous book, INTRODUCTION TO THE DEVOUT LIFE, was written for these ordinary people in 1608. Written originally as letters, it became an instant success all over Europe — though some preachers tore it up because he tolerated dancing and jokes!

For Francis, the love of God was like romantic love. He said, “The thoughts of those moved by natural human love are almost completely fastened on the beloved, their hearts are filled with passion for it, and their mouths full of its praises. When it is gone they express their feelings in letters, and can’t pass by a tree without carving the name of their beloved in its bark. Thus too those who love God can never stop thinking about him, longing for him, aspiring to him, and speaking about him. If they could, they would engrave the name of Jesus on the hearts of all humankind.”

The key to love of God was prayer. “By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God.” For busy people of the world, he advised “Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others and talk to God.” The test of prayer was a person’s actions: “To be an angel in prayer and a beast in one’s relations with people is to go lame on both legs.”

He believed the worst sin was to judge someone or to gossip about them. Even if we say we do it out of love we’re still doing it to look better ourselves. But we should be as gentle and forgiving with ourselves as we should be with others.

As he became older and more ill he said, “I have to drive myself but the more I try the slower I go.” He wanted to be a hermit but he was more in demand than ever. The Pope needed him, then a princess, then Louis XIII. “Now I really feel that I am only attached to the earth by one foot…” He died on December 28, 1622, after giving a nun his last word of advice: “Humility.”

He is patron saint of journalists because of the tracts and books he wrote.

SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/saint-francis-de-sales/

Francis de Sales B, Doctor (RM)

Born at the Château de Sales in Thorens, Savoy, August 21, 1567; died in Lyons, France, December 28, 1622; formally beatified the same year (1622) in Saint Peter's Basilica (the first solemn beatification to occur there); canonized 1665; named a Doctor of the Church in 1877; declared patron saint of journalists and the Catholic press in 1923; feast day formerly on January 29.



"He is rich in spirit who has his riches in his spirit not his spirit in his riches; he is poor in spirit who has no riches in his spirit, or his spirit in his riches." --Saint Francis de Sales.

"Is there anything better on earth than gentleness? If there were Jesus Christ would have taught it to us. But Jesus has given us only two lessons. 'Learn from me,' he said, 'for I am meek and lowly of heart.'" --Saint Francis de Sales.

"I do not say that one should not aspire to these high and extreme virtues, but I say that one must exercise oneself in the little ones, without which the great ones are often false and deceitful. Let us learn to suffer voluntarily words of abasement and words that serve to snub our opinions and our views; then we will learn to suffer martyrdom, annihilation in God, and insensibility in all things." Saint Francis in a letter to Saint Jane de Chantal (Thy will be done: Letters to persons in the world, Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Press, 1995).

"The difference between a good person and a devout one is this: the good person keeps God's commandments, though without any great speed or fervor; the devout not only observes them but does so willingly, speedily, and with a good heart."

--Saint Francis de Sales.

"Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow.
The same Everlasting Father, who takes care of you today,
will take care of you tomorrow.
He will either shield you from suffering,
or give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."

--Saint Francis de Sales.

"All the is not eternal is not worthy of a thought." This last quote was the motto of Saint Francis de Sales, bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, and Doctor of the Church.

Francis was born in the family castle just 21 years after the death of Martin Luther, and contributed enormously to the success of the Counter Reformation. The Council of Trent, which embodied the true principles of self-reformation of the Church, finished its final session just four years before Francis's entry on the earth.

His life was contemporaneous with a galaxy of saints that mark any period of challenge to the Church: Pope Saint Pius V whose Dominican habit became the model for today's pontifical dress, SS. Charles Borromeo, Philip Neri, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis Borgia, Stanislaus Kostka, Aloysius, John Berchmans, Vincent de Paul, Peter Baptist, Peter Canisius, Peter Claver, Peter Fourier, Jane Frances de Chantal, John Francis Regis, and Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. His time was similar to that of the great Apostolic Age, a second visible coming of the Holy Spirit.

Of high lineage on both sides of the family, Saint Francis may have aspired to almost any position in the state. Francis was the eldest son of Francis, Seigneur de Nouvelles, and Frances of Sionas, (it's not a surprise then that he was named Francis!). Born prematurely (7th month), Francis was a sickly child. The day following his birth, he was baptized Francis Bonaventure. Because his health was so delicate, his mother and Abbé Déage taught him the virtuous life at home.

Perhaps Francis was influenced in later life because of the room in which he was born--Saint Francis's room. Here there was a painting of Saint Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds and fish. Today's saint certainly imitated his patron's simplicity and gentleness.

Abbé Déage accompanied Francis everywhere during his youth. After his home schooling, his father prepared him for a senatorship by providing Francis with an education at the best nearby schools. While studying at the Collège of Annecy, Francis made his first communion and received confirmation. Francis knew his father's aspiration but, at age nine, he was already certain of his vocation to the priesthood and received the tonsure. Still, his father expected him to pursue a career in politics.

That Saint Francis was so gentle and understanding may be attributed to a youthful experience wherein he knelt before the statue of our Lady of Saint Etienne de Gres, plunged in a depression that verged on despair. There he prayed that, should it be God's will, he might yet love and praise Him even in Hell. Then it swept over him that this was an impermissible acquiescence in his own damnation, and with that he was forever set free from the blackness that momentarily had engulfed him. It was from a heart full of joy that he was able to pass on the sweetness of the Gospel to so many generations of people in all walks of life.

This fear that God would desert him was lifted, but as a result he learned the special care and handling of those who similarly doubted their salvation. His gentleness arose not from weakness but from his own experience of spiritual suffering.

Francis longed to devote himself to the Christian ministry, but his father wished him to take up more worldly pursuits. Francis obediently went to the University of Paris at age 14 to read for the law. But instead of attending the Collège de Navarre (reserved for the nobility of Savoy), he studied at the Jesuit college of Clermont (1580-1588), where he thought his vocation would remain strong, because the school was renowned for piety as well as learning.

So, accompanied again by the Abbé Déage, Francis took up residence in the Hôtel de la Rose Blanche, Rue Saint- Jacques nearby. He studied philosophy and rhetoric, but insisted on also learning theology. To satisfy his father, but without enthusiasm, he took lessons in riding, dancing, and fencing. Secretly, Francis was all the time planning for the priesthood but during his studies comported himself as did other wealthy young gentlemen at the university. He completed his legal studies in Padua, where he received his doctorate at age 24 (1591). He acquired a knowledge that ranged over all subjects with a grasp on the inner meaning of each and an ability to integrate them into a whole.

He rejoined his family at the Château de Thuille on the Lake of Annecy. He had confided his desire to devote himself wholly to God only to his mother, his cousin Father Louis de Sales, and a few intimate friends, but he knew that he would have to tell his father. To satisfy his father, he might have become a priest that continued to dress foppishly and greedily collected stipends, as did many young men of the time (some of whom had later conversions, such as Jean-Jacques Olier, founder of the Sulpicians; and Armand de Rance, reformer of the Trappists), but Francis sought perfection.

While qualifying as a senator for Savoy and ripe for a brilliant marriage, he disappointed his father by announcing his vocation to the priesthood. Upon the death of the provost of Geneva and at the prompting of his cousin Louis, Francis explained the situation to his bishop. He was appointed immediately as provost to the diocese of Geneva, by which he became second only to the bishop himself. As expected, this garnered his father's assent, though grudgingly, to his career in the Church, and six months later, on December 18, 1593, Francis was ordained a priest.

Thus Francis, Count of Sales, sacrificed rank and fortune for a life of piety and charity. Immediately he showed himself to be dedicated with exceptional enthusiasm for the poor. As a preacher he was distinguished for his fervor, sincerity, and simplicity. Being easily understood by the common people, Francis charmed all who heard him. As an apostle he was humble and eager, practicing great austerities, suffering hardship, and being undeterred by difficulties or dangers.

Already Calvinism held sway in large parts of the sparsely populated diocese. Catholicism was proscribed in the cathedral city itself, so the bishop functioned from Annecy. The poverty and difficulties of the diocese were an added attraction to Francis, though to his father they were merely unpleasant facts.
At his chapter Bishop Claud de Granier announced that he wished to send missioners to the south shore of Lake Geneva at the request of the Duke of Savoy. The bishop explained the difficulties and dangers that such a mission would entail. Nevertheless, the young priest Father Francis volunteered for the apostolate. The bishop eagerly accepted his offer. But Francis's father objected. Thus, Francis had the disappointment of undertaking his mission without his father's blessing.

On September 14, 1594, the Triumph of the Holy Cross, Francis and Father Louis set out on foot to win back the Chablais. Trying to convert the Calvinists of Geneva and Chablais was a perilous occupation. Armed clashes accompanied differences of belief between Protestants and Catholics of the time. The duo preached daily in Thonon, gradually extending their efforts to the villages surrounding it.

One night Francis was attacked by wolves and escaped by spending the night in a tree. There was at least one attempt to poison him, several times he was shot at by lurking assassins, and once he was attacked and beaten by a hostile crowd. Time passed little apparent success. It is a miracle that Francis and Louis did not become discouraged, especially concerning that throughout this period Francis's father continually wrote to his son commanding and imploring him to give up.

Seeking a new way to reach hearts, Francis found his pen to be the most successful tool for conversion. He used every spare moment to write out and copy pamphlets and leaflets to reach the Calvinists (eventually these were gathered into a volume entitled Controversies, which reconciled many lapsed Catholics to the Church). He used little more than stock arguments against Calvinism, but he used a gentler style--trying to catch flies with honey. Those Calvinists who did go to hear him discovered that he spoke, not as a logician avid for victory over his opponents, but as a father anxious only for the welfare of his children.

Francis persisted and his sermons began to be more popular, conversions more numerous. It is said that within two years Francis won over 8,000 converts by preaching Catholic doctrine with great love, understanding, and persistent patience. Eventually, most of the region returned to the Church according to most sources. On one occasion after a sermon on the Blessed Sacrament at least 600 Calvinists knelt and made their peace with God.

During his five years of missionary work, Francis arranged to hold private conversations with Calvin's successor Theodore Beza and directly question him regarding the Calvinists' rigid interpretation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Beza saw his dialectical dilemma: logically it led to his saying that there must have been a time when, because of the gross errors of Rome, the true Church ceased to exist, until restored by Calvin. This was to admit that the firm promises of Christ had been broken--at least for a while. After some careful thought, Beza dodged the trap by conceding that it was possible to save one's soul in the Catholic Church, and went so far as to add, "One cannot deny that the Roman Church is the Mother Church." This admission led to a discussion of works necessary for salvation. Francis had hopes for Beza's conversion, but the offering of a pension gave the appearance of a bribe.

He showed the way to balance worldly circumstances with spiritual demands. His type of sanctity is one with which we can identify for it is one of balance in which breadth and moderation and tranquility are involved. His spirituality attracts without frightening the average Christian and so it becomes one we can all imitate in living up to our calling to love God.

The life and teachings of Saint Francis came as a ray of new light upon the problem of the saints being too holy and the model of their lives too unattainable for us mere mortals living average lives. He used to say that the saints are indeed the salt of the earth, but for that very reason they must be in the world-- each life must be lived where God planted it. He insisted that goodness does not do violence to our nature; it does not restrict but rather expands it; grace, falling upon it, illumines it and brings out its beauty as the light of the sun enhances the beauty of stained glass.

He taught that holiness is not cheaply won, but rather the greatest of all miracles of faith. Nevertheless, there are no circumstances of human life which need be inimicable to the attainment of sanctity. He called the path of holiness a "pleasant road." He said that God has made us for Himself so that we should rest in Him, and that we can rest in Him now, and yet be ourselves, not some imitation of His creation.

Those under his spiritual direction were allowed to persist in some worldly interests and amusements that others might have condemned as positively incompatible with a devout life. It's not that he believed that these would sanctify his charges, but that conversion is gradual, and if their desire for perfection was allowed to grow rather than being discouraged, eventually the penitent would abandon these interests as distasteful without further urging from their director.

He forever preached tranquility, patience with self, and cheerfulness even in the midst of struggle. All was to be subordinated to fidelity. Holiness, he continually insisted, is a matter of the will; and it is consummated not necessarily in achievement but essentially in perseverance. It is a matter of love, not fear. Holiness, in his conception of it, should be well rounded and not suppress anything in us that is not bad of itself for all our goodness is His and our very wretchedness makes us fitter objects for His mercy and power.

As provost of Geneva he was generous and considerate, ever mindful of the poor. As a mystic he was an optimist and a humanist, steeped in the learning of the Renaissance and the writings of the early Fathers. He stressed the joys of earth and Heaven, and the Christian doctrine of pure love reflected in a natural and overflowing charity and goodwill. "Just as the soul is the life of the body," he said, "so charity is the life of he soul." "Charity should continue to increase in us until we draw our last breath."

"Always," he wrote, "be as indulgent as you can, never forgetting that one can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar."

"If," he added, "you must go to excess on one or the other side, let it be towards indulgence, for no sauce was ever spoiled by sugar. The human mind is so constituted that it hardens itself against severity, but loving kindness makes it pliable. Anger is quieted by a gentle word just as fire is quenched by water, and there is no soil so barren but that diligent tenderness bring forth some fruit."
"I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity. Is not God all love? God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a lamb; God the Holy Spirit is a Dove--that is, gentleness itself."

Francis de Sales belongs to the great line of Quietist mystics who found in their own heart, rather than in routine and formality, an inner shrine where they adored the Divine glory. He had no sympathy with intolerance or persecution, and declined honors and preferment, refusing to accept the archbishopric of Paris.

"He who prays," he said, "should be so absorbed in God as to forget that he is praying." And of impatience in prayer, he wrote, "People are willing to wait half a year for their seed to bring forth corn, and they wait years for apples to bear."

Always he insisted on gentleness: "Nothing softer than oil or sweeter than honey can be found, but when either boils it burns more fiercely than any other liquid."

He had wise words also to say about matrimony: "Bees cannot stay in a place where there are echoes or rebounding of voices; nor can the Holy Ghost remain in a house where there are clamor, strife, contradictions, and altercations. . . . Husband and wife should confess and communicate, and recommend to God with a more than ordinary fervor the happy progress of their marriage, renewing their good resolutions to sanctify it more and more by mutual love and fidelity, and taking new breath, as it were in the Lord, for the better supporting the duties of their vocations."

Francis lacked ambition, and continuously refused better offers. Cardinal de Retz tried to induce him to become his coadjutor with the right of succession to the see of Paris; Milan, almost by force, twice tried to secure him for its archbishopric; and the pope wished to elevate him to the college of cardinals. Smilingly he brushed advancement aside with the mild jest that a man who has a poor wife should not desert her simply because he has the prospect of a wealthy marriage.

In 1599, Francis was chosen coadjutor to the bishop of Geneva, Switzerland. Although initially unwilling to become coadjutor, he eventually saw it as God's will and agreed. Francis, however, fell seriously ill and almost died. When he recovered he travelled to Rome, where he was examined by Pope Clement VIII, Cardinal Baronius, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Cardinal Frederick Borromeo (a cousin of Saint Charles Borromeo and others. They proposed to Francis no less than 35 abstruse questions of theology, all of which Francis answered with simplicity and modesty. His appointment was confirmed and he succeeded to the see of Geneva upon the bishop's death in 1602, taking up residence in Annecy.

He was the ideal person to be coadjutor, combining his deep commitment to the faith with a love of his fellow men and women. He was indefatigable in the discharge of his office: organized conferences for the clergy, directed them to teach catechism in simple words, insisted on unadorned straightforward preaching, and established a seminary at Annecy that he visited regularly.

As bishop Francis followed a strict rule of life. He reorganized his household on lines of the strictest economy. He fulfilled his episcopal duties with unstinted generosity and devotion. He usually arose at 4:00 a.m. Each day he devoted himself to prayer, study of the Scriptures, visiting the poor, and the general business of the diocese. He organized the teaching of the catechism throughout the diocese, and at Annecy gave the instructions himself. Children loved him and followed him about.

He was also known as an outstanding confessor (he directed Blessed Marie Acarie in Paris for a time), as well as Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, whom he met in 1604 while preaching Lenten sermons at Dijon. With Saint Jane de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation in 1610. He was extremely influential as a director or souls because he excelled in gently leading ardent hearts to the extremes of self-sacrifice and the love of God.

When forming the Visitation nuns, he had hoped for a group of women contemplatives who would be engaged in charitable work outside the convent. The traditional idea of cloistered nuns was too ingrained in the popular mind to allow this to happen. The order proposed taking the practical Saint Martha as its patron but this was stopped by the local bishop. (Saint Vincent de Paul circumvented this limitation on his Sisters of Charity by having no habits or perpetual vows (they wore uniforms and made annual vows), and so they were free to work among the needy.)

So great was his care for individuals that some of his converts set out his teaching in a Treatise on the Love of God, published in 1616 (more on his writings below). Just before his death in 1622, a nun asked him to write down the virtue he most desired. He wrote one word: "Humility."

Schamoni has a contemporary portrait of Saint Francis that was painted during the last year of his life. He appears to be broad shouldered, nearly bald, and square faced with high cheekbones. He sports a luxuriant, curly beard and short mustache. His nose looks as though it may have been broken at least once. Yet the remarkable trait are his eyes--large, dark, deep-set and very kind.

In 1622, Francis accepted an invitation to meet Louis XIII and the duke of Savoy at Avignon. Though he know the winter journey would be hard on him, he wished to obtain from Louis certain privileges for the French part of his diocese. So he prepared by arranging the affairs of the diocese before leaving. After preaching to crowds in Avignon, he stayed for a month in a gardener's cottage belonging to the Visitation convent at Lyons. Though fatigued, he continued preaching in bitterly cold weather through Advent and Christmas. On the feast of Saint John, "The Gentle Christ of Geneva" died of a paralytic seizure. After he had received the last sacraments, he lay murmuring words from the Bible expressive of his humble and serene trust in God's mercy. The last word he was heard to utter was "Jesus."

His body was translated to Annecy in January 1623 and to a new shrine in 1912. Many miracles followed his death. Some years afterward when his coffin was opened, his body was found incorrupt, and the most delicious fragrance spread all through the convent. His relics were translated to Annecy in 1623 and again to a new shrine in 1912.

His Writings

In addition to his major works, Saint Francis composed many pamphlets and was a prolific writer of letters, especially to his Visitation sisters.

Introduction a la vie devote (Introduction to the Devout Life) was originally published in 1609 in the form of letters to 'Philothea' (lover of God) (a compound of Madame de Chamoissy (a cousin by marriage) and his own mother). These letters were written without the thought of being published. Because he addressed the letters to a woman, many men refrained from reading them.

The Introduction came into existence at the insistence of King Henry IV and a group of Jesuits to whom Madame de Chamoissy had shown the letters she had received from Francis. Francis did not want them published, but the Jesuits said they intended to do so if he refused to do it.

Treatise on the Love of God (1616) was addressed to a fictitious 'Theotimus' to counter the problem of men not reading advice given to a woman, though he notes that he is not speaking to any one sex but to the human spirit, equally in men and women.

Both works are intended for use by men and women living in the world. He makes his reader understand that they, with their domestic cares and responsibilities, are called to be saints and may even reach a higher plane than those withdrawn into cloisters. He shows how the love of God, when it becomes all-dominant, permits coordinating of the aspiration to personal holiness with the most accurate fulfillment of all mundane occupations.

He shifts the ascetic stress from the physical plane to the unseen mortification of the will. Physical asceticism has sometimes been seen as a contest in austerity (see Saint Macarius). Francis wanted to counteract such excesses, much as Saint Benedict did in his Rule. His austerities included meekness, mildness, modesty, and mortifications of the heart (e.g., bearing wrongs patiently).

Rather than extreme fasting, he recommends: "Eat the things that are set before you. . . . It is, in my opinion, a greater virtue to eat, without choice, that which is laid before you, and in the same order as it is presented, whether it be more or less agreeable to your taste, than always to choose the worst; for although the latter way of living seems more austere, yet the former has, notwithstanding, more resignation, since by it we renounce not only our own taste, but even our own choice; and it is no small mortification to accommodate our taste to every kind of meat, and it keeps us in subjection to all occurrences. Besides, this kind of mortification makes no parade, gives no trouble to anyone, and is happily adapted to civil life."

In Introduction he insists upon the need for spiritual poverty, i.e. detachment: "But if you are really poor, dear Philothea, be likewise, for God's sake, actually poor in spirit; make a virtue of necessity, and value this precious jewel of poverty at the high rate it deserves; its luster is not discovered in this world, and yet it is exceedingly rich and beautiful."

He continues: "Your poverty, Philothea, enjoys two great privileges, by means of which you may considerably enhance its merits. The first is, that it came not to you by chance, but by the will of God, who has made you poor without any concurrence of your own will. . . . The second privilege of this kind of poverty is that it is truly poverty. That poverty which is praised, caressed, esteemed, succored, and assisted [referring to voluntary poverty accepted under vow] is not altogether poverty: but that which is despised, rejected, reproached, and abandoned, is poverty indeed . . . for which reason their poverty exceeds that of the religious; although otherwise the poverty of the religious has a very great excellency."

Speaking on sanctity in the world in Introduction: "It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say that devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman. It is true, Philothea, that a devotion purely contemplative, monastical, and religious, cannot be exercised in these vocations; but, besides these three kinds of devotion, there are several others proper to conduct to perfection those who live in the secular state. . . . Nay, it has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world."

He adds that contemplation is even more necessary to lay folk than to religious, for whereas the cloister is designed to encourage a recollected life, social activities tend to dissipate it. "As birds, wherever they fly, always meet with the air, so we, wherever we go, or wherever we are, shall always find God present."

Francis warns his reader not to place too much importance on mystical experience. ". . . I do affirm that he who in his rapture has more light in the understanding to admire God, than heat in his will to love Him, is to stand on his guard; for it is to be feared that this ecstasy may be false, and may rather puff up the spirit than edify it, putting him indeed as Saul, Balaam, Caiphas, among the prophets, yet leaving him among the reprobates" (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Butler, Delaney (1978) and (1983), Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Hamon, Henry-Couannier, Maynard, Melady, Sanders, Schamoni, Steuart, Walsh, White).

In art, Saint Francis is most easily recognized by his face. He is a 17th-century Franciscan bishop, often in his purple bishop's cassock, with a bald head and long beard, often holding a book. Sometimes he is shown (1) with his pierced heart surrounded by a crown of thorns, a cross in glory over him, (2) holding a picture of the Virgin, or holding a heart in his hand (Roeder, White).


Named by the Holy See as patron of writers, editors, journalists and the Catholic press (Maynard, Roeder). In so naming him, Pope Pius XI noted his appropriateness as patron because of his example in The Controversies of "arguing forcefully, but with moderation and charity" (White). He is venerated especially at Annecy (Roeder).

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0124.shtml


January 29

St. Francis of Sales, Bishop and Confessor

From his writings, and authentic lives, chiefly that written by his nephew, Charles Augustus de Sales: also that by F. Goulu, general of the Feuillans: that by Henry de Maupas du Tour, bishop of Puy, afterwards of Evreux: and that by Madame de Bussi-Rabutin, nun of the Visitation. See his life collected by M. Marsoillier, and done into English by the late Mr. Crathorne. See also the bull of his canonization, and an excellent collection of his maxims and private actions, compiled by his intimate friend and great admirer M. Peter Camus, bishop of Bellay, in his book, entitled, L’Esprit de St. François de Sales, and in his scarce and incomparable book under the title, Quel est le meilleur, Gouvernement, le rigoureux ou le doux, printed at Paris without the name of the author, 1636. Though I find not this book in any catalogue of bishop Camus’s works, the conformity of style, and in several places the repetition of the same expressions which occur in the last-mentioned work, seem to prove this to be also the production of his pen. See also the excellent new edition of the letters of St. Francis of Sales, in six volumes, in 12mo. 1758.

A.D. 1622

THE PARENTS of this saint were Francis, count of Sales, and Frances of Sionas. The countess being with child, offered her fruit to God with the most fervent prayers, begging he would preserve it from the corruption of the world, and rather deprive her of the comfort of seeing herself a mother, than suffer her to give birth to a child, who should ever become his enemy by sin. The saint was born at Sales, three leagues from Annecy, the seat of that noble family: and his mother was delivered of him when she was but seven months advanced in her pregnancy. 1 Hence he was reared with difficulty, and was so weak, that his life, during his infancy, was often despaired of by physicians. However, he escaped the danger, and grew robust; he was very beautiful, and the sweetness of his countenance won the affections of all who saw him: but the meekness of his temper, the pregnancy of his wit, his modesty, tractableness, and obedience, were far more valuable qualifications. The countess could scarcely suffer the child out of her sight, lest any tincture of vice might infect his soul. Her first care was to inspire him with the most profound respect for the church, and all holy things; and she had the comfort to observe in him a recollection and devotion at his prayers far above his age. She read to him the lives of the saints, adding recollections suited to his capacity; and she took care to have him with her when she visited the poor, making him the distributer of her alms, and to do such little offices for them as he was able. He would set by his own meat for their relief, and when he had nothing left to bestow on them, would beg for them of all his relations. His horror of a lie, even in his infancy, made him prefer any disgrace or chastisement to the telling of the least wilful untruth.

His mother’s inclination for a domestic preceptor, to prevent his being corrupted by wicked youth in colleges, was overruled by her husband’s persuasion of the usefulness of emulation for advancing children in their studies; hoping his son’s virtue and modesty would, under God, be a sufficient guard of his innocency. He was accordingly sent to Rocheville, at six years of age, and sometime after to Annecy. An excellent memory, a solid judgment and a good application, could not fail of great progress. The young count spent as much of his time as possible in private studies and lectures of piety, especially those of the lives of saints; and by his diligence always doubled or trebled his school tasks. He showed an early inclination for the ecclesiastical state, and obtained his father’s consent, though not without some reluctance, for his receiving tonsure in the year 1578, and the eleventh of his age. He was sent afterwards, under the care of a virtuous priest, his preceptor to pursue his studies in Paris; his mother having first instilled into him steady principles of virtue, a love of prayer, and a dread of sin and its occasions. She often repeated to him those words of queen Blanche to her son St. Lewis, king of France: “I had rather see you dead, than hear you had committed one mortal sin.” On his arrival at Paris, he entered the Jesuits’ schools, and went through his rhetoric and philosophy with great applause. In pure obedience to his father’s orders, he learned in the academy to ride, dance, and fence, whence he acquired that easy behaviour which he retained ever after. But these exercises, as matters of amusement, did not hinder his close application to the study of the Greek and Hebrew languages, and of positive divinity, for six years, under the famous Genebrard and Maldonatus. But his principal concern all this time was a regular course of piety, by which he laboured to sanctify himself and all his actions. Pious meditation and the study of the holy scripture were his beloved entertainments: and he never failed to carry about him that excellent book, called the Spiritual Combat. He sought the conversation of the virtuous, particularly of F. Angelus Joyeuse, who from a duke and marshal of France, was become a Capuchin friar. The frequent discourses of this good man on the necessity of mortification, induced the count to add, to his usual austerities, the wearing of a hair shirt three days in the week. His chief resort during his stay at Paris, was to some churches, that especially of St. Stephen des Grez, as being one of the most retired. Here he made a vow of perpetual chastity, putting himself under the special patronage of the Blessed Virgin. God, to purify his heart, permitted a thick darkness, insensibly, to overspread his mind, and a spiritual dryness and melancholy to overwhelm him. He seemed, from a perfect tranquillity and peace of mind, to be almost brought to the brink of despair. Seized with the greatest terrors, he passed nights and days in tears and lamentations, and suffered more than can be conceived by those who have not felt the severity of such interior conflicts. The bitterness of his grief threw him into a deep jaundice: he could neither eat, drink, nor sleep. His preceptor laboured, but all in vain, to discover the cause of this disorder, and find out a remedy. At last, Francis, being at prayer in the same church of St. Stephen, cast his eyes on a picture of our Lady; this awakening his confidence in her intercession, he prostrated himself on the ground, and as unworthy to address the Father of all consolation, begged that she would be his advocate, and procure him the grace to love God with his whole heart. That very moment he found himself eased of his grief as of a heavy weight taken off his heart, and his former peace and tranquillity restored, which he ever after enjoyed. He was now eighteen years old, when his father recalled him from Paris, and sent him to Padua, to study the law, where his master was the celebrated Guy Pancirola; this was in the year 1554. He chose the learned and pious Jesuit, Antony Possevin, for his spiritual director; who at the same time explained to him St. Thomas’s Sun, and they read together Bellarmin’s Controversies. His nephew Augustus, gives us his written rule of life, which he made at Padua: it chiefly shows his perpetual attention to the presence of God, his care to offer up every action to him, and implore his aid at the beginning of each. Falling sick, he was despaired of by the physicians, and he himself expected with joy his last moment. His preceptor, Deage, who had ever attended him, asked him with tears, what he had to order about his funeral and other matters? “Nothing,” answered he cheerfully, “unless it be, that my body be given to the anatomy theatre to be dissected; for it will be a comfort to me if I can be of any advantage when dead, having been of none whilst alive. Thus I may also prevent some of the disorders and quarrels which happen between the young physicians and the friends of the dead, whose bodies they often dig up.” However, he recovered; and by his father’s orders, being twenty years of age, commenced doctor in laws, with great applause and pomp, in presence of forty-eight doctors. After which he travelled through Italy to see the antiquities, and visit the holy places there. He went to Rome by Ferrara, and returned by Loretto and Venice. To any insult offered him on the road he returned only meekness; for which he met with remarkable blessings from heaven. The sight of the pompous remains of ancient Rome gave him a feeling contempt of worldly grandeur: but the tombs of the martyrs drew every where tears of devotion from his eyes. Upon his return, his father received him with great joy, at his castle of Tuille, where he had prepared for him a good library of books.

All persons were charmed with the young count, but none so much as the great Antony Favre, afterwards first president of the parliament of Chamberry, and Claudius Cranier, the learned and truly apostolic bishop of Geneva, who already consulted him as an oracle. His father had a very good match in view for him, and obtained in his behalf, from the duke of Savoy, patents creating him counsellor of the parliament of Chamberry. Francis modestly, but very firmly, refused both; yet durst not propose to his parents his design of receiving holy orders; for the tonsure was not an absolute renouncing of the world. At last, he discovered it to his pious preceptor, Deage, and begged of him to mention it to his father: but this he declined, and used his utmost endeavours to dissuade the young count from such a resolution, as he was the eldest son, and destined by the order of nature for another state. Francis answered all his reasonings, but could not prevail on him to charge himself with the commission. He had then recourse to a cousin, Lewis of Sales, a priest and canon of Geneva, who obtained the consent of his parents, but not without the greatest difficulty. His cousin also obtained for him from the pope, without his knowledge, the provostship of the church of Geneva, then vacant: but the young clergyman held out a long time before he would accept of it. At last he yielded, and took possession of that dignity, and was in a short time after promoted to holy orders by his diocesan, who as soon as he was deacon, employed him in preaching. His first sermons gained him an extraordinary reputation, and were accompanied with incredible success. He delivered the word of God with a mixture of majesty and modesty; had a strong sweet voice, and an animated manner of gesture, far from any affectation or vanity: but what chiefly affected the hearts of his hearers was the humility and unction with which he spoke from the abundance of his own heart. Before he preached, he always renewed the fervour of his heart before God, by secret sighs and prayer. He studied as much at the foot of the crucifix as in books, being persuaded that the essential quality of a preacher is to be a man of prayer. He received the holy order of priesthood with extraordinary preparation and devotion, and seemed filled by it with an apostolic spirit. He every day began his functions by celebrating the holy mysteries early in the morning, in which by his eyes and countenance of fire, the inward flames of his soul appeared. He then heard the confessions of all sorts of people, and preached. He was observed to decline with the utmost care whatever might gain him the applause of men, seeking only to please God, and to advance his glory. He chiefly resorted to cottages, and country villages, instructing an infinity of poor people. His piety, his charity to the poor, his disinterestedness, his care of the sick and those in prison, endeared him to all: but nothing was so moving as his meekness, which no provocation was ever capable of disturbing. He conversed among all as their father, with a fellow felling of all their wants, being all to all. He was indeed naturally of a hasty and passionate temper, as he himself confesses; and we find in his writings a certain fire and impetuosity which renders it unquestionable. On this account from his youth he made meekness his favourite virtue, and by studying in the school of a God who was meek and humble of heart, he learned that important lesson to such perfection, as to convert his predominant passion into his characteristical virtue. The Calvinists ascribe principally to his meekness the wonderful conversions he made amongst them. They were certainly the most obstinate of people at that time, near Geneva: yet St. Francis converted no less than seventy-two thousand of them.

Before the end of this first year of his ministry, in 1591, he erected at Annecy a confraternity of the Holy Cross, the associates of which were obliged to instruct the ignorant, to comfort and exhort the sick and prisoners, and to beware of all law-suits, which seldom fail to shipwreck Christian charity. A Calvinistical minister took occasion from this institution to write against the honour paid by Catholics to the cross. Francis answered him by his book entitled, “The Standard of the Cross.” At this time, fresh matter presented itself for the exercise of the saint’s zeal. The bishop of Geneva was formerly lord of that city, paying an acknowledgment to the duke of Savoy. While these two were disputing about the sovereignty, the Genevans expelled them both, and formed themselves into a republic in alliance with the Switzers; and their city became the centre of Calvinism. Soon after, the protestant canton at Bern seized the country of Vaux, and the republic of Geneva, the duchy Chablais, with the bailiwicks of Gex, Terni and Gaillard; and there by violence established their heresy, which from that time had kept quiet possession for sixty years. The duke Charles Emmanuel, had recovered these territories, and resolving to restore the Catholic religion, wrote in 1594 to the bishop of Geneva, to recommend that work to him. The wise ones, according to this world, regarded the undertaking as impracticable; and the most resolute, whether ecclesiastics or religious, were terrified at its difficulties and dangers. Francis was the only one that offered himself for the work, and was joined by none but his cousin-german Lewis de Sales. The tears and remonstrances of his parents and friends to dissuade him from the undertaking made no impression on his courageous soul. He set out with his cousin on the 9th of September, in 1594. Being arrived on the frontiers of Chablais, they sent back their horses the more perfectly to imitate the apostles. On his arrival at Thonon, the capital of Chablais, situate on the lake of Geneva, he found in it only seven Catholics. After having commended the souls to God and earnestly implored his mercy through the intercession of the guardian angels, and tutelar saints of the country, he was obliged to take up his quarters in the castle of Allinges, where the governor and garrison were Catholics, two leagues from Thonon, whither he went every day, visiting also the neighbouring country. The Calvinists for a long time shunned him, and some even attempted his life. Two assassins, hired by others, having missed him at Thonon, lay in wait to murder him on his return; but a guard of soldiers had been sent to escort him safe, the conspiracy having taken wind. The saint obtained their pardon, and overcome by his lenity and formed by his holy instructions, they both became very virtuous converts. All our saint’s relations, and many friends, whom he particularly respected for their great virtue and prudence, solicited him by the most pressing letters to abandon such a dangerous and fruitless enterprise. His father, to the most tender entreaties, added his positive commands to him to return home, telling him that all prudent persons called his resolution to continue his mission a foolish obstinacy and madness; that he had already done more than was needful, and that his mother was dying of grief for his long absence, the fear of losing him entirely, and the hardships, atrocious slanders, and continual alarms and dangers in which he lived. To compel him to abandon this undertaking, the father forbade his friends to write any more to him, or to send him necessary supplies. Nevertheless St. Francis persevered, and at length his patience, zeal, and eminent virtue wrought upon the most obdurate, and insensibly wore away their prejudices. His first converts were among the soldiers, whom he brought over, not only to the faith, but also to an entire change of manners and strict virtue, from habits of swearing, duelling, and drunkenness. He was near four years, however, without any great fruit among the inhabitants, till the year 1597, when God was pleased to touch several of them with his grace. The harvest daily increased both in the town and country so plentifully, that a supply of new labourers from Annecy was necessary, and the bishop sent some Jesuits and Capuchins to carry on the good work with Francis and under his direction. In 1598 the public exercise of the Catholic religion was restored, and Calvinism banished by the duke’s orders over all Chablais, and the two bailiwicks of Terni and Guillard. Though the plague raged violently at Thonon, this did not hinder Francis either by day or night from assisting the sick in their last moments; and God preserved him from the contagion, which seized and swept off several of his fellow-labourers. It is incredible what fatigues and hardships he underwent in the course of this mission; with what devotion and tears he daily recommended the work of God; with what invincible courage he braved the greatest dangers: with what meekness and patience he bore all manner of affronts and calumnies. Baron D’Avuli, a man of quality, and of great worth and learning, highly esteemed among the Calvinists, and at Geneva, being converted by him, induced him to go thither to have a conference with the famous minister La Faye. The minister during the whole conference, was ever shifting the matter in debate, as he found himself embarrassed and pressed by his antagonist. His disadvantage being so evident that he himself could read it in the countenance of every one present, he broke off the conference by throwing out a whole torrent of injurious language on Francis, who bore it with so much meekness as not to return the least sharp answer. During the whole course of his ministry in these parts, the violent measures, base cowardice in declining all dispute, and the shameful conduct of the ministers in other respects, set the saint’s behaviour and his holy cause still in a more shining light. In 1597 he was commissioned by Pope Clement VIII. to confer with Theodore Beza at Geneva, the most famous minister of the Calvinist party, in order to win him back to the Catholic church. He accordingly paid him four visits in that city, gained a high place in that heresiarch’s esteem, and made him often hesitate in deep silence and with distracted looks, whether he should return to the Roman Catholic Church or not, wherein he owned from the beginning that salvation was attainable. St. Francis had great hopes of bringing him over in a fifth visit, but his private conferences had alarmed the Genevans so much that they guarded Beza too close for him to find admittance to him again, and Beza died soon after. It is said, that a little before death he lamented very much he could not see Francis. 2 It is certain, from his first conference with him, he had ever felt a violent conflict within himself, between truth and duty on one hand, and on the other, the pride of being head of a party, the shame of recanting, inveterate habits, and certain secret engagements in vice, to which he continued enslaved to the last. The invincible firmness and constancy of the saint appeared in the recovery of the revenues of the curacies and other benefices which had been given to the Orders of St. Lazarus and St. Maurice: the restoration of which after many difficulties he effected by the joint authority of the pope and the duke of Savoy. In 1596 he celebrated mass on Christmas-day in the church of St. Hippolytus at Thonon, and had then made seven or eight hundred converts. From this time he charged himself with the parish of the town, and established two other Catholic parishes in the country. In the beginning of the year 1599 he had settled zealous clergymen in all the parishes of the whole territory.

The honours the saint received from the pope, the duke of Savoy, the cardinal of Medicis, and all the church, and the high reputation which his virtues had acquired for him, never made the least impression on his humble mind, dead to all motions of pride and vanity. His delight was with the poor: the most honourable functions he left to others, and chose for himself the meanest and most laborious. Every one desired to have him for their director, wherever he went: and his extraordinary sweetness, in conjunction with his eminent piety, reclaimed as many vicious Catholics as it converted heretics. In 1599, he went to Annecy to visit his diocesan, Granier, who had procured him to be made his coadjutor. The fear of resisting God, in refusing this charge, when pressed upon him by the pope, in conjunction with his bishop and the duke of Savoy, at last extorted his consent; but the apprehension of the obligations annexed to episcopacy was so strong, that it threw him into an illness which had like to have cost him his life. On his recovery he set out for Rome to receive his bulls, and to confer with his Holiness on matters relating to the missions of Savoy. He was highly honoured by all the great men at Rome, and received of the pope the bulls for being consecrated bishop of Nicopolis, and coadjutor of Geneva. On this occasion he made a visit of devotion to Loretto, and returned to Annecy before the end of the year 1599. Here he preached the Lent the year following, and assisted his father during his last sickness, heard his general confession, and administered to him the rites of the church. An illness he was seized with at Annecy made him defer his consecration.

On his recovery he was obliged to go to Paris, on affairs of his diocess, and was received there by all sorts of persons with all the regard due to his extraordinary merit. The king was then at Fontainbleau; but the saint was desired to preach the Lent to the court in the chapel of the Louvre. This he did in a manner that charmed every one, and wrought innumerable wonderful conversions. The dutchesses of Mercœur and Longueville sent him thereupon a purse of gold: he admired the embroidery, but gave it back, with thanks to them for honouring his discourses with their presence and good example. He preached a sermon against the pretended reformation, to prove it destitute of a lawful mission; it being begun at Meaux, by Peter Clark, a wool-carder; at Paris, by Masson Riviere, a young man called to the ministry by a company of laymen; and elsewhere after the like manner. This sermon converted many Calvinists; amongst others the countess of Perdrieuville, who was one of the most obstinate learned ladies of the sect: she consulted her ministers, and repaired often to Francis’s conferences, till she had openly renounced Calvinism with all her numerous family. The whole illustrious house of Raconis followed her example, and so many others even of the most inveterate of the sect, that it made Cardinal Perron, a man famous for controversy, say: “I can confute the Calvinists; but, to persuade and convert them, you must carry them to the coadjutor of Geneva.” Henry IV. was charmed with his preaching, and consulted him several times in matters relating to the direction of his conscience. There was no project of piety going forward about which he was not advised. He promoted the establishment of the Carmelite nuns in France, and the introduction of F. Berulle’s congregation of the oratory. The king himself earnestly endeavoured to detain him in France, by promises of 20,000 livres pension, and the first vacant bishopric: but Francis said, God had called him against his will to the bishopric of Geneva, and he thought it his obligation to keep it till his death; that the small revenue he had, sufficed for his maintenance, and more would only be an incumbrance. The king was astonished at his disinterestedness, when he understood that the bishopric of Geneva, since the revolt of that city, did not yield the incumbent above four or five thousand livres, that is, not two hundred and fifty-nine pounds a year.

Some envious courtiers endeavoured to give the king a suspicion of his being a spy. The saint heard this accusation just as he was going into the pulpit; yet he preached as usual without the least concern; and that prince was too well convinced of the calumny, by his sanctity and candour. After a nine months’ stay in Paris, he set out with the kings’ letters, 3 and heard on the road, that Granier, bishop of Geneva, was dead. He hastened to Sales-Castle, and as soon as clear of the first visits, made a twenty days’ retreat to prepare himself for his consecration. He made a general confession, and laid down a plan of life, which he ever punctually observed. This was, never to wear any silk or camlets, or any clothes but woollen, as before: to have no paintings in his house but of devotions: no magnificence in furniture: never to use coach or litter, but to make his visits on foot: his family to consist of two priests, one for his chaplain, the other to take care of his temporalities and servants: nothing but common meats to be served to his table: to be always present at all feasts of devotion, kept in any church in town: his regulation with respect to alms was incredible for his revenues: to go to the poor and sick in person: to rise every day at four, make an hour’s meditation, say lauds and prime, then morning prayers with his family: to read the scripture till seven, then say mass, which he did every day, afterwards to apply to affairs till dinner, which being over, he allowed an hour for conversation, the rest of the afternoon he allotted to business and prayer. After supper he read a pious book to his family for an hour, then night prayers; after which he said matins. He fasted all Fridays and Saturdays, and our Lady’s eves: he privately wore a hair shirt, and used the discipline, but avoided all ostentatious austerities. But his exact regularity and uniformity of life, with a continued practice of interior self-denials, was the best mortification. He redoubled his fasts, austerities, and prayers, as the time of his consecration drew nearer. This was performed on the 3rd of December, 1602. He immediately applied himself to preaching and the other functions of his charge. He was exceedingly cautious in conferring holy orders. He ordained but few, neither was it without the strictest scrutiny passed upon all their qualifications for the priesthood. He was very zealous, both by word and example, in promoting the instruction of the ignorant by explanations of the catechism, on Sundays and holidays; and his example had a great influence over the parish-priests in this particular, as also over the laity, both young and old. He inculcated to all the making, every hour when the clock struck, the sign of the cross, with a fervent aspiration on the passion of Christ. He severely forbade the custom of Valentines, or giving boys, in writing, the names of girls to be admired and attended on by them: and, to abolish it, he changed it into giving billets with the names of certain saints for them to honour and imitate in a particular manner. He performed the visitation of his diocess as soon as possible, published a new ritual, set on foot ecclesiastical conferences, and regulated all things; choosing St. Charles Borromeo for his model.

Above all things he hated law-suits, and strictly commanded all ecclesiastics to avoid them, and refer all disputes to arbitration. He said they were such occasions of sins against charity, that, if any one during the course of a law-suit, had escaped them, that alone would suffice for his canonization. Towards the close of the visitation of his diocess, he reformed several monasteries. That of Six appealed to the parliament of Chamberry: but our saint was supported there, and carried his point. Whilst Francis was at Six he heard that a valley, three leagues off, was in the utmost desolation, by the tops of two mountains that had fallen, and buried several villages, with the inhabitants and cattle. He crawled over impassable ways to comfort and relieve these poor people, who had neither clothes to cover, nor cottages to shelter them, nor bread to stay their hunger: he mingled his tears with theirs, relieved them, and obtained from the duke a remission of their taxes. The city of Dijon having procured leave from the duke of Savoy, the saint preached the Lent there in 1604, with wonderful fruit; but refused the present offered him by the city on that occasion. Being solicited by Henry IV. to accept of a considerable abbey, the saint refused it; alleging, that he dreaded riches as much as others could desire them; and that, the less he had of them, the less he would have to answer for. That king offered to name him to the dignity of cardinal at the next promotion; but the saint made answer, that though he did not despise the offered dignity, he was persuaded that great titles would not sit well upon him, and might raise fresh obstacles to his salvation. He was also thought of at Rome as a very fit person to be promoted to that dignity, but was himself the only one who every where opposed and crossed the design. Being desired on another occasion by the same king to accept of a pension; the saint begged his majesty to suffer it to remain in the hands of his comptroller till he should call for it; which handsome refusal much astonished that great prince, who could not forbear saying: “That the bishop of Geneva, by the happy independence in which his virtue had placed him, was as far above him, as he by his royal dignity was above his subjects.” The saint preached the next Lent at Chamberry, at the request of the parliament, which notwithstanding at that very time seized his temporalities for refusing to publish a monitory at its request; the saint alleging, that it was too trifling an affair, and that the censures of the church were to be used more reservedly. To the notification of the seizure he only answered obligingly, that he thanked God for teaching him by it, that a bishop is to be altogether spiritual. He neither desisted from preaching nor complained to the duke, but heaped most favours on such as most insulted him, till the parliament being ashamed granted him, of their own accord, a replevy. But the great prelate found more delight in preaching in small villages than amidst such applause, though he every where met with the like fruit; and he looked on the poor as the object of his particular care. He took a poor dumb and deaf man into his family, taught him by signs, and by them received his confession. His steward often found it difficult to provide for his family by reason of his great alms, and used to threaten to leave him. The saint would answer: “You say right; I am an incorrigible creature, and what is worse, I look as if I should long continue so.” Or at other times, pointing to the crucifix: “How can we deny any thing to a God who reduced himself to this condition for the love of us!”

Pope Paul V. ordered our saint to be consulted about the school dispute between the Dominicans and Jesuits on the grace of God, or de auxiliis. His opinion appears from his book “On the Love of God:” but he answered his Holiness in favour of neutrality, which he ever observed in school opinions; complaining often in how many they occasioned the breach of charity, and spent too much of their precious time, which, by being otherwise employed, might be rendered more conducive to God’s honour. In 1609 he went to Bellay, and consecrated bishop John Peter Camus, one of the most illustrious prelates of the church of France, and linked to our saint by the strictest bands of holy friendship. He wrote the book entitled “The Spirit of St. Francis of Sales,” consisting of many of his ordinary sayings and actions, in which his spirit shines with great advantage, discovering a perpetual recollection always absorbed in God, and a constant overflowing of sweetness and divine love. His writings to this day breathe the same; every word distils that love and meekness with which his heart was filled. It is this which makes his epistles, which we have to the number of five hundred and twenty-nine, in seven books, to be an inestimable treasure of moving instructions, suitable to all sorts of persons and circumstances.

His incomparable book, the “Introduction to a Devout Life,” was originally letters to a lady in the world, which, at the pressing instances of many friends, he formed into a book and finished, to show that devotion suited Christians in a secular life, no less than in cloisters. Villars the archbishop of Vienna, wrote to him upon it: “Your book charms, inflames, and puts me in raptures, as often as I open any part of it.” The author received the like applause and commendations from all parts, and it was immediately translated into all the languages of Europe. Henry IV. of France was extremely pleased with it; his queen, Mary of Medicis, sent it richly bound and adorned with jewels to James I. of England, who was wonderfully taken with it, and asked his bishops why none of them could write with such feeling and unction? 4 There was however one religious Order in which this book was much censured, as if it had allowed of gallantry and scurrilous jests, and approved of balls and comedies, which was very far from the saint’s doctrine. A preacher of that Order had the rashness and presumption to declaim bitterly against the book in a public sermon, to cut in pieces, and burn it in the very pulpit. The saint bore this outrage without the least resentment; so perfectly was he dead to self-love. This appears more wonderful to those who know how jealous authors are of their works, as the offspring of their reason and judgment, of which men are of all things the fondest. His book of the Love of God cost him much more reading, study, and meditation. In it he paints his own soul. He describes the feeling sentiments of divine love, its state of fervour, of dryness, of trials, suffering, and darkness: in explaining which he calls in philosophy to his assistance. He writes on this sublime subject what he had learned by his own experience. Some parts of this book are only to be understood by those souls who have gone through these states: yet the author has been ever justly admired for the performance. The general of the Carthusians had written to him upon his Introduction, advising him to write no more, because nothing else could equal that book. But seeing this, he bade him never cease writing, because his latter works always surpassed the former: and James I. was so delighted with the book, that he expressed a great desire to see the author. This being told the saint, he cried out: “Ah! who will give me the wings of a dove, and I will fly to the king, into that great island, formerly the country of saints; but now overwhelmed with the darkness of error. If the duke will permit me, I will arise, and go to that great Ninive: I will speak to the king, and will announce to him, with the hazard of my life, the word of the Lord.” In effect, he solicited the duke of Savoy’s consent, but could never obtain it. 5 That jealous sovereign feared lest he should be drawn in to serve another state, or sell to some other his right to Geneva; on which account he often refused him leave to go to preach in France, when invited by many cities. His other works are sermons which are not finished as they were preached, except perhaps that on the Invention of the Cross. We have also his Preparation for Mass: his Instructions for Confessors: a collection of his Maxims, pious Breathings, and Sayings, written by the bishop of Bellay: some Fragments, and his Entertainments to his nuns of the Visitation, in which he recommends to them the most perfect interior self-denial, a disengagement of affections from all things temporal, with an entire obedience. The institution of that Order may be read in the life of B. Frances Chantal. St. Francis designing his new Order to be such, that all, even the sickly and weak, might be admitted into it, he chose for it the rule of St. Austin, as commanding few extraordinary bodily austerities, and would have it possess funds and settlements in common, to prevent being carried off from the interior life by anxious cares about necessaries. But then he requires from each person so strict a practice of poverty, as to allow no one the propriety or even the long use of any thing; and orders them every year to change chambers, beds, crosses, beads, and books. He will have no manner of account to be made of birth, wit, or talents; but only of humility: he obliges them only to the little office of our Lady, which all might easily learn to understand; meditations, spiritual reading, recollection, and retreats, abundantly compensating the defect. All his regulations tend to instil a spirit of piety, charity, meekness, and simplicity. He subjects his Order to the bishop of each place, without any general. Pope Paul V. approved it, and erected the congregation of the Visitation into a religious Order.

St. Francis, finding his health decline, and his affairs to multiply, after having consulted cardinal Frederic Borromeo, archbishop of Milan, chose for his coadjutor in the bishopric of Geneva, his brother John Francis of Sales, who was consecrated bishop of Chalcedon at Turin, in 1618. But the saint still applied himself to his functions as much as ever. He preached the Lent at Grenoble, in 1617, and again in 1618, with his usual conquests of souls; converting many Calvinists, and among these the duke of Lesdiguieres. In 1619, he accompanied to Paris the cardinal of Savoy, to demand the sister of king Lewis XIII., Christina of France, in marriage for the prince of Piedmont. He preached the Lent in St. Andre-des-Arcs, and had always such a numerous audience, that cardinals, bishops, and princes could scarcely find room. His sermons and conferences, and still more the example of his holy life, and the engaging sweetness of his conversation most powerfully moved not only the devout, but also heretics, libertines, and atheists; whilst his eloquence and learning convinced their understandings. The bishop of Bellay tells us, that he entreated the saint at Paris not to preach twice every day, morning and evening, for the sake of his health. St. Francis answered him with a smile: “It costs me much less to preach a sermon than to find an excuse for himself when invited to perform that function.” He added: “God has appointed me a pastor and a preacher: and is not every one to follow his profession? But I am surprised that the people in this great city flock so eagerly to my sermons: for my tongue is slow and heavy, my conceptions low, and my discourses flat, as you yourself are witness.” “Do you imagine,” said the other, “that eloquence is what they seek in your discourses? It is enough for them to see you in the pulpit. Your heart speaks to them by your countenance, and by your eyes, were you only to say the Our Father with them. The most common words in your mouth, burning with the fire of charity, pierce and melt all hearts. There is I know not what so extraordinary in what you say, that every word is of weight, every word strikes deep into the heart. You have said every thing even when you seem to have said nothing. You are possessed of a kind of eloquence which is of heaven: the power of this is astonishing.” St. Francis, smiling, turned off the discourse. 6 The match being concluded, the princess Christina chose Francis for her chief almoner, desiring to live always under his direction: but all her entreaties could neither prevail on him to leave his diocess, though he had a coadjutor, nor to accept of a pension: and it was only on these two conditions he undertook the charge, always urging that nothing could dispense with him from residence. The princess made him a present of a rich diamond, by way of an investiture, desiring him to keep it for her sake. “I will,” said he, “unless the poor stand in need of it.” She answered, she would then redeem it. He said, “This will happen so often, that I shall abuse your bounty.” Finding it given to the poor afterwards at Turin, she gave him another richer, charging him to keep that at least. He said: “Madam, I cannot promise you: I am very unfit to keep things of value.” Inquiring after it one day she was told it was always in pawn for the poor, and that the diamond belonged not to the bishop, but to all the beggars of Geneva. He had indeed a heart which was not able to refuse any thing to those in want. He often gave to beggars the waistcoat off his own back, and sometimes the cruets of his chapel. The pious cardinal, Henry de Gondi, bishop of Paris, used all manner of arguments to obtain his consent to be his coadjutor in the see of Paris; but he was resolved never to quit the church, which God had first committed to his charge.

Upon his return to Annecy he would not touch a farthing of his revenue for the eighteen months he was absent; but gave it to his cathedral, saying, it could not be his, for he had not earned it. He applied himself to preaching, instructing, and hearing confessions with greater zeal than ever. In a plague which raged there, he daily exposed his own life to assist his flock.

The saint often met with injurious treatment, and very reviling words, which he ever repaid with such meekness and beneficence as never failed to gain his very enemies. A lewd wretch, exasperated against him for his zeal against a wicked harlot, forged a letter of intrigue in the holy prelate’s name, which made him pass for a profligate and a hypocrite with the duke of Nemours and many others: the calumny reflected also on the nuns of the Visitation. Two years after, the author of it lying on his death-bed, called in witnesses, publicly justified the saint, and made an open confession of the slander and forgery. The saint had ever an entire confidence in the divine providence, was always full of joy, and resigned to all the appointments of heaven, to which he committed all events. He had a sovereign contempt of all earthly things, whether riches, honours, dangers, or sufferings. He considered only God and his honour in all things: his soul perpetually breathed nothing but his love and praises; nor could he contain this fire within his breast, for it discovered itself in his countenance; which, especially whilst he said mass, or distributed the blessed eucharist, appeared shining, as it were, with rays of glory, and breathing holy fervour. Often he could not contain himself in his conversation, and would thus express himself to his intimate friends: “Did you but know how God treats my heart, you would thank his goodness, and beg for me the strength to execute the inspirations which he communicates to me. My heart is filled with an inexpressible desire to be for ever sacrificed to the pure and holy love of my Saviour. Oh! it is good to live, to labour, to rejoice only in God. By his grace I will for ever more be nothing to any creature; nor shall any creature be any thing to me but in him and for him.” At another time he cried out to a devout friend: “Oh! if I knew but one string of my heart which was not all God’s, I would instantly tear it out. Yes; if I knew that there was one thread in my heart which was not marked with the crucifix, I would not keep it one moment.”

In the year 1622, he received an order from the duke of Savoy to go to Avignon to wait on Lewis XIII. who had just finished the civil wars in Languedoc. Finding himself indisposed, he took his last leave of his friends, saying, he should see them no more; which drew from them floods of tears. At Avignon he was at his prayers during the king’s triumphant entry, and never went to the window to see any part of that great pomp. He was obliged to attend the king and the cardinal of Savoy to Lyons, where he refused all the grand apartments offered him by the intendant of the province and others, to lodge in the poor chamber of the gardener to the monastery of the Visitation: as he was never better pleased than when he could most imitate the poverty of his Saviour. He received from the king and queen-mother, and from all the princes, the greatest marks of honour and esteem: and though indisposed, continued to preach and perform all his functions, especially on Christmas-day, and St. John’s in the morning. After dinner he began to fall gradually into an apoplexy, was put to bed by his servant, and received extreme unction; but as he had said mass that day, and his vomiting continued, it was thought proper not to give him the viaticum. He repeated with great fervour: “My heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God: I will sing the mercies of the Lord to all eternity. When shall I appear before his face? Show me, my beloved, where thou feedest, where thou restest at noon-day. O my God, my desire is before thee, and my sighs are not hidden from thee. My God and my all! my desire is that of the hills eternal.” Whilst the physicians applied blistering plasters, and hot irons behind his neck, and a caustic to the crown of his head, which burned him to the bone, he shed abundance of tears under excess of pain, repeating: Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquities, and cleanse me from my sin. Still cleanse me more and more. “What do I hear, my God, distant from thee, separated from thee?” And to those about him: “Weep not, my children; must not the will of God be done?” One suggesting to him the prayer of St. Martin: “If I am still necessary for thy people, I refuse not to labour:” he seemed troubled at being compared to so great a saint, and said, he was an unprofitable servant, whom neither God nor his people needed. His apoplexy increasing, though slowly, he seemed at last to lose his senses, and happily expired on the feast of the Holy Innocents, the 28th of December, at eight o’clock at night, in the year 1622, the fifty-sixth of his age, and the twentieth of his episcopacy. His corpse was embalmed, and carried with the greatest pomp to Annecy, where he had directed by will it should be interred. It was laid in a magnificent tomb near the high altar in the church of the first monastery of the Visitation. After his beatification by Alexander VII. in 1661, it was placed upon the altar in a rich silver shrine. He was canonized in 1665 by the same pope, and his feast fixed on the 29th of January, on which day his body was conveyed to Annecy. His heart was kept in a leaden case, in the church of the Visitation at Lyons: it was afterwards exposed in a silver one, and lastly in one of gold, given by king Lewis XIII. Many miracles, as the rising to life two persons who were drowned, the curing of the blind, paralytic, and others, were authentically attested to have been wrought by his relics and intercession; not to mention those he had performed in his life time, especially during his missions. Pope Alexander VII. then cardinal Chigi, and plenipotentiary in Germany, with Lewis XIII. XIV. and others, attribute their cures in sickness to this saint’s patronage.

Among his ordinary remarkable sayings, we read that he often repeated to bishop Camus, “That truth must be always charitable; for bitter zeal does harm instead of good. Reprehensions are a food of hard digestion, and ought to be dressed on a fire of burning charity so well, that all harshness be taken off; otherwise, like unripe fruit, they will only produce gripings. Charity seeks not itself nor its own interests, but purely the honour and interest of God: pride, vanity, and passion cause bitterness and harshness: a remedy injudiciously applied may be a poison. A judicious silence is always better than a truth spoken without charity.” St. Francis, seeing a scandalous priest thrown into prison, fell at his feet, and with tears conjured him to have compassion on him, his pastor, on his religion, which he scandalized, and on his own soul; which sweetness converted the other, so that he became an example of virtue. By his patience and meekness under all injuries, he overcame the most obstinate, and ever after treated them with singular affection, calling them dearer friends, because regained. A great prelate observes from his example that the meek are kings of other hearts, which they powerfully attract, and can turn as they please, and in an express and excellent treatise, proposes him as an accomplished model of all the qualifications requisite in a superior to govern well.

Meekness was the favourite virtue of Saint Francis de Sales. He once was heard to say, that he had employed three years in studying in the school of Jesus Christ, and that his heart was still far from being satisfied with the progress he had made. If he, who was meekness itself, imagined, nevertheless, that he had possessed so little of it; what shall we say of those who, upon every trifling occasion, betray the bitterness of their hearts in angry words and actions of impatience and outrage? Our saint was often tried in the practice of this virtue, especially when the hurry of business and the crowds that thronged on him for relief in their various necessities, scarcely allowed him a moment to breathe. He has left us his thoughts upon this situation, which his extreme affability rendered very frequent to him. “God,” says he, “makes use of this occasion to try whether our hearts are sufficiently strengthened to bear every attack. I have myself been sometimes in this situation: but I have made a covenant with my heart and with my tongue, in order to confine them within the bounds of duty. I consider those persons who crowd in one upon the other, as children who run into the embraces of their father: as the hen refuseth not protection to her little ones when they gather around her; but, on the contrary, extendeth her wings so as to cover them all; my heart, I thought, was in like manner expanded, in proportion as the numbers of these poor people increased. The most powerful remedy against sudden starts of impatience is a sweet and amiable silence; however little one speaks, self-love will have a share in it, and some word will escape that may sour the heart, and disturb its peace for a considerable time. When nothing is said, and cheerfulness preserved, the storm subsides, anger and indiscretion are put to flight, and nothing remains but a joy, pure and lasting.—The person who possesses Christian meekness, is affectionate and tender towards every one; 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, and presents every object to his view in the most charitable and pleasing light; he never admits in his discourses any harsh expression, much less any term that is haughty or rude. An amiable serenity is always painted on his countenance, which remarkably distinguishes him from those violent characters, who, with looks full of fury, know only how to refuse; or who, when they grant, do it with so bad a grace, that they loose all the merit of the favour they bestow.”

Some persons thinking him too indulgent towards sinners, expressed their thoughts one day with freedom to him on this head: he immediately replied: “If there were any thing more excellent than meekness, God would have certainly taught it to us; and yet there is nothing to which he so earnestly exhorts us, as to be meek and humble of heart. Why would you hinder me to obey the command of my Lord, and follow him in the exercise of that virtue which he so eminently practised and so highly esteems? Are we then better informed in these matters than God himself?” But his tenderness was particularly displayed in the reception of apostates and other abandoned sinners; when these prodigals returned to him, he said, with all the sensibility of a father: “Come my dear children, come, let me embrace you; ah, let me hide you in the bottom of my heart! God and I will assist you: all I require of you is not to despair: I shall take on myself the labour of the rest.” Looks full of compassion and love expressed the sincerity of his feelings: his affectionate and charitable care of them extended even to their bodily wants, and his purse was open to them as well as his heart; he justified this proceeding to some, who disedified at his extreme indulgence, told him, it served only to encourage the sinner, and harden him still more in his crimes, by observing, “Are they not a part of my flock? Has not our blessed Lord given them his blood, and shall I refuse them my tears? These wolves will be changed into lambs: a day will come when, cleansed from their sins, they will be more precious in the sight of God than we are: if Saul had been cast off, we would never have had a St. Paul.”

Note 1. It is a problem in nature, discussed without success by several great physicians, why children born in their seventh month more frequently live than those that are brought forth in their eighth month. [back]

Note 2. Aug. Sales in Vit. l. 3. p. 123. [back]

Note 3. The saint being on his return so Savoy, was informed that a convent of religious women of the order of Fontevrault received superfluous pensions. He wrote about it to those religious, and after giving testimony to their virtue, in order to gain their confidence, he conjured them, in the strongest and most pathetic terms, to banish such an abuse from their monastery; persuaded that such pensions were not exempt from sin, were an obstacle to monastic perfection, and opposite to their essential vow of poverty; lamenting that after doing so much they should, for the sake of one small reserve, destroy the merit of their whole sacrifice. This letter is extremely useful and beautiful. l. 1. ep. 41. t. 1. p. 136. [back]

Note 4. Aug. Sales in Vit. [back]

Note 5. Aug. Sales in Vit. [back]

Note 6. Quel est le meilleur Gouvernement, &c. ch. 8. p. 298. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.


SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/1/291.html