Sunday January 11th. 2009

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St. Francis of Sales—a wonderful spiritual director of souls, January 24th
St. Francis was destined by his father to be a lawyer so that he could eventually take his place as a senator from the Province of Savoy in France. For this reason he was sent to Padua to study law. After receiving his doctorate, he returned home, and, in due time, told his parents he wished to enter the priesthood. His father strongly opposed Francis in this, and only after much patient persuasiveness on the part of the gentle Francis did he finally consent. Francis was ordained and elected Provost of the Diocese of Geneva, then a centre for Calvinists. Francis set out to convert them, especially in the district of Chablais. By preaching and distributing the little pamphlets he wrote to explain true Catholic doctrine, he had remarkable success.
At 35 he became bishop of Geneva. While administering his diocese he continued to preach, hear confessions, and catechise the children. His gentle character was a great asset in winning souls. He practiced his own axiom: "A spoonful of honey attracts more bees than a barrelful of vinegar."
Besides his two well-known books, The Introduction to the Devout Life and A Treatise of the Love of God, he wrote many pamphlets and carried on a vast correspondence. For his writings, he has been named patron of the Catholic Press.
His writings, filled with his characteristic gentle spirit, are addressed to lay people. He wants to make them understand that they too are called to be saints. As he wrote in The Introduction to the Devout Life:" It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman . We are all called to holiness in the vocation in life God has willed for us”. It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who would have preserved it in the world."  He said: If you are too busy to pray, then you are too busy.
In spite of his busy and comparatively short life, he had time to collaborate with another saint, Jane Frances de Chantal, in the work of establishing the Sisters of the Visitation. These women were to practice the virtues exemplified in Mary's visit to Elizabeth: humility, piety and mutual charity. They were committed first to works of mercy for the poor and the sick, and later taught in  schools. In future Bulletins, I hope to quote many of St. Francis’s sayings which are so practical and full of wisdom and encouragement to holiness,