Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Francis De Sales.
Francis was born near Annecy in Savoy. He became a priest despite the opposition of his father. He came from the noble Sales family.
This was the time of the Protestant Reformation. Calvinism was spreading in the region where he grew up, the Chablais.
Francis grew up in privilege and was destined for a successful life of privileges. Some say that he had the background to be an ‘Aristocratic snob’.
However, this was not the life that he had chosen to follow.
As a young man he was worried about predestination, something that Calvin and his followers were inclined to believe. It generated a fear of hell in him. This belief thought that some are destined to be ‘saved’ and others are not. This really worried him and caused much anxiety.
He found comfort in consecrating himself to Mary the ‘Mother’ of Christians.
In the end he became convinced that GOD IS LOVE (1st letter of John). This realisation had profound influence on him.
As a teacher of the faith, he developed what is now known as ‘The Way of Divine Love’ or ’The Devout Life’.
After becoming a priest, he set about trying to convince many who had become Protestants about the credentials of the Catholic Church.
At first he failed miserably. He did not give up.
As a result of his endeavours, eventually tens of thousands of the Calvinists of Chablais voluntarily converted to the Catholic Church, which their parents and grandparents had abandoned seventy years before.
In his preaching against Calvinism, he was driven by love rather than a desire to win so much so that a Calvinist minister is quoted as saying “I know of no-one since the days of the Apostles to be honoured as a Saint, more worthy than this man”.
A saying went around that if you wanted to be a friend of Francis De Sales, insult him, or do something hurtful to him, and he would do his best to be your friend!! He worked so hard against the natural tendencies that had grown up with in his family background!
Francis clearly taught about the credentials of the Catholic Church and its claims.
He taught that all are called to holiness, not just a select few.
He was gentle, loving, respectful, and very considerate of others.
Many other great Saints were influenced by him in years to come, such as St. Jane Frances de Chantal (co-founder with him of the Order of the Visitation Sisters of Mary), St. Vincent de Paul, St. John Bosco, St. Louise De Marillac, and others.
He was indeed a wonderful human being. He let Christ free him and mould him.