Saint Francis de Sales

Saint Francis de SalesAlso known as

  • Francis of Sales
  • Gentle Christ of Geneva
  • the Gentleman Saint
  • Franz von Sales

Memorial

Profile

Born in the castle of Château de Thorens to a well-placed Savoyard family, the eldest of twelve children born to François de Boisy and Françoise de Sionnz. His parents intended that Francis become a lawyer, enter politics, and carry on the family line and power. He studied at La Roche and Annecy in France, taught by Jesuits. Attended the Collège de Clermont in Paris, France at age 12. In his early teens, Francis began to believe in pre-destination, and was so afraid that he was pre-emptorily condemned to Hell that he became ill and eventually was confined to bed. However, in January 1587 at the Church of Saint Stephen, he overcame the crisis, decided that whatever God had in store for him was for the best, and dedicated his life to God.

Studied law and theology at the University of Padua, Italy, and earned a doctorate in both fields. He returned home, and found a position as Senate advocate. It was at this point that he received a message telling him to “Leave all and follow Me.” He took this as a call to the priesthood, a move his family fiercely opposed, especially when he refused a marriage that had been arranged for him. However, he pursued a devoted prayer life, and his gentle ways won over the family.

Priest. In 1593 he was appointed provost of the diocese of Geneva, Switzerland, a stronghold of Calvinists. Preacher, writer and spiritual director in the district of Chablais. His simple, clear explanations of Catholic doctrine, and his gentle way with everyone, brought many back to the Roman Church. He even used sign language in order to bring the message to the deaf, leading to his patronage of deaf people.

Bishop of Geneva in 1602. He travelled and evangelized throughout the Duchy of Savoy, working with children whenever he could. Friend of Saint Vincent de Paul. He turned down a wealthy French bishopric to continue working where God had placed him. With Saint Jeanne de Chantal he helped found the Order of the Visitation . A prolific correspondent, many of his letters have survived.

The value of his writings led to his being declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Blessed Pius IX in 1877, and a patron of writers and journalists by Pope Pius XI in 1923. The Salesians of Don Bosco, the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales, and the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales are named in his honour as is the Saint François Atoll in the Seychelles Islands.

Born

Died

Beatified

Canonized

Patronage

Representation

  • bald man with a beard wearing the robes of a bishop while holding a book, and with his heart pierced with thorns
  • bald man with a beard wearing the robes of a bishop while holding a picture of the Virgn Mary
  • crown of thorns
  • heart of Jesus
Images

Additional Information

Writings

Readings

Nothing makes us so prosperous in this world as to give alms. - Saint Francis de Sales

It is to those who have the most need of us that we ought to show our love more especially. - Saint Francis de Sales

Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence. Saint Francis de Sales

Salvation is shown to faith, it is prepared for hope, but it is given only to charity. Faith points out the way to the land of promise as a pillar of fire hope feeds us with its manna of sweetness, but charity actually introduces us into the Promised Land. Saint Francis de Sales

Oh what remorse we shall feel at the end of our lives, when we look back upon the great number of instructions and examples afforded by God and the Saints for our perfection, and so carelessly received by us! If this end were to come to you today, how would you be pleased with the life you have led this year? Saint Francis de Sales

We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear. Saint Francis de Sales

In the royal galley of divine Love, there is no galley slave: all rowers are volunteers. Saint Francis de Sales

We are not drawn to God by iron chains, but by sweet attractions and holy inspirations. Saint Francis de Sales

Perfection of life is the perfection of love. For love is the life of the soul. Saint Francis de Sales

By giving yourself to God, you not only receive Himself in exchange, but eternal life as well. Saint Francis de Sales

Man is the perfection of the Universe.

The spirit is the perfection of man.

Love is the perfection of the spirit, and charity that of love.

Therefore, the love of God is the end, the perfection of the Universe. Saint Francis de Sales

There are many who say to the Lord, “I give myself wholly to Thee, without any reserve,” but there are few who embrace the practice of this abandonment, which consists in receiving with a certain indifference every sort of event, as it happens in conformity with Divine Providence, as well afflictions as consolations, contempt and reproaches as honor and glory. Saint Francis de Sales

One of the principle effects of holy abandonment in God is evenness of spirits in the various accidents of this life, which is certainly a point of great perfection, and very pleasing to God. The way to maintain it is in imitation of the pilots, to look continually at the Pole Star, that is, the Divine Will, in order to be constantly in conformity with it. For it is this will which, with infinite wisdom rightly distributes prosperity and adversity, health and sickness, riches and poverty, honor and contempt, knowledge and ignorance, and all that happens in this life. On the other hand, if we regard creatures without this relation to God, we cannot prevent our feelings and disposition from changing, according to the variety of accidents which occur. - Saint Francis de Sales

Some torment themselves in seeking means to discover the art of loving God, and do not know – poor creatures – that there is no art or means of loving Him but to love those who love Him – that is, to begin to practice those thing which are pleasing to Him. - Saint Francis de Sales

Our business is to love what would have done. He wills our vocation as it is. Let us love that and not trifle away our time hankering after other people’s vocations. - Saint Francis de Sales

Every moment comes to us pregnant with a command from God, only to pass on and plunge into eternity, there to remain forever what we have made of it. - Saint Francis de Sales

All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be. - Saint Francis de Sales

An action of small value performed with much love of God is far more excellent than one of a higher virtue, done with less love of God. - Saint Francis de Sales

Blessed are those whose hearts are ever open to God’s inspiration; they will never lack what they need to live good holy lives, or to perform properly the duties of their state. For just as God gives each animal through its nature the instincts needed for its self-preservation, so – if we offer no obstacle to grace – he gives each of us the inspirations needed for life, activity and self-preservation on the spiritual level. When we are at a loss what to do, when human help fails us in our dilemmas, then God inspires us. If only we are humbly obedient, he will not let us go astray. Some plants point their flowers at the sun, turn them with it as it moves. The sunflower, however, turns not only its flowers, but its leaves as well. In the same way all God’s chosen ones turn their hearts toward God’s will by keeping his commandments. But those who are utterly filled with charity turn to God’s will by more than mere obedience to his commandments. They also give him their hearts, follow him in all that he commands, counsels or inspires, unreservedly, with no exceptions whatsoever. - Saint Francis de Sales, from Finding God Wherever You Are

Anxiety is a temptation in itself and also the source from and by which other temptations come. Sadness is that mental pain which is caused by the involuntary evils which affect us. These may be external – such as poverty, sickness, contempt of others – or they may be internal – such as ignorance, dryness in prayer, aversion, and temptation itself. When the soul is conscious of some evil, it is dissatisfied because of this, and sadness is produced. The soul wishes to be free from this sadness, and tries to find the means for this. If the soul seeks deliverance for the love of God, it will seek with patience, gentleness, humility, and calmness, waiting on God’s providence rather than relying on its own initiative, exertion, and diligence. If it seeks from self-love, it is eager and excited and relying on self rather than God. Anxiety comes from an irregulated desire to be delivered from the evil we experience. Therefore, above all else, calm and compose your mind. Gently and quietly pursue your aim. - Saint Francis de Sales, from Daily Readings with Saint Francis de Sales

The highest degree of meekness consists in seeing, serving, honoring, and treating amiably, on occasion, those who are not to our taste, and who show themselves unfriendly, ungrateful, and troublesome to us. - Saint Francis de Sales

Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen, they are present with you. - Saint Francis De Sales

The virtue of patience is the one which most assures us of perfection. - Saint Francis De Sales

To be pleased at correction and reproofs shows that one loves the virtues which are contrary to those faults for which he is corrected and reproved. And, therefore, it is a great sign of advancement in perfection. - Saint Francis de Sales

Two mistakes I find common among spiritual persons. One is that they ordinarily measure their devotion by the consolations and satisfactions which they experience in the way of God, so that if these happen to be wanting, they think they have lost all devotion. No, this is no more than a sensible devotion. True and substantial devotion does not consist in these things, but in having a will resolute, active, ready and constant not to offend God, and to perform all that belongs to His service. The other mistake is that if it ever happens to them to do anything with repugnance and weariness, they believe they have no merit in it. On the other hand, there is then far greater merit; so that a single ounce of good done thus by a sheer spiritual effort, amidst darkness and dullness and without interest, is worth more than a hundred pounds done with great facility and sweetness, since the former requires a stronger and purer love. And how great so ever may be the aridities and repugnance of the sensible part of our soul, we ought never to lose courage, but pursue our way as travelers treat the barking of dogs. - Saint Francis de Sales

Our average fault is that we wish to serve God in our way, not in His way- according to our will, not according to His will. When He wishes us to be sick, we wish to be well; when He desires us to serve Him by sufferings, we desire to serve Him by works; when He wishes us to exercise charity, we wish to exercise humility; when He seeks from us resignation, we wish for devotion, a spirit of prayer or some other virtue. And this is not because the things we desire may be more pleasing to Him, but because they are more to our taste. This is certainly the average obstacle we can raise to our own perfection, for it is beyond doubt that if we were to wish to be Saints according to our own will, we shall never be so at all. To be truly a Saint, it is necessary to be one according to the will of God. - Saint Francis de Sales

All the science of the Saints is included in these two things: To do, and to suffer. And whoever had done these two things best, has made himself most saintly. - Saint Francis de Sales

The average fault among those who have a good will is that they wish to be something they cannot be, and do not wish to be what they necessarily must be. They conceive desires to do great things for which, perhaps, no opportunity may ever come to them, and meantime neglect the small which the Lord puts into their hands. There are a thousand little acts of virtue, such as bearing with the importunities and imperfections of our neighbors, not resenting an unpleasant word or a trifling injury, restraining an emotion of anger, mortifying some little affection, some ill-regulated desire to speak or listen, excusing indiscretion, or yielding to another in trifles. These things are to be done by all; why not practice them. The occasions for great gains come but rarely, but of little gains many can be made each day; and by managing these little gains with judgement, there are some who grow rich. Oh, how holy and rich in merits we should make ourselves, if we but knew how to profit by the opportunities which our vocation supplies to us! Yes, yes, let us apply ourselves to follow well the path which is close before us, and to do well on the first opportunity, without occupying ourselves with thoughts of the last, and thus we shall make good progress. - Saint Francis de Sales

To be perfect in one’s vocation is nothing else than to perform the duties and offices to which one is obliged, solely for the honor and love of God, referring to His glory. Whoever works in this manner may be called perfect in his state, a man according to the heart and will of God. - Saint Francis de Sales

A servant of God signifies one who has a great charity towards his neighbor and an inviolable resolution to follow in everything the Divine Will; who bears with his own deficiencies, and patiently supports the imperfections of others. - Saint Francis de Sales

The person who possesses Christian meekness is affectionate and tender towards everyone: He is disposed to forgive and excuse the frailties of others; the goodness of his heart appears in a sweet affability that influences his words and actions, presents every object to his view in the most charitable and pleasing light. - Saint Francis

Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them. - Saint Francis de Sales

Consider all the past as nothing, and say, like David: Now I begin to love my God. - Saint Francis de Sales

One of the things that keep us at a distance from perfection is, without a doubt, our tongue. For when one has gone so far as to commit no faults in speaking, the Holy Spirit Himself assures us that he is perfect. And since the worst way of speaking is to speak too much, speak little and well, little and gently, little and simply, little and charitably, little and amiably. - Saint Francis de Sales

It should be our principal business to conquer ourselves and, from day to day, to go on increasing in strength and perfection. Above all, however, it is necessary for us to strive to conquer our little temptations, such as fits of anger, suspicions, jealousies, envy, deceitfulness, vanity, attachments, and evil thoughts. For in this way we shall acquire strength to subdue greater ones. - Saint Francis de Sales

There is nothing which edifies others so much as charity and kindness, by which, as by the oil in our lamp, the flame of good example is kept alive. - Saint Francis de Sales

When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind. He has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station, and his calling, I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the noblemen and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular. Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable. - from Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales

How displeasing to God are rash judgments! The judgments of the children of men are rash because they usurp the office of Our Lord, the just Judge. They are rash because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention and the counsel of the heart, and these are hidden things not known to human judges. They are rash because every person has things that could be judged, and, indeed, on which one should judge oneself. On the cross our Savior could not entirely excuse the sin of those who crucified him, but he extenuated the malice by pleading their ignorance. When we cannot excuse a sin, let us at least make it worthy of compassion by attributing the most favorable cause we can to it, such as ignorance or weakness. We can never pass judgment on our neighbor. - from Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales

As often as you can during the day, recall your mind to the presence of God…. Consider what God is doing, what you are doing. You will always find God’s eyes fixed on you in unchangeable love. Our hearts should each day seek a resting-place on Calvary or near our Lord, in order to retire there to rest from worldly cares and to find strength against temptation. Remember frequently to retire into the solitude of your heart, even while you are externally occupied in business or society. This mental solitude need not be hindered even though many people may be around you, for they surround your body not your heart, which should remain alone in the presence of God. As David said, “My eyes are ever looking at the Lord.” We are rarely so taken up in our exchanges with others as to be unable from time to time to move our hearts into solitude with God. - Saint Francis de Sales

Our profit does not depend so much on mortifying ourselves, as upon knowing how to mortify ourselves; that is, upon knowing how to chose the best mortifications, which are those most repugnant to our natural inclinations. Some are inclined to disciplines and fasts, and though they may be difficult things, they embrace them with fervor, and practice them gladly and easily, on account of this leaning which they have toward them. But then they will be so sensitive in regard to reputation and honor, that the least ridicule, disapproval, or slight is sufficient to throw them into a state of impatience and perturbation and to give rise to such complaints as show an equal want of peace and reason. These are the mortifications which they ought to embrace with the average readiness, if they wish to make progress. - Saint Francis de Sales

The greater part of Christians usually practice incision instead of circumcision. They will make a cut indeed in a diseased part but as for employing the knife of circumcision, to take away whatever is superfluous from the heart, few go so far. - Saint Francis de Sales

Undertake all of your duties with a calm mind and try to do them one at a time. If you try to do them all at once, or without order, your spirits will be so overcharged and depressed that they will likely sink under the burden and nothing will be done. In all of your affairs, rely on the Providence of God through which alone you much look for success. Strive quietly to cooperate with its designs. If you have a sure trust in God, the success that comes to you will always be that which is most useful to you, whether it appears good or bad in your private judgment. Think of the little children who with one hand hold fast to their father while with the other they gather berries. If you handle the goods of this world with one hand, you must also always hold fast with the other to your heavenly Father’s hand, and turn toward him from time to time to see if you are pleasing him. Above all, be sure that you never leave his hand and his protection, thinking that with your own two hands you can gather more or get some other advantage. - Saint Francis de Sales, from Introduction to the Devout Life

We must intend our own salvation in the way God intends it. God desires that we should be saved. We too need constantly to desire what God desires. God not only means us to be saved, but actually dives us all we need to achieve salvation. So we are not to stop at merely desiring salvation, but go a step further and accept all the graces God has prepared for us, the graces constantly offered to us. It is all very well to say, “I want to be saved.” It is not must use merely saying, “I want to take the necessary steps.” We must actually take the steps. We need to make a definite resolution to take and use the graces God holds out to us. Our wills must be in tune with God’s. Because God wants us to be saved, we should want to be saved. We should also welcome the means to salvation that God intends us to take….that is why general acts of devotion and prayer should always be followed by particular resolutions. - Saint Francis de Sales

Love is strong as death since both equally separate the soul from the body and all terrestrial things, the only difference is, that the separation is real and effectual when caused by death, whereas that occasioned by love is usually confined to the heart. I say usually, because divine love is sometimes so violent that it actually separates the soul from the body, and, by causing the death of those who love, it renders them infinitely happier than it it bestowed on them a thousand lives. As the lot of the reprobate is to die in sin, that of the elect is to expire in the love and grace of God, which is effected in several ways. Many of the saints died, not only in the state of charity, but in the actual exercise of divine love. Saint Augustine expired in making an act of contrition, which cannot exist without love; Saint Jerome, in exhorting his disciples to charity and the practice of all virtues; Saint Ambrose, in conversing sweetly with his Saviour, whom he had received in the Holy Eucharist; Saint Anthony of Padua also expired in the act of discoursing with our Divine Lord, after having recited a hymn in honor of the ever — glorious Virgin; Saint Thomas of Aquinas, with his hands clasped, his eyes raised to heaven, and pronouncing these words of the Canticles, which were the last he had expounded: ” Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field ” (Canticle 7:2). All the apostles, and the greater number of the martyrs, died in prayer. Venerable Bede, having learned the hour of his death by revelation, went to the choir at the usual hour to sing the evening office, it being the feast of the Ascension, and at the very moment he had finished singing vespers he expired, following his Guide and Master into Heaven, to celebrate His praises in that abode of rest and happiness, round which the shades of night can never gather, because it is illumined by the brightness of the eternal day, which neither dawns nor ends. John Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris, remarkable for his learning and virtue, — of whom Sixtus of Sienna said, ” that it is difficult to decide whether the vein of piety which runs through his works surpasses his science, or whether his learning exceeds his piety,” — after having explained the fifty properties of divine love mentioned in the Canticles, expired at the close of three days, smiling, and pronouncing these words of the same sacred text: ” Thy love, O God, is strong as death ” (Canticle 8:6). The fervor and ardor of Saint Martin at the hour of his death are remarkable. Saint Louis, who has proved himself as great a monarch among the saints as an eminent saint among kings, being attacked by the plague, ceased not to pray, and after receiving the viaticum, he extended his arms in the form of a cross, fixed his eyes on heaven, and, animated with love and confidence, expired in saying with the Psalmist: ” I will come into Thy house, O Lord; I will worship towards Thy holy temple, in Thy fear ” (Psalms 5:8). Saint Peter Celestine, after having endured the most cruel and incredible afflictions ,, seeing the end of his days approach, began to sing like the swan, and terminated his song with his life, by these words of the last Psalm: ” Let every spirit praise the Lord ” (Psalms 150:5). Saint Eusebia, surnamed the Stranger, died kneeling in fervent prayer. Saint Peter the Martyr yielded his last sigh in writing (with his finger, which he had dipped in his blood ) the articles of the faith for which he sacrificed his life, and in saying: “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit ” (Psalms 30:6). The great apostle of the Indies and Japan, Saint Francis Xavier, expired holding a crucifix, which he tenderly embraced, and incessantly repeated in transports of love, ” O Jesus! the God of my heart!” - Saint Francis de Sales, from “On the Love of God”

As soon as worldly people see that you wish to follow a devout life they aim a thousand darts of mockery and even detraction at you. The most malicious of them will slander your conversion as hypocrisy, bigotry, and trickery. They will say that the world has turned against you and being rebuffed by it you have turned to God. Your friends will raise a host of objections which they consider very prudent and charitable. They will tell you that you will become depressed, lose your reputation in the world, be unbearable, and grow old before your time, and that your affairs at home will suffer. You must live in the world like one in the world. They will say that you can save your soul without going to such extremes, and a thousand similar trivialities. Philothea, all this is mere foolish, empty babbling. These people aren’t interested in your health or welfare. “If you were of the world, the world would love what is its own but because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you,” says the Savior. We have seen gentlemen and ladies spend the whole night, even many nights one after another, playing chess or cards. Is there any concentration more absurd, gloomy, or depressing than this last? Yet worldly people don’t say a word and the players’ friends don’t bother their heads about it. If we spend an hour in meditation or get up a little earlier than usual in the morning to prepare for Holy Communion, everyone runs for a doctor to cure us of hypochondria and jaundice. People can pass thirty nights in dancing and no one complains about it, but if they watch through a single Christmas night they cough and claim their stomach is upset the next morning. Does anyone fail to see that the world is an unjust judge, gracious and well disposed to its own children but harsh and rigorous towards the children of God? We can never please the world unless we lose ourselves together with it. It is so demanding that it can’t be satisfied. “John came neither eating nor drinking,” says the Savior, and you say, “He has a devil.” “The Son of man came eating and drinking” and you say that he is “a Samaritan.” It is true, Philothea, that if we are ready to laugh, play cards, or dance with the world in order to please it, it will be scandalized at us, and if we don’t, it will accuse us of hypocrisy or melancholy. If we dress well, it will attribute it to some plan we have, and if we neglect our dress, it will accuse of us of being cheap and stingy. Good humor will be called frivolity and mortification sullenness. Thus the world looks at us with an evil eye and we can never please it. It exaggerates our imperfections and claims they are sins, turns our venial sins into mortal sins and changes our sins of weakness into sins of malice. “Charity is kind,” says Saint Paul, but the world on the contrary is evil. “Charity thinks no evil,” but the world always thinks evil and when it can’t condemn our acts it will condemn our intentions. Whether the sheep have horns or not and whether they are white or black, the wolf doesn’t hesitate to eat them if he can. Whatever we do, the world will wage war on us. If we stay a long time in the confessional, it will wonder how we can have so much to say; if we stay only a short time, it will say we haven’t told everything. It will watch all our actions and at a single little angry word it will protest that we can’t get along with anyone. To take care of our own interests will look like avarice, while meekness will look like folly. As for the children of the world, their anger is called being blunt, their avarice economy, their intimate conversations lawful discussions. Spiders always spoil the good work of the bees. Let us give up this blind world, Philothea. Let it cry out at us as long as it pleases, like a cat that cries out to frighten birds in the daytime. Let us be firm in our purposes and unswerving in our resolutions. Perseverance will prove whether we have sincerely sacrificed ourselves to God and dedicated ourselves to a devout life. Comets and planets seem to have just about the same light, but comets are merely fiery masses that pass by and after a while disappear, while planets remain perpetually bright. So also hypocrisy and true virtue have a close resemblance in outward appearance but they can be easily distinguished from one another. Hypocrisy cannot last long but is quickly dissipated like rising smoke, whereas true virtue is always firm and constant. It is no little assistance for a sure start in devotion if we first suffer criticism and calumny because of it. In this way we escape the danger of pride and vanity, which are comparable to the Egyptian midwives whom a cruel Pharaoh had ordered to kill the Israelites’ male children on the very day of their birth. We are crucified to the world and the world must be crucified to us. The world holds us to be fools; let us hold it to be mad. - Saint Francis de Sales, from Introduction to the Devine Life

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Francis de Sales“. Saints.SQPN.com. 27 September 2014. Web. 21 October 2014. <>