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Saint Francis de Sales

Saint Francis de Sales

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This digital art print of Saint Frances de Sales is the perfect addition to your home decor or a great gift for birthdays, Confirmation, weddings, or Christmas.

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St. Francis de Sales was born into a noble family at Chateau de Sales in the Kingdom of Savoy, near Switzerland in 1567. From the time he was young, Francis was determined to enter the priesthood. He was very devout and knew he wanted to serve God. His father, however, had other plans for him–he wanted him to have a career in law or politics. Francis desired to please his father as well, so he attended the University of Paris and then got his doctorate in law at the University of Padua. Though he studied theology and practiced mental prayers in private, he also studied fencing and riding to please his father.

One day, while Francis was out riding, he fell from his horse three different times. Each time he fell, his sword fell out of his scabbard and each time, the sword and scabbard fell into the shape of a cross. Francis knew this was God revealing his plans for Francis’ life. He told his father that he intended to become a priest, and though they disagreed, Francis was eventually ordained to the priesthood. By 1593, he became Bishop of Geneva.

Living on the edge of Calvinist territory, Francis embarked upon a mission of conversion. He went throughout the countryside and had many doors slammed in his face and even had rocks thrown at him. Francis, however, was patient. He realized no one would listen to him or even open their door to him, so he had to get creative. He wrote out pamphlets to explain the Catholic doctrine and slipped them under doors. In fact, this was one of the first instances of religious tracts being used to communicate the faith. 

When Francis couldn’t attract the adults to the faith, he looked to the children–and when their parents realized how kind Francis was, they began to listen to him and talk to him. By the time it was all said and done, it is said Francis brought 40,000 people back to the Catholic faith.

In 1604, Francis encountered a woman listening closely to his sermon and realized he’d already seen her in a dream. He met Jane de Chantal, who was a very dedicated and devout Catholic, and it was after the two met that they both took their first steps toward sainthood. Francis and Jane guided each other in attaining mystical union with God, and in 1610, the two embarked upon developing a new religious community based on Mary’s visit with Elizabeth, called the Order of Visitation.

Francis went out of his way to encourage people towards faithfulness. He wrote letters to people to help guide them spiritually and once even developed a kind of sign language for a deaf man who wanted to engage in the faith. He once said, “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.” He also wrote books to encourage lay people to live holy lives, and even encouraged dancing and joking as forms of prayer, which many people objected to at the time!

St. Francis de Sales is often depicted with the books he wrote, the pamphlets he distributed, and a quill or pen to symbolize the letters he wrote to the people of his community. He is also often portrayed with the Heart of Jesus and a Crown of Thorns.

St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of Catholic writers, the Catholic press, the deaf, journalists, adult education, and the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Feast Day: January 24

Patronage: Catholic writers; the Catholic press; the deaf; journalists; adult education; the Sisters of Saint Joseph