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St. Francis of Sales - Patron Saint of the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco

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fma soccom St. Francis of Sales DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH (+ 1622) Celebrated January 24 SAINT FRANCIS OF SALES Bishop and Doctor of the Church (1566-1622) Francis was born of noble and pious paren…More
fma soccom St. Francis of Sales DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH (+ 1622)

Celebrated January 24

SAINT FRANCIS OF SALES
Bishop and Doctor of the Church
(1566-1622)

Francis was born of noble and pious parents, near Annecy, 1566, and studied with brilliant success at Paris and Padua. On his return from Italy he gave up the grand career which his father had marked out for him in the service of the state, and became a priest.
When the Duke of Savoy had resolved to restore the Church in the Chablais, Francis offered himself for the work, and set out on foot with his Bible and breviary and one companion, his cousin Louis of Sales. It was a work of toil, privation, and danger. Every door and every heart was closed against him. He was rejected with insult and threatened with death. But nothing could daunt or resist him, and ere long the Church burst forth into a second spring. It is stated that he converted 72,000 Calvinists.
He was then compelled by the Pope to become Coadjutor Bishop of Geneva, and succeeded to the see in 1602. At times the exceeding gentleness with which he received heretics and sinners almost scandalized his friends, and one of them said to him, "Francis of Sales will go to Paradise, of course; but I am not so sure of the Bishop of Geneva: I am almost afraid his gentleness will play him a shrewd turn." "Ah," said the Saint, "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. And are you wiser than God?"
In union with St. Jane Frances of Chantal he founded at Annecy the Order of the Visitation, which soon spread over Europe. Though poor, he refused provisions and dignities, and even the great see of Paris.
He died at Avignon, 1622.

Readings: 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 Divine Life

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