Born in France in 1567, St. Francis de Sales was a man whose life can be summarized in two words: patience and discernment. For example, Francis knew for thirteen years that he had a vocation to the priesthoodbefore he mentioned it to his family. His father wanted Francis to be a soldier and sent him to Paristo study, but Francis said nothing. When he arrived in Paduato pursue a doctorate in law, he still kept quiet, but studied theology and prayed. Why did Francis wait so long to speak? Throughout his lifehe waited for God's willto be clear to him. He never wanted to push his wishes on God.
God finally made His willclear to Francis while he was riding. Francis fell from his horse three times. Every timehe fell the sword came out of the scabbard and the two items rested on the ground in the shape of a cross. And then, Francis, without knowing about it, was appointed provostof his diocese, second in rank to the bishop. Unfortunately, he wasn't a natural pastor. When he preached, his congregation thought he was making fun of them. Others reported to the bishopthat he was conceited and controlling.
Then Francis had the idea that he should lead an expedition to convert the 60,000 Calvinists who lived in nearby Switzerland back to Catholicism He received no support for this plan from either his family or diocese. For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him, making not a single convert. But Francis' unusual patience eventually paid off. He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors of those who refused him admittance. This is the first record we have of religious tracts being used to communicate with people. By the time, Francis returned home, he is said to have converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism.
In 1602, Francis was made bishopof the dioceseof Geneva, in Calvinist territory. But it was in 1604 that Francis took one of the most important steps in his life, the step toward holinessand mystical union with God. In Dijonthat year, Francis saw a womanhe had seen already in a dream. Jane de Chantal wanted him to take over her spiritual direction, but, not surprisingly, Francis wanted to wait. Jane was on a path to mystical union with Godand, in directing her, Francis was compelled to follow her and become a mystic himself.
Three years after working with Jane, he finally made up his mindto forma new religious order of contemplative Visitation nuns, because Francis believed the first dutyof a bishopwas spiritual direction. At that time, the way of holinesswas only for monks and nuns-- not for ordinarypeople. But Francis changed all that by giving spiritual directionalso to lay people. His most famous book, Introduction to the Devout Life, was written for these ordinarypeople in 1608. Written originally as letters, it became an instant success all over Europe.
Francis died on December 28, 1622. He is patron saint of journalists because of the tracts and books he wrote that impacted the spiritual lives of thousands and thousands of believers.