PRAYER (contemporary language)
This commemoration appears in Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018.
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FRANCIS DE SALES, BISHOP, 1622
JANE DE CHANTAL, MONASTIC, 1641
Francis de Sales was born in the Savoy district of France in 1567 and ordained a priest in 1593. At that time the religious and political struggles of the time had placed under the control of Roman Catholic rulers several regions in which the people were mostly Protestants. Francis was sent to preach in one such region near his birthplace, attempting to persuade his hearers to become Roman Catholics. Since he was seen to be persuasive, he was appointed in 1602 to be Roman Catholic bishop of Geneva, a Calvinist stronghold which had been captured by the Roman Catholic Duke of Savoy. Here again, he brought many to his way of thinking. His motto was, "He who preaches with love, preaches effectively." His numerous controversial tracts are unfailingly courteous to his opponents. Many Christians who are not at all convinced of the truth of the Romanist position by his arguments nevertheless read him with delight because of his obvious love for God and his neighbor.
By no means all of his writings were concerned with disputation. His best known and best loved treatises were concerned with the life of prayer, and were written to advise those who wish to become more aware of the presence of God in their lives. His Introduction to the Devout Life was highly praised by John Wesley. C.S. Lewis has referred to the "dewy freshness" that permeates the book. It is available in English, as is his The Love of God. Both have been used and found helpful by Christians of many different denominations.
In 1604 he met a widow, Jane Frances de Chantal (born at Dijon, 1572, died 12 December 1641), and under his influence she founded a religious order of nuns called the Order of the Visitation. Their correspondence is an outstanding example of mutual Christian encouragement and support.
Francis died at Lyons 29 December 1622. Since this date is already spoken for (Thomas a Becket), he is remembered with Jane de Chantal on 12 December.
by James Kiefer
Jane Frances de Chantal was born in Dijon, France, on 28 January 1572. She married the Baron de Chantal when she was 21 and then lived in the feudal castle of Bourbilly. Baron de Chantal was accidentally killed by an arquebus while out shooting in 1601. Left a widow at 28, with four children, the broken-hearted baroness took a vow of chastity. Her mother, stepmother, sister, first two children, and now her husband had died.Chantal gained a reputation as an excellent manager of the estates of her husband, while also providing alms and nursing care to needy neighbors.
The pious baroness could not bring herself to forgive the individual who had accidentally caused her husband's death, until in 1604 she heard a Lenten sermon of the bishop of Geneva Francis de Sales, who preached on the subject of the love of God at the Sainte Chapelle in Dijon. They became close friends and de Sales became her spiritual director. Later, with his support, and that of her father and brother (the archbishop of Bourges), and after providing for her children, Chantal left for Annecy, to start the Congregation of the Visitation. The order accepted women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. During its first eight years, the new order also was unusual in its public outreach, in contrast to most female religious who remained cloistered and adopted strict ascetic practices.
Her reputation for sanctity and sound management resulted in many visits by (and donations from) aristocratic women. The order had 13 houses by the time de Sales died, and 86 before Chantal herself died at the Visitation Convent in Moulins, aged 69, on 13 December 1641.
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