St. Francis De Sales and the Universal Call to Holiness

St. Francis De Sales and the Universal Call to Holiness January 24, 2009

Today is the Feast of St. Francis De Sales (1567-1622). Born to an aristocratic family in Savoy, he studied law and theology at the University of Padua before being ordained a priest in 1593. He was named Bishop of Geneva in 1602. In 1610, he and St. Jane Frances de Chantal founded the Visitation Sisters. St. Francis was also a highly regarded spiritual director and author. His pamphlets defending the Church were collected into a book, The Catholic Controversy. But his most influential work is Introduction to the Devout Life (1609), a compilation of letters on the spiritual life addressed to “Philothea” (“lover of God”). It’s still in print today, for its central theme is still relevant, the idea that holiness is for everyone. This is what he had to say about the call to holiness:

It is… an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state. Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.

St. Francis was canonized in 1662 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1877. He is the patron saint of journalists. And because of his efforts to evangelize the hearing impaired, he is also the patron saint of the Deaf.
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