St. Francis de Sales was a great counter-reformer and champion of the laypeople growing in holiness. He is both bishop and Doctor of the Church – and for good reason.
A Missionary for the Church
Francis was born in Switzerland in the 1600s and studied law in France and Italy, following in his father’s footsteps. After finishing his degree (a doctorate!), he told his family he felt a call to the priesthood and eventually convinced them to let him study and be ordained (patience won the day!). He was ordained a priest in Geneva in 1593, at a time when Calvinism and Protestantism were rampant. Francis made it his mission to travel throughout the area, hand out Catholic tracts, and preach the truth of Catholicism to any and all the people. So, for three years, facing harsh weather and shut doors, he ministered, mostly to children (who brought their parents, eventually), and is said to have brought 40,000 people back to Catholicism.
He became bishop at age 35 (young bishop!) and wrote several works during his time as bishop, as well as ministering, preaching, and catechizing (Introduction to the Devout Life was one of these). He was known to be a gentle man who focused on helping lay people become holy. In many ways, this idea was later carried out in Vatican II’s “Universal Call to Holiness”.
He later met St. Jane Frances de Chantal, a widow who was also extremely holy. Together they formed the Visitation sisters, an order devoted to the virtues Our Lady exhibited when she visited St. Elizabeth of the Visitation. They cared (and still care) for the poor, sick, and also taught in and founded many Catholic schools. Francis died in 1622 and his feast day is January 24. Learn more about him here and on the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales website.
Why an Ear?
St. Francis was a bishop and doctor of the Church in Switzerland in the 16th century who felt a call to participate in the counter-Reformation. He traveled throughout the Swiss countryside through all kinds of weather, facing slammed doors to minister and pass out tracts about Catholicism. He founded an order, converted many, and it is said he helped to catechize and preach to a deaf man. The ear could represent the many who wouldn’t listen to him, but also his patronage of the deaf community.
Who would be friends with St. Francis de Sales?
- Converts from Protestantism
- Those who write/work for the Catholic Press (he’s their patron!)
- Those who have a vocation, but haven’t shared it with anyone
Heaven and earth are not distant enoughSt. Francis de Sales
to separate the hearts which our Lord has joined.