SUNDAY, January 24, 1999
First Reading: Isaiah 8: 23; 9: 1-3
Psalms: Psalm 27: 1, 4, 13-14
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 10-13, 17
Gospel Reading: Matthew 4: 12-23
Today's feast of Saint Francis de Sales is superseded by the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. Nevertheless, January 24th is the traditional feast of this Bishop, Religious Founder and Doctor of the Church.
Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop, Religious Founder and Doctor of the Church
Born in Savoy, France on August 21, 1567, nearly 50 years after the Protestant Reformation, Saint Francis de Sales would go on to play a major role in beginning the swing of the pendulum back to Holy Mother Church. Spurning the luxury of a barrister, this learned graduate of the University of Padua opted to become a priest where, guided by the Holy Spirit, his words and actions helped convert over 70,000 Calvinists back to the One, True Faith. He was so successful Pope Clement VIII elevated him to the See of the Bishopric of Geneva in 1602 at the age of 35. Accused by some of being too gentle, he offered the rationalization, "I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity." This gentleness helped convince the widow of the Baron of Chantal, none other than Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, to whom Francis was Spiritual Director, to help him found the Order of Visitation Nuns (the Visitandines) in 1610. The fruits of their labors in this holy endeavor soon spread throughout Europe and eventually the world. Vowed to poverty, Francis refused all provisions and honors, including politely declining the See of Paris to remain head of the Geneva Diocese. He devoted much to writing including his two brilliant works Introduction to the Devout Life which he penned in 1609 as a guide for the nuns to-be, and seven years later wrote Treatise on the Love of God which simply points out that sanctity is achievable in everyone's life. Both books have gone on to become spiritual must-reading for religious and laity alike. Francis fell ill in the winter of 1622 in Lyons, France and passed on to his Heavenly reward three days after Christmas on December 28, 1622 at the age of 55. Later the next year he was the first person to be beatified in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He was canonized 43 years later by Pope Alexander VII and declared a "Doctor of the Church" by Pope Pius IX in 1877. St. Francis de Sales holds a special place in the hearts of all editors, journalists, writers and authors as their patron saint which was made official on January 24, 1923 when Pope Pius XI proclaimed him the designated patron saint of the Catholic press.