Saint Francis de Sales

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Saint Francis de Sales, 1567–1622, French Roman Catholic preacher, Doctor of the Church, and key figure in the Counter Reformation in France. He was a member of an aristocratic family of Savoy and was trained for the law, but he entered (1593) the priesthood against his father's wishes. His first years in the priesthood were spent in the district of Chablais preaching to its Protestant inhabitants. Credited with many conversions, he was made coadjutor bishop of Geneva in 1599 and bishop in 1602; he resided at Annecy in nearby Savoy. His fame as a preacher spread abroad, and from 1600 until his death he delivered Lent and Advent sermons in many of the great cities of France. In his diocese he set up schools and paid special attention to the poorer parishes. He was instrumental in the important reform of the Cistercian abbey Port-Royal. With St. Jane Frances de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation for women who could not undergo the austerities of the great established orders. His Introduction to the Devout Life is a widely read religious classic. His other major work is the Treatise on the Love of God. He is the patron saint of Roman Catholic writers. Feast: Jan. 29.

See biographies by J. P. Camus (1639; tr. by C. J. Kelly, 1952) and M. de La Bedoyère (1960).

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De Sales, Francis, St (1567–1622). Christian bishop and spiritual director and, with St Jane Frances de Chantal (1572–1641), the founder of the Salesian style of spirituality. Educated at Paris and Padua his life after ordination was active and much involved in the world and his diocese; whereas Jane de Chantal was more inclined to contemplation and the creation of holy space in her life. Together they founded the community of the Visitation of the Holy Mary. The purpose of Salesian spirituality is to establish devotion to God in the midst of everyday life.

A number of Salesian Orders were subsequently founded, e.g. the Salesians of St John Bosco, the Oblates of St Francis de Sales.