Chantal, Jane Frances de, St.
CHANTAL, JANE FRANCES DE, ST.
Foundress of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary; b. Dijon, France, Jan. 23, 1572; d. Moulins, Dec. 13, 1641.
When Jane was 18 months old, her mother, Marguerite de Berbisey, died. Her father, Bénigne Frémyot, councilor and afterward president of the parliament at Dijon, became the main influence in her formation. She was educated at home by visiting tutors in reading, writing, dancing, and playing musical instruments—the usual subjects for girls of her station. She developed into a woman of beauty and quality, with good judgment and a lively, gay temperament.
At the age of 21 she married Baron Christophe de Rabutin-Chantal. At their residence, the castle of Bourbilly, near Semur-en-Auxois, she reestablished the custom of daily Mass, introduced other communal practices of piety, and engaged in works of charity. Of the couple's six children, two died at an early age; a boy and three girls survived. After seven years of marriage her husband was killed in a hunting accident. She returned to her father's home, where, desiring to make progress in the spiritual life, she sought priestly guidance. Her director encouraged her in a piety that was already excessive and austere.
Under threat of disinheriting her children, her fatherin-law required her to return in autumn 1602 to live with him at Monthelon. There she spent seven-and-one-half years exercising the virtues of patience and humility, and working on the education of her children.
In 1604 on a visit to her father she met Francis de Sales and wished to place herself under his direction. After some hesitation he consented and began her spiritual formation according to his principles. She made a double vow—to remain unmarried and to obey him. The fulfillment of her wish to enter the religious life was deferred and she was counseled to have patience. In 1607
he disclosed to her his plan for founding a group of women who would especially imitate the virtues exemplified in Mary's visit to Elizabeth and secondarily engage in works of mercy toward the poor and sick. On June 6, 1610, she and two companions assisted at Mass, which he celebrated in his chapel, received their rule from him, and afterward retired to their convent, known as the Gallery House. First vows were pronounced a year later.
Both the name and the constitutions of the institute underwent various changes. The official title became the Visitation of Holy Mary. A second revision of the rule in 1613 established its general plan, which was further modified when the external works of charity were eliminated and the cloister adopted under the influence of the bishop of Lyons, Denis Simon de Marquemont. On 23 April 1618, Paul V elevated the institute to the dignity of a religious order.
After the foundation of the Visitation, Jane de Chantal was concerned both with perfecting herself and her followers in its spirit and with establishing new monasteries. By the time of her death there were 80 houses. Benedict XIV beatified her on August 21, 1751; canonization took place under Clement XIII on July 16, 1767.
Feast: December 12.
Bibliography: Sa Vie et Ses Oeuvres, 7 v. (Paris 1874–79). Jeanne de Chantal: Zeugnisse ihrer Zeitgenossen, ed. l. maril (Einsiedeln 1967). francis de sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction, tr. p. m. thibert, ed. w. m. wright and j. f. power (New York 1988). É. bougaud, St. Chantal and the Foundation of the Visitation, tr. A. Visitandine, 2 v. (New York 1895–1902). g. papÀsogli, Come piace a Dio (Rome 1981). a. ravier, Jeanne-Françoise Frémyot, baronne de Chantal (Paris 1983) and Eng. tr. m. e. hamilton Saint Jeanne de Chantal: Noble Lady, Holy Woman (San Francisco 1989); Petite vie de Jeanne de Chantal (Paris 1992). e. k. sanders, Saint Chantal (New York 1928). e. stopp, Madame de Chantal (Westminster, MD 1963), with bibliography; Hidden in God: Essays and Talks on St. Jane Frances de Chantal, ed. t. o'reilly (Philadelphia 1999). w. m. wright, Bond of Perfection: Jeanne de Chantal and François de Sales (New York 1985); A Retreat with Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal, and Aelred of Rievaulx: Befriending Each Other in God (Cincinnati, Ohio 1996).
[e. j. carney]