St. Francis de Sales
“The measure of love is to love without measure.”
Whenever the Church is threatened, the Lord raises up a Saint or two or brings about Miracles. In this instance, the Lord raised up two Saints, St. Francis de Sales, the Bishop of Geneva, a Doctor of the Church, and Founder of a Religious Order and St. Jane Frances de Chantal. He also gave us many Miracles, including the softening of men’s hearts.
The years 1567 through 1622 were not great years for Catholics in Switzerland. They were not especially good years for a bishop of the Catholic Church, in particular the Bishop of Geneva. For that task, the Lord had to search all over Heaven until He could find a special soul who would not only be capable of pastoring the people of God during the period of hell caused by John Calvin, but would be willing to take on the job. The soul who would be Francis de Sales was the perfect candidate. So the Lord blessed him, gave him special Angels to guide and protect him, covered him in the mantle of Mother Mary, and sent him on his way. He was to be the first of thirteen babies the Lord would give to this special family. But of all, this was the prize, given from the Lord.
The Angels delivered the future St. Francis de Sales to a beautiful château in what was called Thorens at that time, but today is just outside the breathtakingly city of Annecy, France, on Lake Geneva. He was born in a château on August 21, 1567. His family was part of the House of Savoie, which was a noble family in Europe. On the following day St. Francis was baptized in the Parish church of Thorens, and given the name Francis Bonaventure. His patron saint was the Little Poverello of Assisi. He was named after St. Francis and Bonaventure, another famous Franciscan and Doctor of the Church. [St. Bonaventure, Seraphic Doctor, was born just five years before St. Francis died, and followed in the Poverello’s footsteps.] The combination of qualities exemplified in Francis, who was all heart, and in Bonaventure, who was brilliant, were just the traits young Francis would need in his ministry for the Church, as he grew in body and spirit.
What were his parents thinking about for this, their first baby? Would he continue in the House of Savoie, taking care of the land, his heritage? Would Francis Bonaventure follow in the footsteps of his namesakes? Although we read that both parents were traditional Catholics, could they have had any idea what they were doing when they gave such powerful names to their newborn? Nothing is by coincidence, not even the naming of a child. Unless it is God’s Holy Coincidence.
The room in which he was born was known as St. Francis’ room, because of a painting in the room of the Saint preaching to the birds and the fishes. It was always young Francis’ favorite painting of his namesake, as was this his favorite room.
Francis was born prematurely, leaving him frail and delicate, physically challenged as a young child. But he was never Spiritually challenged. From his earliest childhood, he was unusually active and energetic. He was a product of Home Schooling in his early years. His mother kept his education in her own hands, aided by a tutor, Abbé Déage, a local priest who was very learned. As Francis grew, this priest became his tutor, traveling with him everywhere during his youth. Beautiful traits were instilled in him by the Lord, who guided his mother in his upbringing his entire life. He was obedient and truthful no matter what the consequences. In addition, he was a voracious reader; he devoured every book he could get. He was very eager to learn. The Lord was gearing him up for a mighty job and he couldn’t begin too soon.