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Francis de Sales
Francis de Sales CO OM OFM Cap. (French: François de Sales; Italian: Francesco di Sales; 21 August 1567 – 28 December 1622) was a Bishop of Geneva and

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This article is about the Roman Catholic Saint. For the American actor, see Francis De Sales (actor). For other uses, see Francis de Sales (disambiguation). "Saint François de Sales" redirects here. For the commune, see Saint-François-de-Sales.

Francis de Sales
CO, OM, OFM Cap.Bishop and Doctor of the ChurchBorn21 August 1567
Château de Sales, Duchy of Savoy, Holy Roman EmpireDied28 December 1622(1622-12-28) (aged 55)
Lyons, Lyonnais, Kingdom of FranceBeatified8 January 1661, Rome, Papal States, by Pope Alexander VIICanonized8 April 1665, Rome, Papal States, by Pope Alexander VIIFeast
  • 24 January
  • 29 January (local communities and among Traditional Roman Catholics)
AttributesHeart of Jesus, Crown of ThornsPatronageBaker, Oregon; Cincinnati, Ohio; Catholic press; Columbus, Ohio; confessors; deaf people; educators; Upington, South Africa; Wilmington, Delaware; writers; journalists; the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest; Salesians of Don Bosco Saint
Francis de SalesBishop of GenevaNative nameFrançois de SalesProvinceVienneDioceseGenevaAppointed15 July 1602 (Coadjutor)Installed8 December 1602Term ended28 December 1622PredecessorClaude de GranierSuccessorJean-François de SalesOrdersOrdination18 December 1593Consecration8 December 1602Personal detailsPrevious postTitular Bishop of Nicopolis ad Iaterum (1602)MottoNon-excidetCoat of arms

Francis de Sales CO OM OFM Cap. (French: François de Sales; Italian: Francesco di Sales; 21 August 1567 – 28 December 1622) was a Bishop of Geneva and is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church. He became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.

  • 1 Life
    • 1.1 Early years
    • 1.2 Education and conversion
    • 1.3 Return to Savoy
    • 1.4 Priest and provost
    • 1.5 Bishop of Geneva
    • 1.6 Mystical writer
    • 1.7 Founder
    • 1.8 Death
  • 2 Veneration after his death
  • 3 Patronage
  • 4 Legacy
    • 4.1 Congregations
    • 4.2 Influence on other saints
  • 5 Namesakes
    • 5.1 Educational institutions
    • 5.2 Religious Institutes
    • 5.3 Other Places
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 Bibliography
  • 9 External links
    • 9.1 Works
Life Early years

Francis de Sales was born on 21 August 1567 in the Château de Sales into the noble Sales family of the Duchy of Savoy, in what is today Thorens-Glières, Haute-Savoie, France. His father was François de Sales, Lord of Boisy, Sales, and Novel. His mother was Françoise de Sionnaz, the only child of prominent magistrate, Melchior de Sionnaz, and a noblewoman. He was baptized Francis Bonaventura, after two great Franciscan saints. His father wanted him, the first of his six sons, to attend the best schools in preparation for a career as a magistrate. He therefore enjoyed a privileged education in the nearby town of La Roche-sur-Foron, and at the age of eight at the Capuchin college in Annecy.[1]

Education and conversion

In 1583, De Sales went to the Collège de Clermont (later renamed Lycée Louis-le-Grand) in Paris, then a Jesuit institution, to study rhetoric and humanities. As a nobleman, he was accompanied by his own servant and by a priest tutor, Abbe Deage. To please his father, he took lessons in the gentlemanly pursuits of riding, dancing, and fencing.[2] De Sales is described as intelligent and handsome, tall and well built with blue-grey eyes, somewhat reserved and quiet, and a welcome guest in the homes of the nobility among whom his father had connections.[3]

St Francis de Sales by Giovanni Battista Lucini

In 1584 Francis de Sales attended a theological discussion about predestination, convincing him of his damnation to hell. A personal crisis of despair resulted. This conviction lasted through December 1586. His great despair made him physically ill and even bedridden for a time. Sometime in either late December or early January 1587, with great difficulty, he visited the old parish of Saint-Étienne-des-Grès, Paris, where he prayed the "Memorare" before a famed statue of Our Lady of Good Deliverance, a Black Madonna. He consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and decided to dedicate his life to God with a vow of chastity. He then became a tertiary of the Minim Order.[4]

Sales ultimately concluded that God had good in store for him, because "God is love", as John's First Epistle attests. This faithful devotion to the God of love not only expelled his doubts but also influenced the rest of his life and his teachings. His way of teaching Catholic spirituality is often referred to as the Way of Divine Love, or the Devout Life, taken from a book he wrote of a similar name: Introduction to the Devout Life.

In 1588 Sales completed his studies at Collège de Clermont and enrolled at the University of Padua in Italy, where he studied both law and theology. He took Antonio Possevino, a priest in Society of Jesus, as his spiritual director.[1] There he made up his mind about becoming a priest. In one incident, he rode a horse, and his sword fell to the ground and crossed another sword, making the sign of the Christian cross.

Return to Savoy

In 1592, de Sales received his doctorate in law and theology. He made a pilgrimage to Loreto, Italy, famous for its Basilica della Santa Casa (Shrine of the Holy House) and then returned home to Savoy. The Senate of Chambéry admitted him as a lawyer. Meanwhile, his father secured various positions for Francis, including an appointment as senator. His father also chose a wealthy noble heiress as his bride. But Francis refused to marry, preferring to stay focused on his chosen path. His father initially refused to accept that Francis had chosen the priesthood rather than fulfill his expectations with a political-military career.[5] Claude de Granier, then Bishop of Geneva, intervened and after signing over to his younger brother his rights of family succession, Francis was ordained in 1593. Immediately he received a promised appointment as provost of the cathedral chapter of Geneva.[5]

Priest and provost

In his capacity as provost, Francis de Sales engaged in enthusiastic campaigns of evangelism in an area that had become almost completely Calvinist.[5] According to J. Ehni, despite de Sales' zeal, courage and patience he met with absolute failure at Thonon, the capital of the Chablais province, where the residents had made an agreement to refuse to hear the eloquent preacher.[6] At first Francis lived in a fortress garrisoned by the Duke of Savoy's soldiers. Several times he escaped death at the hands of assassins.[7] He traveled to Rome and Paris, where he forged alliances with Pope Clement VIII and Henry IV of France.

In 1599 he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Geneva.[8] In 1601, he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Henry IV, where he was invited to give Lenten sermons at the Chapel Royal. The morals at court reflected those of the king, which were notoriously bad, yet Henry became personally attached to Francis, and is said to have observed, "A rare bird, this Monsieur de Genève, he is devout and also learned; and not only devout and learned but at the same time a gentleman. A very rare combination."[3]

While in Paris, he also met Cardinal Berulle and was, for a time, Madame Acarie's confessor. They consulted with him on matters such as the introduction of St. Teresa's Carmelites into France and plans for the reforming of monasteries and convents. He was consulted on matters of conscience by persons at court.[3]

Arms of St Francis de Sales Bishop of Geneva

In 1602, Bishop Granier died, and Sales was consecrated Bishop of Geneva by Vespasien Gribaldi, assisted by Thomas Pobel and Jacques Maistret, O.Carm. as co-consecrators. He resided in Annecy (now part of modern-day France) because Geneva remained under Calvinist control and therefore closed to him. His diocese became famous throughout Europe for its efficient organization, zealous clergy and well-instructed laity, monumental achievements in those days.[9]

He worked closely with the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, which was very active in preaching the Catholic faith in his diocese. They appreciated his cooperation so much that in 1617 they made him an official associate of the Order, the highest honor possible for a non-member. It is said that at Evian, on the south shore of Lake Geneva, St. Francis of Assisi appeared to him and said: "You desire martyrdom, just as I once longed for it. But, like me, you will not obtain it. You will have to become an instrument of your own martyrdom."[7] During his years as bishop, de Sales acquired a reputation as a spellbinding preacher and something of an ascetic. His motto was, "He who preaches with love, preaches effectively." His goodness, patience and mildness became proverbial.[8]

Mystical writer

These last qualities come through in Sales' books, the most famous of which was Introduction to the Devout Life, which – unusual for the time – was written specially for laypeople. In it he counseled charity over penance as a means of progressing in the spiritual life. Sales also left the mystical work, the "Treatise on the Love of God",[10] and many highly valued letters of spiritual direction, including those with Jane Frances de Chantal compiled in the Letters of Spiritual Direction.[11]

His writings on the perfections of the heart of Mary as the model of love for God influenced Jean Eudes to develop the devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.[12]

Founder Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal, medal 1867

Along with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Sales founded the women's Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitandines) in Annecy on 6 June 1610. Despite his friendship with Denis-Simon de Marquemont, the archbishop nonetheless restricted the freedoms of de Sales' new order in 1616 by ordering that its members live cloistered lives.[13]

Sales also established a small community of men, an Oratory of St. Philip Neri, at Thonon-les-Bains, with himself as the superior or Provost. This work, however, was crippled by his death, and that foundation soon died out.[14]


In December 1622 de Sales was required to travel in the entourage of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, for the Duke's Christmas tour of his domain. Upon arrival in Lyon, he chose to stay in the gardener's hut at the Visitandine monastery in that city. While there he suffered a stroke, from which he died on 28 December 1622.[10]

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St. Francis de Sales has been styled "the Gentleman Saint" because of his patience and gentleness.[7] Despite the resistance of the populace of Lyon to moving his remains from that city, Sales was buried on 24 January 1623 in the church of the Monastery of the Visitation in Annecy, which he had founded with Chantal, who was also buried there. Their remains were venerated there until the French Revolution.[15] Many miracles have been reported at his shrine.

Sales' heart was kept in Lyon, in response to the popular demand of the citizens of the city to retain his remains. During the French Revolution, however, it was taken to Venice, where it is venerated today.[citation needed]

Francis de Sales was beatified in 1661 by Pope Alexander VII, who then canonized him four years later. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1877.[2]

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates St. Francis de Sales' feast on 24 January, the day of his burial in Annecy in 1624.[16] From the year 1666, when his feast day was inserted into the General Roman Calendar, until its 1969 revision, he was celebrated on 29 January, a date still observed by some Traditionalist Catholics.


In 1923, Pope Pius XI proclaimed him a patron of writers and journalists, because he made extensive use of broadsheets and books both in spiritual direction and in his efforts to convert the Calvinists of the region.[5] St. Francis developed a sign language in order to teach a deaf man about God. Because of this, he is the patron saint of the deaf.[10]

Having been founded as the first non-cloistered group of sisters after attempts to do so with the Visitation Sisters founded by de Sales and de Chantal proved unsuccessful, the Sisters of St. Joseph (founded in Le Puys, France, in 1650) take St. Francis de Sales as one of their patrons.

Legacy Congregations

In the 19th century, his vision for religious communities was revived. Several religious institutes were founded during that period for men and women desiring to live out the spiritual path which de Sales had developed.

  • The Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales (M.S.F.S.), founded by the Abbé Pierre Mermier in 1838, were the first congregation to adopt his spirituality in the 19th century.
  • The religious institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (S.D.B.), founded by St. John Bosco in 1859 (approved by the Holy See in 1874), was originally named the Society of St. Francis de Sales, and was placed under his patronage.
  • The Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales (O.S.F.S.) were founded by St. Léonie Aviat and the Blessed Louis Brisson, under the spiritual guidance of the Venerable Marie de Sales Chappuis, V.H.M., in 1866.
  • The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (O.S.F.S.) were later founded by Brisson for men, also under the guidance of Mother Marie de Sales, in 1875.[9]
  • The Paulist Fathers in the United States count him as one of their patrons.
Mosaic of Sales on the exterior of St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis, MO

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a society of priests founded in the 20th century, also has St. Francis de Sales as one of their three primary Patrons. One of the major apostolates of the Institute in the United States is the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in St. Louis, Missouri.[17]

Influence on other saints

Vincent de Paul met Francis de Sales in Paris in 1618 or 1619. Francis de Sales' spirituality and writings, especially An Introduction to the Devout Life, and Treatise on the Love of God, were to have a profound influence on Vincent.[8]

Namesakes Educational institutions
  • St Francis College, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, England
  • St Francis De Sales Catholic School, Houston, TX
  • St Francis de Sales School, Morgantown, West Virginia
  • DeSales High School in Louisville, Kentucky
  • DeSales University, located in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, (formerly Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales)
  • Mount de Sales Academy, Catonsville, Maryland
  • Mount de Sales Academy, Georgia
  • Saint Francis de Sales Seminary Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Salesianum School, Wilmington, DE, United States.
  • St. Francis DeSales High School in Columbus, OH, United States.
  • St. Francis de Sales High School in Chicago, IL, United States.
  • St. Francis de Sales High School in Toledo, OH, United States.
  • St. Francis de Sales College, in Mount Barker, South Australia, Australia.
  • St. Francis de Sales - St. Stephen School, in Geneva, NY, United States.
  • St. Francis de Sales School, in Nagpur, India, managed by the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, is named after him.
  • St. Francis de Sales School, in New Delhi, India, managed by the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, is named after him.
  • St. Francis de Sales School, in Dhemaji, India, managed by the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, is named after him.
  • St. Francis de Sales School, Nizamabad, Telangana, India.[18]
  • St. Francis de Sales in Wellington, New Zealand.
  • St. Francis de Sales High School, Francis Nagar, Korutla.
  • St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf in Brooklyn, New York, NY, United States.
  • St. Francis de Sales College, in Nagpur, India
  • The three seminary departments in the Archdiocese of Lipa are named after St. Francis de Sales (St. Francis de Sales Minor, Major, and Theological Seminary)

St Francis de Sales College, Bengaluru, India

St. Francis de Sales elementary school, Lake Geneva, WI, United States.

St. Francis de Sales School, Salisbury, MD, United States

Religious Institutes
  • Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales
  • Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales
  • Oblates of St. Francis de Sales
  • Salesians of Don Bosco (formerly Society of Saint Francis de Sales)
Other Places
  • The island of St. François Atoll
  • Saint Francis Hospital & Medical Center in Hartford, CT, United States.
  • St. Francis de Sales Broacast Center in Batangas City, Philippines houses two radio stations under the Catholic Media Network: 99.1 Spirit FM and ALFM 95.9 Radyo Totoo
See also
  • Savoy
  1. ^ a b "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Francis de Sales". Retrieved cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ a b John J. Crawley. "St. Francis de Sales, Bishop, Doctor of the Church". Lives of Saints. EWTN. Retrieved 14 January 2008.
  3. ^ a b c St. Francis de Sales: Selected Letters, (translation and Introduction by Elisabeth Stopp), Faber and Faber, London, 1960 Archived 13 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "The Third Order". Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  5. ^ a b c d Foley O.F.M., Leonard. Saint of the Day, Lives, Lessons, and Feast, (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan Media ISBN 978-0-86716-887-7
  6. ^ "New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. IV: Draeseke - Goa - Christian Classics Ethereal Library". Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  7. ^ a b c The Franciscan Book Of Saints, edited by Marion Habig, ofm, Franciscan Herald Press, 1959 Archived 15 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b c "Francis de Sales - Vincentian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  9. ^ a b "Oblate History", Oblates of St. Francis De Sales, Wilmington- Philadelphia Province Archived 28 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b c "Error". Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  11. ^ Saint Jeanne-Françoise de Chantal (1988). Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction. Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-2990-4.
  12. ^ Murphy, John F. Mary's Immaculate Heart, p. 24, 2007 ISBN 1-4067-3409-8
  13. ^ Boundaries of Faith: Catholics and Protestants in the Diocese of Geneva by Jill Fehleison (Truman State University Press, 2011)
  14. ^ Türks, Paul, C.O (1995). Philip Neri:The Fire of Joy. Translated by Daniel Utrecht, C.O. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. pp. 144–145. ISBN 0-567-29303-3.
  15. ^ Diocese of Annency "Salesian Sites" Archived 26 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine(in French)
  16. ^ "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 115
  17. ^ "Who we are", Institute of Christ the King
  18. ^ De Sales, St. Francis. "St Francis De Sales School in Nizamabad". St Francis Nizamabad Official. Archived from the original on 10 January 2016.
  • Biography portal
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  • Francis de Sales, Introduction to the devout life, London, 2012. ISBN 978-1-78336-023-9
  • Francis de Sales, Treatise on the love of God , London, 2012. ISBN 978-1-78336-024-6
  • Introduction to the Devout Life (Translated and Edited by John K. Ryan), Doubleday, 1972. ISBN 978-0-385-03009-0
  • The Catholic Controversy: St. Francis de Sales' Defense of the Faith, TAN Books, 1989. ISBN 978-0-89555-387-4
  • Set Your Heart Free (Edited by John Kirvan), Ave Maria Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-59471-153-4
  • Sermons of St. Francis de Sales On Prayer, TAN Books, 1985. ISBN 978-0-89555-258-7
  • Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady, TAN Books, 1985. ISBN 978-0-89555-259-4
  • Sermons of St. Francis de Sales For Lent, TAN Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0-89555-260-0
  • Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Advent and Christmas, TAN Books, 1987. ISBN 978-0-89555-261-7
External links Wikimedia Commons has media related to Francis de Sales. Wikiquote has quotations related to: Francis de Sales Wikisource has original text related to this article: Author:Francis de Sales
  • Works by Francis de Sales at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Francis de Sales at Internet Archive
  • Works by Francis de Sales at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • International Commission on Salesian Studies All about St. Francis de Sales worldwide
  • Statue in St Peter's Square
  • Founder Statue in St Peter's Basilica
  • Saint Francis de Sales papers, Vault MSS 447 at L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
  • Brief except from Treatise on the Love of God
  • Introduction to the Devout Life Frederick Pustet & Co. (192X)
  • Set Your Heart Free Readings from De Sales
  • Spiritual Conferences from Oblates of St. Francis de Sales
  • An Abridgment of the Interior Spirit of the Religious of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary George Templeman (1834)
  • The Mystical Flora of St. Francis de Sales; or, The Christian Life Under the Emblem of Plants M.H. Gill & Son (1877)
  • Maxims and Counsels of St. Francis de Sales for Every Day in the Year M.H. Gill & Son(1884)
  • Of the Love of God Rivington's (1888)
  • The Secret of Sanctity, According to St. Francis de Sales and Father Crasset, S.J. Benziger Brothers (1893)
  • Letters to Persons of the World Benziger Brothers (1894)
  • The Catholic Controversy Burns and Oates (1909)
  • Letters to Persons in Religion Burns and Oates (1909)
Catholic Church titles Preceded by
Giovanni Fontana — TITULAR —
Bishop of Nicopolis ad Iaterum
15 July 1602 – 17 September 1602 Succeeded by
Bernardin Corneillan Preceded by
Claude de Granier Bishop of Geneva
17 September 1602 – 28 December 1622 Succeeded by
Jean-François de Sales
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See also
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History of Catholic theologyGeneral history
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Church beginnings
  • Paul
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Constantine to
Pope Gregory I
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Early Middle Ages
  • Isidore of Seville
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  • Bede
  • John of Damascus
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High Middle Ages
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Mysticism and reforms
  • Ramon Llull
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Baroque period to
French Revolution
  • Tommaso Campanella
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19th century
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20th century
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21st century
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