What exactly makes someone a saint?
Is it holiness or charity? Can anyone become a saint? Each saint of the Catholic Church has walked a unique, yet devout path, for their love of God. This January 24th we celebrate the feast day of St. Francis de Sales. A quick look at his life can help us understand why he was canonized in 1665 by Pope Alexander VII. His remark,
“Be who you are and be that well,” encourages us, that we, too, can become saints.
As a child he was known to be obedient and kind. These traits, along with his gentle and simple approach to preaching, would later bring many back to the faith, including thousands of Protestant Reformers. As a young man, he knew he wanted to serve the Lord though his father had envisioned a law career for his eldest son. After a time of differing opinions, Francis finally convinced his father his path was to be aimed straight toward God. Francis earned a law degree but would go on to become a Bishop and eventually a Doctor of the church. St. Francis de Sales is best known for his book entitled, Introduction to the Devout Life. He prayerfully considered how he could shepherd his sheep and reach all of his people through the text.
He lived his priesthood with zeal as he travelled to preach the truth throughout the remote French province of Chablais. Along the way, he suffered frost-bitten feet, doors slammed in his face, an attack by wolves, leaving him to sleep in a tree overnight. He approached people with gentle, truthful words and fun.
Toward the end of his life, his hopes of being a hermit were dashed as he was in constant demand. The tireless work ethic eventually caught up with him. As he lay dying in bed, his last reported words to a nun were, “humility.” He died at the age of 55. Through his written words, actions and perseverance, this humble and devout saint continues to teach that we, too, can be saints.
St. Francis de Sales holds a special place in the hearts of all of us in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as our seminary bears his name. How great of a patron he is!
Written by: Kari Frommel