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Childhood:
    St. Francis de Sales was born on 21st Aug. 1567 at Thorens in France. He was the first child to his parents  - Mr. Francis de Boisy and Francis de Sionnas. Mr. De Boisy, by his life example and firm guidance taught Francis to be an honest, sincere, frank, straight forward and courageous boy with a great sense of justice, kindness, generosity and integrity. From his father, he learned a manly devotion while from his mother, he inherited a kind, compassionate and affectionate heart and tender devotion.

Education:
    After his elementary schooling, his father sent him to Paris for higher education. Francis joined the college of Clermont run by the Jesuits. There he studied literature, philosophy and learned arts befitting nobles like fencing, riding, dance, etc. This he did to fulfill the wishes of his father and he studied theology for his own satisfaction.

    During this period, he underwent a terrible crisis - a temptation, a trial, being tempted to despair of his salvation. It lasted for several months. One day in January 1587, Francis went into the church of Saint Etienne des Gres. He went  to the Chapel of our Lady, and knelt down in front of the statue. He was inspired to make an unconditional surrender of his salvation to God. There on a card he saw the prayer ‘Memorare’ -“Remember Most gracious Virgin Mary” took it and earnestly prayed. He was instantly healed. The temptation vanished, Strength and confidence returned to him.1 SFS

    In 1591, Francis completed his legal studies for a doctorate in law and passed the examination with perfect mastery of the subject. In 1592, he returned home and wanted to become a priest. His father strongly opposed to it. Not to displease his father, he enrolled himself as an advocate at the Bar of Chambery. Finally his father gave him the permission to follow his vocation to priesthood. On 18th December 1593, Francis was ordained priest by his own bishop Mgr.de Granier and after Christmas he was installed as provost (a high position in the diocese). The ideal of a priest as a man of God, a man of the Church and a man of people blended harmoniously in his life and activity.

His mission:
    The district of Chablais in Savoy under the Duke of Savoy had embraced Calvinism. The Duke requested the Bishop to send missionaries to Chablais to win the people back to the Catholic faith. The Bishop entrusted this mission to Francis. Louis de sales, his cousin, volunteered to work with him.

    The initial work was extremely hard. The Calvinist ministers forbade the people to receive the catholic priests. Calumnies against Francis were circulated. There was constant threat to his life. Every door was closed to him. Then, Francis took a new initiative. He began to write short messages explaining catholic teaching and left them at the door of the houses of the Protestants. These articles were later published as a book called ‘The controversies’. This was one of the trying periods of his life. He used the weapons of prayer, fasting and penance to win these Calvinists. Finally, the perseverance and hard and courageous work of Francis began to bear Fruit.

    From 1894, Bishop de Granier was thinking of making Francis the co - adjutor Bishop and the Duke too wanted the same. He was made the co - adjutor of the diocese and after the death of the Bishop, was consecrated as Bishop of Geneva, on 8th December 1602, in the church of Thorens.

The Bishop:    
    Francis was rather different from many of the Bishops of his own days as well as our own. He was easily accessible to everyone. He devoted his whole attention to pastoral work, at the same time, without neglecting administrative affairs. He taught catechism to children and adults, preached as often as occasions arose. He heard confessions regularly and gave spiritual direction to numerous persons - men and women of various ranks living in different life situations and wrote numerous letters of direction. At the same time, he was equally available to Princes, Dukes, Bishops, Clergy, Religious both men and women and to the people at large especially the poor and the sick. The letters of spiritual direction written by him to his directees are a mine of wisdom that provides spiritual and psychological insights.

The author:    
    The most popular books he had written are ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ and ‘Treatise on the Love of God’. ‘The Spiritual Conferences’ are the notes of his familiar instructions and talks taken down by the Visitation Sisters.

The Founder:
    St. Francis founded ‘The Visitation of the Holy Mary’ in1609. The objectives of his founding this congregation was to offer possibility of leading a religious life to humble weak women who because of their age or some physical weakness, cannot have access to austere reformed monasteries. They are offered this opportunity provided they are healthy in mind and willing to live a life of humility, obedience, simplicity, gentleness and resignation. Thus he did not neglect the cripples, the one eyed, The hunchbacks, etc. The lame in body or the lame in the soul, must strive to achieve a strong love. The co-foundress was Madame de Chantal, a widow who later became St. Jane de Chantal.

The Mediator, The peace maker:
    St. Francis listened to those who struggled with difficulties with patience and impartiality. His gentleness and kindness brought calm to the angry, made them see the reason and accept his decisions. He brought peace not only to individuals and families but also among quarrelling Schools of Theology.

The end:
    Amidst all these activities, he led a life of prayer and contemplation. Such a life of activity caused his health to decline. On 27th December 1622, Francis had an attack of apoplexy (brain stroke) and he passed away on 28th December, on the feast day of Holy Innocents.

    On 19th April 1665, Blessed Francis de sales was canonized by Pope Alexander VII and in 1877, Pope Pius IX declared him Doctor of the Church.

SFS