Thursday, January 24, 2008

Francis de Sales

Today is the "official" day for the Vatican to announce the theme of the World Day of Social Communication (generally celebrated on the 7th Sunday of Easter). In actuality, they have had to announce the theme months ahead of today's feast of the patron saint of the Catholic press, because the press needs more time than that to do anything with the theme. (Which, in case you were wondering, I cannot find anywhere! I'll let you know later.)
Today's saint, by the way, is the inspirer of the spirituality of the Salesians, founded not by Francis de Sales, but by St. John Bosco. (Called "Don" Bosco, as in "Don Corleone": a title of respect. Got that? Respect.) Francis de Sales was born with a violent temper, but came to be known as the "meekest man after Christ." Even the prayers for the Mass today highlight this characteristic gentleness. He was a spiritual director and author of books on prayer that are still best-sellers ("Introduction to the Devout Life" is one of them). With St. Jane Frances de Chantal, he founded the Visitation Order, which was intended to be an active community, visiting the needy and sick in their homes, but which the church law of the day assigned to the cloister. (Later, Francis is said to have advised another founder, St. Vincent de Paul, not to let the Daughters of Charity pronounce solemn vows, so that they would be free to carry out their apostolate of charity!)
Francis also had the unenviable role of being the Catholic bishop of John Calvin's own stronghold of Geneva, Switzerland, during the latter part of the Reformation. This probably did a lot to hone his temper into gentleness.
Our Founder, too, was influenced by the spiritual writings of St. Francis de Sales, who was one of the patron saints of the diocesan seminary in Alba, Italy: a wonderful and providential "coincidence" that the patron of the Catholic Press would be an inspiration to a future apostle of the Press!

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