Saint Francis de Sales was born in the Savoy region of France-Italy in 1567. His priesthood had him work diligently for the restoration of Catholicism in his homeland, reclaiming it from the clutches of the protestant reformation. He became bishop of Geneva, and was known for his writings, work and example. Astonishingly, he says that it took him 20 years to conquer his quick temper, a problem no one ever suspected he had, because he was known for his good nature and kindness. His perennial meekness and sunny disposition won for him the title of “Gentleman Saint.”
This is a quality that I’m sure we all wish more people had, and perhaps we wish we had it as well. I know I have to work on that every day, or it would be easy to let the frustrations of running a large place like Saint Mary’s cause me to give in to anger. So for all of us who seek to overcome a quick temper, or overcome the disposition to say something we wish we hadn’t, or the tendency to press “send” on a tersely-written email, Saint Francis de Sales is our patron. Saint Francis is also known to be the patron of the deaf, since he devised a kind of sign language in order to teach the deaf about God. His beautiful writings have inspired many in their faith and earned him the title of Doctor of the Church.
Saint Francis was known to work on behalf of the poor, and even to be something of an ascetic himself. He encouraged devotion in every person, regardless of their walk in life. He writes: “I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.”
In a moment we will offer our gifts, and pray for gifts and grace to lead a holy life. Following the example of Saint Francis de Sales, maybe we can call on God for meekness, and humility, and patience. As St. Francis de Sales tells us: “The person who possesses Christian meekness is affectionate and tender towards everyone: he is disposed to forgive and excuse the frailties of others; the goodness of his heart appears in a sweet affability that influences his words and actions, presents every object to his view in the most charitable and pleasing light.” Who wouldn’t want to look at the world that way?