Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists, was born in 1567 at the height of the religious conflict in Europe. Despite this he became known for his gentle approach in persuading people back to Catholicism, as well as his insightful writing on spiritual life. Francis was born in Savoy, the son of a nobleman, and his father wished him, as the eldest, to become a magistrate. He therefore received a privileged education.
Sent to Paris at 16 to attend what would become the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, he was taught rhetoric and the humanities by Jesuits. But while attending a discussion on predestination, he became convinced he was going to hell. He was a handsome young man who danced and fenced. Yet this spiritual crisis led him to become ill and eventually bedridden. When the crisis reached its peak, he prayed the Memorare before a statue of Our Lady of Good Deliverance. He then consecrated himself to the Virgin Mary.
Two years later he pursued his vocation. Despite his father securing him a wealthy bride, he refused to marry. Instead he became provost of the cathedral chapter of Geneva, a heavily Calvinist area. There he was almost killed by assassins. Later he went to Rome, returning to Geneva in 1599 as coadjutor bishop and later bishop.
As well as his preaching, he is most famous for his books, including Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God. He died in 1622 and was afterwards styled “the Gentleman Saint” because of his patience and kindness.
His heart was kept in Lyon, at the request of the citizens. But during the chaos of the Revolution it was moved to Venice. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877.
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