On 24 January we mark the memorial of St Francis de Sales, patron saint of authors, journalists and the Catholic press.

Francis was born in 1567 to a devout Catholic family in the castle of Sales, near Annecy in southeastern France. From a young age, his parents encouraged him to care for the sick and the poor. Despite being primed for a life in the law and public service, Francis instead chose to join the priesthood, which his father initially resisted. He would eventually become a highly effective catechist and preacher, and at the age of 35, was elected bishop of Geneva.

Francis was well known for his gentle and inviting nature, and was a remarkable writer. His work, Introduction to the Devout Life, became one of the most popular books on spirituality in the 17th century and remains a spiritual classic today. It is said that Francis printed it on sheets of paper which he himself slipped under the doors of the homes in his community. It was written in the form of letters that encouraged everyday Christians to live out their faith in the world, and not to retreat from it.

Francis believed that holiness was attainable by all – regardless of age, status or stage of life. He encouraged people to grow in love for God and neighbour, and to do so through constant prayer, the celebration of the sacraments and accepting God’s will in our daily lives.

St Francis de Sales died in Lyon and was canonsied in 1665, and later proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1887.

The following quote is attributed to St Francis de Sales:

Have patience with all things, but first with yourself. Never confuse your mistakes with your value as a human being. You are perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. And no amount of triumphs or tribulations can ever change that.’

May we, like St Francis de Sales, seek the love and will of God through constant prayer and acts of kindness and humility towards our neighbours.

Feature image: St Francis de Sales (located in the Bologna Oratory). Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew OP.