On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Francis de Sales, preacher, teacher, missionary to Protestants, Bishop of Geneva, Doctor of the Church, founder with St. Jane Frances de Chantal of the Visitation Order, writer, confessor, spiritual director, son, brother, uncle, friend.
Francis de Sales was born in Savoy on Aug. 21, 1567. The word most often used to describe him is "gentle". His contemporaries called him "the gentle Christ of Geneva". The Visitation Order considers gentleness to be part of its charism. The Church's liturgy for his feast includes, ". . . learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart"; and, "Grant, Lord, that in the service of our fellow-men we may always reflect your own gentleness and love, and so imitate Saint Francis de Sales, whom you made all things to all men for the saving of souls."
Francis de Sales died on Dec. 22, 1622. He was canonized in 1665, declared a Doctor of the Church in 1877, and named patron of writers in 1923.
Click http://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Devout-Life-400th-Anniversary/dp/0980081769/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1295618937&sr=1-3#_> here for his most famous book, Introduction to the Devout Life.
Obviously, different aspects of a saint who is "all things to all men" will appeal to different people. To me, the most interesting thing about Francis de Sales was his friendship with Angélique Arnauld, the Abbess of Port Royal. Here is an account of their first meeting. (Start on p. 120.) He wrote many letters to her, some of which survive, and some of which were used to cover jam jars in her convent where all things were held in common.
If Francis de Sales had lived longer, the history of Port Royal might have been different. For many years after his death, Angélique Arnauld continued her friendship with Jane Frances de Chantal. Both women were influenced by the teachings of the Jansenist Abbé of Saint-Cyran. (St. Jane Frances de Chantal's canonization was delayed for fifty years because of her association with Saint-Cyran.)
For more about St. Francis de Sales and Angélique Arnauld:
Click here for Port Royal: A Contribution to the History of Religion and Literature in France, by Charles Beard, London, 1861.
Click here for Angélique of Port-Royal: 1591-1661, by A. K. H., London, 1905.
Click here for St. Chantal and the Foundation of the Visitation, Vol. 2, by Monseigneur Emile Bougard, New York, 1895. (The Abbess of Port Royal wanted to leave her Cistercian abbey and join the Visitation Order. Mother de Chantal was in favor it, but Francis de Sales refused to allow it.)
Click here for The Enthusiasts of Port-Royal, by Lillian Rea, New York, 1912. (See p. 257 for a description of the actions of the Visitation nuns who came to Port Royal to act as jailers for the Cistercian nuns who refused to sign the Formulary.)
Coming in May, Feminism, Absolutism, and Jansenism: Louis XIV and the Port Royal Nuns, by Daniella Kostroun.