God gave Francis to His Church at the very time that heresy was presenting her to the world as a worn-out system, that had no influence over men’s minds. God raised up this true minister of the Gospel in the very country where the harsh doctrines of Calvin were most in vogue, that the ardent charity of Francis might counteract the sad influence of that heresy. If you want heretics to be convinced of their errors, said the learned Cardinal Du Perron, you may send them to me; but if you want them to be converted, send them to the Bishop of Geneva.

Francis was born in France in 1567; at his baptism he was named Francis Bonaventura, after two great Franciscan saints. His father was the Seigneur de Nouvelles, an aristocrat, and his mother was the only child of a noble family who brought as her dowry the Signory of Boisy.

Francis went to the University of Padua and earned doctorates in law and in theology, earning the title “Doctor” at age 24. His father had great plans for his son and objected to his desire to be a priest. However, at the intervention of Claude de Garnier, then Bishop of Geneva, he finally gave his consent and allowed Francis to seek ordination. Francis was appointed provost of the cathedral chapter of Geneva in 1593 and was ordained a priest at 26.

Francis engaged in enthusiastic campaigns of evangelism among the Protestants of Savoy. He was rejected, stoned, and chased by wolves. So the ever-patient Francis wrote his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors. This is the first we hear of religious tracts being used to reach people.
When Bishop Granier died in 1602, Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva. Francis, the living image of Jesus, opened his arms and called sinners to repentance, the victims of heresy to truth, the just to perfection, and all men to confidence and love. He is distinguished by the sweetness of his virtues, the childlike simplicity of his heart, the humility and tenderness of his love, and his spellbinding preaching. The glorious luster of his conquests are upon him – seventy two thousand heretics converted to the Church by the ardor of his charity; an order of holy servants of God, which he founded; and countless thousands of souls trained to piety by his prudent and persuasive words and writings.

He wrote Introduction to the Devote Life to instruct lay people on Catholic spirituality. On the Holy Souls he presents that they are in a continual union with God. They wish to be in the state wherein God pleases, and as long as it shall please Him. Purgatory, he says, is a species of Hell as regards the suffering; it is Paradise as regards the delight infused into their hearts by Charity – Charity, stronger than death and more powerful than Hell; Charity whose lamps are all fire and flame (Canticle). “Happy state!” continues the Bishop, “more desirable than appalling, since its flames are flames of love and charity.” (Esprit de St. Francis de Sales, ch. 9, p. 16)

He strongly encourages Christian almsgiving, that mercy which Jesus recommends so much in the Gospel: all the good we do for our neighbor by working for his salvation, supporting his defects, and pardoning his offences. All these works of charity may be offered to God for the dead, and contain great satisfactory virtue.

St. Francis says: “To assist the souls in Purgatory is to perform the most excellent of the works of Mercy, or to practice in a most sublime manner all the works of Mercy together: it is to visit the sick, it is to give drink to those who thirst for the vision of God: it is to feed the hungry, to ransom prisoners, to clothe the naked, to procure for poor exiles the hospitality of the Heavenly Jerusalem; it is to comfort the afflicted, to instruct the ignorant – in fine, to practice all works of Mercy in one. Our LORD considers every work of Mercy exercised towards our neighbor as done to Himself. “It is to Me that you have done it.” – Mihi fecistis. This is especially true of Mercy practiced towards the poor souls.

St. Francis died on December 12, 1622 in Lyons and was buried on 24 January 1623 in the church of the Monastery of the Visitation in Annecy, which he had founded with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who is also buried there.


Hail, most sweet Jesus! Praise, honor, and glory be to You, O Christ, who of Your own accord embraced death, and, recommending Yourself to Your heavenly Father, bowing down Your venerable head, yielded up Your Spirit, truly thus giving up Your life for Your sheep, You have shown Yourself to be a good shepherd.
You died, O only-begotten Son of God. You died, O my beloved Savior, that I might live forever. O how great hope,
how great confidence have I reposed in Your death and Your Blood! I glorify and praise Your Holy Name. Acknowledging my infinite obligations to You. O good Jesus, by Your bitter death and Passion, give me grace and pardon, give unto the faithful departed rest and life everlasting. Amen.

Source: Prayer Warriors of the Holy Souls



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