24th January – Memorial of St Francis de Sales

Today is somewhat special because it was the day back in 2005 when the SOLT apostolate started in Presteigne, Wales and also the day that I left in 2012. Having arrived here in the SOLT motherhouse in Hythe, Kent I spent the day marvelling at the wonderful weather – blue skies and sunshine which is none too common back in Donegal. The weather here (and in the London area) is continental and I have fond memories of that – and the parishioners – given my stay here June 1997 – January 2005.

Today’s saint St Francis de Sales (*1567 +1622) – Bishop and Doctor of thest francis de sales Church – was born near Annécy, in Savoy. He studied the law, and was ordained to the priesthood despite the opposition of his father. His first mission was to re-evangelize the people of his home district (the Chablais), who had gone over to Calvinism. Always in danger of his life from hostile Calvinists, he preached with such effectiveness that after four years most of the people had returned to the Church. He was then appointed bishop of Geneva, and spent the rest of his life reforming and reorganising the diocese, and in caring for the souls of his people by preaching and spiritual guidance.

St Francis taught that we can all attain a devout and spiritual life, whatever our position in society: holiness is not reserved for monks and hermits alone. He wrote that “religious devotion does not destroy: it perfects,” and his spiritual counsel is dedicated to making people more holy by making them more themselves. In his preaching against Calvinism he was driven by love rather than a desire to win: so much so, that it was a Calvinist minister who said “if we honoured anyone as a saint, I know of no-one since the days of the Apostles more worthy of it than this man.”

St Francis is the patron saint of writers and journalists, who would do well to imitate his love and his moderation: as he said, “whoever wants to preach effectively must preach with love.” (Universalis website.)

Below are some quotes from his writings.

  • Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.
  • Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.
  • Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections.
  • There was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust.
  • Reputation is rarely proportioned to virtue.
  • Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.
  • Be who you are and be that well.
  • When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.
  • True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.
  • Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.
  • Those who love to be feared, fear to be loved.