Feast of St. Francis de Sales
Hebrews 9:15, 24-28
Today we celebrate the feast of St Francis de Sales. He was born at Thorens, in the Duchy of Savoy, August 21, 1567. One of the more beautiful memories of my life was visiting his tomb in the Visitation Convent of Annecy. The convent overlooks the second biggest lake in France called Lake Annecy. Francis de Sales is a wonderful inspiration for the practice of prayer, love of religious life, and devotion to the written word.
But what has always impressed me was his love for the Catholic Church. After his ordination he volunteered to evangelize the district of Le Chablais where the Genevans had imposed the Reformed Faith. For three years he risked his life by journeying through the entire district to convert the 60,000 Calvinists back to Catholicism. For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow. He slept in haylofts if he could, but once he slept in a tree to avoid wolves. He tied himself to a branch to keep from falling out and was so frozen the next morning he had to be cut down. After three years he did not have one convert!
Francis’ unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors. By the time Francis left to go home he is said to have converted 40,000 people back to Catholicism.
Francis saw how terribly important the ancient truth of the Catholic faith was. In our anxiousness to appreciate the beauty of the faith of our separated brothers and sisters, have we the zeal he had to share the fullness of our traditions?
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.