Francis de Sales, Saint

Francis de Sales, Saint, 1567–1622, French Roman Catholic preacher, Doctor of the Church, and key figure in the Counter Reformation in France. He was a member of an aristocratic family of Savoy and was trained for the law, but he entered (1593) the priesthood against his father's wishes. His first years in the priesthood were spent in the district of Chablais preaching to its Protestant inhabitants. Credited with many conversions, he was made coadjutor bishop of Geneva in 1599 and bishop in 1602; he resided at Annecy in nearby Savoy. His fame as a preacher spread abroad, and from 1600 until his death he delivered Lent and Advent sermons in many of the great cities of France. In his diocese he set up schools and paid special attention to the poorer parishes. He was instrumental in the important reform of the Cistercian abbey Port-Royal. With St. Jane Frances de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation for women who could not undergo the austerities of the great established orders. His Introduction to the Devout Life is a widely read religious classic. His other major work is the Treatise on the Love of God. He is the patron saint of Roman Catholic writers. Feast: Jan. 29.

See biographies by J. P. Camus (1639; tr. by C. J. Kelly, 1952) and M. de La Bedoyère (1960).

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