In 1548 St Francis engaged in an intense theological discussion regarding predestination that threw him into a personal crisis and despair. Francis was so convinced that he would be damned to hell that he became physically ill which caused him to be bedridden for a while. This crisis lasted until December 1586, In January of the following year Francis was able to get himself to the church of Saint Etienne des Gres in Paris. It was there that he prayed the Memorare before the well-known stature of Our Lady of Good Deliverance (a Black Madonna). It was at that visit that Francis consecrated himself to the Blessed Mother. In doing this he also dedicated his life to God and a life of chastity.
After this experience St. Francis entered the religious life as a tertiary (lay men or women who have not taken religious vows yet wear a habit and participate in good works) of the Minim Order. Francis now believed that God had good things in store for his life because of his conviction that “God is Love.” Francis’ strong devotion to the knowledge that “God is Love” that it not only dispelled his doubts of eternal damnation, but also formed his spiritual teaching and writings that eventually became the premise for his book Introduction to the Devout Life. This Catholic spirituality is also termed the “Way of Divine Love” or the “Devout Life”.
St. Francis concluded his studies in 1588 and then continued to study law and theology in Italy at the University of Padua. It was there, under the spiritual direction of Jesuit Antonio Possevino, that Francis decided to become a priest. It is said that once while Francis was riding, his sword fell to the ground and crossed another sword, forming a cross.