Four hundred years ago, a man named Francis died in Lyon, France. He was only 55 years old. Some may say that he worked himself to death, but he would probably put it a different way.
So, what kind of man was our Francis? Well, he was intelligent and well-educated. He excelled at the sports of fencing and horseback riding. He became a lawyer because that is what his dad wanted him to do; then, he became a priest because that was what God wanted him to do.
Francis lived at a time when there was an enormous amount of religious division in his area due to the Protestant Reformation. Francis was known for his gentleness and deep faith. His advice was sought by popes, princesses, and kings. He urged everyone to take a gentle approach in dealing with these divisions among them.
Francis insisted that all people are called to holiness and sanctity even though the popular opinion of his time was that holiness was reserved for the clergy and those in religious orders. One way that Francis helped everyday people to grow closer to God was by serving as their spiritual director. Francis often wrote letters to those who he was helping in this way.
Francis had a great reputation as a writer, preacher, and debater. Many of his writings are still in print today.
Francis believed that the worst sin was to judge someone or gossip about them. Yet, he also advised that we should be as gentle and forgiving with ourselves as we should be with others.
You may have guessed by now that the Francis in our story is now known as St. Francis de Sales – the patron saint of our parish – whose feast we celebrate this weekend.
As we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of St. Francis de Sales and contemplate his remarkable life; let us pray for his intercession and work to be better imitators of his way of holiness.