Francis de Sales lived and worked in Geneva, Switzerland, in the years immediately following the Protestant Reformation. He was reknowned and accomplished preacher who was very successful in converting Protestants to Catholicism during those tumultuous years. He was also a prolific writer and was later declared a Doctor of the Church.
Francis was born in France to a wealthy family, the eldest of 12 children. He received an excellent education, under the direction of Jesuit priests. However, this education brought the young Francis to a crisis of faith: After hearing a lecture on predestination, he became convinced that he was damned to Hell. This certainty became so troublesome over the next few years that he became physically ill. In 1587, at the age of 21, Francis was released from his crisis when he came to the conclusion that God is Love, and therefore whatever was to come would be the will of a loving God. The following year, Francis picked up his studies again, this time in Paris, studying law and theology. It was there that this handsome and wealthy young man decided to become a priest, much to the chagrin of his father who had intended a prosperous career and a wealthy bride for his eldest son.
In addition to being patron of of writers and educators, for obvious reasons based on his life, Francis de Sales is also the patron of confessors and of the deaf. Apparently, he was such an adamant preacher that he invented a sign language in order to minister to a deaf man. Francis was a great friend of the poor, and many found the depth of his compassion and understanding for his fellow human beings to be truly remarkable. So profound were the life and works of St. Francis de Sales that he continues to be venerated on his feastday even by the Protestant Church of England.
Of course, I am drawn to St. Francis de Sales as a writer, a learner, and a (hopefully) future homeschooler. I find it remarkable that he cared so deeply about preaching that he would invent a language to communicate with those who could not hear him. I am also moved by a man who, with everything the world had to offer at his feet, renounced worldly pursuits for those of the priesthood, which God had called him to. It is so hard to walk away from what we spent our youth building up and particularly when this stands in defiance of our parents' wishes for us.
O my God, I thank you and I praise
you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will
without any regard for mine.
With my whole heart, in spite of my heart,
do I receive this cross I feared so much!
It is the cross of Your choice,
the cross of Your love.
I venerate it;
nor for anything in the world
would I wish that it had not come,
since You willed it.
I keep it with gratitude and with joy,
as I do everything that comes from Your hand;
and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag,
with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve.
~ A Prayer of St. Francis de Sales
* The Bookworm's Library has been updated: Why Gender Matters by Dr. Leonard Sax