St. Francis DeSales
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Eternal Father and Mary Immaculate, grant to our young people the generosity necessary to follow your call and the courage to overcome all obstacles to their vocation. Give their parents that faith, love and spirit of sacrifice which will inspire them to offer their children to God’s service and to rejoice whenever one of their children is called to the priesthood and religious life” (from Prayer for Vocations, Dioceses of Sioux Falls & Rapid City).
The life of St. Francis de Sales ultimately was an answer to this prayer for vocations. However, his call and subsequent answer was not without a few challenges.
Francis was born prematurely in 1567 in Savoy, France to parents of wealth and standing. Due to his poor health at birth, his mother did not let her first-born son far out of her sight.
She also taught him from a very young age to be virtuous and pious, often sharing stories of the saints to inspire the young boy. Although his mother wanted Francis to stay with her always, his father had other plans and young Francis was sent away to school. While gathering an education that would later make him a doctor of law, Francis continued to live a life of faithfulness. The seed that God had planted through Francis’s mother began to blossom after his graduation and placement into the Senate. He struggled with a feeling of unhappiness and implored Mary to beseech Jesus to take it away. It was then that he heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Leave all and follow me.”
Francis was quick to answer the summons of his Lord and immediately began studies for the priesthood. Though he was sure of his vocational call, he was fearful of telling his parents about this new direction in his life, afraid of their disappointment and anger. His obedience to God’s call gave him the courage to be honest with his parents. Their first reaction of fierce opposition was extremely painful for Francis. He turned once again to his Blessed Mother and her Son and pursued a life of prayer. His devotion and gentleness ultimately won over his family and they accepted the Lord’s will for their son.
Francis’s blossoming vocation came to fruition at his first placement in Switzerland. God had made him a wonderful preacher to refute the Calvinists and his clear explanations of Catholic doctrine combined with his spirit of love brought many back to the Church. He was a patient confessor and spiritual director and quickly became popular among his parishioners. Even after he was named a bishop, he continued to be a prolific writer and to work with children whenever he could, leading them towards holiness. His profoundly simple spirituality led to him being named a Doctor of the Church.
St. Francis’s life is a witness to his and his parent’s faithfulness to prayer and God’s will. As he wrote, “Our business is to love what would have done. He wills our vocation as it is. Let us love that and not trifle away our time hankering after other people's vocations.” Let us be like St. Francis and his family and accept with joy through prayer the plan God has for our lives. St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!
Carpe Gratiam, Vol. 4, Is. 3.