Saint Francis de Sales: The Gentleman Saint

By Monique Sammut | January 24, 2018
In a Nutshell

Saint Francis de Sales was born on August 21, 1567.  As a young man, Francis was sent to study in Paris.  While there, he consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary and made a vow of chastity.  After Paris, Francis went on to study law in Padua.  Once he finished his studies, he told his parents he wished to become a priest.  His father strongly objected, but after much gentle persuasion, he finally relented.

After his ordination, Francis was appointed Provost (archdeacon) of the Diocese of Geneva where he preached, heard confessions, gave advice, and ministered to the people.  The archdeacon was the bishop’s assistant and in some cases, such as caring for the sick, visiting prisoners, and training priests, the archdeacon served as the bishop’s representative.

In 1602, Francis became the Bishop of Geneva.  Francis reformed religious communities and lived simply so that he could provide better for the poor and needy and whom he loved greatly.  He was well known for his patience, goodness, and mild nature.

Francis wrote many letters and several books including, “An Introduction to the Devout Life,” “Treatise on the Love of God,” and several more!  Here is a beautiful reflection on how to have a good morning and a meaningful day in the spirit of Saint Francis de Sales.

Founder and Patron

Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane Frances de Chantal founded together, in 1607, The Institute of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin.  This community was founded for young girls and widows who felt called to religious life but lacked the strength for the rigors of other communities.  These Sisters, through works of mercy, practiced the virtues Mary exemplified when she visited her cousin, Elizabeth – humility, piety, and charity.  Today, some Visitation Communities teach, while others are cloistered contemplatives.  Saint Therese of Lisieux’s sister, Leonie, was a Visitation Sister and is now a Servant of God.

In addition to the Visitation Order which was specifically founded by Saint Francis de Sales, many other orders have been founded under his patronage, such as the Salesians (founded by Saint John Bosco) or the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales (founded by Father Louis Brisson).

A Path for Everyone

The teachings of Saint Francis de Sales focus on the realization that holiness and sainthood are for all people.  He wanted everyone, no matter what their state in life, to know that they could become Saints!

“It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman….”


Saint Francis de Sales has left us with a treasury of sayings that speak in simple ways about what matters most.  Here are just a few of his quotes.  There are many more!

“Be who you are and be that well to give glory to your Creator.”

“Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.”

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness; nothing so gentle as real strength.”

“Doing little things with a strong desire to please God makes them really great.”

“What we need is a cup of understanding, a barrel of love, and an ocean of patience.”

Saint Francis de Sales Heads Home

Francis de Sales died on December 28, 1622 at the age of fifty-six.  His final words were, “God’s will be done!  Jesus, my God and my all!”  Francis was beatified by Pope Alexander VII in 1661.  He was then canonized by Pope Alexander VII four years later in 1665.  In 1877, Pope Pius IX declared Saint Francis de Sales a Doctor of the Church, the “Doctor of Love.”

Because of his meek and cheerful personality, he is known as “The Gentleman Saint.”  He strove to attract people through goodness and gentleness.  He used to say, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrel of vinegar!”

Saint Francis de Sales’ feast day is celebrated on January 24.  He is the patron saint of authors, writers, the Catholic Press, journalists, and the deaf.

“Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul except sin.  God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”

Saint Francis de Sales, pray for us!