From Christ in the Home, Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J., 1950’s
Madame de Boisy, the mother of Saint Francis de Sales, brought many precious virtues with her to the chateau of Thorens in Savoy where her husband lived. Unassuming and kind, she considered the village households around her estate almost as part of her family; she showed concern for their poverty and sufferings, settled their differences and exercised a control over them that was highly successful for the simple reason that she was careful not to make a show of it.
Watchful to see that her servants were truly a part of the family, she encouraged them, without constraining them, to practice their faith and offered to read spiritual books to them herself after the evening meal; she invited all of them to attend the family prayer.
Unfortunately her marriage promised to be sterile. At Annecy in a church dedicated to Our Lady of Liesse, she begged God to give her a son, promising to “exercise all her care to make him worthy of heaven.” On August 1567, Francis de Sales was born. He was so frail a child that all feared for his life.
As he grew older, the child had no greater delight than to show kindness to the unfortunate and to distribute among the poor the delicacies his mother gave him for this purpose. It is said of him that by way of thanking his mother he promised her, “When I am my own master, I will give you a beautiful red silk dress every year.”
At the same time she was training her little boy to almsgiving, Madame de Sales was also educating him to love of God and to sacrifice.
Soon the hour of separation struck. The child had to leave for the school of La Roche and later for the College at Annecy. He was beloved by all, excused the faults of his comrades and one day even took a whipping in place of his cousin Gaspard de Sales. Shortly after his First Holy Communion he told his mother that he wanted to receive the tonsure some day and that therefore she ought to have his beautiful blond curls cut now.
Francis had two brothers. To characterize them and himself, he developed a comparison between the trio and the seasoning of a salad: “Jean-Francis with his violent temper furnishes the vinegar; Louis with his wisdom the salt; and I, the good-natured chubby Francis, put in the oil because I love mildness.”
Francis possessed a secret of which his mother was the confidant: He wanted to be a priest at any cost. Madame de Sales shared his dream and upheld her son in it. After six years at Jesuit schools and colleges accompanied by outstanding success he entered the University of Padua. Here he astonished his professors with the brilliant way he defended his thesis although he was scarcely twenty-four at the time.
The father already envisioned his son as a great lawyer, then a senator, and the founder of a fine family, but Francis, enlightened by a providential experience he had one day while riding through a forest, decided not to delay his consecration to God any longer.
His father objected. The mother intervened: “Can we dispute with God over a soul He wants for His service?” Secretly she had clerical clothes made for Francis. The post of provost of the Cathedral Chapter became vacant. The father finally gave in and on June 8, 1593, Francis was ordained to the diaconate.
In the opinion of his father, who missed the joy of seeing him a bishop, Francis preached too much and didn’t put in enough Greek and Latin when he did preach. But Francis knew how to talk to souls as his famous missions at Chablais strikingly demonstrated. Rich and poor besieged his confessional.
On December 8, 1602, Francis, who was then thirty-five gave his first episcopal blessing to his mother, who soon put herself under his spiritual direction. One of the last joys of this noble mother was to read her son’s “Introduction to Devout Life,” a book which met with spectacular success.
A stroke brought the saint’s mother to the point of death. The holy bishop of Annecy came hurriedly to her bedside. She recognized him, took his hand and kissed it, then putting up her arms to draw his head closer to her to kiss him, she said, “You are my father and my son!”
Francis closed her eyes at death. Broken by sorrow, he wrote to Madame de Chantel, “It has pleased God to take from this world our very good and very dear mother in order to have her, as I strongly hope, at His right hand, since she was one of the sweetest and most innocent souls that could be found.”
Sons are worth what their mothers are worth.
“In truth, the family circle is the nursery of saints. There the child finds the love, security and guidance which are his greatest needs. It is by loving and being loved that persons grow as persons. It is in the family that relationships are essentially personal and each person is valued as a person.” -Dominican Sister, Australia, 1955
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That was so beautiful, oh my, I was crying at the end. She would have been a great lady to meet! Thank you.
Thank you, Leane! It was a great lunch time story.
Mrs T said: