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St Francis de Sales
Bishop and Doctor, (entered heaven this day in 1622)
Be neither afraid nor surprised by encountering opposition to your true vocation – even from those who love you best. If following God’s will were always easy, logical, and without obstacles, why would we have needed a Savior to teach us how and give us the grace to do it? He himself told us that it is the narrow gate and hard road (Matthew 7:14) that leads to life, while the wide gate and easy road lead to death. Did he not know what he was talking about? Keep close to God; nourish your soul on the words of Scripture, the examples of the saints, and grace of the sacraments, and you will forge your way to true glory – and bring plenty of souls along with you. You can learn an awful lot from today’s saint.
Francis de Sales was a nobleman from northeastern France. He graduated with honors from Europe’s best universities (Paris for undergrad work and Padua for law). His father had great plans for him – he arranged the perfect marriage, obtained positions of prestige and influence, and made sure that the most powerful men around were familiar with Francis’ handsome and elegant appearance, intellectual prowess, personal charm, and cultivated habits. When Francis refused to court the chosen young lady, declined the governmental appointments, and only modestly participated in high society’s obligations, his father demanded an explanation. Of course, ever since he was a boy, Francis had felt called to give his life to serve God and the Church; he wanted to be a priest. Dad was furious – all the plans he had made, all the possibilities for the future! He refused to give his son permission. Only the entreaties of his other relatives and a cousin’s procurement of a prestigious ecclesiastical appointment overcame his father’s initial opposition. But it didn’t end there. When Francis volunteered to take on the risky task of reclaiming the Catholics who had been overtaken by Calvinism (an early branch of Protestantism) in the area of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva, his father again objected, forbidding the bishop to send his son into such a volatile situation. “My lord,” he exclaimed, “I allowed my eldest son, the hope of my house, of my old age, of my life, to devote himself to the service of the Church to be a confessor, but I cannot give him up to be a martyr!” Nevertheless, Francis took the post, determining it was God’s will even if his father disapproved. Years of struggle and hardship (including frequent assaults by would-be assassins, beatings by angry mobs, attacks by wolves, sickness and exhaustion) later, a steady flow of conversions and returns to the true faith proved that this had been his true calling.
So, my beloved nephew, take heart; if you sincerely follow what God asks of you, even when the whole world seems against it, you will have the prayers of St Francis (and many, many others like him) to give good support to your soul. And, of course, you will always have the much less influential but still heartfelt prayers of your good old