FRANCIS, SAINT, OF SALES: Saint Francis of Sales, noted preacher and devotional author; born at the château of Sales near Annecy (25 m. s. of Geneva) in Savoy, Aug. 21, 1567; d. at Lyons Dec. 28, 1622. He was a member of a noble family of Savoy and at the age of twelve entered the Jesuit college in Paris, where he devoted himself to the study of philosophy, the classics and Hebrew, leading at the same time a life of stern asceticism in fulfilment of an early vow to the Virgin. From 1584 to 1590 he studied civil and canon law at Padua, but gave himself up more and more to theology under the guidance of the Jesuit Possevin. During a severe illness he determined to enter the priesthood, and carried out his purpose in 1591, in spite of the opposition, of his family.
Activity in Chablais, Gex, and Geneva. Placed under the authority of the bishop of Geneva, who was then residing at Annecy, Francis began to play an important part in the movement for bringing back to the Roman faith the inhabitants of the province of Chablais and of the district of Gex, lying on the Lake of Geneva. Conquered in 1536 by the Bernese and converted to Protestantism, Chablais and Gex were restored to Philibert Emmanuel of Savoy by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1564 with the assurance of religious freedom. This pledge, faithfully kept by Philibert, was broken by his son Charles Emmanuel, who succeeded in 1580, and discerned in the close connection prevailing between the people of the two regions and the inhabitants of Bern and Geneva a menace to his political authority. Peaceful methods were at first decided upon, and to Francis of Sales the mission was confided. In spite of his zeal, courage, patience and remarkable gifts of persuasion, Francis met with absolute failure at Thonon, the capital of Chablais, whose inhabitants entered into a compact to refuse even a hearing to the eloquent preacher. Only among the peasantry and the nobility could he point to a few isolated conversions. Convinced that nothing was to be accomplished by peaceful means, he abandoned the field of his labors in the winter of 1596-97, and at Turin in the ducal council declared himself for a policy of forcible conversion, calling for the expulsion of the Protestant clergy, the prohibition of Evangelical literature, the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic parishes, the foundation of a Jesuit college, and the restoration of the mass in the city of Thonon. The plan was adopted, priests and monks were sent into the country, soldiers were quartered upon the inhabitants; and with the additional weapon of exile the Roman reaction was speedily triumphant. Encouraged by their success, the authorities turned their eyes to Geneva whither Francis went in 1597 at the instance of Pope Clement VIII. There he came into repeated contact with the aged Beza, and, convinced that the great Huguenot could not be gained over by argument, attempted bribery--an act which roused Beza to great indignation. To his very last day Francis retained an irreconcilable hatred for Geneva, which he designated as the home of the devil and of heretics.
Bishop of Geneva. In 1602, on the death of the bishop of Geneva, Francis succeeded to the see, of which he had for some time been coadjutor. In the performance of the duties of his office he lived up to the very highest standard of pastoral obligation. His fame as a preacher caused him to be summoned repeatedly to France, where he enjoyed great influence. With the aid of Madame de Chantal he founded in 1604 the order of the Visitation (see VISITATION, ORDER OF THE) devoted to the care of the sick and later also to the education of the young.
His Works and Doctrine. In 1618 Francis composed his Introduction à la vie dévote, one of the most popular books among Roman Catholics to the present day, the object of which, as he explained in his preface, was to meet the pious needs of those whose calling lay in the spheres of active life. The book is in the form of a discourse addressed to a certain Philothea, and treats in five chapters of repentance, prayer, the various virtues, temptations, and pious practises. "The world," he says, "often looks with contempt upon piety because it pictures the pious as men of downcast and sorrowful faces, but Christ himself testifies that the inner life is a soft, sweet, and happy one." In his indulgence to the demands made by the world he often goes to extremes. His views find their systematic expression in his Traité de l'amour de Dieu. Proceeding from the principle that the will, appointed by the Lord as ruler of all the powers of the soul, finds its highest expression in the love of God, he finds two principal manifestations of this love, one passive, revealing itself in attraction toward the divine, and one active, finding expression in the performance of the will of God. The first consists primarily in prayer, by which is understood not merely verbal utterance of devotion but the inner approach of the soul toward God. The inner form of prayer is of two degrees, the lower, meditation, the higher, contemplation. Its highest degree is the total absorption of the soul into its God, ecstasy. In Francis we find an undisguised exposition of the doctrines of Quietism. As a counterpoise to the evil consequences that might possibly follow on the extreme interpretation of his mystic doctrine, Francis sets up the active love of God, which consists in the fulfilment of the divine will. In three books he gives a detailed account of the various virtues in which this active love manifests itself, a love which in Francis himself revealed itself throughout his life. He was canonized in 1665, and in 1878 was declared a doctor of the universal Church.