Abstract of the Life of Saint Francis of Sales from the Lessons read on His Festival in the Roman Breviary

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Francis of Assisi; date unknown, artist unknown; Church of Sainte Marguerite, Le Vésinet, Yvelines, France; photographed on 21 August 2012 by Reinhardhauke; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsFrancis was born of pious and noble parents in the town of Sales, which gave name to his family. From his tender years he gave signs of future sanctity, by his innocence, and the gravity of his manners. Having in his youth applied himself to the liberal sciences, he soon after engaged in the study of philosophy and theology at Paris; and, that nothing might be wanting to the cultivation of his mind, he obtained the degree of Doctor, both in the canon and civil law, with great applause, in the university of Padua. During a visit which he made to the holy house of Loretto he renewed the vow of perpetual chastity, which he had long before made at Paris, and never suffered himself to be withdrawn from a resolute adhesion to this virtue, either by the deceits of wicked spirits, or the allurements of the senses.

Having refused an eminent dignity, offered him in the parliament of Savoy, he embraced the clerical state, and being ordained priest, and made provost of the church of Geneva, he so perfectly acquitted himself of every duty of that station, that Granerius, the bishop, made choice of him to preach the word of God to the inhabitants of Chablais, and other territories bordering upon Geneva, in order to reclaim them from the errors of Calvinism. He undertook this mission with cheerfulness and alacrity, and in the course of it suffered incredible labors, hardships, calumnies, and injuries, being often sought for by the heretics, and in danger of being assassinated by them. But in the midst of these numberless perils his constancy was always so firm and inflexible, that, by the assistance of God, he is said to have reclaimed to the Catholic faith no less than seventy-two thousand persons, amongst whom are numbered many illustrious for their nobility and learning.

After the death of Granerius, who had prevailed upon him to accept the office of coadjutor, he was consecrated Bishop. The brilliancy of his sanctity, the lustre of his zeal for Church discipline, his love of peace, his compassion for the poor, and all his other virtues, soon spread themselves abroad on all sides. For the greater honor and glory of God, he instituted a new order of religious women, which took its name from the Visitation of the blessed Virgin, under the rule of Saint Austin; to which he added his own constitutions, no less admirable for their wisdom than for their mildness and discretion. He also illustrated the Church by his writings, replete with heavenly doctrine, In which he points out a safe and plain way to Christian perfection. At length, in the fifty-eighth year of his age, on his return from France to Annessy, after having celebrated mass at Lyons, on the festival of Saint John the Evangelist, he was seized with a grievous illness, and on the following day departed to heaven, in the year of our Lord 1622. His body was carried to Annessy, where it was honorably interred in the Church of the Nuns of the above-mentioned order, and soon became illustrious for several miracles; which being duly proved, he was canonized in the year 1665 by Pope Alexander VII, who assigned the 29th of January for his festival.

In the bull of his canonization the following miracles are recorded to have been, upon the strictest examination, found incontestable:

1. Jerome Gemin, who had been drowned, was carried in his winding-sheet to the grave; his carcass, by its stench, denoted that putrefaction had already commenced when suddenly he returned to life, moved his arms, and raised his voice to publish the praises of Francis of Sales, who, as he related, had at that very instant appeared to him in his episcopal habit, with a mild and glorious countenance. Many other wonderful circumstances greatly added to the lustre of the miracle.

2. Claudius Marmon, a boy of seven years of age, who had been blind from his birth, after having performed nine days’ prayer, whilst he was lying prostrate at the feet of the holy prelate, received his sight upon the spot.

3. Jane Petronilla Evrax, five years old, labored under so inveterate a palsy that no hopes were entertained of her recovery, her hips and legs being quite withered. At the very hour at which her father was praying for her, at the tomb of Francis, she was on a sudden perfectly cured, and, getting up, ran to her mother.

4. Claudius Julier, aged ten years, was afflicted in like manner with a palsy, which he had brought with him into the world, in so grievous a manner that he had not the use of either of his hips or of his legs. Being carried by his mother, for the third time, to kiss the tomb of Francis of Sales, he received, upon the spot, strength and vigor in all his joints and limbs, which were before useless, and in a moment raised himself up, stood upon his feet, and walked.

5. Frances de la Pesse, who, by falling into a river, had been drowned, was restored to life at the tomb, and by the intercession of the holy prelate. All the marks of deformity which that dreadful accident had left in her body, together with the livid color and swelling, were on a sudden wonderfully removed.

6. James Guidi, whose nerves were contracted, and who had been an absolute cripple from his birth, imploring the assistance of the prayers of the servant of God, was in an instant perfectly cured.

7. Charles Materon. who had been a cripple from his very birth, and strangely deformed in his whole body, was, by the intercession of the saint, instantly cured, so that he received upon the spot the perfect figure of a man, together with the use of his limbs.

All these miracles, with their respective circumstances, were proved with the utmost evidence, both as to the matters of fact, which were attested by many credible eye-witnesses, and as to their being clearly beyond all the power of nature or art; the more so, because they were all of t.hem wrought almost instantaneously.