St. Francis de Sales—Doctor of Mariology?

Today’s guest post is by Brandon Rappuhn, a Logos marketing copywriter.

We continue through the month of Mary, and I find myself surprised at some unexpected discoveries in Logos’ soon-to-come products.

St. Louis de Montfort in his Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, records that St. Francis de Sales is one of the Church’s foremost devotees to Mary (among Saints Ephrem, John Damascene, Bonaventure, etc.[1]). As I’ve said before, I’m quite fond of St. Francis de Sales. His spiritual directions have, for me, promoted a devout way of life in my lay vocation. Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God are the quintessential Frances de Sales texts; in my time reading his works, though, I haven’t come across any revelatory or notably profound sections on Mary. So now I’m dying to know: what does St. Francis de Sales have to say that caught St. Louis de Montfort’s attention?

I searched fervently through the writings of Francis de Sales, looking for the eloquent words of my favorite Doctor of the Church that had won Louis de Montfort’s respect—and I found nothing profound or startling. I discovered only the expected sermons on Mary and Joseph as examples for us to follow.

It wasn’t too longer afterward that I realized the Doctors of the Church are not always chosen for the writings they leave behind, but for the exemplary legacy of their lives. My study now takes an interesting turn: I began to look at the life of St. Francis de Sales, and not so much his writings.

Franz_von_SalesSt. Francis de Sales had much holiness and devotion to model ourselves after. In The Mystical Explanation of the Canticle of Canticles, St. Jane Frances de Chantal testifies to the life, practices, and teachings of St. Francis de Sales. St. Jane Frances reports that Francis de Sales prayed the Memorare and was instantly freed from an agony that tormented him for three weeks. He was said to have carried his rosary with him in his belt wherever he would go. In that text, St. Jane Frances de Chantal reported that Francis de Sales once said to her, “I have been feeling most strongly, how great a blessing it is to be a child, though an unworthy one, of this glorious Mother. Let us undertake great things under her patronage, for if we are ever so little dear to her, she will never leave us destitute of what we are struggling to attain.” St. Frances de Chantal further reported that “He said his rosary every day with extraordinary devotion, and use to tell me that he found all his help in the Blessed Sacrament and in that Holy Virgin from whom he had received special and even miraculous assistance, as I have before said.” It is now apparent why St. Louis de Montfort thought so highly of St. Francis de Sales.

St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal had already founded the order of the Nuns of the Visitation when he started writing Treatise on the Love of God. Treatise on the Love of God was written during his travels to and from Geneva and Savoy—the former being his bishopric and the latter being where the Convent of the Visitation had been founded, and where Saints Frances and Francis would give sermons about love, chastity, devotion, moderation, and other important virtues, which were eventually compiled in The Spiritual Conferences. (In fact, the sisters would crowd around him and ask him to read the latest chapters he had written in Treatise on the Love of God.)

His impact on the world—through preaching, founding religious orders, and even his private acts of devotion—have thus far spoken to me more than his words. I started my investigation of the patron of writers by studying his writing, only to realize that sainthood and sanctity is earned by holiness and devotion.[2]

[1] Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, page 103

[2] No one man has changed the course of history as much as has Jesus, and no man leaves for us a better or more perfect example of how we should live, and yet he left behind no writings for us. Even the words he wrote in the sand (John 8:6) are not recorded.

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