The Pope rescues the teachings of Saint Francis de Sales, “guide of souls”, on the fourth centenary of his death


The Pope has compiled the teachings of Saint Francis de Sales, one of the great teachers of French spirituality, considered the patron saint of journalists and a doctor of the Church, on the fourth centenary of his death. Francisco has referred to him as “interpreter of the change of times and guide of souls.”

The pontiff has rescued “the spiritual heritage” of this saint who “was a little over fifty years old and, for the last twenty years, had been bishop and prince ‘exiled’ from Geneva” in the apostolic letter ‘Totum amoris est’ (‘ Everything belongs to love’), published this December 28, the day on which the anniversary of his death is fulfilled.

Saint Francis de Sales died on December 28, 1622 in Lyon and Francis has vindicated his figure by pointing out that “there is no better place to find God and help to search for him than in the heart of every woman and man of his time.” “His attention to recognizing care for what is human as indispensable is moving. In the school of the incarnation he had learned to read history and inhabit it with confidence,” he said.

After briefly reviewing his biography, the Pope highlighted his service through “confessions, colloquia, conferences, sermons and the last, inevitable, letters of spiritual friendship” among which he discovered “the deep reason for this lifestyle full of of God had become clearer to him over time, and he had formulated it with simplicity and precision” when writing “God is God of the human heart”.

“The experience of God is evidence of the human heart. This is not a mental construction, rather it is a recognition full of amazement and gratitude, which results from the manifestation of God,” the pontiff said.

For the Pope, the holy Bishop of Geneva, known for works such as Introduction to Life and Treatise on the Love of God, or for being the founder of the Order of the Visitation, “was a witness to that love.” “His teaching, in fact, was born from an attentive listening to experience. He did nothing more than transform into doctrine what he lived and read in his singular and innovative pastoral action, thanks to a wit enlightened by the Spirit” and for this reason he wrote : “Everything in the Church is for love, in love, for love and of love”.

Thus, the Pope has highlighted “the years of the first formation” of the Savoyard saint as “the adventure of knowing himself in God”; After his studies in Paris and Padua, on his return to Annecy he discovered “a new world” as a priest and his first difficult mission in the Calvinist region of Chablais since he discovered “his skills as a mediator and man of dialogue” and pastoral daring “as the famous ‘flying sheets’, which were hung everywhere and even slipped under the doors of houses”.

After a failed diplomatic mission, he began to write “infinite letters of spiritual friendship”, as was the meeting Juana Francisca de Chantal, founder with him of the Visitation, the salesas. There he proposes “a method that renounced severity and fully trusted the dignity and capacity of a devoted soul, despite its weaknesses.”

As bishop, the Pope stressed, “he was an interpreter of the change of times and guide of souls in a time that thirsted for God in a new way. The pontiff has advanced in this way that his flexibility and his ability to sight. A little by gift of God, a little by personal nature, and also by the constant deepening of his experiences, he had had the clear perception of the change of the times “.

“This is what also awaits us as an essential task for this change of era: a Church that is not self-referential, free from all worldliness but capable of inhabiting the world, of sharing the lives of people, of walking together, of listening and welcoming” , the Pope stressed.

For Francis, “he invites us to leave the excessive concern for ourselves, for the structures, for the social image, and to ask ourselves rather what are the concrete needs and spiritual hopes of our people.”

Francis de Sales also offers an up-to-date vision of “devotion” for the Pope. “The novelty and truth of devotion are found elsewhere, in a root that is deeply linked to the divine life in us”, the pontiff pointed out, relating it to charity and the universal vocation to holiness, since in his opinion ” all of this led the holy bishop to consider the Christian life in its entirety as ‘the ecstasy of work and life'” through joy.

“For Saint Francis de Sales, the Christian life is never without ecstasy, and yet ecstasy is not authentic without life,” the Pope concluded.

The Pope rescues the teachings of Saint Francis de Sales, “guide of souls”, on the fourth centenary of his death