Monday, January 3, 2011

Francis de Sales

                My love of history began in elementary school while watching television Monday nights.  The life of a pioneer girl named Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House on the Prairie fascinated me.  I also lost myself in the Great Depression while watching the Walton children in The Waltons.  Finally, the study of history came alive in 8th grade with the mini-series The Blue and the Gray while studying the Civil War in history class with Mr. Lee.  My love of theology also began at this young age.  I love hearing the stories of the Bible and reading the beautiful words.  In fact, I wanted to be a nun back then but since I wasn’t Catholic I dreamed of writing or teaching just like Laura.  Thus, the Catholic saints have fascinated me once I became Catholic in my early twenties.  History and theology coming together in a perfect combination like chocolate and peanut butter.
                Over the years, I have studied Joan of Arc, Francis of Assisi, Mother Mary, the Little Flower (Saint Teresa), Christopher, Patrick, and Daniel of Padua.  I have also read about a bunch of the others along with the apostles.  Now whether a person is Catholic or not, it can’t be argued that these are people in history who did amazing works for God.  Most of them were far from perfect though some of their stories say otherwise.  Once I started this blog I wondered who I would pick from history to study.  Being a writer, I thought it was time to look up the patron saint of writers, Saint Francis de Sales.
                Like many young people and their parents, Francis and his father had different ideas of what Francis should do with his life in the 1580s.  Francis wanted to become a priest but his father wanted him to become a soldier.  This reminds me of when I was preparing for college.  I so wanted to go to Puget Sound Bible College in Seattle, Washington, but my father wanted me to go to a school that would give me a real job.  Francis went to Paris to study and I went to Billings.  After going to Padua to study, God finally told Francis it was time to make his commitment.  One day while riding, he fell three times from his mount.  Each time his sword and scabbard fell to the ground forming a cross.  Francis made the move and became a priest.  I never became a nun or received a degree in theology, but I write about it.
                Priesthood did not come easy for Francis.  The people complained about him because they thought he made fun of them while he preached and they thought he was arrogant.  Against the good guidance of others, he decided to cross the mountains to Switzerland to bring back 60,000 people into the Catholic Church.  They had converted to Calvinism.  The people wouldn’t listen to him.  He slept on the ground, in trees, and in haylofts.  Finally he started writing his sermons on paper and put them under the doors.  These are the first known religious pamphlets to be distributed.  The people finally started listening when he began talking and interacting with the children.  Of the 60,000, it is said he brought 40,000 back to his beloved church.
                During this time in Catholic history, the belief was that only nuns and priests could work towards holiness.  Francis disagreed and offered spiritual direction to the ordinary people.  He wrote the famous book Introduction to the Devout Life.  He recommended to, “Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others and talk to God.”  He also thought gossip and judging others a great sin.  In the next couple of weeks I plan to read his book and see what other words of wisdom he has for all of us.  So far, he seems like an amazing man who can help me on my journey to holiness.
                Do you have perfect combinations in your life that help you on the journey to holiness?  Someday, I think it would be fun to study the great works of art that depicts theology.  So go out and enjoy your blending of an everyday activity like history and see how it intertwines with theology.  And maybe the next time you eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup you will think of history and theology.
                Blessing to you all.


  1. Lisa, you do a great job explaining history. I think I'd like to know more if St Francis struggled in his writing. Who knows? Maybe peanut butter is the answer when the words don't want to come out. Lois

  2. Thank you. It is fun to write. I imagine with the little I know about St. Francis, he didn't struggle with the writing. However, I don't think the people read his writing because they ignored him until they saw how he interacted with the children. With a lot of great writers, I think it took a while for his writings to get recognized. With his patient, I don't think this bothered him.