Do you have a Saint that is like a golden thread in your life? One that is beautifully woven in throughout the tapestry of your life? A Saint who shows up often in your life—whether through images, stories, or prayers? A Saint who you have a devotion to and that has become like a dear friend? A friend that comes to your aid often?
For me, that Saint is Saint Francis de Sales. For over a decade he has “shown up” throughout my life and has become a dear friend. I call upon his intercession often and he has guided me through the example of his life story, wisdom, and words.
The Gentleman Saint
Just recently he surprised me again. This past year I fulfilled my lifelong dream of becoming an etiquette instructor—something I’ve desired to become since my first etiquette class at fifteen years old. Before I embark on anything new, I like to assign a patron to that task, new hobby, passion, or endeavor. Before my etiquette certification courses began, I did a quick Google search: “Who is the patron Saint of etiquette?” My joy overflowed when I read the answer: Saint Francis de Sales.
Even a brief look into his life shows us why Saint Francis de Sales is the patron Saint of etiquette, also known as “the Gentleman Saint.” He was filled with love and patience, and devoted his time to the spiritual direction of lay people (the common man), which was extremely unusual for his time period. He loved horseback riding, dancing, and fencing. His inner refinement shone through exteriorly, as many described him as a handsome man. He was an intelligent man, too, receiving his doctorate in law and theology. He led many souls to Christ through his advice written in letters to the faithful, and through his spiritual guidance and gentle presence.
Introduction to the Devout Life
Saint Francis’ way of teaching Catholic spirituality is known as the Way of Divine Love, or the Devout Life. This is reflected in the title of one of his most famous works, Introduction to the Devout Life. In this book, he addresses his instructions on how to live a life for Christ to the general public under the name, “Philothea”, that is, “the one who loves God.” He continues to gently reveal to the reader how to grow in love of God, challenging the faithful to discipline themselves through sacrifice.
Within the pages of Introduction to the Devout Life, the reader confronts many lessons. Each one stretches the heart and mind, yet the demanding lifestyle changes that he suggests, ones that all Christians seeking Christ encounter, are explained by Francis gently and gracefully. Here are three lessons that we can learn from Saint Francis de Sales, the Gentleman Saint.
Three Lessons From the Gentleman Saint
Lead With Love // So often when we want to challenge or correct someone in the faith, we can come off as abrasive, or we can let our own ego and vanity take over. We easily fall into the temptation of desiring to “be right” instead of working within the objective realm of truly leading a soul to Christ. Saint Francis teaches us to lead with love, taking to heart Saint Paul’s instruction to, “Speak truth in love.” His instructions are demanding, and never compromise with sin, yet they are all filled with love and hope. He does this by presenting the Merciful, Loving Christ alongside the demanding Christ. We can do this, too, in our conversations—asking Jesus’ grace to speak clearly, truthfully, and lovingly —all with the goal of bringing a soul to Him.
Take Time to Share Your Heart // Saint Francis de Sales wrote over 20,000 letters in his lifetime. Think of the hours he spent, sharing his insight, wisdom, and guidance—his very heart—with those seeking to grow in their faith. Those words are still changing the world today as the faithful of this generation continue to read his writings. It is a noble and beautiful thing to take the time to share our heart and our wisdom with others. It takes discipline and generosity, especially in our fast-paced world, to pause, think of another, and share our heart with them through the written word—whether it be a letter, a story, or a little note. We can learn from Saint Francis’ generous spirit to take the time to think of others and share our hearts with them.
- Be Patient With Others and Ourselves // In the book Thy Will Be Done: Letters to Persons in the World, Saint Francis de Sales writes to a woman who is troubled by her many daily tasks: “Have patience with everyone, but chiefly with yourself; I mean to say, do not trouble yourself about your imperfections, and always have the courage to lift yourself out of them. I am well content that you begin again every day: there is no better way to perfect the spiritual life than always to begin again and never to think you have done enough.” Patience is a hallmark sign of a gentleman and a lady. It reveals beautiful humility and dependence on God, as well as a merciful heart. When we are patient with ourselves and others we realize that faith is a gift from God, not something we can conjure up on our own. Next time we feel impatient, with ourselves or with another person, let us remember the wise instruction of Saint Francis de Sales.
What is a lesson that you have learned from a Saint? Please share in the comments below!