St Francis de Sales was one of those unfortunate people who wanted to live a life of solitude before God but the Pope, royalty and political factions wanted to use him as an ambassador and negotiator. Like St Bernard, he loved silence and contemplation but seldom got a chance to practice it.
Born in 1567, just after the beginning of the reformation and the council of Trent, Francis was a contemporary of Calvin. He took his time deciding to become a priest; it was 14 years from when felt the call til he eventually began to study.
Francis is well known for his holiness and sanctity and is renowned as a preacher and teacher. However, it is for his book, the ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ that Francis is best remembered. In the book, Francis lays down practical measures that any person in any state of life can practice in order to attain perfection.
Also, and this was new for his time, Francis said that any person in any state of life can attain perfection. Up til this time it was assumed that the monastic life was the higher life. Francis said that a housewife living and praying in the service of God could attain perfection just as well as a monk.
He also had the wisdom to say that different states of life called for different ways of living and practising our faith. All this seems common sense today but at the time was quite revolutionary. Francis was a man well ahead of his times.