Monday, January 24, 2011

St. Francis de Sales

The history of the Protestant reformation and the Catholic response is one of those topics about which it is difficult to find anything that resembles objectivity. Most often the leaders of the Catholic Church are caricatured as villainous clerics while those leading the Protestants are painted as the defenders of the bible and the laity. It makes better movies than the truth.

Today we celebrate the life of a saint who gave up the possibility of a life of power and politics to preach the gospel. Chosen to be the Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland he had to exercise the office from France because the Protestant forces that controlled Geneva at the time would not have allowed him to carry out his ministry there.

He dedicated himself to correcting errors that were being preached in Savoy, but contrary to the mythology of the movies, he invited those who had fallen away from the Catholic Church to dinner, debated, and discussed. His manner was such that some of his more hardline Catholic brothers saw it as scandalous. For him the scripture passage, "God is love" remained the center of his ministry. He said "God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a Lamb; God the Holy Ghost is a Dove."

He did not waver from naming heresy or defending the truth, but was known for doing so with love.

Whether it is Sunni and Shia in the Moslem world, or our own Democrats and Republican, perhaps we all have something to learn from the model of St. Francis de Sales.

He is a doctor of the Church, the patron saint for at least four religious communities, and of the deaf, having created a rudimentary sign language to teach the faith to the deaf.

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us