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Our Spirituality


Historical Background

From the time of its inception the church suffered persecution and unrest. The Middle Ages was crucial to the life of the church. In the middle the 14th century there was 100 years of war, the church was shaken. The Christian unity began to crumble; the moral and spiritual values began to deteriorate. Between the 15th and 17th centuries the church suffered still more specially due to the schisms within the church and the following century witnessed bloody wars and violence everywhere. The emergence of the modern scientific discoveries by Copernicus and Galileo and other philosophic teachings contributed to the reshaping the western thought. The powerful critic of Christendom shaped by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their reforms rocked the foundation of the society. The reformers raised questions on predestination, faith without works and the Eucharistic Transubstantiation that shook the faith of the Catholic Church. It was a time of Christian violence motivated especially by religious intolerance, the era was known as ‘wars of religion.’ Francis De Sales was born in this tremulous period of time.

Family Formation

Francis was born as the first born among 13 siblings on the 21st August 1567 to M. Francois de Boisy and Mme Francoise de Sionnas, as a premature baby of seven months, at the castle of Sales at Thorens.. His father Francois de Boisy was a military man, an outstanding catholic, aristocratic, a disciplined and courageous solider. Francois De Boisy was 44 years when got married to Francoise De Sionnaz a very young, loving, gentle, pious girl of 13 years of a noble family in Thorens belonged Duke of Savoy. The Castle was her heritage.


Francis grew up in a good, religious, healthy and human atmosphere. His mother implanted in him the virtues of sincerity, generosity, obedience, integrity, compassion and respect for the poor, the family and above all deep love for God. From his mother’s tender love, he deduced God’s paternal and all embracing love for him. His father had very high expectation of Francis and tried to make him very disciplinary, courageous and intellectual. Wanting him to have distinguished carrier in the society, his father sent him to the boarding school, at La Roche and Annecy. But, against the will of his father, on the 20th September 1578 Francis received tonsure as he desired to become a priest and to belong to the church entirely for which his father reluctantly consented. Then Francis was send to Paris for higher education, where he learned literature, philosophy and learned arts, like fencing, riding, and dance etc.

During his studies in the University of Paris, he was exposed to the heated arguments about the question of predestination and he was much troubled. It becomes acute from December 1586 to January 1587. It caused him anxiety, anguish, and despair. Being deeply rooted in faith Francis prayed intensely, in his dark days invoking the intercession of Mother Mary: “Save me Oh lord, my God” and his prayer was answered. In January 1587 while returning from the college, as usual entered the church of the Dominicans, he went straight to the chapel of the Black Madonna and made a heroic act of total surrender: “Lord your judgments are upon me the eternal decree of predestination that I am not allowed to love you in the eternal life...I shall love you Lord in this life, grant me at least that I am not among those who curse your holy name. He picked up a card with the prayer ‘Memorare’ and prayed again and again.” He decided with the grace of God to be a priest and serve the church.

Francis achieved great spiritual progress. His surrender was perfect. His love for God became pure and he became indifferent to the judgment of God. He made great progress in prayer and his faith, hope, and confidence grew stronger. On 5th September 1591 Francis completed his legal studies and in February 1592 Francis returned to Savoy. He had an accident from the horseback during which the sword came out of his belt revealed to him God’s will for him to be a priest. He prayed for many days and took the help of his spiritual director and his brother Louis De Sales. In their presence Francis spoke to his father “May it please you to permit me to enter the church and serve the church”. The old man struggled, with tears in his eyes, but his mother courageously supported his request. Francois De Boisy grew silent, he wept and finally he said to Francis “Do then by God’s command what you say, what God inspires you to do “and he added with generosity of his faith, I give you my blessing in His name.

Hence he started his seminary studies and was ordained priest on 18 December 1593. His early years of priesthood in the Calvinistic district of Chablais were largely coloured with extraordinary missionary controversy. He preached with courage, and his technique of patient dialogue and prayer contributed greatly to the return of Thonon and Chablais to the Catholic faith. His bishop sent him to Rome on diocesan business and on 24 March 1599 he was appointed coadjutor bishop at the age of 31. In 1602 he journeyed to Paris to organise the restoration of Catholic worship in the Gex area, part of his diocese. Francis accomplished this task in nine months.

Francis, Prince-bishop of Geneva

Francis was ordained bishop on 8 December 1602 and became the good shepherd amongst his people. He visited tirelessly his 450 parishes, he organised the further formation of his clergy, engaged in the reform of monasteries, and the catechesis of the young. He spent hours in the confessional, dialogued with the Calvinists, preached the Advent and Lenten homilies in many cities in Savoy and France, undertook spiritual direction and took part in theological discussions. Bishop Francis with his friend Senator Antonio Favre founded the Florimontane Academy. In 1608, his first classic, ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ and later in 1616 his second book ‘Treatise on the Love of God’ were published.

Francis, founder of the Visitation Congregation

At Dijon in 1604 he met the Baroness Jane Frémyot de Chantal, aged thirty-two, and a widow with four children. Between these two saintly people there developed a strong spiritual friendship. In 1607 Francis suggested to her the founding of new kind of Order of Contemplative Sisters who could engage in the care of girls and widows, visit of the sick and the poor. The Order of the sisters of visitation was founded on 6 June 1610. However, in 1618 its external apostolate was suppressed.

Final Journey

In 1622 he was obliged to go to Avignon to the members of the royal family of France, and accompany them via Rodano to Lyons. He was a guest at the Bellecour convent of the Visitation Sisters at Lyons and there met Mother Jane de Chantal for the last time. Francis died of a stroke on 28 December 1622. His funeral was solemnised at Annecy on 24 January and his mortal remains transferred to the Visitation Convent. Francis was canonised on 19 April 1665 by Alexander VII and he was declared a Doctor of the church by Pope Pius IX in 1877.

We follow the spirituality of St. Francis De Sales, the doctor of love. The Salesian spirituality, the spirituality of love is originated from the lived God experience of St. Francis and it is rooted in the love of God.

Salesian Spirituality

Fascinated by man being the crown of creation and formed in the image of God, spoiled by sin of the first parents, St. Francis De Sales introduces a spirituality of hope and optimism. He maintains that the crown of creation is man, the crown man is love, and the crown love is charity that is love of God. Life is a love story of God and man. A delicate and persuasive interplay of necessary grace of God and free will of man enables man to respond to God’s love and rise to the heights and ecstasies of loving God. God’s grace subtly, persuasively, delicately and attractively awakens the instinctive and ability of man to love God and enables him to make its choice of loving God. “You can rest only when you become love” says St. Francis. Thus Salesian spirituality finds its origin in the love of God. To love God who loves us, is for Francis is the goal of perfection and the way that leads to this goal is love. (TLG book 2). For St.Francis De Sales in love contained all the other virtues. He is filled with the wonder at the beauty of the love of God, which is distributed to the whole creatures.

Till the time of St.Francis De Sales holiness was understood as a way of life intended for a selected few mostly for monasteries and cloisters. For Francis, holiness consisted in doing the will of God, in which ever state of life one is, by following the vocation faithfully and lovingly, to which God has called. Every vocation requires the practice of some virtues. Thus call to holiness is addressed to all irrespective of the social status, economic status and state of life. In his first book, ‘Treatise on the Love of God’ he guides the ‘lover of God’ in the paths of holiness, suggesting the ways to progress in true devotion in one’s daily life.

The spirituality that St.Francis De Sales proposes is the spirituality of the heart i.e love. According to him Love is nothing but the Love God has for us (TLG II). Francis proves this through the gospel of John and book of Song of Songs. And according to him the first proof of God’s love is Creation (Gen 1, 2). The second proof of God’s love is Providence (TLG II .4), the third proof of God’s love is Incarnation (Phil 2:6-11) and the fourth proof of God’s love is redemption (Phil 2: 8-10). As a consequence of God’s love, we grow in confidence, conformity to the will of God, holy indifference, living in the present moment, realism, and virtues like, humility, simplicity, optimism, charity, equilibrium and good humour. The main features of Salesian Spirituality can be gleaned from his writings especially his classics ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ (1893) and ‘Treatise on the Love of God’ (1616).