St. Francis de Sales is the heavenly patron of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Francis De Sales (MSFS). Francis de Sales was born on the 21 August 1567 in the Chateau de Sales into the noble Sales family of the Duchy of Savoy, in what is today Thorens-Glieres, Haute-Savoie, France. His father was Francois de Sales, Lord of Boisy, Sales and Novel, and his mother was Francoise de Sionnz, the only child of a prominent magistrate.
In 1588 Sales transferred from the University of Paris to the University of Padua in Italy, where he studied both law and theology. There he made up his mind about becoming a priest. Intelligent and handsome, he went through various conversion experiences that moved his heart to serve God rather than money or the world.
One incident included his sword falling to the ground while riding a horse, and crossing another sword, making the sign of the Cross. He interpreted this, among other signs, that Jesus Christ was calling him to a life of sacrifice and self-giving love for the Church. In 1592, Sales ended his studies with the title of "Doctor", certified both in law and theology. At home, his father had already secured a variety of positions for his son, one of which was a position in the Senate of Chambery.
It was difficult for Francis's father to accept that his son had already chosen the priesthood over a military or political career. After completing his studies in the humanities, rhetoric, theology, and law, Sales preferred to stay focused on his path with God. The intervention of Claude de Granier, then Bishop of Geneva, allowed him to seek ordination, after which he was given an appointment as provost of the cathedral chapter of Geneva in 1593. In 1602, Bishop Granier died, and Sales was consecrated Bishop of Geneva. During his years as bishop, Sales acquired a reputation as a spellbinding preacher and something of an ascetic. He was equally known as a friend of the poor, a man of almost supernatural affability and understanding. These last qualities come through in Sales' books, the most famous of which was "Introduction to the Devout Life", which - unusual for the time - was written especially for laypeople. In it he counseled charity over penance as a means of progressing in the spiritual life. Sales also left the mystical work, the "Treatise on the Love of God", and many highly valued letters of spiritual direction. He was a notably clear and gracious stylist in French, Italian and Latin.
In December 1622 Sales was required to travel in the entourage of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy. There he suffered a stroke, from which Sales died on the 28th of December, 1622. Francis de Sales was beatified in 1661 by Pope Alexander VII, who then canonized him four years later. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by the Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1877.The Roman Catholic Church currently celebrates St. Francis de Sales' feast on the 24 January, the day of his burial in Annecy in 1624.
He is known as the Gentleman Saint. He is a Doctor of the Church and the patron of journalists everywhere. As a missionary, preacher, educationalist, writer, humanist, and the Bishop of Geneva, Francis upheld universal sanctity for all categories of people. He made himself 'all to all' through his inspiring words and selfless service to fellowmen. His books An Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God have ensured a singular position for him in French literature.