Before the 400th Anniversary of St Francis de Sales (1622-2022)
Rector Major Fr. Angel F. Artime (2020, Acts 432)
Saint Francis de Sales died in Lyons, during a journey, on 28 December 1622. His solemn funeral took place in his cathedral in Annecy on 24 January 1623, and on 29 January that year his body was buried in the church belonging to the first Visitation monastery in Annecy. He was listed among the saints in 1665. Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him as a Doctor of the Church in 1877. On 26 January 1923, Pius XI proclaimed him as the patron of journalists. In 1967, in his letter Sabaudiae gemma Saint Paul VI described him as “doctor of divine love and evangelical kindness” as well as “doctor of spiritual direction”.
For us in the Congregation and the Salesian Family, there is no lack of reasons for celebrating a year dedicated to Saint Francis de Sales:
- Don Bosco, drawing inspiration from the kindness and zeal of the holy Bishop of Geneva, gave us the name Salesians, and pointed out a programme of life in the maxim: Da mihi animas, cetera tolle (C. 4);
- Other than to Our Lady Help of Christians and st Joseph, Don Bosco entrusted our Society to Saint Francis de Sales, “zealous pastor and doctor of charity” (C. 9);
- The Salesian relies on the intercession of Saint Francis de Sales in order “to be faithful” (C. 24);
- The entire Salesian Family of Don Bosco is placed under the protection of this great Patron Saint.
The main objective that we set ourselves in this anniversary is to make the figure, spirituality and pedagogy of St Francis de Sales known among us Salesians.
Saint Francis de Sales reminds us that holiness is for everyone and that we must accompany the young on the way to this goal.
At this moment in the life of the Church and our Family, we are especially sensitive to spiritual accompaniment. And our Patron is one of the great teachers of this art in the Church’s history. We have much to learn from him. To the practice of spiritual direction, inherited from St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis de Sales wanted to add the friendship between the one who accompanies and the one being accompanied – and Don Bosco, spontaneously, added the community dimension to this.
But in the first instance St Francis de Sales speaks to us about the heart and invites us to recover the loving-kindness and healthy affection that are at the heart of the Preventive System that Don Bosco left us, since “whosoever gains the heart has won the whole man”.
2022: Year dedicated to Saint Francis de Sales
- As indicated previously, on 16 January2022: closure of the year dedicated to Fr Paul Albera – Opening of the year dedicated to St Francis de Sales at Valdocco, Turin, during the Salesian Family Spirituality Days.
- 18-20 November 2022: congress on Francis de Sales, UPS, Rome.
- 28 December 2022, fourth anniversary of his death: participation at Annecy in celebrations at diocesan level.
- 15 January 2023: conclusion of the year at Valdocco, Turin, during the Salesian Family Spirituality Days.
Other initiatives at world level: the Strenna for 2022 will have charity in St Francis de Sales as its theme; a series of retreats will be held in Annecy in various languages; these will take advantage of the places of St Francis de Sales (Annecy, Lyons, Turin, Treviso…); aids will be published for the retreats and video conferences to assist days of recollection and community days; biographies and works at a popular level, to be integrated into programmes for Salesian initial formation phases and available to all communities; video presentations introducing the Introduction to the Devout Life, The Treatise on the Love of God and the Letters; web pages with access to works and an extended bibliography for further exploration.
Saint Francis de Sales was the founder of and inspiration behind a number of Institutes of Consecrated Life. Where possible I encourage collaboration with these institutes, as also with the diocese associated with him in a special way.
 Paul VI, Sabaudiae Gemma. Apostolic Letter for the fourth centenary of the birth of St Francis de Sales Doctor of the Church, Rome 29 January 1967.
 Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, Chap. XXIII.
Related materials by EAO-SDB
EAO seminar 2019
Fr Bucellato: spiritual influence on Don Bosco