Sunday 19 June 2022

Francis de Sales - J.B. Midgley - CTS Great Saints

Francis de Sales
CTS Great Saints
J.B. Midgley
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825217
CTS Booklet B708

A few years ago, I encountered the works of J.B. Midgley and was very impressed with his writing. I worked at tracking all his books down. And it took me a few years. He published 28 books, and contributed to one other. Of those 29 books 27 were for the Catholic Truth Society. I now have all the volumes and after this one have 1 left to read and review. J.B. Midgley is one of my favourite Catholic non-fiction authors of the last 50 years. Six of his books were part of the CTS Great Saints Series. I have also read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series. I first read a book by Midgley just over 4 years ago. I consider his works some of the best I have read. This volume is another great read, by an excellent author in a wonderful series! 

The description on the back of the book is:

Life and writings of one of the church’s greatest preachers and writers.

Francis’ vocation and intrepid missionary work in France and Geneva were born and test in the turmoil of European religious wars and the Reformation. Despite poor health, his fine mind, legal training and powerful pen, coupled with his great faith and zeal made him a persuasive and effective debater against the Calvinism of his time.

A contemporary of Jane Frances de Chantal and Vincent de Paul, Francis (1567-1622) became Bishop of Geneva, where he died, exhausted, at only 55. This booklet introduces the reader to his writings, samples of which are included.”

About a third of the volume are those samples of his works. The chapters in this booklet are:

Man For All Seasons 
Early Years And Education 
Geneva Mission 
Bishop And Shepherd 
Order Of The Visitation 
Twilight Years 
Devotion And Writings 

This is one of 10 biographies that Midgley wrote for the Great Saints Series, just over a third of his books were in this series. He does a great job with his hagiography. The first two thirds of this volume are the biography and the final third is excerpts of de Sales writings and sermons. While reading this booklet I highlighted many passages, they are:

“In some ways, the age in which Francis lived has similarities to our own. Then , as now, Europe was experiencing dramatic change, and the mind of the
Church was necessarily focused on spiritual, intellectual, and institutional renewal: correcting aggressive heresy, reaffirming doctrine and practice, and preserving the ministerial priesthood that is at the heart of Catholic life.”

“On 3rd December 1563, Pope Pius IV had at last been able to confirm the decrees of the Council of Trent thanks to his nephew, Saint Charles Borromeo, who had skilfully managed to assemble the 255 representatives for the final session. As a platform for 'Counter-Reformation', the Council sought moral reform and an affirmation of traditional Catholic doctrine and devotion. Heresy was corrected, the teaching on original sin clarified, and the permanence of marriage emphasised.”

“Four years later, Count Francis de Boisy of Sales and his wife Frances of Sionas were living in the family's ancestral Chateau of Sales in Savoy near Thorens. This was a mountain village thirty miles west of Mont Blanc and twenty south of Geneva in the diocese of Annecy. They had dedicated one room in their home to Saint Francis of Assisi and had mounted a picture of him preaching to the birds and fishes.”

“The next day the baby was baptised in Thorens parish church and christened with the name Francis Bonaventura. His early arrival in the world was to leave him delicate as a child, but he would recover to be a handsome, energetic man of great charm who in spired universal affection and admiration.”

“The University of Paris, with its 54 constituent colleges, was one of the great centres of learning. In 1581, when Francis was 14, his father said he should enter Navarre College, an institution traditionally favoured by the sons of Savoyard nobility. Francis was hesitant, correctly assuming that the ethos and customs would scarcely be compatible with his vocation, so he persuaded the Count to let him seek admission to Clermont College that was directed by the Jesuits, and known for its religious atmosphere and academic excellence.”

“He taught Francis not to be discouraged by weakness but to overcome the Devil's temptation to be despondent by prayer, mortification, and works of mercy. Francis added wearing a hair shirt three days a week to the acts of self-denial he already practised, made a perpetual vow of chastity in the church of Saint
Stephen des Grez, and placed himself under the special protection of the blessed Virgin.”

“He was called to Rome to be examined by Pope Clement VIII and, among others, the Jesuit Cardinal Saint Robert Bellarmine and Saint Charles Borromeo's cousin, Cardinal Frederick Borromeo. It was a searching interview, but he answered questions with a simple modesty that did not disguise his erudition, expertise and saintly qualities. His appointment as Geneva coadjutor was confirmed.”

“Bishop Camus of Bellay pleaded with Francis not to preach twice every morning and evening for the sake of his health, but he responded with a smile "that it cost him less to preach a sermon than to find an excuse not to do so when invited, that God had appointed him as a pastor and preacher, and everyone must follow their calling." He added, "But I am surprised that people flock so eagerly to hear me, for my tongue is slow and heavy, my conceptions low and my discourses flat, as you are witness.””

“After a month, he badly needed a rest, but did not spare himself for the good of souls. During a bitterly cold Advent, he said he was glad to share hardship and poverty that the Holy Family experienced. He continued to preach, administer, and refuse nothing that was asked of him, though he was painfully embarrassed by the marks of honour and invitations that poured from the King and the nobility.”

“In 1662, Pope Alexander raised Francis to the honours of the altar in the first beatification to be celebrated in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome and, when he canonised him three years later, he established his Feast on January 29th, the anniversary of his funeral at Annecy. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1877 and his relics were translated to a splendid new shrine at Annecy in 1912. He was nominated the patron of writers, editors, and journalists by Pope Benedict XV in 1923. Since the revision of the Roman Calendar in 1969, the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales is 24th January.”

“My intention is to instruct those who live in towns, in households, at the court and, by reason of their circumstances, lead an ordinary life. In creation, God commanded the plants to bring forth their fruit each after its own kind: even so, he commands Christians who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his kind and vocation.”

“If people ask you why you receive Holy Communion frequently, tell them it is to learn to love God, be purified of imperfections, delivered from misery, comforted in affliction, and supported in weakness. Tell them that because you are imperfect, weak, and sick you need to communicate often with him who is your perfection, strength, and physician.”

“True devotion never causes harm, but rather perfects everything we do; a devotion that conflicts with anyone's state of life is undoubtedly false.”

“It is a mistake to think that life in the army, the workshop, the court, or the home is incompatible with devotion. Purely contemplative, monastic or religious devotion cannot be practised in these callings; yet these are not the only kinds of devotion; there are many others suitable for those who live in the world and capable of leading them to perfection. Wherever we find ourselves we not only may, but should, seek perfection.”

“Succeeding generations are grateful for the devotion with which his friend, Bishop Camus recorded the Saint's own words and deeds. For those seeking holiness, there is the continued inspiration of his meekness of heart, and shining personality that is absorbed in God with overflowing of divine love. A few examples are offered.”

“"In speaking of meekness, his favoured and ambitioned virtue, Francis said he had spent years studying it in the school of Jesus Christ and was still disappointed by his lack of progress. He was often put to the test during very busy times, and when crowds of people bringing their needs and problems scarcely gave him time to breathe.”

“”The best remedy against sudden impatience is friendly silence. No matter how little one speaks, self love is bound to claim a share and a word can escape that disturbs peace and harmony. If nothing is said and one stays cheerful, the storm passes, anger and indiscretion take flight, and pure, lasting joy remains.””

This book was an excellent read it really left me wanting to read more about and by this saint. It was hard to put down once I started. This biography is a great introduction to this Great Saint. Another wonderful work from the masterful pen of J.B. Midgley and from the Catholic Truth Society!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Saint Francis de Sales:
Introduction to the Devout Life
The Sign of the Cross
The Art of Loving God
Roses Among Thorns
Finding God's Will for You

Sermons of St. Francis de Sales:
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Prayer
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent
Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Advent and Christmas

Books by J.B. Midgley:

Advent & Christmastide with the Saints
Antonio Rosmini
Benedict - Patron of Europe
Bernard of Clairvaux – CTS Great Saints
Charles Borromeo  - CTS Great Saints
Companion to St. Joseph
Companion to the Feasts of Mary
Companion to Saint Peter
Companion to Saint Paul
Companion to the Angels
Companion to the Feasts of Our Lord
Companion to the Passion of Our Lord
Dominic - CTS Great Saints
George: Patron of England - CTS Great Saints
Dewi Sant: St David Patron of Wales
Francis de Sales – CTS Great Saints
John Baptist de La Salle – CTS Great Saints
John Vianney – CTS Great Saints
Lent with the Saints
Nurturing the Young
Robert Bellarmine
Saint John the Baptist 
Stations of the Cross and Resurrection with the Saints
The Eucharist with the Saints
The Four Evangelists
Thomas Becket – CTS Saints of the Isles
Vincent de Paul – CTS Great Saints
Witchcraft, Sorcery and Magic

Contributed to:
First Fridays and First Saturdays The Devotions Explained 

Books in the CTS Great Saints Series:
Antonio Rosmini - J.B.Midgley
Bernard of Clairvaux - J.B.Midgley
Benedict Patron of Europe - J.B. Midgley
Charles Borromeo - J.B.Midgley
Dominic - J.B.Midgley
Elizabeth of the Trinity The Great Carmelite Saint - Jennifer Moorcroft
Francis de Sales - J.B.Midgley
Gemma Galgani Gem of Christ John Paul Kirkham
George: Patron of England - J.B.Midgley
John Baptist de La Salle - J.B.Midgley
John of the Cross - Jennifer Moorcroft
John Vianney - J.B.Midgley
Louis Marie de Montfort His Life, Message and Teaching - Paul Allerton SMM
Martin de Porres - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Patrick Missionary to the Irish - Thomas O’Loughlin 

No comments: