St. Francis de Sales Francis de Sales was born at Thorens in Savoie, August 21, 1567 of a noble family, illustrious in the annals of his native province. His father and mother brought him up in the strictest principles of the Catholic faith, the more so as near-by Geneva, where the family counted many friends, was the central stronghold of Calvinism.
The young nobleman's education was that of the youths of his class in the last years of the sixteenth century. His mother taught him his prayers and catechism. He made his first studies near his native place at the college of Annecy in Savoie: later under the Jesuits in Paris. At the age of twenty, the young man, handsome, cultured, and courtly, the stereotype of the gentleman of his time, went to Italy to the famous law school of Padua.
The world smiled on him, pleasure beckoned him, and the highest honors of the state were dangled before his eyes. He made many friends by his refined manners, his kindly humor, his eloquence, his wit, his unfailing kindness, and his all winning gentleness and sweetness. Because of his father's wishes, Francis received a law degree and accepted office before the local Senate of his native province of Chambery. In 1593, while still a layman, he was named Provost of the Episcopal Chapter of Geneva and the same year he was ordained a priest, which he knew to be his true calling.
If there was ever a priestly soul, it was Francis de Sales. His life was stainless. His character was balanced. His intellect was of the highest order. His love of God burned like a flame; it was tender and childlike; it was the very breath of his apostolate. Francis volunteered to reevangelize the Chablais region of France, south of Geneva. There were some 72,000 souls who were now Calvinists, their ancestors having succumbed to Protestantism 60 years before. It was a hopeless looking mission of reaching people who would not listen to Catholic preaching for fear of reprisals.
St. Francis' first few months saw mostly failure, as he spent a very cold winter tramping of the countryside, receiving a frigid welcome and sometimes sleeping in haylofts at night. So he resorted to writing pamphlets which he posted on walls and slipped under doors. By this method he was able to reach the souls he was after, such that at the end of four years almost the entire population had returned to the ancient Catholic Faith.
The conversion of the Chablais is truly one of the most remarkable conversion stories in Catholic history. The pamphlets that St. Francis de Sales wrote are currently gathered together in a book called "The Catholic Controversy" The arguments in this book were of vital importance to me as I had been schooled in Calvinism and worked at a Reformed Presbyterian School, Geneva College. Gently, St. Francis guided me into an understanding of Catholic truth just as he did the people of the Chablais 400 years ago. And so, to St. Francis, the patron of writers, I dedicate this humble bookstore and ask his intercession so that more people may read in the pages of these books, the life-giving truth taught by Christ's Church.