Monday, August 12, 2013

St Jane Frances de Chantal

St Jane Frances de Chantal 1572-1641

Born to the nobility in Dijon, France in January 1572, the daughter of the president of the Parliament of Burgundy, Jane grew up in a very devout environment, a trait she shared with her husband and the 4 children God gave them. Despite the early financial worries, she and her husband shared "one heart and one soul." One way Jane shared her blessings was by giving bread and soup personally to the poor who came to her door.
Her happiness was shattered when her husband Christophe was killed in a hunting accident. Before he died, her husband forgave the man who shot him, saying to the man, "Don't commit the sin of hating yourself when you have done nothing wrong." The heartbroken Jane, however, had to struggle with forgiveness for a long time. At first she tried just greeting this man on the street. When she was able to do that, she invited him to her house. Finally she was able to forgive the man so completely that she even became godmother to his child.
These troubles opened her heart to her longing for God and she sought God in prayer and a deepening spiritual life. She spent her free time in prayer, and received a vision of the man who would become her spiritual director. In Lent, 1604, she met Saint Francis de Sales, and recognized him as the man in her vision. Her commitment to God impressed Saint Francis, the bishop who became her director and best friend and the two carried on a lengthy correspondence for years. 

St Jane listening to St Francis De Sales preach
On Trinity Sunday, 6 June 1610 she founded the Order of the Visitation of Our Lady at Annecy, France. The Order was designed for widows and laywomen who did not wish the full life of the orders, and oversaw the founding of 69 convents. Jane spent the rest of her days overseeing the Order, and acting as spiritual advisor to any who desired her wisdom. With Francis' support, Jane founded the Visitation order for women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. She even accepted a woman who was 83 years old. She believed that people should have a chance to live their calling regardless of their health.
Still a devoted mother, she was constantly concerned about the materialistic ways of one of her daughters. Her daughter finally asked her for spiritual direction. St Jane Frances died in 1641, at sixty-nine years of age at the Visitation Convent. Her relics are in Annecy, France, a place frequently visited by St Francis himself. Visitation nuns today live a contemplative life, work for women with poor health and widows, and sometimes run schools. St Jane Frances de Chantal was canonized in 1767.

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