Saturday, August 18, 2012

St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Some calendars show August 18th as the feast day of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, while others celebrate her day on August 12th.

Whatever the feast day, can you imagine what it must have been like to have St. Francis de Sales as your spiritual director?

I've long felt a special attachment to St. Jane and I'm not sure I can articulate why. I can't say we share a great deal in common. I didn't marry a baron, didn't lose my husband after only seven years of marriage. I've not become a nun or founded a religious community.

But, St. Jane strikes me as so real, sturdily grounded in her faith. She lived through dark nights and spiritual dryness, but she grasped that her faith was not rooted in her feelings about faith. Her faith was rooted in Him. The reality of hanging on, even when we don't feel like hanging on, always resonates with me. ("Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted," said Clive Staples Lewis.) 

I love this:
When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales (October 24), who became her spiritual director, softening some of the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.

After three years Francis told her of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.
-- Saint of the Day.
The emphasis above is mine. I love that even though she wanted to become a nun, she listened to her spiritual director's counsel and put off following that dream. Three years later, he proposed the thing that would become the rest of her life.
"If we patiently accept through love all that God allows to happen, then we will begin to taste even here on earth something of the delights the saints experience in heaven. But for this we must serve God willingly and lovingly, seeking to obey the Divine Will rather than to follow our own inclinations and desires. For the perfection of love demands that we desire for ourselves only whatever God wills. Let us implore the good God unceasingly to grant us this grace!"
~~ St. Jane Frances de Chantal

(Find more quotes from St. Jane at the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.)

(From the archives, 2010. For more on why there's some confusion about St. Jane's feast day, see the comments on the original post.)