St. Francis de Sales was born in 1567 in what is now part of France. His father was a diplomat, and led his family in great devotion to St. Francis of Assisi. As a young man, Francis prepared for a political career, studying rhetoric, the humanities, and law. He vowed to live a celibate life, devoted to the Virgin Mary, but he kept his spirituality a secret.
His father had arranged a marriage for Francis, but Francis’ chastity complicated this. Francis instead found a position in the Swiss Church, with the help of the bishop of Geneva, and was ordained a priest in 1593.
In 1602, Francis was made the bishop of Geneva, and worked to restore the city’s churches and religious orders. He was the spiritual director for future saint Jean Frances de Chantal, and helped her found a religious order for women.
Francis also wrote the “Introduction to the Devout Life,” and distributed many religious tracts that helped bring nearly 70,000 Protestants back to the Catholic faith.
St. Francis de Sales died in 1622 at a convent he had helped to found in Lyons. He was canonized in 1665, and named a Doctor of the Church in 1877. He is the patron saint of writers and Christian unity.