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A SAINT TO TEACH US HOW TO FORGIVE

Father Francis's picture
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

'You forgave the man who killed your husband. Help me learn to forgive a particular person in my life who has caused me harm. You know how difficult it is to forgive. Help me to take the steps you took to welcome this person back into my life.'

This could be our prayer to Saint Jane on the day we honour a remarkable French lady. She married at 23 and discovered her husband had inherited not only an aristocratic title but also enormous debts. With a deep faith which had been instilled by her father she took charge, personally organizing and supervising every detail of the estate, to bring the finances under control while winning her employees' hearts.

Despite the early financial worries, she and her husband were truly devoted to each other and to their four children. Her blessings were shared by giving bread and soup personally to the poor who came to her door. Often they would return for more and when asked why she allowed this said, 'What if God turned me away when I came back to Him again and again with the same request?'

Her happiness was shattered with the death of her husband in a hunting accident. He forgave the man who shot him saying, '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 just greeted him on the street, then in time invited him to her house and finally was able to forgive the man so completely that she even became godmother to his child.

Her commitment to God impressed Saint Francis de Sales, the bishop who became her director and best friend. With his support Jane founded the Congregation of the Visitation for women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. She even accepted a woman who was 83 years old, believing that people should have a chance to live their calling regardless of their health.

Still a devoted mother, she gave spiritual direction to her daughter when it was sought, as she did to many others including an ambassador and her brother, an archbishop. Her advice always reflected her very gentle and loving approach to spirituality, "Should you fall even 50 times a day, set your heart back in the right direction and practice the opposite virtue, all the time speaking words of love and trust to our Lord."

Jane believed the secret of happiness was in "losing" yourself if full of grief, fear or worry, “Throw ourselves into God as a little drop of water into the sea, and lose ourselves in the Ocean of divine goodness.”

She died in 1641, at the age of 69.