Thursday, January 24, 2013

Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Hebrews 7:25-8:6; Mark 3:7-12)

As the Week of Christian Unity draws to a close, it might be asked how one of the great Catholics of Reformation times treated Protestants. St. Francis de Sales was a priest and bishop in Switzerland, a country that largely converted to Calvinism. Influenced by religious rivalry, Francis broadly backed social and political pressures to bring Calvinists back to the Church. But when he faced Protestants directly, he spoke to their hearts.

Francis believed that intellectual arguments do not change people’s ways as much as calling forth the good in everyone. He would say that it is not necessary for a farmer to pray like a hermit, but offering his simple prayer sincerely put him on the path of holiness. His friendly persuasion attracted a number of Calvinists to Catholicism. But more important than conversions, his arguments allow for common ground today among lay Catholics and Protestants search who search for ways to be Christ’s disciples.