By Kelly Wise Valdes

A canonized saint that is honored as a special protector is known as a patron saint. A patron saint may also be a benefactor of persons in a certain occupation or a guardian of those who bear the saint’s name. A patron saint may be invoked to intercede with God for help in a time of special need.

This month we are learning some interesting history about St. Francis de Sales. Francis, the eldest of 13 children, was born into a wealthy and noble family in France in 1567. He knew for years that he wanted to be a priest. When his father said that he wanted Francis to be a soldier and sent him to Paris to study, Francis said nothing.

He went on to receive a doctorate in law and quietly continued to study theology. Francis was a skilled swordsman who enjoyed fencing, an expert horseman and a dancer.

One day while riding through the countryside, Francis fell from his horse three times. Every time he fell the sword came out of the scabbard. Every time it came out the sword and scabbard came to rest on the ground in the shape of the cross. And then, Francis, without knowing about it, was appointed provost of his diocese, second in rank to the bishop.

During the time of the Protestant reformation, Francis decided that he should lead an expedition to convert the 60,000 Calvinists back to Catholicism. By the time he left his expedition, he had no support. His father refused to give him any aid for this plan and the diocese was too poor to support him.

Following God’s will, he kept the faith. No one would listen to him; no one would even open their door. So Francis wrote out his sermons, copied them by hand and slipped them under the doors. This is the first record of religious tracts being used to communicate with people.

At that time, the way of holiness was only for monks and nuns, not ordinary people. Francis changed all that by giving spiritual direction to lay people living ordinary lives in the world.

He died on December 28, 1622, after giving a nun his last word of advice: “Humility.”

He is patron saint of journalists because of the tracts and books he wrote.