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. Jane Frances de Chantal. Jane was a wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community. Her mother died when she was 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became her main influence. As she grew up, she was known as a cheerful and happy young woman. At the age of 21, Jane married Baron de Chantal and gave birth to six children, however two babies died in infancy. She held steadfast to her faith during those times.
Seven years after they married, Jane’s husband was tragically killed in a hunting accident. Heartbroken, Jane struggled with forgiveness for the man who accidentally killed her husband. Eventually she put her trust in God and was finally she was able to forgive the man so completely that she even became godmother to his child.
It was also during this time that Jane encountered another difficult situation. Her father-in-law threatened to disinherit her children if she did not come live in his home. He was very demanding and vain, yet Jane managed to remain cheerful in spite of him.
When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales who became her spiritual director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to explore other options. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.
With Francis’ support, Jane founded the Visitation order for women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. She even accepted a woman who was 83 years old. She was often criticized but she believed that people should have a chance to live their calling to serve God.
During the rest of her life, Jane underwent great sufferings: Francis de Sales died, her son was killed, a plague ravaged France, and her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to help the victims of the plague and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.
Because of her great trials of the spirit, she is considered the patron saint of forgotten people, in-law problems, loss of parents, parents separated from children and widows.