JANE FRANCES de CHANTAL
Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him.
That is all the doing you have to worry about.
St Jane Frances de Chantal (January 28, 1572 - December 13, 1641)
Jane's mother died when she was 18 months old, and her father, politician of Dijon, France, became the main influence on her education.
Jane developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament. At 21, she married Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children, three of whom died in infancy. At their residence, she restored the custom of daily Mass, and was seriously engaged in various charitable works.
Jane’s husband was killed after seven years of marriage, and she sank into deep dejection for four months at her family home. Her father-in-law threatened to disinherit her children if she did not return to his home. He was then 75, vain, fierce, and extravagant. Jane Frances managed to remain cheerful in spite of him and his insolent housekeeper.
When she was 32, Jane met Saint Francis de Sales who became her spiritual director, softening some of the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.
After three years, Francis told Jane of his plan to found an institute of women that would be a haven for those whose health, age, or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation—hence their name, Sisters of The Visitation.
Francis de Sales wrote his famous Treatise on the Love of God for them. The congregation consisting of three women began when Jane Frances was 45.
Tragic events followed - Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France; her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague, and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.
During her religious life, Jane Frances went through great trials of the spirit—interior anguish, darkness, and spiritual dryness. She died while on a visitation of convents of the community.
REFLECTION It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.
Grateful to Franciscan Media, Cincinnati,
for this information