SAINT JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL (1572-1641), religious sister and foundress – Patron saint of widows and parents separated from children
Today, the Church honors Saint Jane (Jeanne) Frances de Chantal, who was a wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community.
Jane was born into a noble family in 1572 in Dijon, France. Her mother died when she was only 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, became the main influence in her education. She developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, as well as being blessed with a lively and cheerful temperament.
At the age of twenty-one, Jane married Baron de Chantal, with whom she had six children, three who died in infancy. At her castle, she restored the custom of daily Mass, and seriously devoted herself to various charitable works. However, after only seven years of marriage, her husband was killed in a hunting accident and died in her arms, and Jane sank into a deep state of depression for four months at her family home.
She ended up living with her father-in-law, which was a period of misery for her. She persevered, however, spending her free time in prayer, and taking a personal vow of chastity.
When she was thirty-two, she met Saint Francis de Sales, who became her spiritual director. She expressed her desire to become a spiritual sister, but he persuaded her to defer this decision, and she took a vow to remain unmarried and to follow his wishes.
After three years, Francis told her of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established religious communities. This new Order would primarily be intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation; hence their name, the Visitation nuns who were to exemplify humility and meekness.
After insuring that her children were well cared for, and under Saint Francis de Sales’ guidance, Jane founded the Congregation of the Visitation of Holy Mary, which was canonically established at Annecy, France on Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1610. She spent the rest of her life overseeing the Order, founding over 80 convents, while acting as spiritual advisor to any who desired her wisdom, as her reputation for sanctity was widespread.
Sister Jane Frances passed away from natural causes on December 13, 1641, while visiting the Visitation convent at Moulins, France. She was canonized a saint in 1767 by Pope Clement XIII. Her remains are venerated with that of Saint Francis de Sales in the Basilica of the Visitation in Annecy.
We commemorate her feastday on August 12.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Jane Frances de Chantal)
“Lord, You chose Saint Jane Frances to serve You both in marriage and in religious life. By her prayers, help us to be faithful in our vocation and always to be the light of the world.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”