Born 30 miles south of Geneva in 1567, Francis de Sales had a crisis about where his life would end, when he was 19. He feared that he was destined for hell. But prayer and religious reading helped him to focus on free will alongside grace, and to keep in mind that Jesus is “the one who saves.” He came to emphasize our human capacity to love in the present moment and “the prior, unconditional goodness and love of God.” His writings about this won him the title of the Doctor of Divine Love. It is only because we have the power to love, he taught, that is, to go out to another for the other’s sake, that we humans can be the crowning point of creation (as in Col. 1:13 or Eph. 1.1). Through his friendship with Jeanne de Chantal, he set up the Visitation Sisters as a community of prayer, open to women whose health or age prevented them from joining an existing order.
His spirituality took some of its direction from Teresa of Avila, preferring gospel relationships to ecstasies or revelations. But his focus was also on friendship (using Augustine’s Confessions and Aelred of Rievaulx). Since peace should extend from the heart into all aspects of life, loyalty, generosity, respect and frank counsel would always be most valued. Peaceful joy makes us more affable and humble, more able to be a friend. Franciscan writers, Raymond Llull and Duns Scotus, also taught him to see that Christ not only begins our friendships but keeps them alive.