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Francis de Sales was born in the Savoy district of France in 1567 and ordained a priest in 1593. The religious and political struggles of the time had placed under the control of Roman Catholic rulers several regions in which the people were mostly Protestants. Francis was sent to preach in one such region near his birthplace, attempting to persuade his hearers to become Roman Catholics. Since he was seen to be persuasive, he was appointed in 1602 to be Roman Catholic bishop of Geneva, a Calvinist stronghold which had been captured by the Roman Catholic Duke of Savoy. Here again, he brought many to his way of thinking. His motto was, “He who preaches with love, preaches effectively.” His numerous controversial tracts are unfailingly courteous to his opponents. Many Christians who are not at all convinced of the truth of the Romanist position by his arguments nevertheless read him with delight because of his obvious love for God and his neighbor.

By no means all of his writings were concerned with disputation. His best known and best loved treatises were concerned with the life of prayer, and were written to advise those who wish to become more aware of the presence of God in their lives. His Introduction to the Devout Life was highly praised by John Wesley. C.S. Lewis has referred to the “dewy freshness” that permeates the book. It is available in English, as is his The Love of God. Both have been used and found helpful by Christians of many different denominations.

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