The Universal Call to Prayer and Holiness

St. Francis

The Rosary Card is another example of a long line of writing Christian messages in tiny spaces. This is a tradition dating as least as far back as Saint Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622).

Francis lived during the Protestant reformation and took on the task of bringing Calvinists back to the Catholic Church. He carried out his mission in Switzerland for three years, often being harassed and having doors slammed in his face. To overcome the closed doors, Francis began to write tiny pamphlets to explain the truth of Catholic doctrine and slipped them under the doors. This is one of the first examples of religious tracts being used to communicate the Catholic faith to people who had fallen away from the Church. Historians believe that Francis was eventually able to bring some 40,000 people back to the Catholic Church.

His talent for writing the pamphlets became a vocation. He began to give spiritual direction first through letters and later through published books. His most famous book was Introduction to the Devout Life, written in 1608 for ordinary people. In a way, his work became the groundwork for the teaching of the "universal call to holiness" advanced in the Second Vatican Council. Francis believed that every Christian is called to holiness and sanctity. All people could become more and more like Jesus Christ, no matter their job or station in life. He believed that the key to holiness in the experience of daily life was prayer.

His advice was radical for his time: "Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others and talk to God." His instruction was not just for the clergy or those who withdrew from the world but for everyone. By taking time out each day for meditation and contemplation, he believed everyone could grow in their love of God.

St. Francis de Sales was beatified on January 8, 1661, and canonized on April 19, 1665, by Pope Alexander VII. In honor of his religious tracts and books, in 1923, Pope Pius XI named St. Francis de Sales the patron saint of Catholic writers and the Catholic press.

"By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God."
-- St. Francis de Sales

Photo by Joao Vitor Marcilio