Francis de Sales Brings Back 60,000
Author's note: This series of articles is partially inspired by Patrick Madrid's "Search and Rescue" which is one of the best books I have read on "how to bring family and friends into - or back into - the Catholic Church."
During a recent mission to Oman in the Middle East, I was surprised to see the Catholic Church sitting right next to a Protestant Church with not even a wall to separate them. I thought it would be really wonderful if some of our Protestant brothers were to come for my talks, but it seemed that a wall wasn't necessary to define boundaries; they were very clearly defined, and none of them seemed prepared to cross over the divide and listen to a Catholic preacher.
The same is not the case for our Catholic brothers, however, who - for a variety or reasons, often very silly - make a continuous bee line towards the other side. There, they find themselves impressed by what they imagine to be sound Scriptural teaching and do not return, convinced the Catholic Church is wrong about everything.
This steady, largely one-way exodus has been going on for centuries, and seems to have stepped up pace lately. I am certain we all know at least one person who has turned away from the Catholic faith and become Protestant. Though we all lament this, it seems to me that we merely wring our hands in collective helplessness rather than take steps to bring them back.
Part of the reason for this is that we don't feel confident about sharing our faith, but the main reason we don't take any steps to bring our lost brothers and sisters back is because we don't believe we can! We might want to take encouragement from a man who was a legend in his time - and in ours too - who brought thousands back to the Church. His name was Francis de Sales.
Francis was born at the de Sales castle in Savoy, France on August 21, 1567. His wealthy family provided him with an excellent education. By the age of 24, Francis was a doctor of law. He returned to Savoy and though he led a hard-working life, he kept feeling the urge to become a priest. When he finally shared his calling with his family, they were very disappointed, especially his father who wanted him to become a great man of the world. But God won and Francis became a priest on December 18, 1593.
Soon thereafter, Francis upset his father again when he asked to be sent to the Chablais region in southeastern France. Chablais had been largely converted to Protestantism by John Calvin. There was a Catholic presence in the region, but the hatred for the Catholics was so intense, it was a dangerous place to be in. His father said it was bad enough he had permitted Francis to become a priest; he was not going to let him become a martyr as well. Overriding his father's objections Francis got himself a posting there and began evangelizing.
Before he died (of natural causes), Francis had helped to bring back 60,000 (yes, that's sixty thousand!!) people back to the Catholic Church!
How did he do it? Through the attributes of a true apostle: prayer, a complete trust in God, humility, patience and perseverance, and love. We'll look at each attribute in the weeks ahead.
May the Spirit be with you.
Copyright © Aneel Aranha. All rights reserved.