St Jane Frances de Chantal; St Agapitus
by American Catholic | Source: www.americancatholic.org
St Jane Frances de Chantal
Jane Frances was wife, mother,
nun and founder of a religious community. Her mother died when Jane was 18 months old, and her
father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became the main influence on her education. She
developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament. At 21 she
married Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children, three of whom died in infancy. At her castle
she restored the custom of daily Mass, and was seriously engaged in various charitable
Jane´s husband was killed after seven years of marriage, and she sank into deep
dejection for four months at her family home. Her father-in-law threatened to disinherit her
children if she did not return to his home. He was then 75, vain, fierce and extravagant. Jane
Frances managed to remain cheerful in spite of him and his insolent housekeeper.
When she was
32, she met St. Francis de Sales (October 24), who became her spiritual director, softening some of
the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to
defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.
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
communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal
works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation
(hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.
The usual opposition to
women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community
following the Rule of St. Augustine. Francis wrote his famous Treatise on the Love of God for them.
The congregation (three women) began when Jane Frances was 45. She underwent great sufferings:
Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France; her daughter-in-law and
son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the
plague and she put all her convent´s resources at the disposal of the sick.
During a part of
her religious life, she had to undergo great trials of the spirit—interior anguish, darkness and
spiritual dryness. She died while on a visitation of convents of the community.
St. Vincent de Paul (September 27) said of Jane Frances: "She was full of
faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the
peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such
interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and
abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself... But for all that suffering her
face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I
regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth" (Butler's Lives of the
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