Back-Story of The Thonon Group (info-ethics)
January 26, 2003 marked the 80th anniversary of the naming of Francis de Sales as patron saint of Catholic journalists and writers. For the occasion, Fr. Herbert Winklehner, OSFS wrote a series of articles about Francis de Sales and his work in social communications. The following story, taken from that series, illustrates the innovativeness of our patron saint:
On October 2, 1594 the highest level of political power in the city Thonon, the capital of the Chablais region (southern Switzerland) had made the decision that every citizen who listened to the preaching of the cathedral provost of Geneva (Francis de Sales) would be sternly punished. This method of intimidation achieved its goal, for only a handful of daring souls was brave enough to put aside this prohibition and, despite the threat of punishment, still attend the sermons.
Francis de Sales declared his intentions in his letter of January 25, 1595, which he addressed to the councilmen: “Gentlemen, I have been preaching the word of God for some time now in your city. Your people can hear me only seldom and then only partially and in secret. For my part, in order not to overlook anything, I have seen to it that some of the more important fundamentals have been written down, fundamentals that I had chosen as the main theme of my sermons and talks in defense of the faith of the Church.”
Within a year there appeared a series of some 85 pamphlets, which were posted by the front doors of homes and distributed in public areas. In these pamphlets, Francis de Sales explains the more important truths of the teachings of the Catholic Church and exposes the errors of the heretics. He does this in such a brilliant way that the interest of the populace in the explanations of the young preacher grew tremendously. In just a few weeks, more and more people became less intimidated by the order of the councilmen, and they began to attend the sermons of Francis de Sales.
Pamphleteering was one of the reasons why Pope Pius XI later named Francis de Sales the Patron of Writers and Journalists for the entire Church.