The Bishop of Geneva

On December 8, 1602 Francis de Sales was consecrated Bishop of Geneva. Due to the Protestant Reformation, he resided in Annecy (France).  Committed to spreading the teaching of the Council of Trent, he would use his position to educate his diocese in the doctrines of the Church.  He preached frequently, too much so for some high-brow tastes (like his father’s), and his sermons became known for their manifold eloquence. He organized diocesan synods, reorganized administrative structures, and initiated the practice of parish visitations, twice visiting the entirety of his diocese. He also formed the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) and personally taught catechism classes, even to the point of inventing a type of sign language by which he taught prayers to a young man born deaf (for which he would later be named Patron of the Deaf). He was, without doubt, a very personable pastor beloved by all in his flock.

We find here a lesson for today -- that people come first! It would have been easy for the bishop to avoid the degradations and the complications of diocesan affairs, by removing himself to the safe confines of an episcopal mansion or hiding behind increased layers of bureaucratic structure. But Francis de Sales practiced a very direct and personal "contact" with all the people in his care, commoner and scholar alike, saints and sinners together. And not everything he did was a success. Sometimes even the best-laid plans fail. So be it. He, and we, must move on, confident that the good Lord will provide.

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