As the eldest of thirteen children raised in a family of nobility, Francis was educated in the finest traditions of humanism and the liberal arts. At the Chappuchin College in Annecy, he began his formal studies at age 9, with an emphasis on learning French language and literature. Having received the sacraments of Communion and Confirmation during this time, Francis also began his life-long devotion to the Church. That devotion was soon to be tested during his studies at the Clermont College, a Jesuit school in Paris where he was sent in 1578. There he pursued the "arts" of education (the classics, humanities, rhetoric, etc.) and of nobility (horsemanship, fencing, dancing, etc.), learning all that was expected of a young gentleman. But he also undertook, on his own, the study of theology. In 1586, after listening to the learned debates at the Sorbonne on the notion of predestination, Francis found himself mired in a personal "crisis" in which he feared that he would be eternally damned. Then and there he resolved to serve God completely throughout the whole of his life. For a young man of twenty years, this event was to become the defining moment in his life, one that would color his optimistic vision of the world and influence the hope-filled character of his writings.
What characterizes the education of this saint might well be described as a "natural goodness." Inspired by the beauty of the land around him, Francis would come to realize that the world is essentially good, that all things participate in the beauty and goodness of the Creator, and that human life itself was ordered to this beauty and goodness of God as its ultimate end. In our world today, scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs reflect the potential of creation. Yet, at the same time, these powerful advances run the risk of fragmenting our lives. The holistic and humanistic education that Francis received, and which he would later promote, serves to remind us of the over-arching plan of salvation that God has in store for our world as it waits to be re-born.
To read more about "The Christian Humanist" ...
► Francis de Sales, the Galileo Affair, and the Autonomy of Modern Science"
For more of the Salesian Legacy ...
► Celebrating the Bishop of Geneva
► Celebrating the Lawyer and Cathedral Provost
► Celebrating the Patron of Journalists and Writers
► Celebrating the Doctor of the Church