Biography of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal
The Fourfold Saint
Jane Frances Fremiot, Baroness de Chantal, the foundress and first Mother Superior of the Order of the Visitation, is honored by the Church for the holiness of her youth, of her married life, of her widowhood, and of her life in religion.
Deprived in babyhood of the care of her pious mother, the little girl grew up under the wise guidance of M. Benigne Fremiot, President of the Senate of Dijon, a man worthy to be the father of a saint. Little Jane was a lively, intelligent child. Her father was pleased and proud to afford her every advantage proper to her age and social station. Her sister married early, leaving to Jane the position of mistress of the house. These responsibilities, met with grace and skill, helped to round out by domestic duties an unusually well balanced personality.
At the age of twenty-one, Jane married the young Baron de Chantal, who immediately placed her in charge of the management of his estate at Bourbilly. With courage and competence, she undertook and carried on these onerous duties to the satisfaction of all concerned. Saint Jane was a devoted wife and mother. When her husband was at home she did everything to please him, to entertain his friends, and to make his home delightful. When he was away, she ceased to entertain and gave herself entirely to the duties of her household and the training of her little ones.
In her twenty-eighth year, just after the birth of her youngest daughter, the Baron suffered one of those tragic accidents for which no one is ever prepared. Stalking a deer from an opposite direction, a good friend of the Baron, mistaking movements in the brush for the animal they were hunting, fired the fatal shot that was to end the happy career of his young host
Nothing could exceed the distress of his widow. Slowly and painfully she resumed the labors of directing the affairs at Bourbilly, saw to the settling of the estate, and considered what would be best for the future of her little family, a son and three daughters, all of tender age. Then, on the demand of her father-in-law, she went to live with him. For seven years she was the victim of this old man’s whims and unreasonableness, bearing the arrogance of his housekeeper, and employing her days in service and charity and prayer.
Troubled with anxiety to know God’s Will, she finally came under the direction of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva. To each of these chosen souls had been vouchsafed a vision of the other, so that when they finally met it was with sudden and happy mutual recognition. Provision being made for the settlement of her worldly affairs and for the future establishment of her children, the Baroness de Chantal went to Annecy to be Mother Superior of the little group that was to become the Sisters of the Visitation.
St. Jane de Chantal died at the age of sixty-nine, on December 13, 1641, after having served the most of that time as Mother Superior of the Convent of Annecy. Many miracles are attested as having been performed through her prayer during life, and many more since the time of her holy death. She was canonized by Pope Clement XIII on July 16, 1767. Pray to her whose motherly heart never has been known to refuse help to the needy, comfort to the afflicted, or advice and assistance to those in temporal or spiritual difficulty.
St. Vincent de Paul wrote of her:
“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.”
From her writings
“Above all we must love the good pleasure of God, accepting with equanimity things both agreeable and things painful, trusting everything to Him Who disposes of all things for the good of His children.”
“How delightful it is to see the servants of God gaining their livelihood by the labor of their hands, and having no other tomorrow than that of Divine Providence!”
“To pay no attention to an injury heals more evil in an hour than revengeful thoughts could ever bring to pass.”
“The life of man is deceitful and short. Eternity approaches. Let us advance towards it by a faithful practice of those virtues which, by the grace of God, may obtain for us its happy possession.”
“Though we should fall fifty times a day, let us rise again quite simply, without wasting thought in self-reflections on what we may have done or left undone. Such useless discouragements are often greater faults than the ones that so disturb us.”
“If we follow His plans for us, though heaven and earth should be overturned, in truth it does not matter whether we suffer or enjoy, so long as the Divine Will be accomplished.”
Novena to St. Jane Frances
O glorious saint, blessed Jane Frances,
by fervent prayer, attention to the Divine Presence,
and purity of intention,
you attained on earth an intimate union with God.
Be now our advocate, our mother,
our guide in the path of virtue and perfection.
Plead our cause near Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
to whom you were so tenderly devoted, and whose holy virtues you so closely imitated.
Obtain for us, O amiable and compassionate Saint,
the virtues you deem most necessary for us;
an ardent love of Jesus in the most holy Sacrament,
a tender and filial confidence in His Blessed Mother,
and like you, a constant remembrance
of His sacred Passion and death.
Obtain also, we pray, that our particular intention in this novena may be granted.
V. Pray for us, O holy St. Jane Frances,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray: O almighty and merciful God, who granted to blessed St. Jane Frances, so inflamed with love of you, a wonderful degree of fortitude through all the paths of life, and through her, were pleased to adorn your church with a new religious Order, grant by her merits and prayers that we, who sensible of our weakness confide in your strength, may overcome all adversity with the help of your heavenly grace, through Christ Our Lord.
Prayer to Saint Jane Frances de Chantal
Saint Jane, you forgave the man who killed your husband. Help me learn to forgive a particular person in my life who has caused me harm. You know how difficult it is to forgive. Help me to take the steps you took to welcome this person back into my life. Amen
St. Jane Frances de Chantal Memorial: August 18 (In the rest of the world, St. Jane Frances is remembered on December 12. In the USA, Jane Frances de Chantal’s feast day was moved to August 18 in order to celebrate the patron of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe, on December 12.)
Born at Dijon, France, Jan. 28, 1572; Died at the Visitation Convent Moulins, December 13, 1641