When our first daughter was born, my husband and I were drawn to the name Jane, but we also really wanted to name her after a saint. Neither of us knew of any saints by the name of Jane, until a dear friend directed us to her own patroness, Saint Jane Frances de Chantal.
After learning just a bit about her at the time, I was committed.
This woman was an amazing example of someone we would want our daughter to follow. She was educated in both traditional feminine subjects and finances. She had a loving marriage, was a mother of four surviving children, and ran an estate as a Baroness. Later, she founded a religious order for women along with her spiritual director Saint Francis de Sales and was a spiritual mother to many people. She suffered many losses in her life (her mother at age 18 months, her husband after only seven years of marriage, and only one of her children survived her), yet she remained devoted to Jesus and a life of service to Him.
I have since become more acquainted with the spirituality of Francis de Sales and Jane Frances, and she is a beautiful example for modern Catholic women.
She had a family, ran multiple estates, and later an entire order, and never felt like she had to retreat from the world to serve God, but could love Him in her greatest capacity exactly where he placed her! The Salesian spirituality reminds me a lot of the spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva. I believe these three would really mesh well as contemporaries. From these three, I have learned that in my vocation as a wife and mother, and in my career as a pediatrician, I can find God and seek to live a devout life, even in the busyness of ordinary life.
“Vive Jesus!” was written on the top of every letter that Saint Jane Frances wrote.
This was her motto and the motto of the Visitation sisters, that she founded with Saint Francis de Sales. To “Live Jesus,” was to surrender one’s entire self (thoughts, actions, works, devotions, etc) to the living presence of Jesus. They based their order on the little virtues depicted in the Gospel narrative of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Their’s would be an home for women who weren’t fit for the more austere orders, either due to age or infirmity, or even simply because they were not totally free of family ties or responsibilities. In her work, Saint Jane Frances was able to pursue her spiritual devotion while still working out her responsibilities to her children (one even went with her when the order was first established).
Finally, an important aspect of Salesian spirituality is the focus on small things and the little virtues of gentleness, meekness, humility and simplicity.
“Patiently enduring the pains of work rather than observing long fasts, practicing charity toward an unlikable neighbor rather than wearing a hair shirt, curbing the immoderate impulses of one’s own heart rather than violently assaulting one’s sensual flesh—these are the preferred methods of Salesian asceticism,” (from the Introduction of Francis deSales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction).
Just as St. Escriva tells us, St. Jane Frances shows us that it is possible to offer our utmost for His highest even in the ordinariness of everyday life, and through our pursuit of these virtues, we will live Jesus more fully.
We cannot always offer God great things, but at each instant we can offer him little things with great love.” —St. Jane de Chantal