St. Jeanne de Chantal
Cofounder of the Order of the Visitation
Jeanne de Chantal was born into a wealthy family in Dijon, France. She married a baron at the age of twenty and bore seven children (three of whom died in infancy). In 1600 her life took a tragic turn when her husband was killed in an accident. In the following years, as she struggled with her children’s upbringing, her heart increasingly turned to religious life. She vowed that she would never again marry.
In 1604 she heard a sermon by the holy bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales. This was a turning point in her life, the beginning of a deep spiritual friendship and partnership that would advance them both along their paths to sanctity. Francis taught that the spiritual life was for everyone, not just for monks and nuns. Jeanne immediately responded to his message and asked him to become her spiritual director. After several years they founded the Order of the Visitation of Mary, a congregation dedicated to prayer and works of charity. Jeanne proved a gifted superior, combining superb administrative skills with a profound instinct for the spiritual life. “No matter what happens,” she wrote, “be gentle with yourself.” In her lifetime the order grew to include eighty communities in several countries. She died in 1641 at the age of sixty-nine.
“Sometimes put yourself very simply before God, certain of His presence everywhere, and without any effort, whisper very softly to His sacred heart whatever your own heart prompts you to say.” —St. Jeanne de Chantal