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Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.

- Saint Jane Frances de Chantal (1572 - 1641)

Jeanne, as she is known in France, was born January 28, 1572 in Dijon, France. Her father was a semi-important political figure, the president of the Parliament of Burgundy. Jane's mother died when she was 18 months old, so the girl was raised by governesses.

At the age of 20, she was married to the Baron de Chantal. After the wedding, she discovered that her husband had inherited not only the title of Baron but an enormous pile of debt. Jane took charge, personally organizing and supervising every detail of the estate. Gradually, their finances were brought under control.

Despite their rough start, Jane and her husband grew to love each other. Jane shared her happiness by giving bread and soup to the poor who came to the door of their house. Sometimes, people who had just received food would pretend to leave, go around the house, and get back in line for more. When asked why she let them get away with it, Jane said, "What if God turned me away when I came back to him again and again with the same request?"

Unfortunately, the domestic bliss didn't last. The Baron was killed in a hunting accident, leaving 28-year-old Jane a widow and their four children fatherless. Jane, forced to live with her father-in-law (whose household was not kind to her), was heartbroken. She struggled for a long time to forgive her husband's friend for accidentally shooting him. Eventually, she forgave him so completely that she even became his child's godmother.

In her prayers, she asked God to send her a guide. God showed her a vision of the spiritual director he had in mind for her. During Lent, 1604, she visited her father at Dijon. Saint Francis de Sales was preaching nearby, at the Sainte Chapelle. She recognized him as the director God had shown her, and placed herself under his guidance. They begain a lively correspondence, and his spiritual encouragement was a great comfort to her in the next few years.

After her husband's death, Jane had taken a vow of chastity. For seven years, she lived in her father-in-law's house and was treated badly by both family members and servants. They tried to harrass her into remarrying. Instead, she finally left her home and her 15-year-old son to live a life completely devoted to God. Her son threw himself across the doorsill of the house in an attempt to keep her from leaving, but Jane had had enough. Not even her child's tears could persuade her to stay.

Jane went to Annecy, where she felt God was calling her to found a congregation. In 1610, with the help of her spiritual director, she founded the Order of the Visitation of Our Lady. The aim of the Order was to provide a place where women who were rejected from other orders because of their age or ill health could serve God. It was wildly successful. By the time Saint Francis de Sales died in 1622, there were 13 convents. There were 86 when Jane died, and 164 by the time she was canonized in 1767.

The remainder of the Jane's life was spent under the protection of the cloister. Though she was separated from her children, she remained a concerned mother and was plagued by the materialistic ways of one of her daughters and by her son's penchant for dueling.

She died in 1641, at sixty-nine years of age. Her memorial is celebrated on December 12, except in the U.S., where it was moved to August 18 so that Our Lady of Guadalupe (the patron of the Americas) could be celebrated on December 12. Saint Jane Frances de Chantal is the patron saint of forgotten people, in-law problems, loss of parents, parents separated from children, and widows. Although she isn't the patron saint of debt management, it probably wouldn't hurt to pray to her if you believe in that sort of thing and are having credit problems.

She was full of faith, and yet all her life long she had been tormented by thoughts against it. 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.

- Saint Vincent de Paul


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