These August Women: The Witness of St. Jane Frances de Chantal

augustdefinitionWho can’t help but smile at such a sweet moment as the one from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves? As the little men prepare to leave home for work, they file off, each receiving a kiss on the forehead from the gentle princess. Thinking he can make the most of this scenario, the silliest of the seven, Dopey, after being kissed, bolts again and again to the end of the line, hoping Snow White will fail to notice. She does notice, but kisses him just the same.

A similar image is drawn from the life of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, whose feast we celebrate August 12.

Hagiographers have recounted the story of St. Jane’s generosity in bestowing alms on the poor. Handing out food at her doorstep, Jane would never refuse those who came for more—even if it meant they had circled the house to reenter the line! When asked how she could permit this, Jane compared herself to the poor, repeatedly begging for God’s grace again and again. If He never turned her down, how could she fail to emulate God’s generosity?

JaneDeChantalSt. Jane is remembered by the Church for her service to the poor, her friendships with St. Francis de Sales and St. Vincent de Paul (both served as her spiritual director at different times), and as the foundress of the Visitation Order.  Her deep spirituality is revealed in many letters exchanged with St. Francis, but her goodness and humor shine through as well.

A model for all lay women, St. Jane reminds us today that our energy is well spent directed toward the good of others. Her remarkable list of achievements pales when considered in the light of her loving witness of charity.

With her example in mind, may we too bestow the love of Christ on all we meet, and in particular the poor and forgotten.


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