Born: Jan. 28th, 1572
Died: Dec. 13th, 1641
FEast: Aug. 12th
widows, partners, parents separated from children, loss of parents, in-law problems, forgiveness
Frances de Chantal
Jane was born in Dijon, France in 1572. Though her mother died shortly after her birth, her father, a member of French Parliament, kept a lively, open, faith-filled household in which he encouraged his children to ask even difficult questions. She also was known to have a great sense of humor, always laughing, telling jokes, and being joyful about any circumstance. Jane took that faith and character with her into her marriage (after she had turned down two other men) to a man named Christophe. The two were deeply in love and the best of friends. They even managed to keep their relationship up so well even after Christophe inherited many debts along with the family property. Jane, however, took all the property accounts and managed them herself, soon getting the family out of debt and establishing relationships of trust with all caretakers involved.
One relationship that was very difficult for Jane was the one with her father-in-law, who would spend money carelessly and was cruel to her while her husband was away on trips. To add to her sufferings, Jane also lost several children immediately after birth, and, in an event that left her completely heart-broken, her husband was killed in a hunting accident only 7 years after their wedding.
Jane fell into a depression for 4 months, returning to her father's home until her father-in-law angrily summoned her back to his own castle where he demanded she live to take care of him.
Jane, however, had met St. Francis de Sales while she had been back in Dijon when he preached at a service to which her father took her. She recognized him from dreams she had been having - and he did, too! They began to write letters to each other and became great friends. Jane wanted to enter religious life, but Francis dissuaded her from it for the time being.
In that time, Jane won over both her father-in-law and his equally cruel housekeeper with her goodness after a long 7 years. She also forgave the man who had accidentally killed her husband by taking small steps at first until finally she was able to invite him to dinner and she even became the godmother to one of his children! She also spent the time, as she had since her marriage, personally feeding the hungry members of the community that came to her door for food each day. Sometimes, when people came to her twice and lied about having been there before, her neighbors criticized her for giving them more food anyway.
She asked them if Jesus would ever turn her away, even after she came to him over and over with the same problems.
Soon, Francis and Jane began to establish a religious order together for women who had been rejected from other ones. Jane accepted them no matter how old, sick, or misunderstood they were. She famously remarked, when questioned about this, that she liked sick people, and were on their side. They designed the order for the women to be able to serve the community, but, because it was not popular for women to be allowed to do this in this time, the public outcry forced them to re-write the Order as a cloistered one. Many people came to her for advice and direction, including one of her daughters she had worried about, and even her brother who had become an archbishop.
Jane's sufferings were not yet over, however. After the death of Francis de Sales, her son was killed, her daughter-in-law and son-in-law also died, and a plague ripped through France. She spent the remaining years of her life caring for the plague victims and writing to government leaders to get them to do all they could in their power for the victims as well.
Her cheerful, friendly, and humorous nature were able to last despite all these trials because of the joy she found in her faith and the freedom she felt in owning nothing and choosing to give away whatever she could. It had also won over the hearts of many people, and many wealthy donors allowed her to grow the Order substantially by the time she passed away.
No one shows us better than you how much laughter and cheerfulness can do. Through loss, suffering, rejection, and family struggles, your friendly and funny personality enabled you to continue to love, forgive, and be a great friend. Help us to make our own way with joy, never cease to give, and let ourselves give all our worries to God.
Jane had more things taken away from her than many of us could imagine, and that pain, no doubt, was apparent. But her humor, intelligence, faith, and patience brought her a little peace, and I wanted that tiny joy to be on her face as well. SHe holds a heart-shaped necklace in symbolism of the loss of her great loves.