During this month when we remember the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, it is good to turn to Saint Francis de Sales who dedicated so much of his time and energy to bringing about unity. During his time in the Chablais, he worked tirelessly to bring Calvinists back to the Catholic faith. One of his unfulfilled desires was to evangelize England, in the wake of the schism caused by Henry VIII. Our spiritual father worked for unity at every level: among nations, religions, regions, townships and families. To be a Christian, in the mind of St. Francis de Sales, was to love and accept others and to abide with them in the Heart of Jesus.

It is no small coincidence that the feast of St. Francis de Sales falls during the Octave of Christian Unity. Francis, always holding fast to the truth he cherished, made many attempts at dialogue with Theodore Beza, the great Protestant scholar and theologian of his day. His only goal was winning souls for Christ.

Even when dealing with those with whom he disagreed, Francis de Sales was a model of gentleness and courtesy, teaching that “a gentle response pus away anger as water puts out fire.”

As always he lived by the maxim: “Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing so gentle as real strength.”