On January 24, we celebrated the feast of St. Francis de Sales, a very holy and amazing intercessor. The list of his patronage is long, however it does not include – as my husband’s horrible attempt at being funny suggested, that he is the patron of shopping (Get it? ‘de sales’… groan).
Though he does have quite a few other topics associated to him including authors, writers, and journalists, as well as media due to his incredible forward thinking in his work to evangelize France with pamphlets. One title especially close to my heart is his title Patron of the Deaf. As I have shared before, my beautiful daughter Faith, now 8, was adopted from China when she was just about four years old, and is profoundly deaf.
I first learned of St. Francis’ connection to the Deaf while at a conference the year before I adopted my daughter. I met the wonderful Brothers (and one Father) of the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales from Pennsylvania.
The Brothers were selling cards featuring the gorgeous artwork of their fellow Oblate Brother, Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS. They were the ones that introduced me to Martin, a “poor deaf mute” who St. Francis de Sales helped teach the faith through a signing system they created together.
That St. Francis did whatever was necessary to make the Sacraments available to this young man engulfs my heart, as I have encountered a similar experience as I teach my daughter the faith through the use of American Sign Language.
Here is an account of their sharing of faith together as told in The Spirit of St Francis de Sales by the Curé of Saint Sulpice:
When he [Martin] desired to go to confession, he would enter the bishop’s [St. Francis’] room, lead him into the chapel, make a motion to all who happened to be there to leave and then close all the doors and window; finally he would kneel down and by signs tell what he had done wrong, all the time weeping and striking his breast. The saintly confessor would mingle his tears with those of his penitent and exhort him by signs to lead a holy life and to have confidence in God.
St. Francis’ heart for the Deaf has certainly followed him into heaven. This summer while traveling with Boston Deaf Apostolate during World Youth Day, I had the great blessing of seeing that firsthand. Traveling with us was a sweet teenage boy who is deaf and autistic. He had only one desire since arriving in Rio - securing a HUGE Brazilian flag that he could wrap around himself.
He tried unsuccessfully for several days to trade our rubber wrist bands for one. One morning I remembered I had brought a pack of Don Bosco playing cards for our trip. I grabbed them out and brought them over to this young man, told him all about Don Bosco, shared my idea to try to use them to barter, and told him I'd prayed that the cards would bring him better luck in securing his longed-for flag.
After the morning catechesis session, he set out for lunch with several other pilgrims in our group. I was tired of being wet and cold and choose to stay behind and eat lunch in the Vivo Rio.
At 3 o'clock they all came rushing in, with my little friend at the front of the pack, WRAPPED IN THE BRAZILIAN FLAG!!! The cards had worked! Well, really, St. John Bosco's intercession had worked – or was it Don Bosco? The Patron Saint of the Deaf – St. Francis de Sale, also just happens to be the inspiration for Don Bosco’s order… The Salesians! We truly are living among the communion of Saints!
Copyright 2014 Allison Gingras
About the Author
Allison Gingras created the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV), including "The Gift of Invitation" and "Seeking Peace: A Spiritual Journey from Worry to Trust." Her ministry focuses on the grace of prayer, Scripture, and sacrament. Allison is the national WINE Steward for WINE: Women In the New Evangelization and hosts A Seeking Heart podcast.