Saints and Theology of the Heart- Saint Jane de Chantal

Santa Juana Chantal
Co-Founder of the Visitation Order
Santa Juana
Feast Day : December 12th (Europe) or August 18th (United States)

"May the Lord grant me the grace to live and to die in His Sacred Heart"


Family Life

The father of St. Jane de Chantal was Benigno Frémiot, president of the parliament of Borgoa. Mr. Fremiot had become a widower when his children were still small, but he did not spare any effort to educate them in the practice of virtue and to prepare them for life.

Jane received in her confirmation the name of Frances, undoubtedly she was the one who most appreciated the magnificent education she was given. When she turned 20 years old her father, who loved her dearly, gave her in marriage to the Baron of Chantal, Christopher de Rabutin. The Baron was 27 years old and an officer of the French army and had a long history of victorious battles; his mother was a descendent of the Blessed Humbelina.

The marriage took place in Dijon and Jane Francis left with her husband to Bourbilly. Since the death of his mother, the Baron had not lead an orderly life. For this reason the servants of his house were accustomed to a lack of discipline; consequently the first concern of the brilliant Baroness was to establish order in her house.

The first three children of the couple died shortly after birth; but the young spouses later had a boy and three girls. They had all the possible means to be happy in the eyes of the world and they tried to correspond to God’s blessing.

When her husband was absent, the Baroness dressed in a very modest way. If someone was to ask her why, she responded: “The eyes of who I want to please are very far away.” St. Francis de Sales said in regard to St. Jane de Chantal: “Madame Chantal is the strong woman that Salomon was not able to find in Jerusalem.”

An encounter with suffering

The family happiness lasted only nine years. In 1601, the Baron de Chantal went hunting with his friend, Mr. D’Aulezy, who accidentally wounded him in the upper part of his leg. The Baron lived nine days, suffering a true martyrdom in the hands of clumsy surgeons. He received the last sacraments with exemplary resignation.

The Baroness only lived for her husband. We can imagine her pain of becoming a widow at the age of 28. During four months she was immersed in pain, until a letter from her father reminded her of her obligations to her children. To reassure Mr. D’Aulezy whom she forgave from the heart, the Baroness offered him many services and was even the godmother of one of his children. She doubled the alms for the poor and dedicated her time to the education and instruction of her children.

Jane asked God constantly to give her a holy spiritual director, capable of helping her perfectly fulfill God’s will. Once after repeating this prayer, she suddenly saw a man whose features and dress she would later recognize at her encounter in Dijon with Saint Francis de Sales. On another occasion, she saw herself in a forest trying to find a Church in vain. By this she understood that divine love had to consume the imperfection of self love she had in her heart, obliging her to encounter numerous difficulties. The future saint spent the year of mourning in Dijon, in the house of her father. Later, she moved with her children to Monthelon, near Autun, home of her 75 year old father-in-law. She exchanged her beautiful house of Bourbilly for an old castle. Even though her father-in-law was an old, conceited, proud and extravagant person, dominated by his housekeeper with a bad and insolent reputation, the noble lady never complained and made an effort to show joy and kindness at all times.

In 1604, St. Francis de Sales preached the Lenten Sermons in Dijon and Jane went with her father-in-law to hear the famous preacher. At that moment she recognized the man as the one in her vision and understood that he was the spiritual director she so often asked the Lord for.

St. Frances would often have dinner in Jane Francis’ father’s house, and here is where he won her confidence. She desired to open her heart to him, but hesitated because of a vow she had made that was recommended by an indiscreet spiritual director who forbade her from opening her conscience to another priest. However, she did not let this prevent her from taking advantage of the holy bishop’s presence, who at the same time was very impressed by the pious devotion of Jane Francis.

On one occasion she dressed more elegantly than usual, and St. Francis de Sales said to her: “Do you ever think of remarrying?” “By no means, your Excellency,” she replied. “Then I recommend you not to tempt the devil,” the saint said to her. Jane Francis followed his advice.

After defeating her scruples about the indiscreet vow, Jane obtained the grace to have St. Francis de Sales as her spiritual director. At his recommendation she moderated some of her devotions and exercises of piety in order to fulfill her obligations in the world because she lived with her father and father-in-law. She did it so well that someone said: “This lady is capable of praying all day without bothering anyone.” Following a strict rule of life, consecrated for the most part to her children, she visited the sick in the area and spent entire nights in vigils next to the agonizing and dying.

The benevolence and meekness of her character demonstrated how far she responded to the demands of grace since her natural character was firm and strong, with a certain harshness and rigidity. She conquered this through long years of prayer, suffering and patient submission to spiritual direction.

This was the work of St. Francis de Sales, whom Jane Francis visited on and off in Annecy and with whom she had fruitful correspondence through letters. The saint helped her in moderating the corporal mortifications, reminding her of the example of Saint Charles Borromeo: “real charity is the foundation of liberty of spirit.” Borromeo did not hesitate to drink a toast with his neighbors, and St. Ignatius of Loyola calmly ate meat once on a Friday by recommendation of the doctor. Therefore a man of narrow spirit would have argued this order.

St. Francis de Sales did not allow his directee to forget she was still in the world, that she had an elderly father and above all, that she was a mother. He spoke to her frequently about the education of her children and moderating her tendency of being too strict with them.

Jane Francis’ children benefited from the spiritual direction of St. Francis de Sales as much as their mother did.

A dream come true

During some time, Mrs. de Chantal felt inclined to the conventual life for various reasons, among these was the presence of the Carmelites in Dijon. St. Francis de Sales after some time of discernment, consulted the situation with God and spoke to her in 1607 of his project to found the New Congregation of the Visitation. St. Jane joyfully embraced the project; but her father’s age, her personal family obligations and the house situations constituted for the moment obstacles which made her suffer much. Jane Francis responded to her spiritual director that the education of her children demanded her presence in the world. The saint responded that her children were no longer little and that from the cloister she was better able to care of them, especially taken into account that the two elders were old enough to “enter the world.” In this logical and serene way, St. Francis resolved all the difficulties of Mrs. Chantal.

Before abandoning the world, Jane Francis married her eldest daughter to the Baron of Thorens, brother of St. Francis de Sales, and took with her to the convent her two youngest daughters; the first died shortly afterwards, and the second was later married to a gentleman from Toulonjon. Celso Benigno, her eldest son, was in charge of caring for his grandfather and several guardians of the house. After saying goodbye to her friends, Jane went to say goodbye to Celso Benigno. The young man tried in vain to persuade her from entering the convent- he lay flat on the ground in front of the lintel of the door of the room in order to block the entrance, but the saint didn’t allow this temptation to interfere with her decision, and she stepped over the body of her son. Her elderly father waited for her in front of her house; Jane Francis kneeled and cried asking for her father’s blessing. The elderly man put his hands on her head and said: “I cannot reproach your actions, go with my blessing. I offer you Lord, my daughter, as Abraham offered Isaac, whom he loved so much as I love you. Go where God calls you and be happy in His house. Pray for me.”

The saint inaugurated the new convent on Blessed Trinity Sunday in the year 1610, in a house St. Francis de Sales had given to her near the lake of Annecy. The first followers of Jane Francis were Maria Favre, Carlota de Brechard and a servant named Ana Coste. Shortly after, 10 more religious entered.

At this point the congregation had no name and the only clear idea St. Francis de Sales had about the congregation’s purpose was that it should be a source of refuge to those who couldn’t enter other congregations and that the religious sisters should not live in cloister in order to dedicate themselves to apostolic works of charity.

Naturally, the idea provoked strong opposition by those incapable of accepting something new. St. Francis de Sales modified his plans and accepted the cloister for his religious. To the rule of St. Augustine he added his constitution, admirable for its wisdom and moderation, not too rigid for the weak and not too easy for the strong. The only thing he refused to change was the name of the Congregation of the Visitation of Our Lady; St. Jane Francis exhorted him to acknowledge this point. The saint wanted humility and meekness to be the base of the religious observance. “But in practice,” he said to the religious, “humility is the fountain of all other virtues; don’t limit humility, make of it the principal one of all your actions.”

Fountain of love and joy

For the wellbeing of St. Jane and the most experienced sisters, St. Francis wrote the book: Treatise on the Love of God. St. Jane progressed so much in this virtue under the direction of St. Francis de Sales that he permitted her to do a vow, allowing her to make in all occasions, decisions according to her judgement what is most perfect in the eyes of God. The saint prudently governed her community, inspired with the spirit of her director. Mother de Chantal had to leave Annecy frequently to found new convents as well as to fulfill several family obligations. After receiving her habit, she was obliged to spend three months in Dijon, because of her father’s death, to put his affairs in order. Her relatives took advantage of the occasion to see her again.

An unknown woman upon seeing her exclaimed: “How can you bury yourself in two meters of fabric? You should tear to pieces that veil!” St. Francis de Sales wrote to her these decisive words: “If you had remarried a gentleman from Gascuna or Brittany, you would have abandoned your family and no one would have opposed it one bit.”

After the foundation of the convents in Lyons, Moulins, Grenoble and Bourges, Francis de Sales, who was in Paris at the moment, called Mother de Chantal to found a new convent in Paris. Among intrigues and opposition, St. Jane Francis founded the convent in 1619. God sustained and gave her strength to gain the admiration of her enemies with patience and meekness. She herself governed the convent in Paris for three years under the direction of St. Vincent de Paul. There she met Angelica Arnauld, the Abbes of Port-Royal who renounced her office with permission and entered the Congregation of the Visitation.

A painful loss

In 1622, St. Francis de Sales died and his death constituted a harsh blow for Mother de Chantal; but her resignation to Divine Will helped her embrace all with invincible patience. The saint was buried in the Convent of the Visitation in Annecy. In 1627, Celso Benigno died in the Island of Re during the battles against the English and Calvinists. Mother de Chantal’s son was only 31 years old, leaving behind his widowed wife and a one year old daughter, who years later was to become the famous Madame de Sevigne.

St. Jane de Chantal received the news of her son’s death with heroic fortitude and offered her heart to God and said: “Destroy, cut and burn all that opposes your holy will.” The following year, a terrible plague attacked France, Saboya and Piamonte and several convents of the Visitation. When the plague arrived at Annecy, the saint refused to leave the city, she put all of her convent’s resources in the hands of authorities in order to better assist the people. In 1632, the widow of Celso Benigno died and so did Antonio de Toulonjon (he was the son-in-law of the saint whom she loved very much). Father Michael Favre, confessor of St. Francis de Sales and a dear friend of the Visitation, also died. To all these trials, anguish, darkness and spiritual aridity were added to the life of St. Jane de Chantal. God sometimes permits these things in souls most dear to Him; but according to St. Jane de Chantal’s letters, God guided her by the hand to the fountain of happiness and light.

Death of St. Jane de Chantal

In the years of 1635, 1636, the Saint visited all the convents of the Visitation, 65 at the time. Many of them had not had the grace and consolation of meeting her. In 1641, she went to France to see Madame de Montemorency on a charity mission. This was her last trip. The Queen Ann of Austria invited her to Paris, with honors and distinctions. This was quite a surprise for her. Upon her return she became ill in the convent of Moulins where she died on December 13th, 1741 at the age of 69.

Her body was taken to Annecy and buried close to St. Francis de Sales. The canonization of St. Jane de Chantal was on 1767. St. Vincent de Paul said of her; “She was a woman of great faith, and had temptations against the faith all her life. Even though she appeared to have reached the peace and tranquility of spirit of virtuous souls, she suffered terrible interior trials which she communicated to me on several occasions. She seemed so harassed by abominable temptations that she had to take her eyes away from herself so as not to contemplate her unbearable state. To look at her soul horrified her as if it was an image of hell. But through these great sufferings she never lost her serenity, yielding with joy to what God wanted from her. That is why I consider her as one of the most holy souls I have met on earth.”


The majority of her exhortations were given in the lecture rooms of her convents in a formal way or to her spiritual daughters of the Order of the Visitation.

“You want to be humble, my daughter? Try to know yourself well; desire for others to know you as imperfect; love contempt, in all its forms and in any which way it may come. Don’t hide your defects; let them be known, accepting with love the abjection that will come by them. Never let your heart to be weakened because of a fault committed. Distrust self and trust only and continuously in God, persuaded that not able to do anything by yourselves, you can do all with His grace and powerful help.”

In a Christmas retreat:

“Jesus Christ is a great Lord, rich and powerful, who doesn’t have necessity of our goods. What gift can we give Him if the whole world is his? It is necessary to offer Him pure souls and clean hearts, white and empty of all earthly things; notice that our souls are to be very clean to be able to be offered to the Divine Child, who is born on this day, creator of all purity and holiness. This is the most pleasing gift we can give: a clean heart, contrite and humble. He only wants from us our hearts.”

About the qualities and affections we are to have in relation with our neighbor:

“My dear daughters, let us not have illusions; it is necessary that for our affection, to be blessed by God, it has to be equal and uniform for all, for our Savior has not ordered us to love some more than others, but He has said: Love your neighbor as yourself.

"Sometimes we think our affections are very pure; but before God it is very different; the affection that is all pure looks only at God, only aspires to God and does not pretend anything but God. I love my sisters because I see God in them and because God wants it this way . . . your charity is false if it is not equal, general and complete with all the sisters, this way your are to be gentle with one sister as well as with the other.

"The motive behind the love you profess for your sisters should only come from the womb of God; if it is outside of it, then it is worth nothing . . . . When this union with our sisters is more pure, more general and more complete, only then will our union with God be greater.”

Conferences given to the sisters in spiritual conversations during daily recreation, in an informal conversational way:

About the reformation of the soul:

“It is true my dear daughters, it is lack of self knowledge that amazes us when we see ourselves so lacking and with defect, because we presume or boast so much of ourselves, that we always expect something good; we deceive ourselves, and Our Lord himself allows us to fall, many times in a stupid, clumsy way, so we can know ourselves better. This knowledge of self consists in that we should believe, with certitude and faith, that we are nothing, we can do nothing; we are weak, feeble and imperfect. Decide in your will to love your misery and poverty. The reformation of the soul starts in self knowledge and confidence in God; our self knowledge will let us know we have many things to correct and reform and it cannot be done by our own efforts; confidence in God will let us hope in Him, we can do all in Him, and with His grace all things are possible and easy.”

Charity and purity of intention

“Perhaps at some time it will occur that a sister has bothered us, or did something not pleasing to us, or that simply we don’t have a liking for her. Another sister will come to us and speak well of her, and we might answer with half words putting down all the good. This will produce the effect of a drop of oil that falls on fabric, an incurable spot on the heart of the sister we are talking to. All the bad the sister might have done in consequence of this bad impression we have caused will be on our conscience, and we will be guilty of it and punished severely. God said he hates six things, but the seventh he abominates: those who divide hearts and plant discord among brothers.”

About self love and the harm it causes the soul

“When we have conquered ourselves we have done a good action, and feel some satisfaction and pleasure, this ruins everything, making us lose all if we are not careful. What a disgrace after making sacrifices, self denial of attitudes or words or any other thing, we end up satisfying ourselves! Never or rarely, is good done without some satisfaction and this is not bad in itself; what ruins all is to distract ourselves and to seek pleasure in it. What are we to do? We have to chase away and annihilate all thoughts of pleasure and vain satisfaction, humble ourselves and seek contempt, give God the glory for everything and recognize we can do nothing on our own. We are only to seek the Glory of God in everything and to do all to please Him.”

The saint transmitted to her daughters a profound love to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary. The instructions on prayer and spiritual life were directed to the novices and their mistresses. Concerning “the confidence we should have in the infinite wisdom, goodness and omnipotence of God” she said:

“ . . . . I was considering how Our Lord permitted that since the apostles time there exist heresies, and he tolerated the adoration of dogs, cats and other idols, as if they were true Gods; and to think we, miserable creatures that we are, want to be preferred among the rest; we want to be respected and praised, and we are annoyed when others are given more attention than we receive; and yet, behold the Son of God who suffered so much scorn and contempt.”

About the words of Our Lord:

“If someone wants to follow me, renounce self . . . ”“These words are the foundation of all Christian and religious perfection. To deny self is to renounce to all the will of the flesh, all our inclinations, desires, pleasures, satisfactions, softness, tastes, humor, preferences, habits, susceptibility, aversions and repugnance to rough things; in other words, to renounce in all and for all our perverse self. Fight to destroy your character, passions and inclinations; in one word, all your nature; and this, with energetic will, with generosity, and persevering mortification of all your being.

"It is necessary to know we are to only mortify the imperfect inclinations of bad things, and not the good or the tendency to the good; for example; I’m sent to do a task and I feel inclined to do another one; we have to mortify this inclination and submit it to obedience. But if I’m sent to do a task I like, we are not by any means to mortify our inclination and reject the task, but we are to offer God the work and say: I do it not because of the inclination I feel, but because obedience requests it (in the case of lay people: I do it for love of God or because it is my obligation).”

It is important to mention that all this advice on spiritual life given by the saint, were lived by her. As all the saints, with great joy and love, lived the commandments of God, not as an obligation, but with love: “everything is sweet as honey for those who love God,” as St. Francis de Sales said.

There is no doubt that in all the conversations and letters of St. Jane de Chantal, the most important thought was the greatest glory to God and the sanctification of souls.

We conclude by sharing a vision experienced by St. Vincent de Paul:

“St. Vincent de Paul told me: upon receiving the news of the seriousness of the illness of our Mother (St. Jane de Chantal), he kneeled to pray to God for her. The first thought he had was to do an act of contrition for the sins she had committed, and immediately after, a balloon of fire appeared, rising from the earth and was absorbed in the upper part of the air with another bigger and more luminous balloon. Both united into one and were elevated higher, burning and entering into the other balloon which was much bigger and more luminous than the rest; he knew interiorly that the first balloon was the soul of our dear Mother, and the second, of our Dear Blessed Father (St. Francis de Sales) and the other, the Divine Essence, the soul of our dear Mother united to our Father, and both, with God, their Sovereign Beginning.”

He narrated further: “in the celebration of Holy Mass for our dear Mother, as soon as I found out of her death, I started to pray for her, she might be in purgatory for certain words she had said some time ago, that to my judgment contained venial sin, and at an instant the vision returned, the same balloons and their union, and I had the interior conviction that the soul of our Mother was blessed, and did not need prayers.”

Finally, it is our desire that upon knowing her life and some of her teachings and visiting her remains in the Monastery of Annecy, France, people will come to love more and to desire the virtues of the Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother. Together with St. Francis de Sales, we pray that devotion to the these two holy Saints will lead to the Reign of the Two Hearts, marked by a life lived in authentic virtue, prayer and sacrifice.

Corazon Santa Juana Chantal


Relic of the Incorrupt Heart of Saint Jane de Chantal. Her eyeballs are also held in the hands of the angels. 
These relics are venerated in the Monastery of the Visitation in Nevers, France.

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