Jane Frances Fremiot de Chantal was the foundress of the Order of the Visitation of Mary. She was born in 1572 and came from a noble family, her father gave her in marriage to the Baron von Chantal in 1592. As mother she most zealously instructed the children in the ways of virtue and piety and in the observance of every divine precept. With great generosity she supported the poor and took special joy in seeing how divine Providence often blesses and increases the smallest larder. Therefore she made a vow never to refuse anyone who asked for alms in the Name of Christ.
The death of her husband, who was accidentally shot while on the chase (1601), she bore with Christ-like composure and with all her heart forgave the person who had killed him; then she acted as sponsor for one of his children in order to show her forgiveness openly. There was a holy friendship between her and her spiritual guide, Francis de Sales; with his approval she left her father and children and founded the Visitation nuns.
Thus, too, it should be with us—firm yet forgiving, and each at the proper place and in the proper measure. Our zeal must not make us hard, fanatic; neither may love degenerate into sentimentalism. In fundamentals, in faith, and in the commandments we must be firm, immovable, with no trace of tolerance; but in our contacts with men, patient, forgiving, tender, conciliatory. The Christian ought be firm and resolute as a father, mild and self-sacrificing as a mother. This tension between complementary virtues we find exemplified in a heroic degree in St. Jane Frances de Chantal.
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.
“Love! love! love! my daughters; I know nothing else.” Thus did Jane de Chantal, the glorious cooperatrix of St. Francis in establishing the Visitation of holy Mary, often cry out in her latter years. “Mother”, said one of the sisters, “I shall write to our houses that your charity is growing old, and that, like your godfather St. John, you can speak of nothing but love.” To which the saint replied: “My daughter, do not make such a comparison, for we must not profane the saints by comparing them to poor sinners; but you will do me a pleasure if you tell those sisters that if I went by my own feelings, if I followed my inclination, and if I were not afraid of wearying the sisters, I should never speak of anything but charity; and I assure you, I scarcely ever open my mouth to speak of holy things, without having a mind to say: Thou shalt love the Lord with thy whole heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.”