St. Francis of Sales, communicator-pastor

24 January 2018

Gathering with the bishops of Peru, the Pope began his message speaking of the great bishop Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo, proposing him as an example of a pastor: "He wanted to go to the other (river) bank in search of those who were faraway and those who were missing. To this end, he had to leave the comforts of the bishopric and travel across the territory entrusted to him, in continuous pastoral visits, trying to reach and stay wherever he was needed (...). Today we would call him a 'street' bishop. A bishop with the soles of his shoes consumed by walking, from encounters to announce the Gospel to everyone, in all places, on all occasions, without delay, without repulsion and without fear."

Speaking of this pastor, the Pope reminds us of many pastors; among them St. Francis de Sales, an innovative man and communicator par excellence, who in his time sought the way to bring people to faith with profound creativity; he is considered a tireless communicator of truth and the Gospel through his simple hand-made writings distributed door-to-door, house after house.

Like all great communicators, he had an understanding of the language of his time, understood the concerns and experiences of his people, discovered their deepest needs; from there, he arrived at the truth.

These communicators and pastors who did not refuse or fail to see the tensions of their time, nor the differences within their people, came to perfectly understand that words and writings were not enough; they also intuited that if we want to reach the hearts and minds of people and truly communicate with them, it is necessary to transform one's own attitude of life, assume as one's own those very same values one wishes to communicate.

Saint Francis de Sales was aware that evangelization could not take place at any distance from charity; the best way to communicate the truth was to shape the gift of Jesus into his own life for the love of each and every man and make of his own person and his own life the means of transmitting the message.

Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo and Saint Frances de Sales lived in different social contexts, but both men shared this profound intuition of understanding the reality of their time, capable of sharing questions and doubts, able to walk a path, free themselves from any presumption of omnipotence and to humbly put themselves at the service of the common good.

Both serve as examples and challenges for Catholic communicators everywhere as every era stands as an invitation to learn in order to speak "giving reason of our hope", to spread the Gospel as the Pope proposes today: denouncing social injustices, promoting the unity of the Church, and speaking the current languages of today's young people.

Finally, both figures are examples of a Church that is constantly on the move, shepherds who wore out their shoes walking the streets and went wherever they were needed; both tried to reach the other shores, not only geographically, but existentially approaching those who were far away with the keen desire to meet and know them, to understand their needs and to propose the Gospel to them.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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