St. Jane Chantal, Widow and Nun
August 21 [Novus Ordo]


Daughter of the president of the Burgundy parliament, Benigne Fremyot, she was born on January 28 in Dijon, France. She married Baron Christopher de Chantal when she was twenty, and the couple had seven children by the time he died in a hunting accident in 1601. She was deeply affected by St. Francis de Sales when she heard him preach in 1604, recognized him from a vision she had had, and convinced him to become her spiritual director. She desired to enter the Carmelites but he convinced her not to do so and in 1607 explained to her his concept of a new congregation he wished to found. After making provision for her children and putting her affairs in order, she, Mary Favre, Charlotte de Brechard, and a servant, Anne Coste, were clothed by Francis in 1610 in a house on the shores of Lake Annecy, and the Congregation of the Visitation was founded for young girls and widows desirous of following a religious life but unable to follow the severe ascetic life that was customary in the religious houses of that time. Despite numerous difficulties, the order spread all over France, and in the following three decades more than sixty houses were founded. During the last years of her life, Jane experienced periods of spiritual aridity and more than once suffered the torments of the dark night of the soul. She died at Moulins on December 13 on her return from a trip to Paris to visit Queen Anne. Jane was buried at Annecy near St. Francis de Sales, and was canonized in 1767. It was for her and her nuns that St. Francis wrote his great spiritual classic On the Love of God. Her traditional Feast is December 12.