Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Liturgist.

On the feast of St Francis, here is a small passage from his biography:

(This takes place while Saint Francis was in exile from his episcopal see, as it was in the Protestant occupation)
On the 25th of May, Sunday of the Blessed Trinity according to Charles Augustus, the Bishop "went up into the pulpit and explained everything he wanted to be done for the solemn procession of the feast of Corpus Christi."
 But since he desired to himself to carry the Body of the Savior of the world (as was his duty), in which case it was necessary that he should be accompanied by the canons of his cathedral, it came to pass that the cannons of the collegiate church of Notre-Dame entered into an argument with them [the cathedral cannons] concerning the order of precedence; indeed the scandal went so far that the aldermen of the city even denied that the holy Bishop should carry the Blessed Sacrament since, they claimed, the cannons of Notre-Dame were the parish priests of the city and the cathedral cannons were outsiders, and no previous Bishop had ever tried such a thing.
 The response was immediate and conclusive. Francis de Sales replied strongly: "Neither I nor my cannons must be thought of as your opponents, and I certainly never thought I would hear you speak such words. Those who proceeded me in my office were weak, ill and aged; but as for me, by the grace of God I am strong and healthy, so why would I not carry the Body of my Lord and Master just as well as someone else? After all, while we are on the subject, do not forget that I am your bishop, and so I shall certainly do everything that belongs to the office of Bishop. The cannons of the cathedral are my senators and my counsellors, and I can hardly neglect to call upon them when I celebrate liturgical offices. This is what I have decided. If this decision causes you an injustice, we shall decide what to do about it later on.
In a tract dated the 27th of May, addressed to the dean of the chapter of Notre-Dame, the Bishop wrote:
 Reverend Dean,
 I insist, without the possibility of any reply whatsoever, that the cantors, subdeacon and thurifer whom you will assign should all be cannons, notwithstanding your usual customs, because those who fulfil these functions in my own Church are of that rank. I order you and your chapter to accept this decision in the name of holy obedience, sub poena excommunications latae sententiae.
In witness whereof I have signed the present letter.
Francis de Sales,
Bishop of Geneva. 

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