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Christians speak of "the presence of God," describing it in terms of joy, contentment, and peace even in the midst of life's violent storms. But are there any steps we can take to increase our awareness of God's nearness? One popular seventeenth-century preacher, Francis of Sales (1567-1622), said yes.

Francis came from a noble family in the castle of Sales, fifty miles southwest of Geneva, Switzerland. At 24, he had his doctorate in law, was admitted to the senate of Savoy, and could have looked forward to a career in government. Francis, however, chose the church. In December 1593, he was ordained a priest.

He volunteered for ministry near Geneva, where the Reformation controversy was raging. He had hopes of winning the "heretic Protestants" by Christian love. After four largely unsuccessful years, he was ready to return to Savoy. In 1598, his superiors chose him as bishop's coadjutor, and in 1602, they appointed him Bishop of Geneva.

His book, The Devout Life, covers a wide range of spiritual ...

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