At 20 years old, Jane married Christophe, a baron whom she soon found out was under a mountain of debt.
Armed with her faith and humor (a friend once said, “Even stupid jokes were funny when she told them”), she took charge by personally organizing and supervising every detail of the estate, a method which not only brought the finances under control but won her employees’ hearts as well.
Despite the early financial worries, she and her husband shared “one heart and one soul.” They were devoted to each other and to their four children. She shared her blessings by giving bread and soup personally to the poor who came to her door. Often, people who had just received food from her would pretend to leave, go around the house and get back in line for more. When asked why she let these people get away with this, Jane said, “What if God turned me away when I came back to him again and again with the same request?”
Her happiness was shattered when Christophe was killed in a hunting accident. Before he died, her husband forgave the man who shot him, saying to the man, “Don’t commit the sin of hating yourself when you have done nothing wrong.” The heartbroken Jane, however, had to struggle with forgiveness for a long time. At first, she tried just greeting him on the street. When she was able to do that, she invited him to her house. Finally, she was able to forgive the man so completely that she even became godmother to his child.
These troubles opened her heart to her longing for God and she sought God in prayer and a deepening spiritual life. Her commitment to God impressed St. Francis de Sales, the bishop who became her director and best friend. Their friendship started before they even met, for they had seen each other in dreams, and continued in letters throughout their lives.
With Francis’ support, Jane founded the Visitation order for women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. She even accepted a woman who was 83 years old. When people criticized her, she said, “What do you want me to do? I like sick people myself; I’m on their side.” She believed that people should have a chance to live their calling regardless of their health.
Still a devoted mother, she was constantly concerned about the materialistic ways of one of her daughters. Her daughter finally asked her for spiritual direction as did many others, including an ambassador and her brother, an archbishop. Her advice always reflected her very gentle and loving approach to spirituality:
“Should you fall even 50 times a day, never on any account should that surprise or worry you. Instead, ever so gently set your heart back in the right direction and practice the opposite virtue, all the time speaking words of love and trust to our Lord after you have committed a thousand faults, as much as if you had committed only one. Once we have humbled ourselves for the faults, God allows us to become aware of in ourselves, we must forget them and go forward.”
She died in 1641 at 69.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini