James Sales was also known as Jacques Sales was born in France in the year in which Saint Ignatius died namely 1556. He was the son of a servant of the Bishop of Clermont. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of seventeen i.e. in 1573. His companion William Saultemouche was born also in 1556 and joined the Society as a lay brother a few years after James.
James was ordained when he was 29 years old i.e. in 1585 and desired to be sent to the Indies since he wanted to die a martyr. However, Fr. General Claudio Acquaviva preferred that he stay in France and work there. At this time religious fanaticism had reached its peak in central France. The Mayor of Aubeanas wanted the Jesuits to send someone who would be able to debate with the fundamentalists and to preach Advent sermons. James was appointed to go along with Saultemouche. Before departing on this mission James was aware that it was going to be dangerous. He tied around his neck a relic of Edmund Campion who had been martyred in England a few years before i.e. in 1581. When he left the Jesuit house he said to the porter “Pray for us, dear brother, we are going to face death." After he had finished his Advent homilies and preaching the mayor begged him to stay on until Easter. His preaching was very effective and this angered those who were against him. The Huguenots considered Fr. James their principal enemy because of the effect he was having on the people and the numerous lives he was instrumental in transforming. They caught him and had a mock trial. They commanded him to deny the articles of his faith which he refused to do. Though he had asked his companion Br. Saultemouche to escape, he refused to do so and stayed with Fr. James till the end. The Huguenots brought Fr. James into the courtyard and shot him pointblank on February 6, 1593 when he was barely 37 years of age. Br. Saultemouche threw his arms around his fellow Jesuit to protect him, but they pulled him away and assaulted him with every possible weapon they could find. He was finally killed with eighteen thrusts of a dagger.
In 1926 Pope Pius XI declared Fr. James Sales and Br. William Saultemouche as martyrs for the faith.
The reading for the feats of today is from the Gospel of Matthew and contains the Passion and resurrection prediction and the challenges to discipleship. In Matthew, the sayings are addressed exclusively to the disciples unlike in Mark where they are addressed to the crowds. A disciple must be prepared to follow the Master and even to the cross if need be. This is the consequence of confessing Jesus as the Christ. The Son of Man has to suffer, but will also be vindicated by God. The pronouncement “some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (16:28) has been variously interpreted. Some think it refers to the event of the Transfiguration, others think it refers to the Resurrection and still others that it refers to Pentecost. However, it seems that Matthew’s community expected that the Parousia (the second coming of the Lord) would come soon, indeed before the death of some who belonged to the community, and so there are some who think that this pronouncement refers to the Second coming of the Lord.
Denial of self means to count the self as nothing. While this sounds nice to hear and sing in hymns, it requires grace from God if it is to be into practice. Jesus had to constantly overcome this temptation himself and challenges each of us through his words but also through the example that he gave on the cross. James Sales and William Saultemouch followed his example. Will you?