History of the Order
The Order of the Visitation was founded in 1610 by Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane Frances de Chantal inAnnecy, Haute-Savoie, France. At first the founder had not a religious order in mind; he wished to form a congregation without external vows, where the cloister should be observed only during the year of novitiate, after which the sisters should be free to go out by turns to visit the sick and poor. The order was given the name of The Visitation of Holy Mary with the intention that the Sisters would follow the example of Virgin Mary and her joyful visit to her kinswoman Elizabeth, (known as “The Visitation” in the Roman Catholic Church).
Francis de Sales invited Jane de Chantal to join him in establishing a new type of religious life, one open to older women and those of delicate constitution, that would stress the hidden, inner virtues of humility, obedience, poverty, even-tempered charity, and patience, and founded on the example of Mary in her journey of mercy to her cousin Elizabeth. The order was established to welcome those not able to practice austerities required in other orders. Instead of chanting the canonical office in the middle of the night the sisters recited Divine Office and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. There was no perpetual abstinence nor prolonged fast. The Order of the Visitation of Mary was canonically erected in 1618 by Paul V who granted it all the privileges enjoyed by the other orders. A Bull of Urban VIII solemnly approved it in 1626.