Validity of the spiritual experience of Louise de Marillac in regard to Vincentian Spirituality

From VincentWiki

by: Juan Corpus Delgado

(This article first appeared in Santa Luisa de Marillac, ayer y hoy, XXXIV Semana de Estudios Vicencianos, [Saint Vincent de Paul, Yesterday and Today, XXXIV Vincentian Studies Week], Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, 2010).

Louise de Marillac, a great treasure of the Vincentian Family

In the September 8th, 1655 council meeting of the Company, contrary to his usual approach, Vincent praised the good work of Mademoiselle Le Gras. The secretary of the council wrote the following words: At these words Mademoiselle, who felt she had not contributed to it in any way, said: “Father, you and our Sisters are well aware that if I have done anything, it has been on the order that you gave me”(CCD:XIIIb:325) [1].

It seems that history has understood these words in a literal sense. For quite some time we have made known and publicized the great accomplishments of Vincent de Paul but have remained silent about the activity of Louise de Marillac. Furthermore, much of what was written about her did not reflect the incredible spirit of this woman.

The first biography of Vincent, published by Louis Abelly in 1664, presented Louise de Marillac as one who carried on the initiative of Vincent in a spirit of obedience (Abelly I:136) [2], who observed the rules faithfully (Abelly I:131), and whom Vincent viewed as his spiritual daughter, Mademoiselle Le Gras (Abelly III:272).

The first biography of Louise, published by Nicholás Gobillon in 1676, highlights the initiatives of Vincent and presents Louise as submissive to Vincent’s decisions: This faithful and zealous individual received orders from Vincent with great joy, with respect and submission. She was perfectly obedient to him … so much so that she undertook nothing because she was wholly dependent on his opinions and orders. She viewed Vincent as the minister and the interpreter of God’s will [3].

The biographies and studies that have been written about Vincent’s life take on different nuances (the same could be said concerning the writings about Louise), but according to the common understanding of the members of the Vincentian Family one interpretation has predominated. Said interpretation (if you will allow me to exaggerate and generalize to some degree) would sound like this: Vincent mobilized people to engage in the service of charity; Vincent always took the initiative; Vincent responded to the many different forms of poverty that he encountered; Vincent transformed Louise and directed her in serving the poor; despite Louise’s complex and difficult personality, Vincent knew how to form her as a collaborator in the establishment of the Daughters of Charity.

Fortunately in recent years the perspective has changed substantially. More recent studies have helped us to put aside a false image of Louise as a timid, dour, drab and cheerless woman [4].

In a special way the complete edition of Louise’s letters and writings, published in French [1983], in Spanish [1985], and in English [1991] [5], has given us direct contact with documents that allow us to understand the various experiences of her life. As a result of the publication of this work we have seen a growing interest in studying the different dimensions of her life and we have also seen the multiplication of initiatives to make her better known [6].

Does this mean that for more than three hundred years it has been impossible to know Louise de Marillac and to know her with some degree of accuracy?

Gobillon, in the fifth volume of his Life of Mademoiselle Le Gras, gathered together some of Louise’s thoughts [7]. Today, however, we realize that while he did present some of Louise’s writings, most of what he wrote were summaries of Vincent’s conferences, reformulations of Vincent’s conferences and in some cases writings that were invented by Gobillon himself. This was done from a sense of piety and an attempt to satisfy the reader [8].

As a result Gobillon’s thoughts were reproduced in the new and incomplete editions that later appeared [9].

One could read the majority of Louise letters in the French edition that was prepared by the Sisters in Brujas at the end of the nineteenth century [10]. The letters that Louise wrote to Vincent could be found in the French edition of the complete works of Vincent de Paul that was prepared by Pierre Coste at the beginning of the twentieth century [11]. As a result of the work done by Father Rosendo Castañares in 1945 [12], the Sisters in Spain were eventually able to read Louise’s letters in Spanish.

Nevertheless, neither the beatification nor the canonization of Saint Louise nor the celebrations surrounding the 300 anniversary of the death of the Founders in 1960 (an event that occasioned the publication of some significant studies about the two saints) was seen as an opportunity to present the writings of Louise … some biographies were published such as that of Baunard (1898) and Calvet (1958), but these were not widely distributed [13].

We would have to wait until the final years of the twentieth century to gain access to the work of Saint Louise. Father Benito Martínez, known for his pastoral ministry among the immigrants in Paris, initiated this work that was complimented by Sister Elisabeth Charpy … as a result of their work we now have access to Louise’s writings [14].

During the past thirty-five years the publishers, Ceme, have given us access to Louise’s writings and her more important biographers: Gobillon, Calvet, Dirvin, Benito Martínez [15]. At this time we are now assisted in our research and study of Louise de Marillac because we have access to primary sources. As has been said so often during these days, these writings provide an incredible wealth to the Vincentian Family. Unfortunately, until the past thirty years, this wealth was not well-known and had not been sufficiently studied and researched (with the rigor that should be employed).

It would be good to listen to Vincent de Paul repeat once again: We've seen this beautiful portrait before us; now it's on high. It remains for us to pattern ourselves on it, but to do so we must know her well (CCD:X:582).

Will this be one of the fruits of the celebrations surrounding the 350th anniversary of the death of our Founders?

Louise de Marillac in the sources of Vincentian spirituality

The Second Vatican Council encouraged all communities to follow Jesus Christ and to return to the original sources of their spirituality. In this way these communities would be able to engage in a dynamic of renewal that is demanded of them by the Church and by the new era in which we live [16].

This demand has been concretized and specified in the documents of the Church that have been addressed to the various Institutes and Congregations in the years following the Council.

Therefore, we read in the instruction, Mutuae Relationes: The very charism of the Founders appears as an "experience of the Spirit," transmitted to their disciples to be lived, safeguarded, deepened and constantly developed by them, in harmony with the Body of Christ continually in the process of growth … The specific charismatic note of any institute demands, both of the Founder and of his disciples, a continual examination regarding fidelity to the Lord; docility to His Spirit; intelligent attention to circumstances and an outlook cautiously directed to the signs of the times … Especially in our times that same charismatic genuineness, vivacious and ingenious in its inventiveness, is expected of religious [17].

In the Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrate, we read: Institutes of Consecrated Life are thus invited courageously to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses in response to the signs of the times emerging in today's world … adapting forms, if need be, to new situations and different needs, in complete openness to God's inspiration and to the Church's discernment. But all must be fully convinced that the quest for ever greater conformity to the Lord is the guarantee of any renewal which seeks to remain faithful to an Institute's original inspiration … in the dimension of the charism proper to each Institute, as it were in a synthesis which calls for a constant deepening of one's own special consecration in all its aspects, not only apostolic but also ascetical and mystical. This means that each member should study diligently the spirit, history and mission of the Institute to which he or she belongs, in order to advance the personal and communal assimilation of its charism [18].

When we speak about the importance of knowing Louise and studying her writings we do not mean that in doing so we are then able to present ourselves in some acceptable and/or pleasing manner to the larger society. Rather we are responding to the call that deals with our identity and fidelity. We are speaking about drinking from the well-springs of Vincentian spirituality.

The argument presented by Brother Ducourneau in order to convince his companions of the need to take up and reflect on the words of Monsieur Vincent can help us as we approach the writings of Louise: The best legacy of fathers is the good instruction they leave to their children … If the works that Vincent de Paul has done are works of God, as they seem to be, God must have given him His Spirit to do and maintain them; consequently, the advice and teachings used for that purpose must be considered divine and be gathered up like manna from heaven … Someone else may say that M. Vincent says nothings that cannot be found in books. I reply that this may be so; but we know that the best food for babies is their own mother’s milk, and that the loving instructions of their fathers make a greater impression on their minds than those of teachers because of the natural respect and affection God has given to all sorts of persons for those who have begotten them. In addition, it is very difficult to find in books the beautiful inspiration and good impulses we receive from the talks of this kind father because he gives them according to our needs and obligations, which differ in many things from those of other Companies that have written about what concerns them (CCD:XI:xxvii, xxx).

When the Church approves a charism she guarantees us that it is a gift of the spirit for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ [19]. The Church has approved the Vincentian charism and the institutions that make this charism visible.

When the Church recognizes the holiness of certain individuals who have been chosen by the Holy Spirit to form a new spiritual family, she places those individuals before us as a point of reference and invites us to have recourse to them as permanent sources of inspiration and renewal [20].

Saint Vincent and Saint Louise are thus sources of inspiration and renewal for this spiritual family, for the Vincentian Family and we are called to recreate, deepen and renew their experience.

José María Román notes that when Vincent and Louise came to know one another and began to collaborate, Vincentian spirituality was not fully elaborated but the essential discovery had been made. The vision of Christ in the poor, the understanding of the messianic mission as one of evangelizing the poor through word and work, the necessary reform of the Church through the formation of the clergy … all of these were convictions or perhaps it is better to say that they were irreversible ideas-concepts that became a part of Vincent as a result of his experiences in Folleville and Chàtillon (1617) and in Montmirail-Marchais (1621). Furthermore, he had found, or was about to find, specific means to channel his transformative energy: the Charities (which were established in 1617) and the Congregation of the Mission, which was about to be established the following year, that is, in 1625 [21].

I dare to say that today we are in a position in which we can be certain (in accord with our research) that what we refer to as Vincentian spirituality was refined as a result of the mutual understanding and collaboration between Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac.

In the Foreword of the biography of Louise de Marillac written by Father Dirvin, Cardinal Terence Cooke wrote: It is regrettable that the great heart and original genius of this great woman have been obscured in the shadow of her friend, guide and co-worker. Of course, she would not think so; but history seems to have no patience with self-effacement when it hides extraordinary accomplishments [22].

Are we exaggerating? Are we moving to the opposite extreme and as a reaction are we attributing to Louise that which is proper to Vincent?

In my opinion the Daughters of Charity were able to find the right path as they revised their Constitutions at the 2003 General Assembly. They had received some postulatum that proposed changing the name of the Company so that the role of Saint Louise would be reflected and thus would not be known simply as the Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul [23]. The members of the Company understood that they were not dealing with the simple issue of replacing the name of Vincent de Paul with that of Louise de Marillac. Rather it was most important for the Company to recover the freshness and the vitality Louise’s insights. Everything else was secondary.

Following the same line of thought I do not want to give the impression that I am proposing that the Vincentian Family should change its name so that there is some reference to Louise de Marillac.

Again we are not dealing with a simple change of names but rather we are attempting to discover and reflect on the sources so that the Vincentian Family mirrors the experience of Louise de Marillac as a true founder.

Jaime Corera [24] has used the wonderful expression of Saint Irenaeus who spoke about the two hands of the Father: Vincent and Louise are the two hands of the same charism that we are called to deepen, to enliven, and to express.

Certainly the Daughters would be pleased to accept this proposal. But would the other members of the Vincentian Family also be willing to accept this? I am confident that this can be one of the fruits of the celebrations of the 350th anniversary of the death of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac, the two founders of the Vincentian Family.

Allow me express my reflections in a simple manner and thus synthesize my contribution to this theme [25]:

a] When speaking about the Vincentian charism I understand this as a gift of the Spirit that was given by God to the Church in the person of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Maillac. This gift of the Spirit is shared by the followers of Vincent and Louise who, in various institutions and associations that have been inspired by them, make every effort to live, guard, deepen and develop this gift in harmony with the continual growth of the body of Christ [26].

b] Even though etymologically the word Vincentian proceeds from the name Vincent, I do not believe that the uniqueness of the Vincentian charism refers only to the personality of Vincent de Paul. The Vincentian charism cannot be understood apart from the contributions of Louise de Marillac. The more we study the relationship between Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, the more difficult it becomes to attribute to one or the other that which we have come to know as the Vincentian charism.

c. The configuration of the Vincentian charism did not occur solely during the time of the Founders. The charism is a dynamic reality that has continued to be recreated in each era and has continued to revitalize individuals, communities and associations as they faithfully respond to the Spirit. Therefore, as we follow Jesus Christ and are attentive to our foundational sources, the Vincentian charism ought to be constantly recreated and expressed in new forms.

Louise de Marillac’s spirituality is Vincentian spirituality

Louise de Marillac had developed her spiritual life as the result of the various influences of individuals whom the Lord had placed in her path as companions on the journey [27]. Vincent de Paul had also embarked upon a similar journey in which he was accompanied by individuals whom the Lord had sent to him during his conversion process.

When Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac met, their mutual collaboration and deep friendship became possible, as did the other countless charitable works … and all of this was to become part of the Vincentian charism. Vincent offered Louise a participation in his discoveries. Thus the two of them began to share the one charism that the Spirit bestowed upon the Church. With characteristics proper to each one of them Vincent and Louise lived and have passed on to us their spirituality, Vincentian spirituality.

A few weeks before her death, Louise de Marillac wrote a letter in which she clearly described (almost in passing) the essence of Vincentian spirituality: a life that is wholly spiritual, a Christian life in which individuals give themselves to God in order to serve Him in those men and women who are poor … a service which will often involve them in doing works that appear to be lowly and despicable. So you have not found any girls who want to give themselves to the service of Our Lord in the poor as members of the Company … this requires strong characters who desire to reach the holiness of true Christians and who want to die to themselves by mortification and a veritable act of renunciation, which they already made at the time of their holy Baptism, so that the Spirit of Jesus Christ may abide in them and grant them the strength to persevere in this way of life which is totally spiritual, although they will be employed in exterior works which appear lowly and despicable in the eyes of the world but which are glorious in the sight of God and His angels (SWLM:674 [L.651]).

We are speaking about a spirituality, a Vincentian spirituality. Here spirituality refers to a way of life in accord with the Spirit, following Jesus Christ, a new way of being and living in the Lord. Father Robert Maloney describes spirituality in the following way: A spirituality is an energizing vision, a driving force. It is, on the one hand, the specific way in which a person is rooted in God. It is, on the other hand, the specific way in which he or she relates to the created world. It is insight as the source of action. It is a vision that generates energy and channels it in a particular direction, thereby enabling a person to transcend himself or herself. For the Christian, it is a way of seeing Christ and being in him that directs the individual’s energies in the service of the kingdom [28].

When we speak about a Vincentian spirituality we refer to the fact that we find in Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac inspiration to follow Christ. Christianity does not consist of formulas, ideologies, and concepts but is primarily gift, presence, experience and life. In this sense then the life of Saint Vincent and Saint Louise become a source of inspiration that enables their followers to clothe themselves in Christian attitudes and values. Therefore, it is true that there is only one spirituality and that is Christian spirituality. At the same time, however, it is also possible to speak of a Franciscan, Carmelite or Vincentian spirituality [29].

Vincentian spirituality is a way of being Christian that has been gifted to the Church in the person of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. This is a way of life that is recreated in every era, a way of life that is continually deepened and enriched with the vitality of the responses of each Vincentian individual, Vincentian community, and Vincentian association as they are faithful to the Spirit.

After Louise had died the Sisters gathered together with Vincent to speak about her virtues and they referred to the life of Mile Le Gras as a mirror in which we have only to look at ourselves (CCD:X:577) [30]. The attitude that is suggested by this expression is one that is proper to those who want to verify their way of life as Christian, their way of following Jesus Christ by reflecting on the spiritual experience of Louise de Marillac, by reflecting on the way Louise followed Jesus Christ and by reflecting on the ways in which Louise lived a Christian life.

I have always been impressed by the behavior of Sister Marguerite Chétif. Called to lead the Company she tried to find inspiration for the decisions that she had to make and for the direction that she had to provide. She got some notebooks and copied the writings of Louise. She also gathered together the letters that Louise had sent to the Sisters and copied these in the notebooks. These notebooks, which later helped researchers reconstruct some of the original documents, provide us with both a testimony and a challenge [31].

We, who want to be Christian and who want to recreate and live a Vincentian spirituality, can listen to Vincent’s words as he tell us: It remains for us to pattern ourselves on [Louise’s virtue and life] (CCD:X:582). I spoke about this before but it seems to me to be an on-going challenge.

Integrating the spiritual experience of Louise de Marillac: a challenge for our Vincentian spirituality

In light of the convictions that I have shared with you I will now attempt to highlight some of the aspects of Louise’s spiritual experience so that we might be able to reflect on their place and importance within our Vincentian spirituality.

Since spirituality is life, experience and the following of Jesus Christ and since each individual will emphasize different aspects of this following of Christ, we are able to highlight certain elements in the spiritual experience of Louise, elements which will be examined in the following sections [32].

Today, 350 years later, the elements that we discover in Louise’s experience challenge us to enliven and recreate the Vincentian charism. The elements of Louise’s spiritual experience that are discussed in the sections that follow are not listed in any order of importance but are simply meant as a guide for our study and reflection.

The experience of being alone, totally committed to God and willing to do the will of God in everything

We frequently refer to the weakening of the Christian faith in the Western world. We are very much aware of the Church’s weaknesses in the midst of a society which, as it obtains more resources, makes its own criteria and visions prevail … thus distancing itself from the Church. The sign and cause of this situation is often referred to as a certain spiritual amnesia [33]

J.B. Metz has written: we respond to the crisis of God with a passion for God [34]. This passion for God was spoken about recently by religious [35]. The Vincentian charism can only be recreated and given new life by placing our trust in the One who fills our life and calls us to serve him in the poor.

The life of Louise de Marillac can only be understood from the perspective of her relationship with God: she desired to give her whole life to God, to make God the center of her life … for her God is everything. You are my God and my All. I recognize You as such and adore You, the one true God in three Persons, now and forever (SWLM:694 [A.3]). My heart is still overflowing with joy on account of the understanding which, I believe, our good God has given me of the words, “God is my God!” (SWLM:341 [L.369]).

Louise made her relationship with God the center of her life. Therefore when she spoke with persons who desired to live a life united with God she pointed out that the only way to do this was to commit one’s self to fulfilling the will of God: Put into practice living entirely for God by this love and serene union of your will with His in everything (SWLM:679 [L.40]).

To live entirely for God and to do God’s will at all times is the path of creative fidelity, the path of giving life to the Vincentian charism. As we live out our vocation we do not simply attempt to serve the poor … so many other people can do this and probably do it better. Rather our vocation means that we give ourselves totally to God in order to be witnesses of his love as we serve as Christ served [36].

From the perspective of baptism, the experience of following Jesus Christ and identifying with his thoughts, words, attitudes and actions

In her understanding of the Christian life, Louise placed great importance on the sacrament of baptism. She highlighted the reality that the gift of new life which is received at the time of baptism ought to lead people to center their lives on Christ. Through baptism we become members of Christ and the life of every Christian involves indentifying themselves with Christ. We who are baptized in Jesus Christ are baptized in his death … Since the sacrament of Baptism is a spiritual birth, it follows that He, in whose name we are baptized, is our Father and that, as His children, we must resemble Him … Let us live, therefore, as if we were dead in Jesus Christ. Henceforth, let there be no further resistance to Jesus, no action except for Jesus, no thoughts but in Jesus. May my life be solely for Jesus and my neighbor so that, by means of this unifying love, I may love all that Jesus loves, and through the power of this love which has as its center the eternal love of God for His creatures I may obtain from His goodness the graces which His mercy wills to bestow upon me (SWLM:786 [A.23]).

Since the Chrstian life involves us in a process of on-going identification with Jesus Christ who abides with us as a result of our baptism, we should not be surprised that Louise continually returns to the baptismal event when she is going to formulate or renew some proposal as a daughter of the Church. She recommended this practice to the Daughters and in fact it appears in the vow formula (SWLM:782 [A.44b]).

As a woman who experienced the love of the Spouse, she desired to identify herself with her Spouse and to live with her Spouse in all the circumstances of her life [37]. I must imitate Jesus as a spouse tries to resemble her husband (SWLM:716 [A.5]). It is only reasonable that we should follow him and imitate his holy, human life. This thought absorbed my mind and moved me to resolve to follow Him wholeheartedly, without any reservation. Filled with consolation and happiness at the thought of being accepted by Him to live my entire life as his follower, I resolved that in everything, particularly in uncertain or questionable circumstances, I would consider what Jesus would have done (SWLM:715 [A.5]). Jesus is the one I must imitate, neither to a greater nor to a lesser degree, than would an apprentice imitate his master if he wanted to become perfect (SWLM:719 [A.8]).

Louise understood that in order to be a true Christian she had to live like Christ, she had to do what Christ did: Therefore I have resolved to meditate profoundly on his life and to try to imitate it. I spent a great deal of time reflecting on the title of Christian which we bear, and I came to the conclusion that we must, indeed, truly conform our lives to the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In order to do this, I thought that I should study the manner in which I had acquired this name and the words employed by Holy Mother Church in conferring it upon us. Finally, I must remember that I received this holy name so as to become a true Christian (SWLM:777-778 [A.36])..

Using words similar to those of Vincent, Louise proposed: In all our actions may we honor Our Lord by the witness he wishes us to bear to him by performing the actions which he accomplished on earth (SWLM:821 [A.26]).

Christian spirituality (and therefore Vincentian spirituality) will be authentic if we make following Jesus the primary and definitive criteria of our life. Today as we continue to attempt to give life to the Vincentian charism it is most important that in our lives we give witness to the gospel, thus opting for Jesus Christ.

To follow Jesus Christ and to dedicate one’s life to him who is the fullest revelation of God [38] is to prolong Jesus’ ministry on behalf of those less favored, those most poor, those who are marginalized in society, those who are his sacrament [39]. During a period of contemplation (rather than reasoning) Saint Louise understood that it was in the person of the poor that she was able to render to Christ all honor and glory: My meditation was more reflective than reasoning. I felt a great attraction for the holy humanity of Our Lord and I desired to honor and imitate it insofar as I was able in the person of the poor and of all my neighbors. I had read somewhere that He had taught us charity to make up for our powerlessness to render any service to his person. This touched my heart very particularly and very intimately (SWLM:820 [A.26]).

Faithful to the identification with Christ (a result of baptism) we attempt to configure ourselves more closely with Christ and to prolong his mission on earth by serving those who are the least, the poor. The experience of Louise challenges us to give life to the fundamental content of our Vincentian spirituality.

The experience of Jesus crucified urges us to love those who are the least and all of those who are crucified in history

In her personal spiritual experience Louise was especially fond of identifying herself with Jesus, the crucified Lord. Jesus lowered himself in order to draw closer to humankind and this process was begun at the time of the incarnation and reached its culmination on the cross. Christ nailed to the cross draws us into his love and into the holiness of life that awaits us (SWLM:827-829 [A.27]).

From the moment of their baptism Christians are followers of Jesus Christ crucified: Yes, my dear Sisters, the greatest honor you can receive is to follow Jesus Christ carrying his cross (SWLM:535 [L.393]). The Church should realize that at all times she is the spouse of Jesus crucified and it is not logical for the members to flee that which their Head so ardently desired (SWLM:786 [A.23]).

In order to reevaluate the spirituality of the cross we must affirm the fact that we are followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified Lord. This becomes a real challenge as we attempt to give life to the Vincentian charism at the present time. The charity of Jesus crucified urges us is the inscription on the seal that was used by Louise … there we find the image of Jesus crucified on a heart surrounded by flames.

To follow Jesus, the crucified Lord, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23), implies the renunciation of every form of power in order to live in solidarity with those who are most poor, most despised, the least of the least. Those who are not taken into account, who only know the pain of the cross, who experience so many crosses … these persons are able to discover Christ who suffers in them and with them. Even more importantly, these individuals are able to open themselves to the light of the Resurrection and to the experience of living as children of God.

To follow Jesus, Jesus crucified, means that we begin to understand that success is not one of the names of God [40] and therefore in our vocation and service we are not asked to maintain some degree of effectiveness but rather we are invited to remain faithful . [41].

If the true sign of the Christian is the cross, then it is only right that the commitment formulated by Louise should be made real: to choose the life of Jesus Crucified as the model of our lives to that his resurrection may be a means for glory for us in eternity. In order to live in this way, I thought that I must often reflect on his example (SWLM:732 [A.21b]).

The experience of encountering Christ in the poor and of serving the poor as member of Jesus

Let us love the One who is all love, wrote Saint Louise as she contemplated Christ nailed to the cross and then understood that serving those persons who are poor is a response of love to the One who is love (SWLM:827-829 [A27]): Let us then apply ourselves diligently to the corporal and spiritual service of the sick poor for the love of Jesus Crucified (SWLM:515 [L.531b]).

All of one’s service should be filled with this Love: I hope that your gratitude will place you in the disposition necessary to receive the graces you need to serve your sick poor in a spirit of gentleness and great compassion, in imitation of Our Lord who acted in this way … it is not enough to have good intentions or for our wills to be inclined to do good solely for the love of God, because, when we received the commandment to love God with all our heart, we also received a second commandment which is love our neighbor. In order to do this we must give good example (SWLM; 434-435 [L.383]).

In October 1646 Louise wrote to the Sisters in Nantes: Do you read your Rule and the obligations of your duties? Do you say your evening and morning prayers for the sick as well as the Benedicite and Grace at meals? Do you provide towels at the beds of the sick? Do you maintain their cleanliness? Especially, my dear Sisters, do you have a great love for their salvation? It is this in particular that our good God expects of you (SWLM:182 [L.160]). I have always been amazed by this letter and the close relationship that Louise establishes between union with God, serving the poor, unity, and civility in the midst of the community. For Louise these are not distinct realities: prayer, service of the poor, concern for corporal and spiritual needs, communion … all of these flow from the same experience and make the following of Jesus Christ, the crucified Lord, a living reality

Since Jesus Christ, the crucified Lord, wanted to become the least, then the poor of this world and those who are considered the least in this world are in reality members of Jesus Christ and they are also our masters. We find in Louise’s correspondence and writings many expressions that point out the fact that we encounter Christ in the poor and that we serve Christ when we serve the poor: members of Jesus (SWLM:6 [L.1]), our masters (SWLM:12 [L.43]), poor creatures whom God wants to consider as his own members (SWLM:17 [L.9]), our beloved masters (SWLM:36 [L.426]), souls redeemed by the blood of the Son of God (SWLM:50 [L.41]), our beloved masters, the beloved members of Jesus Christ (SWLM:81 [L.547]), our beloved masters, the members of Jesus Christ (SWLM: [L.104b]), in their person we serve our Lord (SWLM:314 [L.276]), members of Jesus Christ (SWLM:409 [L.389]), persons redeemed by the blood of the Son of God (SWLM:421 [L.367]), members of Jesus Christ and our masters (SWLM:468 [L.424]).

In light of discovering the poor as members of Jesus Christ we can understand how Louise did not hesitate to consecrate her life to serving the poor. As she served the poor she did not neglect to formation of the Daughters of Charity … it was this that gave meaning to her life and her vocation.

Thus we state here that the very heart of Vincentian spirituality is composed of the following: living in communion and solidarity with the least of this world, serving Christ in the poor, revealing the love of God to those who suffer, establishing relationships with and listening to our more unfortunate brothers and sisters. Indeed today our following of Jesus Christ becomes credible through our option for those men and women who are most poor.

The experience of being Church and living and thinking like Chruch and thus sharing the mission of the Church with the laity

Louise de Marillac was very aware of the fact that she was a member of the church. On numerous occasions she referred to herself and the Sisters as daughters of the Church[42]. On December 15, 1645 she began her testament with the following words: I protest before God, and before all creatures, that I wish to live and die in the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, and I command my son, as far as I can, to do the same (Testament of Louise de Marillac, December 1645).

Louise desired that the Sisters and those persons who had been entrusted to her would pray God for the Church (SWLM:297 [L.253]) and remain in communion with the saints and as good Christians also remain in communion with the church militant [43].

When speaking about the Church, Louise used various image from the Bible and tradition: Spouse of Jesus (SWLM: 732 [A.21b]), Mother of all believers (SWLM: 820-821 [A.26]), mystical body (SWLM:820-821 [A.26]).

Today when many Christians are hostile toward the Church, when people proclaim themselves to be followers of Christ while at the same time they are opposed to the Church, the experience of Louise challenges us to be creative in making our Church the home and the school of communion (an expression used by John Paul II) [44].

It was Louise’s love for the Church and her experience of living and thinking with the Church that made it possible for her and the Daughters of Charity to engage in fruitful collaboration with the priests and the bishops and that also enabled her to advocate on behalf of women in the apostolate of the Church (today we would say advocate on behalf of the laity).

Louise was convinced that the laity, more specifically, women, had an irreplaceable mission in the life of the Church. Vincent entrusted Louise with the mission of visting and encouraging the members of the Confraternities and in this role she advocated for the participation of women in the Church of her era. The accounts that were sent to Vincent concerning the events that occurred during these visits are the best witness to this fact [45]. Also similar witness is found in the Rules that were redacted (SWLM:707 [A46]).

Louise was the founder and the first director of the Confraternity of Charity in her parish in Paris. Together with Vincent de Paul she participated in the birth and the development of a new way of life in the Church, namely, the establishment of the Daughters of Charity.

All the Ladies of Charity, the distinguished women in Paris who were involved in different charitable activities, were encouraged by the example and the words of Louise de Marillac: It is very evident, in this century, that Divine Providence willed to make use of women to show that it was His goodness alone which desired to aid afflicted peoples and to bring them powerful helps for their salvation (SWLM:789 [A.56]).

As a retreat director she assisted many other women in becoming virtuous and in participating in their rightful mission in society and the Church. The whole life of Louise is the best expression of the mission of a woman in the Church.

If, from the perspective of collaboration and co-responsibility with regard to the various charisms and ministries, participation in the communion of the Church and co-participation with the laity in the Vincentian Family are urgent demands of the present time, then the experience of Saint Louise challenges us to be creative and to continue to move forward in this direction.

The experience of prayer as a way of life

The Sisters who knew Louise, as well as Vincent, remembered her life of prayer and spoke about this during the conferences that were given after her death, conferences in which the Sisters were able to speak about her virtues. The virtues I noted in her are that she always had her mind raised to God (CCD:X:570). She was deeply interior and very absorbed in God … She was truly raised up to God, and that stemmed from the fact that she had long ago laid a deep foundation for her interior life … Mile Le Gras had that gift of blessing God in all things (CCD:X:574). You can imagine what a deep, interior foundation your mother had in order to regulate her memory in such a way that she used it only for God, and her will only to love Him ... Through her example, I want to overcome myself (CCD:X:575). Mlle Le Gras had a great sense of the presence of God in all her actions and she always raised her mind to God before correcting a Sister. She really wanted to know the truth of the matter before she admonished someone, and, instead of exaggerating things, she always excused the Sister who was reported to her (CCD:X:583).

Louise’s first biographer presents us with a similar testimony: prayer was apparent in every aspect of her life … her life was centered on God [46].

Louise de Marillac was a true teacher of prayer for the first Daughters of Charity. Gobillon states: This distinguished and spiritual superior was very careful in forming the Daughters of Charity in the spirit of prayer. She spoke of prayer as the most important and necessary means to preserve one’s vocation [47].

During the May 31, 1648 conference on prayer that was addressed to the Daughters of Charity, Vincent asked Louise to explain the motive for living a life of prayer. Louise stated that one reason we should never omit making out prayer is its excellence, since when we pray we are speaking to God … another reason is the recommendation the Son of God gave so many times, by word and example of praying to God, his Father (CCD:IX:324).

In her correspondence and writings Louise added other motives for living a life of prayer: in prayer we find all the counsel that we have need of (SWLM:227 [L.126]); we can consult with our Lord with regard to our interior and exterior needs (SWLM:434 [L.383]); prayer adorns and beautifies the conscience and the will so that Jesus might be born in us (SWLM:814 [A.45b]); the Lord will always provide for us and therefore we should always respond to his love (SWLM:439 [L.391]).

Louise was constantly concerned about the prayer of the Sisters, their faithfulness to and their perseverance in prayer [48]. She was concerned because she was aware of the effects that prayer produced in the community: unity, tolerance … (SWLM:509 [l.480] )

In several of her letters Louise refers to different books of prayer, the Divine Office, and books of meditation. She recommends these for the Sister’s use and also makes suggestions with regard to their spiritual reading and meditation [49]. In all the schedules and rules that were drawn up and reviewed by Louise, she specified the time and the manner in which the Sisters should pray [50].

When referring to formation with regard to prayer Louise was particularly insistent on the importance of living in a manner that fostered union with God: maintain interior recollection in the midst of your occupations (SWLM:600 [L.580]), be simple and speak with your eyes focused on God (SWLM:588 [L.566]), allow God to have full mastery over your will (SWLM:481 [L.448]), in all things seek union with God (SWLM:514 [L.531b]), act in accord with Jesus’ actions (SWLM:770 [A.85]), live in the presence of God (SWLM:825 [M.73]), do not allow prayer to be reduced to a specific time but rather prolong your prayer throughout the day so that it becomes a part of the mission and service that has been entrusted to you (SWLM:493 [L.461]).

Vincent did not hesitate to propose to the Daughters of Charity that they should use Louise de Marillac as a model for their life and their prayer. He spoke to them in a very emotional manner: Yes, we have this picture, and you must consider it a model to inspire you to do likewise … You should also recall how she tended to conform all her actions to those of Our Lord. She did what Saint Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Jesus who lives in me”. In this way she strove to make herself like her Master by imitating His virtues … See what a portrait that is! And how are you to make use of it, dear Sisters? By striving to pattern your lives on hers. O mon Dieu, what a beautiful picture! What humility, faith, prudence, sound judgment, and always the concern to conform her actions to those of Our Lord! (CCD:X:585).

We know that prayer is a decisive factor in the experience of the believer. Without prayer the Christian life becomes less meaningful and Christian commitment less important . [51]. A frequent request from groups that approach us and that share our ministry is that we teach them to pray. Indeed, some challenges for the Vincentian Family as we reflect on our experience of God and the prayer life of Louise de Marillac are: to develop a pedagogy of prayer that enables prayer to become a way of life and not become reduced to some isolated moments; to assist people in forming a relationship with God as One who is alive and present and active in their life (not some intermediary between their imagination and reality).

The experience of the Eucharist, a treasure and a heritage of Jesus, the Lord

Saint Louise presents the Eucharist as the Church’s inheritance from its Spouse and this seemed to me to be a treasure (SWLM:732 [A.21b]).

Several of Louise’s writings on the Eucharist have been preserved [52]. In all of these the theme of preparing for the reception of this sacrament and the dispositions necessary to receive Communion predominate (this should not surprise us when we realize that she was writing in the seventeenth century). At the same time, however, there are some very valuable insights that allow us to share in her experience: Holy Communion with the body of Jesus Christ enables us truly to participate in the joy of the communion of all believers (SWLM:713 [A.15]), in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar the three persons of the Blessed Trinity are present [53]; in the Eucharist God reveals his great love for us [54]; the Eucharist is to be understood from the perspective of the Son of God’s plan of salvation which, in light of the Incarnation, was a plan to draw nearer to humankind and to save all people (SWLM:784 [A.14]).

The graces and mystical experiences that Louise was blessed to receive always took place in the context of the Eucharist: participating in Mass, receiving communion, after Communion [55].

When Louise traveled, when she gave instructions to Sisters who were about to travel, she told them they were obliged to make a twofold visit in the places where they paused in their journey: a visit to Christ present in the most Blessed Sacrament on the altar and a visit to the poor, either in their home or in the hospital. Is it not admirable to see this bond between the Eucharist, the central sacrament a Christian life and the poor, the sacrament of Christ [56]?

In the Eucharist, the center of the Christian life, we live the experience of union with Christ and those who form one body in Christ [57]. This communion with Christ unites us with his act of surrender and also invites us to be bread that is broken and shared by our sisters and brothers for the salvation of the poor [58].

The members of the Vincentian Family can continue to find inspiration in Louise’s experience of the Eucharist that enables them to live out this dimension of the following of Christ. This is a new challenge as we celebrate the 350th anniversary of the death of our Founders.

The experience of the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit

In the letters and writings of Louise de Marillac we find many references to the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit. This fact makes it clear that Louise reflected on the texts of the New Testament and frequently made these texts of the object of her prayer [59].

Louise described the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity as one of love and the communication of love, highlighting the union of the divine Persons as an effect of this love (SWLM:768 [A.75], 817 [A.26]). The Holy Spirit who brings about union in the interior life of the Trinity also brings about a unity in the human person.

In various reflections Louise de Marillac described the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus: the Holy Spirit formed the body of Jesus Christ in the womb of the blessed Virgin [60]; Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where he was tempted [61]; when Jesus promised the Apostles that they would receive the Holy Spirit he also told them that he would be glorified by the same Spirit [62].

The coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles produced visible effects: their understanding was enlightened and filled with the knowledge necessary for their vocation, their memory fully refreshed by the words and actions of the Son of God, and their will on fire with His love and love of their neighbor. The Holy Spirit, acting powerfully by this plenitude in them, helped them to tell and teach efficaciously the greatness and love of God (CCD:IX:324).

The Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to send to the Apostles consoles the Church, the mother of all believers and also confirms Jesus’ teachings. The Spirit strengthens the faithful to live holy lives, prolongs the mission of the Incarnate Word and encourages people to give witness to the Spirit [63].

Louise de Marillac knew how to recognize the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit. She correctly described how the Spirit was present and acting in her life and in the life of the Church. She also found the way to celebrate this reality in personal prayer, in prayer with the other members of the community and in the Church’s liturgy.

The experience of the Holy Spirit constitutes one of the central (and most original) aspects of Louise’s spirituality. From her reflections on the Holy Spirit she was able to envision certain consequences for those who followed Jesus Christ: unity, dedication to the poor, strength to serve others, joy … As members of the Vincentian Family and as we reflect on Louise’s experience, we can be helped, like her, to recognize the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit in our own lives.

In light of our sense of hyper-responsibility, which on certain occasions we reveal in our ministry and service, and in light of our presumption to transform the world by our own effort, it is good to discover and experience another reality, namely, that the Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the mission [64].

At the same time our personal and community prayer and our participation in the liturgy can be noticeably enriched if we have recourse to the master of the interior life [65]. Indeed, unless the Holy Spirit comes to our assistance, we will not know how or what to request from this master of the interior life.

Louise’s experience with regard to the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit is certainly a significant challenge to those of us who are committed to giving life to the Vincentian charism in the midst of today’s world.

The experience of the Virgin Mary as a teacher of the spiritual life and the only mother of the Company

Mary is very much present in the correspondence and writings of Saint Louise [66]. Several of Louise’s writings have been preserved, writings that were inspired by her meditations and reflections on the great dignity of the Virgin Mary. She presented Mary as: God’s collaborator in the Incarnation (SWLM:784 [A.14]), united with Jesus Christ who lives in her (SWLM:735 [A.32b]), participant in the mystery of God in Christ (SWLM:815 [A.32]), full of grace (SWLM:815 [A.32]), Mother of mercy and grace (SWLM:774 [A.14b]), collaborator in redemption as she stood beneath the cross (SWLM:695 [A.4], 831 [M.5b]).

We also have a well thought out and systematic reflection of Louise that focused on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception of the virgin [67]. In this reflection we discover the depth of her thought and the richness of her insights which are very enlightening as we attempt to integrate Marian spirituality into the Vincentian charism.

Saint Louise de Marillac did not hesitate to propose the Virgin Mary as a model for life: a model for every state in life (SWLM:695 [A.4]); the model of a woman who fulfilled God’s will (SWLM:695 [A.4], 704 [A.10]); the model of poverty (SWLM:493 [L.461]); the model of purity [68].

In one of Louise’s writing we have an admirable synthesis of the elements of devotion to the Blessed Mary (SWLM:785-786, [M.33]) and this synthesis is most enlightening in our own time. We should, she says, celebrate liturgically the different feasts in honor of Mary, imitate Mary’s life and virtues and choose some little practices of devotion.

In addition to her reflections and meditations on the Blessed Mother, Louise’s correspondence and writings point out some of these little practices of devotion in honor of the Blessed Virgin. In her prayers she invoked the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin (SWLM:819 [A26]).

Saint Louise entrusted those whom she most loved to the Blessed Mother: her son and the Company of the Daughters of Charity. She wanted the Company to be consecrated to Mary and she prayed that the members of the Company would consider Mary as their only Mother [69]. In her last words to the Sisters, in her spiritual testament, she was insistent: Pray earnestly to the Blessed Virgin, that she may be your only Mother (SWLM:835, [Spiritual Testament]).

We can affirm that in Louise’s experience she encountered the Virgin Mary in a calm manner. As members of the Vincentian Family we must drink from this fountain of Louise’s experience in order to understand and live a Marian spirituality … a significant dimension of the Vincentian charism and of any following of Christ [70] … the true experience of Mary as spiritual teacher and Mother.

The experience of the community that follows the Lord and serves him in the poor, thus building foundations of unity, civility and charity

Our reflection on the validity of the spiritual experiences of Louise de Marillac for Vincentian spirituality today would be incomplete unless we also spoke about charity, the heart of all spirituality and therefore, the heart of Vincentian spirituality [71].

Saint Louise wanted God, who is love, to be the strong loving bond that unites the hearts of all the sisters in imitation of the union of the three Divine Persons (SWLM:122, [L.111]).

Love and unity are proper characteristics of a community that has opted to follow Christ and thus prolong his mission among the poor: Let us truly love each other in God, but let us love God in each other since we are His (SWLM:159, [L.146]). I believe that you are to be but one heart since Daughters of Charity must become so on account of the union which exists among them (SWLM:206, [L.182]). I beg … you to renew yourselves in the spirit of unity and cordiality that the Daughters of Charity must possess through the practice of this same charity which is accompanied by all the Christian virtues, particularly mutual support which is our dearest virtue. I recommend this to you, as much as I can, as something which is absolutely necessary since it leads us never to see the faults of another with bitterness but rather always to excuse them while humbling ourselves. I beg you to ask for this spirit, which is the spirit of Our Lord, for the entire Company (SWLM:313 [L.275]).

Charity lived in community is the path to holiness: If humility, simplicity, and charity, which produce support, are well established among you, your Little Company will be made up of as many saints as there are persons. We must not wait, however, for someone else to begin. If it can be said that these holy practices are not universally in use, let each of us be the very first to start. Moreover, it is not enough to begin because she who starts out generously should say, “I will never tire of practicing these virtues even thought I may not reach the level of holiness of others.” This latter would not happen (SWLM:532, [L.505]).

Charity is the Christian manner of serving the poor: Since you are Daughters of Charity in name and since you know that true charity loves and endures everything, even the worst contradictions and repugnancies, I hope that all of you practice this … Is it no reasonable, my dear Sisters, that since God has honored us by calling us to His service, we should serve Him in a manner pleasing to Him (SWLM:252, [L.319]).

The testimony of the first Daughters of Charity reveals how Louise’s life was characterized by charity: I have always recognized that she had great charity and forbearance for us, so much so that she wore herself out (CCD:X:277); Father, she was so kind to me that sometimes, when she saw that I was troubled, she would treat me very gently (CCD:X:577); she had great love and charity for all the Sisters, always bearing with them and excusing them (CCD:X:578); she had great charity for the Sisters and was afraid of annoying them (CCD:X:583); I heard her say that she loved all our Sisters very much and wanted all of us to be as perfect as our model Jesus Christ (CCD:X:584); one day, during her last illness, I asked her what she would ask God for me and for all our sisters. She said she was asking Him to grant us the grace to live in great union and charity as true Daughters of Charity, as he desires of us (CCD:X:585).

Today more than ever before the witness of charity makes visible the signs of God’s kingdom present in the midst of the world. The witness of charity gives credence to the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ [72].

As followers of Christ the witness of Charity begins with unity in community and not with the altruistic heroism of individuals. Benedict XVI reminds us: God is love (Deus Caritas Est): everything has its origin in God's love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God's greatest gift to humanity; it is his promise and our hope [73].

The insistence of Louise de Marillac on her own experience continues to challenge us to a new creativity in charity [74] in order to give life to the Vincentian charism in every community of the Vincentian Family and in those places where the poor continue to cry out to the God of love [75].


As we celebrate the feast of Saint Louise, the Liturgy places before us the reading from the Acts of the Apostles 9:36-42. There we encounter Tabitha, a woman known for her good deeds and almsgiving.

The name Tabitha means “Gazelle”, one who runs swiftly … it also indicates beauty and elegance.

When Peter arrived in Joppa he was asked to go the Tabitha’s house. She had just died and everyone wanted Peter to restore her to life: how could Tabitha die … Tabitha should continue to live.

The fact that the liturgy invites us to proclaim the witness of Tabitha on the feast of Saint Louise had led me to read the experiences of Louise from the perspective of Tabitha. Louise de Marillac was beautiful, like Tabitha, a “gazelle” who moved quickly because she was inspired by a greater “Love”, the charity of Jesus crucified urges us to provide for the needs of the poor. Louise’s spiritual experience ought to continue to live … it is not right that it should cease to inspire us.

It seems to me to be useless to lament the fact that we tried for so many years to come to know Louise through the limited written sources that were available to us. I ask myself about the significance of the discourses, homage, memorials and celebrations that will occur during the time of the 350th anniversary of Louise’s death … what will be the significance of these for the Vincentian charism? I am convinced that these celebrations will not be in vain if Louise de Marillac, like Tabitha, is given new life. This new life will enable Saint Louise to inspire our lives and the spiritual experience of every member of the Vincentian Family.


01. Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, New City Press, New York, 1985-2012, volume XIIIb, p. 325. Hereafter, references to this work will be noted with the letters CCD, followed by the volume number, and then the page number, for example, CCD:XIIIb:325. These citations will appear in the text and not as footnotes.

02. Abelly, Louis, The Live of the Venerable Servant of God, Vincent de Paul, [Translated by William Quinn, FCS] New City Press, New York, 1993, volume I, p. 136. Hereafter, references to this work will be noted by stating the author, followed by the volume and the page number, for example, Abelly I:136 and these citations will appear in the text and not as footnotes.

03. N. Gobillon, Vida de la señorita Le Gras, fundadora y primera superiora de la Compañia de las Hijas de la Caridad, siervas de los pobres enfermos (The life of Mademoiselle Le Gras, founder and first superior of the Company of the Daughters of Charity, servants of the sick poor), Ceme, Salmanca, 1991, p. 57.

04. J. Dirvin, Louise de Marillac, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc., New York, 1970, p. ix.

05. Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, edited and translated by Sister Louise Sullivan, DC, New City Press, New York,1991. Future reference to this work will be noted with the letters, SWLM followed by the page number, followed by [the number of the letter which will be bracketed] --- at other times the letter “A” or “M” will appear in brackets and these are references to Louise’s other writings. All the numbering is in accord with the English edition. Lastly, at times there are numerous references and when these are too numerous they will appear in a footnote rather than the text. This simply makes it easier to read the text.

06. Among the most significant initiatives we mention here the Vincentian Study Sessions for the Daughters of Charity throughout Spain (cf., Twenty-five years of Vincentian studies, Anales (2000), p. 605. In 1991 Anales published several studies on Saint Louise on the occasion of 400 anniversary of her birth.

07. N. Gobillon, La Vie de Mademoiselle Le Gras, Fondatrice et premiere Supérieure de la Compagnie des Filles de la Charité, servantes des pauvres maladies, Paris, 1676.

08. Cf., B. Martínez, Santa Luisa de Marillac: Correspondencia y escritos, Anales (1986), pp. 594-597 (or 194-197), the reference in the Spanish text is unclear since it reads: 594-197.

09. Editions in the Spanish language: Reflexiones piadosas de la venerable Luisa de Marillac, fundadora de las Hijas de la Caridad sobre materías espirituales, recogidas de sus meditaciones y conferencias, Madrid, 1850 (this is a translation of the fifth volume of Gobillon). P. Grapin, Conferencias hechas por san Vicente de Paúl a las Hijas de la Caridad, Madrid, 1868. Sister Regnord, ed., Espíritu y doctrina de Santa Luisa de Marillac, La Milagrosa, Madrid, 1960.

10. Louise de Marillac, veuve de Le Gras, Burges, 1886, four volumes. The first volume contains the life of Louise that was written by N. Gibillon and the remaining three volumes contain Louise letters and her other writings.

11. Of the 206 letters that Louise wrote to Vincent, Pierre Coste critically edited 204 … he also edited 169 letters that Vincent set to Louise.

12. R. Castañares, Cartas y escritos de santa Luisa de Marillac, three volumes, Madrid, 1945. Father Castañares utilized the litographic edition of Sister Geoffrrey for the letters. For Louise’s other writings he used the edition of Burjas. In 1875 Sister María Geoggrey de Chabrignac (1834-1893) began to classify the handwritten letters of Louise and copied all the letters that she found in public and private archives. She prepared a four volume edition of this work that was never published but nonetheless her work provided a foundation for later research.

13. L. Baunard, La Vénerable Louise de Marillac, Mademoiselle Le Gras, foundatrice des Filles de la Charité de Saint Vincent de Paul, Paris, 1898. Vida de la venerable Luisa de Marillac, fundadora de las Hijas de la Caridad de San Vicente de Paúl, Madrid, 1904. J. Calvet, Louise de Marillac por elle-méme: Retrato, Ceme, Salamanca, 1977.

14. Cf., B. Martinez, Santa Luisa de Marillac: Correspondencia y escritos, (Saint Louise de Marillac: Correspondence and Writings), Anales (1986), pp. 594-597 (or 194-197) --- the reference in the Spanish text is unclear since it states 594-197.

15. Saint Louise de Marillac, Spiritual Writing of Louise de Marillac, New City Press, New York, 1991. E. Charpy, ed., La Compañia de las Hijas de la Caridad en sus orígenes: Documentos (The origins of the Daughters of Charity: Documents), Ceme, Salamanca, 2003. Cf., J. Calvet, Louise de Marillac por elle-méme: Retrato, Ceme, Salamanca, 1977. J. Dirvin, Louise de Marillac, Farrar, Straus and Girous, Inc., New York, 1970. M. Flinton, Santa Luisa de Marillac: el aspect social de su obra (Saint Louise de Marillac: the social dimension of her work), Ceme, Salamanca, 1974. N. Gobillon, Vida de la señorita Le Gras (The Life of Mademoiselle Le Gras), Ceme, Salamanca, 199l (translations of this work were done in 1792 and 1834 but these works were incomplete and inaccurate). B. Martínez, Empeñada en un paraíso para los pobres, Ceme, Salamanca, 1995. AA.VV. En tiempos de San Vicente de Paúl … y hoy. Cuadernos Vicencianos, II (At the time of Saint Vincent de Paul … and today. Vincentian Notebooks, II), Ceme, Salamanca, 1999 … several themes that deal with Saint Louise are found in this work on pp. 189-272. C. Delgado, Luisa de Marillac y la Iglesia (Louise de Marillac and the Church), Ceme, Salamanca, 1991. B. Martínez, La señorita Le Gras y santa Luisa de Marillac (Mademoiselle Le Gras and Saint Louise de Marillac), Ceme, Salamanca, 1991. B. Martínez, Ejercicios con Santa Luisa de Marillac. El Espíritu Santo (Retreats with Saint Louise de Marillac: the Holy Spirit), Ceme, Salamanca, 1998.

16. Perfectae Caritatis, #2.

17. Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Mutuae Relationes, #11, 12, 23.

18. John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, #37, 71.

19. Cf., Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Mutuae Relationes, #11.

20. Cf., Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Mutuae Relationes, #23

21. J.M. Román, Santa Luisa de Marillac en la espiritualidad francesa del siglo XVII (Saint Louise de Marillac and the French spirituality of the XVII century), Anales (1991), 2-31. It should be mentioned here that Louise and Vincent began to relate with one another at the end of 1624.

22. J. Dirvin, op.cit., p. vii.

23. Revision Commission, Synthesis, Archives of the Daughters of Charity, 2003 Assembly.

24. J. Corera, Las dos manos del Padre (The two hands of the Father), Anales (1989), p. 348.

25. Numerous studies dealing with the Vincentian charism have been published in recent years. Cf., AA.VV. Carisma Vicenciano: Memoria y profecía, (The Vincentian charism: memory and prophecy), Salamanca, Ceme, 2001.

26. Cf., Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Mutuae Relationes, #11. Paul VI, Evangelica Testificatio, #11. Also see, J. Elizondo, Carisma y Espíritu Vicencianos (Charism and Vincentian Spirit) Vincentiana, 1998, #4-5.

27. Cf. C. Delgado, La formación humana y Cristiana de Luisa de Marillac (The human and Christian formation of Louise de Marillac, in Santa Luisa de Marillac, ayer y hoy (Saint Louise de Marillac, yesterday and today), Editorial Ceme, Salamanca, 2010, p.111ff.

28. Robert P. Maloney, The Way of Vincent de Paul, New City Press, New York, 1992, p. 13.

29. Cf. Ch. A. Bernard, Introducción a la theología espiritual (Introduction to spiritual theology), Estella, Verbo Divino, 2004).

30. The Conferences on the virtues of Louise de Marillac are found in CCD:X:569-590.

31. Cf., B. Martínez, Santa Luisa de Marillac: Correspondencia y escritos, Anales (1986), pp. 594-597 (or 194-197 --- the exact reference in unclear because the Spanish text reads 594-197.

32. It must be undertood that our vision of Vincentian spirituality and those elements of this spirituality that are found in the life Louise de Marillac correspond to that which we are now able to read and find in her writings. However, distinct from other spiritual masters, neither Vincent de Paul nor Louise de Marillac have passed on to us a systematic outline of their spirituality or a manuscript that contains a description of how they lived on a daily basis their own experience of God.

33. Cf., J.M. Uriarte, Una espiritualidad para nuestro tiempo (A spirituality for our time), in AA.VV. La comunidad de Jesús (The community of Jesus), Idatz, San Sebastián, 1977, pp. 83-113. Some of the challenges that are proposed here are the result of this study.

34. In J.M. Uriarte, op.cit.

35. The Congress on Consecrated Life, 2004, (Passion for Christ, Passion for humanity). See also the reflections of the different religious communities on this theme.

36. Cf., F. Quintanto, Dios Padre (God the Father), ECOS, 1999, P. 15: Our life is supported on Him like a solid rock … my life is focused on Him and I accept him and all that he say to me; my existence proceeds from Him and I am in God’s hands. I am not alone because God is the foundation of my being. God is my origin and my final destiny. God knows me and loves me and nothing can separate me from the love of the Father.

37. Cf., E. Charpy, Spiritualité de Louise de Marillac. Ininéraire d’une femme (Spirituality of Louise de Marillac: a woman’s journey), DDB, Paris, 1995).

38. Dei Verbum, #4. See also, Hebrews 1:1-2 and Colossians 1:15-20.

39. Cf., Matthew 25:40, 45.

40. This phrase is from Martin Bauber; cf., J.M. Uriarte, op.cit.

41. Cf., John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, #63.

42. Her act of protest was done before the Church militant (SWLM:694 [A.3]). When Louise wrote to M. Portail who was in Rome, at the source of the Holy Church, she requested the blessing of the Holy Father of all Christians for herself and for all the Sisters ... we have the double happiness of being Daughters of the holy Church (SWLM:202-203 [L.179]). We find similar phrases in a letter that Louise wrote to M. Berthe who was also in Rome (SWLM:409 [l.389]).

43. Translator’s Note: the document that is referred to in the Spanish text A.95, the proposed rule for the orphans who were to be entrusted to the Daughters of Charity, July 1657, is not found in the English edition of Louise’s writings.

44. John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, #43.

45. Cf., SWLM: 704 [A.50], 705 [A.51], 720 [A53], 722 [A.52].

46. Cf. N. Gobillon, op.cit., p. 99.

47. Ibid.

48. SWLM:25 [L.17], 360 [L.311], 367 [L.326], 509 [L.480], 556 [L.531], 637 [L.618].

49. SWLM:273 [L.233], 350 [L.345], 434 [L.383], 493 [L.461], 494 [L.463b], 500 [L.504], 633 [L.613], 640 [L.621], 673 [L.651], 682 [L.556].

50. Provision is made for prayer in all the rules for the houses, for the different offices, for the various foundations, including when the Sisters are traveling: SWLM: 765 [L.134], 726 [A.55], 736 [A.80], 737 [A.76], 738 [A.91], 746 [A.88], 754 [A.91b], 770 [A.85], 730 [A.77], 810 [A.93], 805 [A.92], 689 [A.1]; CCD:X:454ff.

51. Cf., J.M. Uriarte, op.cit.

52. Cf., SWLM:778: [A42], 779 [A.71], 821 [M.72], 834 [A.49]

53. Translator’s Note: The Spanish text refers to the document A.48 in the Spiritual Writings of Saint Louise. This document is the Catechism which she wrote but is not contained in this edition of her writings.

54. Translator’s Note: Once again the Spanish text refers to the Catechism which Louise de Marillac wrote but this document is not found in this edition of her writings.

55. Cf., SWLM:697 [A.17]. See also, SWLM: 704 [A.50], 725 [A.43], 825 [A.18], 833 [M.8b].

56. Cf., SWLM:172 [L.159] and 730 [A.77]. The Sisters admired Louise’s love for the Eucharist (CCD:X:584-585).

57. Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 --- The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

58. Cf., Mark 14:22-26 --- While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said: “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

59. Luisa de Marillac ante el Espíritu Santo (Louise de Marillac and the Holy Spirit), Anales (1998), p. 26-41.

60. Translator’s Note: here is another reference to the catechism which is not found in the English edition of Louise’s writings. Matthew 1:18 --- When his mother Mary was bethroed to Joseph but before they lived together, she was found to be with child through the holy Spirit.

61. SWLM 714 [A.5]; Luke 4:2 --- Jesus … was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.

62. SWLM 802 [A.25]; John 16:13-14 --- But when he comes, the Spirit of truth … he will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.

63. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his but he will speak what he hears and will declare to you the things that are coming (John 16:13).

64. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mission, #21.

65. Cf., Romans 8:26. The expression interior master is Saint Augustine’s.

66. Cf., C. Delgado, Celebraciones marianas inspiradas en la experiencia espiritual de Santa Luisa de Marillac (Marian celebrations inspired by the spiritual experience of Saint Louise de Marillac), Barakaldo, Cuadernos Marillac, 1991; E. Charpy, Un camino de santidad: Luisa de Marillac (A path of holiness: Louise de Marillac), Paris, Casa Madre, 1989; B. Martínez, La señorita Le Gras y santa Luisa de Marillac (Madamesoille Le Gras and Saint Louise de Marillac), CEME, Salamanca, 1991; A. Corona, Donna nella Caritá, 1991.

67. SWLM:830 [A.31b]; cf., SWLM:734 [M.35b].

68. SWLM:140-141 [L.303b], 381-382 [L.33], 657 [L.639].

69. SWLM: 120 [L.110], 121 [L.111], 281 [L.245], 621 [L.602], 617 [L.598], 734 [M33b]; CCD:X:500.

70. Cf., S. Galilea, El camino de la spiritualidad, (The path of spirituality), Bogotá, Ediciones Paulinas, 1982, p. 104: Mary is the perfect incarnation of Christian spirituality. Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, #21: Mary is not only an example for the whole Church in the exercise of divine worship but is also, clearly, a teacher of the spiritual life for individual Christians. C. Delgado, Marian Spirituality and the Vincentian Charism, Vincentiana, 2002, Volume 4-5.

71. Cf., C. Riccardi, Spiritualità vincenziana. Contributo allo studio del Vicenzianesimo, Roma, Edizioni Vincenziane, 1998.

72. Cf., John 17:21: That the world may believe

73. Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate, #2; cf., 1 John 4:8, 16.

74. John Paul II, Novo Millenio Ineunte, #50.

75. I have witnessed the affliction of my people (Exodus 3:7).

Translated by: Charles T. Plock, CM