• 15 Mar 19

Mar 15 - “St. Louise de Marillac” © icon by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM. Happy Feast Day St. Louise!

Louise de Marillac was the illegitimate daughter of a French nobleman. Although he provided for her and loved her dearly, he died when she was 13 years old -- leaving her at the mercy of relatives who withheld her inheritance. She married when she was 22, and was widowed 12 years later.

Louise was a close friend of St. Vincent de Paul, a priest who was struggling to awaken his nation’s conscience towards the desperate plight of the poor. Seventeenth century France was a war-torn country where the greatest wealth existed side-by-side with unbelievable poverty. As he traveled through France, Vincent organized associations of lay workers to help the poor. After the death of her husband, Vincent asked Louise to visit these groups, encouraging them to greater generosity and correcting abuses, where these had arisen.

Eventually a group of simple village women gathered around Louise. Together they became the Daughters of Charity, a new form of religious life dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. Prior to this time, Catholic nuns had lived a life of strict seclusion in monasteries. The dream of Vincent and Louise was to take consecrated life into city streets. These new sisters were to have "for monastery, the house of the sick, for chapel, the parish church, for cloister, the streets of the city or the wards of the hospitals..." They cared for the great numbers of abandoned orphans, for the aged poor, for prisoners, and for the sick. They started schools for poor children. They transformed the character of Christian charity by establishing permanent institutions to put charitable works on a stable footing.

At the heart of Christianity is a belief that Christ is best served in the poor. Louise reminds us of this truth as wealth becomes concentrated in ever fewer hands in our day. Her dying words to her sisters are words Christians must never forget: "Take great care to serve the poor."