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St. Louise de Marillac: The mountain of stones and the diamond

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Journey of St. Louise from a world of suffering to a new life of creative boldness and leadership.

Publicado en: Meditación
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St. Louise de Marillac: The mountain of stones and the diamond

  1. 1. S T . L O U I S E D E M A R I L L A C   THE MOUNTAIN OF STONES AND THE DIAMOND
  2. 2. “The greatness of Louise de Marillac can never be understood until this false image of a timid, dour, drab and cheerless woman has been put aside …her nature was outgoing, her life given over to people. She was a creature of love and she loved with all the ardor of a warm heart.” - Joseph I. Dirvin, C.M.
  3. 3. Louise followed Christ by: • moving beyond good intentions and becoming involved in people’s sufferings • remembering that Christ is present in the marginalized, and Christ became a servant in order to proclaim and be good news for the poor The power of the Holy Spirit made her feel that she was sent to free the captives, to give sight to the blind, to restore the dignity of the oppressed and to proclaim the goodness of the Lord!
  4. 4. In her younger years, Louise was an anguished, indecisive, insecure and anxious woman. She was excessively religious and followed many daily practices of prayer and fasting, rules and discipline. Her image of God filled her with fear and anxiety. But that was about to change. God had a plan. Louise met Vincent de Paul, a man who was the opposite of her in many ways. He showed her that worrying is totally useless. When she began to worry, he would suggest that she go find something to do— the most important thing, and the best cure, was to go out and serve the poor.
  5. 5. Vincent became Louise’s spiritual director and he worked on her like a patient sculptor, with clear and simple instructions. We can see that in their letters to each other. Whenever Louise was acting too pious and religious, Vincent suggested a Christian life that was centered on love: “God is love and wants us to go to him through love (CCD:I: 81).” When Louise was afraid of God’s judgment, Vincent emphasized that “Our Lord is a continual communion for those who are united to what he wills and does not will (CCD:I:233).” When she was sad and depressed, Vincent spoke of the joy and contentment of living and trusting in God’s love (CCD:I: 150).
  6. 6. Some time before this, Louise had a famous experience while at church on the Feast of Pentecost, where her mind was instantly freed of all doubt. She had an inner assurance that it was God who was speaking to her about her future and that she should remain at peace about it.
  7. 7. Vincent could see that Louise had her own personality, different from his, but he could also see that very calmly and quietly the grace of God was leading her to a radical commitment— a whole new kind of life!
  8. 8. It was not that Louise’s suffering in her younger years was wasted. In suffering Louise grew interiorly, experienced the sting of poverty, and came to understand the meaning of insecurity and disgrace. From the margins of happiness she began to experience for herself, without realizing it, the despair and abandonment of the marginalized people that she would be helping in the future. Suffering does not always mean despair— in Louise’s case it was like a birth. Louise came to see suffering as fertile soil that was able to make a person stronger, preparing them for very difficult and daring works.
  9. 9. Vincent himself, in a letter dated April 1630, wrote what could perhaps be a theme for Louise’s journey: one beautiful diamond is worth more than a mountain of stones (CCD:I:75). Vincent allowed God to polish those “stones” in Louise, one by one, until they became a diamond. So that there could be no doubt about this Vincent stated very clearly in one of his last conferences to the Daughters of Charity, a conference on the virtues of Louise de Marillac, that Louise is the work of the hands of God (CCD:X:575).
  10. 10. During her travels, Louise met many nameless, faceless people who seemed to be almost inhuman, depressed, and counted as nothing in society. Louise experienced the hell of the extreme marginalization of seventeenth century France. She had to confront this oppression!
  11. 11. Louise dared to look at the other side of the coin and realized that the poor, though vulgar and rude, are the sacrament of Christ. (Meaning that they are signs of the clear presence of the crucified Lord in the midst of the world.) Louise was convinced that the poor were not just people she served, but more than that— they were actually the ultimate criteria for our salvation or condemnation: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36).
  12. 12. In the poor, Louise saw the passion of Christ… the suffering of the poor was united to the suffering of Christ. This was the starting point for her ministry.
  13. 13. Louise was also very clear that the poor need more from us than alms or medicine or clothing or even some form of permanent assistance. Simply giving money or material goods is nothing compared to giving yourself. We have to make good use of every moment of our life, including exposing our life to danger for the love of God … and doing all of this in order to serve the poor. Louise wanted to emphasize the passion that we must have in ministering to the poor, suffering and marginalized. They demand the total surrender of our life!
  14. 14. In pictures and holy cards you might find an image of Louise as a woman distributing alms, or providing direct help to the poor. But one of Louise’s best talents was providing effective organization to the practice of charity. So much so that many present-day experts in the field of social action are surprised by the organizational system that Louise established more than three and a half centuries ago. Without any exaggeration her system could be classified as a true revolution in the field of social action.
  15. 15. One of the most significant signs of her creative boldness is seen in the role that Louise played in the first institution that was established by Vincent de Paul: the Confraternities of Charity (presently known as the International Association of Charities or Ladies of Charity). This lay institution, for the most part composed of women, was initiated on August 23, 1617 in the town of Châtillon-les- Dombes (today known as Châtillon-Sur-Chalaronne) where Vincent was pastor of the parish church. These Confraternities spread rapidly throughout France and formed an extensive charitable network.
  16. 16. Obviously at first not all the Confraternities functioned properly, and some were in need of a boost. Louise was sent forth to visit, encourage, organize, and coordinate the ministry of the Confraternities. She traveled mile after mile on horseback, in stagecoach and on foot. During her visits Louise observed how the Confraternities were doing, their financial situation, the commitment of each member … she was informed about the spiritual life of the members … she herself visited the poor and was not satisfied with simply providing good advice … she engaged in the most humble and difficult tasks and was careful to attend to one of her great concerns: the formation and training of the members.
  17. 17. In the Rule of the Confraternities we see detailed descriptions that are so characteristic of Louise de Marillac. She did not impose some theory or system or rigid method. Everything was based on reality and common sense and was adapted to the local circumstances and needs. Nevertheless the Rule demanded commitment, fidelity and preparation. The Rule was very detailed and this guaranteed that the poor would be served with tenderness, cordiality and respect. The Rule also served as a catechetical tool that enabled the members to become more Christian as they became involved in a process of on-going conversion to Christ through the person of those who were abandoned and excluded from society.
  18. 18. CO-FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY Vincent clearly stated the theological reality: God is the only author of the Company (of the Daughters of Charity). Nevertheless, the historical truth is that Louise gathered together a group of poor women, servants, who were willing to dedicate their lives to the poor.
  19. 19. For some time Vincent was hesitant to consider this proposal because his mind [was] not yet enlightened enough before God (CCD:I: 200). It was not until September 1633 that he wrote to Louise: I think your good angel did what you told me in the letter you wrote me. Four or five days ago, he communicated with mine concerning the Charity of your young women … and I gave that good work serious thought (CCD:I:216). On November 29, 1633, four young women, Marie, Michelle, Nicole and Jeanne gathered together in Louise’s house. They would come together to pray and to prepare their souls to receive the Spirit of God and the unknown mission that was reserved for them.
  20. 20. The establishment of the Daughters of Charity constituted the definitive stage of the human and spiritual journey of this woman, Louise, who was now forty-two years old. From this time forward she dedicated herself tirelessly: molding, encouraging, forming and transmitting the Vincentian spirit to these women, “her daughters”, side by side with her director, Vincent de Paul.
  21. 21. It was Louise who was encouraging, directing and organizing the activity of this group of women. Furthermore, Vincent de Paul himself stated that without Louise none of this would have been possible. It was because of Louise that the Daughters first cared for the sick poor in their homes and taught the peasant girls in the various towns and villages. Later, because of circumstances and need, the arms of the Daughters reached out to embrace those persons afflicted by the threefold curse of the plague, hunger and war.
  22. 22. “The intimate aspects of her spiritual life, that is, her mystical desires … these would be locked away with seven keys in the depths of her being. She would send out the Daughters along a realistic path, a path of commitment that was pointed out to her by that priest of crude peasant country appearance [Vincent]. As a result a new, better image of Louise takes form … a mature woman, strong, clear-sighted, bold and creative.“ - Celestino Fernández, C.M.
  23. 23. SOURCE: Based on Louise de Marillac: a bold and creative woman* by: Celestino Fernández, C.M. Translated by: Charles T. Plock, C.M. *Some text was paraphrased or simplified for the purpose of teaching in presentation format. http://misionerospaules.org

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