Spirituality for Today – March 2013 – Volume 17, Issue 8

Saint of the Month
St. Louise de Marillac

February 2

A painting of Saint Louise de MarillacSaint Louise de Marillac

Louise lost her mother shortly after her birth in 1590. She was educated by the Dominican nuns at a convent in Poissy. When she also lost her father at age 14, her relatives placed her in a boardinghouse for orphaned children to learn domestic skills. For a time, Louise considered entering the religious life but poor health prevented her from doing so.

In 1613, Louise was married to Antoine Le Gras, secretary in the queen's household. For 12 happy years, she devoted herself to her husband and her son while also caring for the poor. When Antoine died, Louise fell into depression. Vowing to remain a widow, she devoted herself to prayer and good works. With the help of Vincent de Paul, her spiritual confessor, her life took a new direction.

Vincent placed Louise in charge of the Ladies of Charity, a group of devout wealthy women who helped sustain the work of her mission priests. Louise saw that many of these well-meaning women were unable to cope with the horrible conditions of the poor, so she trained a new society of mostly young girls to do the practical work of caring for the destitute.

Typically, religious women stayed in convents and prayed for long hours every day. With Louise as their superior, the Daughters of Charity worked in hospitals and orphanages, schools, homes for the aged, shelters and soup kitchens. They even cared for soldiers and criminals. Before Louise died at age 70, she offered her final words of guidance to the sisters who now lived in 40 houses throughout France: "Love the poor and honor them, my children, as you would honor Christ Himself."

Dear St. Louise,
you transformed your loss into a great gain for others,
dedicating your life to complete devotion to the poor.
Inspire us to follow your example,
with acts of kindness, selfless generosity and love for all.
For in giving of ourselves true healing will come.

From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives.