Louise de Marillac

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Saint Louise de Marillac DC
Wife, Mother, Widow, Foundress, Social Service worker
BornAugust 12, 1591
Le Meux, Oise, France
DiedMarch 15, 1660(1660-03-15) (aged 68)
Paris, France
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified May 9, 1920, Vatican by Pope Benedict XV
Canonized March 11, 1934, Vatican by Pope Pius XI
Major shrine Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal,
Rue du Bac, Paris, France
Feast May 9
Attributes Widows' clothing
  • Disappointing children
  • loss of parents
  • people rejected by religious orders
  • sick people
  • social workers
  • Vincentian Service Corps
  • widows

Louise de Marillac DC , also Louise Le Gras (August 12, 1591 March 15, 1660) was the co-founder, with Vincent de Paul, of the Daughters of Charity. She is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul society of apostolic life

The Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, called in English the Daughters of Charity or Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent De Paul, is a Society of Apostolic Life for women within the Catholic Church. Its members make annual vows throughout their life, which leaves them always free to leave, without need of ecclesiastical permission. They were founded in 1633 and state that they are devoted to serving the poor through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Vincent de Paul 17th-century French priest, founder and saint

Vincent de Paul was a French Catholic priest who dedicated himself to serving the poor. He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He was canonized in 1737. He was renowned for his compassion, humility and generosity. Founder of Congregation of the Mission and Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Saint one who has been recognized for having an exceptional degree of holiness, sanctity, and virtue

A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. However, the use of the term "saint" depends on the context and denomination. In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, and Lutheran doctrine, all of their faithful deceased in Heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered worthy of greater honor or emulation; official ecclesiastical recognition, and consequently veneration, is given to some saints through the process of canonization in the Catholic Church or glorification in the Eastern Orthodox Church.


Early life

Louise de Marillac was born out of wedlock on August 12, 1591 [1] near Le Meux, now in the department of Oise, in Picardy. She never knew her mother. Louis de Marillac, Lord of Ferrires (1556-1604), [2] claimed her as his natural daughter yet not his legal heir. Louis was a member of the prominent de Marillac family and was a widower at the time of Louise’s birth. Her uncle, Michel de Marillac, was a major figure in the court of Queen Marie de' Medici and, though Louise was not a member of the Queen’s court, she lived and worked among the French aristocracy. When her father married his new wife, Antoinette Le Camus, she refused to accept Louise as part of their family. Thus Louise grew up amid the affluent society of Paris, but without a stable home life. Nevertheless, she was cared for and received an excellent education at the royal monastery of Poissy near Paris, where her aunt was a Dominican nun.

Le Meux Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Le Meux is a commune in the Oise department in northern France.

In the administrative divisions of France, the department is one of the three levels of government below the national level, between the administrative regions and the commune. Ninety-five departments are in metropolitan France, and five are overseas departments, which are also classified as regions. Departments are further subdivided into 334 arrondissements, themselves divided into cantons; the last two have no autonomy, and are used for the organisation of police, fire departments, and sometimes, elections.

Oise Department of France

Oise is a department in the north of France. It is named after the river Oise. Inhabitants of the department are called Oisiens or Isariens, after the Latin name for the river, Isara.

Louise remained at Poissy until her father's death, when she was twelve years old. She then stayed with a devout spinster, from whom she learned household management skills as well as the secrets of herbal medicine. [3] Around the age of fifteen, Louise felt drawn to the cloistered life. She later made application to the Capuchin nuns in Paris but was refused admission. It is not clear if her refusal was for her continual poor health or other reasons, but her spiritual director assured her that God had "other plans" for her.

Poor Clares Catholic order of convent nuns

The Poor Clares, officially the Order of Saint Clare – originally referred to as the Order of Poor Ladies, and later the Clarisses, the Minoresses, the Franciscan Clarist Order, and the Second Order of Saint Francis – are members of a contemplative Order of nuns in the Catholic Church. The Poor Clares were the second Franciscan Order to be established. Founded by Saints Clare of Assisi and Francis of Assisi on Palm Sunday in the year 1212, they were organized after the Order of Friars Minor, and before the Third Order of Saint Francis. As of 2011 there were over 20,000 Poor Clare nuns in over 75 countries throughout the world. They follow several different observances and are organized into federations.

Devastated by this refusal, Louise was at a loss as to her next step. When she was 22, her family convinced her that marriage was the best alternative. Her uncle arranged for her to marry Antoine Le Gras, secretary to Queen Marie. Antoine was an ambitious young man who seemed destined for great accomplishments. Louise and Antoine were wed in the fashionable Church of St. Gervaise on February 5, 1613. In October, the couple had their only child, Michel. Louise grew to love Antoine and was an attentive mother to their son. Along with being devoted to her family, Louise was also active in ministry in her parish. She had a leading role in the Ladies of Charity, an organization of wealthy women dedicated to assisting those suffering from poverty and disease. [3]

Family and personal troubles

During civil unrest, her two uncles who held high rank within the government were imprisoned. One was publicly executed, and the other died in prison. Around 1621, Antoine contracted a chronic illness and eventually became bedridden. Louise nursed and cared for him and their child. In 1623, when illness was wasting Antoine, depression was overcoming Louise [3] In addition, she suffered for years with internal doubt and guilt for having not pursued the religious calling she had felt as a young woman. She was fortunate to have a wise and sympathetic counsellor, Francis de Sales, then in Paris, [2] and then his friend, the bishop of Belley. [4]

Francis de Sales French bishop, saint, writer and Doctor of the Church

Francis de Sales was a Bishop of Geneva and is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church. He became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.

Belley Commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Belley is a commune in the Ain department in eastern France.

Decision on life

In 1623, at 32, she wrote,

On the feast of Pentecost during Holy Mass or while I was praying in the church, my mind was completely freed of all doubt. I was advised that I should remain with my husband and that the time would come when I would be in the position to make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and that I would be in a small community where others would do the same...I felt that it was God who was teaching me these things and that, believing there is a God; I should not doubt the rest.Template:Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, A.2, p. 1

Pentecost Christian holy day commemorating the New Testament account of Holy Spirits descent upon the Apostles

The Christian holy day of Pentecost, which is celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.

Mass (liturgy) type of worship service within many Christian denomination

Mass is the main eucharistic liturgical service in many forms of Western Christianity. The term Mass is commonly used in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, as well as in some Lutheran, Methodist, Western Rite Orthodox, and Old Catholic churches.

She vowed not to remarry if her husband died before her. [2] She also believed that she had received the insight that she would be guided to a new spiritual director whose face she was shown. When she happened to meet Vincent de Paul, she recognized him as the priest from her vision. [3]

Three years after this experience, Antoine died. Being a woman of energy, intelligence, determination and devotion, Louise wrote her own "Rule of Life in the World" that detailed a structure for her day. Time was set aside for reciting the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, attending Mass, receiving Holy Communion, meditation, spiritual reading, fasting, penance, reciting the rosary and special prayers. Still, Louise managed to find time to maintain her household, entertain guests and nurture Michel, her 13-year-old son, with special needs.

Meeting Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac Paris Saint-Laurent Glasfenster45.JPG
Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac

Antoine died in 1625. Widowed and lacking financial means, she had to move. Vincent lived near her new dwelling. [5] At first, he was reluctant to be her confessor, as he was busy with his Confraternities of Charity. Members were aristocratic ladies of charity, who were helping him nurse the poor and look after neglected children, a real need of the day, but the ladies were busy with many of their own concerns and duties. His work needed many more helpers, especially ones who were peasants themselves and so would be closer to the poor. He also needed someone who could teach and organize them. [4]

Over the next four years, Vincent and Louise often met and communicated by letters. Vincent guided Louise to a greater balance in a life of moderation, peace and calm. In 1629, Vincent invited Louise to become involved in his work with the Confraternities of Charity. [6] She found great success in these endeavors. Then, in 1632, Louise made a spiritual retreat. Her intuition led her to understand that it was time to intensify her ministry with poor and needy persons. Louise, now forty-two years old, communicated this objective to Monsieur Vincent.

Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul

In 17th-century France, the charitable care of the poor was completely unorganized. The Ladies of Charity, founded by Vincent years earlier, provided some care and monetary resources, but it was far from enough. They had the funds to aid poor people, but they did not have the time or temperament to live a life of service among the poor.

Vincent and Louise realized that direct service of the poor was not easy for the nobility or the bourgeoisie because of social class. The women took meals, distributed clothing and gave care and comfort. They visited the slums dressed in beautiful dresses next to people considered to be peasants. The tension, between the ideal of service and social constraints, was real. Besides, the families of the ladies often opposed the works. [5] It soon became clear that many of the ladies were unfitted to cope with the actual conditions.

Until 1964, the traditional religious habit included a large, starched cornette. Soeur Jean Gabriel Batke.jpg
Until 1964, the traditional religious habit included a large, starched cornette.

While the aristocratic ladies were better suited to the work of raising money and dealing with correspondence, the practical work of nursing the poor in their own homes, and caring for neglected children was best accomplished by women of a similar social status to those served. [7]

The need of organization in work for the poor suggested to de Paul the forming of a confraternity among the women of his parish in Châtillon-les-Dombes. It was so successful that it spread from the rural districts to Paris, where noble ladies often found it hard to give personal care to the needs of the poor. The majority sent their servants to minister to those in need, but often, the work was considered unimportant. Vincent de Paul remedied it by referring young women who inquired about serving persons in need to go to Paris and devote themselves to the ministry under the direction of the Ladies of Charity. These young girls formed the nucleus of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

Louise found the help she needed in young, humble country women, who had the energy and the proper attitude to deal with people weighed down by destitution and suffering. She began working with a group of them and saw a need for common life and formation. Consequently, she invited four country girls to live in her home in the Rue des Fosses‐Saint‐Victor and began training them to care for those in need. [8]

Mobility was a major innovation. [5] The Daughters of Charity were unlike other established religious communities, whose religious women were behind cloister walls in a monastery and performed a ministry of contemplative prayer. [9] "Love the poor and honor them as you would honor Christ Himself," Louise explained.[ citation needed ] That was the foundation of the Company of the Daughters of Charity, which received official approbation in 1655. Their distinctive habit, a grey wool tunic with a large headdress or cornette of white linen, was the usual dress of Breton peasant women of the 17th century and later. [7]

At first, the Company served the needs of the sick and poor in their homes. Louise's work with these young women developed into a system of pastoral care at the Hôtel-Dieu, the oldest and largest hospital in Paris. Their work became well-known, and the Daughters were invited to Angers to take over management of the nursing services of the hospital there. [8] As it was the first ministry outside Paris for the fledgling community, Louise made the arduous journey there in the company of three nuns.

After completing negotiations with the city officials and the hospital managers, Louise instituted collaboration among the doctors, nurses and others to form a comprehensive team. The model was highly successful and is still in use today by the Daughters of Charity. Under her guidance, they expanded their scope of service to include orphanages, institutions for the elderly and mentally ill, prisons and the battlefield.

In working with her sisters, Louise emphasized a balanced life, as Vincent de Paul had taught her. It was the integration of contemplation and activity that made Louise's work so successful. She wrote near the end of her life, "Certainly it is the great secret of the spiritual life to abandon to God all that we love by abandoning ourselves to all that He wills."[ citation needed ]

Louise led the Company of Daughters until her death. Nearing her death, she wrote to her nuns: "Take good care of the service of the poor. Above all, live together in great union and cordiality, loving one another in imitation of the union and life of our Lord. Pray earnestly to the Blessed Virgin, that she might be your only Mother."[ citation needed ]

After increasingly ill health, Louise de Marillac died six months before the death of her dear friend and mentor, Vincent de Paul. [8] She was 68, and the Daughters of Charity had more than 40 houses in France. The nuns have always been held in high repute and have made foundations in all parts of the world. [7]


Louise de Marillac Mlle le Gras.jpg
Louise de Marillac

Aided by her directors, the young Louise had entered into profound prayer in the tradition of the Rhenish-Flemish spiritualists, and had been introduced to the French school of spirituality of Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle. Louise, like Duns Scotus, viewed the Incarnation as the moment in which men and women were saved. In the 17th century in France, there was discussion about the condemnation of Quietism so from the time of her death, mysticism was viewed with suspicion. In light of this, her biographer, Nicholas Gobillon, removed any traces of mysticism from Louise's writings and rewrote her meditations. [10]


The body of Saint Louise de Marillac in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at 140 Rue du Bac, in Paris, France. Louisedemarillac.jpg
The body of Saint Louise de Marillac in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at 140 Rue du Bac, in Paris, France.

Louise de Marillac was beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 and, on March 11, 1934, she was canonized by Pope Pius XI. Her feast day is May 9 (changed from March 15 in 2016). Her remains are enshrined in the chapel of the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity at 140 rue du Bac, Paris. She is mistakenly referred to as an incorrupt saint; the body enshrined in the chapel is actually a wax effigy, containing her bones. She was declared Patroness of Christian Social Workers by Pope John XXIII, in 1960. [11]


St. Louise de Marillac Parish is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [1]

St. Louise de Marillac Parish is in Bellevue, Washington.

St. Louise de Marillac Parish and School are in LaGrange Park, Illinois.

St Louise's Comprehensive College is in Falls Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland. [12]

St. Louise de Marillac Parish in Covina, California.

St. Louise de Marillac Parish is in Montreal, Quebec.

St. Louise de Marillac Primary School is in Ballyfermot, Dublin.

Marillac Medical Clinic for the Poor in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Parroquia Santa Luisa de Marillac Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana

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