Forgotten Truths – Collaboration between St. Vincent and St. Louise

I recently recalled something that I often heard of in my early years. When listening to the vocation stories of men who served in the Congregation of the Mission in the last century there was often a common thread. “It was a Daughter of Charity who pointed me to the Vincentians.” I wonder how many Daughters of Charity might also attribute their vocation to a Vincentian priest.

As we approach the celebration of the feast of St. Louise perhaps we can rediscover a forgotten truth about the collaboration between Louise and Vincent.

J. Patrick Murphy reminds us in his booklet Mr. Vincent of the collaboration of two exceptional people – Vincent and Louise.

In Louise de Marillac Vincent found the perfect partner to build his business model and bring about change that shocked the world. Louise, like Vincent, was imperfect and troubled but together they were inspirational.

Lesson: Imperfect people are all we have; accept them where they are and work with them.

For 35 years, they journeyed together, learning to know, esteem and respect each other as they collaborated intensely establishing missions all over France and beyond.

We are blessed to know the outcomes of the intersection of these two lives. In their final chapters, they were true collaborators and equals.

However, in the early chapters, any collaboration between these two, so very different in backgrounds, experiences, personalities and ways of operating, seemed doomed only to end in disaster.

But their journey together changed themselves, France, the Church and Religious life.

We see their dedication to the same goal, the service of Christ in the poor that attracted them to one another, as both gave their life to following the promptings of God.  They were true collaborators and equals.

However, we rarely see that they experienced some disagreements, tensions and conflicts which challenged their relationship.

A particular difference of opinion was over finding a new motherhouse because of the increase in numbers of country girls coming to join the community.  Louise wanted to be close to St. Lazare. Vincent was not particularly keen on that idea.

[For details and other examples, visit the reflection of Sr. Maggie Reynolds, DC. “Collaboration between two exceptional people“]

Difficulties sometimes arise between people collaborating because they are human beings and human beings have conflicts.  Vincent and Louise’s relationship wasn’t destroyed by this – in fact, it was strengthened and they were able to work for the glory of God and the good of the poor.  They did cross swords.  There were hard times for both of them and they were stressed because they were so busy, but their collaboration was always directed towards the mission.

But there is even more. At the heart of collaboration I find its true value and it is nothing short of Eucharist itself.

Christ offers new life to us through his dying and rising. Just as the bread and wine of Eucharist had to give up their individual properties to become something greater than a single grain or a single grape, so too, we surrender our individual properties.

As we work together, we learn how to die to self and to our ways of doing things. We experience the power of God at work in our midst, slowly transforming us into His own Body and Blood.

This is the value of collaboration. May all our collaborative efforts lead to transformation!

Vincent and Louise are proof that whatever our background, whatever our personality, whatever our life experiences, whatever trials we have, and whatever conflicts and tensions we experience, these are not impediments to doing good and achieving goals. Vincent and Louise stand out for us as models of true collaborators in ministry, indeed for those in every walk of life.

Just as Vincent and Louise learned to collaborate as equals, so too Vincentian Family branches can learn the deeper meaning of the AIC/LCUSA motto “Together against all forms of poverty” … and change the face of our world.

This is an adapted version of a post appeared earlier on Famvin.

The Louise many do not know

It has only been in recent years that we have come to know much more about St. Louise de Marillac. As we celebrate the recently moved feast of St. Louise, VinFormation has provided a list of easily accessible resources which provide a window on this new research.

Since the feast of Saint Louise de Marillac always fell during Lent, it is preferable not to celebrate solemnities during that particular liturgical season. Therefore Rome approved May 9, the anniversary of Saint Louise’s beatification.

Among the resources…

  • How St. Louise Exemplifies Vincentian Leadership
    • This presentation is based on the article ‘God Wants First The Heart And Then The Work:’ Louise De Marillac And Leadership In The Vincentian Tradition by Louise Sullivan D.C.
  • eBook: Louise de Marillac, A Theologian
    • This reflection brings together various selections from Louise’s writings on such varied subjects as the Eucharist, the Trinity, the Blessed Mother, Love, the plan of God, etc. Louise read the Scriptures and was formed in biblical interpretation and also formed by various spiritual authors. She was willing to continue her formation by reading and meditation and as a result she had a clear and profound vision of God’s plan. She contemplated God and the ways in which God was revealed.
  • eBook: Louise de Marillac: Fully Woman
    • How St. Louise de Marillac utilized the personal blessings she received to rise above the many sufferings that afflicted her, and in doing so became fully woman.
  • Ascension through Pentecost with St. Louise
    • Louise regarded the period between Ascension and Pentecost as a time of special grace. She encouraged her Sisters to make a retreat during this time of waiting and praying for the Holy Spirit to come in fullness. The following presentation contains quotes from St. Louise for each of the eleven days between Ascension and Pentecost. May her words stir up the desires of our hearts to be open to the Spirit’s consoling and compelling grace. Come, Holy Spirit!
  • and much more.

[Sr. Betty Ann McNeil. DC, provides more details on the process of her beatification and canonization.


Feast of St. Louise changed to May 9

Louise 029The Feast of St. Louise has been changed to May 9 each year. See the following letter for an explanation.

Rome, 3 February 2016

To all the Priests and Brothers of the Congregation of the Mission

Dear Confreres,

May the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ fill your heart now and forever!

Gregory Gay CM Some time ago, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments asked us to review the Vincentian Liturgical Calendar according to the new norms. The Procurator General, Father Shijo Kanjirathamkunnel, undertook this task and presented the list to the said Congregation. It was then requested that we consider changing the feast of Saint Louise de Marillac, because it always falls during Lent and it is preferable not to celebrate solemnities during that particular liturgical season.

Together with the Superioress General, Sister Kathleen Appler, and her Council, I and my Council searched for an appropriate date. We agreed on 9 May, the anniversary of Saint Louise’s beatification, because the anniversary of her canonization also falls during Lent. On 14 December 2015, Father Shijo presented the request for a change of date to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments which issued a decree, dated 4 January 2016, consenting to our request. The celebration of Saint Louise’s feast remains a solemnity and, effective immediately, will be celebrated each year on 9 May.

In addition, we have requested that her feast be inserted into the Church’s universal calendar. We do not yet have a response to that request.

As we close this Year of Consecrated Life and continue in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, may we each draw strength from the many graces these special times afford us. God bless.

Your brother in Saint Vincent,

G. Gregory Gay, CM