Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Louise de Marillac, Patron of Widows and Social Workers

Today's saint is St. Louise de Marillac. Louise was born near Meaux, Auvergne, France, on August 12, 1591. Born out of wedlock, Louise never knew her mother, but was raised by her father, a member of the aristocracy. When her father married, Louise had a difficult time adjusting and was sent to be a resident student at a Dominican convent where her aunt was a religious.

When Louise was about sixteen years old, she believed she had a call to the religious life, but, after consulting her spiritual director, she decided not to pursue it. Instead, she married Antoine Le Gras. The couple had a son and Louise devoted most of her time in her motherly duties.

While at prayer, Louise had a vision in which she saw herself serving the poor and living the vows of religion in community. She wrote this experinence down on parchment and carried it on her person as a reminder that despite her difficulties, God was guiding her life. In that vision a priest appeared to her, whom she later identified as Vincent de Paul, her future confidante and collaborator in ministry.

In 1619 she met St. Francis de Sales, who was then in Paris.. Troubled by the thought that she had rejected a call to the religious life, she vowed not to remarry if her husband should die before her.

As a young matron, Louise traveled and socialized among both the royalty and aristocracy of France, but she was equally comfortable with the poor, no matter their desperate situations. She held a leadership role in the Ladies of Charity, an organization of rich women dedicated to assisting the poor.

Her husband died in 1625, after a long illness. Four years later, Vincent de Paul invited Louise to assist him with the Confraternities of Charity in the parishes of France. These tasks were therapeutic for Louise and were influential in preparing her for her future work.

In 1633, Louise began to train young women to address the needs of the poor and to gain support from their life together. From this humble beginning, the community of Daughters of Charity emerged.

Louise, who died on March 15, 1660 just a few months before Vincent de Paul, was proclaimed a Saint of the Church in 1934. In 1960 Pope John XXIII proclaimed her the Patroness of all Social Workers. As a wife, mother, teacher, nurse, social worker and religious foundress, she stands as a model to all women. She lives today in the 25,000 Daughters of Charity serving throughout the world, as well as in their many lay collaborators.

Patron: Disappointing children, widows, loss of parents, sick people, social workers, Vincentian Service Corps, people rejected by religious orders.

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