Every May 9, we celebrate Saint Louise de Marillac, Foundress of the Daughters of Charity, and patron saint of Christian social workers, the sick, widows, and orphans. Below is a short biography.
Louise was born out of wedlock in 1591. She had never known who her mother was, but was raised by her father Louis de Marillac – a member of the aristocracy – and acknowledged her as his own. Louise found it difficult to adjust when her father married. She was sent to study in a convent where her aunt was a religious; it was there that her desire to enter into consecrated life grew. When her father died and resources became limited, she lived in a boarding house where she was able to hone her domestic and organizational skills, as well as the secrets of herbal medicine.
In 1613, she married Antoine le Gras, secretary to the Queen Mother of France, but their marital happiness was short-lived because of his poor health. 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.
Suffering was never far from Louise. In 1623, when illness was wasting Antoine (who died in 1625), she had fallen into depression. While at prayer, Louise had a vision in which she saw herself serving the poor and living the evangelical counsels in community. She wrote this “lumière” (“Pentecost experience”) on parchment and carried it in her person as a reminder that God was constantly guiding her life despite her difficulties. In that vision a priest appeared to her, whom she later identified as Vincent de Paul – her future confidant and collaborator in ministry.
In 1629, Louise assisted Vincent de Paul in the Confraternities of Charity in the parishes of France, which she found therapeutic. She visited them to uphold the quality of the services they rendered, reviewed financial accounts for stewardship reports, and most important of all, encouraged the workers and volunteers to see Christ in those whom they served.
Through this, she gained a deep knowledge of the needs of the poor, developed her management skills and identified effective structures for service. In 1633, she founded the Daughters of Charity when she began to train young women in her own home to address the needs of poor persons and to gain support from their life together. Louise provided leadership and expert management to the evolving network of services she and Vincent inspired.
Louise, who died on March 15, 1660 just a few months before Vincent de Paul, was beatified in 1920 and canonized in 1934. In 1960 Pope John XXIII proclaimed her the Patroness of Christian Social Workers. She lives on in the congregations and organizations she had established and inspired, as they continue to bring the Good News to the poor through their work.
Saint Louise de Marillac, pray for us!
Short biography lifted from VincentWiki (https://wiki.famvin.org/en/Louise_de_Marillac?title=Louise_de_Marillac), minor edits by the Miraculous Medal Apostolate Philippines Media Team.