The Lumière of Pentecost: 400 years of light for the Company and the world

On 4 June 1623, day of Pentecost, Louise de Marillac, tormented by doubts and pains for a long time, entered the Church of Saint Nicolas-des-Champs in Paris. A young wife with a child and a sick husband, she prayed for her future. Something extraordinary happened there! All of a sudden, a light that changed her life forever enveloped her. She realized that the Lord had a plan for her.  

Louise wrote her experience on a piece of paper that she folded, to keep and take with her. She called it “Lumière”: “On the Feast of Pentecost… my mind was instantly freed of all doubst…”

The Lumière of Pentecost not only marked the life of Louise but also that of the Company of the Daughters of Charity. Ten years before its foundation, St. Louise understood what the characteristics of this new community would be: Given to God, in Community, for the service of those who are poor… by coming and going. We can well say that the day of Pentecost 1623 was the birth of the Company of the Daughters of Charity. There, in the church of Saint Nicolas-des-Champs, on June 4, 1623, were the thousands and thousands of Daughters of Charity who, thanks to this Light, brought the charity of Christ to the world; we were there that day.


The paper on which St. Louise wrote her experience was housed for many years in the Archives of the Congregation of the Mission, Rue du Sèvres, Paris. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Saint Louise’s “Light of Pentecost.” For this occasion, the Superioress General, Sister Françoise PETIT, has proclaimed a Jubilee Year, which opened last 3 and 4 June.

If this news had filled our hearts with joy, none of us expected something more: the surprise from Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, Superior General! In a circular letter sent to all the Daughters of Charity he wrote that the 400th anniversary was a wonderful opportunity “to put Louise de Marillac’s written inspiration back in its place, in your home, Daughters of Charity.” On 3 and 4 June 2023, with the opening of the Jubilee Year, the precious relic “came home.” Several moments characterized these days marked by reflection, prayer, thanksgiving and praise: the moment of prayer at St. Vincent’s Church at Rue de Sèvres, the procession led by Fr. Tomaž with his Council and several Lazarists up to Rue du Bac that visibly expressed the “go towards,” by footsteps and by heart, and the handover of the relic.  

With great emotion we saw Father Tomaž enter the alley with the Lumière that he placed at the foot of the statue of Saint Louise and then handed over to Sister Françoise Petit. The song: Jubilate Deo omnis terra accompanied this moment of welcome. The passing of the Lumière from the hands of the Superior General to the hands of Superioress General was a visual manifestation of the existing continuity of the communion between the two families founded by Saint Vincent and Saint Louise. Joy, gratitude, and a few tears of emotion appeared on the Sisters’ faces as the unsuspecting pilgrims expressed welcome surprise. Parishioners from the Parish dedicated to Saint Louise de Marillac at Drancy, accompanied by their Parish Priest, also took active part in the celebration.  

The sound of violin that gave a heavenly touch to the procession, accompanied all the Sisters who, following Sr. Françoise and Fr. Tomaž, offered candles before the relic of the Lumière and St. Louise’s portrait placed at the foot of the altar. During the evening vigil of intense prayer around this relic, we experienced the unity of the Company as the song Lumière of Pentecost was sung in several languages. The Daughters of Charity throughout the five continents also gathered in prayer, invoking the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and enable us, like St. Louise, to do the Father’s will and live the audacity of charity today and everywhere.

At the end of the vigil, in the evening’s silence when only the notes of the violin resounded, there was no more room for words and thoughts, only contemplation and a song of praise flowing from our hearts.

On 4 June 2023, the anniversary of the Lumière, the Eucharistic celebration presided by Fr. Tomaž gathered us around the altar in the Church of Saint Nicolas-des-Champs. The Jubilee Year has begun, a year of grace for the whole Company of the Daughters of Charity. We addressed our “thanks” to Saint Louise for having embraced this Light, even if she did not understand, and we asked her to look down upon us and obtain fidelity to our vocation so that the many persons who are poor who meet us through our service and presence may also sing: “Jubilate Deo omnis terra.”

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