“Saint Louise, woman of hope”. 34th Vincentian Seminar, 7 May 2022, Cagliari, Sardinia

This year, as every year, the Vincentian Family of Sardinia has organized the Vincentian Seminar 2022 with the theme: “Saint Louise, woman of hope” and, for this session of study, we opted to have it online as the anti-covid rules on closed-location gatherings were still in force. During the course of this Vincentian Seminar 2022, two days before the feast of Saint Louise de Marillac which the Roman liturgical calendar celebrates on May 9, we wanted to reflect with her. Saint Louise is so fundamental in understanding the Vincentian charism that one cannot deepen it apart from her who was St. Vincent de Paul’s main collaborator, not only in founding the Daughters of Charity but also in entrusting to her the important task of animating the Charities, now called the Vincentian Volunteer Groups. 

After a long period of pandemic which imposed limits that have undermined not only the contact with poor persons and the service to the needy but also the opportunities for encounter and dialogue between groups, Saint Louise is a reason to come together for reflection in order to reinvigorate hope especially at this moment made even more compelling by the war in Ukraine. Here are some excerpts from a review of the Seminar made by the Visitor of the Vincentian Missionaries of Italy, Father Erminio Antonello, CM.

«What tree you have appeared to the eyes of God, since you have produced such a fruit! May you always be a beautiful tree of life that produces fruits of love! » (Saint Vincent)

Saint Louise represents part of our soul as Vincentians. She teaches us to be a sign of God’s tenderness towards poor people. She teaches this to us because she was an authentic Christian who walked an intense paschal path in her life. In fact, her life was marked by the passage from the darkness of suffering (the intimate and barely documentable one) to the light of love. In this passage she was able to touch in her humanity what it meant to ‘be poor’ and, at the same time, ‘to be loved.’ She experienced in herself the humiliation of the cross like Jesus, for she too was crucified, felt rejected in her affections and anguished by abandonment, even of God. But like Jesus, she also experienced the joy of resurrection through a life of love. In the uniting power of the Holy Spirit, Louise realised the unity of her consciousness in Christ, as St Vincent recalled the day after her death: “What a portrait God is placing before your eyes, Sisters! … Yes, we have this picture, and you must consider it a model to inspire you to do likewise and to acquire that humility, charity, forbearance, and firmness in all her ways of governing. You should also recall how she tended to conform all her actions to those of Our Lord. She did what Saint Paul said, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Jesus who lives in me.” (Conference 119, July 24, 1660. Coste X, 585).

From these experiences emerged the figure of Saint Louise, a woman capable of taking care of those who are poor with the tenderness of Christ: “As for your conduct towards the sick,” she instructed “her” Daughters of Charity, “you may never take the attitude of merely getting the task done. You must show them affection; serving them from the heart; inquiring of them what they might need; speaking to them gently and compassionately…” (A 85). Louise is a saint who is well-suited for our modern times, since to this day and in this age many people experience inner brokenness and have doubts about God.

And, as happened to her, she points to the possibility of redemption through a path of charity that knows how to spend itself for others. Her life reminds us that the human experience of every time and every person is in the hands of God and his Providence. And therefore, abandoned to these hands, it is possible to cross life’s stormy sea because as she said: if we “remain firmly attached to the guidance of Divine Providence, to love it and to abandon ourselves to it anew, being certain that if we are faithful to God to this degree, His goodness will not abandon us, and all that now causes us suffering will be transformed into great consolation…” (L 286).

Father Erminio Antonello, CM

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