St Louise de Marillac writes a letter to her younger self....

Monday, January 9, 2012

If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say and what advice would you give?
Inspired by a question brought on by FAMVIN, I thought of our foundress, St Louise de Marillac, and what she, as a Sister, might have said to her younger self, who was a wife and mother of a young child.

As background, Saint Louise applied to enter the Capuchin Sisters as a teenager but was rejected because of "poor health" (which may have been code for "born out of wedlock") Eventually, some years later, her uncle arranged for her to marry Antoine le Gras. While it had been an arranged marriage, it seemed like they truly loved each other. A year later, they had a son, Michel. Soon afterwards, Antoin fell seriously ill and, as she took care of Antoin and little Michel, Louise began to doubt whether she was, in fact, meant to be a wife and mother or if she was supposed to be become a Sister but took the wrong path.

What might have the older Louise told herself during this period? Here's how I imagine such a letter might go:

I know you're troubled right now. With a husband and a baby, you feel like your vocation is split in two directions - there's the present and then there's still that desire to become a Sister, the one you felt since you were a kid. I know it hurts and that, while you love your husband deeply and could plant an infinite number of kisses on your son, you're confused as if this is where God really wants you to be.

Breathe. Live in the present moment, for in it God is taking you somewhere. Love Antoine with all your heart. Love Michel with all your heart. Life with Antoine, now suffering with a terrible illness, isn't easy, I know. Think of him as the poor suffering Christ...when you put your hand to his forehead to feel his fever, pretend you are doing so to Christ; when you sit by his bedside, let it be as if you were visiting and comforting the Christ Jesus in his most troubled hours. Those moments with Antoine will be a precursor of what's to come, what will become your life's work.

You may look around you at your matrimony, at your motherhood and think that desire of becoming a Sister is now fruitless. Let me just tell you, without divulging too much, that nothing is impossible for God.

You see, Louise, you've been chosen for a number of vocations, not just one. So breathe, be patient with yourself, and please realize that God is working in you.
                                                                                             In love of Jesus Crucified,

So, what happened next? Well, Louise grappled with this issue for years. One Pentecost, in 1623, it hit her that she was exactly where she was supposed to be in the present moment......and that one day, there will come a time to make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and that she would be in a small community with others who would do the same. Her "vision" of this community confused her a bit - because she imagined "there would be much coming and going" and religious communities back then were all cloistered - but she accepted this realization from God. Antoin would die in 1626 and eight years later, St Louise would, along with St Vincent de Paul, found the Daughters of Charity......and the rest is history.


  1. What a powerful reflection as we each walk along our paths!

  2. Sr. Regina Bechtle, SCJanuary 10, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Thanks for your insightful, moving reflection, Amanda! I'm thinking about what Elizabeth Seton might say to her younger self. Thanks, John, for posing this question.
    Sr. Regina Bechtle, SC


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