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Lenten Themes with St. Vincent and St. Louise

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From the writings of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac on Lenten themes of repentance, prayer, fasting, obedience

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Lenten Themes with St. Vincent and St. Louise

  1. 1. Lenten Themes with St. Vincent and St. Louise focusing on our need for penitence • looking ahead to Good Friday and Easter
  2. 2. "Now, God forbid, Sisters, that you should act from such a motive! [vanity] I hope that God in His goodness will preserve you from that. I entreat Him to do so with all my heart, and also to deign to give us the dispositions necessary for the accomplishment of His holy Will for our entire lives, in every place and with anyone whomsoever. I ask that, in His infinite mercy, He will deign to forgive all of us the faults we've committed against holy obedience and to accept the resolution we're taking to live and die under obedience for love of Him. I make the same resolution for myself and, with the grace of God, I hope to be faithful to it […] may God be pleased to send you the strength of His Spirit by the power of His word! SV IX:415 Lent is a time for us, caught in sin, to focus on repentance.
  3. 3. “One of the means which I thought might help me to acquire this virtue of obedience, such as God demands it of me, is to esteem it highly; frequently to call to mind the obedience of the Son of God in matters that are painful and difficult for us; to reflect that it was His will that obedience should be observed even unto death and that this was to help us as an example and an encouragement.” St. Louise: On Obedience. SW p. 782 Lent is a time when I see how easy it is for me to set up all sorts of little idols in my life. May I learn to depend more upon God.
  4. 4. [Speaking about St. Louise]: Her illness could not interrupt her works of charity. She always inquired if the very numerous poor of the parish were being well looked after. […] She gave signs of perfect repentance, accepting her illness as a just punishment which she said she had deserved, and declaring publicly that “it was quite reasonable that where sin abounds, sickness should dwell; that God was acting justly in her person, and that in acting with justice he was showing mercy.” […] Finally, she maintained evenness of disposition, gentleness, patience, submission to God, and the other virtues which she had practiced in the different trials of her life. from "The Life of Mademoiselle Le Gras" (1984). Gobillon: English. p. 62 Lent is a time to appreciate more deeply the meaning of the cross and the victory of the resurrection.
  5. 5. “I received your letter yesterday and your outline of the rules for your Daughters, which I have not yet had the chance to read. I shall do so as soon as I can. As for what you tell me about them, I have no doubt that they are as you describe them to me, but we have to hope that they will mature and that prayer will allow them to see their faults and encourage them to correct them. It would be well for you to tell them what constitutes solid virtue, especially that of interior and exterior mortification of our judgment, our will, memories, sight, bearing, speech, and the other senses, of the attachments we have to bad, useless, and even to good things; all this for the love of Our Lord Who acted in this way. You will have to strengthen them a great deal in all these matters, especially in the virtue of obedience and in that of indifference.” Letter of St. Vincent to St. Louise SV I: 277 Lent is a time to raise my awareness of how much I depend on other things in life rather than the Lord.
  6. 6. “We have our days of solitude every year. We hold chapter [assembly] every Friday morning, during which each one accuses himself of his failings, receives a penance from the Superior, and is obliged to carry it out. Two priests and two brothers ask the Company for the charity of being warned of their failings and, after them others do so, each in turn. In the evening of the same day we have a conference on our rules and the practice of the virtues. Everyone there shares the thoughts Our Lord gave him in prayer on the topic being discussed.” SV I:555 letter from St. Vincent to St. Jane de Chantal Lent is a time to be reminded of our need for penitence and a time to grow more deeply in God’s grace.
  7. 7. Several ladies, including some of high society, were attracted by her [St. Louise’s] zeal, and left Paris depriving themselves of the conversation of the world to spend some days in a village, to converse there with God. They left the comforts and delicacies of life, to think of their salvation in a place of mortification and penance. Without considering their rank and position, which raised them above others, they came into a house of servants of the poor and submitted themselves to the same discipline of a superior, to learn to despise riches and grandeurs by her instruction and example. To direct the ladies in these retreats, and to form them in these exercises of piety, she used the lights and rules which she received from Monsieur Vincent. She accompanied them with the great understanding she had of the spiritual life, in which she had perfected herself by long experience. She had always had an extraordinary love and eagerness for prayer, […] a lofty mind and sound judgement, formed by the study of philosophy and serious reading. She also had a tender heart, immersed in God, and made her prayer in a strong, sublime and affective way. from "The Life of Mademoiselle Le Gras". Gobillon. p. 28 Lent is a time for humility, prayer, and intentional devotion to God.
  8. 8. "Mon Dieu! How many poor Daughters of Charity lose a great deal through their own fault! When they follow their own will, they serve poor persons and come and go, but they kill themselves for nothing. Do whatever you please, Sisters, but the best of your actions won't be meritorious for you without this virtue. It must be said that there are great benefits in obedience, since the Son of God willed to do everything through obedience and was so subject to it that He preferred to die rather than fail in obedience; and, on the contrary, there are great evils in the opposite vice.” SV X:67 Acts of sacrifice remind me of my commitment to God and my desire to make God first in my life.
  9. 9. “Another reason is that if you do everything through obedience you're sure to accomplish God's Will. There can be no doubt about this, for He himself has said, 'Whoever obeys you obeys me. And therefore whoever disobeys you, disobeys me.' What a consolation for good souls faithful to this holy virtue to be assured of doing God's Will! Be consoled, you who are faithful to obedience. But as for you who are of a different mind, inclined to obey only when what you're told to do fits in with your mood— which is seen when persons obey only in certain things and not in others— be afraid that instead of having done the Will of God, you've done only your own or, to put it better, that of the devil!” SV X:68 Prayer and fasting help me surrender my idols to God and to prepare spiritually for the celebration of Easter.
  10. 10. “A Sister who does only what she wants and likes, saying, 'I don't want to do that because I don't feel like it,' or who submits, but does it her own way, saying, 'I'll do this or that, even though I see clearly that it's useless,' that Sister has the spirit of disobedience. "When the Eternal Father willed to send His Son on earth, He put before Him all the things He'd have to do and suffer. You know the life of Our Lord and how filled with suffering it was. His Father said to Him, 'I'll allow you to be despised and rejected by everyone; I’ll let Herod make you flee from the time you're a baby; that you be considered a madman and receive curses for your miracles; in short, I'll allow all creatures to rebel against you.' That's what the Eternal Father set before His Son, who replied, 'Father, I'll do whatever you command me.' This shows us that we must obey in all things without reserve. Some people are willing to obey in something easy that's in keeping with their whim. That's not enough. We must obey in everything…”to all of them. SV X:69 Lent is a time to do something more for God.
  11. 11. “When you go to prayer, go simply to please God, saying, ‘I'm not worthy to speak with God, but because obedience wills it and it's His Will, I'm going there to honor Our Lord.' For, Sisters, what do you think? It's not enough to make your prayer according to your whim, inattentively and as you please; no, that's not enough; you have to make it as Our Lord made His prayer when He was on earth. He prayed with great reverence, in the presence of God, with confidence and humility.” SV X:106 Lent is a time for drawing closer to God in prayer, to prime ourselves for a deeper experience of Good Friday and Easter.
  12. 12. Sources: texts: as noted images: depaul.edu Image Archive presentation by

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