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St. Louise de Marillac: A theology of tenderness


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from "Louise de Marillac: a bold and creative woman" by Celestino Fernández, C.M.

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St. Louise de Marillac: A theology of tenderness

  1. 1. ST. LOUISE DE MARILLAC A Theology of Tenderness
  2. 2. One of the most outstanding and yet least commented upon facets of St. Louise’s character is her tenderness. Unfortunately on many occasions and for a rather long period of time we have been presented with a false image of Louise: an image of a harsh, distant, and unfocused woman. The reality is quite different!
  3. 3. Someone has said that Louise’s whole life was a vocation of tenderness and that this tenderness provided a foundation for her tenacity, her strength, her organizational ability and the existential course of her life. The human and spiritual character of Louise would be greatly diminished if her tenderness were not highlighted as an essential trait. It is clear that Louise is presented to us as the channel of God’s tenderness toward the poor.
  4. 4. Louise’s tenderness toward her husband is revealed in the letter she wrote to Father Hilorion Rebours, a letter in which she described the death of Antoine Le Gras. In fact, ten years later, in her last will and testament, she again spoke with great emotion and tenderness about her husband.
  5. 5. Her tenderness as a mother surpasses all limits when dealing with her son. Vincent attempted to make her see her excessive maternal tenderness when with a certain humor he wrote: Our Lord most certainly did well not to choose you for His Mother (CCD:I:109).
  6. 6. Her friendship with Vincent de Paul was also characterized by a certain tenderness that was based on authenticity, a profound acceptance of the other, and a recognition of and a respect for the complementarity of their relationship. In her correspondence with her director, we find many expressions of confidence and endearment.
  7. 7. There is a chapter of her life in which Louise’s tenderness became most evident. Here I refer to her relationship with the Daughters of Charity, with “her daughters”; I refer to the community dimension of her life. It is interesting that the Daughters did not view her as the superior, as the one who ordered and/or commanded. Rather they saw Louise as their friend who accompanied, educated and consoled them and who created bonds of friendship.
  8. 8. What the Sisters said about Sr. Louise during conferences held by Fr. Vincent a few months after her death (CCD:X: 569-590). … when she saw that I was troubled, she would treat me very kindly … she was very gentle and approachable … as soon as someone approached her, she smiled and never showed that she was being inconvenienced … she always excused the Sister who had been angry … she was very supportive of the sick Sisters, often going to visit them in the infirmary … at times, many Sisters would be talking to her at the same time about different matters, but she answered all of them without urging them to leave her in peace … during her illness she always showed a cheerful contented countenance
  9. 9. Louise’s last tender words… from the final recommendations of Louise to the Daughters: Above all, live together in great union and cordiality, loving one another in imitation of the union and life of Our Lord (SWLM:835 [Spiritual Testament]).
  10. 10. Based on Louise de Marillac: a bold and creative woman by: Celestino Fernández, C.M. Translated by: Charles T. Plock, C.M.