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St. Louise de Marillac,
a committed woman
Part 4: caring for the galley slaves
Louise’s faith enabled
her to make a radical
decision to serve poor
prisoners.
In 1632 Vincent obtained from the king and
city officials in Paris the Tower of Saint
Bernard where he was able to house the
infirm galley slaves. This building was located
near the Tournelle Bridge and the parish of
Saint-Nicholas-du-Chardonnet (the parish of
Louise de Marillac).
… men who were viewed as a source of labor and yet
no consideration was given to their human
condition. Louise immediately reached out to these
men and Vincent was very moved by this gesture:
Charity towards those poor convicts is of incomparable
merit before God. You have done well to assist them and
will do well to continue in any way you can until I have the
pleasure of seeing you, which will be in two or three days.
Give a little thought to whether your Charity at Saint-
Nicolas would be willing to take on the responsibility for
them, at least for a time. You could help them with the
money you have left. Indeed, it is difficult, and that is what
makes me suggest the idea casually (CCD:I:168).
Louise could not ignore these new
neighbors who were destined to be the
moving force of the king’s ships …
Therefore Louise oriented the Confraternity of Saint-
Nicholas-du-Chardonnet toward assisting the
galley slaves.
Vincent de Paul, like Louise de Marillac,
understood that any work that was
undertaken alone had no future… such
works needed the cooperation of
others.
Yes, one certainly had to be bold to decide
to mission young Sisters to minister to
those men who were often rude, bitter and
violent. But these men also had to be
helped to discover some traces of their
humanness and some traces of their
dignity. Like all other people these galley
slaves had been redeemed by the blood
of Christ… Louise never doubted that
reality. Louise then carefully chose the
Daughters who would minister to the
galley slaves and she accompanied these
Sisters with her advice.
Beginning in 1640 the ministry of the
Ladies was accompanied by that of
the Daughters of Charity.
• A pot of soup was thrown in the face of Sister Barbe
Angiboust who then intervened with the guards who
wanted to beat the prisoner who was responsible for that
action.
• In 1655 one of the Sisters, moved by compassion for one
of these men, allowed herself to be convinced to marry
this individual so that he could leave the prison (D.685).
• Other Sisters were confronted by the guards who wanted
them to compile a list with the names of those prisoners
who were difficult and/or violent so that in turn these men
could be sent to the galleys. The Sisters refused to make
such a list.
There were risks involved in this ministry and yet
the Sisters courageously confronted all these
different situations:
To put aside a ministry because it involved
risk or to refuse to serve persons because
they were rude and/or violent would mean
that the Daughters had ignored God’s plan
for the Company of the Daughters of Charity
and were unaware of God’s presence in the
world, a presence that God wanted to be
revealed to others through and by the poor.
Similarly, Vincent de Paul and Louise de
Marillac acted boldly when they missioned
the Sisters to the battlefields to care for the
soldiers who were wounded.
These difficulties and dangers did not
make the Daughters and Louise
withdraw from this ministry.
Source:
“Louise de Marillac, a committed woman”
[This article appeared in Volume II of En tiempos de San Vicente de Paúl … y hoy,
Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes (Salamanca) Spain, 1997, p. 257-272. The
above cited work was translated from the French by Martín Abaitua, CM (Au temps
de St. Vincent-de-Paul… et aujourd ‘hui), Animation Vicentienne, 16, Grande rue
Saínt-Michel, Toulouse, France … this work is not attributed to any one author but it
is stated in the Introduction that the articles were written by various authors].
Images: Depaul Image Archive

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St. Louise de Marillac and Galley Prisoners

  • 1. St. Louise de Marillac, a committed woman Part 4: caring for the galley slaves
  • 2. Louise’s faith enabled her to make a radical decision to serve poor prisoners. In 1632 Vincent obtained from the king and city officials in Paris the Tower of Saint Bernard where he was able to house the infirm galley slaves. This building was located near the Tournelle Bridge and the parish of Saint-Nicholas-du-Chardonnet (the parish of Louise de Marillac).
  • 3. … men who were viewed as a source of labor and yet no consideration was given to their human condition. Louise immediately reached out to these men and Vincent was very moved by this gesture: Charity towards those poor convicts is of incomparable merit before God. You have done well to assist them and will do well to continue in any way you can until I have the pleasure of seeing you, which will be in two or three days. Give a little thought to whether your Charity at Saint- Nicolas would be willing to take on the responsibility for them, at least for a time. You could help them with the money you have left. Indeed, it is difficult, and that is what makes me suggest the idea casually (CCD:I:168). Louise could not ignore these new neighbors who were destined to be the moving force of the king’s ships …
  • 4. Therefore Louise oriented the Confraternity of Saint- Nicholas-du-Chardonnet toward assisting the galley slaves. Vincent de Paul, like Louise de Marillac, understood that any work that was undertaken alone had no future… such works needed the cooperation of others.
  • 5. Yes, one certainly had to be bold to decide to mission young Sisters to minister to those men who were often rude, bitter and violent. But these men also had to be helped to discover some traces of their humanness and some traces of their dignity. Like all other people these galley slaves had been redeemed by the blood of Christ… Louise never doubted that reality. Louise then carefully chose the Daughters who would minister to the galley slaves and she accompanied these Sisters with her advice. Beginning in 1640 the ministry of the Ladies was accompanied by that of the Daughters of Charity.
  • 6. • A pot of soup was thrown in the face of Sister Barbe Angiboust who then intervened with the guards who wanted to beat the prisoner who was responsible for that action. • In 1655 one of the Sisters, moved by compassion for one of these men, allowed herself to be convinced to marry this individual so that he could leave the prison (D.685). • Other Sisters were confronted by the guards who wanted them to compile a list with the names of those prisoners who were difficult and/or violent so that in turn these men could be sent to the galleys. The Sisters refused to make such a list. There were risks involved in this ministry and yet the Sisters courageously confronted all these different situations:
  • 7. To put aside a ministry because it involved risk or to refuse to serve persons because they were rude and/or violent would mean that the Daughters had ignored God’s plan for the Company of the Daughters of Charity and were unaware of God’s presence in the world, a presence that God wanted to be revealed to others through and by the poor. Similarly, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac acted boldly when they missioned the Sisters to the battlefields to care for the soldiers who were wounded. These difficulties and dangers did not make the Daughters and Louise withdraw from this ministry.
  • 8. Source: “Louise de Marillac, a committed woman” [This article appeared in Volume II of En tiempos de San Vicente de Paúl … y hoy, Editorial CEME, Santa Marta de Tormes (Salamanca) Spain, 1997, p. 257-272. The above cited work was translated from the French by Martín Abaitua, CM (Au temps de St. Vincent-de-Paul… et aujourd ‘hui), Animation Vicentienne, 16, Grande rue Saínt-Michel, Toulouse, France … this work is not attributed to any one author but it is stated in the Introduction that the articles were written by various authors]. Images: Depaul Image Archive