Four hundred years ago, on the feast of Pentecost 1623, Louise de Marillac, known then as Mademoiselle LeGras, knelt in prayer at her parish church, Église Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs. Her husband was very ill, and unemployed. Her son was troubled. She blamed herself for these burdens, because she had never fulfilled her “first promise,” made when she was a teenager, to become a Capuchin nun. She felt all of her misfortunes traced back to this failure.
It didn’t matter that the decision not to become a nun had not been hers, but her spiritual director’s. Distraught, she was considering leaving her husband in order “to have greater liberty to serve God and my neighbor.” [SWLM, 1] She was wracked with doubts and uncertainty about her future, and even doubted the immortality of her soul. And so she knelt in prayer, alone with her thoughts, offering her cry of suffering to God.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, we are taught, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
It was at this lowest moment that she received what she called her lumière, her light, and her “mind was instantly freed of all doubt.” [Ibid] It was the light of the Holy Spirit that assured her that day, that eased the burdens weighing her down, that brought the hope and peace of God to her.
She would go on to care for her sick husband for two more years before being widowed. In the meantime, she would endure hardship and relative poverty. It would be ten years before, along with St. Vincent, she would found the Daughters of Charity, finally fulfilling that “first promise.”
But it wasn’t the founding, nor her many later works, in which she found her peace, it was in the hope and the light of the Holy Spirit, received in the depths of her sorrows.
Our neighbors cry out to us on days much like Louise’s. Like her, it is temporal crises that have often driven them to despair and left them in isolation and doubt about their futures.
In their dark night of the soul, God answers. He sends us to prove His love, and to bring His hope. At each Conference meeting we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, live within our lives.” Let us add, in our hearts, “Make me the bearer of Your light. Let me be, for the neighbor, their lumière, so they will know that whatever happens tomorrow or next week, You are with them, and so am I. Help me to bear the light of hope.”
Do I pray for the light of the Holy Spirit, for myself and for the neighbor?
Praying with Louise de Marillac