We can sometimes feel frustrated, even guilty, when our works don’t seem to achieve the results we’d anticipated, forgetting for a moment that we are called to serve our neighbors for love alone. We can take solace and learn from the example of St. Louise de Marillac, who also was often burdened by feelings of shame and anguish at coming up short in her works.
Louise had many great gifts – artistic and intellectual, she was a natural leader and great organizer whose imagination in works of charity seemed unbounded. Louise once served as president of the Confraternity of Charity at her own parish, Saint Nicolas-du-Chardonnet. She had a deep religious devotion, formed in her earliest years. Yet still, she sometimes fell into despair when she did not achieve all she had set out to do.
In was in one such instance that Vincent reminded her not to “think that all is lost because of the little rebellions you experience interiorly. It has just rained very hard and is thundering dreadfully. Is the weather less beautiful for that?” [CCD I:62] In other words, we serve God first, before and above our goals. And if we seek to make His will our own, we should never despair. After all, God causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
It was her “lumière” of 1623 that led Louise to Vincent, and that reassured her of her calling to religious life. She wrote down that divine vision and kept it in her pocket throughout her life. No doubt it reminded her from time to time of the peace that had washed over her that Pentecost Sunday and reassured her that God “had a plan…from all eternity, for [her] soul.” [Sp. Wri. 691]
When we are open to it, each of us has such moments of conversion in our lives; a time when God speaks, or winks, or gives us a glimpse of His plan for us. Going back to re-read them can ease the frustrations we sometimes feel along our path, giving us peace, and reassuring us of the great hope in which we serve.
Our formation is a lifelong process, and along the path we will sometimes falter. Through wealth and poverty; as wife, mother, widow, and servant, Louise devoted her entire self to the will of God, growing in peace at every step. In turn, she became a wise teacher, and model of holiness, to many others.
“Oh! what a tree you have appeared to be today in God’s sight,” declared Vincent, “since you have borne such a fruit! May you be forever a beautiful tree of life bringing forth fruits of love, and I, in that same love, your servant.” [CCD I:46]
What is my lumière? Am I a gentle voice, reassuring others to trust in providence?