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Saint Vincent's Reading List XXXV: Louise de Marillac

by Rev Edward R Udovic CM 11/26/2012 9:05:00 AM

La Vie de Mademoiselle le Gras: Fondatrice et Premiére Supérieure de la Compagnie des Filles de la Charité, Servantes de Pauvres Malades, by Nicolas Gobillon. Paris: Chez André Pralard, 1676.

Call Number: SpC. 271.9102 L888Yg1676

A full-text version of this volume may be viewed here; a later translation may be viewed here.


The Vincentian charism emerged from the shared faith and shared mission of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac (1591-1660, canonized 1934).

Louise de MarillacLouise was the illegitimate daughter of Louis de Marillac the brother of Michel de Marillac, one of the most prominent noble dévots of the age. Orphaned at a young age, Louise never knew her mother, never fully belonged to the Marillac family, and was frustrated with her vocation to the cloister. She was plagued by depression, and consumed by religious scruples.  These were heightened by the illness and early death of her husband, Antoine le Gras, and by her troubled son, Michel.

With Vincent de Paul as her spiritual director (beginning c. 1625), Louise emerged a strong, balanced, wise woman possessing a mystical faith and clear mission. She founded the Company of the Daughters of Charity in November 1633. These “simple country girls” became the first successful group of sisters to serve outside the cloister; in their case, through service to the most abandoned of the poor and sick. Without hesitation, Vincent de Paul entrusted the development of the new community to Louise de Marillac and the first sisters. One of Monsieur Vincent’s greatest strength was his instinct for trusting women empowered by their faith to provide their own leadership in shaping lives and communities of service. This was true both for the Daughters and Ladies of Charity.

Louise de Marillac died in Paris on March 15, 1660, just a few months before Vincent.  Her first biography was published in 1676 by Nicolas Gobillon (c.1626-1710) the long-time pastor of the church of Saint-Laurent in Paris. The work is only 169 pages in length but it wonderfully captures the essence, genius, and holiness of Louise.  The Gobillon biography and Louise’s own extant writings have helped modern Vincentian historiography to recapture the woman who for too long stood in the shadows of Vincent de Paul.



St. Vincent’s Reading List is a recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by Saint Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and  works published during his lifetime (1581-1660) illustrating his world. All materials discussed are held by DePaul University’s Richardson Library. The entire series may be viewed here.


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