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LIFE OF 



MADEMOISELLE LE GRAS 



(LOUISE DE MARILLAC), 



FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY. 



PRECEDED BY LETTERS OF MGR. MERMILLOD, BISHOP OF LAUSANNE, 
AND OF VERY REV. A. FIAT, SUPERIOR GENERAL OF THE 
PRIESTS OF THE MissjUdUP OF THE 
SISTERS 



Erattslatelr front tfje IFre 




NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, AND ST. LOUIS I 

B EN ZIGER^> BROTHERS, 

PRINTERS TO THE HOJ^WVPOSTOLIC SEE. 

HOLY REDEEM Efe&l m&l WINDSOR 



Copyright, 1884, by BENZIGER BROTHERS. 



TO THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY. 

This book is not worthy of the name it bears ; but 
love for your Mother has inspired it. Receive it 
with kindness, recognize in it her whose life you re 
produce every day, and grant the Author a remem 
brance before God. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

Dedication 3 

Letter of Mgr. Mermillod, Bishop of Hebron, Vicar- Apostolic of 

Geneva 9 

Letter of M. Fiat, Superior-General of the Priests of the Mission 

and Daughters of Charity 12 

Preface 15 

CHAPTER I. 

15911613. 

The Marillac Family Birth of Louise Her Education The 
Monastery of Poissy Her Father s House She thinks of join 
ing the Capuchius Father Honore de Champigny diverts her 
from this project Her Marriage . 19 

CHAPTER II. 
1613 1623. 

Birth of her son Her acquaintance with St. Francis de Sales and 
with Mgr. Camus, Bishop of Belley, her director Her Vow 
not to remarry Interior trials 34 

CHAPTER III. 
1623 1625. 

St. Vincent de Paul The Marillacs and the Carmelites Sickness 
and Death of M. Le Gras 48 

CHAPTER IV. 

1625 1629. 

Louise s change of Residence Her rule of Life The Confra 
ternities of Charity The First Servant of the Poor 59 



6 Contents. 

CHAPTER V. 

PAGE 

1629 1631. 

St. Vincent sends Mile. Le Gras to visit the Confraternities of 
the Province Mile. Pollalion Pestilence in France Death of 
Marguerite Naseau Maternal Solicitude of Louise.. 79 

CHAPTER VI. 

16321634. 

Fortune and Disgrace of the Uncles of Louise Marshal de 
Marillac dies on the Scaffold and the Chancellor in Prison- 
Mile. Le Gras does not allow herself to be cast down by 
Affliction, but pursues, courageously, the Path of her good 
Works She receives at her house the First Daughters of 
Charity Her Vow to Consecrate herself with them First 
Conference by St. Vincent de Paul 95 

CHAPTER VII. 

1634 1636. 

The Rivals of Louise in Charity Mme. Goussault and the visit 
to the Hotel-DieuW\\z. Le Gras removes with her Daughters 
to La Chapelle. I2 5 

CHAPTER VIII. 

1636 1640. 

New Works are undertaken at La Chapelle Catechism Ladies 
Retreat The Spanish Army in Picardy Mile. Le Gras gives 
an Asylum to the Fugitives She sends two of her Daughters 
to Richelieu Opening of the Foundling Asylum Death of 
Mme. Goussault Voyage to Angers The first Hospital 
attended by the Daughters of Charity 150 

CHAPTER IX. 

1641. 

Mile. Le Gras is Established at the Faubourg Saint Denis Her. 
interior Life, from her Writings and the Souvenirs of the first 
Sisters Interior Combats and Victories Her Humility and 
Charity for her Daughters 1 79 



Contents. 7 

CHAPTER X. 

PAGE 

1641 1646. 

Progress and Constant Development of the Work Origin of the 
Title Sister-Servant First Daughters of Charity authorized to 
make their Vows M. Portail is named Director Establish 
ment of a Council Accidents and Divine Protection 199 

CHAPTER XI. 

16461648. 

St. Vincent and Mile. Le Gras solicit Approbation for the Com 
pany The Sisters are asked for in Brittany The Approba 
tion granted, but the Articles lost Divisions and Difficulties 
at Nantes Changes at the Foundling House Celebrated Pero 
ration of St. Vincent de Paul 214 

CHAPTER XII. 

16491652. 

Mile. Le Gras and her Daughters during the Fronde Civil War 
and Charity The Sisters in Picardy, Champagne, and in the 
Beauce of Paris Death of Mgr. Camus and of Mme. de 
Lamoignon Marriage of Michel Le Gras Birth of a Little 
Daughter 2 37 

CHAPTER XIII. 

1652 1655. 

The Elect among the Elect Daughters of Charity in Poland- 
Hospital of the Name of Jesus Founding of the General Hospi 
tal Bossuet preaches there the Panegyric of St. Paul His 
Opinion of the Daughters of Charity 261 

CHAPTER XIV. 

1655- 

Approbation given by the Ordinary of Paris to the Company of 
the Daughters of Charity Session of the Establishment The 
Spirit inspired by Mile. Le Gras Wisdom of her Government. 282 



8 Contents. 

CHAPTER XV. 

PAGE 

16571659. 

Louis XIV. recognizes the Existence of the Company Develop 
ments of the Work in France The Daughters of Charity in 
the Army They are asked for in Madagascar Death of Mile. 
Pollalion and of Barbara Angiboust 304 

CHAPTER XVI. 

1659 1660. 

Last Sickness of Mile. Le Gras Her Death Her Funeral Her 
Tomb 317 

CHAPTER XVII. 

Conference on the Virtues of Mile. Le Gras Translation of her 
Remains What became of them during the Revolution and 
afterwards 330 

APPENDIX. 

Will of Mile. Le Gras General State of the Establishments At 
tended or Directed by the Daughters of Charity 35 1 



LETTER OF 

MGR. MERMILLOD, 

Bishop of Hebron and Vicar-Apostolic of Geneva, 

To THE AUTHOR. 
MONTHOUX (HAUTE-SAVOIE), December 8, 1882. 



M 

You are publishing the life of Mile. Le Gras, and 
memories which connect this holy life with St. Fran 
cis de Sales give me a right to thank and congratulate 
you. 

You have produced a useful and most attractive book. 
You have seized a very providential opportunity of plac 
ing in relief the humble, great Christian soul whom the 
glory of St. Vincent de Paul had almost eclipsed, but 
who was nevertheless a docile and faithful co-operator in 
his works. 

Her vocation was pointed out to her by St. Vincent 
while she was still a lady of the world; but she was even 
then exposing her life in the service of the plague-strick 
en. " Fear not," he said " God our Saviour wishes you to 
serve Him in something tending to His glory, and be 
sure that He will preserve you for that work." She was 
faithful to the designs of God; and the account which 
you have given us is not only an admirable biography of 
a Saint, but it is a complete history of the religious move- 



io Letters to the Author. 

ment of that epoch, which serves as a frame for this 
living portrait. You have painted her soul, her work, 
and her times. You have shrunk from no labor of re 
search. Library archives, manuscripts, and the letters 
of St. Vincent have been compelled to serve your patient 
investigation. In the admirable pages of your book are 
found no tricks of artificial rhetoric, but minute details 
of most interesting facts, sweet, pious perceptions of 
mystic science, united with analogies between the society 
of that seventeenth century and the wants, aspirations, 
and evils of our own time. 

The clergy will certainly be interested in reading a 
story which teaches the kind of zeal and evangelical in 
dustry necessary for raising souls and grouping them 
together in works of devotedness. 

The Daughters of Charity, so well named the Family 
of Providence, will love to reanimate themselves with the 
vivifying memory of her who was their foundress and 
their Mother. It would not be surprising if more than 
one young girl might owe the lights and courage of her 
vocation to the meeting with your book. Above all is it 
desirable that the sweet, solid life of Mile. Le Gras 
were better known among our Christian women. Alas, 
how often I repeat that with many of them, there is a 
deplorable compromise between the maxims of the Gospel 
and the attractions of society! 

How many ladies engage by turns in easy devotions 
and elegant frivolities! Ever on the alert for pious ex 
citement, they make a contract with God for practices of 
devotion; they organize good works, and give to vanity 
the greater part of the benefit. What a contrast to the 



Letters to the A uthor. 1 1 

portrait painted in youi pages! Amid the violent agita 
tions of La Fronde, Mile. Le Gras and her Daughters 
held their ground, animated with that intelligent faith 
and fervent piety which made St. Vincent write: " May 
God strengthen you in such a way that it may be said of 
you. Mulierem f ortem quis invenietl You understand this 
Latin; therefore I shall not explain/ 

You have given us a substantial work, pithy and charm 
ing. It will teach more than one heart, now troubled by 
our darkening horizon or overwhelmed by our storms, 
how it is that Christians are never discouraged and ever 
devoted. 

The consoling view of the origin of the Daughters of 
Chanty; the life of an elect soul; the story of painful 
days when such heroes as St. Francis de Sales, St. Vin 
cent de Paul, M. Olier, Cardinal de Berulle, lived 
and acted, surrounded by an assemblage of Christians 
not less heroic is it not a most edifying spectacle ? How 
it forces us to become Saints, to be docile to the designs 
of God, to love our Saviour Jesus, to devote ourselves to 
our fellow-men, by amassing for their service a treasure 
of gay patience and joyous tenderness! 

Be kind enough to accept my respects, good wishes, 

and blessing. 

GASPARU, 

Bishop of Hebron, Vicar-Apostolic of Geneva. 



12 Letters to the Author. 

LETTER OF 

THE SUPERIOR-GENERAL 

of the Priests of the Mission and of the Daughters of Charity 
To THE AUTHOR. 

PARIS. December 8, 1882. 
M. 

You desire from me some words of recommendation, 
in offering to the public your important and conscien 
tious labor on Louise de Marillac, who, with St. Vincent 
de Paul, founded the Daughters of Charity and was their 
first Superioress. 

Your work recommends itself and, I doubt not, will be 
favorably received. I have been struck with the erudi 
tion you give proof of in this work, and the happy tact 
with which you bring forward the testimony of St. 
Vincent de Paul in favor of this Mother of the poor; this 
strong woman, this elect soul, ever pure pure in her 
youth, in her marriage, in her widowhood; and who 
wept so many tears over her slightest faults that she 
could scarcely be appeased. I have experienced a true 
joy in reading your account of the admirable Conferences 
of St. Vincent de Paul with the Daughters of Charity. 
Your appreciation of them is a just one; they vividly re 
call the Conferences held by the Fathers of the Desert. 
Existing circumstances give to the publication of the life 
of Louise de Marillac an interest and importance which 
are easily felt. It is evident that the work of laicisation 
which is now being carried on, calls more than ever for 



Letters to the Author. 13 

simple faithful souls, especially Christian ladies, who 
practise the works of charity while living in the midst of 
the world. 

Hence, what is better calculated, after the grace of 
God, to excite zeal for every good work than the ex 
ample of Mile. Le Gras, who merited to be chosen by 
God to assist St. Vincent de Paul in the establishment 
of the Daughters of Charity, and in the realization of 
many of his great and holy enterprises ? In giving us 
this work written in your characteristic style you have 
aided materially the cause of religion and society, and 
you have reason to hope that your labor is not in vain 
in the Lord. 

I have the honor to remain, in the love of the Lord 
Jesus and His Immaculate Mother, 

Your very humble and devoted servant, 

A. FIAT, 

Superior of the Priests of the Mission and 
of the Daughters of Charity. 



PREFACE. 



THE seventeenth century, arrogant and robust, was 
a period of revival and reparation, especially during 
its first fifty years, and the religious peace re-estab 
lished by Henry IV. favored the opening of a great 
era for France. Under the protection of a wise, firm 
authority, the evils of war were repaired, and the re 
form decreed by the Council of Trent affected all 
ranks of the Church. The clergy were purified and 
encouraged ; seminaries begun ; retreats, preparatory 
to Holy Orders, and ecclesiastical conferences, estab 
lished ; and whilst the older communities returned to 
their first rule and fervor, new religious families 
sprung into existence. Souls attracted to penance 
took refuge with the Capuchins, while those called 
to interior life saw the portals of the Visitation or the 
grating of the French Carmelites open before them. 
" Souls !" exclaims a distinguished historian of this 
great religious movement" Souls ! at this epoch we 
see them, we touch them." God plants Saints as He 
did stars, and the night is illumined. The Church of 
France had never before shone so brightly. St. 



1 6 Preface. 

Francis de Sales, who belonged to us in feeling and 
language before his mountains belonged to France, 
St. Jane de Chantal, Csesar du Bus, Claude Ber 
nard, Father Honore Champigny, M. de Renty, M. 
Bourdoise, Cardinal de Berulle, with his two admir 
able daughters, Mme. Acarie and Mother Madeleine 
de Saint Joseph, finally M. Olier, not to mention 
others, appeared at this time, and, in Paris, met the 
most popular of Saints and Apostles, him whose vene 
rated name personifies, as it were, the religious and 
charitable movement of this period Vincent de Paul. 

Mingling in this illustrious company we find a 
woman, humble, modest, always wishing to hide her 
self, so much that even now after death she seems de 
sirous of being Avrapped in obscurity. Yes, brilliant 
as was the time in which she lived, in spite of the in 
numerable efforts to revive its splendor, all that is 
generally known of this woman, whose name in the 
world was Louise de Marillac, is that she founded 
" The Congregation of Daughters of Chanty," which 
is itself, as has been said, " the most beautiful expres 
sion ever heard on earth, a sweet communication be 
tween God and man." * 

But the circumstances connected with her founda 
tion, the great virtues she practised in a life of seventy 
years, the active part she took in almost all the char 
ities of St. Vincent de Paul, are sealed letters to a 
generation eager for biographies and curious for his- 

* The Abb6 Perreyve. 



Preface. \ 7 

toric exhumations. To the present time the only 
work consecrated to Mile. Le Gras dates 1674. Re- 
published with additions in the eighteenth century, 
and finally reprinted in 1846, it is now forgotten, justly 
so from its brevity and antiquated style. The biog 
raphers of St. Vincent de Paul, it is true, could 
not pass over in silence his faithful co-operator ; but 
those who have said most about her were not always 
the most exact. This leaves a blank to be regretted, 
almost an injustice. Alas ! we may not hope to re 
pair this omission fully ; nevertheless numerous doc 
uments preserved from the destruction of St. La- 
zare in 1789, and mostly unpublished, permit us to 
retrace the grand outline of this venerated figure. 

Some letters, most reliable sources of history, ad 
dressed to Mile. Le Gras by Mgr. Camus, Bishop of 
Belley, her first director, and by the Keeper of Seals, 
Michel de Marillac, her uncle, and also a precious 
manuscript history of this statesman (himself too lit 
tle known), serve as a part of our record of the early 
years of her life, and the family circle in which these 
years were passed. Among the correspondence of 
St. Vincent de Paul, recently published by the 
Priests of the Mission, are nearly four hundred letters 
of Mile. Le Gras, which give an insight into her 
life as mother, widow, and foundress. 

Numerous writings, also, of a private nature, such 
as prayers, meditations, and rules of conscience, throw 
light on her spiritual life ; whilst biographical sketches 
of the first Sisters of Charity, written by their com- 



1 8 Preface. 

panions, retrace the virtues of those who were asso 
ciates in her works. Such are the sources of incon 
testable value to which we have had recourse. 

Persuaded, with Bossuet, that " we can add nothing 
to the glory of extraordinary souls whose works 
praise them," we have sought only to place facts be 
fore the reader, and, without fatiguing him with 
opinions and reflections, leave him to draw conclu 
sions, which, being his own, must be fruitful of good. 

Our only aim is to be true and simple like her the 
features of whose life we have attempted to retrace. 
The life of Mile. Le Gras is characterized by sweet 
sanctity. Nothing terrifying, nothing too austere, 
nothing beyond the reach of every one, or that any 
one with the grace of God may not imitate. 

Nevertheless it takes forcible possession of the soul. 
Often, while studying this life, have we been re 
minded of the enthusiastic exclamation extorted from 
Libianus by the mother of St. John Chrysostom, 
" What women are among the Christians !" 

Happy shall we be if we can make some soul par 
take of our admiration, or raise up some one or more 
to imitate Louise de Marillac. 



LIFE OF MLLE. LE GRAS. 




CHAPTER I. 

15911613. 

The Marillac Family Birth of Louise Her Education The Monas 
tery of Poissy Her Father s House She thinks of joining the 
Capuchins Father Honore de Champigny diverts her from this 
Project Her Marriage. 

N IRRESISTIBLE attraction draws us to 
the cradle of men and things. It seems 
as if we wish to circumvent the law that 
governs their growth or rules their voca 
tion. This sentiment increases, moreover, in relation 
to predestined souls ; we love to scrutinize the traces 
of a divine plan in the circumstances attending, or 
even in the generation preceding, their birth. In 
this the Holy Scripture itself serves as our model, 
carefully acquainting us with the relationship of men 
famous in early times, and giving us on two occasions 
the genealogy of our Saviour. Hence we may be 
permitted to recall briefly, at the beginning of these 
pages, the origin of her whose life we undertake to 
relate. 

The Marillac, or Marlhac,* family, from which 

* Lefevre de Lezeau, in his " Histoire de la Vie de Messire Michel 



20 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

she sprang on her father s side, came from upper 
Auvergne, where fora number of years they had been 
held in great veneration. The first of this family of 
whom we find trace in history was Bertrand, Lord 
of Marillac and Vastrie, who lived in the fourteenth 
century. He was descended from a Marillac whose 
tombstone (date unknown) was visible as late as the 
time of Louis XIV. in the Cathedral of St. Flour. 
Bertrand, being taken prisoner in England in 1382, 
was obliged to sell for his ransom the lordly mansion 
of his ancestors situated near Mauriac;* but his 
children and grandchildren continued to live in 
Auvergne, as is shown by the tombstones in the 
old churches of the country ; for in those ages of faith 
everything tended toward the sanctuary, and the 
house of God was at the same time the safest de 
pository of souvenirs. In the sixteenth century 
several members of the Marillac family, leaving their 
mountains, travelled abroad. From this time we 
find them in the monasteries and cloisters of Paris 
and the Isle of France; on the episcopal seats of 
Brittany, or in charge of important state affairs. 
One of them, Guiltaume, the only one of direct 
interest to our narrative, was a soldier on the field 
of Moncontour. After the defeat of the Protestant 
arms be settled in Paris, and became Director of the 

de Marillac," an unpublished work, from which we have borrowed 
the following details, says that for sake of euphony the name Marl- 
hac became Marillac by a change of orthography. 

* Now the chief town of the canton, in the Department of Cantal. 






The Mar iliac Family. 2 1 

Mint and Superintendent of Finance.* He had eight 
children, amongst whom we shall mention those only 
whose names find a place in our story : Michel, 
known as Chancellor de Marillac ; Valence, wife of 
Baron d Attichy, a Florentine nobleman, who came 
into France in the train of Marie de Medicis ; Louis, 
Marshal of France; and Louis, Lord of Ferrieres, 
whose wife was Marguerite Le Camus, and who was 
the father of Mile. Le Gras.f " If I notice nobility," 

* Guillaume de Marillac died in 1576, and was interred in Saint 
Paul s Church in Paris. He had eleven brothers, almost all distin 
guished, either in the army, in literature, or in the Church. Gilbert, 
the oldest, shared the fortunes, but not the revolt, of the Constable of 
Bourbon, and was, from the testimony of our historians, one of the 
best speakers of his time a quality which, with liberality, was said 
to have been inherent in the Marillac family. His granddaughter. 
Marguerite d Arbousse, Abbess and reformer of Val de-Grace, died 
in the odor of sanctity and renowned for miracles. (See her Life, by 
Fleury, 1685.) Gabriel, the second brother, was he to whom De Thou 
paid this magnificent tribute: " For piety, integrity, and eloquence he 
has no equal." He was a man of the old school, and a severe critic 
of the manners of his time. Three others come in succession: 
Antoine, religious at Thiers; Charles, Archbishop of Vienne, Ambas 
sador of the King to Soliman, to Henry VIII., and to Charles V., and 
who, in his zeal for clerical and judicial reform, brought about a 
reunion of the States-General of Orleans; lastly, Bertrand, who 
brought to the siege of Vannes the poor habit and the charity of 
St. Francis, with the sublime eloquence and theology of St. Bernard, 
and to whom, under God, Brittany owes the blessing of preserva 
tion from heresy. 

f We attach much importance to historic accuracy in this place, to 
avoid the embarrassment of different genealogies in the Marillac 
family. One example will illustrate the reliance we can place on 
them. Father Anselm, considered a fair authority in such matters, 



22 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

wrote St. Jerome after enumerating the ancestors of 
St. Paula, " it is not that I attach any importance to 
these temporal advantages; but I admire them from 
the moment that we rise above them and immolate 
them ;" and he adds : " The glory of Paula in my 
eyes is, not to have had such things, but to 
have trodden them under foot for Jesus Christ." 
We can say as much for the humble foundress of 
the Daughters of Charity. To all her ancestral titles 
she preferred that of " Servant of the Poor," and this 
sacrifice is to-day her glory. God blessed it and 
made it fruitful ; for, like the rod which legend tells 
us was covered with flowers and fruit in the Temple, 
Louise de Marillac was more productive than the rest 
of the entire tree from which she branched forth. 

Born during one of the most troubled periods of our 
history, growing up amid the din of those religious 
and political conflicts which were one day to break 
the fortunes of her family, she passed the greater part 
of her life in the very centre of revolution. It was at 
that period of excitement which followed the assassi 
nation of Henry III. in Paris, and the entrance of 
Henry IV. into that city. Paris had just been sub 
mitted to a blockade of four months, in which nearly 
one seventh of its population perished. Sixteen citi- 

gives March 15. 1660, as the date of the death of Louise s father, 
aged sixty-eight years which would make 1592 the date of his birth; 
but his daughter Rene de Marillac was born in 1588, leaving four 
years between the birth of father and daughter! Two things, how 
ever, are certain: ist. The names of the father and mother of Louise 
(if we take the testimony of a writer of some importance, Gobillon, the 



Birth of Loziise. 23 

zens had divided the city into as many departments, 
in each of which one of their number exercised an 
absolute tyranny. At last the disorder was such that 
proscription-lists were freely circulated ; on these 
were inscribed the names of persons accused of sym 
pathy with the King 1 of Navarre, each name followed 
by one of the letters P. D. C.* indicating the nature 
of the death intended for him. The name of Louis 
de Marillac does not appear on the list ; hence we con 
clude that he never mingled in the excesses of the 
time, but imitated the moderation of his brother Mi 
chel, who, in his efforts for peace and general recon 
ciliation, would have been satisfied to lay down arms 
the moment the king would guarantee sufficient re 
ligious liberty. f Be this conjecture true or false, the 

priest of St. Laurent, who, fifteen years after her death, and in the 
midst of those who had known her, wrote of her birthplace, and where 
she had grown up). 2d. Her relationship to the Keeper of Seals and 
Marshal de Marillac agrees with the documents we have before us; but 
whether her father were brother or cousin to the preceding is not in 
our power to determine with any certainty. We shall follow the first 
of these opinions, put forth by Moreri, which, if true, explains better 
the affectionate relationship of Mile. Le Gras with the two most 
illustrious men of her race, admitting that it is not in accordance with 
the general certainty of our story. An opinion less probable has 
been advanced by some writers who believe Marguerite Le Camus, 
mother of Mile. Le Gras, to have been a sister of Mgr. Camus, 
Bishop of Belley. We are unable to discover any basis for such a 
supposition except the similarity of name. 

* rendu Dague Chasse : Hanged Stabbed Shot. 

f Michel de Marillac, then counsellor to Parliament, acts an impor 
tant part in the history of these times. He opposed the treaty destined 
to transfer the crown of France to a Spanish princess, and instigated 



24 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

child of blessing and grace at whose biography we 
are anxious to arrive, was born in Paris itself, and in 
the midst of the surroundings we have described, 
Aug. 12, 1591. 

The joy of her birth soon gave place to sadness. 
Mme. de Marillac died before her little daughter 
could recognize her. If the child ever saw the mother, 
it was when neither eyes nor heart are capable of 
memory. Ordinarily there is something wanting in a 
child not brought up on a mother s knee, like plants 
without sufficient sunlight ; but in this case the priva 
tion seemed providential. Called to great things, 
the child was to receive a rugged education, and the 
melancholy impressions of her early years were des 
tined to make her better understand the love neces 
sary for the little motherless beings whom she would 
one clay snatch from death. 

M. cle Marillac, finding himself solely responsible 
for the future of Louise, lavished on her the tenderest 
care, and her delicate health required all his atten 
tion. " God," she wrote, " taught me early that He 
wished me to find Him by the cross; from my birth, 
and at every stage of my life, I have never been with 

the celebrated decree which promulgated anew the Salic law, one of 
the fundamental laws of the kingdom. It was he, also, who, after the 
entry of Henry IV. into Paris, called together a party of citizens and 
loaned 1200 crowns to the Count de Brissac to secure the service of 
the German infantry. When the law was enforced for the expulsion 
of the revolutionists, he obliged the King to erase his name from the 
list of the banished. (Lefevre de Lezeau : " Histoire de la Vie de 
Messire Michel de Marillac.") 



The Monastery of Poissy. 25 

out occasions of suffering." The father was obliged 
to consent to a separation from his daughter. De 
sirous of having her taught the principles of Christian 
piety at an early age, he confided her to the care of 
her aunt, named also Louise de Marillac, a religious 
in the monastery of St. Louis at Poissy. What abode 
better calculated to elevate and form the mind than 
this magnificent abbey ! It was founded by Philip 
the Fair, in memory of his ancestors, on the site of 
the castle inhabited by a line of queens from Clo 
tilda, who joined in the victory of Tolbiac, to Blanche 
of Castile, who there gave birth to the saintly King 
Louis IX. 

This magnificent structure covered a space suffi 
cient for a small city. On all sides the riches of art 
and ornament proved the liberality of kings and lords 
whose daughters had made profession of religion in 
this convent. The church, a fine specimen of Gothic 
architecture of the fourteenth century, with towering 
spire overshadowing the cloister, with its nine fres 
coed chapels, was a real relic of art, and the eyes of 
the young Louise must have been dazzled when she 
entered it for the first time. The principal object of 
attention on entering the church was a painting of the 
king in robes embroidered in fleur delis; this was 
above the gallery and opposite to the high altar, 
where, according to tradition, St. Louis, his patron, 
first saw the light of day. At the side of this paint 
ing was a statue of his queen, Marguerite of Provence, 
wearing the crown and robes of French royalty ; here 



26 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

were also monuments of their three sons. On all 
sides were statues and mausoleums of the most illus 
trious of these religious : Marie de Clermont, daugh 
ter of Robert of Bourbon, second Prioress, who passed 
seventy-eight years in the cloister; Marguerite of 
France, daughter of King Jean ; Marie de Bourbon, 
sister-in-law of Charles V. ; Marie, daughter of Charles 
VII.; Isabelled Artois; and Marie of Brittany, all 
of whom preferred the solitude of this cloister to the 
splendor of the court. 

In this sanctuary Louise was to approach the Holy 
Table for the first time. The details of this memo 
rable event are wanting; but we may presume that it 
took place attended by all the exterior solemnity pe 
culiar to so great an act, as religious ceremonies at 
Poissy were all conducted with great pomp, and the 
effect heightened by the presence of two hundred 
Dominicans around an altar on which the piety of 
kings had accumulated reliquaries of precious stones 
and vases of massive gold sparkling with diamonds. 

If this magnificence of worship impressed the young 
girl wi.th awe, her memory became richly stored, and 
could recall without effort these reminiscences of this 
ancient abbey. 

National history might be said to be learned by in 
stinct in a place inhabited for three centuries almost 
exclusively by kings, who left their names by their 
peculiarities on the rooms they occupied. Mary Stuart 
stayed there ; Francis II. held a chapter of St. Michael 
there. In the convent parlor Catherine de Medici 



The Monastery of Poissy. 27 

convoked that famous assembly of Catholics and Pro 
testants known as the Conference of Poissy. 

The Bourbons remained faithful to the benevo 
lent traditions of Valois, so that Louise might one 
day have seen the young prince, afterwards Louis 
XIII., leading a young-lady postulant, Mile, de 
Frontenac, to the altar to take the veil. Flow little 
Louise dreamed that forty years after she would in 
voke that royal child in behalf of another institution 
of which God alone had then conceived the thought 
and prepared the future ! Let us not anticipate, how 
ever, but return to our story. 

At Poissy ancient and modern literature were suc 
cessfully cultivated by the religious, many of whom 
became familiar with the works of Homer. We are 
not certain whether or not Louise learned the Latin 
she knew so well from Sister Odeau, who at that 
time translated the sermons of St. Bernard and 
dedicated them to the Prioress, Mme. de Gondy.* 
She certainly exercised her memory in learning by 
heart the charming poetry of Anne de Marquet, the 
literary glory of the monastery and considered one 
of the most distinguished minds and the best Hellen 
ist of her time, who had just departed for the beau 
tiful " garden of the skies" which her verses so 
charmingly sing, 

" Where roses of damask and lilies of white 
Fade not, but are ever enchanting the sight." 

* Collection of the particulars of Mile. Le Gras last illness. Con 
firmed by the letters of St. Vincent. (Arch, de la Mission.) 



28 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

In this magnificent monastery, however, there 
reigned a spirit which savored too much of the world, 
for the austere habits of M. de Marillac, and Louise 
was removed from this convent. As she took her de 
parture, nothing could have made her suspect her 
vocation and destiny. Can one believe that from 
the height of paradise the royal patron of France, 
whose cradle had overshadowed her early years, fore 
saw that peaceful army of virgins who would one 
day succeed his knights on the banks of the Orient? 
History is full of these providential coincidences 
whose meaning is only discovered by time. 

M. de Marillac, on the return of his daughter to 
Paris, placed her in the hands of a preceptress whom 
he charged with the care of finishing her education. 
He wished that nothing should be omitted that could 
contribute to her mental and physical development. 
While bodily exercise was not forgotten, she applied 
herself to the cultivation of the arts ; above all, paint 
ing, for which she had a decided taste, and which 
she never entirely abandoned. Discovering in her, 
besides this, a remarkable aptitude for abstract truths, 
he wished her to pursue the study of philosophy. By 
this means, as her first biographer tells us,* she 
gained access to the highest sciences, and reading, 
pen in hand, soon became one of her favorite occupa 
tions. Her conversational powers were so charming 
that her father soon knew no greater pleasure than 

* " La Vie de Mademoiselle Le Gras, fondatrice et premiere Su- 
perieurede la Compagnie des Filles de laCharite,Servantes des pauvres 



Her Education. 29 

to converse with her, or read the result of her reflec 
tions ; and he averred, when writing his will, that his 
daughter had been his greatest consolation in this 
world, and a sweet rest which God had given him in 
the afflictions of this life. 

This rugged cultivation prepared the ground of 
her soul for great fruits of virtue, which soon 
began to bud forth. M. de Marillac, a provident 
and intelligent father, had sought to develop in his 
daughter a taste for solid matter, only that she might 
be far removed from frivolity, and might understand 
something of a serious, holy life. 

At the age of fifteen or sixteen, Louise had given 
herself to the practice of prayer,* and was not slow 
to conceive a contempt for the world and an ardent 
desire to consecrate herself to God. This thought 
occupied her mind a long time before she could de 
termine to what Order she was called. It is not sur 
prising that she never thought of the abbey at 
Poissy, where fervor had cooled and the rule was no 
longer in vigor; but it is a little astonishing that 
neither was she attracted by a great religious Order 
recently brought from Spain to Paris, which was 
creating a sensation by the practice of incomparable 
virtue. 

The interest in this new convent was nowhere more 

malades," by M. Gobillon, Priest and Doctor of the Sorbonne, Cure 
of St. Laurent. Paris : Andre Pralard. 1676. 

* Letter of Mathurine Guerin, Daughter of Charity, to Marguerite 
Ch6tif, on the virtues of Mile. Le Gras. (Arch, de la Mission.) 



3O Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

lively than in the Marillac family ; and Louise was 
not ignorant of the active part one of her uncles had 
taken in the establishment of this new convent of 
Carmelites, or Carmelines as they were called, nor 
the secret of the truly extraordinary way in which 
he had been led into the work. Towards the close 
of the summer of 1602, M. Michel de Marillac, hav 
ing found by chance, in one of the bookstores, a 
copy of the " Life and Miracles of B. Mother Teresa," 
he bought it and took it with him on a pilgrimage to 
Notre Dame de Liesse. Scarcely had he commenced 
to read, when, seized with admiration at her fervent 
reform of the Carmelites in Spain, he heard an in 
terior voice intimating that he should introduce the 
Order into France. So many difficulties arose in his 
mind in this connection that at first he resisted the 
impression; but, conquered by a superior Will, he 
at length yielded and became, as Mme. Acarie had 
predicted, " the foundation-stone of the French Car 
melites." 

He it was who prepared and watched over the build- 
ing of the beautiful convent in Rue Saint-Jacques. 
" A beautiful dwelling," said Mile, de Montpensier, 
" where a numerous community is composed of 
women of rank and intelligence, who had left a 
world they knew only to despise ; there, consequently, 
will you find true religious." Nevertheless, and in 
spite of all that might attract Louise to Carmel, even 
the ties of kindred between her and Mother Made 
leine de Saint Joseph, the greatest and perhaps the 



She Thinks of Joining the Capuchins. 3 1 

most holy of that admirable company, the idea of 
clothing herself as a daughter of Saint Teresa never 
entered her mind. God would not permit it, having 
other designs for her; neither would He permit her 
to follow very long another project which attracted 
her some time later. 

A short time after the Carmelites were estab 
lished in France, Paris was enriched by another 
Order of women, devoted no less than the Car 
melites to prayer and penance. One day, in 
July 1606, the Parisians were astonished to see a 
procession of twelve religious women, with thorn- 
crowned heads and naked feet, each accompanied by a 
lady of rank, wending their way, preceded by twenty- 
four Capuchins and followed by the Cardinal Gondy, 
from the hotel Vendome, where they had rested, to 
the convent in Rue Saint-Honore, newly erected by 
the liberality of the Duchess of Mercceur. These 
religious, who were Capuchins, were known as 
Daughters of the Passion, and it was said that no com 
munity surpassed them in austerities. Their life 
seemed to respond so well to her aspirations that 
Louise at first thought of joining them ; and if we 
remember what she wrote at a later period concern 
ing a first vow, we may suppose that she had made 
some sort of promise in the depth of her heart, a 
promise very soon annulled by the decision of an 
authority without appeal. Not among the Capu 
chins, any more than among the Carmelites, had God 
placed her vocation, and the person chosen to divert 



32 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

her from that design was one of whom a holy bishop 
wrote : " We have no miracles to prove a sanctity 
greater or more apparent than his." This was Father 
Honore de Champigny, at that time provincial 
of the Capuchins in Paris.* Over twenty years in 
charge of the most important business of his Order, 
and in the exact performance of his rule, he won re 
spect and confidence by his sweet, humble virtue, 
and Mile, de Marillac had no difficulty in opening 
her heart to him. 

Father Honore, in whom prudence had always 
been a distinguishing virtue, saw at a glance that her 
health was entirely too delicate for the attempt. He 
judged it proper to give her the advice he had 
already given to several young girls: " If we gather 
the flowers too soon, we hinder the fruit from grow 
ing ; but when they fade and fall of themselves, the 
fruit is abundant." And, foreseeing the future by the 
light often vouchsafed him for the good of souls, he 
told Louise that God had other designs in store for her.f 

At this time Louise lost her father. Necessita 
ted by circumstances to come to some decision 
with regard to her life, and interpreting the advice 

* The monastery of the Capuchins was opposite the convent at the 
junction of the Rue de Rivoli, Rue Castiglione, and Rue du Mont- 
Thabor. At this time they had a number of celebrated men, amongst 
them a cousin of Mile. Le Gras, Brother Michel, who died in the 
odor of sanctity 1631. 

f " Histoire de la Vie, Mort, et Miracles du Rev. Pere Honore Bo- 
chart de Champigny," by Henry de Calais. The process of his beati 
fication was begun in 1635 and has been taken up again recently. 



Her Marriage. 33 

she had received, she accepted the hand of a young 
Secretary of State under Marie de Medicis, Antoine 
Le Gras, whose family, like the Marillacs, was origi 
nally from Auvergne.* The charity of the Le Gras 
was traditional and extended to the town of Puy, 
where they had founded an hospital. All this had 
some weight in the eyes of Mile, de Marillac, herself 
so kind to the poor, who saw in this quality of her 
new family a pledge of what she would be permitted 
to do in her turn. The marriage was celebrated in 
the church of Saint-Gervais,f Feb. 5, 1613. Louise 
was then twenty-one years and some months old. 

By a singular coincidence, on that very day, and 
in the same place, there was baptized a child, called 
by his parents Rene Almeras,^: who, half a century 
later, became first Superior-General of the Daughters 
of Charity, after Vincent de Paul, and directed the 
work whose foundress was at this time hidden from 
the eyes of all. 

* Antoine Le Gras was born at Montferrand, where is still to be seen 
the house that once was his. 

f The register of the parish of Saint- Gervais, where mention was 
made of the marriage of " M. Antoine LeGraset de demoiselle Loyse 
de Marillac," appears to have been burnt during the Commune of 
1871. (Jal. author of " Dictionnaire Critique de Biographic et d His- 
toire".) 

\ Rene Almeras, born in Paris, parish of Saint-Gervais, Feb. 5, 1613, 
was received into the Congregation of the Mission Dec. 24, 1637, and 
succeeded Saint Vincent de Paul as Superior-General Jan. 17, 1661. 




34 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 



CHAPTER II. 

1613 1623. 

Birth of her Son Her Acquaintance with St. Francis de Sales and 
with Mgr. Camus, Bishop of Belley, her Director Her Vow not 
to Remarry Interior Trials. 

JHE FAMILY into which Louise had just en 
tered did not belong to the nobility. The 
Le Gras had never attained to anything 
higher than a good and honorable middle 
class. Antoine and Nicolas his brother, despite 
their straitened circumstances, owed the positions 
they occupied to their own exertions and to many 
pecuniary sacrifices. One of them, we have said, was 
Secretary to Marie de Medicis, the other Treasurer 
of France.* Antoine s title of Esquire did not per 
mit the wife who bore his name to be styled Madame, 
and Louise continued, therefore, to receive no other 
title than that of Mademoiselle. Although this usage 
was changed in the eighteenth century, the custom 
continues in the family of St. Vincent de Paul, and 
the Daughters of Charity still say Mademoiselle when 

*The title Treasurer of France is given to Nicolas on the parish 
register of Saint-Gervais, where his marriage with Madeleine Le Roux 
was celebrated Jan. 22, 1613. After his brother s death he purchased 
for 5000 livres the position of Secretary of State from the Queen 
Mother, and exercised the same under Anne of Austria. He died 
Aug. 12, 1646. 



Birth of her Son, 35 

speaking of their foundress ; nor would we deem it 
right to destroy the tradition by modifying an appel 
lation consecrated by the respect of almost three 
centuries. 

Unfortunately there remain but few details of the 
new life. opened to Louise. The pillage of St. Lazare, 
in which were destroyed numerous letters and docu 
ments belonging to the Mission, deprives us of much 
information which cannot now be supplied. We know 
that she attached herself to her husband with an af 
fection proportioned to the esteem he merited by his 
God-fearing, irreproachable life.* Her efforts to in 
spire her son with grateful remembrance of his father, 
and her fidelity in celebrating the anniversary of her 
marriage by a Mass and Holy Communion, are lights 
which reveal the sweetness of their union.f 

The blessing of God was not long delayed, and on 
Oct. 19, 1613, she gave birth to a son, who was bap 
tized in the church of St. Merry, receiving the name 
of Michel Antoine, and having for godfather Rene 
de Marillac, member of the Privy Council, and for 
godmother Valence de Marillac, wife ^of M. d At- 
tichy, Comptroller of Finance^: under the king and 
his mother the queen. 

Separated from the life and maxims of the world, 
far from the court she seems to have altogether aban 
doned at this time, the young mother passed her days 
in the serious discharge of her duties. The educa- 

* Will of Mile. Le Gras. \ See will, and letters of St. Vincent de Paul. 
\ Jal. quoted in this work. Gobillon, p. 12. 



36 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

tion of her son, the care of servants, whom she led to 
the very threshold of perfection for two of them 
left her to enter religion, one with the Minims, the 
other with the Benedictines, the superintendence 
of her affairs and at times those of her husband, 
who was the guardian of the five orphan children of 
Mme. d Attichy * all these occupied her by turns, 
without interrupting the union of her soul with God. 
Free to lollow her attraction for the poor, she fre 
quently visited them. Neither bad roads nor incle 
ment weather hindered her. A woman in her ser- 
vicef relates that she would tear herself from the 
company of M. Le Gras, and through rain and frost, 
often shivering with cold, would climb the mountains 
to comfort an unfortunate, or carry biscuits, sweet 
meats, and other delicacies to the sick. 

The same witness of her daily life testifies that she 
washed the sick, combed them, and buried the dead. 
Moreover, she often fasted at table while pretending 

* Letters from M. de Marillac to Mile. Le Gras dated Sept. 12, 
1619, tell us that she accompanied her husband to Attichy, and la 
bored with zeal in the administration of this estate. She herself wrote 
to St. Vincent, " My late husband spent his time and life in the busi 
ness of the house of Attichy." Of the five children whose interests 
were confided to them, one followed the profession of arms, and was 
killed in 1636; another became a Jesuit: and a third died Bishop of 
Autun. The two daughters were Anne, maid of honor to Marie de 
Medicis, who became later on the beautiful Countess de Maure, cele 
brated by M. Cousin; and Genevieve, who married the Duke of Atri. 

f Madame Delacour. The document containing these details is 
preserved by the Daughters of Charity. 



A Visit from St. Francis de Sales. 37 

to eat, and at night, as soon as M. Le Gras was 
asleep, she arose and spent the night in her oratory. 
Was not this the life of a saint ? 

In 1618-19 she was living in the parish of St. Sau 
veur,* Rue Cours-au-Villain,f in an old house which 
had to be repaired, and a new story added with a 
tower, the expense amounting to 18,000 livres, as is 
shown by letters from the architect employed. Every 
thing tends to prove that it was here she received the 
visit of St. Francis de Sales, who passed eight 
months in Paris,:): when he accompanied the Cardinal 
of Savoy on a mission relative to the marriage of 
Prince Victor Amedee, of Piedmont, to Christine, sis 
ter of Louis XIII. Mile. Le Gras made his acquaint 
ance with all the more pleasure, as on a preceding 
journey the holy prelate had met M. Michel de 
Marillac at Mme. Acarie s house in Marais, to which 
place he walked every day from the upper end of 
Rue St. Jacques. When he visited Mile. Le Gras he 
was stopping in Rue de Tournon, in an old castle be 
longing to the Marshal of Ancre. From this place, 
then the palace of the plenipotentiary, he came, fol- 

*The church of St. Sauveur was situated at the corner of Rue St. 
Sauveur and Rue St. Denis. In 1787 it threatened to fall, and was 
demolished, and on this spot was built the house known as 277 Rue 
St. Denis. (" Histoire de la Ville et du Dio.cese de Paris".) 

f Rue Cours-au-Villain, or Courteau-Villain as it is sometimes 
written, is part of Rue Montmorency, and extends from Rue Beau- 
bourg to Rue du Temple. 

JFrom Nov. 1618 to Sept. 15, 1619. 

Letter of St. Francis de Sales to M. de Marillac, April 24, 1621. 



38 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

lowing his attraction for great souls, to visit Mile. Le 
Gras, who was confined to her house by indisposi 
tion. She never forgot his kindness on this occa 
sion, nor his advice, which she afterwards made use 
of in the direction of her Daughters. The penances 
prescribed by " our blessed Father," \ as she usually 
called him, the books he composed, were, for her, so 
many rules which she gladly followed ; and confident 
of his intercession, she believed in its effect in one of 
the most critical moments of her life (as we shall pres 
ently relate). 

Her acquaintance with St. Francis was not of long 
duration, however, for in September 1619 the Saint re 
turned to his mountains, after having preached every 
day, sometimes oftener, in Paris, whose religious 
spirit very much affected him. " Piety has made admi 
rable progress in Paris," he wrote, " die t un stupor e"* 

When he left Paris Mile. Le Gras was under the 
direction of one whom the Saint called his only son, 
his apprentice, and his chef-d oeuvre^ because the only 
person consecrated by him. This was Mgr. Camus, 
Bishop of Belley. When and how Louise placed 
herself under his direction does not appear. We 
know from Mgr. Camus himself that several years 
before this time he had been invited regularly to 
preach the Advent and Lenten sermons in Paris.f 

* Letter of Abbe de Vaux, Jan. 3, 1642. 

f Ho trovato Parigi con tanto accresdmentc di divozione che % un stupore. 
Nov. 9, 1618. (Migne, vol. vi p. 767.) 
\ Probably from 1614 to 1623. 



Her Acquaintance with Mgr. Camus. 39 

" Not from choice or my own seeking-," he adds, " but 
by the interposition of my parents, who, not being 
able to see me or induce me to leave my residence, 
took this means to bring me to Paris."* He owed 
these invitations no less, we may believe, to his pow 
ers of oratory; for although his style was somewhat 
diffuse and full of metaphor, yet its richness and his 
eloquence were much relished at that time. 

Louise might have heard him in the church of 
Saint-Severin, or Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, or 
in the Augustinian Chapel,f or the Oratory ,J where 
he preached Conferences for four winters. If she was 
charmed by his eloquence, she was no less attracted 
by his fervent piety and boundless charity, virtues 
assiduously cultivated by St. Francis in this his dis 
ciple, in whom he endeavored to excite a maternal 
tenderness for the flock confided to his care. We 
venture to affirm that not one amongst these souls 
corresponded better to his zeal than Mile. Le Gras.|| 

The mild, firm direction given her by the Bishop of 
Belley is recognized at once by the spiritual aliment he 

* " Notice sur Mgr. Camus," by Mgr. Depery, Bishop of Gap. 

f The convent of the Augustinians was situated opposite Pont Neuf, 
where is now held the " Vallee " market. 

\ The Oratory, founded Nov. n, 1611, by M. de Berulle, was then 
on Rue St. Thomas du Louvre, quite near the hotel of Rambouillet. 

" Esprit de Saint Frangois de Sales," by Mgr. Camus. 

I Another penitent of Mgr. Camus, little known at this time, was 
Claude Bernard, called the poor priest, who owed his conversion to 
the Bishop; he gave his property to the poor, and spent his life at 
tending the sick and the prisoners. He died 1641. 



40 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

recommended, and by the books he proposed to 
nourish her persevering taste for prayer: all these 
are of the highest order. After the " Imitation of 
Christ," which M. de Marillac had just popularized 
by a new translation,* the works of Louis of Gre 
nada, the " Spiritual Combat," which St. Francis de 
Sales carried about him for eight years, " Philothea,"f 
and the " Treatise on the Love of God," by the 
Bishop of Geneva, then published only a few years. 
To these books, which were, as Mme. de Maintenon 
said, " sufficient for a lifetime," the study of the Bible 
was added, for Louise had been reading with her 
husband a translation by the Doctors of the Louvain, 
as we learn by a note from her to the Bishop of Bel- 
ley.:): Retreats with the Capuchins of the Rue Saint- 
Honore at different times during the year, such as the 
Carnival, etc., completed the exercises of her interior 
life. 

After passing some days at the Chartreuse, Mgr. 
Camus could not refrain from writing to his spirit 
ual daughter : " I am charmed with the solitude and 
sweetness of a retreat." It was easy to inspire her 
with the same sentiments, or rather it was necessary 
to moderate her zeal for these exercises, useful and 
salutary though they might be. " You must take 

* This translation appeared anonymously in 1621. It has since 
gone through fifty editions. 

f It is said that the " Introduction to a Devout Life " appeared un 
der this name 1606; " The Treatise of the Love of God," 1616. 

\ Dated Paris, May 8, 1623. (Arch, de la Mission.) 

July 26, 16. .. (Arch, de la Mission.) 



Pier Acquaintance with Mgr. Camus. 41 

them like honey," he wrote, " rarely and in small 
quantities, for you have a certain spiritual avidity 
which must be restrained." 

Her fervor needed to be moderated likewise in the 
practice of penance, a virtue which she did not be 
lieve to be a legacy exclusively for convents, although 
such is the general opinion of the world. To enliven 
her devotion* St. Francis de Sales had recommended 
the discipline. Her dress was simple and modest, un 
derneath which she wore hair-cloth, and in spite of 
her delicate health conquered, by fasts and watching, 
the warmth of a nature already subdued by suffering 
and the labor inseparable from her duties. New 
calls to greater sacrifices were always the answer of 
God to these efforts to attain the highest paths of 
perfection. Humility, obedience, poverty, and charity 
always appeared to her in their ideal beauty, and " to 
honor Jesus Christ," as she wrote later, she always 
took the resolution inspired by His love. 

But that filial confidence which, delighting the 
heart, fills it with holy peace, was the constant theme 
of Mgr. Camus to his penitent. Her exquisite deli 
cacy of conscience, her extreme fear of sin making 
her see evil in things indifferent, her dread of having 
to reproach herself with past confessions badly made, 
sometimes clouded her otherwise clear, strong mind. 

" You always make a general confession when 
jubilee comes," wrote Mgr. Camus ; " how often have 
I told you the effect of these general confessions on 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras, Jan. 3, 1642. 



42 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

your poor heart. Ah, no; the jubilee is not sent for 
that, but to make us rejoice in God our Saviour ; to 
make us say, Jubilemus Deo in salutari nostro" * In 
another letter he writes, " I still await the return of 
your serenity after those clouds which hinder you 
from seeing in full brilliancy the beauty of serving 
God. Do not make so many difficulties of indifferent 
things. Turn your eyes from yourself to fix them 
on Jesus Christ. This is, according to my judgment, 
your perfection, and I may add with the Apostle, 
In this I have the spirit of God. " 

The Bishop of Belley was not the only one to re 
proach her with this fault of reflecting too much on 
herself a reproach she afterwards made use of for 
the preservation of her Daughters.f M. de Marillac, 
her uncle, well acquainted with her spiritual tenden 
cies, often warned her of her danger. After many 
disquieting and long-continued efforts to know her 
self as every Christian should, Louise was constrained 
to limit her reflections to her miseries, and thus in 
crease her humility. " Good and useful thoughts," 
her uncle would say to her, " but not always in sea 
son. To acquire virtue it is necessary for us to pro 
fit by the means which God gives us ; that is, to rise 
by means of our faults above the disposition which 
produced them, to humble ourselves before those in 
whom we perceive any good, and, this done, to be 
lieve ourselves wanting in the knowledge of our- 

* Letter of Mgr. Camus, Jan. 20. (Arch, de la Mission.) 
f Letter of Sr. Mathurine Guerin to Sr. Marguerite Chetif. 



Her Vow not to Remarry. 43 

selves, but not to be troubled on that account, and 
to ask this knowledge from God." * 

This was only the beginning of her interior trials. 
After this anxiety on the subject of her sins, which 
God permitted to trouble her many years.f Louise 
was violently agitated by scruples of another kind. We 
find the subject of this illusion in a private paper found 
among her effects, where she mentions the promise 
to herself already spoken of, and to which her ex 
treme delicacy of conscience lent the appearance of a 
vow. This evidently refers to the time when she 
wished to embrace a religious life among the Capu 
chins. Notwithstanding all that her reason could 
suggest to reassure her, she constantly asked herself 
if she had not failed in her promise to God ; there 
fore to calm her fears and follow her attraction she 
made a vow not to remarry should her husband 
(then in delicate health) die before her. This was on 
the Feast of St. Monica, May 4, 1623. 

This sacrifice was made with all the generosity pe 
culiar to the ardent soul of Louise. She had a right 
to hope for peace, but found it not. Strange specta 
cle ! but one we can understand when we remember 
what tempests the saints have all withstood, or medi 
tate in the light of faith on the incessant efforts made 
by the Spirit of Darkness to dispute with God the 
possession of those very souls whose lives are purest 
and most faithful in virtue. 

This complete offering of herself, faithful and 

* Letter, Aug 12, 1621 (Arch, de la Mission.) f Gobillon, p. 16. 



44 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

prompt answer to the call of Him who wished her 
entire being, marked a decided step in the interior 
life of Mile. Le Gras. It was like the first light of 
the aurora. Need we wonder if the Devil now sub 
jected her to an assault more terrible still than those 
by which she had heretofore been tormented ? On 
Ascension Day,* three weeks after her vow, "she fell 
anew," she tells us, " into great depression of mind." 
Her spiritual horizon was at once in great obscurity, 
and the pangs of anguish which combated without 
excluding one another gave her soul such torment as 
she had never before experienced. At first she asked 
herself (and this was the real subject of the tempta 
tion) if she ought to remain with her husband, or if she 
were not obliged from that moment to leave him, in 
order to repair her former vow and be more at liberty 
to serve God. At the very time she believed her 
self bound to complete this holocaust another sacri 
fice appeared to her not less necessary. 

The Bishop of Belley, to whom she could submit 
her doubts, inspired her with unlimited confidence; 
but was she not obliged, by reason of her attachment 
to him, to choose another confessor? Deprived of his 
direction, separated from her husband and son, what 
a solitude life would be to her ! Could she, at least, 
rest on God, and in His divine tenderness find a com 
pensation for her sacrifices ? No. Her abandonment 
should be complete. Doubts against faith assailed 
her mind ; the immortality of the soul, even the exist- 

*May 25, 1623. 



Interior Trials. 45 

ance of the Creator, appeared to her enveloped in 
thick darkness; and this terrible question presented 
itself: "If there be no eternity, no divinity, what 
remains for me ?" 

These storms, it seems, should have produced a calm. 
If Louise had made a vow and was obliged to accom 
plish it, surely God willed it. But temptation tar 
nishes with its breath the mirror of reason. The soul, 
though faultless, which is subjected to the scorching 
influence of temptation loses for a time the brilliancy 
of her faculties; her power to memorize, clearness 
in deduction, good sense to draw conclusions all 
is gone : during temptation logic is annihilated. 

" For ten days," writes Mile. Le Gras, " these three 
uncertainties held my soul in such agony as seemed 
to me worse than could be imagined." She knew not 
in whom to confide her troubles. The Bishop of 
Geneva was the only one who could relieve her, 
she said, had he been there. She had thought of 
consulting him on the subject of her vow, but he was 
dead * before she had an opportunity to do so. 

At last God had pity on her. " The day of Pente 
cost," f she said (and on this solemn subject we can 
do no better than let her speak herself), " being in 
Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs at the holy Mass, in an in 
stant my mind was cleared my doubts vanished. I 
was taught that I should remain with my husband ; 
that a day would come when I could make the vows 
of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and that I would 

* December 28, 1622. f June 4, 1623. 



46 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

be with persons some of whom would make the 
same vows. I understood that it was to be a place 
in which I could assist my fellow-beings ; but I could 
not understand how it was to be accomplished, as it 
appeared to me all coming and going" evidently no 
cloister ; and by this we can understand what the 
new work was which should be confided to her. " I 
was, moreover, assured that I would be in peace 
concerning my director; that God would give me 
one whom I should see presently. I felt a great 
repugnance to this change ; but I acquiesced, and it 
seemed as if the change were deferred for the pres 
ent. My third trial was removed by the conviction 
that it was God who was teaching me the above, and 
being in God I ought not to doubt of the rest." She 
thus concludes: "I always believe that this grace 
was granted me through the Bishop of Geneva. I 
had proof of this at the time which I cannot now call 
to mind." 

We must remark here a singular coincidence which 
seems to have escaped Louise. The holy prelate of 
whom she has just spoken, and for whom she had 
such devotion, had, unknown to her, passed through 
a siege of temptation similar to her own. Like her, 
also, he was a prey to the attack of the enemy, after 
having made a vow of perfect chastity until death, 
and like her, again, peace returned to his soul 
while praying in a church in Paris.* Every trial is 

* At Saint-Etienne-des-Gres, before a statue of our Lady of Good 



Interior Trials. 47 

providential ; St. Francis drew from this one a sin 
cere and tender pity for tempted souls, to whom he 
often addressed these consoling words : "Alas! it is 
a strange torment ; my own soul, which endured 
similar suffering for six long weeks, can well compas 
sionate those who are thus afflicted." He also ac 
quired " a certain tact in the government of his spiri 
tual warfare," to speak in the language of his biog 
rapher, the Bishop of Belley, who styles him " an 
arsenal for others, furnishing shields and arms to 
those whose temptations were made known to 
him." * May we not believe that, taking pity on 
the sufferings whose bitterness he had tasted, he 
answered from high heaven the call of Louise ? 

As to the humble woman, we could not recount all 
the fruits she gathered from the thorns and brambles 
with which her road seemed at one time to be entan 
gled. It was like a second baptism, from which her 
soul emerged purer, stronger, more grateful. She 
had foreseen her work and the graces that would 
enable her to accomplish it ; the one who was to be 
her guide was shown her; the entire plan of her life, 
her itinerary, so to speak, was opened before her. 
Called to form souls, she was, like St. Francis de 
Sales, to imbibe from the memory of that interior 
agony compassion for their misery and experience 
of their tribulations. 

Help, still venerated in the chapel of Hospitallers of Saint-Thomas- 
de Villeneuve, Rue de Sevres. 

* " Spirit of Saint Francis de Sales," part iv. sec, 15. 




48 .Life of Mile. Lc Gras. 



CHAPTER III. 

16231625. 

St. Vincent de Paul The Family of Marillac and the Carmelites 
Sickness and Death of M. Le Gras. 

JOR almost ten years Mgr. Camus came 
ever} 7 winter, as we have said, to preach 
in Paris. In 1623, about the Feast of All 
Saints, he was preparing to go as usual, 
when an unforeseen circumstance compelled him to 
remain in his diocese. We can easily imagine the emo 
tion his absence caused in Mile. Le Gras, accustomed 
as she had been to find in him a support and guide 
amid the fears and aspirations of her soul. Hence he 
wished to prepare her for it from October. " This 
miserable father who writes to you will not visit 
Paris this winter," he wrote her; and as if to 
strengthen her for the trial he added : " O Jesus, Soul 
of our souls ! preserve my dear daughter to me ; . . . 
shed Thy consolations on her soul; bless her with 
Thy sweet hand, herself, her husband, her child, and 
her house."* This separation was not to end the 
spiritual relations between Louise and her guide; 
but letters were sometimes six weeks going from 
Paris to Belley,f and the definite resignation which 
the prelate now made of the two principal pulpits:]: 

* Letter of Mgr. Camus, Oct. 23, 1623. (Arch, de la Mission.) 
f Ibid., Jan. 20. % Ibid., Oct. 23. 



St. Vincent de Paid. 49 

of the capital deprived Mile. Le Gras of all hope of 
seeing him soon. She was therefore resigned to 
accept from him another director whom Providence 
had brought quite near. 

She had often met in the neighborhood of her 
dwelling, or at the church of Saint Sauvcur, their 
parish," a priest, affable, grave, and simple at first 
sight, who was known as M. Vincent. This priest, 
this saint, was to exercise too great an influence over 
her destiny for us to neglect a rapid glance at the 
good he had already accomplished. 

No life for the last two centuries, perhaps, has 
been oftener written than that of St. Vincent de Paul. 
Hence it is almost superfluous to say that he was born 
April 24, 1576, in the midst of religious wars, at Pouy, 
near Dax, of a family of the working class. From this 
humble origin, which he took pleasure in recalling to 
Mile. Le Gras, he imbibed that tender love for the poor 
which he manifested from his earliest years ! Having 
like David left his father s flock to receive the holy 
unction, Vincent suddenly found himself, by an un 
toward circumstance, cast on a barbarous shore and 
made a slave. To this very shore his sons were to 
carry the Cross and the liberty of the Gospel ; and the 
first fruit of his own labors was the conversion of his 
master, a renegade from Nice, whom Vincent brought 
to Rome and to the convent of Fate bene, Fratelli. 
He returned to France on a secret mission for 

* The Hotel de Gondy, where St. Vincent lived at that time, was 
in the Rue Pavee 



50 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Henry IV., and became chaplain to Queen Margue 
rite, and afterwards pastor in the little village of 
Clichy. Cardinal Berulle, his friend, then appointed 
him tutor to the children of M. de Gondy, General 
of the Galleys.* This modest position furnished him 
with opportunities for the exercise of his zeal among 
the numerous servants and followers of the family; 
and by placing him in Paris a great part of the year, 
permitted him to continue his charge as Superior of 
the Visitation Monastery, confided to his care by St. 
Francis de Sales. 

This preference for a priest still young over many 
eminent men then in the ranks of the Sorbonne and 
college of Navarre, made by a prelate whose advice 
was known to be, " Choose as director one in ten 
thousand, "f and who possessed the gift of discern 
ment of souls in an eminent degree, this preference, 
we repeat, strengthened the advice of Mgr. Camus, 
and Louise hesitated not to place Herself under the 
direction of Vincent de Paul. Vincent, already occu 
pied by outside works, would not willingly burden 
himself with the care and direction of souls ; but he 
could not refuse Mile. Le Gras when she came to 
him from the Bishop of Belley. This was probably < 
in the beginning of the year 16254 

* Philippe-Emmanuel Gondy, Count of Joigny, Baron of Ville- 
preux and Montmirail, brother of Henry de Gondy, Bishop of Paris, 
and of Jean-Frangois de Gondy, first Archbishop of Paris, was father 
of Cardinal de Retz. 

f " Introduction to a Devout Life," part i. chap. iv. 

$ Maynard in his " Histoire de Saint Vincent de Paul" savs that 



6V. Vincent de Paul. 5 1 

She was not slow to appreciate the merits of her 
new guide, and soon recognized that it was he whom 
God had shown her two years before. Everything in 
him inspired confidence. In exterior appearance he 
did not seem intended for brilliant affairs ; but whilst 
the most humble of men, he excelled in wisdom, good 
common-sense, and prudence. The number or the 
difficulty of affairs never seemed to trouble him ; he 
undertook them in order and carried them through 
with patience and tranquillity. Fear of interfering 
with the designs of Providence made him slow to 
give his opinion, and he decided nothing without 
balancing the reasons for and against; and when ques 
tioned, always waited a few moments before he 
answered. His decision once taken, he replied : " In 
the name of the Lord," and expressed his ideas in 
few words, with perfect clearness and in a tone of 
affectionate persuasion. His two favorite maxims 
were: "To love God in the strength of the arm and 
the sweat of the brow, and in every condition of our 
neighbor to see an image of Jesus Christ, loving and 
serving Jesus Christ in each one, and each one in 
Jesus Christ." This was his lesson to his penitents, 
teaching them to see nothing new in devotion, but to 
make their charity more constant and more pure. 

All this answered so well to what Louise was in 

the Saint refused the request of Mgr. de Belley to take charge of 
Mile. Le Gras until he spoke to him of his venerated friend St. 
Francis de Sales ; but we do not find sufficient grounds for such 
assertion. 



52 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

search of that she could not dispense with his advice ; 
and in July 1625, when Vincent went to Provence to 
acquaint M. Gondy with the news of his wife s 
death, Louise was so afflicted by his absence that 
Mgr. Camus, who still watched over her from a dis 
tance, was obliged to moderate her grief. " Pardon 
me, my dear sister," he wrote her on this occasion, 
" when I tell you that you attach yourself too strongly 
to those who direct you ; you lean too much on them. 
M. Vincent disappears, and behold, Mile. Le Gras 
is out of sorts ! \Ve must look well to God in those 
who guide and direct us, and sometimes we must 
look to God alone, who, without the aid of man or 
Bethsaida s pond, can heal our spiritual paralysis. 
It is not, dear soul," he adds (so much did he admire 
her virtue)" it is not that it annoys me to conduct or 
counsel you. Alas ! no. On the contrary, I hope that 
you will lead me to heaven, whither your example 
invites me more than my advice is calculated to have 
in leading you thither; but I do not like to see the 
least little imperfection or the least little cloud in the 
mind of that Mile. Le Gras of whom I expect such 
great things, and whose mind 1 believe to be so 
strong." It was, in fact, her strong faculties of mind 
that made these slight shades remarkable. In others 
they would have been tinperceived. 

The letter of Mgr. Camus just quoted shows us 
that in the absence of the "very good M. Vincent" 
her soul was not neglected, and that she knew to 

*Arch. de la Mission. 



The Marillacs and the Carmelites. 5 3 

whom she could have recourse. The Bishop of 
Belley sent her Father Menard* of the Oratory, for 
a retreat which she wished to make ; afterwards he 
desired her to consult two holy religious, Anne Cath 
erine of Beaumont, a remarkable Superioress of the 
Visitation,f and the venerable Mother Madeleine of 
Saint Joseph, the first French Prioress of the Car 
melites. This lady had just founded what was called 
the little convent in the Rue Chapon, quite near 
Louise. :{: Quite near her, also, were grouped a num 
ber of religious women, many of whom had been 
under the direction of Mgr. Camus, and to whom he 
frequently sent remembrances by Louise, mentioning 
their names with affectionate and paternal admoni 
tion. Most of these names are now buried in obli 
vion, and we only mention Mile. Pollalion (to whom 
we shall soon return) and Anne d Attichy, with her 
good heart, and another whom we must not forget, 
the virtuous widow, Mme. de Marillac. 

* This name is probably Mayniard. Little attention was paid at 
that time to the orthography of names. Father Charles Mayniard 
became pastor of Rouen. He had great devotion for the study of the 
Scriptures, and was known to say that other books were only fit to 
nourish curiosity. 

f Anne Catherine of Beaumont, who came from Annecy with Mme. 
de Chantal, was the second Superioress of the first monastery in Paris. 
She founded a second monastery in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques,- and 
governed successively several houses of the Order. Her life, still 
unpublished, was written by Mother de Chaugy. 

\ The " little convent" extended from No. 13 Rue Chapon, along the 
Rue Beaubourg, to No. 10 of the Rue Cours-au- Villain, where Mile. 
Le Gras was living. 



54 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

In her own family, indeed, Louise had the most 
beautiful example and support resulting from holy 
friendship. But she who most attracted the attention 
of Mgr. Camus by her exalted virtue was an angelic 
soul, one of whom Michel de Marillac had said that she 
alone attached him to this world. This was the widow 
of Rene de Marillac, who was godfather to young Mi 
chel Le Gras.* She aspired only to the Carmelite 
Order, which she made a vow to enter as soon as 
her brother-in-law and Mother Madeleine would think 
the time had come. After four years of widowhood, 
free and permitted to follow her attraction, she en 
tered the Carmelites, and was reunited to her sister- 
in-law and her three daughters. f But who can re 
count the profit Louise derived from her relationship 
with the head of this predestined family, or the spir 
itual conferences she enjoyed with him ! J For this 

* Rene de Marillac died in 1621 at the siege of Montauban, leav 
ing his heart to the Carmelites at Poissy to be placed in the tomb of 
Mme. d Acarie. Shortly after he appeared to Mother Madeleine of 
Saint Joseph, who saw him, she says, for a quarter of an hour clearly, 
and eminent in glory. (Letters of Mere Madeleine to M. de Maril 
lac, cited in the manuscript of Lefevre.) 

f Her sister-in-law was Valence de Marillac, received into the 
Carmelites on the same day with Mme. Acarie, under the name of 
Sister Marie of the Blessed Sacrament. Her three daughters were 
Marie of Saint Michel, Marie Madeleine of the Incarnation, and Mar 
garet Teresa of Jesus. 

\ The archives of the Mission preserve some of the letters of 
Michel de Marillac to his niece, which might be called letters of di 
rection. They occur between the years 1619 and 1623. Several of 
these letters bear on the reverse sheet notes on the subject written 



Sickness of M. Le Gras. 55 

it would be necessary to know the extraordinary life 
of this Keeper of the Seals of France who for forty 
years transacted the most important state affairs, 
while in his private life he shared the austerities as 
well as the miraculous favors of the Carmelites. 
Visions of our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, some 
times corporeal, sometimes intellectual, and constant 
communication with the angels, were his recompense 
for a piety and recollection apparently irreconcilable 
with the agitations of public life. So writes the mag 
istrate who was his biographer. 

Mile. Le Gras, full of respect for her uncle and of 
confidence in him, found in this relationship that 
which was sought for by Mme. Acarie : " A holy 
friendship which produces neither separation from 
grace nor from tranquillity of mind, but rather helps 
us to approach to God in whom we love each other." * 

Thus the Lord multiplied helps to strengthen his 
servant in the trial. This was not slow in coming, 
and was perhaps the most difficult to bear of all trials ; 
that is, the sufferings of those who are dear to us. 

The health of M. Le Gras was undermined. In the 
autumn of 1623 he had been at death s door; since 
then his constant sufferings had produced sadness 
and irritability. In these circumstances, which gave 
Louise an occasion to practice the works of her vo 
cation, she redoubled her affection and tenderness, 

by Mile. Le Gras. The B. Marie of the Incarnation valued much 
these spiritual letters of M. de Marillac. 

* Words of B. Marie of the Incarnation, recorded by Lefevre. 



5 6 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

and was assiduous in her efforts to assist her husband. 
k She wanted neither skill nor intelligence for the 
task," said Mgr. Camus, and the courage he had 
wished for her, "that she might bear the cross as a 
child of the Cross," failed her not. The grace of God 
perfected what the love of a Christian woman had be 
gun in the soul of the sick man. Recovered from 
a brain fever which had threatened his reason, M. Le 
Gras felt his fervor return with gratitude for the 
tender care bestowed on him, and practices of piety 
to which he had been a stranger now found a promi 
nent place in his daily life. Every day he recited a 
portion of the Office, especially the Psalms, which 
inspired him with devotion, while the Passion of our 
Lord became the subject of his almost uninterrupted 
meditation. His sufferings extended over his entire 
body, and his nights were sleepless ; yet those who 
waited on him never found his patience fail. 

At last severe vomiting of blood announced the 
near approach of death, which finally occurred Dec. 
21, 1625.* He died fortified by the sacraments of the 
Church, and without a distraction from the thought 
of God. His wife wrote of this event :f " I was alone 

* Christofle Petit, priest in the church of Saint-Paul, who kept a 
journal of facts which he knew had occurred, tells us that the remains 
of M. Le Gras, having been brought to the church of Saint Sauveur, 
were interred in a vault in the chapel of Saint-Amable at Saint Paul s, 
Dec. 31, 1625. His brother-in-law, M. de Marillac, was already laid 
in the same place. The journal of M. Petit seems to have disap 
peared in the burning of the Hotel de Ville in Paris, 1871. 

f To Father Rebours, Carthusian, cousin of M. Le Gras. 



Death of M. Le Gras. 5 7 

to assist him in this important journey. It was night ; 
all he said to me was, Pray to God for me ; I can do 
so no longer words that shall ever remain engraven 
on my heart." 

What this separation was for Louise we shall not 
attempt to describe. The best commentary on wid 
owhood is the etymology of the word itself, vcuvage ; 
that is to say, a void, with all its horror and all its 
agony. But this void God intended to fill. Crushed 
but not discouraged, Louise, after some hours beside 
the body of her husband, repaired to the church of 
Saint Sauveur, whose pastor* had shown a paternal 
kindness to her during all this cruel suffering. " All 
for the Divine Spouse now," she confessed, and re 
ceived Him who had broken her bonds only to sub 
stitute others stronger and still more tender. This 
thought sustained her in her grief, f Mgr. Camus 
understood it, and he shortly after wrote to her in 
strong language worthy of her whom he addressed : 
" At last, my very dear sister, the Lord of our souls, 
having taken your spouse to his bosom, places Him 
self in yours. O Celestial Spouse, be ever such to 
my dear sister who chose you even when divided. 
Remain on her heart as a bouquet of myrrh, sweet to 

* Jean Hollandre de Montdidier, rector of the University of Paris, 
He died May 21, 1628. 

\ " Providence placing me in a state of widowhood, gave me the grace 
of desiring to be united to Him for time and eternity." (Letter of Mile. 
Le Gras to St. Vincent.) 



58 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

the smell, but bitter to the taste." : And some weeks 
after, knowing her to be troubled and tempted to be 
lieve herself in darkness and desolation, he again 
wrote : " O daughter of little faith, why do you doubt ? 
I must say to you as our Saviour said to Mary at the 
tomb of Lazarus: If you had more fortitude you 
would see the glory of God in you. How, I know 
not ; but I believe it firmly/ f Calm soon settled on 
the soul of Louise, and, like the Bishop of Belley, she 
waited, ready for anything that God might demand 
of her. 

* Letter dated Feb. 22, Pont de Beauvoisin, the market-town of his 
diocese, where, "being the voice in the wilderness," he preached the 
Lenten sermons. 

f March 26. 




CHAPTER IV. 

1625 1629. 

Louise changes her Residence New Rule of Life The Confraternities 
of Charity First Servant of the Poor. 

[AMPS whose oil is aromatic shed a 
sweet odor when the light is extin 
guished," says St. Francis de Sales. 
Hence widows whose love was pure 
in marriage shed the sweet odor of virtue when their 
light, that is their husband, is extinct by death." " In 
the Church," continues the same holy Doctor, "the 
true widow is the March violet, exhaling incompa 
rable sweetness from the fervor of her devotion ; 
hiding always under the large leaves of her abjection, 
her quiet, modest color reveals her mortification ; and 
she ever seeks the uncultivated soil, lest worldly 
conversation should crush her and tarnish the fresh 
ness of her heart." * Such was to be the future life 
of Louise : a life crushed in the eyes of worldlings, 
but transformed and wondrously purified in the sight 
of God. A short time after the death of her husband 
she wrote to a religious of her family : " Is it not now 
quite reasonable that I should belong entirely to 
God, after having been devoted to the world for so 
long ? I wish it with all my heart, in whatever way 

"Introduction to a Devout Life, "part iv. chap. xi. 



60 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

He pleases, although I have much reason to distrust 
myself." And she adds : " Cheer up, therefore, and 
help my poor soul to break its chains." 

She did not lack the courage to break them her 
self. Wishing to follow up a plan in conformity with 
her new life, she resolved to leave the house she had 
occupied with her husband at Marais and take up 
her abode in a remote suburb of Paris, Rue Saint- 
Victor.* At a time when there were none of our fine 
roads, nor any of our marvellous means of rapid 
transit, placing in instant communication the extrem 
ities of a large city, her change of abode was tanta 
mount to exile. f 

It was the renunciation of the dwelling-place of 
the Marillacs and the neighborhood of a family so 
dear to her ; it was tearing herself away from those 
friends that survive all others the haunts of one s 
childhood ; a separation from her whole past life : and 
hence was blamed by many outside of the immediate 
circle to which we refer. 

The world criticised what it could not understand ; 
but silence and forgetfulness soon followed, and there 
was nothing to disturb the solitude of Louise. The 
quarter of the city which she had selected was poor 

* A letter of St. Vincent de Paul of October 8, 1627, is addressed 
"a Mlie. Le Gras, Rue Saint-Victor au logis ou logeait M. Tiron, 
Saint-Priest." Another letter of a priest, M. Regourd, dated 1629, 
bears this inscription : "a Mile. Le Gras, chez M. Gudoin, auditeur 
des comptes, Rue Saint-Victor." 

f The city post was not established in Paris until 1653. The first 
omnibuses, or carrosses publiques (sic), date from 1664, 



A Change of Residence. 61 

and chiefly inhabited by religious communities, and 
she there found precious conveniences in almost the 
very best means of education for her son, now her 
earnest and nearly her sole occupation. 

On the declivity of the hill surmounted by the 
tomb of the patron of Paris stood quite a number of 
celebrated colleges,* from among which she chose the 
seminary of Saint-Nicolas, recently founded by M. 
Bourdoise.f Above all and this it was that deter 
mined her choice it brought her nearer to St. Vin 
cent. A great change, which we must mention in a 
few words, had taken place in the life of her spiritual 
guide. Madame de Gondy had presented him with 
forty thousand livres for the purpose of establishing 
and extending on her estate his mission. From her 
brother-in-law, the Archbishop of Paris, she obtained 
for him at the same time a central position in a bene 
fice situated near the gate of Saint- Victor. 

This old house, built in the thirteenth century to 
accommodate thirteen pupils, retained its name of 
College des Bons-Enfants, although it had long been 
untenanted. Still detained in the world by the affec- 

* Piganiol in his " Description historique de la Ville de Paris" gives 
more than thirty. 

f The Seminary of Saint- Nicolas-du-Chardonnet took its name 
from the church beside it, and was erected for the double purpose of 
raising young clergymen and maintaining priests in their vocation by 
community life. St. Vincent considered this house one of the 
holiest in the Church of God. M. Bourdoise was predecessor of La 
Salle, and had founded a Christian school which was quite cele 
brated. 



62 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

tion of his benefactors, Vincent took possession by 
installing a young priest, his disciple and friend, M. 
Portail,* and the year after, being freed from duty 
by the death of the pious countess, he hastened to 
join his disciple. The two pious friends would leave 
their key with a neighbor and set out together in 
answer to the invitations of bishops, going from vil 
lage to village " to evangelize the poor, simply and 
in good faith as our Saviour had done." St. Vin 
cent s stay at Bons-Enfants was short and irregular, 
and in consequence Mile. Le Gras could not hope to 
see him as often as she needed except by remaining 
in the neighborhood. Such, we have said, was her 
principal motive in coming to this suburb, where ten 
years of her life were to be spent. For her and for 
St. Vincent it was a new phase of life begun ; but 
whilst the Apostle was reproducing the active life of 
the Saviour, ignorant of the future, she sought only 
to honor the hidden life of Jesus at Nazareth that 
period at once the longest and most mysterious of 
the stay of Jesus Christ amongst us ; that silent, un 
known life which had always been the object of her 
special devotion.f In order to establish the struc- 

* Antoine Portail, born in Beaucaire, diocese of Aries, Nov. 22, 
1590, came to Paris at the age of 20, and placed himself under the 
direction of St. Vincent, who employed him immediately after his 
ordination in the spiritual service of the galleys. He lived with him 
in Rue Saint-Honore until sent by St. Vincent to the College of Bons- 
Enfants. 

f Letters of Saint Vincent, published by a priest of the Mission. 
Paris, 1881. 



A New Rule of Life. 63 

ture of "her interior life on a solid and visible founda 
tion, and instructed by the " Philothea," she wished 
to write with her own hand a sort of consecration 
which would be the contract of her union with Jesus 
Christ. This article, which cannot be read without 
interest, still bears the trace of St. Vincent s correc 
tions. It is as follows : 

" I, the undersigned, in the presence of the eternal 
God, having considered that, on the day of my holy 
baptism, I was vowed and dedicated to God to be 
His daughter, and that nevertheless I have so much 
and so many times sinned against His most holy will ; 
considering, also, the immense mercy, love, and sweet 
ness with which this good God has always main 
tained in me the desire to love and serve Him not 
withstanding the guilt of my almost continual resist 
ance, and although I have all my life neglected and 
abused the great graces which His goodness had 
given me, unworthy, vile creature that I am, com 
ing at last to myself, I detest in my past life the 
iniquities which render me guilty of the death of 
Jesus Christ, and have deserved that I should be 
condemned worse than Lucifer. But, confiding in 
the mercy of God, I ask of Him pardon and full ab 
solution as well for sins confessed as for those forgot 
ten, and especially for the abuse I have made of 
the sacraments, being only a contempt of His good 
ness, for which I now repent with my whole heart, 
relying on the death of my Saviour as the only 
ground of my hope, and in virtue of which I renew 



64 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

the promises made to God for me at my baptism, 
and I resolve irrevocably to love and serve Him 
with more fidelity, giving myself entirely to Him. 
For this purpose I renew my former vow of widow 
hood, and my resolutions to practise the holy virtues 
of humility, obedience, poverty, suffering, and char 
ity, to honor these same virtues in Jesus Christ, and 
with which He so often inspired me by His love, pro 
testing also never more to offend God by any por 
tion of my being, and to abandon myself entirely to 
His holy Providence for the accomplishment of His 
will in me, to which I dedicate and sacrifice myself 
forever, choosing it for my chief consolation. I im 
plore now the assistance of the Holy Spirit, should 
I happen by my accustomed weakness to do anything 
contrary to these sentiments that I may rise imme 
diately, and not remain one instant an enemy to 
God. This is my irrevocable will, which I confirm 
in the presence of God, of the Holy Virgin, my good 
Angel, and all the Saints, before the Church Militant, 
which hears me in the person of my spiritual father, 
who, holding the place of God, must help me to ac 
complish these resolutions, according to the holy will 
of God/ After thus invoking as witness of her reso 
lutions all that is most august in heaven and on earth, 
Louise concludes by this prayer : " Be pleased, O my 
God, to confirm these resolutions and consecrations, 
and accept them in the odor of sweetness. As Thou 
hast inspired me to make them, give me grace to 
perform them. O my God ! Thou art my God and 



A Neiv Rule of Life. 65 

my all ! Thus I acknowledge and adore Thee, one 
only God in three Divine Persons, now and forever. 
May Thy love and the love of Jesus crucified live 
forever! LOUISE DE MARILLAC."* 

Here we may notice another writing of Mile. Le 
Gras not less precious for us ; that is, a rule which 
embraced all the details of her life, and was the sen 
timent of her act of consecration put into practical 
form. Drawn up at the suggestion of St. Vincent, 
this document becomes doubly interesting. First, 
because it gives us an example of the rules traced 
by the Saint for people in the world under his direc 
tion. These persons were few, of course, and already 
advanced in perfection. Secondly, because, in show 
ing us the particular attractions of Louise, he lets 
us admire the first light of her vocation. " The ob 
ject of my aspirations," she says, " is holy poverty; that, 
free from hindrance, I may follow Jesus Christ, and 
serve my neighbor in meekness and humility, living 
in obedience and chastity all my life." Poverty, 
chastity, and obedience were the virtues of the reli 
gious life which she was to approach as near as pos 
sible without being able to reach. 

Louise fixed her hour of rising at half-past five 
from Easter to the Feast of All Saints, and at six 
o clock for the rest of the year. Prayer immediately 
after rising. " Not shorter than one hour," she wrote 

* It was thus, according to the custom of the time, that Mile. Le 
Gras signed all her letters. 



66 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

on the margin. The matter of her prayer was taken 
from the Gospels, or the life of the Saint of the day. 
Afterward she recited the Prime and Tierce of 
our Lady sedately, bearing in mind the meaning of 
prayer. Her domestic arrangements and orders for 
the household were attended to while dressing. 
Every day Mass, at half-past eight o clock in summer, 
and at nine in winter; at one time uniting herself 
simply to the intention of the Church, at other times 
making use of the points given in " Philothea," or in 
another book called " Dosithea." 

" Returning to her apartment, she will, to avoid 
idleness, work until eleven o clock, then dine, after 

reading a chapter from ." * (The title of the book 

remains blank.) " At noon seven minutes prayer to 
honor the Incarnation of the Word in the bosom of 
Mary. This over, she will go cheerfully to work, 
either for the Church or the poor, a two-fold and 
holy method of clothing Jesus Christ. Otherwise 
for her household ; and this to continue till four 
o clock, unless she has indispensable visits to make 
or receive. At four o clock, when charity or pro 
priety presents no obstacle, she will retire to the 
nearest church to recite Vespers from the Office 
of the Blessed Virgin. During the Office she 
will reflect on the half-hour s prayer which is to 
follow. 

" The time remaining before supper to be divided 
between reading and sewing. At five o clock exam- 

* Probably the New Testament. 



A Neiu Rule of Life. 67 

ination of conscience on the commandments of God 
and the duties of a Christian woman aspiring to per 
fection. The Office of Matins concludes the day, 
during which the Rosary also must find a place, with 
frequent elevations of the soul to God." " I will try," 
she writes, " to place myself in the presence of God 
at least four times every hour, exciting as much as 
possible the desire of His love. On the first Satur 
day of every month," she adds, " I shall renew my 
vows and good resolutions, reading my protestation 
before or after Holy Communion, and that on Satur 
day, because I have taken the Holy Virgin as a pro 
tectress against my weakness and inconstancy, and 
also that, by her intercession, I may, the rest of my 
life, honor the preference of God for virginity over 
marriage." Further on there is a void in the manu 
script where the Communion days were indicated. 
She resolves to fight against two faults especially 
vanity and too great exactness and this by mortifi 
cation and penance : the discipline two or three 
times a week, the cincture during the morning of 
Communion days and the whole of Friday ; fasting 
not only during Advent and Lent, but also on Fri 
days, and on the eves of all festivals of our Lord, of 
the Blessed Virgin, and of the Saints, and two meals 
a day for the rest of the year. She wished to make 
two retreats during the year, the first from the 
Ascension to Pentecost, the second during Advent, 
ending by a complete abandonment of herself to the 
Divine Will, that the entire effect of the designs of 



68 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

God on her soul from all eternity might be accom 
plished. 

In spite of the obscurity in the first line of the 
following, might it not be the answer of St. Vin 
cent to one or other of the writings we have just 
given ? In the absence of proof we may conjecture. 
" It seems to me," he wrote to Louise, " that it will 
be quite enough to write in your tablet * the words 
of the original ; place them in it, if you please. As 
for me, I shall keep in my heart the generous resolu 
tions you have written me, to honor the adorable 
hidden life of our Lord, since He has given you this 
desire from your childhood. O my dear daughter, 
that thought savors of the inspiration of God. How 
far it is from flesh and blood ! It is the state of soul 
necessary for a child of God."f 

Mile. Le Gras could not yet see the work which 
God had reserved for her. She aspired to great 
activity, to a more entirely devoted life. Her inter 
course with St. Vincent, the contact with this heart 
so overflowing with charity, made her desire to asso 
ciate herself with his work and devote herself en 
tirely to the poor. But in what way she knew not ; 
nor did her director, for he confined himself to 
advising her to pray, to consult God in Holy Com 
munion, and to rely on His providence to do the rest. 

* To explain this sentence M. Maynard supposes that she had 
made a summary of the sentiments of her act of consecration, to be 
kept before her eyes on a tablet. 

f Letter of St. Vincent de Paul. 



Interior Trials. 69 

Their correspondence is full of this. Sometimes it is 
she who depicts the impatience of her soul, and her 
apprehensions for the future.* " Sometimes the days 
appear like months, in my good-for-nothing state," 
she says. " I wish, however, to await tranquilly the 
hour marked by God, and acknowledge that my un- 
worthiness keeps it back." " Yes," replies the Saint, 
"await in patience the evidences of His most holy 
will;" and taking up the thought of Louise on the 
mystery of Nazareth, her ordinary subject of prayer, 
he continues : " Always honor our Lord, in that He 
was unknown to be the Son of God. Rest in that 
thought ; He demands this of you for the present 
and the future. Should His Divine Majesty show 
you what it is He requires of you, in such a manner 
as to make deception impossible, do not think about 
it, but let me know at once. I can do thinking 
enough for two." f Many saints have counted 
among their most severe trials that obscurity of the 
soul in which they feel impelled to desire great 
service for God, yet must hold back for want of 
power to accomplish anything ; seeking ever without 
finding ; knocking and no door opened : like the 
dove which would fly but has no wings, or the 
traveller groping his way in the dark. For Mile. Le 
Gras this delay was a kind of novitiate, which served 
to strengthen her courage. It lasted two years ; but 
her perseverance at length triumphed over the wise 

* June 7, 1627. f Letter 117. 



70 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

slowness of her guide, and she obtained his permis 
sion to help him in some of his labors. We find her, 
accordingly, assisting him as procuratrix on his 
apostolic journey, transmitting to him the offerings 
of those who were endeavoring to counteract the 
evil influence of some rich Huguenots in a village 
near Poissy.* In 1628 she was engaged in finding 
places for poor girls he had sent her from the coun 
try ; and in 1629 she was actively employed under 
his direction in striving to extend the association 
known as " Confrerie de la Charite," which he 
had founded for the relief of the sick poor. This 
work was to imprint on the life of Mile. Le Gras its 
definite direction, and give birth to the Company of 
Daughters of Charity ; hence it merits a brief notice 
as to its origin and organization. 

Vincent conceived the first idea of this work 
when on parish duty at Chatillon, two years pre 
vious. It is thus related by his faithful biographer 
Abelly: "One festival day," he says, "as Vincent 
ascended the pulpit to preach, he was stopped by a 
noble lady f who begged him to recommend to the 
charity of his people a family in extreme poverty and 
sickness who were living, or rather dying, about half 
a league distant It pleased God to give such effi 
cacy to his words that after the sermon a number of 
persons went out to visit this poor family, taking 

* Verneuil (letter of St. Vincent, dated from that place, Oct. 8, 
1627, and addressed to " Mile. Le Gras, Rue Saint- Victor, Paris"), 
f Mme. de la Chassaigne. 



The Confraternity of Charity. 7 1 

bread, wine, meat, and other such necessaries. After 
vespers Vincent took the road to .the farm, accompa 
nied by some of the parishioners, not knowing that 
others had gone before him, and was not a little sur 
prised to meet many persons on the road returning 
from the poor family, several of whom were resting 
under the trees from the excessive heat. The words 
of the Gospel occurred to him, that these good peo 
ple were like sheep without a shepherd. This/ he 
said to them, is a great charity, but it is not well 
regulated. These good people will have too many 
provisions at once, and part will spoil or waste, and 
they will be left as badly provided for as before. 
This thought led him to confer with some of the 
most zealous ladies of his parish, on the days follow 
ing, about the best means of permanently assisting 
this poor family and others who might be in like cir 
cumstances in the future. He drew up the plan of a 
rule which they should observe, and exhorted them 
to give themselves to God in order to put this rule 
in practice. He then chose some amongst them as 
officers, who were to meet him once a month and 
give him an account of what had transpired." 

That work, so humble in its origin, so great in its 
consequences, seemed intended only for a small 
country town, but it extended to the neighboring 
towns ; and Vincent, on his return to the Gondy fam 
ily, hastened to establish it in Villepreux with the 
assistance of the Countess of Joigny, who wished to 



72 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

take part in the work ; also at Folleville,* Joigny,f 
Montmirail, and thirty parishes of 1 Ile de France, in 
Champagne and at Picardy ; that is to say, in all the 
territory dependent on the General of the Galleys. 

The Confraternity was approved by the Arch 
bishop of Lyons in 1617, by the Archbishop of Paris 
in 1618, and by the Bishop of Amiens in 16204 

The rules varied with local circumstances, but re 
mained identical in their grand outline. A copy is 
furnished us in an unpublished note from the hand of 

* Villepreux, a village of eight hundred inhabitants, now in the 
canton of Marly-le-Roi. 

f Folleville, a village in the Department of the Somme, where we 
find a picturesque ruin of the castle of Gondy, also the church and 
even the pulpit in which St. Vincent used to preach. 

^ Thtse Confraternities were not established without some opposi 
tion, if we may judge from the following which was recently published, 
and which we believe worthy of reproduction: " Plan of the requisi 
tion and suit of M. le Lieutenant de Beauvais against authorizing a 
company which M. Vincent wishes to establish in this place. For 
asmuch as it has been ordained by the king s solicitors that it is 
strictly forbidden by royal ordinance and decree for any person to es 
tablish or direct any company or Confraternity in this kingdom with 
out letters patent from his majesty; and whereas we have been ad 
vised that, notwithstanding this decree, for the past fifteen days in this 
city a certain priest named Vincent, setting aside all authority of the 
king, and without consulting the official authorities of this city, has 
assembled a number of women whom he persuaded to form into a 
Confraternity to which he gives the specious name of Charity, the 
ostensible purport of said Confraternity being to relieve with food 
and other necessaries the sick poor in the city aforesaid of Beauvais; 
these women go, once in the week, in quest of money to aid in this 
project that this should have been done by this said Vincent and 
said Confraternity, in which he has 300 women or thereabout, whom 



The Confraternity of Charity. 73 

Mile. Le Gras preserved among her papers.* The 
end of the society and the duty of its members are 
contained in ten articles which we shall touch upon 
briefly. 

The end for which the Confraternity is established 
the rule says, " is to assist the sick poor ; spiritually, 
that those who die may leave the world in a good 
state, and that those who recover may take the res 
olution never more to offend God ; and corporally, 
by administering medicines and nourishment ; finally, 
to accomplish the ardent desire of our Saviour that 
we love one another. The patron of the Confrater 
nity is our Saviour Jesus Christ, Charity itself." The 
Confraternity is to be composed of a certain number 
of women and girls, admitted with the consent of 
their husbands or parents, and called " Servants of 

he often assembles for the exercises and functions herein explained 
this is what we affirm should not be tolerated. In accordance with 
the edicts and decrees herein cited, it is required that this be inquired 
into and information provided. That such information be forwarded 
to the Procurator of the King. We have the honor to remain," etc. 

The title of this document, " Projet de requisitoire," seems to indi 
cate that the proceedings were commenced and not continued. (Feillet, 
"La Misere au Temps de la Fronde.") 

* We find, also, in the letters of St. Vincent the rules of the Con 
fraternity of Montreuil. Those of Chatillon, which comprise the de 
tails of the pious exercises given the associates, are quoted by Gossin. 
(" Saint Vincent de Paul, as seen in his Writings," 1834), and by May- 
nard " Saint Vincent de Paul," vol. 3). These rules were not ordinarily 
decreed until experience had proved what might be added and what 
retrenched. "Our Saviour," wrote St. Vincent, "gave the law of 
grace to man without having written it; let us do the same for some 
time." (Letter xcvii., addressed to Mile. Le Gras.) 



74 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

the Poor." A directress, who is to be chosen by 
themselves every two years, by a plurality of votes 
and with the approbation of the parish priest, shall 
decide on the sick who are to be admitted, and shall 
collect all the alms in a box with two keys, one of 
which she shall keep, the other shall be kept by one 
of her two assistants. The Servants of the Poor 
shall consider the. sick as children whose mothers 
they have been constituted by God. They shall 
serve in turn, each one taking a day to carry the 
meat from the butcher and the bread from the baker, 
wine also from the hotel ;* to prepare the dinner, and 
carry it to the sick at nine o clock in the morning, 
doing the same for supper at five in the evening, and 
notifying the one who succeeds her on the next day 
both of the number and condition of the sick. Every 
day, morning and evening, they shall say a Pater and 
Avefor the growth and preservation of the Confrater 
nity, and shall communicate when possible at the Mass 
said once a month for their Confraternity and their 
poor. Above all, they should cherish one another as 
sisters who make profession of honoring our Saviour 
in the virtue which He most constantly practised 
and most affectionately recommended charity. To 
this end they shall visit and help one another sick or 
well, pray for one another, especially in times of sick 
ness and of death, and do all in their power that each 
one leave this world in a good state. 

* Each sick person was allowed a half-measure of wine, four or five 
ounces of meat or soup, two eggs, and bread at discretion. 



The Confraternity of Charity. 75 

Like those winged seeds of grain which are carried 
along by the wind, the Confraternity, or Charity as it 
was often called, had already taken root in many 
places far from its native soil, when St. Vincent, 
at the request of many charitable persons, established 
it in Paris in the parish of Saint Sauveur.* This was 
only a trial, and he was waiting to see the result, 
when Mile. Le Gras, certain of the approbation of 
the priest of Saint Nicolas and expecting the help 
of five or six ladies in her neighborhood^ begged his 
permission to organize the Confraternity in the quar 
ter where she lived. Unfortunately the details of 
this commencement have not come down to us ; but 
from her correspondence with St. Vincent, who 
was then absent, we learn that this was the first work 
in which she took the initiative or depended on her 
self to put into execution. We cannot dwell upon 
the confraternities of Saint Eustache, Saint Benoit, 
and Saint Paul, to which she was doubtless no stran 
ger ; but we must notice here a modification, il not 
in the spirit of the work, at least in its mode of action, 
and one which, if secondary in appearance, was very 
considerable in reality. 

The first associates were, as will be remembered, 
women and girls who, accustomed to labor from their 
childhood, found no difficulty in serving the sick with 

* 1629. 

f Among these probably was the daughter of a gentleman of Ni- 
vernais, Mile, de Blosset. Later on she became the foundress of the 
" Filles de Sainte Genevieve." 



76 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

their own hands. It could not be the same in Paris, 
where a number of ladies of rank wished to associate 
themselves with the Confraternity. How great so 
ever their zeal, they could not descend to all the de 
tails of the rule ; for, admitting that they could brave 
the danger of contagion with the sick, how could 
they prepare a dinner with their own hands and 
carry it to the poor? On the other hand, to leave 
this to their servants was repugnant to their piety, as 
compromising the interests of the sick. St . Vin 
cent understood the void and endeavored to fill it. 
He remembered to have met in the villages young 
girls who, having no inclination for marriage and no 
means to become religious, wished to devote them 
selves to good works, and he resolved that when he 
found others of that class he would send them to Paris 
and make use of them in serving the sick under the 
direction of the ladies who could not undertake this 
duty. 

A young girl of Surrene was the first to offer a 
chosen soul, whose simple, touching story we must 
relate. 

Marguerite Naseau was a poor shepherdess 
whose constant dream, even before she could spell, 
was to teach little children. Her first pennies she 
gave for a primer, which she studied while watching 
her cows ; and when she perceived a peasant whose 
appearance seemed to indicate that he could read, 
she ran to him with the request that he would tell 

her such a letter or such a word. Becoming mistress 

. 



The First Servant of the Poor. 77 

in her turn, she hastened to communicate her knowl 
edge to her companions. Soon she resolved to go 
from village to village to instruct children. Two 
or three of her pupils were gained over to the pro 
ject, and they separated to go to different places, 
without money, without help, having for their only 
resource the zeal God had placed in their hearts. 
Marguerite told Mile. Le Gras that often she passed 
days without a morsel of bread ; but she never lost 
courage, and in the end Providence always sent her, 
often on her return from church and without her 
knowing from whom they came, a store of provisions 
sufficient for a long time. Derided, calumniated 
even, by the villagers, who could not understand 
this kind of life, she was all the happier, and contin 
ued to employ her days in teaching the little ones 
she knew, and even found means from her poverty to 
pay for the education of young ecclesiastics, of whom 
several became fervent priests. One day she hap 
pened to meet Vincent de Paul, and learned from him 
of the existence of a Confraternity for the assistance 
of the poor sick. Although much attached to her 
modest duty of school-teaching, she saw in the other 
calling a more complete vocation, and joyfully offered 
her services to Mile. Le Gras,* who sent her to the 
" Ladies of Charity" in the parish of Saint Sauveur. 
Other young girls soon followed her example, and 

* Particulars of this " first Sister of Charity" are found in "Con 
ferences ou Notices sur les Sceurs defuntes," published in 1845 but 
not sold. 



78 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

as they came they were sent to parishes where the 
Confraternity was organized. 

Two or three young girls employed in carrying 
remedies or nourishment to the sick was not an insti 
tution, nor even the beginning of a distinct work, 
in the opinion of M. Vincent, who often repeated that 
neither he nor Mile. Le Gras had the least idea of 
being the founder of anything. How astonished 
would both ha v ve been had they been permitted at 
that time to foresee the countless generations which 
were to issue from this humble cradle ! But the most 
sublime productions have oftenest the most humble 
origin. God made the body of man from a little 
dust, and submitted all things here below to the law 
of germination. Man, history, society, unfold under 
the same law which rules the plant. First the bud, 
then the leaf, and finally the flower. We are now 
speaking of the germ of this society ; twenty-five 
years later the branches had spread. The flowering 
was reserved to our time, under the form of twenty 
thousand Daughters of Charity scattered to-day over 
the two hemispheres. 




CHAPTER V. 

16291631. 

St. Vincent sends Mile. Le Gras to visit the Confraternities of the 
Province Mile. Pollalion Pestilence in France Death of Mar 
guerite Naseau Maternal Cares of Louise. 

gHE INTELLIGENT and devoted activity 
displayed by Louise in the establishment 
of " Charity" in Paris decided St. Vin 
cent to confide to her at this epoch a more 
delicate and difficult mission. The provincial associ 
ations were multiplied everywhere ; but with no com 
mon bond of union, and far from the superintendence 
of the founder, they needed in time the benefit of a 
common impulse, in order to attain the end of their 
calling. St. Vincent commissioned Mile. Le Gras to 
visit them. " Go, Mademoiselle," he wrote to her ;* 
" go in the name of our Lord. I pray His divine 
goodness to accompany you, to be your counsellor 
on the road, your shade in the heat, your shelter in 
rain and cold, your bed of rest when weary, your 
strength in toil, and to bring you back in perfect 
health and full of good works." This mark of con 
fidence decided the future of Mile. Le Gras. One 
more instance of that mysterious law which so fre 
quently associates the heart of a woman with the 

* May 12, 1629. 



8o Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

greatest foundations of the saints, and she becomes 
henceforth the helper of St. Vincent de Paul and 
mother to the poor his children. Obeying with 
joy, she communicated, on the morning of her depar 
ture, in honor of the Charity of our Saviour and His 
journeys, so full of pain, labor, and fatigue, also to 
obtain grace to act in the same spirit with which He 
acted.* Then she set out, taking with her a supply 
of linen and remedies which she herself had bought, 
and furnished with letters of introduction and 
written directions from St. Vincent as to the di- 
ferent points to which he wished to call her atten 
tion. 

Montmirail, in the diocese of Soissons, was the 
goal of this first visit, to which so many other apos 
tolic journeys, if we may say so, were to succeed 
during the space of ten years. Everything leads 
us to believe that the traveller at first took the 
Champagne stage, which stopped at the Sign of 
the Cardinal, opposite Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs ; 
but soon obliged to abandon that mode of travel, 
she shortened her distances, sometimes in rick 
ety coaches, sometimes in carts, many times on 
foot, with short halts at the poor inns, " so as to take 
part in the misery of the poor."f It is probable that 
she was not alone ; St. Vincent, no doubt, gave her 
as her companion one of the pious women who fol 
lowed later in her journeys, and whose names we find 

* Letter already quoted, 1629. f Gobillon, p. 33. 



Mile. Foliation. 81 

in the Saint s letters. These are "good Mile. Fay,* 
one in whom he had the greatest confidence ;"f 
Mile, de Villesien, whom he called his dear daughter ;^ 
Mile. Dufresne, wife of one of his oldest friends, to 
whom he used to send kind messages of remem 
brance from these journeys of charity ; Mile. Polla- 
lion, whom similarity of tastes as well as of trials had 
attached particularly to Louise. She had thought of 
entering the Convent of Capuchins in Rue Saint- 
Honore ; but her parents, on pretext of health, had 
persuaded her to give up that idea and marry Fran 
cis Poltalion, a resident of Raguse, in France. He 
died in Rome, a few years after their marriage. 
Being left a widow at the age of twenty-six, of rare 
beauty, and endowed with extraordinary intelligence, 
she delayed no longer at court, upon which she had 
shed an odor of virtue, and even, as we are told, of 
miracles, but devoted herself to good works under 
the direction of St. Vincent de Paul, who, having 
proved her spirit and the light God had given her, 
sent her with Mile. Le Gras and some other ladies 
to visit the country missions and confraternities of 

* Letter xi., Feb. 9, 1628. 

f " My heart," wrote St. Vincent, proposes a project which it 
keeps secret. I must not reveal it to your heart, nor to Mile. Fay s." 
(Letter xi.) 

\ Letter of St. Vincent to Mile. Le Gras, Montmirail, Sept. 13, 
1631. 

M. Dufresne, secretary to Queen Marguerite, first wife of Henry 
IV., afterwards steward to M. de Gondy. 



82 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

charity established in the provinces.* These two 
souls seemed made to understand each other. Mile. 
Pollalion, ardent, enterprising, recoiling before no 
obstacle, equally capable of publicly slapping a 
woman for trying to pervert a young girl, and of 
dressing like a domestic to gain, by meekness, other 
women not less depraved, or becoming a peasant to 
instruct the ignorant villagers : such a one could 
not but gain by contact with Mile. Le Gras, always 
so wise, so prudent and self-possessed. The latter 
could also learn from Mile. Pollalion to crown the 
exactness and energy of her character with a deci 
sion and confidence less natural to her than to her 
friend. 

We would like to know which of her companions 
accompanied Louise to Montmirail; but we are 
obliged to be content with the few facts which his 
tory has preserved. It was in this way that Mile. 
Le Gras helped St. Vincent to pay the debt of grati 
tude contracted by the priests of the Mission towards 
the house of Gondy. The memory of the Countess 
of Joigny was in all hearts, as also the generous 
resolution of her husband, who had forsaken all his 
dignities and consecrated himself to God ; f hence 

* "Vie de la Venerable Servante de Dieu, Marie Lumague, veuve 
de M. Poilalion, Institutrice des Filles de la Providence." Paris, chez 
Herissant, a la croix d or et aux trois vertus. 1744. 

f "The love of M. de Gondy for his wife," says the Abbe Hous- 
saye, "was that of one ever faithful to his vows." When left a 
widower he entered the Oratory, and there led a holy life, dying in 
1662, aged 81 years. His life, written by P. Cloyseault, has been 



Visits to the Provincial Confraternities. 83 

Louise encountered no difficulty in the exercise of 
her zeal. She assembled the women of the Confra 
ternity, instructed and encouraged them, endeavored 
to increase their number, instilled vigor into the prac 
tice of the rule ; and that she might preach by exam 
ple, she herself visited and served the sick, and in her 
own person revived the ministry and office of the 
widows of the first century, who were chosen to in 
struct the ignorant and rustic in language propor 
tioned to their capacity, and teach them the Chris 
tian doctrine, as well as the obligations contracted by 
Christian baptism. 

The first trial of a work so new to the time and 
country in which it was undertaken was fully justi 
fied by the result. The following year* Mile. Le 
Gras again visited Saint Cloud,f where St. Vincent 
de Paul wrote to her, " I bless God that you have 
health for the sixty persons for whose salvation you 
are laboring" Villepreux, Villiers-le-Sec,$ Liancourt 
and Bulle, where she taught the catechism to 

published by P. Ingold in the first volume of the " Bibliotheque 
Oratorienne." 

* February, 1630. 

f The residence of Saint- Cloud, which, after being the theatre of 
brilliant entertainments given by Catherine de Medicis, was the scene 
of the assassination of Henry III. and the accession of Henry IV., 
was known at this time as the house of Gondy. 

\ Some one sent her a letter here from St. Vincent, dated Oct. 22, 
1630. 

Liancourt and Bulle, little villages of Beauvoisis, now in the 
canton of Clermont. 



84 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

little girls and formed school-teachers. But in the 
endeavor to live and sleep like the poor people whom 
she visited * she overtaxed her strength and fell sick, 
as we learn by letters from St. Vincent. " Is not 
your heart well consoled," he writes to her, " to have 
been found worthy to suffer in serving God ? Cer 
tainly you owe him a special thanksgiving for that/ f 
And soon after he writes : " Blessed be God that you 
have recovered ; but if you have any symptoms of a 
relapse, prevent it, if you please, and return. Take 
good care of your health, for the love of our Lord 
and His members, the poor. Guard well against 
trying to do too much. 

" It is a ruse of the devil to incite good souls to do 
too much, so that they will not be able to do any 
thing. The Spirit of God, on the contrary, incites us 
to do quietly the good we are able to do, so that we 
may persevere longer in doing it. That you may be 
fortified against all return to self, unite your heart to 
all the mockery, contempt, and bad treatment re 
ceived by the Son of God. When you are esteemed 
and honored, be truly humbled in spirit and humili 
ated as much in honor as in contempt ; do like the 
bee, which gathers honey from the dew on the 
wormwood as well as from that on the rose." 

This last letter was addressed to Beauvais, where 
Mile. Le Gras was enjoying most brilliant success. 

* Letter of Mathurine Guerin to Marguerite Chetif, on the virtues 
of Mile. Le Gras. (Arch, de la Mission.) 
f Letter of St. Vinrent, Oct. 22, 1630 



An Accident. 85 

She visited eighteen confraternities of charity in 
Beauvais, for the bishop wished that every parish 
in his city and the neighborhood should have one of 
her confraternities.* She gave Conferences for the 
women, which were attended secretly by men also ; f 
and they produced such a lively impression on 
the people that when she set out to return to Paris 
they accompanied her on the way and loaded her 
with blessings. God seemed to authorize these 
honors by a favor which the popular enthusiasm 
esteemed a miracle. A child, pressed by the crowd, 
fell under the carriage, and one of the wheels passed 
over its body. Attracted by the cry, Mile. Le Gras 
invoked the name of God in her heart, and the child 
jumped up safe and sound. \ Was this fact super 
natural, and what portion of it belonged to Louise ? 
We cannot decide this question ; moreover, the 
answer would do no good. " Charity," says St. John 
Chrysostom, " is a miracle, the most excellent of all 
miracles ;" and this great Doctor adds : u The grace of 
miracles may be common to the just and to sinners, 
as there are robes common to the king and his sub 
jects ; but charity is the supreme gift ; it is the pri 
vilege of saints, as the crown and sceptre are the 
ornaments reserved for kings, by which we recog 
nize their dignity." Hence what we admire most in 
Mile. Le Gras is this virtue by excellence, which, 
implanted in her soul by the Holy Spirit, and espe- 

* At the house of M. du Rotoir at Beauvais, Dec. 7, 1630. 
f Abelly, vol. i. p. 108. \ Gobillon, p. 43. 



86 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

cially cultivated by her two directors, became more 
and more the seal of God on the soul of His servant. 
The misfortunes of the time were also a rude ap 
prenticeship for her. From the end of the year 1628 
the plague was, so to speak, acclimated in France, 
and committing ravages there the actual extent of 
which we cannot give. The filthy condition of the 
streets, want of air, lack of science, absence of regu 
lar police, all contributed to increase the terror pro 
duced by the disease, the contagious character of 
which was greatly exaggerated. All obligations of 
friendship, the dearest ties of kindred, were forgot 
ten in the presence of a malady which could be 
communicated by the touch, and exhaled from the 
breath of the plague-stricken patient, and by which 
everything he made use of was impregnated. 
The cities were deserted, and for months grass grew 
in the streets, and packs of wolves prowled about at 
night, attracted by the stench of the unburied dead. 
" Farmers themselves," says a historian of the time, 
" forsook the plough and threw down the axe." A 
year of plague brought a year of famine, which was 
in turn succeeded by another year of plague, a mur 
derous cycle which continued to revolve for a long 
time.* In June 1631 the Hotel Dieu of Paris con 
tained constantly eighteen hundred sick, just four 
times as many as its resources permitted it. to re- 
ceive.f The " Charities" of the parishes redoubled 

* M. Bougand, " Histoire de Sainte Jeanne-Fransoise deChantal. 
f M. Feillet, "La Misereau Temps de la Fronde." 



Pestilence in France, 87 

their efforts, Mile. Le Gras, in particular, exposing 
her life in such a way as to elicit a burst of admira 
tion from St. Vincent, familiar as he was with hero 
ism. What a contrast, we may remark in passing, 
could we place side by side the courage of Louise 
de Marillac, attending the plague-stricken with her 
own hands, and the nervousness of some women of 
our day, forever taking precautions against bad air, 
and shutting off all intercourse with their friends for 
the slightest cold ! * 

The health of Mile. Le Gras was not in the least 
affected, as St. Vincent had foretold with other 
things. " Fear not," he wrote to her ; " our Lord 
wishes to make use of you in something tending to 
His glory, and I feel that He will preserve you for 
that work." f 

Another victim, however, was selected from 
among the helpers of " Charity." To the first of 

* The Marquis of Sable and his friend the Countess of Maure, 
(Anne Doni d Attichy, cousin of Mile. Le Gras) went to such ex 
tremes as to furnish Mile. Montpensier with special characters for her 
Romance, " The Princess of Paphlagonia." Hardly an hour passed 
that they were not considering the means of escaping death and pro 
longing life. Afraid of the air being too hot or too cold, or the wind 
too dry or too damp, or the weather not just the temperature to suit 
their health, they were writing to each other from different rooms. 
Voiture, on his part, wrote to Mme. de Sabl6 from a house where a 
person was sick : " I fear to frighten you too much; know then that I 
who write you do not write you, and that I have sent this letter 
twenty miles from here to be copied by a man whom I have never 
seen." (CEuvres de Voiture, vol. i. p. 29, Letter 14.) 

f Letter cited by Gobillon, p. 37. 



88 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

the humble girls who enrolled themselves for the 
service of the poor was decreed the honor of pre 
ceding her sisters to heaven. The harbinger of 
the work, she deserved to be its first fruit and its 
patron. Ut nuntia operis ascenderet, et primitice et 
numen* Her death was as simple as her life had 
been. For one year Marguerite Naseau had de 
voted herself to the sick in the parishes of Saint 
Sauveur, Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs and Saint Be- 
noit,f where every one loved her because everything 
about her was lovable. One day she met a poor 
woman sick of the plague, took her home and cured 
her sickness. Immediately after, without anxiety, for 
she knew that God had called her, she bade adieu 
to her companions and went to the hospital of St. 
Louis, where she died towards the end of February 
1631. 

Mile. Le Gras felt this loss keenly, and the Saint 
who wished to send her away as soon as he learned 
of Marguerite s illness now sent her to visit the Con 
fraternities in the neighborhood of Senlis. Verneuil- 
sur-Oise, where she visited the house of a poor baker 
named Lacaille, was her first stopping-place. From 
there she went to Pont-Sainte-Maxence, where she 
tells us she lodged at the Sign of the Fleur-de-Lis ; 
to Gournay, where the Confraternity women were 
coarser than elsewhere ; to Neufville-le-Roy, and for 

* Epitaph composed by Lacordaire on Brother Requedat, his first 
Companion. 

f Conference de Saint Vincent du Janvier 22, 1645. 



Visits to the Provincial Confraternities. 89 

the second time to Bulle. At all these places she 
took exact account of the care bestowed on the sick 
by the members of the Confraternity, of their punc 
tuality in attending their reunions and monthly Com 
munions, of their intercourse with one another and 
with the people ; and everywhere she left the rule in 
full vigor. She also examined minutely the accounts 
of offerings received at the houses, and the employ 
ment of reserve funds which were devoted in 
some places to the purchase of land, elsewhere to 
that of sheep the clothing and bedding lent to the 
poor; lastly, the registry kept of the names of those 
who left, and the reasons for their discharge. This we 
learn from notes left by her at the time of her visit. 

The duties of Holy Week, 1631, recalled her to 
Paris, full of good works, after labors that God had 
blessed.* Her rest was of short duration, however, 
for in the first week of May we find her again at 
Villepreux, and at the end of the same month at Mon- 
treuil, in spite of the uncertain state of her health 
and her frequent attacks of illness not of long dura 
tion fortunately. St. Vincent said, " I knew she was 
well before I knew she had been sick." " May God 
strengthen you in such a way that it may be said of 
you, Mulierem fort em quis inveniet. You under 
stand this Latin, so I shall not explain." In Septem 
ber she set out again for Brie and Champagne, with 

* Letter of St. Vincent, April n, 1631. 



QO Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Mile. Dufresne and a country girl, to assist in the 
care of the sick and poor. St. Vincent laid out her 
route this time also, so that it would not coincide 
with that of the Mission Fathers, then engaged in the 
provinces, but he judged it no longer necessary to 
give her written instructions for the road. " The 
Spirit of our Lord will be her rule and director." * 
He confined himself to letters of introduction to the 
parish priests, for fear she might meet with ob 
stacles from them. This danger was not encoun 
tered, however, for the lord of Gondy, seeing 
the great good she accomplished at Villepreux and 
Montmirail,f heartily desired this new journey into 
his estates, and went thither himself to receive her. 
" He wrote me," said the Saint, "the affection with 
which he received you." All was going on well at 
first. Young girls, encouraged to that life by their 
priests, came in crowds to be instructed by Mile. Le 
Gras, and for two months she went through the 
country, establishing schools and visiting the Confra 
ternities of Charity ; when, all at once, the bishop of 
Chalons,J in whose diocese she was travelling, be 
came alarmed at the unusual practices, and demanded 
an account. "If Mgr. de Chalons wishes it and he is 
near/ wrote Vincent, "you would do well to see 
him and tell him quite simply what you are doing. 
Offer to retrench as much as he wants, or to leave it 

* Letter, Sept. 1631. f Letter to the cure of Bergier, 1631. 

\ Henri Clausse de Fleuri, bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne, 1624-1640, 
whom St. Vincent called a holy person. 



Return to Paris. 91 

altogether if not agreeable to him ; such is the spirit 
of God."* 

The bishop, whose good intentions are beyond all 
doubt, could not understand the advantage of this 
new form of charity; and Mile. Le Gras was obliged 
to return to Paris. The Saint congratulated her on 
this trial. " How happy you are," we read in his 
letter, " to be obliged, like the Son of God, to flee from 
a province where you were doing no harm, thank 
God!" f And, fearing that his daughter might impute 
to herself a defeat impossible to avoid, he adds: " I 
beg you not to imagine that this was your fault ; no, 
it was not, but a pure dispensation of God for His 
glory and the greater good of your soul. The most 
elevating trait in the life of St. Louis is the tranquil 
lity with which he returns from the Holy Land with 
out having succeeded in his undertaking; and per 
haps you will never meet with an occurrence redound 
ing more to the glory of God than this one." " Our 
Saviour," he writes on another occasion, " will re 
ceive more glory from your submission than from 
all the good you could have done. One diamond is 
worth more than a mountain of stone : and one act of 
submission is more valuable than any number of good 
works." It was not without reason that St. Vincent 
insisted so much on this point, his object being to 
counteract a tendency of Mademoiselle to fret and ac 
cuse herself of not being faithful to interior grace in 

* Letter 33. 

f Letter addressed to Mile. Le Gras at Mesnil, Oct. 31, 1631, 



92 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

the discharge of exterior duties. Endowed with a 
clear, strong mind, a calm and correct judgment, 
ready to act as to suffer, her humility took alarm, and 
her first impulse was to attribute any want of success 
in the works of the Confraternity to her faults. 
Hence, for her, St. Vincent said, such vain appre 
hensions were more a hindrance than a benefit to her 
salvation, and he sought to dissipate them by recom 
mending the holy joy which produces confidence in 
God. " Honor the holy cheerfulness of our Lord and 
His Blessed Mother." * " Be cheerful above every 
thing," he often wrote. " Leave aside that fear (which 
appears to me somewhat servile) to those whom 
God has not gifted as He has you ; despise those 
thoughts which seem to weaken the faith God has 
given you ; despise still more their author, who has 
no power over you but what you choose to give him : 
but banish the idea that you have ever given him 
any power. Your tears and sorrow are so many 
proofs of what I say; be, then, in.peace."f 

This disposition of Louise to exaggerate her obli 
gations was especially manifest when there was 
question of her son. He was pursuing his studies in 
a safe place not far from her ; nevertheless his moral 
and physical culture gave her .so much anxiety that 
St. Vincent obliged her to moderate it. This was 
the " only side of her that remained a woman; "J and 
for this she was more to be praised than blamed, 

* Letter 52. f Letter 37. \ Letter 71. 



Maternal Cares. 93 

when we remember that she was still in the world and 
a widow, whose first duty was the education of her 
only son. Always ready, nevertheless, to banish the 
least imperfection from a soul whose exquisite purity 
he was one day to proclaim, St. Vincent wrote to 
her: " What must I say of this too great tenderness? 
Certainly it appears to me that you ought to labor to 
rid yourself of it. It only troubles your mind, and 
deprives you of the peace our Lord desires to find in 
your heart. God wills you to be occupied, not ex 
clusively, but sweetly, and gives you as your model 
the worthy Mother de Chantal. May He give you 
a share in the generosity He granted to that holy 
soul in like circumstances!" Knowing, also, that 
" never was mother more motherly" than she was, 
St. Vincent was eager to send her news of her son 
when she was absent ; and this he did in such minute 
detail that we might be tempted to say of him that 
never was father more watchful and tender than he. 
" This will serve to assure you that your son is quite 
well." " Be not uneasy; we take good care of him." 
" I shall see him. But be in peace, I beg you ; he is 
under the special protection of our Lord and His 
Blessed Mother, on account of the gifts and offerings 
you have made for him. . . His mind seems to expand 
more and more. . . he is cheerful and very good, edify 
ing every one. . . If it continues, you will have reason 
to praise God and hope to be consoled in him." f We 

* Letter 80. 

f Letters of Oct. 22, 1630; Sept. 2-17, Oct. 17, 1631. 



94 Life of Mile. Le Gras, 

might multiply quotations ; but we shall never find 
her maternal affection making her recoil from duty 
or danger. Hence there was nothing selfish in it ; 
and if it was an occasion of long and bitter sufferings 
to her poor heart, it was because sorrow and love 
are never long separated here below. 




CHAPTER VI. 

16321634. 

Fortunes and Disgrace of the Uncles of Louise The Marshal de 
Marillac dies on the Scaffold, and the Chancellor in Prison Mile 
Le Gras does not allow herself to be cast down by these Afflictions, 
but courageously pursues the Path of Good Works She receives at 
her House the first Daughters of Charity Her Vow to consecrate 
herself with them First Conference by St. Vincent de Paul. 

[IVINE PROVIDENCE, in taking entire 
possession of Louise, had destroyed none of 
her affection. Her heart was one of those 
which acquired without losing; and if the 
poor found a privileged circle around her, her own 
family remained as dear to her as ever. The honors 
acquired by M. Michel de Marillac had not elated 
her, earthly greatness had no attraction for her ; and 
we would not remark it here, were there question of 
court favor or military distinction only ; but glory 
gave place to trial, and Louise, more than any one 
else, was to feel the reaction in the persecution of 
her uncles. The part she took in their afflictions 
obliges us to glance at a few points of a history 
whose most interesting details have never been pub 
lished, and which nevertheless abounds in hard 
lessons. 

The two living representatives of the Marillac fam 
ily whose destiny and relationship so often brought 



g6 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

them together were at first raised to the highest dig 
nities through the protection of the Queen-Mother, 
to whom one of them was related by marriage. The 
elder, Michel, appointed Superintendent of Finance 
in 1624, became Keeper of the Seals two years after 
wards ; but his great soul was not in the least per 
turbed by the fascination of this office. " I have a 
great mind to leave my commission on the table to 
be reverenced," he said, " for it is to it, and not to me, 
that all this honor is paid." 

Louis XIII., on the contrary, would wish to have 
had his council made up of Marillacs, and took pleas 
ure in repeating : " This is between us for life and 
death ; if he were in the Indies, I would send for him." 
Shortly after he brought him to the siege of La 
Rochelle, where Louis de Marillac, the field-marshal, 
was directing the works of the fortification. The 
operation was tedious, and, notwithstanding the strict 
discipline of the soldiers, the perseverance of the 
leaders appeared feeble before the resistance of the 
besieged. Michel, convinced more than any one 
else of the necessity of conquering, used all the 
means furnished by his position and intelligence 
to keep up their spirits, while in secret he sought the 
assistance of Heaven ; making a vow, as was known 
afterwards, to communicate every day until the 
place surrendered, and to found in perpetuity three 
Masses every month in the chapel of the Carmelites 
in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques. After having the 
trouble, he had the honor ; for when the inhabitants 



Michel de Mar iliac. 97 

came, not to throw themselves, as the Keeper of the 
Seals said, but to fall, in spite of themselves, at the 
king s feet, it was he who read the written decree of the 
conquest, to which Louis de Marillac signed his name, 
the king not wishing to give his signature in a con 
vention of his subjects. The year following the two 
brothers met again with Louis XIII. in Languedoc, 
the one endeavoring to convert the Huguenots by 
peaceful means, the other to check their revolt by 
force of arms. At last the capture of Privas, in May 
1629, gained for Louis the baton of Marshal of 
France. The zenith of glory was now reached by 
this family with whom everything had prospered 
hitherto ; but fidelity to the Queen Mother was soon 
to bring about its irretrievable ruin. 

The dissension between the Cardinal and Marie de 
Medicis, which had been existing for some time, 
was every day becoming more marked, and Louis 
XIII. falling sick at Lyons, the Queen solicited 
and obtained from him the promise to banish his 
too-powerful minister. Some weeks after she 
called on him to fulfil his promise, and proposed 
Michel and Louis de Marillac as prime-ministers. 
We need not repeat the events which followed, nor 
their well-known result, as they are matter of his 
tory. November 11, 1630, at the conclusion of a 
stormy scene, the king left abruptly for Versailles, 
and the Keeper of the Seals followed in the same di 
rection. The Court believed that the Cardinal was 
lost; but while they were hastening to the palace at 



98 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Luxembourg, where Marie de Medicis was already 
rejoicing in victory, Richelieu rejoined the king, and 
regained a mastery over him which he ever after 
ward held. The Luxembourg was at once deserted, 
and the French, ever ready to mock at want of suc 
cess, called that day the " Day of Dupes." 

But dupes alone would not suffice for that day it 
must also have its victim. At a short distance 
from Versailles, in the chateau Glatigny, M. de Ma- 
rillac calmly awaited the disgrace he had predicted 
when he left Paris, adding to his prediction of this 
downfall : " I did nothing to obtain the seals ; I shall 
do nothing to keep them." He had written to the 
king, reminding him of, and renewing, his former 
request to be released from the charge, and, with 
out a fear for his future, was hearing the Mass 
celebrated by his almoner, when, at these words 
of the Epistle, " Communicantes Christi passionibus 
gaudete", " If you partake of the sufferings of Christ, 
rejoice * when the door opened and the Lord of 
Ville-aux-Clercs, secretary to his Majesty, entered and 
made a sign that he wished to speak with M. de Maril- 
lac. After the Mass, the royal emissary politely in 
formed M. de Marillac that he was commissioned to 
demand the seals, and to inform him that an officer of 
the body-guard was waiting with eight archers to 
conduct him to a place named by the king, signifying 
to him at the same time to dismiss his attendants and 

* I Peter, iv. 13. 



Michel de Mar iliac. 99 

take a carriage which was ready to convey him to his 
unknown destination. The carriage drove off, and 
continued on the road all day until evening without 
stopping. The prisoner, calm and as if relieved of 
a great burden, chatted gayly with the companions 
of his journey, the many objects which they passed 
on the road suggesting to him amusing or edifying 
stories which he related, and making his almoner 
catechise the archers. He was taken in this way to 
Evreux, Lisieux, Caen, and then back to Lisieux, 
where he remained for six weeks in solitary confine 
ment, so absolute that even the butter-pots of the 
merchants passing through the place were examined 
to make sure that no letters were written or sent ; 
and when he attended Mass, it was with an escort of 
armed carbineers, as if he were a great criminal. 
The people declared it a shame to see a good old 
man treated in that way ; but he replied that " his duty 
to God was to accept peacefully and tranquilly every 
thing that might happen to him." 

This serenity never forsook him ; and when permit 
ted to correspond with his family, he wrote : " I wish I 
could obtain for you a share of the graces that God 
has sent me in this affliction ; they are very great ; if 
you knew them, you would have more trouble to mod 
erate your joy than you now have to control your sor 
row." And a short time after : " I am so well satisfied 
with everything, without exception, that has hap 
pened, that I can never repeat often enough, I wish 
all my friends could know my happiness/ " And final- 



ioo Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

ly alluding to the sweetness which God lavished on 
him daily he wrote: " A little glimpse of the de 
lights of heaven is more than sufficient to help us 
not only to bear patiently all the afflictions of this 
life, but to make us forget them altogether." 

His enemies could not read the depths of that 
great soul like his friends ; yet what pretext for 
calumny could they find in the life of M. de Marillac? 
Richelieu himself gives credit to his strict integ 
rity, inflexible courage, purity of life and manners ; 
and he confesses to Father Joseph, his confidant, that 
he would willingly sacrifice an arm to recover a friend 
ship of such use to him in affairs of state.* He was 
a sagef and a Saint in the world which heaped 
honors upon him without his solicitation or attention 
to them. In the administration of state affairs he 
remained poor, faithful to a vow never to become 
rich even justly and lawfully ; but he gave away al 
most all that he possessed^ Hence Conde applied to 
him with truth these words of Scripture : " Innocent 
in hands and clean of heart." His friends amused 
themselves by applying to him his own expression 

*Lefevre de Lezeau, " Histoire de Michel de Marillac." (Bibl. 
Sainte-Genevieve, MSS.) From this manuscript we have taken the 
greater part of the details of circumstances preceding and following 
the captivity and death of M. de Marillac. Most of them are un 
published. 

f M. 1 Abbe Houssaye," Le Cardinal de Berulle et les Carmelites." 

f See his epitaph, composed by Mother Madeleine of St. Joseph. 
He left scarcely enough to defray his funeral expenses, 

Ps. xxiii. 4. 



Marshal de Mar iliac. 101 

in reference to the disgrace of a celebrated religious : 
" He will fee^l it no more than the swan coming from 
the water with his feathers scarcely damp." 

But if there were no pretext for attacking Michel de 
Marillac, we must not forget that he was brother to 
the Marshal, Louis de Marillac, who was then in Pied 
mont sharing the command of the French army with 
the Marshals Force and Schomberg, and was suspec 
ted of taking part in the plots which were forming 
against the Ministry. An order was sent, in conse 
quence, from the king to Schomberg to arrest his col 
league and send him under a strong guard to France. 
The three Marshals lived together in Foglizzo, where 
the king s mandate found them. Each Marshal took 
his turn to command. This day it happened that 
Marillac was on duty, which circumstance prevented 
the king s letter from being opened in his presence, 
as there was no suspicion of its contents following 
so closely, as it did, on the compliments* addressed 
by the king to Louis de Marillac on account of his 
military exploits. The troops who had followed him 
from the heart of Champagne, and whose officers 
were all devoted to him, comprised more than half the 
entire army ; therefore the greatest caution was nec 
essary in executing the king s order. The Marshal 

*One day, hearing that the Spaniards were to attack a certain 
place, he gave them to understand that he would remain where he 
was for twenty-four hours; at the end of that time he wrote in the 
registry of the neighboring city that the French had waited all day 
for the enemy. 



102 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

made no resistance, however, and nobly protested 
his fidelity to the Queen-Mother, without hiding 
the fact that this was the cause of his misfortune.* 
After fifteen days confinement in his own apart 
ments he was brought back to his old place of com 
mand and imprisoned in Sainte-Menehould. From 
there he was conducted to Verdun, and tried for 
misdemeanors and depredations committed by him 
when general of the army in Champagne. 

Could his conduct be called in question ? While serv 
ing the king with loyalty had he profited of the occa 
sion to reap pecuniary advantage ? Had he, as was said, 
spared the charges on certain villages, and then re 
ceived a tribute from them for so doing? By all- 
accounts such things were done so frequently as to 
be almost tolerated ; but to his last breath he denied 
it, and we can scarcely imagine that the Governor of 
Champagne would have been placed at the head of 
the army in Piedmont had his conduct been public 
ly scandalous. 

Much more evident than his shortcomings was 
the hatred which pursued him and which set aside 
every form of justice. Twice the Marshal declined 
the services of the extraordinary commission ap 
pointed by the king, and begged to be brought before 
his constitutional judges ; twice the Parliament of 
Paris granted his appeal to its jurisdiction ; but the 
king deposed the Attorney-General, Mole, who made 
the decision, and annulled the decree. 

* Bazin, " Histoire de Louis XIII." 



Marshal de Mar iliac. 103 

To these violent measures was joined unaccus 
tomed rigor, and several times, by the king s ad 
vice, the accused was refused the right to justify 
himself. His niece and grand-nephews were ordered 
to leave Paris,* where his papers were being exam 
ined, and Madame de Marillac, relative of the Queen- 
Motherf as we have said, was forbidden to intercede 
in behalf of her husband a proceeding never known 
before, the Marshal remarked, not even in the crime 
of treason. The Cardinal refused an audience to the 
unfortunate lady, and on leaving his palace she was 
arrested by the archers and conducted outside of 
Paris. Losing all her strength with the loss of her 
hopes, she fell sick in the village of Roule, near the 
capital. " The good lady of the Marshal is very 
sick ; let us offer her sorrow to God ; would she not 
be very happy to leave this world of misery ?" Thus 
wrote St. Vincent J to Mile. Le Gras, then at Mont- 
mirail, in the province of Champagne, the theatre of 
such stirring events. Four days after, on the i/th 
of September, he told her the news he had led her 
to expect : " Madame la Marechale is gone to receive 
in heaven the recompense of her labors ;" and fore 
seeing what this separation would cost the heart of 
Louise, he justifies her sorrow in advance by the 

* March 6, 1631. 

f Catherine, a daughter of Cosme de Medicis and aunt of the 
queen, married M. de Marillac December 20, 1607. 
J Letter dated Sept. 13, 1631. 
Letter 34. 



104 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

most sublime example : " Why should you not weep ? 
The Son of God wept for Lazarus." 

A letter found among the papers of Mile. Le Gras 
shows the affectionate nature of their intercourse, and 
gives us to understand the sorrow with which this 
event must have overwhelmed her.* Alas ! the 
news awaiting her in Paris was not such as 
would dry her tears. The commission at Verdun 
being too slow, another was appointed, many of 
whose members were known to be the enemies of the 
Marshal. They were to meet this time at Pontoise ; 
but, under pretext that the city was subject to mili 
tary jurisdiction, the tribunal was transferred to 
Ruel, in the house, and one might say in the hands, 
of the Cardinal himself. The judges, who pretended 
not to be free at Pontoise, were very accommodating 
here. In four sittings they heard the explanations 
of the accused. When every incident had been 
exhaustively discussed, he was declared guilty by 
unanimous consent ; but when the penalty came up 
for decision, there was dissension among the mem 
bers. Of the twenty-four composing the commis 
sion, a majority of one voice pronounced the penalty 
of death. 

What avail were the friends of M. de Marillac 

* This letter on the subject of a good work ends thus: " Do me al 
ways the favor to love me as I love you, and beg God to console me 
in the afflictions I shall meet with if this war breaks out. I wish you 
a happy New Year, and am, 

" In affection, yours, DE MEDICIS." 



Marshal de Marillac. 105 

in opposition to the implacable will which directed 
every circumstance in the details of this cruel 
affair? Anne d Attichy, his niece, was related 
to the Cardinal through Madame Combalet, and, 
like her, was a maid of honor to the Queen-Mother; 
but the Cardinal would not admit of family inter 
vention in political affairs. His other friends vainly 
solicited mercy for the condemned ; they were re 
ferred to the king-, who was inflexible. The reason 
of this severity was said to be the menacing tone 
assumed by the Queen-Mother in favor of one of her 
most devoted servants. 

Two days after the Marshal was escorted from 
Ruel to the Hotel de Ville in Paris, and there told 
his fate. The " Chambre de Deuil" was assigned 
him, with two Capuchins, and two Feuillans, to 
prepare him for death. He was then conducted 
to the scaffold, which had been erected in the Place 
de Greve. It was six feet high. After half an hour 
given him for prayer, the Master of the Rolls read 
aloud the sentence. At the words " embezzling," 
" extortion," Marillac exclaimed in a loud voice, 
" It is false !" And when he heard that the sum of 
one hundred thousand crowns was to be paid from 
his estate as restitution, he added, "My estate is 
worth nothing."* The people were deeply moved 

* It is said that when Conde saw the miserable half-built country 
house which was made a pretext for the destruction of the Marshal, he 
exclaimed, "There is not enough in that to excuse the whipping of 
a page." 



io6 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

at the sight of this old warrior with his hands mana 
cled. The captain of the watch could not forbear 
to express his indignation and sympathy ; but Maril- 
lac answered him, " Grieve not for me, sir, but for 
the king." At length the executioner begged par 
don for the part he was obliged to take in the 
tragedy, and with one stroke of the huge sword 
struck off the head of Louis de Marillac. A carriage 
draped in mourning was stationed at the foot of the 
scaffold to receive his body, which was conveyed to 
the house of Mme. de Marillac, his sister-in-law, in 
the Rue Chapon, where the members of his family 
were assembled. " With sorrow and sighs," says an 
author of the time,* "they bore him to a large hall 
in which a beautiful chapel had been prepared to 
receive him. Amid this sorrow-stricken group 
Mile. Le Gras found her place. Her duty needed 
all her tact on this occasion, for many heart-wounds 
were there to be healed, and many fierce resentments 
to be overcome by charity.f She communicated 

"Recit veritable de tout ce qui s est passe a la mort de Mgr. le 
Marechal de Marillac. " The body of the Marshal was in terred beside 
that of his wife in the church of the Feuillans, in the Rue Sainte- 
Honore. His bust, with this inscription, marks the place: " Sorte 
funesta clarus." 

f Mme. de Combalet having sent to inquire for Mile. d Attichy, and 
expressing regret at not seeing her, the latter replied that she did not 
wish to meet the niece of her uncle s murderer. She declared her 
eternal hatred to the Cardinal. In 1637 she became Countess of 
Maure by her marriage with Henri, brother of the Duke de Morte- 
mart. She did all she could, also her husband, for the restoration 



Michel de Mar iliac. 107 

all her sad news to St. Vincent de Paul. The 
greatest consolation the Saint could offer her was 
taken from the Christian sentiments of the Marshal. 
He had honored the sufferings of the Son of God 
by uniting thereto his own. Not doubting his 
salvation, he adds, let us not pity him. . . . What 
matter to us how our relatives go to God, if they 
only go to Him ? " * 

But Louise was not at the end of her sufferings, and 
all her anxiety now was for the former Keeper of the 
Seals, her favorite uncle. The way by which he was 
going to God was that of captivity. His confinement 
had become more strict since the escape of Marie de 
Medicis. He was brought from Lisieux to Chateau- 
dun, where his daughter-in-law, exiled from Paris, 
joined him. He divided between prayer and labor 
a life in which no bitter memories,f no regrets, found 
place. He felt himself at the port of that blessed 
liberty to which he had never ceased to aspire, and 
his every thought was of heaven. He compiled a 
new edition of " The Imitation of Christ," J a trans- 

of the Marshal. (" Mme. laComtesse de Maure, saVie et sa Corre- 
spondance," par Ed. de Barthelemy. Paris, 1863.) 

* Letter xliv. 

f Never did he permit a word to be spoken in his presence against 
the Cardinal de Richelieu, nor against the judges who had condemned 
his brother. 

J This edition appeared in 1631. The frontispiece of it was a pic 
ture of M. de Marillac receiving Holy Communion in a chapel, 
probably that of the Countess of Dunois at Chateaudun. He appears 
between two persons, one of whom is believed to represent his 



io8 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

lation of the Psalms and the Book of Job, while at 
the same time he was composing a Treatise on 
Eternal Life. He was, moreover, occupied with 
the beatification of Mother Marie of the Incarna 
tion, having petitioned the Holy See for this pro 
cess to be commenced when, as Keeper of the 
Seals, he was in authority. These were, as he wrote 
to his friend and biographer, Lefevre, his affairs 
of state state affairs truly important and glorious, 
treating of eternal crowns and thrones, and not like 
the petty trifles, quarrels, and dissensions of this 
lower world. 

Louise had no means to follow the promptings of 
her heart which urged her to visit and console her 
uncle, being without a friend at court except the 
persons now in disgrace, such as Mile. d Attichy and 
Nicolas Le Gras, who had succeeded Antoine in the 
office of secretary to the Queen-Mother. We have 
an intimation of her project in regard to her uncle 
in a letter from St. Vincent, in which he approves 
without mentioning her design. This letter corre 
sponds in date with a refusal of the jailors of Chateau- 
dun to admit a lady from Paris. All that remained 
for Louise was to suffer and pray. She went to the 
Hotel-Dieu, where she surpassed herself in attend- 

brother, the Marshal. The other is a lady, and can be none else than 
the sharer of his captivity, Mme. de Marillac, his daughter-in-law. 
There is no authority for supposing, as some do, that the artist 
wished to represent Mile. Le Gras. 



Death of Michel de Marillac. 109 

ing the sick,* and then to the great convent in the 
Rue St. Jacques, where Mother Madeleine had the 
Blessed Sacrament exposed for sixty days and as 
many nights for this benefactress of her community. 
Not less devoted than Louise to M. de Marillac, this 
holy prioress used every effort to encourage and 
support him. She wrote to him frequently, and had 
persons to intercede in his behalf with Richelieu, 
that the severe rigor of his captivity might be miti 
gated. Alas ! all she obtained was that, after death, 
his body might be secretly conveyed from Chateau- 
dun to Carmel, and a tomb, with any inscription she 
pleased, erected for him beside that of his son in 
the chapel which he had founded in honor of St. 
Joseph. 

If the grief of Mile. Le Gras at the death of her 
uncle could have been assuaged, it surely might 
have been by the details of his death which Mme. 
de Marillac hastened to send her. His end was at 
once simple and sublime. He departed in the full 
use of his faculties, and with a serenity of soul 
worthy of a saint. When the physician told him that 
his last hour had come, he exclaimed : " God be 
praised ! You could tell me no better news. I am 
ready ; and, since there is no time to lose, let us be 
doing." Calmly then, and without the least eager 
ness, as if preparing- for an ordinary journey, he 
asked for a table and inkstand and a light. He read 

* Letter of the Saint, June 1632. 



no Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

over his will, sent for his daughter-in-law, bade the 
children, if they loved him, not to cry, and received 
Extreme Unction, answering the prayers of the 
Church himself. "Jam non sum ex hoc mundo" he 
said to those around him, " Vado ad Patrem" " Yes, 
my God, Thou callest me, and I come to Thee." 
Still, he wished to labor for God s glory to his last 
breath. Seated by the side of his bed, dressed, as 
usual, in his little fur collar and violet-colored satin 
cap, he took up his " Treatise on Eternal Life," and be 
gan again his writing. After some time, he stopped and 
said, without any apparent emotion, " My sight is 
going ; I see double writing ;" but he resumed his 
pen. At length, laying it aside, he said again, " I 
can scarcely see scarcely distinguish your faces." 
He thanked God for having heard his prayer in 
leaving him his senses to the last ; and without move 
ment, without agony, he died in a sitting posture, 
praying to his last breath. This was between seven 
and eight o clock on the morning of August 7, 1632. 
Some hours after, while eager crowds were pressing 
around and touching his body with objects of devo 
tion, a great light appeared in the sky, as if a flaming 
torch were carried slowly across the heavens 
illuming the earth. Four daughters of St. Teresa, 
distant from each other, saw this light at the same 
time. One of the nuns said that it impressed her 
with the idea that some great personage was leaving 1 
this world. This religious was no other than Marie 



The First Daughters of Charity. 1 1 1 

of the Blessed Sacrament, daughter of M. de Ma- 
rillac.* 

In the midst of these cruel trials, and without any 
neglect of duty on account of them, Mile. Le Gras 
continued with admirable courage the lowly labors 
which charity had induced her to undertake. Part 
of the year had been spent in visiting the confrater 
nities at a distance from Paris. She had visited in 
succession Ville-neuve-Saint-Georgesf (where she 
had heard of some carelessness in the service of the 
sick), Limours, Saint-Denis, Crosne (a little village re 
lated to Villepreux, as the port St. Victor is to Notre 
Dame)4 Sometimes she travelled alone, and on horse 
back when she could procure a horse ; at other times 
she made use of Mme. Pollalion s carriage ; again, it 
was with a new companion, Madame Goussault, whose 
acquaintance we shall shortly make. She left school 
teachers in several of the places which she visited ; 
others, again, gave her an opportunity to recruit her 
forces by furnishing her with humble laborious ser 
vants of the poor. With the increase of numbers, 
however, the defects of the organization were more 
apparent. These young girls were often sent to the 
parishes just after leaving their own villages, and with 
little experience in nursing the sick ; deficient, also, in 
other qualifications necessary for such duties. It is 
true that they received a short training from Mile. 
Le Gras ; but without much previous instruction in 

* Lefevre, " Histoire de Michel de Marillac." 

\ She was there in July, 1632. Letter 50. \ Letter 50. 



H2 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

ordinary piety, with no superior to watch over their 
conduct, and no common bond of union among- them 
selves, nor other rule of direction than the words of 
Mile. Le Gras or St. Vincent, and, finally, without any 
engagement to protect them from their own incon 
stancy, it was not surprising if they could not always 
please the Ladies of Charity. Nevertheless the ladies 
had to bear with them, since even with their assist 
ance it was difficult to supply the numerous demands 
for help. St. Vincent had for some time cherished 
the thought of forming a kind of Novitiate, where 
these young girls could learn the practice of a Chris 
tian charitable life before being sent to nurse the sick 
or to serve the poor ; and he mentioned it to Mile. 
Le Gras, who immediately offered herself for the work. 
Although secretly rejoicing in her good will to be 
whatever Providence willed her to be, St. Vincent 
at first desired her to wait, as he was always afraid 
of anticipating the time marked by God. " Saul," he 
said, " was looking for his asses when he found a 
kingdom ; St. Louis, striving to conquer the Holy 
Land, gained the kingdom of heaven ; and you, in 
seeking to become the Servant of these poor girls, be 
come the servant of the Lord." At length, in the 
autumn of 1633, he decided to make the attempt, and 
chose three or four from a number of aspirants. Mile. 
Le Gras received them into her house on the eve of 
St. Andrew s, Nov. 29. This little snow-ball, as he 
called it, was not long increasing : other young girls 



The First Daitghters of Charity. 1 1 3 

and some widows presented themselves.* At the end 
of a few months the house was a true Novitiate, where 
the cross, as Louise said, formed the only cloister. 

The will of God manifested itself in the success of 
the enterprise, and the interior peace experienced by 
Mile. Le Gras, her love for her duty increasing more 
and more, seemed also the sign of her vocation. This 
voice which cannot deceive was what St. Vincent 
wished her to await ; hence he now permitted her 
to consecrate herself entirely to their common labor 
by an irrevocable vow, pronounced March 25, 1634^ 
She renewed at the same time her vow of chastity, 
and made the resolution to communicate the 25th of 
every month, to thank God for her vocation to a state 
whose difficulties had not abated her courage a state 
essentially perfect and which corresponded to the 
attractions of her whole life. There were trials and 
difficulties, however, which would have made a less 
courageous soul recoil. To receive under her roof, 

o 

and to live with them from morning till night, persons 
until then unknown to her, most of th-em from the 
common classes of society, virtuous of course, but 
without education, and often rude in their manners 
and language this for a lady of rank, refinement, 

* Widows were admitted when not encumbered by a family. The 
names of Mme. Pelletier and Mme. Turgis often occur in St. Vincent s 
letters at this time. Later on the latter is styled Sceur Turgis. 

f This date has been religiously preserved by the community of the 
Daughters of Charity. The 25th of March is fixed for renewal of 



H4 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

and intelligence, who loved the poor above every 
thing, but who had been accustomed from childhood 
to refined society this, we say, was a sacrifice all the 
more complete as it was unnoticed by those who were 
its object. Many postulants presented themselves, as 
we have said, but most of them left after a short time. 
" I have often heard her say," wrote one of these 
girls afterwards, " that it annoyed her very much to 
look at so many strange faces;" yet this annoyance 
was almost continual, as she believed herself obliged 
to receive all who presented themselves with seeming 
good will ; and to make room for them she renounced 
the convenience of keeping her own maid, and was 
attended in her household duties and around her 
own person by one of the new-comers " by the least 

stvlish," remarked the same writer. She shared her 

j 

room, and even went so far as to share her bed, with 
one who was afflicted with a painful infirmity.* Her 
apartment, like her revenue, was quite limited. It 
may be seen to this day, for the house is still stand 
ing which tradition points out as having been the 
scene of these beginnings, and of which she occupied, 
probably, but one story. A low door and dark hall 
give entrance to this little house, with its two small win 
dows in front: such is the Bethlehem of the Daugh 
ters of Charity. f 

* Letter of Sister Mathurine Guerin to Sister Marguerite Chetif. 

f This house, situated in the street then known as Fosses-Saint- 
Victor, but now called after Cardinal Lemoine, is No. 43, and is occu 
pied as a stationer s store. 



The First Conference by St. Vincent. 115 

No positive rule was yet in practice amongst them ; 
and as order is impossible to any association with 
out a common rule, Louise was obliged to draw up 
a sketch of the regulations to be observed by her 
Daughters. St. Vincent was sick; therefore 
could not consult him before commencing her task, 
and he was glad of it. " God wills it," he said, "so 
that I may not put my scythe into your harvest. 
At the same time, when the affair was presented to 
him, he thought it his duty to make some modifica 
tions. He advanced the hour of rising and retiring, 
ordained silence from evening prayers until after the 
prayer of next day, and decided that communion 
should be received on Sundays and feast days. As 
soon as he felt better, he called the girls together 
and explained what he expected from them; and 
there, on the 3 ist of July, 1634, in the presence of Ml 
Le Gras, Sister Marie, from Saint Sauveur parish, 
Srs. Michel and Barbara, attached to St. Nicolas, 
Sr. Marguerite, one of St. Paul s, and Sr. Jane, 
-alone with her angel," in St. Benedict s, he inaugu 
rated that admirable series of Conferences which, 
after two centuries and a half, remain the most pre 
cious treasure of the Daughters of Charity. 
lected from memory by the Sisters, or often mad< 
up from notes taken by Mile. Le Gras while St. 
Vincent was speaking, they preserve an aroma of 
simplicity the charm of which is unequalled. 

In these Conferences we may hear St. Vincent speak 
with all the freedom of a father in the midst of his 



1 1 6 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

children, with the sweet dignity of a saint, surrounded 
by souls he was shaping and directing. He proposes 
questions; they respond : and the light of sublime 
truth often shines through the artless expression of 
their thoughts. The Father approves their responses 
or comments on them, and makes use of them in 
developing his sense of the subject under discus 



sion. 



The Saviour doubtless acted thus with His disciples: 
and this thought was one presented to the mind of St. 
Vincent at the first time of his speaking in this little 
Coenaculum. " Divine Providence, my daughters," he 
said to them, "has assembled you here that you 
should honor the human life of our Lord Jesus Christ 
on earth." He then showed that our Saviour was 
amongst them in virtue of His promise to be with 
those who were assembled in His name ; and with 
those, above all, who united in spirit for the purpose 
of serving Him. " You have not yet had any rule. 
In this Divine Providence has treated you like the 
chosen people, who, after the creation, were more 
than a thousand years without any law. Our Saviour, 
also, did the same to His primitive Church ; for while 
He was on earth there was no written law, and it was 
His Apostles after His death who collected His teach- 
ing and ordinances. In the same way, I could not 
hitherto resolve to have the rule of your house re 
duced to writing. But while waiting until it pleased 
the will of God for this to be done, behold how you 
should pass the twenty-four hours composing your 



The First Conference by St. Vincent. 117 

day, then your week, your year, thus conducting you 
to a blessed eternity." 

He enumerated then, as they occurred to him, the 
divers points to which he wished to call attention, 
commencing by the principal action of the day. 
First. " To rise at 4 o clock ; as often as their duties 
of charity permitted them, to retire at 9, because 
they must preserve themselves for the service of the 
poor." In the morning to offer up all their thoughts, 
words, and actions to God, with every movement of 
their heart ; all the actions of the day drawing their 
merit from this offering. " This is why the Devil 
tries his utmost to turn our thoughts from God 
when we awake." 

Secondly prayer. " O my daughters," he ex 
claimed, " this is the centre of devotion. God gives 
us a deluge of good thoughts in prayer. Gather 
carefully these graces and put them in practice, and 
you will give joy to the heart of God. Do not 
believe that poor girls, ignorant as you suppose 
yourselves, should not pretend to meditation. Oh, 
God is so good ! and among the proofs of His good 
ness which He has givon you, remember that of 
calling you to the exercise of charity. After that, 
how could you think that He would refuse you the 
grace necessary to pray ? O my daughters, such a 
thought should never enter your mind. I was much 
edified to-day in speaking to a poor girl, like you, 
but who has become one of the greatest souls I know, 
simply by her assiduity in prayer." 



1 1 8 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Thirdly " Be careful to render an account of your 
prayer afterwards; say simply to one another the 
good thoughts God has given you." 

Fourthly " Go every day to Mass ; but assist at 
it with great devotion. What do you think you do 
when you assist at Mass ? It is not only the priest 
who offers the holy sacrifice, but all who assist at it 
offer it also." 

Fifthly " When you leave your prayer or Mass 
for the service of the poor, you should know, my 
daughters, that you lose nothing, for the service of 
the poor brings you nearer to God. Be careful, 
then, to give them all the help they need, especially 
spiritual help. Bear with their humors, and never 
be angry or speak harshly to them. Ah, they have 
enough to bear without that. Think, on the contrary, 
that you are their visible guardian angel, their father 
and mother, and never contradict them, except in 
what would be hurtful to grant; for then to yield to 
them would be cruel. Weep with them, for God has 
established you to be their consolation." 

Sixthly " The time remaining after the service of 
the sick should be well employed ; never remain idle. 
Apply yourselves to learn to read, so as to be able 
to instruct little girls in the places where you may 
be employed. Ah! how do you know what Provi 
dence may have in store for you ? Hold yourselves, 
then, always reajdy to go wherever obedience may 
call you, without imitating the sons of Zebedee, who 
asked underhand for the places they desired, and 
which, for their good, God would not grant." 



The First Conference by St. Vincent. 1 19 

After other advice on divers subjects, the Saint 
returns to their fundamental virtue and continues: 
" As obedience perfects all our works, it will be 
necessary for you that one hold the place of Superior ; 
sometimes it will be one, sometimes another; and 
having chosen the one who is Superior for the month, 
look on her as you would on the Blessed Virgin 
Herself. I may here relate something concerning 
myself. When God placed me in the house of Mme. 
de Gondy, I proposed to regard her and obey her as 
I would the Blessed Virgin, and God knows how 
much benefit I derived from this practice. Always 
honor the Ladies of Charity, and comport yourselves 
in their presence with much respect. Honor also 
the sick; look on them as your masters." 

He then set forth the advantages which the 
Daughters of Charity would derive from their man 
ner of life. First, he said, " If any one in the world 
can hope for paradise, it is you. Why? Because in 
observing your manner of life you are sure of doing 
the will of God. The second advantage is the com 
mencement of a great good which may last forever. 
Yes, my daughters, if you enter on the practice of 
your rule- with the design of doing the holy will of 
God, there is room to hope that your little com 
munity will endure, increase, continue the same good 
after your death, arid be the subject of increase for 
your glory in heaven." 

After having explained the different means they 
should take to persevere, " Have courage, my daugh- 



120 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

ters," the Saint exclaimed in concluding, "and con- 
sider what mercy God has shown in choosing you 
to be the first to establish this company. When 
Solomon wanted to build a temple to God he used 
precious stones for the foundation, to show that 
what he intended to build was to be very perfect. 
The goodness of God wishes to do you the same 
favor you who are the foundation of this company; 
namely, to make you eminent in virtue. I am sure 
you would not wish to do wrong to those who will 
come after you; and as trees bear fruit according to 
their kind, we may suppose that those who follow 
you will not pretend to greater virtue than you will 
have given the example of by your practice, if it 
please God to give His blessing to this commence 
ment of good. Be then always the most virtuous." 

All the Sisters here declared their willingness to 
observe faithfully what had just been recommended, 
and knelt to receive the benediction of their Father. 
Vincent then resumed his discourse. " Twelve fisher 
men Avere chosen as pillars of the Church : and five 
or six village girls are the foundation of this company. 
Oh, how different are the works of God from those 
of men!" The work, though still imperfect, was now 
begun and founded without the founders being 
conscious that they were doing a great work; and 
St. Vincent de Paul to the last hour of his life 
declined the honor of having given it existence. 
"Be not deceived, my daughters," he would say; 
" God alone has created your company. We never 



The First Conference by St. Vincent. 121 

had the intention of forming it. Ah ! when the first 
of you came to serve the poor in the parishes of 
Paris, who would have thought of there ever being 
Daughters of Charity? Indeed, my daughters, I 
thought it not, nor your Sister Servant ; God alone 
thought of it. He is then the author of your com 
pany, since we can find no other." * The Saint was 
right. God alone could see through the vista of 
time the immense tree that should grow from this 
grain of mustard-seed ; but if it be true that St. Vin 
cent suspected not the greatness of his work, we 
must own that it was his inspiration to commence it. 
The last biographer of St. Jane de Chantal be 
lieved and repeated that St. Vincent borrowed the 
first idea of his institute from the foundress of the 
Visitation, and that he was pleased to show in the 
growing company the heritage of Mme. de Chantalf 
and Francis de Sales, who had been obliged by the 
timidity of the Archbishop of Lyons and the pressure 
of public opinion to give their creation a different end 
from what they had at first contemplated. 

The fact is not so. The truth is, that visiting the poor, 
a duty first consigned to the Visitation, was only a 
secondary work for them, and so accessory that two 
Sisters only were named each month to make the 
visits; the turn of each Sister coming round not 
oftener than once in the year: so that the community 

* Conference, Jan. 6, 1642. 

f M. Bougaud, " Histoire de Sainte de Chantal," v. ii., pp. 252, 

253- 



122 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

were employed only in the works of interior contem 
plative life.* 

* The question has already been treated elsewhere. The text of the 
passage which is devoted to this subject is found in the authentic 
edition of the Memoires of Mere de Chaugy, published by the 
religious of the monastery at Annecy, and runs thus: "This article 
[the visits of the sick] has given place in our time to a false interpre 
tation of the thoughts of the founders of the Visitation. It has 
been said they wished to form a kind of Congregation of Sisters of 
Charity; but even the Constitutions of St. Francis de Sales ^rove that 
the visits to the sick was a secondary work. This Congregation has 
been erected that no great obstacle might hinder the weak and infirm 
from being received, and in it aspire to the perfection of divine love." 
This was his end: to gather into the feast of the King, to most 
intimate union with God, faithful generous souls v/ith feeble bodies. 
Hence Mother de Chaugy assures us: "The principal care and 
dearest affection of our holy Mother was to ground her Daughters 
well in the spirit of true interior life, to which everything else tended, 
so that they sought only mortification, recollection, silence, and 
retreat in God." This intention of Francis de Sales was understood 
even by the public, as is proved by the memoirs of the time; and 
P. Armand, a Jesuit, answering the Saint, who had written for his 
opinion on the reunion of Mme. de Chantal and her first daughters, 
wrote (as is seen in page 146): "Your company is raised up to 
imitate the hidden, contemplative, benign life of Jesus. It will not 
resort to works of charity, knowing that to visit the sick was one of 
the accessory practices, and not one of the ends, of the Congregation. 
We shall be more convinced of this if we remark that two Sisters 
only were named to visit for a month, making it not each one s turn 
more than once in the year, so that the community might be employed 
in the exercises of interior contemplative life. There is then no 
relationship established between the birth of the Visitation and Con 
gregations founded for the education of youth, or the companies of 
charity who are in daily contact with the poor of Jesus Christ." 
("Ste. Jeanne-Franc,oise Fremyot, sa Vie et ses CEuvres," v. i., p. 159.) 



The First Conference by St. Vincent. 123 

" The testimony of the Founder himself is worth 
all the others. The principal end in erecting the 
congregation at Annecy," says St. Francis de Sales,* 
was to furnish a retreat for the infirm and widows,. 
As to visiting the sick, it was added rather to con 
form to the devotion of those who had commenced 
that work, and to the character of the place, than as 
a principal end. Hence when Mgr. Marquemont 
wished to make the sisters cloistered, the bishop of 
Geneva consented, finding the intention of the con 
gregation more easily accomplished under this new 
form.f As to the name Visitation (in which some 
have found an allusion to the visiting of sick), it was 
chosen only because this was a hidden mystery, not 
celebrated in the church like the others.^: However 
charming the expression of such a thought may be, 
we cannot (and especially since the latest publications) 
represent to ourselves St. Vincent yielding all at 
once, on the cessation of the plague (1628), to the 
repeated entreaties of Mme. de Chantal and deciding 
through her zeal " to realize her sublime inspiration" 
of twenty years before. 

The facts we have tried to relate show, on the con 
trary, that St. Vincent had no plan mapped out in 

We may add to this declaration that the text of Mother Chaugy, on 
which is based the opinion we combat, is not to be found in the new 
edition. 

* Answer to Mgr. Marquemont; CEuvres completes de St. Francois 
de Sales (ed. Migne), vol. vi. p. 1141. 

flbid. flbid., vol. vii. p. 383. 



! 24 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

advance; and we know, also, that when the idea 
unfolded under the breath of God, it was stil. in 
opposition to the manners and ideas of. the tirne. A 
community of young girls destined to nurse the i 
at their own houses, and having ordinarily no monas- 
terv but the dwellings of the sick; their cell a hire. 
room, their chapel the parish church, their enclo 
sure the streets of the city or wards of the hospital ; 
having no grate but the fear of God, no veil but holy 
modesty*-this was an innovation, strange, bold, t. 
the eyes of some rash, at a time when women c 
secrated to God, hidden under a veil which enveloped 
the whole body, were protected from the dangers ,o 
the world by the walls of a monastery, and gratings, 
which," as Bossuet says, " seem to threaten t 

who approach. "t 

This miracle is now a fact. Christians are no longer 
surprised to meet in the street, in the garret of the 
poor in infidel countries, or on the field of battle 
the white cornette of the Daughters of St. Vincent. 
May we not say that the world itself, understanding 
nothing of penance or prayer, ignorant of the vocation 
to a cloister, admires, while it persecutes, this humble 
Daughter who heals its wounds, calms its sorrows, 
Sits tears; and becoming mother without cea, 
ing to be virgin, receives and brings up its chil, 

* Rules, chap. i. 2. 

t Bossuet, Sermon-, de Veture de Mile, de Bouillon. 

t M. Bougand, " Histoire de Ste. de Chantal. 




CHAPTER VII. 

1634 1636. 

The Rivals of Louise in Charity Mme. Goussault s Visit to the 
Hotel-Dieu Mile. Le Gras removes with her Daughters to La 
Chapelle. 

| HE COURSE of our story brings us to a 
new work, or rather a new branch of the 
charity, in the prosperity of which Mile. 
Le Gras was to be actively engaged, al 
though it was not under her immediate direction. 
Before relating the exterior circumstances in which 
this work was commenced we must give expression to 
a reflection suggested more than once by this narra 
tive. Scarcely ever did St. Vincent de Paul take the 
initiative in the works he was to accomplish. Docile 
worker in the hands of the Master, penetrated with fear 
lest he would compromise the work of God by human 
activity, he reflected and studied a long time before 
undertaking anything. Attentive to lose no inspira 
tion, he was equally afraid of advancing the time or 
going beyond the Divine Will. The thought that he 
might push the affair too far made him, as he said, 
"tremble with fright." Thus he rather waited for 

* Letter to Mile. Le Gras. 



126 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

indications from on high than tried to find them. 
Hence it often happened that Christian women, before 
becoming his co-laborers, were the Angels of God, by 
their faith or charity, to show him what God willed. 
Some of these were ladies of high rank, others of 
obscure origin ; but the weakness of the instrument 
only served better to show the skill of the artisan. 
The devotion of one woman of whom we know only 
the name, Mme. de la Chassaigne, gave occasion to 
the establishment of the Confraternities of Charity ; 
another more celebrated, Mme. de Gondy, took the 
initiative soon after, and gave Vincent the means 
necessary to found these confraternities ; and while 
the President de Herse contributed powerfully by his 
alms to establish retreats preparatory to orders, the 
widow of a young magistrate was pondering over 
the work \ve are about to describe. 

Too interesting to be forgotten here, this lady is 
all the more worthy of notice as she made the ac 
quaintance of Mile. Le Gras precisely at this time, 
either in the parlor of Saint Lazare or in the Hotel- 
Dieu, where both used to visit the sick. Her name 
was Genevieve Fayet. Her husband, President of 
Exchequer, M. Goussault,* died 1631, leaving her 
with five children. The biographers of St. Vincent 
have preserved their memory. Rich and of remark- 
ble beauty, she could still have looked forward to 

*Antoine Goussault, Lord of Souvigny, Counsellor of the King 
and his Councils, and President of the Office of Exchequer, baptized 
at St. Gervais June 17, 1584. (Bibl. Nat. MSS., 1329.) 



Mme. Goussault. 127 

happy relations with the world ; but she renounced 
it to devote herself generously to the poor, especially 
the sick; and Collet confirms what we say, while he 
testifies to her eminent charity. 

Both ladies had remained unknown to the outside 
world, and even their own estimate of their worth 
was much below the truth ; which is plainly proved 
by documents afterwards brought to light. The 
assistance rendered to the Confraternity of Charity by 
Mme. Goussault, as well in Paris as in the neighbor 
ing country, soon revealed her virtue and rare intelli 
gence for good. This was especially evident in the 
visits made with Mile. Le Gras with whom Vincent 
associated her. On one of these visits she wrote* to 
St. Vincent from Angers, April 16, 1633, and her 

*This precious document, without signature, was found in the 
Library St. Genevieve amongst a voluminous collection of letters, 
most of them addressed to P. Faure, reformer of the Abbey. It was 
published 1854, in the Revue de V Anjou, and attributed to Mile. Le 
Gras; reproduced as emanating from her by Maynard in his history 
of St. Vincent de Paul. This opinion seems scarcely justified. We 
cannot recognize in this letter the style or the habits of Mile. Le 
Gras. She never travelled with lackeys or fermiers a cheval, and 
never spoke to her servants on the way, for the good reason that she 
never had any. Moreover, her writing was irregular and not so plain. 
The writing in this is large, firm, and masterly, so to speak. Everything 
inclines us to believe this the letter of Mme. Goussault. Moreover, 
by happy chance a specimen of her writing more lengthy than this, 
from the National Library, has been found in an autograph sent from 
China to Paris to help the publication of St. Vincent s letters. An 
examination and comparison of the two proves the writing of that 
published in the Revue de V Anjou to be without doubt that of Mme. 
Goussault. 



128 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

letter gives us an insight into Mme. Goussault, who 
is there portrayed in charming simplicity, relating 
her thoughts and exercises while on her journey ; " the 
prayer which she made with her companions, the chant 
ing of litanies, of the Alleluia and other hymns, so 
joyously that the lackey* who followed them on horse 
back was quite charmed." In short, her prayer inter 
mingled with sweet recreations; and works of zeal 
might make us suppose her "another Mme.d Acarie." 
At Angerville she teaches the sign of the cross to 
little children, and to grown-up persons employed in 
weaving bunting, whose ignorance of that sacred sign 
moved her to pity. At Arthenay she taught cate 
chism even inside the church. Arriving at Angers, 
she is received with honor and, as she says herself, 
treated like a grandee. The magistrates and chief 
men of the place called on her, and for two days she 
had no free time except the hour of Mass. After 
wards she visited the prisons, set free the poor salt- 
smugglers, and instructed the women and children of 
the place, who appeared to her very much in want of 
instruction. The enthusiasm enkindled by her is 
indescribable. A priest who listened to her said he 
would think himself happy to spend and finish his 
life near her, were it only to listen to the words com 
ing from her mouth ; and among hundreds who were 
listening to her, one exclaimed, u It is plain that you 
love the poor and are in the joy of your heart with 

* Mme. de G. possessed a property near Bourgneuf , in Anjou. 



Mme. Goussault and the Hotel-Dieu. 129 

them. You are twice as beautiful when speaking- to 
them!" This success astonishes her; she artlessly 
seeks the cause, and finds it in the simplicity of her 
manner. In short, she goes to the parishes, where she 
makes no reform, and condescends to everything not 
sinful even to play backgammon for an hour one 
day.* However she managed, she so gained all hearts 
that it was said " if she remained one year at Angers 
she would convert the whole village." But the hum 
ble woman, insensible to praise, thought only of the 
poor, particularly the poor sick in the hospital. In 
her conduct towards the sick we see the sentiments 
expressed in her letter and the justification of our 
opinion concerning it. 

From Etrechy, her first halting-place, to Angers, 
the term of her journey, her first care on arriving was 
always to inform herself of the Hotel-Dieu, and to go 
there whatever the distance from her stopping-place. 
It seemed as if her only intention on the journey was 
to visit the hospices of the province and study the 
treatment of the poor at those places. A fact which 
supports this supposition is that a few months after 
her return she made a proposition to St. Vincent 
which related to the sick of the Hotel-Dieu in Paris. 

Mile. Le Gras had for some time been anxious to 

* Her only remorse was refusing to have her picture taken as was 
the custom of ladies in the city even, the little bourgeoises, whose 
portraits were placed on the tombstones. "It is perhaps a false 
humility not to wish to appear so vain, and there would be more 
virtue in greater condescension." 



130 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

ameliorate their condition, and had already made a 
communication to St. Vincent on the subject ; but 
this wish, common to several souls at that time, was 
given a precise form by Mme. Goussault. 

This was to extend to the sick of the Hotel-Dieu 
the charity exercised towards the poor of the parishes. 
This would occasion the expenditure of great alms. 
The Hotel-Dieu, which had just been enlarged by a 
hall to extend to the river,* received at that time 
from a thousand to twelve hundred sick. From 
twenty to twenty-five thousand persons passed 
through it every year. What a field for charity! 
Nevertheless St. Vincent, with his usual reserve, 
excused himself. He did not wish, he said, to en 
croach on a domain which was not his own ; neither 
had he the power or authority to reform the abuses 
which must have glided into that establishment. 
Mme. Goussault, seeing that she obtained nothing 
from Vincent, would not relinquish her design, but 
went to the archbishop of Paris, whose authority 
could remove all obstacles. This essay was more 
fortunate ; Mgr. de Gondy was easily persuaded, 
and sent to St. Vincent saying that he would be 
most happy to see a society of ladies formed for the 
express purpose of attending to the sick of the Hotel- 
Dieu. In this advice from the prelate the Saint rec 
ognized the will of God, and yielded the point. 

He then permitted Mme. Goussault to assem- 

* Piganiole de la Force, t. i. p. 401. This addition made twenty 
halls in the Holel-Dieu. 



Mme. Goussault and the Hdtel-Dicu. 1 3 1 

ble in her house, Rue Roi-de-Sicile,* some pious 
women whom he consented to preside over, and 
whose names he has himself preserved to us. " The 
assembly took place yesterday at Mme. Goussault s," 
wrote St. Vincent the following day to Mile. Le 
Gras, who was not able to be present. " Mines, de 
Villesavin,f de Bailleul^ du Mecq, Sainctot, and 
Pollalion[ were present." The Saint commenced by 
laying out the plan of the projected work. The prop 
osition to visit the sick regularly was agreed on in 
theory ; but as to the practical part, the attendance 
was so small at this first meeting that nothing could 
be decided upon. They resolved to pray and receive 
Holy Communion that God would give them light, 
to endeavor to make proselytes amongst their 
friends, and agreed on the necessity of soliciting 
forthwith the aid of Mile. Le Gras and her Daugh- 

* Rue Roi-de-Sicile exists partly at present, and is between Rue 
Rivoli and Rue Francs-Bourgeois. 

f Mme. Villesavin, widow of Phelippeaux, Lord of Villesavin, was 
long acquainted with Mile. Le Gras. This we find by a letter from 
Mgr. Camus. She occupied two beautiful mansions on the Place Roy- 
ale where she entertained the highest society. She was called, from 
her ceremonious manner, the most humble servant of the human race. 

\ Mme. de Bailleul, wife of the Superintendent of Finance of that 
name. 

Mme. de Sainctot, maiden name Dalibray, wife of the Treasurer 
of France. She received in her house the Pascal family, and educa 
ted with her own daughters the celebrated Jacqueline. Voiture dedi 
cated to her his translation of " Roland furieux." 

I St. Vincent and Mgr. Camus wrote always Poullalion instead 
of Foliation. We have adopted the latter orthography, used formerly 
by the author of her Life. 



1 3 2 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

ters. They judged that four Sisters would be neces 
sary, and St. Vincent notified Louise immediately, 
adding, " Your work is growing ; strengthen yourself, 
then, as much as you can." 

On the following Monday the ladies met again. 
This time their number was six,* among whom were 
Mme. Seguier,f wife of the Chancellor, Mme. de 
Traversay,J the good and saintly Mme. Fouquet, 
and Mile. Le Gras. The visiting of the hospital had 
been already decided upon. The question now was to 
organize. Mme. Goussault was placed at the head 
of the work. She would take no other title than Ser 
vant.! Mile. Viole T was named as her assistant, and 

* Recueil manuscrit de diverses pieces appartenant a la conduite et 
direction des dames de la Charite de Paris. (Arch, de la Mission.) 

t Elizabeth d Aligre, wife of Pierre Seguier, who was made Keeper 
of the Seals in 16.33. 

J Anne Petau, widow of M. Regnauld, Lord of Traversay, Coun 
sellor in the Parliament of Paris. She lived in Rue Saint-Martin 
with President Meliand, her brother. She founded, in 1635, the mon 
astery of the Conception, Rue Saint-Honore, and was engaged with 
the Daughters of the Cross after the death of their foundress, Mme. de 
Villeneuve. 

Marie Mauprou, mother of the celebrated Superintendent of Fi 
nance; a heroine, who, on hearing of the disgrace of her son, exclaimed, 
" Thank God! I asked God for the salvation of my son. This is the 
way to it." Her five daughters entered the Visitation. Mme. Fou- 
quet had taste and a special aptitude for tending the sick, and com 
posed a collection of medical receipts. 

The Superiors of the H6tel-Dieu, in their commencement, took 
the name of Servant from the good Mme. Goussault. (Conference de 
Saint Vincent aux Filles de la Charite, June 20, 1642.) 

IT Mile. Viole busied herself in the work of the hospital, and filled 



The Daughters of Charity at the H6tel-Dieu. 133 

Mme. Pollalion, though busy with the foundation of 
the Daughters of Providence in the village of Cha- 
ronne, consented to take the office of secretary. St. 
Vincent, who could not refuse the directorship, traced 
out for them their rule of conduct. 

His first recommendation was discretion in regard 
to the religious already established in the house. The 
situation was a delicate one. There were nearly 
one hundred and thirty Augustinians who were very 
regular ; and if their Superior, Mother of the Holy 
Name, twenty years in charge, could not give each 
sick person a bed, she had not been idle, for the 
beds, food, and medicines were better than formerly. 
Not to wound the just sensitiveness of Mother and 
Daughters, St. Vincent invoked the assistance of 
our Lord, the true Father of the poor, through the 
intercession of the Blessed Virgin and St. Louis, 
founder of the house ; he then advised the ladies to 
present themselves to the religious and ask, as a favor, 
to be allowed to assist them in serving the sick, also 
to look upon them as the true mistresses of the house 
and spouses of Jesus Christ. 

As to the poor, whose consolation and instruction 
is the end of the work, the ladies should treat them 
with meekness and humility, and not make them sad 
by any show of riches or luxury, but approach them 
simply and modestly dressed. " In speaking to them 

the office of assistant or treasurer until her death, April 4, 1678. 
" How consoled and edified I am by that good young lady!" exclaimed 
St. Vincent. She lived in Rue de la Harpe. 



134 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

avoid appearing learned, and always have a little 
book in your hand so as not to seem as if preaching." 
(Little books of Christian virtue could be printed on 
purpose.) "Always make use of such formulas as 
I was taught . . . I was advised . . . I was taught 
to make my confession this way/ etc. Man is so con 
stituted that good done the body often opens the 
way to the heart. This you must never forget." 

Mme. Goussault made a new proposition on this 
subject. She had remarked that the sick were 
confined to two meals per day dinner and supper, 
without anything between for want of having 
nutriment adapted to their condition. She had re 
marked this with regret, the more so as the senti 
ment of Christian equality was strongly impressed 
on her mind. She therefore suggested to hire a 
room near the Hotel-Dieu in which the Daughters 
of Charity could prepare a collation and make jel 
lies and other delicacies for the sick. They could 
accompany the ladies afterwards and help them to 
distribute the good things. Every one agreed to 
this proposal, and they separated, promising to act 
without delay. 

The plan was drawn up, and the work commenced 
under the happiest auspices. Gained over by the 
meek, deferential bearing of the ladies, the Augus- 
tinian religious left them free to go through the apart 
ments, and even seconded all their plans. Mile. Le 
Gras was authorized by them to bring four of her 
Daughters, Sisters Genevieve, Jacqueline, Germaine, 



The Daughters of Charity at the Hotel-Dieu. 135 

and Nicole. She labored herself at this new work 
with so much zeal that St. Vincent again obliged 
her to moderate. He wrote: " To be always at the 
Hotel-Dieu is not expedient ; to go at times will be 
sufficient. Do not fear to undertake too much in 
doing what is presented to you ; but fear to under 
take more than God will give you the means to ac 
complish. I thank our Lord for the great grace of 
generosity in His service which He has given to your 
Daughters." 

The generosity of these Daughters was but a reflec 
tion from that of the ladies. This work, which St. Vin 
cent considered the same as the charity in the par 
ishes,* was not organized more than a month when the 
society numbered from one hundred to one hun 
dred and twenty members. Every afternoon, about 
one o clock, a crowd of noble ladies, among them prin 
cesses and duchesses, assembled at the Hotel-Dieu, 
and after adoring the Blessed Sacrament, separated 
in groups of four to go through the wards. Each one, 
wearing a white apron and accompanied by a Sister of 
Charity, went from bed to bed distributing jellies, bis 
cuit, or broth; and afterward remained, as Mile. Le 



" May it please God," he wrote to one of his missionaries, July 23, 
1634 (M. Coudray in Rome), "that you obtain indulgences for the 
Confreries of Charity, which by the grace of God do such wonders. 
We have them established in several of our parishes in Paris, and 
one is composed of one hundred or one hundred and twenty ladies of 
rank, who come every day and help to nurse eight or nine hundred 
sick, working in groups of four." 



136 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Gras reported, sitting by the sick for hours (sometimes 
at the risk of their life); talking to them, teaching them 
to examine their conscience, to prepare for general 
confession, with regret for the past and purpose of 
amendment. This preparation complete, the ladies 
called the chaplain to finish their work as, thanks to 
the charity and liberality of the ladies, there were 
chaplains attached to the hospital. Thus, in the 
course of the first year, they prepared more than 
seven hundred and sixty conversions Lutherans, 
Calvinists, even Turks wounded in sea-fights. The 
expense was great ; but Mile. Le Gras had opened a 
source of revenue for them from the confectionery, 
jellies, etc., made by the Daughters of Charity over 
and above what they made for the sick and which 
was sold in Paris for the benefit of the Hotel-Dieu. 
Without official title, Mile. Le Gras was, we might 
say, not only the mainspring of the work by the ser 
vices of every kind which she rendered, but also a 
type for imitation to her associates by the indefatiga 
ble zeal with which she labored. 

In calling on Louise to make a part of the com 
pany for the Hotel-Dieu, Vincent only thought of 
giving the benefit of her experience to the ladies, 
who were, of course, only novices in the exercise 
of charity ; but the helps he afforded them had 
another result for herself not less beneficial, that 
of putting her in relationship with ladies of high 
rank, rich and influential, who could help her in 
the provinces by establishing near their estates the 



Christian Women of the i *]th Century. 137 

first houses of the Daughters of Charity. It will 
be shown afterward how greatly this concurred to 
the support of the work; for the present we wish 
to introduce, by some traits of character, the pious 
phalanx of ladies around Mme. Goussault and Mile. 
Le Gras. The political or literary ladies of the sev 
enteenth century have had their biographers, often 
their panegyrists ; how deplorable that the great 
Christian women of this religious movement should 
be, for the most part, ignored and no writer found 
to draw their names from oblivion ! 

To mention only the group having the Hotel- 
Dieu for centre. The ladies who composed it ex 
tended their charity to nearly all the works of 
St. Vincent de Paul. They founded with him the 
General Hospital and Foundling Asylum. They 
supported missions in France, Italy, the British 
Isles, Poland, Germany, and beyond the seas. They 
contributed to the redemption of captives in Bar- 
bary, and bestowed large alms in provinces laid 
waste by war Lorraine, Picardy, and Champagne. 
Mile, le Gras, too modest to mention her own part 
in this concert of devotion, has left us, in a few lines, 
a picture of the good effected under her own obser 
vation. She writes : " It is very evident in this cen 
tury that Divine Providence makes use of our sex to 
show that ours alone helps the people in affliction. 
The Spirit of God who presides over the assemblies of 
the ladies makes them serve the poor so charitably and 
so munificently that Paris is an example and a sub- 



138 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

ject of admiration for the whole kingdom. Not only 
France, but almost the whole habitable world, has 
reaped the fruit of their good works. Thanks to them 
for countless souls who now enjoy the Beatific Vision 
and honor God in heaven ! The ladies themselves 
have entered on the road of sanctity, in recompense 
for their charity. If all that they have done could 
be enumerated, the truth of what I write would be 
seen." 

It would be a pleasure to follow up the traces of 
each one ; but not wishing to overstep the natural 
limits of our subject, we must confine ourselves to a 
glance at those only who figure conspicuously. 

The result of the first two meetings is known to the 
reader. But to the ten ladies who founded the work 
which still exists, viz: that of visiting the hospital, 
almost a hundred others, had been added " whose 
names," said St. Vincent, " God has inscribed in 
the Book of Life." We shall first mention three 
of the spiritual daughters of St. Francis de Sales, 
who seemed to have imbibed some of his spirit. 
The first of these was Charlotte de Ligny, widow 
of the President de Herse, a woman of eminent piety 
" incapable of recoil from any good work,"* dear as 
his own soul to the bishop of Geneva. f She was 

* Collet, "Vie de Saint Vincent de Paul," t. ii. p. 343. 

f See a charming letter from St. Francis de Sales to the Presi- 
dente de Herse, dated from Annecy, July 7, i6[6. La Presidente de 
Herse lived in Rue Pavee. She survived St. Vincent and Mile. Le 
Gras two years only. 



Christian Women of t lie i^th Century. 139 

the mainstay of the Confraternity at Saint-Sulpice, 
and one of Mile. Le Gras dearest co-laborers. 

Not less fervent in good works was Marie 1 Huil- 
lier, widow of Claude de Villeneuve, Maitre des 
requctes ordinaires de Vhdtel du rot. St. Francis de 
Sales had introduced her to Mme. de Chantal as 
"the most sincere and best heart he knew," and 
her acquaintance with Mgr. Camus had made her 
intimate for a long- time with Mile, le Gras. She 
visited the poor at St. Paul s before she founded 
the first house of the Daughters of the Cross. This 
was at Vaugirard (August 4, 1641). 

Not having a growing community to provide for 
like Mme. de Villeneuve, Marie des Landes could 
devote herself more to the work of the hospital 
where she was one day to be Superioress. She was 
the wife of Chretien de Lamoignon, President a 
morticr for the Parliament of Paris. In the opinion 
of St. Francis de Sales she was " one of the holi 
est women of his time." He could speak of her 
thus, as we read in his unpublished * works, because 
she had been a long time under his direction. And 
the author adds : " She assisted every day at all the 
Offices, commencing the day by hearing matins at 
four o clock in summer, and five o clock in winter." 
One day when she fainted it was perceived that she 
wore a hair-cloth, and an iron chain with points so 
sharp that she was wounded in several places. Her 

" Vie de Mile, de Lamoignon," par le P. d Orleans. 



140 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

zeal for visiting the sick found an echo in the heart 
of her two daughters, who had never known any 
thing "of childhood but its docility, or of youth 
but appearance and years." The older, Anne, mar 
ried a master of supplies, M. de Nesmond ; the 
younger never married, the better to devote herself 
to works of mercy. The virtuous mother, whose 
charity had given her the title of " Mere des Pau- 
vres," f rejoiced to have a daughter who could assist 
the poor with and after her. Their apartments were 
always full of people, who were never refused. Money, 
linen, clothing, seemed common property with the 
family and the poor who were in need. It was not 
rare for the family to have nothing to eat at meal 
time; the mother and daughter had given it all away. 
They made out as best they could ; and what is still 
more wonderful is that neither father nor son ever 
found fault, contenting themselves with some little 
jest at the expense of those who were thus prodigal. 
The blessed name of Mme. and Mile. Lamoignon will 
often appear on these pages. 

Perhaps the most illustrious among these generous 
women walking with such zeal in the path of perfec 
tion, and the one who most closely copied Mile. Le 
Gras, was Madame de Combalet, better known in his 
tory as the Duchess of Aiguillon. Being left a widow 

* "Vie de Mile, de Lamoignon." 

f When St. Vincent visited Mile, de Lamoignon, it was said 
" There goes the Father of the poor to visit their Mother." She then 
lived in Harley Court (now called Rue de Harlay). 



Christian Women of the \*]th Century. 141 

at the age of eighteen, she divided her time between 
the Court and Carmel. She was obliged by her rank 
and by the friendship of two queens to live at the 
Court which she loved not, and would have gladly 
buried herself in Carmel had not the authority of 
Cardinal Richelieu, her uncle, closed its gates against 
her. She often visited there, however" hastening 
to it with the wings of the dove." ; Her sole occu 
pation was to distribute her wealth between the mis 
sions, the hospital, and the prisons.f When, toward 
1636, the Confraternity of Charity was established 
at Saint-Sulpice, she was one of the most active as 
sociates of that parish, which counted several persons 
of admirable generosity. We shall only name here 
the Duchess of Liancourt, a long time the intimate 
friend of Mile. Le Gras, and of whom we shall speak 
more at length; the Countess of Lomenie de Brienne,^: 
wife of the Secretary of State, who established the 
Daughters of Charity at her house in Champagne; 
and Mile, de L Etang, who founded a house for 
orphans, and whom St. Vincent sent to Louise to 
learn from her the difficult science of governing 
souls. 



* Flechier, " Oraison funebre de la Duchesse d Aiguillon." 

f See, for details, " La Duchesse d Aiguillon," par. M. Bonneau- 
Avenant. Paris: Didier. 1879. 

\ Mme. de Brienne lived in Rue des Saints Peres. 

To these illustrious ladies of the parish of Saint-Sulpice we shall 
add, without too much detail, some others who seemed to have relations 
less direct with Louise, but whose names will serve to show what were 



142 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

If the ladies just mentioned assisted Mile. Le Gras 
in her mission of providence, she in her turn had 
given them back in spiritual charity what she had 
received. This is an exchange quite common in the 
lives of the saints. Not only did she exercise toward 
them the silent apostleship of example, but she often 
practised that of counsel in the retreats which seve 
ral of the ladies made in her house and under her di 
rection. 

Very soon the little lodging in Rue St. Victor was 

the resources of the Confraternity of Charity in this quarter. These 
are: 

First, the Princess of Conde, mother of the great Conde and of 
Madame de Longueville, who by her charity had merited from the 
Carmelites the title of foundress and the right to live in an apart 
ment of the convent. After the death of her husband she followed a 
very perfect rule of life drawn up for her by M. Olier, and left by her 
will 10,000 livres for the construction of the new church of Saint- 
Sulpice (1650). 

Mme. de Rantzau, widow of the Marshal of that name, died 
1666, in the convent of the Annunciates which she had founded at 
Hildesheim. She had been a Lutheran and had studied her theology 
from a Protestant standpoint. After zealous study she was convinced 
of the truth of Catholicity, but resisted for two years; at length she 
became a Catholic, converted her husband and a number of heretics. 

Mme. Leschassier, devoted to the service of the sick; also her 
daughter, who founded a home for orphans, Rue du Vieux Colom- 
bier, in the house where the Novitiate of the Daughters of Charity was 
established at the commencement of our century. 

The Marchioness of Palaiseau, one of the ladies of the Hotel-Dieu, 
who gave her bed, worth 20,000 livres, to make a canopy for the ex 
position of the Blessed Sacrament at Saint-Sulpice. This she did in 
expiation of a sacrilege committed in that church in 1648. The Baro 
ness of Neuvillette, in the same spirit of reparation, condemned herself 



Mile. Le Gras returns to Liancourt. 143 

not large enough, and Louise, often called away to 
the provinces, was obliged to be absent. In the 
course of the year 1635 she went to Attichy, on the 
invitation of her cousin, and to Beauvais,* where dif 
ficulties had arisen ; the priests, wanting to rule the 
Confraternity and the bishop, who wished to attach 
to it the Rosary of the Dominicans, opposing it, 
and the ladies, whose zeal had abated. She returned 
at this time to Liancourt, which she had visited 
several years before, and where the ladies offered 
her a place for two Sisters f of Charity, whose duty 

to cat only black bread and drink only water. She died in great re 
nown for virtue, 1657. 

Claude de Seve, widow of M. Tronson and mother of the future Su 
perior of Saint-Sulpice, directed successively by Father Condren 
whose letter to her on the dispositions for Holy Communion, dated 
Aug. 5, 1630, is preserved to this day at Saint-Sulpice and M. Olier, 
who, seeing her gifted with rare dispositions for virtue, took particular 
care in her perfection. She founded, with Mme. de Saujon, a house 
of retreats for ladies of the world. 

Finally, the Marchioness de Fenelon, Catherine de Monbernon, 
who died in the odor of sanctity, 1646. "Our dear daughter, Mme. 
de Fenelon," wrote M. Olier, "is at present honored as a saint by 
a wonderful concourse of persons who visit her corpse, so strong is 
the impression which true piety makes on the heart." 

We might name many more of these ladies. 

*She stopped with a good charitable hostess, Mme. de Villegoublin, 
whom Providence had brought to Beauvais to do good. (Lettre de 
St. Vincent a Mile. Le Gras, 21 juillet 1635.) 

f Jeanne de Schomberg, Duchesse de Liancourt, born 1600, died 
1674, passed a great part of the year at Liancourt, which she had 
founded and embellished with royal magnificence. She composed a 
treatise for her granddaughter on the occasion of her marriage 



144 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

would be to prepare medicine for the sick of the vil 
lage and neighborhood, whom they were to visit 
twice a week. 

The Duchess of Liancourt, then in the full bloom 
of youth, was a woman of rare virtue and intel 
ligence. She professed for Louise an affection which 
the latter reciprocated \vith all fervor, offering her 
services in case of sickness " an offering which the 
Duchess would never accept, being solicitous on 
her part for the health of her friend." Later on she 
received her into her house to make a retreat. A 
day was to come when this holy friendship would be 
forever destroyed. A stranger to the ideas of Port- 
Royal, the Duchess nevertheless received the visits 
of the scholars of that sect, and consented to hold a 
controversial correspondence with them. This she 
told to Mile. Le Gras. " They wanted to gain her," 
writes Mile. Le Gras to one of her Daughters, " and 
they commenced by writing to her, and she showed me 
her answer. It is incredible how she let herself be 
caught ; she feared it so much. As for me, I praise 
the goodness of God in keeping me out of the snare 
in which I might have been caught from the great 
sympathy there was between us." 

which shows great elevation of thought. It was styled " Reglement 
donne par un dame de haute qualiteaN., sa petite-fille." It was 
printed for the first time in 1698, and republished in 1881 with a no 
tice by the Marchioness de Forbin d Oppede. In the Archives of the 
Mission is an affectionate letter from her to Mile. Le Gras, whom she 
styles her "dear friend." 



The Work of the Confraternity Increases 145 

The Duchess yielded, and, like Eve, drew her hus 
band after her. Their intercourse with Father Des- 
mares, her frequent visits to Port-Royal-des-Champs, 
where they constructed a hermitage, and the contro 
versy they occasioned, raised a wall of separation, 
little by little, between Louise and the lady of Lian- 
court, who still preserved her friendly manner, but 
studiously avoided all religious conversation. " I 
have lost her friendship," said Louise, " but God be 
praised ! How dangerous it is to wish to know more 
than God has taught us !" 

The absence of Mile. Le Gras did not .destroy the 
little community growing up around her,-" which 
Mme. Pollalion took care to watch over. Three 
girls from Colombes, presented by Sister Jeanne 
of St. Beunet s parish, three country girls from 
Argenteuil, and a lace-maker from Liancourt, who 
could, if need were, teach the sick women her trade, 
had filled the void made in the little flock from 
which one had gone away without giving any rea 
son, and another had died in tfee exercise of that vir 
tue in which no one can be lost charity. f 

The labors of those who remained faithful daily 
increased from all sides. Distant cities, Sedan for 
instance, at the foot of the Ardennes, were petition 
ing for Daughters, and in Paris the Confraternity was 

* "Mme. Pollalion can sometimes see your Daughters," wrote St. 
Vincent to Mile. Le Gras. (Letter 48.) "Mme Pollalion hopes to 
remain at your house to-night." (Letter 49.) 

f Letter 81. 



146 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

established in several new parishes, such as St. Lau 
rence, where Louise remained several days to ar 
range matters, St. Germaine 1 Auxerrois, and St. Eti- 
enne.* In some of the confraternities the ladies had 
fallen off, and the charge of the poor weighed heavi 
ly on the Daughters. Thus, Sister Marguerite f of 
St. Paul, her burden becoming heavier and heavier, 
asked for a reinforcement of companions. 

But if it were evident that help was needed for 
the growing proportions of the work, it was also 
clear that a locality should be chosen better suited to 
their purpose. 

The little house which up to this time had shel 
tered the family of Daughters was so scant that for 
want of a separate room for the sick they were 
obliged to hasten the burial of a Sister whose loss 
they were mourning. Besides, being on the left bank 
of the Seine, they were at a distance from the priory 
of St. Lazarus, which had become, by a pious substitu 
tion of work, the seat of the Mission and the ordinary 
residence of St. Vincent de Paul.J Hence this dis- 

* December 1636. 

f It is probably the same Sister Marguerite who had this touching 
colloquy with the Baron de Renty, one of the holiest men of his 
time. Meeting her on the stairs going to the sick he said, " Whom 
do you seek, Sister?" "Jesus Christ, sir." "And I also, Sister," 
said he; and from that day the gentleman wished to be associated in 
all the good works of the Daughters of Charity. (" Vie de N. de 
Renty," par St. Jure. Paris: Rue St. Jacques, chez Piere Le Petit 
& la croix d or. 1633.) 

JThe old lazar-house of St. Lazarus, on the road from Paris to St. 



A New House is Needed. 147 

tance, to which we owe in part the correspondence of 
Mile. Le Gras and St. Vincent,* so precious for our 
history, was an obstacle to the frequent communica 
tion which was necessary; for although they had 
agreed to see each other only as circumstances re 
quired, they often had need, one of counsel, the other 
of service. A change of residence was therefore re 
solved upon. 

Louise desired to purchase a house ; but St. Vin 
cent, without disapproving of her plan, inclined to 
ward a simple location, more easy, as he said, "to 
make and unmake, and more conformed to the ex- 
Denis, had been from the sixteenth century a home of canons regular. 
In 1631 the Prior, Adrien le Bon, offered to St. Vincent, for the mis 
sionaries, his benefice, to which considerable revenue was attached. 
The Saint at first refused, but at last accepted. The contract was 
made January 7, 1632. Five days after, the work was raised to the 
. rank of a congregation by Urban VIII., under the name of Priest 
of the Mission. The house of St. Lazarus belonged no more to the 
Sons of St. Vincent, who had to leave it, September 1792. The 
buildings, still in part existing, serve as a prison. St. Vincent s 
room is still preserved, converted into a chapel. The site of the vast 
enclosure is occupied by the church of St. Vincent de Paul, the rail 
road station north, and streets adjoining. 

* See, in a collection recently published by a priest of the Mission, 
the letters of St. Vincent to Mile. Le Gras. Those of Mile, to St. 
Vincent are unpublished. Many are unfortunately lost, owing to the 
humility of the Saint, who hastened to destroy all that could redound 
to his praise. The burning of St. Lazarus in 1789 made away with a 
great number, for there remain scarcely two dated between 1625 and 
1636 and four between 1636 and 1643; fourteen others come in the 
four following years, from 1643 to 1646, and ninety-six during the 
last fourteen years of their life. About forty are without date. 



148 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

ample of Jesus Christ, who probably never had a 
house of His own in this world." He looked at a 
house in the Faubourg St. Martin, but there was not 
room enough in it ; another, for forty or fifty thou 
sand livres, proposed by Mme. Goussault, appeared 
to him " too handsome for po.or Daughters;" and a 
third was too far from the church. A little farm, pro 
vided with stable and granary in country style, was 
offered, but it was too far from the centre of their 
labors ; but a house " at La Chapelle, a village near 
this, going to St. Denis," wrote St. Vincent, -seemed 
to unite the principal advantages they sought ; viz., 
the neighborhood of St. Lazarus, clear air from the 
fields, life in the country among the good people 
whose ways of living, habits, and employments the 
Daughters were already accustomed to" and he 
might add, in the midst of souvenirs left by another 
girl of the fields, St. Genevieve, whom he would one 
day give them for a model* 

Mile. Le Gras and the Superior of the Hotel-Dieu, 
whom she made it a duty to consult * in all her con 
cerns, favored this proposition, and the purchase was 
decided upon. The contract was signed by Mme. 
Goussault and published, according to usage, the 

* Conference of January 25, 1643. There had been formerly at La 
Chapelle a hospice where St. Genevieve came from Saturday night to 
Sunday with her companions to celebrate the next day at the tomb 
f St. Denis. The parish was small-a hundred houses-extended 
little on the side of Paris. St. Laurent was near enough. (Lebceuf, 
Histoire de Diocese de Paris.) 
f Letter of St. Vincent. 



Removal to La CJiapclle. 149 



next Sunday at the sermon,* and in May 
Louise, leaving some of her Daughters to take care 
of the little house in the Faubourg- St. Victor until 
rented again, came to install herself with those 
named by St. Vincent in La Chapelle. 

* Letter 124. f Gobillon, p. 74. 




CHAPTER VIII. 

1636 1640. 

New Labors undertaken at La Chapelle Catechism Ladies Re 
treatsThe Spanish Army in Picardy Mile. Le Gras gives Asylum 
to the Fugitives She sends two of her Daughters to Richelieu 
Opening of the Foundling Asylum Death of Mme. Goussault 
Voyage to Angers The first Hospital attended by the Daughters of 
Charity. 

MONG the detached notes collected by 
pious hands after the death of Mile. Le 
Gras we find a paper on which is writ 
ten several thoughts on abandonment to 
the will of God, and at the end these lines : " To go 
to a new lodging with the design of there honoring 
Divine Providence who conducts us, and in the dis 
position of doing there all that the same Providence 
will permit. To honor by this change of residence 
that of Jesus and the Holy Virgin from Bethlehem 
to Egypt and thence to other places not wishing 
more than they to have a duelling-place on 
earth." 

Such were the dispositions of Louise in taking 
possession of La Chapelle-Saint-Denis. To draw 
the blessing of God on this new establishment, 
she commenced by spending some days in complete 
retreat. This exercise was already, as we know, 
quite familiar to her ; but to judge from a letter of 



Mile. Le Gras goes into a Retreat. 151 

St. Vincent, she made a general review of her con 
science beforehand, and wished to give to this re 
treat a character of unusual solemnity, as being a 
point of departure for higher and more perfect ways. 
" Oh, what a tree you have cultivated in the garden 
of God, since it has produced such fruits !" the Saint 
wrote* to her, probably in this same retreat ;f and 
continuing the simile, he complacently adds, in the 
words of Scripture : " May you ever be a beautiful 
tree producing the fruits of love !" 

It is not permitted us to penetrate farther into the 
secrets of her soul, or admire the hidden treasures 
whose enjoyment God had reserved to herself; yet 
we may know some of the exercises in which she 
spent these hours of solitude. For six days she re 
tired, and held no communication with externs ex 
cept what was unavoidable, and that was dispatched 
as briefly as possible. She adopted for the subject 
of her prayer the order of the " Introduction to a 
Devout Life" of the bishop of Geneva ; she read the 
New Testament, and Gerson on the lives of holy 
widows, to whom she had special devotion. She wrote 
to St. Vincent every day that she did not see him, to 
give him a summary of what passed within her soul 
and her disposition of mind and body. The rest of 
her time she spent in looking over the past years and 
revolving the future that was likely to be hers. It 
was recommended to her above all " not to be eager 

* Lettre 132, adressee a " Mile. Le Gras, a La Chapelle." f Ibid. 



1 5 2 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

or hurried, to go quietly, representing to herself 
what the good bishop would do, our blessed Father" 
as St. Vincent always called him. 

She was not permitted to burden herself with rules 
and practices, but to confirm herself in those she had 
already undertaken. " She must avoid everything 
that would lead her out of the simple way to which 
she was called, and finish the exercises by a concise 
confession, remembering that hers were generally a 
little too long." * 

Mile. Le Gras would have prolonged this retreat 
if she had not been afraid "to tempt God." f She 
gathered from it a renewal of strength and still 
greater courage ; and labored, from the moment she 
left her retreat, to shed around her the graces she 
had received. From this time she called together 
the women and young girls of the village, on Sun 
days and festivals, to teach them the Catechism ; she 
instructed the children who had attended the com 
mon school: but, always observing justice in her 
charity, she gave the school teacher a sum equivalent 
to what she had deprived him of. At length, wishing 
that some of the Ladies of Charity could participate 
in the happiness she tasted in retreat, she set apart 
two rooms of her house for such of them as would 
not be afraid to pass some days in a village house 
partaking of the simple, poor life practised there. 
One of the ladies of the Hotel-Dieu came, bringing 

* Lettre 130. t Ibid. 



Ladies Retreats. 153 

with her Mile. Lamy,* to put themselves humbly 
under the direction of Louise, who, making- use of the 
counsels of St. Vincent, gave them her rule of re 
treat and directed them in their choice of reading 
matter and the subject of prayer. Others for retreat 
soon followed. Mile. d Atry, related by her mother 
to the Marillac family ; an actress, decided to 
change her life ; and a young girl preparing to be 
married all in turn, not to mention others, placed 
themselves under the direction of Louise. With 
what tact and discretion she accepted this new work, 
and what influence she exerted over these souls, we 
may learn from the fragments of her letters, too rare, 
alas ! f Louise thus made, with ladies of the world, 
an apprenticeship of the delicate and important office 
she was afterwards to fill in regard to her own Daugh 
ters. These latter, from time to time, were making 
trial of the kind of exercises, which had manifested 

* Mile. Lamy, wife of the Director of the Hospital Quinze-Vingts, 
who afterwards directed the General Hospital. 

f One of these letters of Mile. Le Gras to an unknown lady is par 
ticularly deserving of mention. It is without date. In it she defines 
perfection: " A loving sweet union of the will with that of God. The 
will," she continues, " is that which God has placed within our power, 
what He looks for with the action that springs therefrom. Make the 
least possible reflection, and live in innocent simplicity and familiarity 
with God. This is the advice which your humility has required from 
my poverty, and which I transmit quite simply as our Saviour dic 
tates." Her elevated yet practical direction is not less visible in a 
writing found while these pages were being printed; it is a rule of 
life adopted by a lady at the close of a retreat, and bears date Novem 
ber 17, 1636. 



154 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

the extraordinary talent of their Mother in the gov 
ernment of souls. 

Exterior events happened, however, which troubled 
the peace of the little community. It was the com 
mencement of the epoch called by historians the 
French period of the Thirty Years War. The cam 
paign was opened by the conquerors, when sud 
denly, in the early part of July 1636, the Spanish 
army, commanded by the terrible Jean de Werth, 
and augmented by adventurers from Poland, Croatia, 
and Hungary, penetrated into Picardy, marking their 
passage by pillage and ruin. Terror spread rapidly, 
especially at the news that Corbie was taken and the 
Croatian cavalry arriving in Compiegne. It seemed 
as if the enemy were already camping at Montmartre. 
The flight was general ; a universal rout ; every one 
for himself. Horses, carnages, and wagons blocked 
up the road from Chartres and Orleans. " Paris 
awaits a siege from the Spaniards, whose advance- 
guard extends to ten or twelve miles from here," 
wrote St. Vincent* on Assumption Day, while the 
drum was beating in his house at St. Lazarus, 
which was turned into a camp. " Here the soldiers 
equip and arm their companies ; the stable, the wood 
shed, the halls and cloister are full of arms, and the 
court-yard of armed men." The country fled to 
Paris, and Paris was so frightened that many inhabi 
tants fled to other cities. But, although La Chapelle 

* To M. Portail, Aug. 15, 1636. 



Establishment of New Confraternities. 155 

was situated on the northern road and some hours 
journey only from Compiegne, Louise and her 
Daughters thought not of flight. From this time 
war had no terrors for the Daughters of Charity, 
nor could the clash of arms interrupt their good 
works. Their house, happily large enough, was 
transformed into a refuge. Joyful to exercise a new 
virtue, and faithful to the traditions of the first ages, 
Mile. Le Gras opened her dwelling to the victims of 
the invasion. Women and young girls left their un 
safe fireside and came in crowds to the frontiers of 
Picardy. They found in La Chapelle a supply for 
all their needs, and only quitted this holy asylum 
after Louise (always attentive to wants often for 
gottenthe wants of the soul) had given them an 
opportunity to make a mission. 

The repulse of the enemy and the deliverance of 
Corbie having restored security to the capital, it 
was necessary to resume work with all the more 
activity as in several places it had suffered the reac 
tion of public misfortunes. Hence we see Mile. Le 
Gras establishing new confraternities in the parishes 
of Paris and at Passy ; visiting, often with Mme. 
Goussault, the old associations of Montreuil, Pontoise, 
Gournay, Asnieres, Grigny near Longjumeau, and 
endeavoring to answer the demand for Daughters 
coming in from all sides. Those whom she had sent 
out seemed ready for every labor and capable of any 
act of devotedness. They were called on for the 
poor, for the sick soldiers at St. Germain, where, 



156 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

after a retreat, the queen s ladies wished to enroll 
themselves in the " Charity." The Duchess of Lian- 
court and the Marchioness of Maignelay* asked for 
Daughters for the schools at Liancourt and Nan- 
teuiljf St. Vincent wanted them for the service of 
the prisoners ; Mme. Goussault had sent others into 
her domain at Anjou, and the niece of the Cardi 
nal-minister wished for one to aid her in her private 
good works. The company was still young and 
scarcely formed, and already it seemed a providen 
tial benefit necessary to the age. Mile. Le Gras was 
absent from Paris when the Duchesse d Aiguillon 
addressed St. Vincent. Full of gratitude for her 
pious liberality, and of admiration for her virtue, the 
Saint thought he could not refuse her desire, and was 
about to send her Sister Marie-Denyse ; but the 
latter excused herself, saying that as she left her 
father and mother to serve the poor for the love of 
God, she could not change her intention and go to 

* Marguerite de Gondy, sister of the General of the Galleys and of 
the archbishop of Paris, married at the age of sixteen, in 1588, Flori- 
mon d Hallin, Marquis of Maignelay. Her husband was assassinated 
in 1591. She then renounced the world to give herself to works of 
the most delicate, most heroic charity. Henry IV. called her "the 
good marquise." Intimate with Mme. Acarie, she had met Michel 
de Marillac, of whom she said that for him the day was longer than 
twenty-four hours. She wished to enter the Capuchins, but the Pope 
(Paul V.) would not allow her. She died Aug. 25, 1650. (" La vie 
admirable de tres haute dame Charlotte, Marguerite de Gondy, 
Marquise de Maignelais." Paris, 1666.) 

\ Nanteuil, eighteen kilometres south-east of Senlis, now in the 
Department of L Oise. 



Two Sisters are sent to Richelieu. 157 

serve this grand lady. St. Vincent then sent for 
Sister Barbara Angiboust, who at first consented in 
tears ; but she was scarcely installed at the Luxem 
bourg than he saw her running back affrighted. In 
consternation at seeing herself in a grand court, she 
begged him to take her from it. " Our Lord," she 
said like Marie-Denyse, " had given her to the poor ; 
she wished to serve them only, and to be sent back 
to them." "What think you of that?" wrote St. 
Vincent to Mile. Le Gras, when relating this occur 
rence. " Are you not delighted to see the spirit of 
God strong in these poor girls, and the contempt 
with which it inspires them for the world and its 
greatness? You cannot believe the courage it gives 
me for the success of the Confraternity." Barbara 
was then, according to her expression, given back 
to the poor, and soon found in the task assigned her 
means to devote herself conformably to her attraction. 
The priests of the Mission, a short time established 
at Richelieu, where the Cardinal had given them a 
house, had just founded there a Confraternity of 
Charity, and asked for two Sisters to keep the school 
and assist the ladies who were nursing the victims 
of an epidemic then raging in the country. Barbara 
Angiboust, who was particularly skilful in bleeding 
and preparing remedies, was sent with another Sister 
called Louise. The journey from Paris to Poitou was 
a long one in those times, and Richelieu was the most 
distant mission of the Sisters ; consequently the 
benediction and written advice given by St, Vincent 



158 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

at their departure partook of the solemnity and pathos 
of a father s farewell to a child going away perhaps 
never to return. First, he begged our Lord to give 
them a share in the spirit of the holy women who 
accompanied Him on earth and co-operated with Him 
in assisting the poor and instructing children. He 
then congratulated them on going to continue the 
charity that Jesus Christ practised on earth. When 
he saw the two Sisters in the carriage he exclaimed, 
" Who- would say that they are departing for a 
work that the Son of God found worthy of himself ! 
How Heaven will rejoice ! What reward they shall 
have in the next life ! How they can raise their 
heads on the judgment-day." He gave them as their 
model on the road, and for all their actions, the Most 
Holy Virgin. They were to see her often before 
them or beside them, and do as they might imagine 
she would do, being always humble, cordial with 
each other, beneficent to every one and a disedifi- 
cation to no one, holding pious discourse, but not with 
worldings, and to be firm as a rock against any 
familiarity that men might seem to desire. In fine, 
he pointed out the way they should walk when at 
Richelieu. Their first care should be to go and salute 
the Blessed Sacrament, and receive their orders from 
the Superior of the Priests of the Mission. As soon 
as they were settled, they should immediately prac 
tise their rule, honor the lady officers of Charity, 
whose zeal they would reanimate, striving to gain the 
souls of the poor by caring for their bodies." Continu- 



The Foundlings of Paris. 159 

ing this way, from poor girls they would become 
great queens." * Fortified by these counsels, Barbara 
and her companion set out, Oct. i, 1638. They had 
for provision fifty livres. This was little, for the 
carriage to Tours alone had already cost them 
twenty-four; but they carried with them those pro 
mises which are still sufficient to guide and con 
duct the Sisters of Charity to the extremities of the 
earth. 

Whilst he- Daughters were thus extending them 
selves afar, Mile. Le Gras saw labor multiplying 
around her. Thanks to her energy a new work 
arose in Paris, the benefit of which is not exhausted 
after two centuries. During this era of regenera 
tion every misery seemed to find a counterpoise 
in the charity of Mile. Le Gras or St. Vincent. 
The evil in question was deeply rooted in Paris. 
It appeared from the police report that in the city 
and its suburbs from three to four hundred children 
were abandoned every year. Those found lying in 
the streets were sent to Port St. Landry,f to a house 
known as the " Couche," where a widow had the 
charge of them. But there was sufficient pay for 
two nurses only, and most of the children died of 
hunger. Often, when weary listening to their cries, 

* Letter 324, placed by mistake, we believe, in 1641. The date 
which we have adopted as that of the departure of Barbara and Louise 
was given in Letter 214. 

f Port St. Landry was on the right bank of the Seine, near the bridge 
connecting the He Notre Dame with the city. 



160 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

the widow or her servants put them to sleep with 
laudanum,* or got rid of them by selling them for 
15 or 20 cents f to women who substituted them for 
children dying through their carelessness, or to beg 
gars who made use of them to excite the pity of the 
passers-by. It was also said that some of the little 
creatures had been strangled for magical purposes, \ 
or to furnish blood-baths for wretches more wicked 
than sick. For fifty years not a single child, accord 
ing to the testimony of St. Vincent, survived its in 
fancy, except perhaps a few whose presence in fami 
lies was a permanent lie ; and all probably died with 
out baptism, as the poor widow had never baptized, 
nor had any else to baptize, a single child. ] M. 
Vincent, hearing through Mile. Le Gras of this extre 
mity, felt bound to apply a remedy, when one evening, 
returning from a mission, he found under the walls of 
Paris a vile beggar striving to cripple a child that he 
was going to use for exciting public commiseration. 
" Ah, barbarian," cried St. Vincent, " in the dis 
tance I mistook you for a man !" and he snatched the 
child from him and carried it off in his arms. 

From that day he resolved on the work of the 

* Discourse of St. Vincent to the Ladies of Charity. 

f Sometimes they were sold for eight cents. 

\ Sorcery was much practised in Paris at this time. Magical cha 
racters and books were sold even at the very doors of the churches. 
M. Olier on taking possession of the parish of St. Sulpice found there 
an altar dedicated to Beelzebub. 

St. Vincent to the Ladies of Charity assembled July n, 1657. 

|| Abelly, p. 142. 



Opening of the Foundling Asylum. 1 6 1 

foundling children. After long reflection and prayer 
he told his thoughts to the ladies of the Hotel-Dieu, 
asking their assistance. These ladies visited the 
house called the "Couche," where they were deeply 
affected by the sight which there met their eyes. 
They at once resolved to adopt twelve of the children, 
whom Mile. Le Gras offered to take care of by her 
Daughters. Twelve little orphans, chosen by lot, 
were therefore installed in a house near the church 
of St. Landry* and confided to the care of the 
Daughters of Charity, who fed them with the milk of 
a goat and a cow ; but soon this was found not to 
agree with them, and they were taken to another 
house, Rue des Boulangers,f near the gate St. Victor, 
where four nurses were hired for them. The ladies 
of the Hotel-Dieu only furnished maintenance and 
provided the temporalities for these little creatures. 
On Mile. Le Gras devolved the care of directing 
her Daughters, the nurses, and the children they were 
going to bring up. 

" This is the work arising from the removal of the 
children," St. Vincent wrote to Mile. Le Gras, and 
begged her to draw up a rule for the organization of 
the new establishment. At first this was confined to 
the ladies in office assembled at Mme. Goussault s, 
but afterwards it was transformed into a part of the 

* In the city, not far from Notre Dame 

f The Rue des Boulangers is still in existence, between Rue Car- 
dinal-Lemoine then called Fosses-Saint-Victor, and Rue Jussieu, which 
has partly taken the place of Rue St. Victor. 



1 62 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

rule and given in charge to one of the first co-laborers 
of Mile. Le Gras. This was Mme. Pelletier, a widow 
of rank.* St. Vincent placed this lady at the head 
of the house, with the title of Governess, directing 
her to render a strict account of all that transpired 
to Mile. Le Gras every eight, or at most every fif 
teen, days. Mile. Le Gras was to remain there some 
time to give the first start to the work, to secure 
good order and regulate expenses. f 

Little by little, as their resources multiplied, the 
number of children was to be increased. In choos 
ing the children they were obliged to draw lots, 
as at first, lamenting that all could not be taken, 
as those who were not favored by the lots seemed 
condemned to certain death. 

At the same time, there were others more to be 
pitied than even those left at the " Couche," because 
exposed to more immediate danger; viz., the poor 
little waifs who were lying in gutters or on the church- 
steps, waiting often until death arrived before the 
tardy watchman. Should not this evil be remedied? 

* Letter 83. Note p. 104. 

f The budget traced by her on this occasion amounted to 2121 livres 
16 sols, and contained the most minute details, which may be read with 
interest. The rent of the house itself, 300 livres. For wood, 400 livres; 
3 sols, 6 deniers worth of meat daily (viz., 268 livres per year) and 3 
sols worth of bread are assigned to the nurses, while for the Gover 
ness and Sisters 2 sols of bread and as much meat. The salt would 
cost in livres, 16 sols; wine, 42 livres, 10 sols. The keeping of the 
nurses is fixed at 8 crowns. In fine, everything is arranged with such 
exactitude as attests the order and forethought of Mile. Le Gras. 



The First Foundling Asylum. 163 

St. Vincent thought it should, and every night he 
went through the purlieus of the city gathering into 
the folds of his cloak the little beings whose life or 
death was a matter of indifference to the wretched 
characters who were sole occupants of the streets at 
that hour. The Saint s cloak is still preserved. The 
Saint was well known and allowed to pass every 
where. One night darker than usual he was stopped 
by some of these wretches; but the moment they 
heard Vincent s name they fell at his feet and asked 
his blessing. 

The memory of this old man, braving the darkness 
and often the rigors of winter, and his Daughters, be 
coming the visible angels of that great city, has tri 
umphed over the forgetfulness of time and still lives 
in the hearts of the Parisians. The artist and the 
poet have contributed to render it immortal. Even 
legend, which usually grows around the blemishes of 
mankind, here is found to be engrafted on the truth. 
Such is probably the origin of a sort of journal quoted 
by several writers in which the Sisters of Charity, 
especially those of the Foundlings, have written the 
most memorable events recorded in their annals. 
Some of these writings are charming, representing at 
one time the streets covered with snow, and the Sisters 
on watch as the night wears on; at another time it is St. 
Vincent coming in at eleven o clock, benumbed with 
cold, carrying two babies with tears freezing on their 
little cheeks ; again it is a touching description of the 
poor deserted children, one six days old perhaps, 



1 64 LifcofMlle.Lc Gras. 

another already weaned, or a third with a frightful 
mark on the little arm. Farther on we see the Saint 
lavishing all sorts of attention on them, or shedding 
tears as they fly from his arms to heaven. But what 
ever resemblance of sentiment there may be between 
this document and the truth, neither the style nor 
many of the facts related could warrant us in sup- 
posing it authentic, as there is no trace of it in the 
archives of the Mission nor in any traditions of the 
Daughters of Charity. We could not pass it over in 
silence, however, as many authors* have used it as 
reference ; but it is not worthy of any more space in 
a story beautiful enough to dispense with fiction. 

Notwithstanding the sympathy widely elicited, the 
work progressed slowly. As late as 1640 it had but 
fourteen hundred livresa year of certain revenue, and 
the number of children was constantly increasing. 
Not being able to shelter all the children in the house 
Rue des Boulangers, Mile. Le Gras was obliged to 
give a portion of them to be nursed by women out 
side. A note in which the writing of St. Vincent 
is mingled with that of Mile. Le Gras gives us the 
names and nurse-places of children received in March 
and April 1640, with the names of their adopted 
mothers. Most of these are countrywomen in the 

* This journal has been quoted among others by M. Maynard in his 
" Histoire de St. Vincent de Paul ;" by Martin Doisy in the " Diction- 
naire d Economie Charitable ;" and for the first time, we think, in the 
"Vie de St. Vincent," par Capefigue (Paris, 1827, p. 67): he says he 
saw it, without telling us where or any more about it. 



Anxiety of Mile. Le Gras aboiit her Son. 165 

neighborhood of Paris, some of them wives of 
tradesmen belonging to the Faubourg St. Victor 
and other quarters of the city, as the wife of a lock 
smith at the bridge of St. Landry, or of a sculptor in 
Rue des Moulins, near new St. Honore. As to 
the children, they sometimes had a family name; 
more frequently they were known by the name re 
ceived from a mother who would never abandon 
them their baptismal mother. Joined to this we find 
sometimes a remembrance of the day they were taken 
as, Jane of the Resurrection ; or of some peculiarity 
that would help to distinguish them as, Charles the 
Gentleman. These are minute details which have 
been quoted thousands of times, and which we only 
mention on account of the interest attaching always 
to the beginning of a great work. 

Mile. Le Gras had lovingly adopted this unexpected 
little family, and already found a part of her recom 
pense in the promise that St. Vincent made: "She 
to whom our Lord has given so much charity for the 
children of others will merit a special care from our 
Lord for her own." This means that " little Michel " 
(as the Saint always called him) was at that very time 
a subject of great anxiety to his mother. From his 
infancy she had offered him to God. She had placed 
him in the Seminary of St. Nicolas, hoping to see 
him embrace the sacerdotal state, as his disposition 
all along had seemed to incline him that way ; but 
" either God did not will his early resolve to become 
an ecclesiastic, or the world opposed it," she wrote 



1 66 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

afterward ; his fervor diminished, his ideas were 
changed ; and after consulting- the Superior of the 
Visitation, she had taken him from the Seminary, 
leaving him to board with M. Bourdoise. This 
change was not for the better, and she finally sent 
him to the Jesuits. Intelligence was not wanting to 
Michel, and a letter of thanks he wrote to the Supe 
rior of St. Nicolas made St. Vincent " hope that 
some clay the child would have sense." 

This child had become a man, however, and he 
must choose some profession ; hence maternal anxiety 
was redoubled. At the close of a retreat under the di 
rection ol the Mission priests 5 " 5 he seems to have recov 
ered his first fervor and resumed the idea of becoming 
an ecclesiastic, and the following year actually com 
menced the study of theology. St. Vincent gave 
him hospitality at the College des Bons-Enfants and 
congratulates Mile. Le Gras, praying that " God might 
give the son as great zeal to labor for the salvation of 
souls as He had given to the mother, poor and miser 
able though she be/ But two months had scarcely 
passed when Michel began again to hesitate. He 
was tired of the life he led, and wanted to leave Paris. 
The Saint, after some resistance, finally consented. 
As for Louise, all her anguish revived. He wrote to 
her : " If all who are away from their parents were in 
danger of being lost, where would I be ?" " Remem 
ber that everything works together for the good 

* M. Robert de Sergis, born in 1608, received at the Mission 1628, 
ordained priest 1632. 



Anxiety of Mile. Le Gras about her Son. 167 

of the predestined." * He allowed the young man to 
accompany the missionaries to Montlhery ; but see 
ing that he was not studying nor fitting himself for 
anything, Vincent thought of sending him to the 
bishop of Riez,f his relative, " that, being occupied 
in something, idleness, the mother of all vice, might 
not prevail over him.";); 

All this evasion annoyed Mile. Le Gras without 
abating her patience or the consolation given her by 
St. Vincent. "I know you support with patience 
the trial caused by your son," he wrote to her. 
"Who would bear with the child if not the mother? 
and whose province is it to give each one a place 
but God s?" "He wished to help him to take a 
.resolution, but not to influence him in a decision of 
such importance that God alone must inspire it." 
The Saint then recommends her to think of the 
mother of Zebedee s children, to whom our Lord 
said, when she petitioned for the establishment of 
her children, "You know not what you ask."|| 

About the time of which we speak Michel 
renounced entirely the long-cherished idea of being 
a priest. Mile. Le Gras thought this "a proof of the 
judgment of God against her," and she was so 
afflicted that the Saint had to use all his persuasion 
to bring peace to her soul. We find him in his 
letters conjuring her to combat these thoughts which 

* Letter 143. 

f Louis Doni d Attichy, bishop of Riez, transferred to Autun 1653. 

\ Letter 241. Letter 241. | Letter 238. 



1 68 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

come from the evil spirit. "I never saw such a 
woman as you, nor one Avho insists so much that 
certain things are criminal. Remember that the sins 
of the children are not always imputed to their 
parents, especially when these latter give them good 
example and instruction as you have done, thank 
God! Our Lord permits the most holy parents to 
have their hearts crushed. Abraham was afflicted 
by Ismael, Isaac by Esau, Jacob by the majority of 
his sons, David by Absalom, Solomon by Roboam, 
and the Son of God himself by Judas." " By the 
grace of God you have not come to that. Weep not 
for the happiness of your little Michel. But, you 
will tell me, it is in the cause of God I weep. It is 
not for God you afflict yourself, if it is an affliction 
to serve Him." 

Unfortunately we are not in possession of the 
letters of Mile. Le Gras, but we see by those of 
St. Vincent what was the state of her mind for a 
long time on account of her son. He returns con 
tinually to " those too tender thoughts which are 
against reason, and exaggerated sacrifices which are 
against God, who wishes mothers to sacrifice part of 
their goods for their children, but not to deprive 
themselves of everything." Ever and anon he insists 
that "the little tendernesses and amusements" which 
she had not yet given up were excessive. " You have 
more affection than any mother I know. I never saw 
a mother so much of a mother as you are. This is the 
only thing in which you are a real woman. In the 



Mile. Le Gras and Mme. Goussault. 169 

name of God, leave your son to the care of his 
heavenly Father, who loves him better than you ; or 
at least put away this eagerness." 

Was there, in fact, an excess which Louise per 
ceived not in this affection? We do not decide 
this question, although we coincide with the opinion 
of Ven. Mother Madeleine of St. Joseph, when, 
in opposition to the ideas of her time, she wrote 
to the biographer of Michel de Marillac:* "It 
is desirable that the biographers of Saints would 
not omit, as they do, their little weaknesses and 
imperfections, so that those who see themselves 
encumbered by the like miseries may not be dis 
couraged and deterred from aiming at sanctity." 
If we throw light on this weak point in Mile. Le 
Gras, we mean neither to blame nor yet to make a 
merit of sentiments so purely natural. We only wish 
to point out the courage necessary for a nature like 
hers to endure the almost constant absence of a son 
so well beloved, and to show once for all the difference 
between detachment and want of affection. 

We see another proof of her tenderness of heart in 
her affection for Mme. Goussault. God heard the 
prayer of St. Vincent and united these two hearts. 
"Oh, what good company!" the Saint would exclaim 
when he saw them together. He advised Louise to 
put aside her serious expression in the company of 
her friend, and when they could not visit, being 
sick, each was to send word to the other. 

* Lefevre de Lazeau. 



1 70 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Their health, indeed, was very uncertain. Mme. 
Goussault was not any stronger than Louise. Within 
thirteen years she had borne ten children, and in the 
spring of 1639 she rapidly declined. " I am in trouble 
about Mme. Goussault," wrote St. Vincent, July 14 of 
the same year; and in another letter, " She has been 
bled; it is a double tertiary fever." The sickness was 
serious, but the submission of the sick one to the Di 
vine Will was absolute. Calm and firm, she elicited 
the admiration of all who approached her. " It 
was nothing to see her in health," said St. Vincent; 
"you ought to see her in sickness." Nor was he 
ignorant that Mme. Goussault had adopted and 
practised for a long time, with extreme exactitude, 
several of the rules imposed by him on the Sisters 
of Charity. In the midst of her sufferings she 
thought of these holy Sisters, expressed a wish that 
they would always remain faithful to their vocation, 
recommended them to Mme. Segnier, wife of the 
Chancellor of France,* and on the morning of the 
day she died she said again to St. Vincent, " My 
mind was occupied all night with your good 
Daughters. Oh, if you could only know all the good 
I believe of them, or the great things God has shown 
me in regard to them."f 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras to Mme. Segnier, addressed to Madame 
la Chanceliere, March 1655. 

f Conference of St. Vincent to the Daughters of Charity, Jan. 22, 
1645. Mme. Goussault was interred in her chapel at St. Gervais, 
Sept. 22, 1639. (Library Nat., Cab. of Titles, 1379.) 



Mile. Le Gr as goes to Angers. 171 

Her death was a subject of mourning- for the 
whole company. Mile. Le Gras wished the ab 
sent also to partake in the sorrow. Some weeks 
after she sent word to Sisters Barbara and Louise 
at Richelieu,* telling them of their great loss and 
recalling the devotion of Mme. Goussault to their 
work. She presented the imitation of her virtues as a 
duty of gratitude and a means of glorifying God. 

She felt herself bound to discharge a legacy. 
One of the last wishes of her friend was to procure 
for the sick in St. John s Hospital,f Angers, in which 
she was especially interested, the same advantage as 
those of the Hotel-Dieu, viz., to establish among the 
ladies of the village the custom of regular visiting, 
and to introduce after them the Daughters of 
Charity4 

Knowing the services rendered to the sick by the 
Daughters of Charity, the administrators of the 
hospital, called "poor masters or fathers," were not 
less desirous to see them in their hired infirmaries, 
and the whole town of Angers united in the wish of 
Mme. Goussault, to which both St. Vincent and 
Mile. Le Gras were moreover well disposed to con 
sent. It was decided that Louise should go to 
Angers to confer with the administrators and prepare, 

*Oct. 26, 1639. 

fThis hospital was founded, 1160, by Henry II., King of England 
and Count of Anjou, in expiation of the murder of Thomas a Becket. 
It has been recently transformed into a museum. 

\ Nat. Arch., s. 6160. 



172 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

if need were, for the installation of her Daughters. 
But she was not well; the bad weather was just 
beginning, and the pestilence was breaking out in the 
country. Nothing daunted, she set out in a coach 
for Orleans, where she embarked on the Loire, Nov. 
1639. After a halt at Saumur, whence she wrote to 
St. Vincent, begging him to look after her son in 
her absence, she reached Angers towards the ist of 
December, and was received by the Abbe* Vaux,* 
vicar-general of the diocese, from whom she accepted 
hospitality. Exhausted by her two weeks journey ,f 
she very soon, unfortunately, fell sick. 

This news soon reached the capital, and the greatest 
anxiety was felt in the little community at La Chapelle 
and by the ladies at the Hotel-Dieu. " They pray for 
you all over Paris," St. Vincent writes; "every one 
is interested in your health; you cannot believe to 
what extent the feeling goes." In another letter he 
writes: "Oh, how I wished our Lord would let you 
see the affliction of the ladies at the Hotel-Dieu 
when they heard the news!" 

The sickness of Louise continued through part of 
the month of January; but she did not wait for her 
health to attend to business. She sent first, through 
Mme. Turgis, for Sister Barbara Toussainte of 

* Gui Lanier, Abbe de Vaux, " was a great servant of God," accord 
ing to the expression of St. Vincent de Paul. He was always de 
voted to the Daughters of Charity, and kept up an active correspon 
dence with Mile. Le Gras on the subject of charity. 

f Letters addressed to the Daughters of Charity at La Chapelle. 



The Daughters of Charity at Angers. 1 73 

Suresne and Sister Clemence Ferre, originally from 
Lorraine, Dec. 22, 1639. She then proposed to the 
ladies of Angers to undertake the work accomplished 
in Paris, and set herself to find out the reform 
necessary to be made in the house. The support of 
the hospital and its management left much to be 
desired. Order and cleanliness were at fault; for 
example, the vessels were allowed to be washed in 
the wards; there was not sufficient linen,* and the 
sick were not willing to come there for treatment. 
, Hence Mile. Le Gras, after three months attentive 
examination of the affairs, decided to accept the pro 
position, which the administrators wrote and signed 
Feb. i, 1640. This deed in which St. Vincent 
had authorized her to take the title of Directress of 
the Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Sick Poor 
of Hospitals and Parishes was to serve as the model 
for many others. We may give a rapid sketch of it 
here, and admire the perfect balance established in a 
matter so delicate between the rights and duties of 
each, as well as the prudence with which she stipu 
lates for the liberties of her Daughters while recom 
mending them to be deferential. 

The Daughters of Charity (this article reads) shall 
always remain subject to the Superior-General of 
the Mission, and no one is to hinder them from 
the practice of their rule, which nevertheless 
obliges them to leave everything when the service 

* There were but three dozen chemises for thirty or forty sick. 
(Arch. Nat., s. 6160.) 



1 74 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

of the poor requires them. In what concerns tem 
poralities they shall be under the authority of the 
administrators, and obey them exactly ; but they 
alone shall have charge of the poor, without the 
interference of any one. 

They shall be maintained in health and sickness 
at the expense of the hospital; make no change in 
the material, color, or form of their dress; and they 
shall be treated as belonging to the place and not 
as mercenaries. They shall not be obliged to sit up 
with the sick out of the hospital. They shall render 
account of service only to the administrators; the 
latter considering that if not supported by them, in 
regard to the poor and servants, the Sisters cannot 
do the good desired, will therefore uphold them with 
their authority, and never tell them in public of a 
fault, but notice such in private, and with the grace 
of God it will be corrected. 

In case of the death of a Sister, the administrators, 
considering that she is consecrated to the service of 
God and the poor, will permit her companions to 
inter her decently according to their usual custom. 

Finally, understanding the necessity of prevent 
ing the difficulties that might arise between the 
Congregation of the Mission and the administra 
tors of the hospital, the foundress wished to in 
sert a special article that would establish the rights 
of the two authorities. The Superior-General of 
Paris could change the Sisters when he judged 
it necessary. On their side, the administrators could 



The Daughters of Charity at Angers. 1 75 

ask, at the expense of the hospital, for the change of 
a Sister with whom they were not satisfied, after 
having tried her a year or two, and after giving 
timely notice to the Superior-General. 

As to the particular rule for the Daughters drawn 
up by Mile. Le Gras before she left Paris, it contained 
a synopsis of the kind of life and exercises of piety 
" suitable to the little company." We shall notice 
here only that which relates to their duty of sick- 
nurse. 

Having risen at four o clock in the morning, they 
shall at six o clock, after taking a little bread and 
a taste of wine, or, on Communion days, a smell of 
vinegar, betake themselves to those whom they 
shall always consider as their lords (since our Lord, 
is in them), make their beds, put the wards in order, 
and give the medicines or the breakfast. During 
the day they shall take great care that the sick have 
all they need ; viz., their medicine or nourishment 
at fixed hours, a drink when thirsty, or some pas- 
tiles sweet and soothing for the mouth. They shall 
stop when near them, instruct them meekly on the 
principal truths of faith, solicit them to make a 
general confession, and receive the Blessed Sacra 
ment every Sunday as long as that will be possible 
for them, and to receive Extreme Unction as soon 
as they are in danger. They shall console the 
dying, and suggest good resolutions to the conva 
lescent. 

They shall take care that all the sick are in bed at 



1 76 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

seven o clock, and have a little wine or something 
for the night. Before leaving them they shall help 
to make the examen of conscience for those who are 
able, reading the points aloud in the middle of the 
infirmary ; finally, after the Litany, the Superioress 
will give holy water to the Sisters and the sick. At 
eight o clock they shall retire, leaving one of their 
number to watch and assist those who need. The 
Sister sitting up shall make her prayer beside the 
sick, remembering, as well as the one who shall come 
to take her place, that all the care they bestow on 
the sick is a continual prayer before God. In order 
that it may please God to give them grace to do all 
this, they shall take as special protectors the Holy 
Virgin, St. Joseph, St. Louis, St. Genevieve, St. 
Marguerite, Queen of Scotland, and St. John the 
Evangelist, patron of the hospital ; they shall write 
often to their Superiors in Paris; they shall read 
every Friday, at table, the present rule.* 

The establishment of the Daughters of Charity at 
Angers was a noteworthy fact. To this time, with the 
exception of La Chapelle, they had only precarious 
positions ; nothing permanent in their residence and 
no independence of action. In the different quarters 
of Paris they occupied only rooms in the place. 
Above all, in the parishes, like at the Hotel-Dieu 
and in the country, the Sisters were subject to the 
Ladies of Charity, who paid their board and lodging, 

* National Arch., s. 6160. 



The Daughters of Charity at Angers. 177 

and to whom they were obliged to show great defer 
ence. At Angers, on the contrary, although the 
temporal administration of the hospital did not 
belong to them, they would have an active part in 
its beginning and responsibilities, and the arrival of 
three new companions, making their number eight*- 
the highest yet attained in any one place permitted 
them to observe with regularity the exercises of 
community life. This foundation commenced then 
under the happiest auspices, and the public calami 
ties which occurred soon after convinced those who 
were still doubting of the benefits resulting from it. 
The pestilence was not slow to break out in the hos 
pital; perhaps it was already there when the Sisters 
took charge :f but they braved the contagion he 
roically, and the plague seemed to respect them. 
This was for them a baptism of fire; they came from 
it conquerors, having gained the right of land, so to 
speak, from city to city, and from Heaven the grace 

* The eight Daughters of Charity near whom Mme. Turgis had to 
remain during part of the following summer were Elizabeth Martin, 
Superioress, native of Argenteuil; Cecil Agnes Angiboust, from the 
diocese of Chartres; Marie Matrilomeau, of Poissy; Marguerite 
Franoise, of St. Nicolas in Lorraine; Barbara Toussainte, of Suresne; 
Clemence Ferre, of La Champiniere, near Nancy; Madeleine Mouget, 
of Sucy in Brie; and Genevieve Caillou, of St. Germaine in Laye. 
(Nat. Arch., s. 6160.) 

f "The Sisters of Angers," said St. Vincent, "entered the hospital 
of that city when infected with contagion; they treated the plague- 
stricken like the others, and the pest respected them." (Conference 
Oct. 16, 1641.) 



178 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

to do the good which Mile. Le Gras was happy to 
set on foot in many places. " The Daughters of 
Angers," she said many years after, " have a special 
gift of God for the service of the sick poor in the 
hospitals. * 

To return to herself. After still some weeks with 
the Abbe Vaux, she set out for Paris,f where her 
presence became necessary, not only for her Daugh 
ters, but for the general business of charity. J In 
obedience to St. Vincent, she did not travel this time 
by water, but accepted her host s carriage as far as 
Tours. There she hired a conveyance to Orleans, 
and made the rest of the journey in the public coach. 
She had given to Angers the choice of her flock, 
but she picked up several young country girls who 
offered themselves to enter the company. It is the 
property of charity never to impoverish, and the 
characteristic of religious families to enrich them 
selves by the practice of this virtue. 

* Letters of Mile. Le Gras to Sister Madeleine (1645) and to Sisters 
Claude and Naire (Nov. 28). 

f Fevrier 26, 1640. 

\ Lettres de St. Vincent. 

Letter of Mile. Le Gras to the Abbe Vaux, dated, La Chapelle, 
March 23, 1640. 




CHAPTER IX. 

1641. 

Mile. Le Gras is established at the Foundling Asylum St. Denis 
Her Interior Life, from her Writings and the Souvenirs of the first 
Sisters Interior Combats and Victories Her Humility, and Charity 
for her Daughters. 

[ER JOURNEY and the severe sickness she 
had just gone through had greatly and for 
ever shattered the frail constitution of 
Mile. Le Gras. According to St. Vincent, 
she lived from that time " contrary to all human ap 
pearance,"* and by "a continual miracle granted to her 
faith." " I felt strengthened by the obedience which 
made me act," she wrote. " It seems to me that God 
will give me health as long as I believe Pie can do it, 
remembering the faith which made St. Peter walk on 
the water, and acting without any contribution from 
myself, and with much consolation in the thought that 
God wills me (unworthy as I am) to help my neigh 
bor to know him." 

Notwithstanding the ruin of her health, the twenty 
years she had still to run were perhaps the most 
fruitful portion of her life. Forgetting the excess of 
her own suffering and the danger still threatening 
herf (she had to be assisted by others), yet she main- 

* Letter of St. Vincent, March 3, 1660. 
f Letter to the Abbe Vaux, May 26, 1640. 



i8o Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

tained a constant correspondence with the Daugh 
ters at Richelieu and Angers and the Abbe Vaux, 
who, entrusted with their spiritual direction, showed 
for them an indulgence which she thought a little too 
lenient. " You tell me nothing but good of them," she 
writes. " Do not fear to let me know their faults as 
well." We notice the most affectionate solicitude in 
every page of her letters. At one time she is all anxiety 
concerning the trouble arising between the Sisters 
and the administrators of St. John s Hospital, " the 
administrators pretending that the Sisters wish to 
gain the whole thing." At another time she com 
plains of their silence or is uneasy about their health. 
Sister Elizabeth is sick; immediately she is in alarm. 
" I am in need of her. I think with the advice of the 
doctor as regards her strength, you had better send 
her to me ; but the remains of my sickness will not per 
mit me to write more." * To the sick one she writes : 
" How I sympathize in your pains! Write to me frank 
ly about them ; I shall read and understand them all. 
Have great courage ; God will draw His glory from 
your misery. It is my consolation, when I see my 
self, as I often am, under the correcting hand of God, 
to think that I can serve as an example to deter others 
from offending God as I have done, by showing them 
that He knows where to find those who have opposed 
His will and are debtors to His justice." f 

* We have nearly one hundred letters from Mile. Le Gras to the 
Abbe Vaux. 

f Letter to Sister Elizabeth Martin, July 5, 1641. 



Mile. Le Gr as goes to the Faubourg St. Denis. 1 8 1 

But correspondence was not half her occupation, 
and in La Chapelle, as in Paris, her work was always 
growing. She found on her return from Angers 
young girls from Lorraine whom St. Vincent had 
sent to her house for protection from the war, then 
desolating the province. She provided for the estab 
lishment of some, and others wished to enter her 
community. This latter ceased not to increase ; re 
cruits for it arrived from all parts, commencing al 
ready to realize the truth of Scripture so applicable 
to the community to this day " I shall call you from 
all the nations of the earth." St. Vincent says, " And 
God, seeing the Daughters acquitting themselves of 
their duty so well, was not slow in varying the na 
ture and multiplying the number of their employ 
ments." The expansion of their labor caused daily 
more frequent intercourse with externs, who took 
active part in the work ; for we must remember that 
the Daughters of Charity continued to form one fam 
ily, so to speak, with the ladies, and could not sub 
sist without their help. Hence the house in La Cha 
pelle soon became not only too small, but too far 
from the centre of Paris, and too difficult of access, 
especially in winter, when the rain turned the roads 
into swamps.* Mile. Le Gras thus decided once 
more to change her residence, in 1641 ; but the trouble 
experienced five years before was now spared her. 

*Even the post did not always venture out, and letters from An 
gers to Louise were addressed under coyer to her son, who was then 
at the College des Bon Enfants. 



1 82 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

St. Vincent had just bought from two citizens of 
Paris, Jean Desmaret and Claud Sadot, a house situ 
ated in the Faubourg St. Denis and almost opposite 
St. Lazarus, which he offered to rent to her. She ac 
cepted eagerly, and was soon in possession.* 

The parish of Saint Laurent, where Mile. Le Gras 
founded the new establishment, was one of the poor 
est and most extensive of Paris, composed for the 
most part of vacant lots and obscure lanes, where a 
whole population sought refuge, driven backward by 
misery from the centre to the extremities of the 
city. 

With the authorization of the head teacher oi 
Notre Dame, who had charge of the little schools of 
the city and suburbs, Mile. Le Gras soon opened a 
free class, where she had the young girls of the 
Quartier St. Lazare instructed in grammar and other 

*This house, which remained the Mother-house until the Revolu 
tion, consisted of three suites of rooms adjoining one another, one 
of these was newly built, a court, stable, wells, garden, and a place 
newly paved in front, out to the paving of the street. Some years 
later, thanks to a legacy of Mme. Goussault, Mile. Le Gras was 
able to purchase it, for 17,050 livres, to which she added 800 for a 
little corner-piece of land along the new Rue St. Laurent. The 
contract was made April i, 1653, in presence of N. Laisant, the notary 
of Chalet, and preserved in the Nat. Arch. (6160.) It was signed by 
Mile. Le Gras, Srs. Francis, Germaine Poisson, Julienne Loret, 
Louise Christine Ride, Mathurine Guerin, Marie Tournot, and Mar 
guerite of Vienne. Confiscated in 1793, the house was sold in 1797, and 
on the site of the demolished chapel were opened Faith and Charity 
streets. Later it became an infirmary for Dr. Dubois, and disap 
peared altogether to make way for the Boulevard Magenta. 



Interior Life of Mile. Le Gras. 183 

branches of learning.* This was the beginning of a 
work to which the company attached itself more 
every day, but which had not been attempted before, 
except by those in the neighboring villages.f 

What would have been the joy of that foundress 
had it been given her to foresee the number of schools 
throughout that immense capital which, in spite of 
every obstacle, thousands of children are attending 
to-day ! 

Apart from this modest commencement to a great 
work, with some visits, more and more rare, to the 
neighboring "Charities," a cordial meeting with 
Mme. de Chantal,J reminding us of St. Francis and 
St. Dominic, and a pilgrimage to Chartres for the 

* We still possess the text of the petition addressed by Mile. Lc 
Gras on this occasion to the grand chantre or dcoldtre, of Notre 
Dame, Michel le Masle, Seigneur des Roches de Saint Paul; the au 
thorization granted by him, dated May 29, 1641; and a little easy cate 
chism of questions and answers, composed by Mile. Le Gras, prob 
ably destined for that school, over which she held special direction. 

f " You ought to instruct yourselves," said St. Vincent to the 
Daughters of Charity, "that you may be capable of teaching the 
young girls; you must do this very carefully, for it is one of the de 
signs you had in view when giving yourselves to God." (Conference 
of April 16, 1641.) 

\ Mme. de Chantal came to Paris during the summer of 1641, and 
left in the month of November for Moulins, where she died Dec. 13, 
the same year. 

In 1644, probably. The pilgrimage to Chartres was then in great 
devotion at Paris. This was the period in which M. Olier received 
such signal grace in Chartres, which circumstance gave rise to the 
veneration always professed for this ancient sanctuary by the com 
pany of St. Sulpice. 



184 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

purpose of recommending to the Holy Virgin the 
wants of the company and the still undecided 
future of her son, there is nothing to attract at 
tention during the first years of Mile. Le Gras in 
the Faubourg St. Denis. For the community this 
was a period of formation ; for her, a time of silence 
and interior life ; and for us, alas ! " the garden en 
closed " of our history. Yet while we regret our 
inability to admire these hidden treasures ignored 
even by herself, these acts of heroic charity which 
noiselessly marked her every-day life, we are happy 
to catch some lineaments of this spiritual physiog 
nomy from numerous notes left by her and still un 
published, and which date, in part at least, at this 
epoch. These are meditations, souvenirs of retreat 
at Pentecost (her own feast-day), reflections proper 
for a solemnity, a pilgrimage, or counsels addressed 
to " her dear Sisters" a title she extended to every 
soul aspiring to perfection by divine love. They are 
written as the pen ran along no order, no connec 
tion one with another; but we find in them a large- 
minded, simple devotion, the enemy of " little prac 
tices which serve to amuse and are nothing when 
compared to solid virtue, a firm judgment, and 
an elevated mind (perhaps a little subtle) which had 
been well strengthened and nourished by profound 
reading." Her thoughts naturally fly to the heights. 
The plan of God in creating the world, embracing 
the Incarnation outside the fall of man ; Christian 
life united to the sublime order of the universe, and 



Interior Life of Mile. Le Gras. 185 

which leads the soul, by mortification, to the purity 
of paradise these seemed among the subjects pre 
ferred for her contemplation. But the principal idea 
the motherly idea which runs all through is that 
of love ; not the general love experienced by all pre 
destined souls, but " the love which God expects 
from cherished souls those whom He has chosen to 
practise on earth the purity of charity." " My 
Saviour," she writes in one of those meditations, 
"what light have I not received on the love you 
desire from souls chosen to exercise on earth the 
purity of charity! Behold us a little flock ! Could 
we pretend to it ? It seems to me that we have this 
desire in our heart : O pure Love, how I love you !" 
Love is single in His eyes, and has but one object. 
Reading that Jesus Christ substituted our neigh 
bor for Himself to help our inability to render Him 
personal service, the thought seemed to penetrate 
her heart in a most intimate and particular manner. 
As to the love of God for us, she expresses it thus : 
" The love of God for our souls proceeds from the 
knowledge He has of the excellent being He has 
given them." " They are an act outside of God, 
analogous in some sort to that which he produces in 
Himself by engendering the Second Person of the 
Divinity. The saints are those who have most 
loved :" such is the starting-point of her love for 
them. The salient points of their life, the spirit 
which animated them, the graces received by them, 
often furnish abundant food for her meditations. On 



1 86 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

St. Fiacre s Day, for example, she contemplates this 
saint in the moment of his conversion, leaving his 
kingdom to take the government of another of 
greater importance, since it is said that " man is a 
world in abridgment." " Oh, how beautiful to see 
such a soul ascend to heaven," she exclaims, " and 
there received by the King of kings in triumph and 
magnificence as a prince accompanied by his court, 
viz., his passions which he has conquered !" On the 
feast-day of St. Denis she rejoiced at the choice 
God had made of this saint to unite us to the Di 
vinity. " The nothingness of paganism from that 
have you drawn France," she said to him ; and adds 
with prophetic instinct, " Obtain for the people 
whom your blood brought to Jesus Christ that this 
mountain now smoking may attract the flame of 
Divine Love ! Inflame our hearts !" Two centuries 
have passed, and that prayer, hitherto unknown to 
men, has been heard in heaven ; and on Montmartre, 
the hill of the martyrdom of St. Denis is raised the 
basilica consecrated to Divine Love. 

If in these meditations, as we may judge from these 
hasty extracts, the thought shifts from one thing to 
another, the form returns very often to the framework. 
Sometimes, however, it is a whisper of eloquence all 
the truer as it is unconscious, passing across the 
page like the echo of a stronger voice. Such, for 
example, is this magnificent aspiration to the Most 
High : "Remove my blindness, Light Eternal ; sim 
plify my mind, Perfect Unity. May my self-suffi- 



Interior Life of Mile. Le Gras. 187 

ciency be no barrier to the power of the love Thou 
hast given to my soul." Such are also the counsels 
given to her Daughters, which might be mistaken 
for a fragment of mystic poetry from St. Francis de 
Sales : " Let not the thorns surrounding the rose pre 
vent you from adorning yourself with this bouquet, 
since it will render you agreeable to our Lover, of 
whom the Spouse in the Canticle, she whom we 
should hold as our Abbess, and who has preceded us 
in love, has said, He is white and ruddy. Let us 
preserve His image in us, and resemble Him by these 
two eminent characteristics of purity and charity 
represented by the whiteness and vermilion of the 
rose. 

What adds to the interest of these scattered leaves 
is a number of familiar details which people might 
find too minute, but which the family would gather 
up and preserve as relics. They reveal, among other 
things, divers practices of daily piety suggested to 
Mile. Le Gras by her increasing devotion to the hid 
den life of our Lord, and principally His sojourn in the 
womb of His Mother. " Hearing this mysterious state 
spoken of," she writes in the year 1642, a little be 
fore Advent, " I applied myself to it with deep re 
flection, and a new light was given me with a desire 
to honor this mystery by some appropriate prayers." 

It was at this time that she made the resolution of 
saying a rosary composed of nine grains, in honor of 
the nine months preceding the birth of the Infant 
God ; and to encourage in her Daughters a taste 



1 88 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

for this holy exercise, she prepared for them in a lit 
tle box as many chaplets as were necessary for each 
to be given one, to be distributed after her death. 
Elsewhere we find promises made to the Holy Vir 
gin to draw down her protection on the Missionaries 
and the Daughters of Charity, whom she never sepa 
rated in her thoughts, and to obtain the preservation 
of purity in one and the other company. " Prom 
ises accomplished," she writes later, after she had 
given to Chartres a little Notre Dame, to St. Lazarus 
a picture of the Blessed Virgin, where is the chap- 
let of pearls, and to the Mother-house a wooden 
statue holding the chaplet of nine grains. Elsewhere, 
again, are noted coincidences which surprise her, 
where the goodness of God manifests itself, and she 
breaks out in grateful acknowledgment. She writes it 
to preserve the remembrance. " St. Benedict s Day," 
we find written in one place. " I have had a new 
reason for trusting implicitly in Divine Providence. 
Deprived of Communion, and being in great sorrow 
for my sins, I felt an extraordinary desire for Holy 
Communion, and I asked of God if it were His holy 
will to let my confessor . know it, and he, without 
hearing from me on the subject, called on me for that 
purpose, which gave me great consolation." Farther 
on: " 1 set out this February 5th from St. Agatha to St. 
Cloud. It seems to me that our Lord gave me the 
thought of receiving Him as the Spouse of my soul ; 
and that this Communion was a sort of espousals ; 
and I felt myself more strongly united to Him on this 



Interior Life of Mile. Le Gras. 189 

account, which was extraordinary, as the thought 
of quitting- all to follow Him, and to look upon the 
difficulties I would encounter, is the proof of my 
partnership with Him." She adds: " I had a desire 
to have Mass said to-day, being the anniversary of 
my marriage, but I held back to make an act of pov 
erty, wishing to be dependent on God in the action 
I was going to do ; but, O delicacy of Divine Provi 
dence! on arriving at the altar the priest had the 
thought to offer it for me as an alms, and it was the 
Mass of Espousals !" 

If we now catch the perfume of piety from these 
pages, what must have been for her Daughters 
the sight of their Mother praying and medi 
tating in their midst! That alone was a sermon. 
Always recollected in the midst of a multiplicity 
and diversity of business, before the altar she was 
fixed and immovable. " I saw her," wrote Sister 
Guerin, " one day that she was too weak to hold 
herself erect, hearing: Mass with her head and hands 

o 

against the balustrade at St. Lazarus, without move 
ment, as if she were dead ;" and when some one com 
plained of some inconvenience preventing their 
prayer, she said,/ You would not have felt it had you 
a lively faith." She spoke from experience. 

The graces God showered on her in prayer 
" those particular graces which have all power over 
the soul that loves" could not entirely escape the 
notice of her Daughters. In her instructions to them 
she appeared transported with love, and often spoke 



i go Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

in bursts of rapture unknown to herself. She was 
often seen coming- from Holy Communion bathed in 
tears which left their trace a long time on the cloth. 
She tried to conceal her devotion, but on Fridays, 
between two and three o clock P.M., and during 
Lent, she was sometimes surprised before the cruci 
fix in tears, condemning herself aloud for being the 
cause of the sufferings, known and unknown, of the 
Saviour.* This supernatural intensity of sorrow she 
brought to the confessional, where she accused her 
self with such vehemence that St. Vincent had all he 
could do to calm her. 

But this was not all her suffering; and this 
holy soul would not appear in all her beauty 
did we pass over in silence the interior martyr 
dom she endured with a courage all the more he 
roic as it was the more hidden. Without deciding 
how much nature had to do with her sufferings, to 
which, no doubt, her distrust of self gave some occa 
sion, we may affirm that she was continually on the 
rack, except the very last month of her life, when 
"our Lord," as she said herself, " put her in a state 
to bear everything in sufficient peace. "f 

To have an idea of her mental torture we must see 
her letters to St. Vincent. " There is no anguish like 
incertitude ;" and still she feels herself " full of irreso 
lution and shrouded in darkness." Her mind is 

* Written after the death of Mile. Le Gras by Sister Fran9oise 
de Pauli. 

\ Letter to St. Vincent, January 4, 1660. 



Interior Life of Mile. Le Gras. 191 

" enveloped entirely, so feeble is it." It is the " prey 
of all sorts of imaginations, vain and frivolous appre 
hensions, and distrustful thoughts." The reading of 
the " Memorial" of Grenada caused her one day such 
fear as pierced her through. It is true, she adds, 
"the meditation of these words, God is who is/" 
calmed her. Another time she wrote this familiar 
note : " St. Thomas s Day. All day great trouble of 
mind from my own abjection, abandonment, annihi 
lation of self; I seem to myself a sink of pride, 
abandoned by God, which abandonment I have de 
served by my infidelities, with great oppression of 
heart, causing in moments of violence great physi 
cal sufferings." Again, the Tuesday after, being in 
the same pain : " I see myself a subject of the justice 
of God ; and accepting His ordinance, I felt a little 
more tranquil, having taken as the subject of 
prayer The peace of God which surpasses all 
understanding/ She saw nothing in herself but 
misery and affliction, hardness and opposition to the 
grace of God. a O my very dear Father," she ex 
claimed, "if our good God would let you see me 
as I am how frightful I would appear to you ! 
I find nothing in myself but crime. The state to 
which my relaxation, laziness, and infidelity have re 
duced my soul would make saints tremble. ... I 
must appear to them without love. . . . My infideli 
ties give me great fear for the future. ... I dread 
lest my past and perhaps my present obstinacy may 
cause my ruin miserable that I am !" She feared 



1 92 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

that " God being angry would not accept her service 
any longer; that His mercy Avould tire of being exer 
cised on a subject always disagreeable to Him ; . . . 
in short, that she would die in impenitence." " I 
cannot refrain from telling you," she wrote to St. 
Vincent, " that to-day I am in great affliction on the 
subject of predestination, caused by some thoughts I 
have had in prayer. They have oppressed my mind so 
that I was obliged to make an act of resignation to 
the designs of God, should I and my son be forever the 
objects of His justice. . . . Oh, if you could know 
my fears, what a comfort it would cause me!" She 
always winds up with "the fear of being abandoned 
by God, as I fear to have deserved many times." 
" When I let myself be carried away by my fears, 
which have the same effect as real afflictions, I ought 
to be dealt with roughly ; . . . but fear, nonsense, or 
pride prevents me speaking of myself." Notwith 
standing, this breaks out through all her effusions: 
" She would rather die than disobey." But in hours 
of obscurity the confusion of her thoughts condemn 
her to silence ; she could not make herself known, 
and she seemed to be without any direction.* 

She attributed to herself all the faults committed 
around her. " The weakness of our Sisters," she 
wrote to the Abbe Vaux,f " is only the fruit of the 
poor garden of my wretched cultivation ; my sins 
cause all that, and it seems to me I merit the great- 

* Letter to St. Vincent, Nov. 16, 1643. 
f Letter, March 10, 1643. 



Humility of Mile. Le Gras. 193 

est punishment for all their failings/ The death of 
her Daughters is still another chastisement of her 
infidelities; and St. Vincent was obliged to tell her 
that she was treated like the rising Church, against 
which God must have appeared in anger when He 
called away her children by martyrdom. She always 
feared that her work would perish ; a fear causing 
sadness equal to that of Agar in the desert beside 
her dying boy ; yet greater still, as she imagined that 
her sins caused all the trouble. Sometimes she con 
ceived the desire of being like Jonas cast into the sea 
to appease the tempest. Her heart all this time was 
never embittered; she felt that "God draws His 
glory from such persons, and that His power had no 
need of their vileness ;" * but she avenged herself in 
abasing and vilifying herself continually ; she con 
stantly thirsted for humiliation, and would have per 
formed all the drudgery of the house had her strength 
permitted. As it was, she served in her turn at 
table, and washed the dishes of the community. In 
the weekly conference she was the first to say the 
Cnlpa. She was seen in the chapel to kiss the feet 
of her Daughters, or rather of her Sisters, as she 
would never give them any other title, nor would 
she receive from them that of Mother, which she 
reserved for the Holy Virgin. In the refectory she 
asked pardon, either prostrate or standing, with her 
arms extended. To those who came to tell her their 

* Letter to St. Vincent, March 23, 1643. 



194 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

temptations she confessed to having had the like, 
and sent for any one to whom she had given pain, 
even when the other was in fault. She expressed 
her regret most humbly, and, prostrating with her 
face to the ground, would insist on the Sister passing 
over her body. She would then rise bathed in tears. 
Her chief desire was to be trodden under foot ; and 
the more she was favored by the gifts of God the 
more she sought to humble herself beneath the feet 
of all, like magnificent forest-trees which bend 
their lofty branches all the lower the more they are 
laden with precious fruit. 

Everything around her reflected her sentiments. 
The resources of the community were restricted. 
Exact poverty was practised in nourishment, cloth 
ing, etc. The table would have been more re 
stricted but for the wants of those whom she 
always called " our dear masters, our lords, the poor ; 
for being," she said, " their servants, we ought not 
to be better treated than our masters." In what 
concerned herself personally she carried this prin 
ciple so far that St. Vincent wrote to her, " You 
do not nourish yourself enough ; you are the mur 
derer of yourself, from the little care you take 
of yourself;" and when her health required some 
thing different from the other Sisters, it was such 
torture for her that they had to try all sorts of ex 
pedients to gain her consent. 

She aspired to such perfect detachment that St. 
Vincent, in one of his letters, feared not to designate 



Humility of Mile. Le Gras. 195 

her by this periphrase worthy of a saint : " She who 
loves poverty in a sovereign degree."- However, 
when she asked his permission to give up everything 
so that she "could only live like the poor," f ne 
would not allow her, The fortune whose free dis 
position he obliged her to manage was very limited. 
It consisted of some property in Auvergne and an 
income from the Hotel de Ville, without speaking of 
unclaimed goods in her ancient dwelling, among 
them a cabinet from Germany, mentioned in her will, 
and another large cabinet of wood given her by the 
Duchess of Liancourt; but this patrimony was so 
scant that, to pay her own expenses and those of her 
son, she often accepted the kind assistance of Mme. 
de Marillac, her cousin. 

After the death of M. Le Gras her costume had 
always been that of widows, who, according to the 
expression of the time, made profession of being 
devout, and St. Francis de Sales could not reproach 
her with putting on what he termed " the sign;" 
but, little by little, she put off all that appeared 
to her still savoring of the world. Like all ladies of 
rank, she ordinarily wore a mask when she went out, 
and gloves to protect her from the cold, which she 
felt severely ; but she gave them up when she went 
to Angers, J under pretext of getting the benefit of the 
air. She did not wish new clothes; if they were 

* Letter 91. 

f See, in Chap. 17, "Conference on the Virtues of Mile. Le Gras. 

\ M. Almeras writing about Mile. Le Gras. 



1 96 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

brought to her, she did not fail to send them away 
the moment she perceived that they were new. 
One day, in winter, a petticoat warmer than hers 
was left beside her bed, but she refused it, and sent 
it to Sister Genevieve, who had taken possession of 
the other one. -What!" she exclaimed, -you to 
wear my old clothes? You may wear them when I 
am dead; not before."* The black head-dress or 
coiffe, then called capot, in which her portraits 
always represent her, she had bought at the broker s. 
Her cloak had been worn out and patched with dif 
ferent-colored pieces before she could be persuaded 
to use a piece of serge given her to mend it. 

Poor as was this costume, there was nothing com- 
mon about the one who wore it. Her height was 
rather above medium; her beauty, marked in the reg 
ularity of her features, favored the unconscious dig- 
nity and grace of her bearing. " The declared enemy 
of studied attitudes and constrained postures," sim 
ple, gay, cordial, Mile. Le Gras always appeared the 
same, seeking to correct what St. Vincent called 
"cette petite sdriositr~w of seriousness which 
nature had given her, but which grace had already 
mitigated, -not fearing occasionally to mingle a 
little vinegar to the ordinary sweetness of her man- 
ner." These efforts were not without merit, above 
all in the midst of such interior trials ; she confessed 
to one of her Daughters that " often in recreation 

* This was told by Sr. Genevieve Caillou to the Daughters of 
Charity of Pantin. 



Charity of Mile. Le Gras. 197 

her heart was so torn she could scarcely open her 
mouth ; yet this was the time she did her best to 
laugh." Naturally lovely and warm-hearted, she 
accused herself of too much promptitude. " I com 
mit many faults by that, not counting those of 
malice ;" and she accused herself of speaking loud to 
hasten affairs when coming or going.* St. Vincent 
would not see any sin in that, and her Daughters, on 
the contrary, wondered at the affability with which 
she always received them, the first to salute, never 
speaking except in a tone of entreaty, and profuse 
in her thanks for their services or for the labor 
attached to their employments, at which they were 
often confused. No one could complain of being- 
treated with less affection than others. Neverthe 
less, in the number passing through her hands there 
were often, as their companions said, rough and 
ignorant individuals who grumbled and murmured, 
and took it amiss to be told of their faults. At such 
times she would pretend to have provoked their 
displeasure by her rudeness, and excused them, say 
ing it was only a natural defect of their mind, or an 
excess of frankness preferable to dissimulation. 
Thus she bore patiently for years with very imper 
fect Sisters, not allowing herself to despair of their 
amendment. 

She had maternal compassion for those who suf 
fered pains of body or mind. She went to visit 

* Notes written during a retreat. 



198 Life of Mile. Le GraS. 

the Sisters who were sick in the parishes, and rose 
in the night to see those who were in the infir 
mary ; and when her health would not permit her to 
assist in what she termed her last act of love, she 
sent, by one of their companions, sweet messages full 
of tenderness and adieus full of hope. The death 
of the Sisters was such a grief that the news had to 
be communicated to her with care, and St. Vincent 
would write her as he would to a mother weeping 
for her children, offering her as a model the resigned 
submission of the Holy Virgin on Calvary.* Every 
thing in her life was one, we may truly say ; for, after 
having drawn all things into one, or into love, by her 
meditations, she made love the principle of all her 
actions, giving thus, by her example, the best com 
mentary on the beautiful name whose excellence she 
set forth in the midst of her Daughters, and showed 
herself worthy to bear " Daughter of Charity that 
is to say, Daughter of God, for God is Charity." t 

* Letter 125. 

f St. Vincent, Conference Aug. 12, 1640. 




CHAPTER X. 

1641 1646. 

Progress and Constant Development of the Work Origin of the Title 
Sister-ServantFirst Daughters of Charity authorized to make 
their Vows M. Portail is named Director Establishment of a 
Council Accidents and Divine Protection. 

f|HE Daughters of Charity were not as yet 
formed into a distinct congregation, and 
therefore had not had any definite rule- 
Faithful to his custom, St. Vincent, before 
framing the constitution, wished that practice should 
prove its wisdom, and, as often happened in his life, 
experience fully justified what his prudence had in 
spired. Had the rules been traced out in the com 
mencement of the work, they would only have been 
adapted to the Sisters visiting the sick in the parishes. 
But during the ten years just elapsed, the schools, 
the hospital, the foundlings, and the new mission 
of assisting the prisoners, had successively been en 
trusted to them, and hence certain modifications con 
formable to circumstances, to requirements, and, so 
to speak, to the whisperings of grace, had been nec 
essary in the first regulations drawn up by Louise ; 
tor it was she who prepared everything, matured and 
conducted it to the end. The little family lived 
from day to day under the Divine action, and M. 



2OO Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Vincent and Mile. Le Gras only sought to second 
the views of Providence, who, without any apparent 
plan in advance, quietly and sweetly continued the 
work. A word of St. Vincent in the Conferences, a 
reflection expressed, often unintentionally, was taken 
up and little by little became tradition. One day it 
is a custom that struck him when visiting" the Con 
vent, and which he introduces amongst his Daugh 
ters. " The Annunciades call their Superior Ancelle. 
That made me think of you," he said. " Henceforth 
you also will give no other title to your Superioress 
than that of Sister-Servant a glorious title which 
she shares with the head of the Church, for all ponti 
fical briefs bear this signature : Clement, Leo, etc., 
Servant of the Servants of Jesus Christ." Another 
time, 1642 a date which he little deemed so memora 
ble for his company St. Vincent related the impres-, 
sion made on him by hearing, some days before, the 
Brothers Hospitaliers pronounce their formula of 

vows: "I, Brother , make a vow and promise 

to God to keep all my life poverty, chastity, obedi 
ence, and to serve our lords the poor." " O my 
Daughters," he added with emotion, "if you knew 
how agreeable to Jesus Christ is this honor of the 
poor, His dear members !" In speaking thus he 
only gave way to the fulness of his heart ; but, un 
known to him, he was sowing a fertile seed. His 
words were so penetrating that several Sisters, deeply 
moved, asked if they also might engage themselves 
by vow. The Saint did not say against it; and after 
explaining to them the difference between solemn 



The first to make their Vows. 201 

and simple vows, he said they might be permitted to 
contract the latter engagement, which would not 
make them religious ; for when " we say religious, we 
include the cloister, grating, and things incompatible 
with their vocation; but these simple vows will not 
be less sacred for your souls." At the same time he 
recommended them to be on their guard against act 
ing without permission from their superiors ; to be 
satisfied with making known their desire, whatever 
would be the decision. 

The earth was too well prepared for the seed not 
to germinate immediately, and several of the Daugh 
ters of Charity hastened to ask the desired permission. 
The authorization was granted for one year to four 
of their number, and the 2$th of March, 1642,"* was 
chosen for the first oblation. This was the anniver 
sary of the day when, eight years previous, Mile. Le 
Gras devoted herself to the work. Not willing to 
separate herself from her Daughters, the Mother re 
newed her promise with them.f Moreover, all this 

* This date is given us in the Conference held in 1659, on the vir 
tues of Barbara Angiboust. 

f The archives of the Mission possess a copy of this formula of 
vows. The last lines are in the writing of Mile. Le Gras. It runs 
thus: "I, the undersigned, in the presence of God, renew my prom 
ises of baptism, and make a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience 
to the Vicar-General of the Priests of the Mission, in the company of 
the Daughters of Charity, to apply myself all this year to the corporal 
and spiritual service of the sick poor, our true masters; and this with 
the help of God, which I ask through his Son Jesus crucified, and by 
the prayers of the Blessed Virgin." 

(Signed) "JEANNE OF THE CROSS." 



2O2 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

took place in the silence of their conscience. Disposed 
for Holy Communion, hearing Mass for that intention, 
immediately after the elevation of the Sacred Host 
they contracted with Jesus a secret alliance, which, 
without being a formal term of engagement, was evi 
dently intended by each to be renewed in perpetuity 
until the day of their heavenly espousals. 

We would like to know more of these oldest of the 
family, these elect, these four corner-stones of the 
edifice ; but, alas ! Barbara Angiboust is the only 
one whose name or history we have. We know it 
was she who fled from the Duchess of Aiguillon and 
begged St. Vincent to give her the happiness of 
serving the poor. Received by Mile. Le Gras July i, 
1634, when the little community was still lodging in 
the Rue Fosses-Saint-Victor, she was one of the 
oldest and one who best understood the spirit of the 
company.* She was also, as her companions said, 
one of the most gifted ; her gayety and agreeable 
manner attracted the ladies to the service of the poor, 
and the latter to the service of Jesus Christ. As 
many as sixty women and young girls might some 
times be counted gathered around her to learn the 
Catechism or the way to make their prayer. Most 
zealous for the observance of the rule, full of humble 
deference for St. Vincent and Mile. Le Gras, whose 
letters she always read on her knees, Barbara I or- 
gneilleuse (Barbara the proud) as she always signed 

* These details are borrowed from a Conference on the virtues of 
Sister Barbara. This Conference took place shortly after her death. 



The first to make their Vows. 203 

herself possessed every quality necessary for the post 
assigned her at Richelieu, where we left her; from 
there she had been recalled to Paris, and sent to the 
service of the galley-slaves, whom she attended with 
unalterable meekness and patience. Often these poor 
creatures threw on the ground the food she brought 
them; but Barbara picked it up without a word, 
looked at them as kindly as ever, hindered the guard 
from striking them, and continued to beg for their 
wants. From the galleys she went afterwards to the 
foundlings, and manifested for them the same de 
voted zeal ; holding on her knees all night those for 
whom she had no room in the cradles. Always 
ready for everything, an accomplished type of the 
Sister of Charity, Barbara well merited to be one of 
the first to consummate her sacrifice and unite her 
self by vows. But who were her companions? For 
these we are reduced to simple conjecture, and for one 
among them we may mention our conjecture here. 

" Of the first five whom the Divine Goodness 
willed to be entirely dedicated to Him, one is in 
heaven," wrote Mile. Le Gras* some years after. 
This information is very vague ; but it is worth 
something if we connect it with the other notice of 
Jeanne d Allemagne, viz., " this is the first deceased of 
those who gave themselves to God in that way."f 

* To St. Vincent, dated April 4, 1655. It is needless to remark that 
in writing " five" Mile. Le Gras included herself. 

f Conference on the virtues of Jeanne d Allemagne, written by 
Mile. Le Gras, 1644. 



204 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

But from the Sister of Suresne, who died of the 
plague in 1631, to Jeanne d Allemagne, in 1644, how 
many Servants of the Poor had already received their 
heavenly reward ! How, then, explain this remark 
without supposing that Jeanne also formed a part of 
that privileged group ? Besides, she was well worthy 
of it, for "there was nothing found to reprove in her 
but an excess in her desire to serve God and apply 
herself to prayer."* Being at first door-keeper with 
the Carmelites, in order to become a Sister of 
Charity she had to conquer the resistance of the 
Carmelite Mother, who would have made her a choir 
nun, and the objections of St. Vincent, who was 
always a little doubtful of Sisters who had been in 
convents. But her vocation was irresistible. She 
could be seen at the door of the poor before they 
were up, and a sort of intuition guided her in her 
care for the sick. She gave her own meal one day 
to a beggar in place of a piece of hard crust some one 
had given him, saying quite simply, We must give 
nothing to God but what is good." She died at the 
age of 32, expressing but one regret that of not 
having sufficiently served the poor; but one desire 
that of serving them still, if God would give her life; 
and but one fear that of having found too much joy 
in her sufferings. 

Thus, according to the testimony of St. Vincent, 
we find elect souls, and souls truly generous in all 

* Conference on the virtues of Jeanne d Allemagne, written by 
Mile. Le Gras, 1644. 



The first to -make their Vows. 205 

the extent of the term, among those poor girls, who 
often knew not how to read, much less to write, and 
to whom Mile. Le Gras was often obliged to teach 
the Pater and Credo, article by article, before show 
ing them how to bleed a vein or dress a wound. 
They were only, as he said, " village girls ; God hav 
ing chosen to form their company from the same ma 
terial He made use of in founding His Church." But 
"had they lived in the time of St. Jerome, this great 
doctor would have written their lives to such advan 
tage that we would have been in admiration of the 
greatest number among them." " They are the 
Saints," he would repeat. " What benedictions and 
what beautiful examples they have left !" Some of 
them remained quite simple and natural, it is true, like 
little Sister Marguerite Laurence, who related in 
genuously that, having a desire to see the follies of the 
fair as she was passing, she took hold of her cross and 
said to God, " You are more beautiful than all that!" 
And they were all so attached to their vocation that 
they would rather be crucified or cut in pieces than 
suffer the least thing that might weaken its spirit. 
Those who were of good families, " the smaller num 
ber at that time," adopted the rules and usages of 
the company not less courageously than the others. 
" We have a young lady of good position and accus 
tomed to the best attire, but she makes no objection 
to changing her dress," writes Mile. Le Gras.* 

* Sr. Marguerite, perhaps, whose mother wrote her an admirable 
letter about this time " Such as I would wish to write my daughter, 



206 Life of Mile. Lc Gras. 

It was they who edified St. Vincent so much when 
he met them in the street, carrying the pot of broth 
or a box of vegetables to the sick, and " with such 
modest gait," he added, " that when I asked one 
to whom she had just spoken, Sir, she said, I did 
not take notice/ 

We might multiply these details, but they are only 
flowers which they scattered by the way; our duty 

had I one," said Mile. Le Gras. We extract the following: "My 
daughter, I was greatly consoled to hear of your perseverance in the 
fervor of your resolutions and your joy at changing your wordly gar 
ments for the dress of the holy poverty of a slave of Jesus Christ, 
which will ornament you more than the satin and brocade of the 
world, if your soul is always decked in the virtues worthy of the 
habit of penance, humility, patience, obedience, and, above all, the 
holy fear and love of God. Love with all your heart this vile servi 
tude and much despised slavery to which you have willingly aban 
doned yourself at the feet of Jesus crucified, which are the poor to 
whom you are willingly the handmaid for the rest of your life. Often 
recall your first fervor, and when you feel yourself relenting or growing 
cold communicate, with the permission of the saintly Superioress, to 
rewarm and reanimate in your heart the first fervor and the fire you 
displayed when you left us, your father and me; for that is the secret 
of secrets in the ways of God. Know, my child, that the cross of our 
adorable Saviour, with whom you wish to be crucified, was orna 
mented with three principal stones contempt, labor, and sorrow. 
These are the three principal stones of perfection, which I beg you, 
for the love of God and His Holy Mother, to desire and seek after as 
the greatest joy and glory to which you can arrive. Ah, how happy 
am I to have borne in my bosom a daughter whom I shall see glorious 
in heaven for having, in imitation of her Master Jesus, loved to be de 
spised and contemned by all creatures, and to have borne the most 
painful labors and piercing sorrows of mind and heart!" (Arch, of 
the Mission.) 



M. Portail is appointed Director. 207 

now is to admire in the labor of all the Divine hand, 
which developed the growing work and placed it on 
a continually strengthening foundation. 

The year 1642 the period in which the company 
first made holy vows was also marked by the adop 
tion of divers measures destined to render discipline 
more exact and the organization more complete. 
The most important of these was the nomination of 
a director. M. Portail, of whom we have already 
spoken, was associated in all the works of St. Vincent 
from the commencement of his apostleship. His 
first disciple, then his first companion, he had now 
become his right arm, his other self, and the general as 
sembly of the Priests of the Mission, held in October, 
elected him first assistant and monitor. The choice of 
the Saint naturally fell on him. Long initiated in 
the designs of the founder, whom he often accom 
panied to the parlor conferences at St. Lazarus, no 
one was more suitable to unfold the ideas set forth 
in these verbal instructions, and to conserve their 
spirit in the outline of rules just confided to him.* 

This was not the only help given to Mile. Le Gras, 
for soon after she received from St. Vincent s hand 
her first assistant. This was a Parisian, Julienne 
Loret, twenty-three years old, originally belonging 
to St. Jacques-du-Haut-Pas, who, as her companions 
said, " in a small body possessed a large soul." f Her 

* Letter of M. Portail to Mile. Le Gras, March 18, 1646, and of 
Mile. Le Gras to M. Portail, May u, 1646. 
f Conference upon the virtues Sr. Julienne Loret, 1699. 



208 Life of Mile. Lc Gras. 

mind was calm and judicious, her character firm, 
" she spoke little and very justly," and without any 
noise adhered to her decision. As skilful to write 
out a Conference as to compose a remedy or dress 
a wound, delicate of conscience and energetic in 
action, cutting to the quick when necessary, she man 
aged her time so well that she thought with sim 
plicity there were no accounts to be rendered one day 
on that score, and she would be satisfied to remain on 
earth could she there be occupied every instant with 
God, faithful to her favorite device Love or death. 
To this first officer St. Vincent joined a treasurer 
and dispenser. Thus a council became constituted, 
whom he charged to learn how to treat an affair, 
to propose, to discuss, examining the pros and cons, 
so as to arrive at certain sure conclusions.* 

This more complete organization seemed to call 
for some material improvement that Mile. Le Gras 
very much desired. Unfortunately the house was 
small, and to enlarge it funds were wanting. They 
had to be satisfied with making a parlor of one room, 
without the addition of a grating, however, lest in 
process of time they might be tempted to turn the 
company into religious,f which, said the founder, 

* Unpublished Conference, June 28, 1646. 

f Religious, viz., into a religious Order. We have said elsewhere 
that all the Orders of women were cloistered at that time Shut in 
behind a grating, the Sisters of Charity would have destroyed their 
work. For this reason St. Vincent said to them, "If any one ask, 
Are you religious ? answer, No. Not that you do not esteem them, 



The Dress of the first Sisters. 209 

would only be "the work of bad minds," and quite 
contrary to what God requires. But when they 
thought of a special place for the newly arrived, 
a kind of novitiate, they had to abandon the idea. 
It was decided at least that they should assemble at 
an appointed hour and receive information and in 
struction from Sr. Julienne, whose renown for wisdom 
had spread abroad so that persons from outside came 
to consult her. " They were," said Mile. Le Gras, 
"young plants whom the Lord had placed in His 
garden ; it was necessary to water and cultivate them 
with care." 

Nothing had been formally regulated with re 
gard to their costume. The first Daughters of 
Charity, originally from the environs of Paris, had 
preserved the clothing then in usage with the com 
mon people ;* viz., a dress ordinarily of a gray 
color, leaving the sleeves of the chemise to be seen 
closed at the wrist, and a little head-band of white 
linen, which hid the hair. The young girls of the 
province, who were asked no other dowry than the 
price of their fii;st habit, were obliged to adopt this 
costume for the sake of uniformity. f Some of them, 

but to be religious you must be enclosed, and then you could not 
serve the poor." (Instructions to the Sisters going to Nantes.) 

*In the approbation given by the Cardinal Legate, June 8, 1668, it 
is said: "The Sisters, called of Charity, having resolved by Divine 
inspiration to live together in community, without, however, quitting 
the secular habit. ..." 

f They had also to be furnished with a sum equivalent to their fare to 
Paris, in case they did not persevere and had to return to their homes. 



210 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

who complained of not having the face sufficiently 
covered from the cold and heat, petitioned to add 
a little black veil, but the petition was rejected. 
The only addition permitted (and only to those resid 
ing in the country) was a head-dress of white linen, 
called corncttc* over the head-band. This was 
worn at that time by the peasantry in the Isle of 
France. f 

With the exception of this indulgence, there was 
nothing to distinguish the Sisters of the province 
from those of the mother-house, whose usages, cus 
toms, and diet had in a measure the force of law. 
Thus, little by little, the work took a definite form, 
and " Providence blessed it with a commencement of 
order and foundation," J while at the same time He 
multiplied exteriorly the most evident signs of His 
Divine protection. This double manifestation was 
not unnoticed by the founders, in whose letters and 
conversations we are permitted to admire, with them, 
the Divine goodness watching over the Daughters 
even in the accomplishment of their humblest duties. 
At one time a young Sister washing linen in the river 
near the Hotel Dieu falls into the rushing water, but 
is taken out unhurt. Another time a Sister was in a 
house when it fell and buried forty persons beneath 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras to M. Portail, Aug. 13, 1646. 

f Notes and manuscripts of the Congregation in Spain (Arch, of 
the Mission). Such is the origin of the cornette, which was definitely 
determined to be worn by the whole community, in 1685. 

\ Unpublished Conference, June 28, 1646. 



Accidents and Divine Protection. 2 1 1 

the ruins.* The Sister, however, remained unhurt, 
standing quietly on the only step of the staircase that 
was not crushed. The people in the street reached 
up a pole on which she hung her soup-pot, and then, 
trusting herself to Providence, she jumped into the 
cloaks that were held out for her. She trembled a 
little, but continued on her way to the sick. "Ah ! my 
daughters," said St. Vincent when relating this fact 
to her companions, "what reasons have you not to 
trust in God ! We read in history of a man being 
killed in the open field by the weight of a tortoise 
which an eagle dropped on his head, and to-day we 
see a Daughter of Charity emerge without a scratch 
from the ruins of a house overturned to the very 
foundation. Is not this a sensible proof by which 
God lets us know that they are dear to Him as the 
apple of His eye? O my daughters, rest assured 
that, provided you preserve this confidence in your 
hearts, God will preserve you wherever you may be." 
Another day Mile. Le Gras escaped from death 
in so striking a manner that she has left the record 
of it to the community. It was the eve of Pentecost 
in the year 1644. She was preparing for the next 
day by finishing a retreat, when she heard something 
crack in the floor. She was not disposed to pay any 
attention to it, but, yielding to the wish of an old Sis 
ter, she arose to leave the apartment, and had gone as 
far as the door when the beams broke and the floor 

* During a visit she was making to a sick person in the Faubourg 
Saint-Germain. 



2 1 2 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

gave way entirely.* When St. Vincent heard what 
had happened, he set no bounds to his thanksgiving 
to God ; but he wrote a notef immediately to his 
spiritual daughter, recalling the walls of Jericho and 
the answer of our Lord concerning the man born 
blind, telling her to be very careful not to consider as 
a chastisement an accident in which the Divine mercy 
shone with so much lustre. This advice was very op 
portune, for Mile. Le Gras and her Daughters were 
very much frightened at the danger she had been in. 
We read her gratitude to-day in the little notes she 
took in which she sums up the mysterious lessons 
taught her by this event. " It seems to me," she 
writes, " that I ought to endeavor to remember it all 
my life, and to thank God for my interior sentiments 
at that time." That crash brought to her mind the 
great interior crushing which she experienced when, 
twenty years before, " God granted her light and 
understanding, day by day, on the subject of her 
three great uncertainties and anxieties which over 
whelmed her," and she concludes that the whole 
company should have a great devotion for the Feast 
of Pentecost, on which God gave to Moses the law 
of fear, to the Church the law of grace, to her heart 
the law of love, and to the whole congregation so 

*The Ladies of Charity from the Hotel-Dieu had been assembled 
for this day with Mile. Le Gras, and St. Vincent would have been with 
them in the same hall had not affairs of importance called him else 
where. 

f Letter 403. 



Accidents and Divine Protection. 2 1 3 

signal a mark of assistance." She then expresses a 
desire that every year her Daughters would spend 
in retreat the time between Ascension and Pente 
cost, waiting, in union with the Blessed Virgin and 
the Apostles, the coming of the Holy Spirit. This 
voice of God," as she designates the grace bestowed 
upon her, teaches her above all that total depend 
ence on Divine Providence is one of the dispositions 
in which she should maintain the company. Follow 
ing up an idea that we can only understand imperfect 
ly, " God," she says, " has a purpose that we know not, 
and He requires, to accomplish that purpose, certain 
efforts from one and the other. I hope His goodness 
will make known something for the solid establish 
ment of this little family to our honored Father, in 
whom I seem to see the interior operations of grace, 
and also in the souls of some of our Sisters." Then 
her thoughts collect themselves on this wish, which 
we find entire : " I would wish with my whole heart 
to give and acquire much glory for God, that we 
may correspond with His design in permitting what 
has happened." 

Glory given to God, the solid establishment of the 
company, and the union of the whole family, is the 
most ardent desire of the foundress; it is also the 
grand and beautiful panorama which successive 
events will unfold to our view. 




CHAPTER XL 

16461648. 

St. Vincent and Mile. Le Gras solicit an Approbation for the Company 
The Sisters are asked for in Brittany The Approbation granted, 

but the Articles astray Divisions and Difficulties at Nantes 

Changes at the Foundling House Celebrated Peroration of St. 
Vincent de Paul. 

ilLE the little company was growing 
under the eye of God, the founder and his 
faithful co-operator decided to ask from 
ecclesiastical authority an official recogni 
tion of its existence and the erection of it into a con 
fraternity. Ever united in action, one doing nothing 
without the other, they shared this work also. St. Vin 
cent took on himself to draft the request which Mile. 
Le Gras was to present to the prelate who then gov 
erned the Church in Paris.* Some clays after the 
Saint wrote to Louise : " Here is the memorial ; it con 
tains three points : first, the ways of Providence in in 
stituting the Daughters ; second, their mode of life to 
the present time ; third, the rules of their association. I 
have given the first two, that Mgr. and his colleagues 
may be informed of everything by their perusal, and 
I suppress a number of things I might add about 

*Gobillon, p. 161. This prelate was Mgr. J. Francis de Gondy. 



An Approbation for the Company. 215 

you. Let us leave to our Lord to tell that to 
every one and hide ourselves." 

The document has been preserved to us. We might 
call it a chapter of the foundation related by the 
founder ; thus we cannot do better than quote a part 
of it and abridge the rest. The Saint commences by 
recalling the origin of the numerous charities estab 
lished in the diocese, then the necessity of assisting 
the ladies by some girls of good will. " These girls," 
he said, " have been fitted for this work by a virtu 
ous widow, Mile. Le Gras, who kept them in her 
house, and during the thirteen or fourteen years 
since the work commenced God has so blessed it 
that in every parish there are three or four girls as 
sisting the sick or instructing poor children. They 
live at the expense of the confraternity of the parish; 
but so frugally that one hundred livres and some 
times twenty-five crowns suffices for food and clothing 
the whole year. Three are employed by the Ladies of 
Charity at the Hotel-Dieu, ten or twelve at the Hos 
pital of the Foundlings, two or three assist the galley- 
slaves, without counting those who are filling similar 
offices in Angers, Richelieu, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 
St. Denis, and other places of the country. As they 
are constantly asked for, Mile. Le Gras is keeping 
others in her house, ordinarily about thirty, who 
while receiving instruction from her on their life and 
calling, are employed, some to instruct the little girls 
of the parish who come to the school, others to at 
tend the sick or in the different duties of the house. 



216 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

They maintain themselves by their labor, the alms of 
charitable persons, and an annual revenue of two 
thousand livres allowed them by the king and queen 
and also by the Duchess of Aiguillon." St. Vincent 
here dilates on the good results which follow spirit 
ually from the corporal assistance given to the sick 
and dying " a most certain mark of vocation," he 
took care to subjoin, and at the same time said nothing 
of what did not come under the consent and permis 
sion of the prelate. " But since works which regard 
the service of God generally finish with those who 
commence them unless there is some spiritual 
bond between the persons employed in them," he 
asks the archbishop of Paris " to approve the rule 
by which they have lived to the present and propose 
to live for the future, and to constitute them into a 
Company under the name of Daughters and Widows, 
Servants of the Poor, of Charity." He added to his 
request an abridged copy of the rule itself. 

Several months passed without an answer from 
Mgr. de Gondy. This circumstance gives us a 
correspondence between Mile. Le Gras and M. 
Portail, then on a tour through the provinces of 
the west. Profiting of his journey, this Director 
of the Daughters of Charity was seeing about 
placing them in the Hotel-Dieu at Mans. This 
seemed an easy matter, thanks to the good reputa 
tion of the missionaries and the watchful care of the 
administrators. The hospital was attended by nurses ; 
but it was hoped that they could be gained to 



The Sisters leave Mans. 2 1 7 

the practice of the rule* by the good example of the 
Sisters chosen to be the foundation stones. These 
sisters, "with affection for doing good" delighted St. 
Vincent, especially the one who, with 4< heart all 
charity," was Sister-Servant Jeanne Lepeintre. 

Vain hopes ! A month was scarcely over when 
the most absurd stories were circulated in the 
town. It was said that when postulants entered the 
community they were sent to the new colony 
founded in Canada, where the Duchess of Aiguillon 
was bestowing her fortune, and it was whispered 
about that they would be married to the Canadian 
savages for the purpose of propagating Catholicity. 
But there arose what was worse than these foolish 
reports ; viz., disagreements among the authorities 
who ruled the house. From all these facts, the de 
tails of which are wanting, it was decided that the 
Sisters should be recalled. They left Mans, there 
fore, with the serenity and meekness which they 
had maintained through all their difficulties. "The 
money and time were well spent, "f said M. Portail, 
" if they did no other good in that place than to 
preach by their modesty and instruct by their un 
alterable calmness in such tempests." The gates of 
Mans were closed against them, as the Gospel;]: re 
lates those of Samaria were against our Lord. But 

* Rule drawn up for the Sisters going to Mans. (Arch, of the 
Mission). 

f To Mile. Le Gras, June 4, 1664. 
\ Letter 9-52-55. 



218 Life of Mile. Lc Gras. 

those of a large neighboring- city were open to receive 
them. The managers, or, as they were called, the 
" Fathers of the Poor," in the hospital of St. Rene, 
Nantes, having heard of the Sisters at Angers, wrote 
to St. Vincent, begging for six of his Daughters, on 
the same conditions. The Saint granted them with 
joy ; and Mile. Le Gras, whom he always advised 
to " imitate Solomon by putting fine stones in the 
foundation," took particular care in her selection of 
these. She proposed their names for his approval in 
the council. 

The choice of Sister-Servant took place some time 
after, in the midst of the assembly, and was the occa 
sion of a scene which we shall relate in all its simpli 
city. The council had assembled, and Elizabeth 
Martin, without knowing what was going on, was sent 
for by St. Vincent. He told her to be seated, and 
then asked her why she had entered the company. 
" Sir," she said, "it was to do the will of God." 
" And do you wish to do it still ?" he asked ; and 
turning quite pleasantly to M. Almeras,* whom he 
had brought with him, he said, " Well, God be 
praised, my daughter; He now gives you a fine 
chance!" He then told her that they were going to 
open a new mission in one of the largest cities of the 
kingdom, and that Providence had chosen her for 
Sister-Servant. " What shall we give Sister Eliza 
beth for her journey?" he asked, while she remained 

* This was his future successor the child baptized at the church 
of Saint Gervais the day of the marriage of Mile. Le Gras, 



The Sisters are wanted in Brittany. 2 1 9 

mute with astonishment; "each one must give her 
something. Let us see. What virtue can we give 
her ?" The first interrogated, wished for her com 
panion the love of God ; another, wished her love 
for the poor; Mile. Le Gras, the cordial support of 
her Sisters ; and M. Almeras, invited to make his 
present also, wished her " gay patience." "See what 
riches, my daughter, of which I wish you the pleni 
tude," said St. Vincent; " but what I wish for you 
especially is to do the will of God, which consists 
not only in doing what our superiors prescribe, 
though this is a sure way to arrive at it, but still 
more in corresponding with all the interior inspira 
tions that God will send us." 

The rebuff at Mans, and the thought that her 
Daughters might not find even at Nantes the sup 
port of the missionaries, induced Mile. Le Gras to 
conduct this new colony herself into Brittany. 
She knew in advance that this determination would 
cause much sorrowful surprise to those who re 
mained in Paris ; therefore she wished before leaving 
to give them written instructions, in which we read 
the acceptance of the Divine Will. " I recall to you," 
she says in this note, "the compact we made to 
gether never to gainsay the guidance of Divine Pro 
vidence, and to abandon ourselves to it entirely. Let 
us take this journey, you and I, as putting into 
practice this promise so often renewed." * 

* Note entitled : " Advice before a journey," 



220 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Then entering into the minutiae of particular 
duties, she advised Jeanne Lepeintre, the Sister 
named to hold her place as Sister-Servant, to give 
exact account to the other two officers every fort 
night; to decide on no important matter without the 
advice of M. Vincent or M. Lambert,* who had 
been appointed Superior in the absence of M. 
Portail. Each Sister in the house received a charge, 
and with it advice how to accomplish it. Some were 
named to visit the Sisters in the parishes every eight 
or ten days. This they were to do " in view of God 
and holy obedience, and to bring to this duty of 
affection and cordiality the great meekness of the 
Son of God." On the eve of her departure she 
went to receive the blessing of St. Vincent, and 
as she expressed in her humility a fear of committing 
many faults, he invited her to write an account of 
herself on the way. Happy thought! for to her 
journal thus kept we owe the details of the longest 
journey of this saintly foundress. Her journal is 
preserved intact. 

The little company numbered nine persons when 
Louise and her companions mounted the Orleans 
coach, July 26, 1646: the six Sisters destined for 
Nantes ; Sister Turgis, who was going with them part 
of her way to Richelieu; and another who accom 
panied Mile. Le Gras to return with her to Paris. 

* M. Lambert-aux-Couteaux, born ini6o6, in the diocese of Amiens, 
was the eleventh to enter into the institute, 1629. He established the 
Daughters of Charity at Richelieu and in Poland, and died 1683. 



Arrival of the Sisters in Brittany. 221 

" We were quite gay," the latter writes, "and by the 
grace of God we had enough to talk about." She 
relates that as they approached a town or village, 
the travellers were sure to salute the good angels of 
the place and beg them to redouble their care over 
the souls confided to them. When they passed before 
a church they adored the Blessed Sacrament and 
invoked the patrons of the sanctuary. Arriving at 
the resting-place, one of them went in search of their 
modest repast, which they wished to have by them 
selves and not at the common table. The others 
meantime found the church, then went to salute 
their "dear masters" the poor, either at the hospital 
or in houses where there were sick, and distributed 
pictures, beads, and Catechisms to the children. 

Thus they made the journey, doing good. They 
passed through Orleans, where they left the coach and 
took the boat. Through Tours, Saumur, Le Pont-de- 
Ce, "where they were happy enough to be chased from 
the inn for wishing to abstain from meat on Friday," 
and through Angers, where they stopped some days 
to the great joy of the Sisters in the hospital. At 
length, after a voyage which the low tide of the Loire 
made longer and more fatiguing than usual, they 
landed in the Breton city, on Thursday, August 8. 

Mile. Le Gras wished their arrival to be private; 
but they had been anxiously expected, and the 
crowds, already more than once disappointed, were 
now so dense and closely packed along the landing 
that it was with difficulty the Sisters could make 



222 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

their way to the nearest church as was their custom. 
Great and small rejoiced at their coming. The ad 
ministrators gave them full power in the hospital; 
the ladies of the city came to bid them welcome;* 
and several convents of religious expressed a desire 
to see them, as also their habit. The crowd of visit 
ors did not diminish during the following days. They 
admired the good order and cleanliness (something 
new) of the wards. The meals of the poor and sick, 
served by Daughters of Charity, was such an inter 
esting sight that the number who came to witness 
it made the duty still more difficult for the Sisters. 

This unusual success surprised Mile. Le Gras and 
filled her with gratitude. "I know not what will 
happen in that establishment where I have not 
yet seen the thorns," she wrote to St. Vincent,f 
" but so much praise from every one is incredible. 
May God grant me love strong enough to see in this 
the care of Divine Providence over us! Oh, how I 
should sing loud His praise! But I must stop short 
and content myself with supplicating the heavenly 
choirs to render fitting glory to God ; and you, our 
honored Father, to whom God makes known His 
guidance over us, to supply for our defects." 

* " I believe there was not a single lady of rank who did not come 
to see them; even ladies came on purpose from the country. It is 
owing to your charity that we receive such honor here. Do not 
deceive them about me; they mistake me for a great lady. Oh, how 
1 shall burn one day, and what confusion shall be mine!" (Letter of 
Mile. Le Gras to St. Vincent, Aug. 21, 1646.) 

f Aug. n, 1646. 



The Approbation is Granted. 223 

Almost three weeks passed and the act of establish 
ment was not yet signed. This time seemed all the 
longer for Louise by the serious illness of her son in 
Paris. The morning of the day she received this news 
she was incited by some secret presentiment* to make 
a complete abandonment of this child of many tears 
into the hands of Him who wishes to be called 
"Our Father." Her confidence was not deceived, 
and the young Michel, boarding with the physician 
and visited by St. Vincent, was out of danger before 
she was able to leave Nantes. The first part of the 
journey was by water, but " the wind and waves 
were contrary," writes Mile. Le Gras in her recital, 
"which gave us two or three good frights;" hence, 
notwithstanding the displeasure and the expense, 
the rest of the route was accomplished by land. 

Great was the joy of her Daughters in Paris to 
find themselves once more under her direction ; and 
the most sanguine expectations of all seemed realized 
when it was known that the Archbishop had at 
length acceded to the request of St. Vincent, and 
that his coadjutor, Cardinal de Retz, had approved 
the existence and rules of the Daughters of Charity,f 
and that the king for his part had consented to 
grant them letters patent. A singular circumstance 
happened, and one disastrous in appearance, but 
Providence made known the design of it later on. 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras to St. Vincent, Aug. 21, 1646. 
fOct. 20, 1646. 



224 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

The Procurator-General* had given the items of 
St. Vincent s petition to his secretary to have them 
registered in the Parliament. The secretary put 
them astray, and died soon after. Every search was 
made for the missing papers, but in vain ; and St. 
Vincent was informed that he must write his peti 
tion and commence proceedings all over again. 

We may believe that this unforeseen accident was 
a great disappointment to Louise ; for her advanced 
age and that of the Saint made them both desire to 
have their work established on a definite base as 
soon as possible. Nevertheless she testified no regret ; 
she even rejoiced interiorly at the trial; and this is 
easily explained from the fact that St. Vincent, in 
the copy of rules submitted to Mgr. de Gondy 
had given the direction of the confraternity into the 
hands of the Archbishop of Paris. So scrupulously 
respectful was he of the rights of the episcopate 
that he was willing to be blotted out himself, and 
all belonging to him, rather than encroach in the 
slightest particular. An ecclesiastic chosen by the 
prelate, he said, would be designated Superior, and 
they would obey him in all that appertained to 
their conduct. The project had been adopted with 
out modification, and the founder himself was 
charged with the government of the company which 
owed its existence to him. It might be asked what 
would happen if, after his death, a strange ruler 

*M. deMeliand. 



Mile. Le Gras asks the Apostolic Benediction. 225 

succeeding him, the bond uniting the double family 
should be severed. Such, indeed, was the thought 
which weighed on the soul of Mile. Le Gras. She 
foresaw the changes in the rule and spirit of the 
company that a different government would be likely 
to effect; thus, when she heard of the papers being 
astray, she did not hesitate to implore St. Vincent 
to correct this point of the first compiling. " In 
the name of God," she writes, " permit nothing to 
transpire that in the least point would withdraw the 
company from the direction which God has given 
it; for you may be quite sure this will happen 
when you are no more : the sick poor will not be 
attended to, and thus the will of God will be no 
longer amongst us."* 

This conviction strengthened every day ; experi 
ence lent it vigor, and she gave it expression with 
an exactness, perspicuity, and sometimes with a tone 
of authority quite unusual to her. But if the 
loss of the letters of approbation obliged St. Vincent 
to new formalities, it was not the less true that the 
company was morally recognized and had its place 
in the sunshine of the Church. Mile. Le Gras be 
lieved herself authorized to claim favors from Rome. 
M. Portail f was about to be sent by Vincent to the 

* Letter without date probably 1646. 

f M. Portail was sent to Rome in April, 1647, to visit the missions 
established there some years previous by the bounty of the Duchess 
of Aiguillon. He there fell sick, and, according to the expression of 
Mile. Le Gras, "on leaving the Eternal City he mistook Paradise 



226 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Eternal City, where Louise had often wished to go 
herself, but her age and continually increasing infir 
mities made her now abandon that hope, and she 
profited of this occasion to have M. Portail solicit 
for herself and for all the Daughters of Charity a 
plenary indulgence at the hour of death. * 

In spite of the absence of the ambassador through 
whom these sorts of requests were transmitted, the 
attempt was crowned with success, and M. Portail 
hastened to inform Mile. Le Gras. f He wrote, 
" Although his Holiness does not generally grant 
this indulgence to so many persons at a time, yet 

for Paris." We have several letters exchanged between them at 
this time. In one of these, dated from the Abbey of Saint-Sauveur, 
fifteen miles from " this desert, where the air is more temperate and 
more healthy," M. Portail recommends himself humbly to the pray 
ers of the community, for, he said, " having lived in holy Rome does 
not make every one a saint." 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras to M. Portail, June 21, 1647. 

"[ December i, 1647. Some years later, towards 1652, Mile. Le 
Gras begged the Apostolic Benediction through M. Berthe, Priest 
of the Mission, as is proved by the following written by her : 

"Louise de Marillac, twenty-seven years a widow, Servant of 
Jesus Christ and of His members the poor, in will if not in effect; 
deeply attached by obedience to the Holy Father; a Roman Catho 
lic, and on account of a long-cherished desire to receive at least 
once during life the Apostolic Benediction, she begs most hum 
bly M. Berthe, Priest of the Mission, to present her in spirit at the 
feet of the present Holy Father, true vicegerent of Jesus Christ, 
by the zeal his Holiness displays for the faith of the Church. She 
begs this to obtain grace from God to do His will in all things for the 
rest of her days. In return for this charity she will consider herself 
obliged to pray to God for his Holiness." 



Illness of Mile. Le Gras. 227 

the consideration of your employment in regard to 
the sick poor induced him to depart from his usual 
custom. All your Sisters living at present will share 
in this favor." He then takes occasion to explain 
the word mulier, which in the Court at Rome means 
woman or girl; he also tells her that, as an acknowl 
edgment of the part they take in the " charity," the 
missionaries who reside in Rome will celebrate, each 
one, a mass on the tomb of St. Peter and make the 
tour of the seven Basilican churches for the intention 
of the Ladies of Charity, especially for those among 
them who so often sent by letters and messages to 
beg that favor. 

The assistance of prayer was indeed more necessary 
now than ever to Mile. Le Gras ; fora time of labor and 
suffering had succeeded the period of silence and rec 
ollection mentioned in the preceding chapter. Physi 
cal sufferings, divisions in part of her flock, difficulties 
in her works, besides fears arising from public troubles 
everything seemed to come at once. Her health 
had been so good on her return from Nantes that she 
was able to write back, " I am so well that I have 
a great mind to do nothing else than run over the 
country, provided there was any good to be done." 
Now, however, she had fallen again into her " infir 
mities and laziness," as she called her sickness, 
have been a long time sick and even in danger, as 
they say," we read in a letter of Jan. I, 1647; and a 

* To Sr. Jeanne Lepeintre, Nantes, 1646. 



228 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

little later, " I had not recovered from my sickness 
of the winter when I had another and more danger 
ous attack." A violent headache was the result of a 
three weeks journey to the country ; and soon after, 
grief at the loss of one of her Daughters brought on 
a fever. St. Vincent wrote : " To see her one would 
suppose that she had just arisen from the grave, so 
weak and pale she appears. She has no life but 
what she receives from grace, being naturally dead 
for the last ten years. But her soul rules all in her, 
and if obedience had not stopped her you would see 
her still busy visiting her Daughters and laboring 
with them everywhere." 

In her family at this very time was a little group 
needing her presence most especially. If she could 
rely on the " wise government" of Julienne Loret and 
let her rule the community in the Faubourg Saint 
Denis, at Nantes the tares seemed to be stifling the 
good grain.* Discord was reigning among the Sis 
ters ; each one had her party either inside or outside 
the house, and the ordinary authorities seemed pow 
erless to restore order. Unable to go herself, Mile. 
Le Gras sent in her place Sister Jeanne Lepeintre, 
whom she thought " very much attached to the will 
of God, and much enlightened with regard to her 
duties," and whose influence, " mild and judicious," 
would suffice to bring back every one to the right 
path. At the same time, Mile. Le Gras sent to her 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras to the Sisters at Nantes, March 8, 1647. 



Troubles at Nantes. 229 

Daughters a long- letter from St. Vincent " which she 
could not read without emotion," she writes, " so af 
flicted \vas she at the thought of so many faults 
committed ;" and to give efficacy to her advice she 
humbles herself. " Do not think I say this to frighten 
you, or that I am addressing you alone. I say it to 
myself, and to all who, like me, have made a bad use 
of our vocation. Oh, how often have I committed 
the faults I suspect in you ! What cause of fear 
have I not that my bad example has left fatal impres 
sions on your minds ! Ask pardon of God for me, 
and do better than you have ever seen me do." : 

The arrival of M. Lambert, the advice he gave, 
along with the removal of some of the Sisters, seemed 
to re-establish peace among the Sisters of Charity ; 
but the end of the trouble was not yet. The wind 
of tribulation began to blow from without, and diffi 
culties multiplied. On one side, the managers of the 
hospital required duties contrary to their agreement ; 
on the other hand, the bishops, misunderstanding 
the spirit of the work, wished to give them the char 
acter of a religious Order ; while the municipality 
accused the Sisters of appropriating the property of 
the poor and ruining the hospital.f Thus the foun 
dation at Nantes, which was at first the most promis 
ing, now seemed on the point of ruin. 

* " Avis laisses a nos tres-cheres Soeurs de la Charite, Servantes des 
pauvres de 1 hopital de Nantes, par Lambert, Pretre de la Mission, 
1 annee, 1648." (Arch, of the Mission.) 

f Letter of St. Vincent to Mile. Le Gras, Nantes, April 28, 1649. 



230 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

i 

Although not ignorant of the designs of Providence 
in permitting trials at the beginning of nearly every 
religious undertaking, yet the Mother shared the 
sorrow of her Daughters. " How it pains me to 
know that you suffer!" she wrote ; " but what do I 
say ? I ought rather to envy you, since it is for God." 
She recommended to them especially to suffer in 
silence, and, " without wishing to conquer, to accept 
calumny as did their Divine Master, who lived and 
died in peace in the midst of His calumniators ; to 
practise their rules exactly ; if not, they would only 
be like a broken chain." * 

" Be strong, Daughters," she said to them on 
another occasion ; " are you not Daughters of Char 
ity? But Charity loves and suffers all things."f To 
Jeanne Lepeintre : " The world is babbling against 
you ; it is only the Evil Spirit playing his game ; he 
will gain nothing provided that you gather your 
selves beneath the cross like chickens beneath the 
hen when frightened by the hawk." As there was 
serious question of their departure from Nantes, she 
writes again: " They wish to send you off, but nothing 
can happen except for your good. . . . Going out, you 
will only have to shake the dust from your feet, and 
one day we shall bless God for this persecution."^: 

* To Sr. Jeanne Lepeintre at Nantes, July 20, 1647. 

f Letter, not dated, the only one, we believe, bearing the signature: 
" Louise de Marillac, Daughter of Charity, most unworthy Servant of 
the Poor." 

\ To Sr. Jeanne Lepeintre, June 15, 1649. 



Changes at the Foundlings house. 231 

The future reserved for the poor Sisters an un 
expected joy in a visit from St. Vincent, who was 
obliged to travel into Brittany the following year.* 
The mischief continued still a long time, and Sister 
Jeanne, sent for a few months to Nantes, was obliged 
to remain six years.f Mile. Le Gras had the pleasure 
of seeing an end to the trouble before she died. " It 
is not," she said, as if to excuse herself, " that I under 
rate the designs of God mingled in thorns and roses ; 
but after having suffered so much, I love to see you 
enjoy that peace and meekness which always are 
found in the service of the poor when performed 
without regard to other affairs, and I hope that peace 
will add to your cordiality. ^ 

The critical situation of the Sisters at Nantes was 
not the only thorn which pierced her heart at this 
time. Another establishment, older and not less 
dear, seemed equally in danger. We mean the 
Foundling Asylum, the history of which we shall re 
trace a few steps. 

We have already stated that for a long time their 
revenue was only equivalent to fourteen hundred 
francs. St. Vincent obtained from the king four 
thousand French livres annually three thousand for 
the support of the children, and one thousand for the 
Sisters to be raised on the Estate of Gonnesse. 

* In April, 1649. 

f We have forty letters from Mile. Le Gras to Jeanne Lepeintre at 
this time. 

JTo Sr. Jeanne Lepeintre at Nantes, July 26, 1651. 



232 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Afterwards, from the Queen Regent, Anne of Austria, 
he obtained another eight thousand livres on the five 
farms.* All these subsidies were not sufficient, how 
ever, to cover expenses, which in 1644 had exceeded 
40,000 livres ; and the building occupied by the chil 
dren having become too small, the Ladies of Char 
ity were petitioning the queen for the Chateau de 
Bicetre, f where, towards the month of July, 1647,^; 
they installed their young protege s. 

From the first, Mile. Le Gras was not pleased 
with this arrangement. She feared the expense 
necessary to support a building one half of which 
would not be occupied in ten years ; the distance 
from Paris; the coming and going of the Sisters, 
which would inevitably occasion distraction and 
fatigue ; finally, the difficulty of transporting the 
children on account of bad roads and the nature of 
the ground. The facts, which justified her fore 
thought, singularly confirmed her repugnance. " It 
was not without reason," we read in one of her 
letters, " that I feared the abode at Bicetre."|| And 

* Letters patent of 1642, 1643. (Arch. Nat. 6160.) 

f The Chateau de Bicetre, built under Charles V. by Jean, Duke 
of Berry, had been restored under the preceding reign to serve as a 
hospital for invalid soldiers. 

\ From this place we have many letters of Mile. Le Gras to St. 
Vincent, dated 1647. Abelly seems to mistake when he says it was 
after the assembly of "Charity," 1648, that the ladies obtained the 
Chateau de Bicetre. 

Letter to St. Vincent, Aug. 19. 

| Ibid. July 1647. 



Trouble at the Foundlings ho^^se. 233 

she relates the embarrassment of the Daughters of 
Charity when the ladies required them to occupy 
small unhealthy rooms and allowed them no chap 
lain. " They wanted our Sisters to go to Mass at 
Gentilly ; meantime what would the children do, 
and who would see to the work? I fear much that 
we must quit the service of the little ones." This 
was not all : " This magnificent place was supposed 
to belong to the Foundlings ;" and the great rank of 
the ladies who governed it* gave reason to consider 
it richly endowed ; and as it is quite pleasant to 
repose on the charity of others, alms became more 
and more rare until they finally ceased altogether. 

This situation of affairs weighed heavily on Louise 
for some time, but it could not be prolonged. St. 
Vincent, therefore, decided to call a general assem- 
blyf of the Ladies of Charity. In this assembly, 
and in presence of Mile. Le Gras, he proposed this 
solemn question : " Must this work be continued or 
should it be abandoned ?" Faithful to his rule of 
examining the pros and cons of every question, he 
represented to them on one side that, having con 
tracted no engagement, they were free to leave off ; 
but, on the other hand, it was well to consider the 
good already accomplished and that which could 
still be effected. At this point of the discourse, St. 
Vincent, no longer able to control the emotion pent 
up in his heart, burst forth into this celebrated pero- 

* Letter to St. Vincent, Jan. 23, 1648. f In l6 4 8 - 



234 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

ration : " Come now, ladies, compassion and charity 
made you adopt these little creatures for your chil 
dren. You have been their mothers according to 
grace since they were forsaken by their mothers 
according to nature. See now if you also can for 
sake them. Cease to be their mothers and become 
their judges: their life or death is in your hands. 
I shall take your votes of suffrage : it is time to pro 
nounce the decree, and find out if you will no longer 
have mercy on them. They will live if you con 
tinue your charitable care of them ; they must die 
and inevitably perish if you abandon them." 

The assembly answered by their tears. When 
the emotion had subsided, the work was declared 
necessary and to be continued at any price. But 
as circumstances occurred we must relate them, 
and we have to acknowledge that the zeal of the 
ladies again grew cold, and the entire labor of the 
work fell once more on Mile. Le Gras and her 
Daughters. In several of her letters she remarks 
with sorrow and almost fright : " It is pitiable that 
these ladies trouble themselves so little. Do they 
think we have enough to support the work, or 
do they wish us to abandon it ?" *And elsewhere : 
" These good ladies have not done what they could. 
None of them has sent any money, f therefore there 
is no corn and we must borrow ; there is no linen ; 
twelve or fifteen children are without clothing ; sev- 

* Letter to St. Vincent, Nov. 1649. 
f The same. 



Trouble at the Foundlings ho^tse. 235 

eral others refuse the bottle, but there is not a cent 
to put them out to nurse, and the poor people of 
the neighborhood bring back the older children 
before they are weaned : they were entrusted to 
them and paid for in advance, but the people tire of 
them. Debts, in fine, are increasing to such extent 
that there is no hope of ever paying them." 

The charity of Louise multiplied itself, and she ex 
ercised no little ingenuity by reason of these difficult 
ies. She had poor-boxes placed in the parishes, and 
had the priests and preachers recommend the work ; 
she suggested to the ladies to beg at the court,f and 
also each one in her own neighborhood. She her 
self begged from generous ladies and powerful 
ministers, visited the Princess of Conde, and invoked 
the pity of Chancellor Seguier. " One hundred 
poor little creatures," she wrote, " are threatened 
with not having bread during these feast-days. 
Their necessities weigh heavy on my heart." The 
Sisters spun, made bread and cooked food, which, on 
account of the scarcity of provisions, sold at a high 
price. They even took from their own subsistence ; 
for in the time of greatest distress Mile. Le Gras 
gave out the little she had on reserve ; and as they 
were not to have money for some time, the whole 
community was limited to one meal per day. 

* To St. Vincent, Dec. 1649. 

f Same date. 

\ To Mme. de Lamoiguon, Nov. 15. 

Nat. Lib. MS., f. 17391, p. 212 (Corresp. Seguier). 



236 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

This neglect of the ladies in the Hotel-Dieu, whom 
we have known to be at one time so generous, would 
be inexplicable were we left in ignorance of circum 
stances taking place at the time of which we treat, 
and which we shall strive to set forth in the follow 
ing chapter. 




CHAPTER XII. 

1649 1652. 

Mile. Le Gras and her Daughters during the Fronde Civil War and 
Charity The Sisters in Picardy ; in Champagne ; in the Beauce at 
Paris Death of Mgr. Camus and of the Widow of President 
Lamoignon Marriage of Michel Le Gras Birth of a Little 
Daughter. 

1HE PEACEFUL events we have recorded 
most bring us to the threshold of one of 
the stormy periods in our history. Interi 
or quarrels were added to exterior strife, 
discord, devastation. No evil seemed wanting at 
the first Fronde, followed, alas ! by so many others, 
more terrible, reaching to our own time. The nature 
of our story does not permit us to dwell long on the 
dismemberment of royalty ; but we cannot pass it 
over in absolute silence. 

Retired from public affairs as was the life of Mile. 
Le Gras ; stranger as she was to passing events ; 
knowing of peace and war, as she said herself, " only 
what every one knew," yet it was impossible for her 
not to be deeply moved by the effects of these public 
agitations. The dramatic yet sorrowful spectacle 
of a great city a prey to civil war, whole provinces 
desolated by a foreign enemy, the poor made victims 



238 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

of both, is what the Daughters of Charity were 
destined too often to confront. Hence we may see 
how God permitted their foundress to serve even in 
this instance as a model for those who were to come 
after her. 

" Mazarin, equal to Richelieu in diplomacy, was 
not his equal in the masterly genius necessary for 
the interior administration of State affairs." Occu 
pied incessantly in the care of himself, of aggran 
dizing the estates and establishing the authority of 
the kingdom, he paid less attention to the proper 
guidance of the realm, and allowed abuses and dis 
orders to be everywhere introduced. France was 
exhausted ; taxation necessarily increased ; even pub 
lic offices were sold to maintain four or five great 
armies and a considerable fleet, while no victory 
recorded could make the people forget the heavy 
load weighing upon them. Hence Talon, the At 
torney-General, was truly the organ of public opinion 
when with severity he reminded the Queen that 
" the honor of battles gained, the glory of provinces 
conquered, could not support those who were in 
want of bread." A riot which broke out in Paris 
during a Te Dcum sung in honor of the victory of 
Lens* justified these words, while it served as the 
signal for trouble. 

Anne of Austria, alarmed, and not without reason, 
to see twelve hundred barricades in the streets of 

* Aug. 26, 1648. 



Pillage of Saint-Lazarus. 239 

the capital and quite near her royal palace, sanctioned 
all the political reforms proposed to her by the par 
liament. But soon after, hoping to conquer resist 
ance by the army of Flanders, which the treaty of 
Westphalia empowered her to call to her aid, she 
fled to Saint-Germain with her son, and the blockade 
of Paris was begun. St. Vincent was frightened. 
Agonized at the prospect of the crimes resulting 
always from a war " more than civil" as Cardinal 
Berulle calls it, he determined to take a step to which 
his membership of the Council of Conscience* espe 
cially entitled him. He followed at great risk to 
Saint-Germain, and sought to influence the Queen 
and the Cardinal; but he had the mortification to 
find his advice refused. Mile. Le Gras was not 
aware of this attempt on the part of St. Vincent. 
Matthew Mol was the only person who was in 
formed of it in advance ; but his departure was soon 
noised abroad in Paris, and by one of those miscon 
ceptions so frequent in times of commotion his in 
tention was completely misconstrued. The people 
rushed in tumult to the house of St. Lazarus, the 
keys of which a member of parliament had previously 
obtained under pretence of examining the corn. It 
was literally sacked. Everything in the granary 
was seized ; the wood-shed was set on fire ; six hun 
dred men were for three days encamped in the 

* This Council was established by the Queen in 1643, to treat of 
ecclesiastical affairs. It was composed of Cardinal Mazarin, the 
Chancellor, the Penitencier of Paris, and St. Vincent de Paul, 



240 Life of Mile. Lc Gras. 

buildings, where they racked and destroyed every 
thing within their reach. 

Louise, we know, lived opposite St. Lazare, whence 
she never thought of fleeing. " I think you very 
courageous to keep so well to your house," St. Vincent 
wrote on the first news of the pillage, and then retired 
to a little farm in the neighborhood of Etampes.* 
The state of affairs was truly critical. The Sisters 
of the villages near Paris took refuge in the mother- 
house ; the foundlings had been transferred from 
Bicetre with the nurses and the twelve Sisters who 
took care of them. \ To find provisions for this un 
expected host was no easy task, for everything edible 
was dear and scarce, so that even the rich had not 
enough for their need.J Mile. Le Gras had the great 
est difficulty in procuring grain in sufficient quantity ; 
sometimes it was necessary to have an escort of sol 
diers to secure its safe arrival. This was not all : they 
were in constant danger of being attacked either by a 

* Frenville, which had been given him by the wife of the President of 
Herse, and which depended on the parish of Puisseaux, where he had 
established the Daughters of Charity. The letter is dated Feb. 4, 1649. 

\ In April 1649 the Sisters returned to Bicetre to occupy the place 
and cultivate the land, and in 1651 or 1652 the children were re 
installed; but the air, too strong it seemed, did not agree with them, 
and they were permanently brought back to Paris and placed at the 
extremity of the Faubourg Saint-Lazarus. Little by little the ladies 
ceased to take interest in the work, and, left exclusively to Mile. Le 
Gras, it soon began to prosper. 

\ Bread cost 24 sous the pound. (Histoire de Mile, de Lamoignon, 
par le P. d Orleans.) 



Illness of St. Vincent. 241 

mob, always on the point of collecting, or by wicked 
wretches too glad of the opportunity afforded by the 
excitement of the times. Caution was observed, there 
fore, in most minute details. The gates and doors had 
to be always kept locked, and, besides, a light was kept 
burning in the house, so as to be seen from the street ;* 
in a word, they had be constantly on the qni vivc, 
and Louise recommended to Julienne Loret and 
Elizabeth Hellot, her assistants, to make sure there 
were enough persons in the house to defend it in 
case of attack, and to place the little they possessed 
(their little community) in the greatest possible safety. 
The weight of affairs and responsibilities rested 
on her alone. M. Portail was at Marseilles, " de 
tained there by Providence and obedience/ f and 
St. Vincent, after visiting the Missions in the West, 
encouraging on his way the Sisters of Nantes and 
Angers, who had given him, he said, " more con 
solation than anything in a long time," J fell sick at 
Richelieu. " We are in great anxiety on account of 
M. Vincent," wrote Mile. Gras the 6th of April, 1649, 
to the Abbe Vaux, " having received no news of him 
since the I4th of March, when he was in Mans. I 
know well that he has been in Angers also, but since 
not a word from any one, and the last we heard was 
not from him nor any person near him. Oblige me 

* Letters of Mile. Le Gras to Sisters Julienne Loret and Elizabeth 
Hellot. 

* Letter of M. Portail to Mile. Le Gras, Sept. 17, 1648. 
\ Letter to Mile. Le Gras, April 15, 1649. 



242 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

by letting- us hear from you what you know about 
him." It was an additional trial for her to be de 
prived of his support in these afflictions ; but pru 
dence, by which the gift of God was manifest in her,* 
never left her, and thus her wise government was 
equal to all emergencies. 

There was no good work interrupted. Barbara 
Angiboust put up the beds of the hospital which had 
been taken down for want of means to support them. 
The parish Sisters continued their visits. Those who 
were gardeners planted and sowed when the weather 
permitted. They planted " chicory in the roar of the 
cannonade, and beans as a souvenir of the war." 
Above all, they prayed : " they prayed for peace, for 
France, for the whole Church." One or two of the 
Sisters were always before the Blessed Sacrament, to 
help good souls in appeasing the wrath of God.f 

The spirit of St. Vincent appeared to be ever pres 
ent in the midst of his Daughters. The Ladies of 
Charity, incited by his lessons, did all they could to 
fight the misery invading the capital, and Mile. Le 
Gras was anxious to do them justice. " You have no 
idea," J she wrote, "of the amount of almsgiving in 
the city. ... It seems as if the ladies took more 
pains in providing corn for the poor than for th em- 
selves." 

* Conference upon the virtues of Mile. Le Gras. 

f Letter to Sr. Hellot. 

\ To Sr. Jeanne Lepeintre, April 6, 1649. 

To Sr. Anne Hardemont, at Montreuil, July 23, 1649. 



Mme. de Miramion. 243 

To confirm this eulogy we need only refer to the 
fact that M. de Lamoignon having sent to Baville 
the grain intended for the support of his family, his 
wife and daughter gave it all to the poor in one day. 
St. Vincent said of him, " M. de Lamoignon runs 
so fast in the way of good works that no one can fol 
low him."* 

These workers of charity have been eclipsed in 
history by the brilliant Mme. de Longueville, Mme. 
de Bouillon, Mme. de Chevreuse, and Mme. de Mont- 
bazon ; but more useful to the kingdom and far 
greater before the Lord, was a very young woman 
whom we have not been able to name before this, but 
whose image is too sympathetic to be passed over 
without a reverential salutation. 

She was named Mme. de Beauharnais de Miramion, 
and was at sixteen years of age the widow of a coun 
sellor in Parliament. One day, having heard of 
Louise through her f friends Mmes. de Lamoignon 
and de Nesmond, she came to ask permission to 
make a retreat. " Mile. Le Gras," says the Abbe de 
Choisy, "received her with open arms,"f and endeav- 

* " Histoire de Mile, de Lamoignon." 

f "Vie de Mme. de Miramion, par 1 Abbe de Choisy, 1707." M. 
Bonneau-Avenant, speaking of this retreat, said it was preached by 
St. Vincent. This is a mistake. St. Vincent, then absent from 
Paris, gave missions or sacerdotal retreats and directed particular 
ones, but he preached no retreats for ladies, this kind of preaching 
being unknown at that time. (For details, see the life, works, and 
parentage of Mme. de Miramion, the work of M. Bonneau-Avenant 
Paris: Didier.) 



244 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

ored earnestly to second the work of God in that 
soul. It seemed as if God had brought these two 
souls together to unite them once and forever in 
the love of the poor, and was only awaiting this 
moment to break the chains with which the world 
was striving to captivate one at least of these His 
servants. 

The definite rupture with the world took place in 
the same house of the Sisters of Charity, as a result of 
a special grace she had received during her stay there, 
and which, by order of her confessor, Mme. de Mi- 
ramion committed to writing. During the night of 
the iSth or igth of January, 1649, it seemed to her 
that some one touched her on the shoulder and a 
Sister came to show her to the chapel. She opened 
her eyes, and a light brighter than that of the sun lit 
up her room, and she heard distinctly these words : 
" I am thy Lord and Master. ... I wish for thee en 
tirely, without reserve. . . . Thy heart is not too large 
for me. ... I shall be thy spouse, and thoti mine ; 
engage thyself to be so." And it was gone, all 
but the grace. From that hour, the impression of 
which was never effaced, Mme. de Miramion became 
one of the most devoted, most deferential auxiliaries 
of Mile. Le Gras. Docile to her counsels, she en 
rolled herself in the confraternity of St. Nicolas-des- 
Champs, her parish ; soon after, she undertook to 
visit the sick at the Hotel-Dieu ; also to visit the pris 
oners and the bashful poor. She learned how to 
bleed, established schools in the villages, and founded 



The Civil War and the Daughters of Charity. 245 

a house for young orphan girls, and participated 
largely in a work undertaken by St. Vincent and his 
Daughters in two of the desolated provinces. 

For the space of ten years she endeavored strenuous 
ly to repair the disasters which the war was constantly 
renewing in Lorraine. One of the Mission Brothers,* 
her ordinary messenger, had not made fewer than 
fifty journeys there, loaded with alms from the Ladies 
of Charity in Paris. This time it was Champagne 
and Picardy, which the last campaign had reduced 
to such a state of misery that the reality, shown by 
recent publications^ surpasses by far the most extrav 
agant dreams. From the month of May, 1635, these 
provinces had been covered by enemies and defenders 
equally pitiless, and were the theatre of success and 
reverse alike disastrous, being by their geographic 
position a convenient centre of assembly for the 
French troops, and the aim of incursion for the for 
eign army. For fifteen years the history of these 
regions might be summed up in villages burnt, cattle 
destroyed, harvests sacked, churches profaned, and 
cities transformed into deserts. The French seemed 
to equal in barbarity the Spaniards, and the pest 
followed in their flight the famished population, 
who, with their priest at their head, were wandering 
through the woods. 

* Brother Matthew Renard, who ordinarily carried 20,000 or 30,000 
livres, passed through the army and bands of robbers without ever 
losing a farthing. (Abelly, book i. p. 166.) 

f "Journal d un bourgeois de Marie," par M. Piette; "La Misere 
au temps de la Fronde," par M. Feillet. 



246 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

No one in Paris thought of helping the distress 
that was scarcely known, when St. Vincent, learned 
from some travellers that a number of sick and 
wounded soldiers had been left by the French army 
near Guise, where the Spaniards had just raised 
the siege. His resolution was taken immediately, 
and, in concert with Mme. de Herse, he directed 
a convoy of provisions and money to be brought 
them by two of his missionaries. On their arrival 
in the country these priests rendered an account 
of affairs, stating that, to lend proper assistance, 
not only the soldiers, but the entire people, needed 
to share in the bounty. St. Vincent shuddered 
on reading the accounts sent him, and hastened to 
make a transcript of them, of which he had several 
thousand copies distributed, in order to arouse the 
charitable public.* Very soon alms flowed in abun 
dantly to Mmes. de Lamoignon, de Herse, Nico- 
lay, Traversay, Fouquet, Joly, Viole, and Miramion, 
who were appointed to receive them, while the Saint 
himself, giving the example of sacrifice, consecrated to 
this work, with the consent of the Ladies of Charity, 
the 80,000 livres they had given him some time pre 
vious for his house at St. Lazarus ; and without delay 
sent sixteen of his priests and several Daughters of 
Charity among whom was Barbara Angiboust, al 
ways on hand for difficult posts. These were to 
spread themselves in Vermandois, Soissons, the neigh- 

* This publication was in print five years, from September 1650 to 
December 1655. 



The Civil War and the Daughter s of Charity. 247 

borhood of Rethel and Laon, and in the places most 
laid waste on the frontiers between Arras and Sedan. 
The missionaries traversed the country with provi 
sions, clothing, bed-covers, grain for seed, and tools 
for those who were still able to work. The Daugh 
ters of Charity distributed meals to thousands, ar 
ranged the hospitals for the sick soldiers, and opened 
places of refuge for young girls. " There was no 
service, however painful or dangerous it might be, 
that was not generously rendered on this occasion,"* 
says Gobillon, " for saving bodily life, and thereby 
gaining the hearts of an infinite number of poor per 
sons." The expense in 1651 amounted to more than 
fifteen thousand livres per month ;f but the charity 
abated not, and the city whence came the impulse con 
tinued to show the greatest generosity. " All Paris," 
we read in a letter of St. Vincent to a missionary at 
a distance from France,;): " contributes to this work." 
He left his most important duties to attend to it 
himself. The very day he wrote he had to attend a 
conference of his Daughters at the house of Mile. Le 
Gras, to plan out, with the Duchess of Aiguillon and 
Mme. de Herse,some new methods of helping the poor 
country. The circumstances of the time rendered 
this enthusiasm of charity all the more admirable, we 
must remark, as the horrors occasioned in the city 

* See his work already quoted, p. 166. 

f Letter of St. Vincent to the municipal authorities of Rethel, 
May 20, 1654. 

\ To M. Lambert, January 3, 1652. 



248 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

by the renewing of the civil war were not less terri 
ble than the ravages committed in the country by 
the enemy. 

If, indeed, the king s resistance had changed in 
character, peace was not restored to Paris. There 
had succeeded to the old parliamentary Fronde a 
movement having at its head the greater part of the 
nobility. The great Conde, who, two years pre 
viously, had brought the court back to the capital,* 
now personified the rebellion, and, camping between 
the Seine and Loire, gave bloody battle to the royal 
army, commanded by Turenne. Conde said after 
wards, when returned to his duty, that he was at this 
time " the most criminal of men." Desolation on 
desolation reigned in the country, where the heart- 
rendino- scenes which covered with tears Champagne 

o 

and Picardy were being daily repeated. The tran 
scripts of St. Vincent were not slow in echoing this 
new distress. " We hear of nothing," we read in one, 
" but murder, robbery, violations, and sacrileges. The 
churches are pillaged as much as the frontiers ; even 
the Sacred Host is not respected, but is cast on the 
ground in order to steal the ciborium. Most of the 
grain is cut down, the villages are deserted, the pastor 
and his flock are in flight, and the country people are 
taking refuge in the woods." As is generally the case 
in like circumstances, a great number of these poor 
creatures, not waiting for the help coming to them, 

* August 18, 1649. "This very day," Mile. Le Gras wrote, "our 
good king arrives in Paris, bringing joy to every heart" 



Suffering and Disaster in Paris. 249 

slowly perhaps on account of the presence of the 
army betook themselves to Paris, crowding up the 
faubourgs, and augmenting the misery which three 
years incessant trouble had spread in the city. 

In May 1652 the number of poor persons who 
were acknowledged unable to help themselves 
amounted to ten or twelve thousand, without count 
ing professional beggars. In June and July there 
were sixteen thousand, and twenty thousand a short 
time after. The work-shops were at a stand-still; the 
stores opened only sometimes, or not at all ; com 
merce had ceased, and to the sufferings of those who 
were in extreme want was added the embarrassment 
of those who might help them. To give only a few 
examples: The house of St. Lazarus had lost 23,000 
livres of income. The revenue of the Daughters of 
Charity, levied partly on the coaches,* not running 
now, was notably reduced ; and the deficit of the 
Hotel-Dieu was as high as seventy thousand livres. f 
Nature finally added her scourges to the disasters of 
human revolutions. The Seine, restrained only by 
weak embankments, overflowed, so that parts of the 
city were approachable only by boat, and the pest, 
which had raged for the past two years, seemed to be 
a native of France.:): "There are so many sick in Paris," 
Mile. Le Gras wrote, "it seems we must all die." 

* They had among other things 1200 livres annual rent in perpe 
tuity on the coaches of Rouen, provided by gift from the Duchess of 
Aiguillon. 

f Feillet, " La Misere au temps de la Fronde." 

| 1650. The pest carried off 22 physicians. (Feillet.) 



250 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

Her Daughters had never seen so vast a field 
open to their charity. St. Vincent s letters show 
what part they took in the good accomplished in 
Paris, and what assistance they rendered to the sick. 
" They shelter," he said, " from eight to nine hundred 
girls and women. They make and distribute soup 
every day at the house of Mile. Le Gras to thirteen 
hundred of the modest poor, and in the Faubourg 
Saint-Denis to eight hundred refugees." " In the 
parish of St. Paul alone they help five thousand 
poor, without counting the sick, and as many else 
where that would amount to fourteen or fifteen thou 
sand persons, who for six months owe to them their 
means of subsistence."* To a house of the Sisters 
in the province he wrote: "Your company has 
never labored so much nor so usefully." f 

The letters of Louise are without details, as they 
would only redound to her praise. We see that the 
Sisters, who again took refuge in the mother-house, 
numerous as they were, could scarcely perform all 
the services required of them. " We were never," 
she wrote, " so poor in Sisters, nor so urged to send 
them." But these public calamities are so many 
occasions of touching exhortations. The shrine of 
St. Genevieve was removed and carried in proces 
sion through the streets of Paris, to implore a cessa 
tion of the war. Alluding to this, Mile. Le Gras said 
to her Daughters: " How good it is to be faithful 

* Letters of June 21, 1652. 

f To the Sisters of Valpuiseaux, June 23, 1652. 



Fighting in the Faubourg Saint- Denis. 251 

to God, who surrounds His servants with so much 
honor !" Another day, writing to Barbara Angiboust, 
sending her a louis of twenty-three livres and three 
sous (which, perhaps, never reached their destina 
tion) she writes: " Oh, if we only knew the secrets of 
God, we should see that this time will be one of the 
greatest consolation. You share in the necessity, and 
that is your joy ; for if you were in abundance you 
would grieve to make use of it and see the poor, 
your lords and masters, suffer ; besides, should we 
not suffer as well as others? Who are we, to believe 
that we ought to be exempt from public calamity ?" 

She spoke from experience, for these lines were 
written in June 1652 in the midst of the war. The 
Faubourg Saint-Denis had been a dangerous place 
of abode for several weeks past, on account of the 
blockade of Paris, the rumors of battles from La 
Chapelle and Saint-Lazarus, the excitement of the 
people, and the taking and retaking of Saint-Denis, 
all of which interested St. Vincent and his people, as 
he himself said.* The crisis seemed to be reached 
on the evening of July ist. The place was surrounded ; 
the army of the Prince of Conde coasted along the 
grounds of the missionaries, and encamped there for 
the night. Next day their rear-guard was dispersed 
by the royalists on the heights of Saint-Martin, but 
they were afterwards victorious in the Faubourg 
Saint-Antoirie. Some hours later Mile. Le Gras 

* Letter to M. Lambert, May 17, 1652. 



252 Life of Mile. Lc Gras. 

wrote a letter to St. Vincent which even now 
breathes of the emotion of conflict. We quote it 
almost entire : " This alarm frightens us all ; most of 
the people are moving from the faubourg. Shall we 
not follow their example ? It would be a great under 
taking for us. If our young Sisters were in danger, 
we might send them through the parishes, transmit 
ting them provisions as best we might. As for me, 
I am waiting for death, and cannot help my heart 
moving whenever I hear them shout, * To arms ! It 
seems as if Paris abandons this district ; but I trust 
that God will not abandon it, and that His goodness 
will show us mercy." 

This letter, the only one in which Louise shows any 
fear, gives us an idea how serious was the situation, 
and explains the steps she might have been obliged to 
take. Already one Sister, frightened by the commo 
tion, was sent to the Hotel-Dieu, where she died. Mlje. 
Le Gras herself, scarcely able to move, suffered for 
several months from intermittent fever, which she 
called her key to get out of this world, and only nour 
ished herself with a little pea-soup. Her Daughters 
were trembling for her life. Yielding at length to 
their desires, she hired a little room in the centre of 
Paris, and there retired ; but she could not long re 
sign herself to what she termed her laziness, and 
after a short rest she was again at her post. 

As the removal of Conde s troops left the road free 
to the country around Paris, St. Vincent arranged a 
mass-meeting of ail the religious Orders. He dispersed 



Attending to the Sick and the Dead. 253 

them through the villages. The Jesuits went to 
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, and into the cantons of 
Crosne and Mongeron ; the priests of Saint-Nicolas 
to Brie and Lagny ; the Capuchins to Longjumeau 
and Montlhery; two detachments of priests from 
Saint-Lazarus to the Beauce especially to Etampes 
and Palaiseau, where they found the streets blocked 
up with corpses in a state of putrefaction, and the 
inhabitants dying of dysentery and hunger. Some 
had lived fifteen days on herbs and water; others 
on army-bread moistened. At Oranges there 
was not a living soul remaining, but the number 
of dead were so great that the first duty of the 
missionaries was to dig trenches and bury the 
corpses. Some of the missionaries died, but none 
of them lost courage. Their rivals in devotedness 
were the Daughters of Charity ; they opened kitch 
ens at Etampes Etrechy, Villecousin, Saint-Arnoul, 
and Gullerval, collected more than six hundred 
orphans, and nursed the sick. Several of them died, 
also, of the labor, or, as St. Vincent said, "on the 
field of battle, sword in hand." One of them, who 
had served the sick nearly two years in Picardy and 
Champagne, died almost neglected in Etampes, 
where they could not procure a woman to sit up 
with her ; and another, Sister Marie Joseph, not 
willing to leave her duty, had the sick carried to her 
room to dress their wounds, which she continued to 
do, until one day, having finished her task, she fell 
fainting and never rose. 



254 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

During this time the Ladies of Charity, who had 
displayed so much activity since the commencement 
of the troubles, were multiplied in Paris. As the 
author of the " History of Mile, de Lamoignon" 
says, " God, who permitted, at that time, such public 
want as had not been seen for several centuries, also 
raised up more zealous and charitable persons than 
had appeared in a long time." The Duchess of 
Aiguillon made an appeal to the public in the name 
of the company of the Hotel-Dieu, which was eagerly 
responded to by all classes of society. The butchers 
gave six thousand pounds of meat ; the bakers and 
others subscribed still more liberally ; and depots 
were opened in every parish to receive donations 
of eatables, tools, linen, clothing, materials in the 
piece to be transformed by the deft fingers of the 
Sisters of Charity into dresses for the indigent, or 
naments for the churches, or soutanes for poor 
priests."* At length these offerings became cen 
tralized in the house of Mme. de Bretonvilliers, at 
a point of the city whence every month went forth 
twelve or thirteen thousand livres of charity. The 
impulse once given, sacrifices were no longer counted. 
The queen sent jewels of great price to the ladies; 
the Queen of Poland, with an exhausted treasury, 
offered twelve thousand livres ; the Princess of Conti 
sent from Languedoc precious stones, valued at fifty 
thousand crowns ; and Mme. de Miramion, not to 

* Deposition made at the Beatification of St. Vincent by Sr. Claude 
Mussot, who had herself worked on these vestments. 



Death of Mme. Lamoignon. 255 

mention others, brought a magnificent collar and her 
silver plate. Everywhere virtue overbalanced am 
bition, and the most disinterested devotion enlight 
ened the dark horizon of civil war. Misfortunes 
were coming to an end, however. In October 1652, 
Conde, weary of defeat, rejoined the Spaniards in 
Champagne, and the young king entered the city 
amid the acclamations of the people. The Fronde 
was vanquished ; but it had caused evils difficult to 
overcome, and, instead of tempering authority, it only 
prepared the way for the absolute power of the king. 
This period, so calamitous and for us so filled 
with sorrow, had brought to Mile. Le Gras an 
overflow of grief. Death, which had so often threat 
ened herself, had now been severing dear bonds 
and leaving vacant places around her. First of these 
was the Superioress of the Ladies of Charity, the good 
Lady President Lamoignon, as she was called, who 
was taken from the poor on the night "of December 
30, 1651. "God has taken her from us," wrote 
Louise to one of her Daughters at Angers,* " to re 
compense her holy simplicity, her perfect humility, 
and her great charity. Thus, having prayed for her 
as the Church ordains, let us beg her to obtain for us 
these three virtues." In another letterf she shows 
how great was the popularity of the lady president. 
" The poor of the parish of Saint-Leu," she relates, 
" calling to their assistance the bourgeois, opposed, by 

* Letter to Sr. Cecilia Agnes Angiboust, older sister of Barbara, 
f Letter to Sr. Julienne Loret, Jan. 7, 1652. 



256 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

armed force, the removal of the mortal remains of 
their Mother. It was her wish to be interred at the 
Recollets of Saint-Denis ; but her son, M. de Lamoig- 
non, could only carry away her heart to fulfil her 
desire. The poor insisted that she rest in the vault 
of their church, which accordingly took place." To 
this striking testimony to her virtue we may add 
another which Mile. Le Gras does not mention, 
although the intercourse of her daughters with this 
holy woman made it impossible for her not to be 
aware of it. * Mme. de Lamoignon had retired to 
the Convent of the Visitation in the Faubourg Saint- 
Jacques, to share the grief of her sister, who was a 
religious. Their mother had died only some days 
previous, and they were speaking of her, with 
tears, when a beautiful child came to the turn of the 
convent-gate and passed in a letter containing only 
these words: "Servants of God, weep not. God 
had prolonged her life as much as His justice would 
permit ; but His mercy is equal to His justice, and 
mercy urged Him to give to His servant, your mother, 
the recompense due to her merit." Every effort to 
discover the child was vain : he disappeared imme 
diately ; and so great was the reverence for the dear 
departed that many believed this to be surely a mes 
sage from on high.f 

*The rosary used by Mme. de Lamoignon was given by her 
daughters to Mile. Le Gras. After her death it was restored by 
Michel Le Gras to Mme. de Nesmond. 

f " Histoire de Mme. de Lamoignon." 



Death of Mgr. Camtis. 257 

Some months were scarcely passed after this sorrow, 
when Mile. Le Gras lost the old friend of her youth, 
the first guide of her soul Mgr. de Camus. After 
having left the episcopal chair of Belley and filled the 
humble post of Vicar-General to the Archbishop of 
Rouen, he labored in that large diocese at his own cost, 
and without any assistance from the prelate who then 
employed* him, and "at length retired to the Hos 
pital of Incurables in Paris." Voluntarily despoiled 
of all he had possessed, he lived on charity and 
served the sick as infirmarian and chaplainf at the 
same time. His death occurred April 25, 1652. To 
Mile. Le Gras this was a blow rendered heavier 
from the fact that their tender relationship had never 
ceased, and letters from time to time kept up the 
union of their thoughts and testified to the fidelity 
of their remembrances. In the midst of these afflic 
tions God had reserved for His servant a joy long 
waited for in the sunset of life, and made her think 
of the drop of honey tasted by Saul which opened 
his eyes and gave him new vigor. Michel Le Gras 
had at length fixed his destiny. For a long time he 
had been the subject of solicitude to his mother, as 
we see by her letters. Now it was his health, again 
his salvation, that tormented her. Always on the 
wtch, she became uneasy if he did not send her 



* Letter of Mgr. Camus to Mile. Le Gras, dated Pontoise. (Arch, 
of the Mission.) 

f Notice upon Mgr. Camus, by Mgr. Depery, Bishop of Gap. 



258 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

an account of himself every fifteen days. She 
would write to his friend, Count de Mony, to inquire 
" if he had the great cross in his room ;" if he tried 
to " overcome melancholy, the source of all his 
trouble, by occupying himself according to his taste." 
" He always seems to me," she would write, " to 
have the fear of God and the desire to acquit him 
self faithfully of his duty." Without ceasing, she 
recommended him to the prayers of the Daughters 
of Charity and the missionaries from Rome, or 
begged St. Vincent to say a Mass for him, letting 
him know discreetly the grief caused her by " that 
person so dear to her." She had ceased to men 
tion him always. Yet, to atone for his faults, she 
had a picture made from some rings, the last of her 
jewels. This picture was for an altar dedicated to 
the Holy Virgin. 

The time had come for him to think of settling 
himself, but circumstances rendered his marriage 
difficult, and Mile. Le Gras was obliged to interest 
herself on that subject with the Marillac family. 
This was humiliating, and she reproached herself for 
" her pride " when her son was refused his first 
position on account " of the small amount she had 
to give him." " I ought, as a Christian," she 
said to the Count of Maure,* " love the contempt 
which ordinarily follows poverty." But the trial was. 

* Michel Le Gras was also appointed General Treasurer of 
France in the Bureau of Finance at Riom. He received this 
charge July 22, 1652, as heir of Charles de Pierrefite, Lord of 



Marriage of Michel Le Gras. 259 

short, and soon all difficulty was removed. A short 
time after the rebuff of which we have just spoken, 
the future of Michel was settled satisfactorily to 
his mother by the purchase of a counsellorship at 
the "Court of Monnaies," and his marriage with 
Gabrielle Le Clerc, daughter of Nicolas, Lord of 
Chevieres " a very virtuous young lady, " we read 
in one of Mile. Le Gras s letters, " whom God has 
selected for him, it seems, and who is not from 
Paris." * The contract was signed by St. Vincent 
and by Adrien le Bon, ancient prior of Saint-Lazarus, 
and the marriage celebrated January 18, 1650, in the 
church of Saint-Sauveur. The only fruit of this 
union was a girl, whom the community of the Fau 
bourg Saint-Denis used to call "the little Sister," 
sending her cakes " before she had teeth to eat them." 
Foreseeing that it would not be given to her to initiate 
this little one in charity, and desirous that this virtue 
should be eminently practised by her, Mile. Le Gras 
soon added a codicilf to her will by which she left 
to her grand-daughter the sum of eighteen livres to 

Bosredon, the last incumbent of the office. Michel resigned this 
charge the same year, December 3ist. The letters-patent, signed 
by the queen, praise "his loyalty, prudence, diligence," and style 
him "accomplished in judicature." He was then living in the Rue 
Saint-Denis, parish of Saint-Eustache. He was also named bailiff of 
Saint-Lazarus by St. Vincent, who, in quality of his possession of this 
fief, had the privileges of high jurisdiction ; but, becoming deaf in 
1656, he had to give this up also. He died in 1696. 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras to Sr. Jeanne Lepeintre, Jan. 13, 1650. 

\ May n, 1656. 



260 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

be spent by her on a yearly dinner to the poor of the 
parish, whom she was to serve at table. 

The ..maternal task of Louise was accomplished. 
From this time she spoke of her family only to God. 
If the name of her son occurs in her correspondence 
to her Daughters, it is only to unite him to their 
thanksgiving. But her spiritual family had not yet, 
we might say, emerged from its childhood. Hence 
her life must be exclusively consecrated to it; and 
we also return to it to wander no more. 




CHAPTER XIII. 

1652 1655. 

The Elect among the Elect Daughters of Charity in Poland Hos 
pital of the Name of Jesus Founding of the General Hospital 
Bossuet preaches there the Panegyric of St. Paul His Opinion of 
the Daughters of Charity. 

jHE SORROWFUL years of which we have 
just spoken had made many ruins ; but 
Providence watched with love over the 
Servants of the Poor, and the little com 
pany had weathered the storm without suffering 
shipwreck. 

It was a manifest mercy that Mile. Le Gras never 
tired repeating to her Daughters, saying that their 
entire life would be too short for gratitude * for 
themselves and all who took interest in the work. 
M. Almerasf saw in it a sort of miracle, "which 
made him think of a letter dictated by St. Bernard 
in a heavy shower, which letter was not even moist 
ened although the rain poured in all directions 
around." M. Portail, recalling all the dangers the 
Sisters had escaped, especially those to which their 
virtue had been proof, added : " If there were nothing 
else, this last protection would be sufficient to show 

*To Sr. Anne, July 23, 1649. 

f Letter of M. Almeras, then Superior of the house in Rome, to Mile. 
Le Gras. (Arch, of the Mission.) 



262 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

that the institute is truly from God and governed by 
His hand." * Hence on his return from Marseilles he 
resumed the direction of the company with renewed 
courage. After three years of absence he found, it 
is true, many a vacant place in the company. Many 
of the Sisters had died ; f but in spite of the troublous 
times many new ones had joined, and among them 
elect souls well worthy to take their places beside 
those whose sweet attractive features we have tried 
to sketch. We may here remark two young girls, only 
a few months received, who were both destined one 
day to be the support of their Sisters and whose zeal 
distinguished them even now among their compan 
ions. 

One of these was named Marguerite Chetif,J and 
was born in the parish of Saint-Sulpice. Lively and 
ardent, she turned all her energy against herself. 
When St. Vincent spoke to the community of a fault, 
her eagerness to kneel was remarkable, and she was 
often surprised in the act of kissing the floor where 
a priest had passed. Already she manifested that 
attachment to the rule which made her silent at 
Angers, where the climate was ruining her health. 

* Mile. Le Gras, June 8, 1649. 

f In another letter, dated May 16, 1649, Mile. Le Gras tells M. 
Portail of "the death of the Sisters Turgis, Jeanne Baptist, Salome, 
Renee d Angers, Marie Epinale, Elizabeth Martin of Nantes, of good 
Sr. Madeleine, for a long time Sister-Servant at Angers, and many 
others who had entered the company during his absence. 

JSept. 8, 1621. She entered the company in 1649, succeeded Mile. 
Le Gras as superioress-general, and died 1694. 



Sister Mathurine Guerin. 263 

On the least infringement of the rule, she was accus 
tomed to exclaim, " My God, must our company 
relax and commence to depart so soon from its first 
spirit !" 

The other, almost a child, but a predestined one, 
Mathurine Guerin,* had come from a distance. Her 
first years were spent in a mill in Brittany, where, 
favored with extraordinary grace, she had made a 
vow of virginity at eleven, and resisted every per 
secution to follow her vocation. Exterior gifts were 
not wanting to her either, as she was handsome, 
graceful, and intelligent. The administrators of the 
Hospital of St. John said that there never was a 
person so masculine and generous, of such good 
heart and enlightened mind." Above all, she left 
behind her, wherever she was, the renown of ex 
alted sanctity. Hence came her ascendency over 
all around her, which extended at one time to the 
commander of the fortress of Belle-He, M. de Che- 
vigny, whose conversion and entrance to the Ora 
tory were the result. 

* Mathurine Guerin, then seventeen years old, was secretary to 
Mile. Le Gras. She was elected the third superioress-general, and 
governed the company as such three different times, viz., for eighteen 
years. Deeply imbued with the spirit of the founders, she finished 
what they had only the time to prepare, and gave the company its 
perfection. At the age of sixty-four she was attacked by an uicer, 
from which she suffered several years, but she was cured by a Novena 
to St. Vincent de Paul, and she continued for six years longer to serve 
the poor with her usual activity. (Collet., vol. iv. p. 396, and Con 
ference on the virtues of Sister Mathurine Guerin.) 



264 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

An older member of the company, for she had made 
her first vows, was Nicolde Bildet, from Toul, an ami 
able type of humanity, who when delayed a little at 
the homes of the poor asked pardon of her companions 
as for a fault, and who denied herself the pleasure 
of distributing among them the money she had col 
lected for them. 

Each of the others had her distinguishing trait ; 
that of Sister Martha d Auteuil was love of the 
sick ; she was called the worker of miracles from 
the numberless cures she performed by her charity. 
" The most repulsive exhaled, for her, the perfume 
of roses." Tenderness for children characterized 
Sister Frances. Always ready to receive them, she 
was often seen in the street carrying one or two of the 
poor little waifs in a creel, her arms heavy from fatigue, 
but happy and triumphant. Barbara Bailly of Troyes 
shared with her her labor and her love. During the 
war of the Fronde she had often directed twelve Sisters 
and eleven hundred children, displaying, though still 
young, that spirit of practical ingenuity which after 
wards brought Louvois and Mansard f to her to con 
sult concerning a plan for the Infirmary at Les Inva- 
lides. We find her again assistant to Mile. Le Gras 

*She died in the odor of sanctity, Nov. 10, 1667, her eyes raised 
to heaven. When she had breathed her last, her face, which had been 
worn by sickness, resumed its healthy color, and her limbs remained 
flexible as in life. ("Conference sur les vertus de la Soeur Martha 
d Auteuil.") 

f " Conference sur les vertus de la Sceur Barbe Bailly." 



The Elect among the Elect. 265 

during her last years, and meriting, by more than 
half a century of service in the company, to be called 
one of the Mothers. 

Other signs of predestination not less evident were 
manifested by several of the Sisters. Claude Bon- 
nelle was remarkable for obedience ; becoming blind, 
she refused to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Face 
at Laon, in which she felt she would recover her 
sight, because she could not consult the superiors to 
get the requisite permission. Two years later, we 
hasten to record, the pilgrimage was accomplished 
and the grace obtained. In Marie Prevost, a singular 
devotion to the Holy Sacrament distinguished her 
from all around. In Toussainte Allou was remarked 
a touching simplicity and a fear of never doing 
enough to pay for her support. Jeanne Marie Cein- 
tereau had such delicacy of conscience that she 
trembled at the shadow of sin, and an energy un- 
baffled by all the obstinacy of the Huguenots. 

The sweet little Sister Gabrielle had not fought for 
the faith like Jeanne Marie, but she fought a whole 
year against her filial affection and grief at leaving 
her mother. Not less affectionate towards the sick, 
she wept when she had nothing to give them ; but, 
fearless in danger, she continued her work for the 
poor during the overflowing of the Seine. The poor, 
who saw her indefatigable in labor, performing the 
duty of two Sisters, looked upon her as a saint. 

Such, also, was the impression produced by two 
Sisters whom God pleased to favor specially by His 



266 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

grace : Claude Parcole, who unintentionally con 
fessed to having seen our Lord, surrounded by a circle 
of precious stones, and who knew /beforehand the 
moment of her death, and Jeanne Bonvillers, who 
could not hide the favors she received. To see her 
pray, to hear her speak of things divine, was joy to her 
companions. One day an awkward servant upset a 
kettle of water over her shoulders ; but to the great 
admiration of her companions the accident did not 
disturb her gayety. She accused herself one day of 
having twice that week lost sight of the presence of 
God. Not less mistress of her heart than of her 
mind, when she passed her sister s house she covered 
her head with an apron, so as not to be stopped on 
the way to her sick. 

If such was the life of these Sisters, what must have 
been their death ! Sister Andrea, in the agony of 
death, told St. Vincent that her " only remorse was to 
have too much enjoyed the service of the poor." 
" What, Sister ! is there nothing in your past life to 
give you trouble ?" " No, sir," she said, " nothing at 
all but to have taken too much satisfaction in that ; for 
when I went through the villages to see the poor people, 
it seemed to me as if I could not walk ; I felt as if I had 
wings and was flying, so much joy was in my heart at 
the thought of helping them." * "I never saw a dis 
position so perfect," St. Vincent said when relating 
this trait. " From this we must conclude that the com- 

* " Conferences de St. Vincent de Paul aux Filles de la 
Charite," p. 48. 



The Daughters of Charity in Poland. 267 

pany is the work of God, since there have been found 
and are still found in it such beautiful souls." 

It was surely the work of God, but St. Vincent did 
not know the instrument made use of by God in ac 
complishing the work, and he rendered to Mile. Le 
Gras the glory due to himself. The goodness of fruit 
shows the quality of the tree, but there is also credit 
due to the gardener. 

It was not in vain that Providence shed on the com 
pany His choice gifts, for new labors were about to 
claim their devoted attention. Among the charitable 
women who were seen, some years before, visiting- the 

* o 

halls of the Hotel-Dieu was the daughter of the Duke 
of Nevers, Louise jNIarie de Gonzaga, eldest sister of 
the celebrated Princess Palatine, whose errors and 
penitence elicited the eloquence of Bossuet. It seemed 
as if her destiny had attached her to the court of 
France ; but her marriage with Wladimir Wassa and, 
after his death, with John Cassimir had placed heron 
the throne of Poland. John Cassimir had forsaken the 
Roman purple for that of royalty.* When on the throne 
this queen practised the same virtues which distin 
guished the princess. She thought nothing would be 
better to remove the ignorance and immorality of her 
people than to beg St. Vincent to send her a number 
of his missionaries and some Sisters of Charity. Mile. 
Le Gras could not supply all the demands from every 

* After the death of his wife, disgusted with the throne, John Cas 
simir returned to his first vocation. He died abbe of Saint-Germain- 
des-Pres. His tomb is still in that church. 



268 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

part of France. Nevertheless, like St. Vincent, she 
knew the voice of God "in this call of a great king 
and a good queen," in this proposition which opened 
a field for charity, at once so new and so extensive ; 
and in the month of July 1652, when Paris was still 
in commotion, she prepared* three of her Sisters for 
their departure. 

Notwithstanding her ordinary strength of soul, this 
commencement in a far off-land, separate from the 
hive as it were, filled her with grave anxiety. We 
may judge of this by her notes, which, incomplete as 
they are, take up the instructions given to her Daugh 
ters. She recalls the virtues which alone would sus 
tain them ; the spiritual as well as corporal good they 
would have to perform in that kingdom where faith 
is at war with error. She quoted the example and 
invoked on them the protection of St. Francis Xavier ; 
then, in one of those moments of inspiration common 
to the elect of God, she exclaimed : " My words are 
not mine, my Daughters. Oh, what a grace is your 
vocation! Who can express this grace? Not the 
angels ; none but God ! To increase your virtue daily, 
I beg His goodness to grant you benedictions, extend 
ing, not from the east to the west, but from time to 
eternity, from earth to heaven. Attach yourselves 
to your rules like a snail to its shell in which it dies 
before leaving." The Sisters took their departure 
Sept. 7th, after delaying from week to week waiting 

* The Sisters Frances and Marguerite Moreau, and Madeleine Dru- 
geon as Sister-Servant. 



77^6 Daughters of Charity in Poland. 269 

ing for the Sisters of St. Mary,* whom the queen had 
also called to Poland, and who wished to travel with 
our Sisters. They traversed Protestant Germany 
without difficulty, everywhere meeting the respect 
due to their habit, and at the end of the same month 
arrived in Varsovia. 

Alas! the troubles of the Fronde which the Sis- 
ters had just passed were nothing to what they were 
now called on to witness. For four years Poland had 
been the scene of a war at once political, social, and 
religious; one of the most disastrous commotions in 
the history of that country. Guided by a discon 
tented nobility and enrolled in the service of Greco- 
Russian schismatics, the Cossacks had covered the 
kingdom with ruins. Churches were fired and 
towns destroyed everywhere. In some places the 
entire population had been massacred with a refine 
ment of torture, of which we read with horror the 
account in the national historians. At length the 
pestilence, which the same year (1652) carried off 
400,000 persons from Poland, attacked the capital, 
when the queen had the joy to receive the angels of 
charity sent to her from France. 

No measures had as yet been adopted to abate the 
scourge, and the terror was such that it was not 
rare to see the sick chased from their dwellings and 
left to die in the street without -medicine or food. 
On the arrival of the Sisters all that was changed. 

* The name given at that time to the Sisters of the Visitation. 



2 70 L ife of Mile. Le Gras. 

M. Lambert, Superior of the Missions * proposed to 
transform the public halls into hospitals, transfer the 
sick into them and leave them to the Sisters of Char 
ity. The proposition was adopted and followed with 
out delay, and the Daughters of Mile. Le Gras made 
their debut in a strange country in this popular and 
heroic style. Soon after the queen gave them a part of 
her palace, which was fitted up to receive poor young 
girls.f The queen herself (writes one of the Sisters to 
her companions in Paris) took pleasure in spending 
whole clays in their company, sometimes helping them 
to nurse the sick, sometimes spinning or dividing the 
thread for sewing garments for the poor. To econo 
mize in order to help the poor, she went so far as to 
wear broken shoes. She had such affection for Sister 
Marguerite that she wished to detain her at court 
while the other two went to Cracovia, where the pes 
tilence had just broken out. The poor Sister re 
mained mute when this was proposed. " What!" said 
the queen, " you do not answer!" "Madam, I am 
for the poor; I gave myself to God for them. You 
will find enough persons to wait on you," replied 
the generous Sister, and she went to Cracovia with 

* M. Lambert was happy in helping the plague- stricken, but he 
paid for this happiness with his life; dying in Jan. 1653, regretted 
by every one and regarded as a saint. "Our poor Sisters in Po 
land," wrote Mile. Le Gras, "have great need of prayers; for al 
though both king and queen take care of them and are very kind, yet 
their sorrow must be intense at the loss of such a father." 

f " The Daughters in Varsovia have commenced their school. Sister 
Madeleine succeeded." (" Lettre de St. Vincent," t. iii., pp. 163, 170)- 



The D alight crs of Charity in Poland. 



271 



her companions.* So much good accomplished 
drew down blessings on the French Sisters, and some 
of the young girls whom they taught wished to join 
the company. Hence Mile. Le Gras wrote : " I think 
if God gives His blessing there will be a large estab 
lishment. ^ While waiting for this time she thought 
of reinforcing their number, and she wrote : " Since 
you say you have one heart in three bodies, enlarge 
that heart, so as to have no distinction between old 
and rie\v."J Help never arrived at a more oppor 
tune or more critical moment. A severer crisis than 
that which had passed was threatening this year. 

While the convoy of peace was on the frontiers of 
the kingdom, the latter was invaded at one and 

* Conference of St. Vincent to the Daughters of Charity. Some 
years later the queen renewed the petition, and Sr. Marguerite wrote 
to consult Mile. Le Gras. The question was submitted to the coun 
cil, and after long deliberation it was decided that the queen should 
be gratified and Sr. Marguerite might accompany her in her journeys. 
This holy Daughter crowned her life by a glorious death, having 
caught the germ of disease in caring for the plague-stricken. 

f Letter to Sr. Jeanne Lepeintre, March 26, 1653. 

\ To the Sisters Marguerite, Madeleine, and Frances at Varsovia, 
Aug. 19, 1655. The Daughters of Charity, wishing to testify their 
gratitude to the queen, had reared a little dog in Paris which they 
brought to Poland. Concerning which we read in a letter of St. Vin 
cent: "Mile. Le Gras brought into the parlor the little dog to be sent 
to the queen. He loves one of the Daughters of Charity so much 
that he will look at no one else. The moment she shuts the door he 
whines and will not rest. This little creature has caused me much con 
fusion, seeing his great affection for her who feeds him, and the little 
attachment I have for my sovereign good." (April 9, 1655.) 



272 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

the same time by two armies of Swedes and two of 
Muscovites, the Swedish army commanded in per 
son by the successor of Gustavus Adolphus. This 
war, which in a few months made the king of Sweden 
arbiter of Poland and threatened from that time what 
took place one hundred years later, has been de 
scribed in fiery eloquence by Bossuet in the funeral 
oration of Anne of Gonzaga, sister of Queen Louise. 
He represents Poland surprised and taken, " like the 
prey which a lion holds in his claws ready to tear in 
pieces. Horses are not swift enough nor men skil 
ful enough to flee before the vanquisher. Poland 
sees herself ravaged at the same time by the rebel 
Cossack, the infidel Muscovite, and, still worse, by the 
perfidious Tartar, whom in her despair she had called 
to her assistance. Every one swims in blood, and we 
stumble only over dead bodies." 

In the midst of these disasters the Daughters of 
Charity appear for the first time on the battle-field, 
where the queen, knowing their fearless devoted- 
ness, sent them to soften the hard lot of the wounded. 
A letter from Varsovia during the siege brought the 
news to St. Vincent, who hastened to communicate 
it to Mile. Le Gras and her Daughters. " I shall 
entertain you to-day with something that will 
no doubt give you great joy," he said. " What ! 
Daughters of Charity in the army ! Sisters from 
Paris opposite Saint-Lazarus going to visit the 
poor wounded, not only in France, but even in Po 
land ! Have you ever heard of such a thing, or of 



The Hospital of the Name of Jesus. 2 73 

girls going to the army for such a purpose? I 
never did." 

In fact it was an unheard-of spectacle in the seven 
teenth century. Young French girls on the field of 
battle caring for the wounded ! From the north were 
Poles and Lithuanians and even Tartars and half sav 
ages, a word of whose language they did not under 
stand. History for two hundred years has rendered 
familiar to us this glory of Christianity, but St. 
Vincent could then say, " I know of no company 
which God makes use of to accomplish such great 
things as yours." 

Whilst her Daughters were thus justifying the re- 
noun of their virtues, Mile. Le Gras, in the silence 
of retreat, was contemplating a new foundation on 
the subject of which St. Vincent had consulted her, 
for she still remained his necessary auxiliary in all 
his enterprises, although she took such pains to con 
ceal herself. The work in question was an asylum of 
peculiar character, in the erection of which she was 
to take a prominent part, as the notes found among 
her papers give us to understand. This establish 
ment was to receive about forty workers, aged or 
infirm, and give them work proportioned to their 
strength. It was the thought of a pious citizen who 
submitted his idea to St. Vincent, and was to bear 
the title : " Name of Jesus." 

Looking at the work, as was her custom, in its en 
tirety, Mile. Le Gras judged it to be great and excel 
lent, because destined to realize in time the divine plan, 



274 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

obliging man to eat his bread by the sweat of his 
brow, and aiding at the same time souls to partici 
pate eternally in the merits of the life and death of 
our Saviour. Passing to practical considerations, 
which never escaped her, she recommended the 
choice " of useful trades, the product of which 
would be easily sold, such as ferrandine ;* weaving 
serge, which would serve for the house ; making 
buttons ; laces ; glove making or ornamenting ; fine 
sewers, who could have the work of large houses; 
pin- makers, etc." She asks only that they regard 
not the expense of tools or materials at first to put 
the work in train, and that the persons chosen to begin 
it be, if possible, of good condition, but willing to 
pass for poor, and apply themselves to the work, 
were it only for six months, so that they might 
teach the trades to others. 

This plan was adopted, and a house prepared in 
the Faubourg Saint-Laurent to open the foundation.! 
In March 1653 St. Vincent here installed twenty 
men and twenty women, lodged in two bodies in 
separate buildings, but arranged to face each other, 
so that the pensioners could hear the same Mass or 
lecture, and have their meals in common, without 
speaking to or even seeing one another. 

* Ferrandine, a cloth of silk and wool. The warp was silk, the 
weft of wool or cotton. 

fThis foundation became afterwards the Hospital for Incurables 
(men), who, united to a similar place for women, were transferred to 
Ivry, near Paris. 



The Hospital of the Name of Jesits. 275 

The Daughters of Charity were to preside over 
the interior arrangements, and Mile. Le Gras was to 
take the charge. 

Useful as this establishment was in itself, it be 
came more so by the great work to which it gave 
rise. Its good renown was riot slow to spread in 
Paris. The Ladies of Charity came to visit ; they 
appreciated its economy, admired the harmony 
which reigned among its members, and formed then 
and there a project whose proportions seemed only 
made to discourage the most intrepid. 

Paris, which had commenced to spread out, was at 
that time scourged by an evil which justly occupied 
the attention of all serious minds. Although the 
whole population was not more than seven hundred 
thousand * souls, it counted not less than forty 
thousand vagabonds and beggars. f Wandering about 
the streets, demanding alms often with a sword by 
their side, stealing what they could not otherwise 
obtain, these unfortunate creatures often devised 
means for attracting the attention by counterfeiting 
disease, coming even to the foot of the altar to dis 
tract the devotion of the faithful. At night they took 
refuge in what was called the Court of Miracles ;^ 

* Numbers vary on this point; certain authors give Paris one 
million inhabitants, others five hundred thousand only. A reckon 
ing of Vauban, quoted byBrien La Tour in the table of the population, 
is authentic enough (Paris, 1789), from which we would have some 
years later (1694) 720,000 souls. 

f Collet., 1. 6, t. 2. 

J These courts were very numerous. Sauval named the Court of 



276 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

dens whose dirt and noisomeness nothing now could 
give any idea of. The largest of these dens, which 
the others resembled more or less, was entered by 
the Rue Neuve-Saint-Sauveur, and extended be 
tween Cul-de-sac de 1 Etoiles and the Rue de Dami- 
ette and the Rue des Forges. To enter you must go 
through a labyrinth of little lanes, muddy and suspi 
cious-looking, then descend along crooked hill, at the 
foot of which appeared a place where there was 
raised in a sort of niche a picture of God the Father, 
stolen no doubt from some church. Surrounding 
this was a dozen or more little habitations, as if 
growing from the ground. Each of these accommo 
dated, pell-mell, more than fifty establishments: 
which made for that one court more than five hun 
dred families, or at least three thousand inhabitants.* 
A hideous population, without faith or law, manners 
or sacraments, always in revolt against the Church 
and at war with society. " Infidels among the faith 
ful, dead before death itself, reduced to the state of 
beasts, hunted, wandering, banished vagabonds." 
This from Bossuet. And as if to make known how diffi 
cult was the remedy, Flechier adds: " There was no 
means of discerning the deserving poor from the 

King Francis, and of Suinte-Catherine, Rue Saint-Denis; Brisset, Rue 
Mortellerie; Gauthier, Rue de la grande Hue-Lue ; Jussienne, the 
street of that name. There were also Rue de Bac, Saint-Antoine, 
Tournelles, Saint-Roche, a la Croix-Rouge, Good News, Rue des 
Filles-Dieu, Passage du Marche Saint- Honore, 
* Piganiol de la Force, op. quot. 



Founding of the General Hospital. 277 

idle, worthless ones. In giving alms we knew not 
whether we assuaged misery or encouraged idleness." 
But the people were satisfied to bear these disorders, 
as they believed that there was no remedy. 

What statesmen could not accomplish, women con 
ceived the idea of undertaking ; and what the power 
of Richelieu could not achieve, his niece resolved to 
attempt: viz., to snatch this population of misfortune 
from its dens ; to offer it an honest asylum, work, food, 
and the Gospel. This was the project formed in the 
mind of the Duchess of Aiguillon by the sight of the 
hospital " Name of Jesus." The Duchess was then 
Superioress of the Ladies of Charity and of her 
friend Mile, de Lamoignon. Her project was bold, 
generous, extraordinary, never thought of by any 
one before, and tending to nothing less than the total 
extinction of pauperism in Paris. Before speaking to 
St. Vincent, the ladies wished to talk it over fami 
liarly with Mile. Le Gras, without whom they never 
dreamed of undertaking anything. They wished to 
ask if she thought it beyond their strength. They 
came therefore to Mile. Le Gras and told her all their 
intentions, of which she fully approved. Doubtless, 
were it a political affair (she answered with her usual 
good sense), the men might alone be able to accom 
plish it; but as charity is to be the moving power, 
women may evidently attempt it, like so many other 
good works to which they have put their hands. 
The social character of the measure, however, 
could not be overlooked ; therefore she insisted that 



278 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

some prudent men might be added to the ladies to 
guide them in council and to act in law procedure. 

All hesitation being ended by these consoling 
words, the Duchess of Aiguillon in the next assembly 
of "Charity" made St. Vincent her first overture, 
which two of her companions supported by promising, 
one 50,000 and the other 3000 livres of income. The 
Saint was at first frightened at so gigantic an under 
taking, as were also the first President de Pomponne- 
Bellievre and the whole Parliament (acquainted early 
with this design). Nevertheless, after eight hours 
reflection, during which he consulted God in prayer, 
he reconsidered his first impression and promised 
his assistance. This approbation, experience had 
already proved, was a guarantee of success. 

Very soon the affair was marching along with rapid 
pace. St. Vincent, by the intervention of the queen, 
obtained the house of Salpetriere, situated opposite 
the Arsenal, which was then unused, and he himself 
gave the house in Bicetre, vacant since the departure 
of the Foundlings. The Cardinal Mazarin sent 
100,000 crowns as a first gift ; Pomponne de Bellievre 
gave a credit of 20,000 crowns on the city; whilst 
the ladies continued to collect from all parts con 
siderable sums. Thus Mile, de Lamoignon obtained 
one day 60,000 livres from Mme. de Bullion, widow 
of the Superintendent of Finance, on condition that 
she would carry it herself and keep the secret. The 
charge was so heavy that the noble beggar, bending 
under the weight, would not have been able to enter 



Foimding of the General Hospital. 2 79 

her dwelling- but for the timely assistance of a friend, 
who recognized her and hastened to help her. 
Thanks to all these efforts, the General Hospital was 
soon erected and celebrated by all contemporaries 
as a chef-d oeuvre* "one of the greatest creations of 
the century, "f and "the most wonderful work ever 
undertaken by the most heroic charity.";): 

Two years after, the buildings, etc., were almost 
finished, and, according to the expression of Bossuet, 
"the new city was built." M. Abelly, whose name 
shall ever be inseparably connected with that of Vin 
cent de Paul, was appointed rector, and the mild 
Daughters of Mile. Le Gras installed to receive their 
guests. Unfortunately, as is often the case in this world, 
the result was not equal to expectations. In vain a de 
cree of Parliament published with sound of trumpets 
that all beggars should meet in the court of the 
old House of Pity, where they would be assigned 
food, lodging, and work, according to their sex, age, 
infirmity, or capacity, in one of the seven divisions 
of the establishment. Instead of obeying this edict, 
most of them hid away, left the city, or found them- 



Patru, " Eloge de Messire Pomponne de Bellievre." 
f Flechier, Funeral Oration on the Duchess of Aiguillon. 
\ P. Lalemant, Panegyric on the first President of Pomponne- 

Bellievrc, 1657. 

Abelly, priest of St. Joseph in Paris, then Bishop of Rodez. He 

has lent his name to perhaps the best history of St. Vincent de Paul. 

The work, a collective labor of the Priests of St. Lazare, appeared 

in 1664, four years after the death of the Saint. 



280 Life of Mile. Lc Gras. 

selves suddenly cured of their infirmities : which drew 
the following from a poet of the time: 

" Wounds healed so soon as these, I ween, 
In Paris ne er before were seen."* 

Five thousand, however, answered to the call. This 
was an important success and the commencement of a 
great foundation. The wants of it were numerous; 
and Bossuet, then Archbishop of Metz, who took part 
in the famous " Conferences du Mardi," instituted by 
St. Vincent, was invited, a few years after, to preach 
in the chapel of the General Hospital the panegyric 
of St. Paul.* The young orator, then little known 
in Paris, preached on this occasion what we call a 
Charity sermon. Conjuring his auditors to take pity 
on so many "infirm to be supported, ignorant to be 
instructed, and poor to be helped, does it not seem 
to you," he exclaimed, "that Providence has assem 
bled them in this wonderful hospital that their voices 
united might be stronger to reach your hearts? Will 
you not hear them and join so many holy souls who, 
conducted by your pastor, run to the help of these 
poor creatures?" 

Bossuet, without doubt, alluded to Mile. Le Gras 
and her Daughters when he described these ministers 
of charity. Without them the work would have 
been impossible. His admiration for them went on 



*Jean Loret, "Muse historique." 
f 29 juin 1657. 



Bossuct and the Daughters of Charity. 281 

increasing. Some months after, preaching at Metz,* 
where eight Sisters of Chanty were seen surrounded 
by their poor, he said : " Assist with all your power, 
my brethren, that confraternity consecrated to the 
service of the unfortunate. Help those charitable 
Daughters whose glory it is to be the servants of the 
poor sick." Fifty years later, when quoting the 
virtues of the Daughters as proof of the sanctity of 
the Father, he wrote to the Pope himself: "We can 
not be silent on this company of pious women 
formed by him [St. Vincent] by means of holy rules; 
applying themselves to help the sick and poor with 
so much purity, humility, and charity, that they 
hinder us from forgetting their founder and the 
spirit he has infused into them."f 

For two centuries the truth of these words has gone 
through the world for confirmation. The General 
Hospital has disappeared; but wherever there is a 
Sister of Charity the poor will think of Vincent de 
Paul. May they also learn to venerate her who had 
for him a mother s heart, and who lives still in her 
Daughters to love and console the poor ! 

*Nov. i, 1657. At Metz the work of the Sisters was called 
"La charite aux bouillons." (Floquet, "Etudes sur Bossuet," t. 

i- P- 503-) 

f "Neque licet conticere de piarum feminarum ccetu quse ab ipso 
sanctissimis Regulis informatae pauperibus et aegrotis sublevandis 
tanta castitate, humilitate, charitate serviunt, ut sui Institutoris, ab 
eoque insiti, spiritus oblivisci non sinant." (Letter to Pope Clement 
XI. to ask the beatification of St. Vincent, Aug. 2, 1702.) 




CHAPTER XIV. 

1655- 

Approbation given by the Ordinary of Paris to the Company of the 
Daughters of Charity Session of the Establishment The Spirit 
infused by Mile. Le Gras into her Daughters Wisdom of her 
Government. 

IE ARE touching on a very important epoch 
for the Daughters of Charity. We shall 
see now the society taking foothold in the 
Church : not as a religious Order St. Vin 
cent always insisted that it should preserve its sec 
ular character, its seal of the parish but as an insti 
tution holy and distinct, having its own life and its 
special reasons for existing ; occupying a place whose 
importance we may measure by considering the void 
which would be left in the world were that society 
to disappear. Mile. Le Gras at this time appears to 
us by her wise legislation and firmness of action, as 
the real foundress of the company. 

The reader will remember the twofold transac 
tion of St. Vincent with ecclesiastical and civil authori 
ties, and the subsequent events the approbation 
given by the coadjutor, the letters-patent granted by 
the king, and the loss of all the papers in 1646. Nor can 
he forget the painful impression left on the mind of 
Mile. Le Gras from the tenor of the lost document, 



Mile. Lc Gras Fears for her Company. 283 

She feared lest, the Daughters of Charity being with 
drawn from the Fathers of the Mission, their 
spiritual bond of union such a source of strength in 
the past might be severed at some future time. 

Her fears on this head had not diminished, and 
several times she mentioned them to St. Vincent. 
One day, however, being in prayer, she saw clearly 
" in a very special light," she said, " accompanied by 
great peace and simplicity," that Providence had 
given the spiritual and temporal guidance of the 
company to the Mission ; that, to withdraw from their 
guidance would be acting contrary to the will and 
against the glory of God, and that in such case it 
would be better to suppress the company altogether. 

She believed she ought to communicate this light 
to St. Vincent; and to give a neater, more precise 
form to her thoughts she expressed them in writ 
ing, adding: u Does it seem to you, most honored 
Father it does to me that God says to you, in the 
person of St. Peter, It is on your charity I build 
my company ? " Her conviction was henceforth un 
shaken, and she tried to impart it to all around her. 
It even seems probable that, turning to the Holy See, 
she sought the influence of the queen through her 
maid of honor, Mile. Danse, a member of the 
" Chanty," or through the Duchess of Aiguillon. 
Otherwise we cannot explain the existence of a letter 
from Anne of Austria at present in the archives of 
the house in Rome. This letter sets forth at length 
the ideas of the foundress. The princess, having 



284 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

explained to the Holy Father the origin of the 
Confraternity of Charity, the establishment and 
growth of a company of "widows and young 
girls who called themselves Servants of the Poor, 
being trained to their work by a good and virtuous 
widow," expresses a fear lest their special dependence 
on the Archbishop of Paris might awaken distrust in 
the mind of some bishop. The work being com 
menced by the General of the Congregation of the 
Missions, and the Archbishop of Paris having ap 
pointed him director for life, would it not be well for 
His Holiness to secure the permanence of that ap 
pointment by naming as perpetual director for the 
Daughters of Charity the Superior-General of the 
Mission and his successors? 

The result of this letter we know not ; but the ques 
tion was proposed, and for years after Mile. Le 
Gras continued with unfaltering perseverance to call 
the attention of St. Vincent to that point. At length 
one day, she addressed to him a memorial in which 
she endeavors for the last time to convince him of the 
urgent necessity for the company to be definitely ac 
knowledged. " During the twenty-six years that I 
have been by the mercy of God under your guidance, 
Divine Providence has made me speak to you, on all 
occasions, freely and with confidence." After having 
humbly set forth that one of the principal means 
to strengthen the work was to provide, from that 
time, a directress who would show a better example, 
she insists on distributing among the sisters a written 



Daughters of Charity approved at Rome. 285 

rule that might become the living nourishment of the 
company. " In fine," she said, " the weakness and 
levity of the mind has need of a support, such as 
the sight of a solid establishment, which would 
strengthen wavering vocations ; and the foundations 
of this solidity, without which it would be impossible 
for the company to subsist or procure the glory ex 
pected by God, must be erected under entire sub 
mission to, and dependence upon, the Superior of the 
Priests of the Mission. The company must be affili 
ated to theirs, to participate in the good done by 
them and to live by the spirit which animates 
them."* 

These thoughts, so often already written by her, 
and which, as she advanced in years, identified them 
selves with her soul, seemed the voice of God in 
her, and finally persuaded St. Vincent. He under 
stood the law of Providence, viz., "The same 
means employed by God to give existence to 
beings will serve to preserve that existence." In 
the example of the Saviour taking care of the 
holy women who, as His followers, administered to 
the faithful, participating, so to speak, in apostolic 
functions, he found authority for his missionaries to 
direct the Daughters of Charity, " engaged like them 
selves in the assistance and salvation of their neigh 
bors, "f Hence he decided to draw up a second re- 

* M. Maynard, who had only an incomplete copy of this document, 
places it in 1646. This is wrong; it is dated July 5, 1651. 

f Letter of St. Vincent to M. de la Fosse, Priest of the Mission. 



286 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

quest and demand from Cardinal de Retz, then at 
Rome, new approbation for his company, its statutes 
and rules, with the power, for himself and his suc 
cessors, of conducting it under the authority of the 
Archbishop of Paris. The request was granted, and 
January 18, 1655, the Cardinal erected the company 
of Daughters of Charity, approved their rules, and 
placed them definitely under the direction of the 
Mission. 

" Gratefully recognizing," said the prelate (for it is 
important to quote here the exact words of an act so 
decisive for the future), "the benediction of God on 
the care and labor of our dear and well-beloved Vin 
cent of Paul to succeed in this pious design, we have 
already confided and committed to him, and by these 
presents we do confide and commit, the guidance and 
direction of this aforesaid society and company dur 
ing his life, and after him to his successors, the Su 
periors-General of the Congregation of the Mission." 

The destiny of the work was at last fixed, and 
Mile. Le Gras, at the climax of her desires, had suc 
ceeded by indefatigable efforts in preserving to her 
Daughters the benefit of an authority which, with unity 
of action, might secure the stability of the design. 

It only remained to announce the good news. The 
30th of May following, St. Vincent* assembled the 

*In the collection printed 1845 this Conference bears date May 
30, without the year, 1655; but doubt seems impossible. Not only is 
it a conclusion of the text that it took place a little while after the 
approbation, but St. Vincent said to the Daughters of Charity that 



The Rules of the Daughters of Charity. 287 

Sisters in conference for this purpose, and made them 
acquainted with what had been accomplished.* " To 
the present time, my daughters," he said, "you have 
labored of yourselves, without other obligation 
from God than that of fulfilling the order prescribed 
you and the manner of life given you. To the pres 
ent you have not been a separate body distinct from 
the Ladies, of Charity ;f but now God wishes you 
to be a distinct body, which, without being totally 
separate, will yet have its own particular exercises 
and duties. God wishes you also to be bound more 
strictly by the approbation He has permitted to be 
given to your manner of life and rules by my lord the 
Archbishop of Paris." 

The Saint then read a copy of the request he 
had presented and the approbation he had ob 
tained ; he then commenced the reading of the 
rules, interspersing them with comments. "The 



they had practised their rules for twenty-five years; but if we con 
sider the company as formed in 1630, we arrive still and necessarily 
at the date 1655. 

* The Conference quoted by Maynard as being held by St. Vincent 
on this occasion is only a compound of several Conferences of differ 
ent dates which he tries to unite. We have had recourse to the 
original text, of which we give fragments here. 

fThey were so little separated that, up to the year 1654, St. Vin 
cent had thought of giving them one of the ladies of the Hotel-Dieu 
as superioress in case Mile. Le Gras were taken from them. At the 
same time in Poland there was question of placing them under a per 
son living intimately with the queen and helping in her good works 

Mile, de Villiers. 



288 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

first article of your rule says that The com 
pany shall be composed of widows and girls, who 
shall elect one among them to be superioress for 
three years; this superioress may be continued 
for three more consecutive years, but not longer. 
This is well understood not to take place until after 
the decease of Mile. Le Gras." At these words 
Mile. Le Gras cast herself on her knees and begged 
St. Vincent not to suspend the application of the rule, 
but release her from a charge for which she was in 
no wise worthy ; but the Saint begged her to be 
seated and, refusing to enter into her sentiments, ex 
pressed a desire that God would leave her to her 
Daughters still many years. " He commonly pre 
serves by extraordinary means those who are neces 
sary for the accomplishment of His work ; and if you 
take notice, Mademoiselle, you have not been living 
in the ordinary way for more than ten years." 

He then resumed : " Your confraternity shall bear 
the name of Sisters of Charity, servants of the sick 
poor. Oh, what a beautiful title ! What high dignity ! 
It is as much as to say Servants of Jesus Christ, since 
He considers as done to Him what is done for His 
members. He did nothing Himself but serve the poor. 
Preserve then, my daughters, preserve with care the 
title He has given you. It is the most beautiful, the 
most advantageous you could ever have." 

He then finished the reading of the rule, and added : 
" Is not what you have just heard, my daughters, 
that which you have been doing for the last twenty- 



Rules read to the Daughters of Charity. 289 

five years ? You have done it without it being or 
dained, at least expressly ; for the late Pope had re 
commended it to me ; but now you will do it because 
it is enjoined. I have already told you that whoever 
goes into a vessel to make a long voyage must accept 
and observe the laws of navigation, otherwise he will 
be in great danger: The same with persons called 
by God to live in community : they run great risk of 
being lost if they do not observe the rule. By the 
mercy of God, I believe there is not one among you 
who does not intend to practise them. Is this not 
true? Are you all so disposed?" " Yes, Father," 
exclaimed all the Sisters, throwing themselves on 
their knees. " When Moses gave the law of God to 
the people of Israel, they were kneeling as you are 
now. I hope that His infinite mercy may second your 
desires in giving you grace to accomplish what He 
demands of you. My daughters, do you give your 
selves to God with all your heart to live in the ob 
servance of the holy rules He has willed to be given 
you ?" " Yes, Father." " Will you, from your heart, 
live and die in the observance of them?" " Yes, 
Father." A touching contest of humility interrupted 
this dialogue. Several of the Sisters accused them 
selves aloud of faults against the rule and asked par 
don. The Saint humbled himself before them. " 1 
pray God to pardon all your faults, my dear daugh 
ters, and I, a miserable creature who do not keep my 
own rules I beg His pardon, and yours also, my 
daughters. How many faults have I committed in 



2 QO Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

your regard and in what concerns your work! I 
beg you to ask God s mercy for me, and for that I 
shall pray our Lord Jesus Christ to give you Him 
self the benediction. I shall not pronounce the words 
to-day, because the faults I have* committed towards 
you render me unworthy. I pray God to give it 
Himself." 

Here, continues the narrator, M. Vincent kissed the 
ground. Mademoiselle and all the others, grieved 
that their Father refused his blessing, begged it 
with so much earnestness that he at last consented. 
"Pray God, then/ he answered, "that He regard 
not my unworthiness nor the many sins of which I 
am guilty, but show mercy and shed His benediction 
on you while I pronounce the words." Then raising 
his voice, he repeated the majestic language con 
secrated by the Church in her formula: "Benedictio 
Dei omnipotentis Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, 
descendat super vos et maneat semper. Amen." 
Thus ended that scene, memorable in all the annals 
of the company. 

Two months after, August 8, 1655, a new reunion 
of almost all the Sisters in Paris was convoked in 
the parlor of the community. It was held for the 
purpose of making a solemn act of establishment 
and to designate the officers. To this effect St. 
Vincent had a second reading of the rules and 
the approbation of the Cardinal ; then he said that, 
instead of electing by a plurality of votes as the 
statute ordained, he judged it necessary for the first 



First Officers of the Daughters of Charity. 291 

time to act directly and make the choice which 
occurred to his mind. First addressing Mile. Le 
Gras, he asked her to fill the office of Superioress 
and Directress to the end of her life, as she had done 
by the mercy and benediction of God since the 
commencement. He then named Julienne Loret 
First Assistant; Mathurine Guerin Second Assistant 
and Treasurer; and Jeanne Gressier Dispenser or 
Housekeeper. 

A statement was then drawn up on parch 
ment, to be seen to this day in the National Archives. 
The foundress, the officers, and thirty Sisters who 
knew how to write signed their names, and St. 
Vincent, who wished to be last, signed it and sealed 
it with the seal of the company.* A remembrance 
was given of those who, absent in body, were present 
in spirit at this reunion, and after the signatures the 
names of all the Sisters in the community were 
added. M. Portail was confirmed in his charge of 
Director of the community. 

The work was now settled, we might say ; but St. 
Vincent never relaxed his care and solicitude. Al 
though eighty years old, he continued till the year 
preceding his death to preside over the instruction 
of his daughters, assembling them almost every week 
and explaining untiringly to the assembly, and to each 

*This seal, like St. Vincent s own, preserved in the museum of 
relics of the Mission, represents Jesus Christ with arms extended, 
as if to receive all who come to Him. Several letters of Mile. Le 
Gras bear the same stamp. 



292 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

one, the rules which were to be their element of 
strength and the pledge of their stability. 

We have elsewhere spoken of those admirable Con 
ferences which for more than twenty years assembled 
the Daughters on certain days around their Father. 
Outlines of these Conferences have been preserved 
to us by the faithful hand of Mile. Le Gras;* but 
these are things which cannot be touched without 
losing their freshness and beauty, and to make a 
collection of the Conferences, extracting certain 
passages and leaving or mutilating others, would be 
a rash enterprise, a kind of sacrilege. In reading 
them over one can easily perceive with what chanty 
St. Vincent came to the assistance of his Daughters, 
by repeated explanations, familiar comparisons, and 
examples taken from the lives of persons he had known, 
"from King Louis XIII. to the poor laborer on the 
mountains of Auvergne; from De Berulle to Mme. 
de Chantal, whom he spoke of as a holy lady." 
Without being present it would also be almost im 
possible to give any just idea of the humility of 
Mile. Le Gras, always leaving herself aside, never 
giving her opinion except when formally invited by 
St. Vincent in this wise : " Mademoiselle, will you please 
tell us your thoughts ?" Then she rose like the others 

* It was always she who took the pains to copy them, calling to 
her aid at times Elizabeth Hellot, or, when she died, Julienne Loret, 
or Mathurine Guerin. She thought so much of their original sim 
plicity that she would not allow them to be revised, although one 
of the priests of Saint-Lazarus offered his services for that purpose. 



Mile. Le Gras Counsels to her Daughters. 293 

to answer him ; nothing- could reproduce the touch 
ing- originality with which some of the Sisters gave 
account of the prayer they made on the subject 
given out in the Conference, or their simplicity in 
asking pardon reciprocally for the faults and the 
bad example they thought themselves guilty of. 
We shall then content ourselves with recommend 
ing the original text to those of our readers who may 
have the happiness of being able to reach it. 

These instructions and counsels Mile. Le Gras 
endeavored to recall and make understood by the 
Sisters in the little Conferences she gave every week 
at the mother-house, taking for her subject the 
Gospel of the day, or oftener some point of rule. 
" This rule," she would say, " which suffices to make 
us saints."* She took the Conferences and rules 
also for the subject of her particular advice, com 
municated them by letter to the absent, and quoted 
them once a month to the parish Sisters who were 
obliged to come to the mother-house to see her and 

o 

give an account of their employments. She wished 
above all to imbue the hearts of her Daughters with 
a knowledge and love of their vocation. " Your 
spirit," she said, "consists in the love of our Saviour, 
the source and model of all charity, and in rendering 
Him all the service in your power, in the persons of 
old men, infants, the sick, prisoners, or others. When 
I think of all your happiness, I wonder why God has 

* " Recueil dequelques avertissements que Mile. Le Gras, notre tres 
honoree mere nous a donnes." (Arch, of the Mission.) 



294 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

chosen you.* What could you desire on earth for 
your salvation that you have not? You are called 
by God to employ all your thoughts, words, and 
actions for His glory. "f To correspond to this voca 
tion they ought to labor with zeal for their perfec 
tion, joining to their exterior duties the exercises of 
interior, spiritual life, remembering that, although 
they are not and never can be religious, they should 
lead a life as perfect as that of the most holy pro 
fessed in a monastery ; making their cloister " a 
cloister of obedience and not of stone/ \ in the streets 
of Paris or on the village roads, and watching more 
over themselves, as they are more exposed in the 
world. They ought to be strong-minded women in 
the right sense, finding no difficulty in labor ; open- 
hearted, cordial, and meek with every one, having 
nothing constrained, much less affected, in their 
manners. St. Vincent recommended them and Mile. 
Le Gras repeated to them to keep the eyes moderately 
lowered, for an excess of modesty in this respect might 
hinder outsiders from the service of God, by frighten 
ing them, and thus prevent the good often effected 
by modest gayety. 

Devoted to the service of others, they must prefer 
the interest of their neighbor to their own or to that 
of the company. " This has been taught us by our 

* Letter to Sr. Claude Brigitte, without date, 
t Letter to Sr. Nicole Haran, Aug. 30, 1659. 
\ Letters to the Sisters at Richelieu, not dated. 
"Recueil des Conferences." 



Mile. Le Gras Counsels to her Daughters. 295 

honored Father, who learned it from Jesus Christ." 
Such is the general principle. " Neighbor is, how 
ever, a multiple term, comprehending at the same 
time the poor, the Ladies of Charity, administrators 
of hospitals, confessors, doctors, worldly people, 
companions ; towards all these you have divers du 
ties." Mile. Le Gras returns untiringly to the task, 
distinguishing, shading, adapting with her perfect 
tact these precepts to the wants and circumstances 
of the occasion. She never made a body of her laws, 
but scattered them abundantly through her writings. 
From these writings we shall try to gather the sub 
stance faithfully, being only the echo of her words, 
and preserving as often as possible her own expres 
sions. 

" The poor before all ; a Sister of Charity belongs 
to God for their service, and she should prefer 
their company to that of the rich, leaving her prayers 
and rules to fly to their assistance. All this when 
necessary and not of her own will."f She must 
serve them with patience and humility, meek 
ness and respect, as the members of Jesus Christ and 
as her lords, managing well for them and never 
appropriating the least part of what has been given 
her for them. 

In regard to the ladies who have been enrolled 
in the " Charity," " we must treat them with the 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras to Sr. Anne Elizabeth, at Montreuil-sur- 
mer. 

f Letter to Sr. Jeanne Lepeintre. 



296 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

greatest respect, looking on them as the mothers 
of our masters the poor, and remembering that they 
oblige us very much in allowing us to be with them 
in the service. At the same time we must receive 
their visits, as made to the sick, in the wards and not 
in our rooms, and never form any bond of attach 
ment with them for fear of losing our time." 
Deference towards the administrators was no less 
recommended. " We must guard against giving them 
occasion to accuse us of arrogance or self-sufficiency," 
for "you have no power of yourselves." Mile. Le 
Gras said to her daughters, " You are subject to every 
one, you are the last of all. As to priests, speak to 
them with great respect, never anywhere but in the 
church or at the door of the house; we must not 
abuse their kindness." The rule requires that Sisters 
sent to the parishes must, on their arrival, go to 
receive on their knees the blessing of the priest, and 
they should consider the confessor as sent by God, 
treating him always with almost the same veneration 
as when he is at the holy altar. Hence the necessity 
of surmounting any repugnance or difficulty they 
might feel to open their hearts to him. " Remember," 
she says in a letter to Jeanne Lepeintre, "Teresa, 
that great saint, often had need of advice in very 
different affairs from j^ours, yet she asked it quite 
freely with simplicity and humility from the persons 
sent her by Providence as directors, contenting her 
self with what was necessary, leaving the rest to 
the wisdom of God." She says elsewhere, "The 



Mile. Le Gras Counsels to her Daughters. 297 

Sisters may, however, go from time to time to 
an extraordinary confessor, but not often in the year ; 
our most honored Father in the last Conference 
cautioned us strictly against these little amusements." 
The world must not be frequented without pressing 
reasons. " It reproaches us sometimes for being 
wanting in certain compliments which we do not owe 
it ; but it is edified afterwards, when it finds that it 
is virtue which makes us indifferent, while it remarks 
severely those who allow themselves to be gained 
over by its applause." The Sisters should therefore 
avoid all useless visits ; they should not amuse them 
selves, according to the pithy expression of their 
Mother, in gadding about, but prefer the company of 
their companions to all other. "If you need other 
entertainments or other consolations than those found 
with our Saviour, find them among yourselves." 
On this point Mile. Le Gras is inexhaustible, and 
her recommendations are multiplied to infinity. 
There above all is the place to exercise what she 
called " our dear virtue, cordiality."* Serenity of 
countenance, modest smiles, gracious words ex 
changed when the Sisters meet ; eagerness to accept 
the advice of a companion, or to do what she desires, 
are so many means which the wise directress sug 
gested to her Daughters to strengthen the bonds of 
holy sisterhood. "The blessing of God is known 
by support, by cordiality, ... so necessary to the per- 

* Letter to Sr. Jeanne Lepinetre, Jan. 13, 1650. 



298 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

feet union of Daughters of Charity."* In another 
place she writes : " If humility, simplicity, and charity 
which give support are well established among you, 
there will be in your little company as many saints as 
there are persons who compose it." Again she writes : 
" I seem to see you in great peace and union, com 
municating one to the other what you have been 
doing when separated, where you went when out, 
etc. ; one by the obligation of submission, and the 
other by the obligation of support and complai 
sance." These counsels occur on almost every page, 
without Mile. Le Gras having occasion to complain 
of not seeing them observed. On the contrary, she 
had reason to rejoice at sight of the community. 
" God be blessed for the good understanding and 
holy peace which is among you ! This is the way to 
live as true Daughters of Charity." 

But seeing that, as St. Vincent reflects, "there is 
not much affection for what concerns us not," the 
Sisters should carefully preserve, as a symbol of unity, 
all the customs of the mother-house ; whither they 
shall come also from time to time to reanimate them 
selves with the spirit of the company. Thus to quote 
but one example. The Sisters sent to Arras asked 
permission "to wear their capes like the women of 
the country, for with their little head-dress they were 
as strange as beings of another world." They were 
answered, however, to "guard well against that. 
Strangers never change their garments when they 

* Letter to Sr. Madeleine at Angers, March 16, 1645. 



Mile. Le Gras Counsels to her Daughters. 299 

went to a place where every one was astonished to 
see them in such a garb. The Poles, for instance, 
were well received in Paris dressed in their own 
fashion, and no one thought it ill of them to dress so 
when they came to see their queen." Nourishment 
must also be uniform in its simplicity, and wine for 
the most part excluded. St. Vincent, remembering 
no doubt his captivity, said : " The Turks, who never 
drink, are stronger than we are." Singularity should 
not exist in books of devotion, which should be few. 
The " Imitation/ a prayer-book,* the rule, and Philo- 
thea or Love of God, and you have the library of a 
Sister of Charity. f Her breviary is her beads. 
Mile. Le Gras wrote one day to a sister: " I send you 
a prayer-book of the kind we use here. We must .in 
all things practise what appertains to our vocation ; 
that is to say, the poverty of our Lord and His holy 
Mother." 

In the eyes of the holy foundress poverty was 
the base of the company, and she recommended 
it earnestly to her Daughters. Her most constant 
wish was that the company would be maintained in 
the poverty and frugality which she judged neces 
sary for its conservation. Thus to speak only of 
habitation, to those who found themselves in a fine 
house she recalled the fact that all "they owned in it 

* "Our first and holy Sisters contented themselves with the words 
of the Imitation of Christ and a prayer-book." (Circular, March I, 
1733.) 

f Letter of Mile. Le Gras. 



300 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

was their living and a shelter." To others, obliged to 
prepare their own dwelling, she advised to " make 
choice of the lodgings of poor girls."* When she was 
obliged herself to have an addition to the house, she 
wrote to the architect : " It is absolutely necessary that 
this building appear as simple and as contracted 
as possible, for the company, to endure, must appear 
in all things poor and humble." 

For the rest, Mile. Le Gras did not confine herself 
to general counsels, of which we must say we do not 
pretend to give a complete outline ; for each of her 
Daughters she had special directions, varied accord 
ing to character and natural gifts, which she took 
care to esteem as " a gift of God for accomplishing 
good." Very exacting, we might say, with those in 
whom she perceived a call to perfection, she showed 
astonishing patience and indulgence for the weak, 
and her conduct was often justified by the improve 
ment of those who were the subjects of her quiet 
zeal. How many Sisters, apparently incorrigible, 
have been led by her to good ! f 

God had given her great discernment of souls and 
light which eminent men, such as the Abbe Vaux, 
disdained not to invoke for the guidance of their con 
duct:): In rendering account of this divine gift, she 
said she thought she could clearly see the disposi 
tion of her neighbor, especially of the company ; but 

* Letter of Sr. Mathurine Guerin to Sr. Marguerite Chetif. 

f Ibid. 

\ Letter of Mile. Le Gras to the 1 Abbe de Vaux, March 10, 1643. 



Wisdom of Mile. Le Gras Government. 301 

in her humility she saw in this only a fault to accuse 
herself of. During a retreat we find her asking her 
self what means to apply as a remedy for her quick 
ness in seeing the faults of others, reprehending 
them and annoying herself about them. She loved 
them to come to her simply, and she assisted them 
to open their hearts, especially those who were tried 
or suffering ; and by her prudence and good manage 
ment often, without intending, she also led them to 
see their own failings.* 

This quality of foundress she possessed in a remark 
able degree. St. Vincent de Paul said he had never 
met with a more prudent person, and in the assembly 
held a few months before her death,f he could not 
avoid praising publicly and in her presence the wis 
dom of her government. He feared not to assert 
that no community in Paris was in as good a state as 
that of the Daughters of Charity, and like them out 
of debt ; they alone asked for no help ; and while 
the Daughters of Mary had to bring twelve or 
thirteen hundred livres, they had no other dowry 
than the poor and Providence. The company, how 
ever, was prospering, he would remark ; and Mile, 
had also found means by her economy, notwith 
standing the expense of a recent building, to secure 
some rents on the coaches and elsewhere. St. Vin 
cent might have added that she had obtained these 
results without the slightest departure from the rule 

* Conference upon the virtues of Mile. Le Gras. 
t J ul y 3i, 1659. 



302 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

of disinterestedness he had so implicitly traced for her ; 
counselling her not to demand a debt contracted by 
a lady so great as the Duchess of Mortemart* 

The prudence which directed so happily Mile. Le 
Gras when only the material subsistence of the com 
munity was in question, was still more necessary to 
inspire her conduct in the other and higher exis 
tence of all religious communities, the maintenance 
of rule and unity of purpose. We shall quote but 
two examples of this. The first is furnished by a 
serious affair which for several months saddened 
the hospital of Chars near Pontoise, where the wife 
of President Herse had established the Sisters. At 
the end of some years of service they found them 
selves under a Jansenist priest, who, after removing 
their confessor, refused them communion and en 
deavored to compel them, by threats of public pen 
ance at the church-door, to yield to his orders in 
practices contrary to the rules of the company, 
such as to receive strangers into their houses, and 
in their instruction of children to use means of 
correction which had been justly banished from 
their schools. Mile. Le Gras bore it patiently 
at first, and tried, every means to secure the tran 
quillity and liberty of her sisters ; but she feared for 
her Daughters the contagion of doctrines and maxims 

*It was a question of expense for one of her children, Athenais, 
afterwards Marchioness of Montespan, who at the age of fifteen had 
been with the Sisters of Charity. St. Vincent took occasion from 
their loss to counsel them never to admit the rich as boarders. (As 
sembly of March 22.) 



Wisdom of Mile. Le Gras Government. 303 

opposed to the spirit of the Church, and she recalled 
them,* although by so doing she had to risk the dis 
pleasure of one of her devoted friends. The second 
example is more striking still, as the jealous care she 
took to protect the integrity of the rules led her to 
sustain her authority in opposition to M. Portail 
himself, who seemed to misunderstand the circum 
stance. We are ignorant of all the details, but their 
letters f fortunately are extant to witness to the re 
spectful, prudent firmness of the foundress and the 
humility, at the same time, of the director, and their 
mutual desire to end a difference which had not for one 
moment changed the cordiality of their intercourse. 
The prudence which Mile. Le Gras practised in 
such perfection was not the special signet she wished 
to imprint on her community. " I know not if I am 
deceived," she said, " but it seems to me our Lord 
wants more confidence than prudence to maintain 
the company, and confidence will act prudently 
without perceiving it. Experience has often proved 
this to me when the laziness of my mind needed 
it."J Confidence, simplicity, cordiality such is the 
spirit which Mile. Le Gras sought to instil into her 
Daughters; and we must say to their praise, it is 
that which has accompanied them all through their 
history, and which is their distinguishing trait to-day. 

* Letters, not dated, of Mile. Le Gras to the wife of President Herse, 
and to the Cure de Chars. 

f Letters of Mile. Le Gras to M. Portail, not dated, and his answers. 
\ Letter dated August 8, 1656. 




CHAPTER XV. 

16571659. 

Louis XIV. recognizes the Existence of the Company Develop 
ments of the Work in France The Daughters of Charity in the 
Army They are asked for in Madagascar Death of Mile. 
Pollalion and Barbara Angiboust. 

|LLE. LE GRAS had accomplished her 
task. She had secured to her Daughters 
the existence of their society and the 
exercise of their functions, and also re 
moved, as far as possible, all uneasiness that might 
trouble their minds with regard to the future. No 
more remained for her to do but to gather the fruits 
of her labor, and while watching unceasingly the 
interior organization of the company, to direct its 
extension outside. 

Tuesday of Pentecost week, 1657, the term of the 
officers appointed directly by St. Vincent having 
expired, the first election was held. This was con 
ducted by the Sisters themselves as the statute 
required. The Saint urged upon them the import 
ance of making a good selection, and enumerated the 
qualities necessary to exercise the duties of each 
office ; then, in conformity to the method followed 
by the Apostles, he proposed two names for each 



Election of new Officers. 305 

The names were submitted to every Sister of four* 
years vocation ; and after having addressed a prayer 
aloud that God would let them know whom He had 
selected from all eternity, he took the votes. Sister 
Jeanne of the Cross was chosen first assistant, 
Genevieve Poisson treasurer, and Madeleine Mes- 
nage, dispenser. As soon as the names were read 
out, one of the officers rose from her place and, 
throwing herself on her knees, asked pardon for the 
faults she had committed in the exercise of her 
charge. " May God bless you, my daughter !" replied 
the Saint, " Mile. Le Gras gives me a very good 
account of you and your conduct, as also of the two 
others. May God be glorified in it ! You did right 
to ask pardon of your Sisters for the bad example 
you think you have given them ; for it is very difficult 
to act so well as to leave nothing to be said against 
you. Besides, it is a custom among the Sisters of 
Mary when leaving their charge." The two other 
officers then followed the example of the first, and the 
Saint gave them for a penance to recite the Litany of 
the Holy Name of Jesus, and to hear the next day s 
Mass for the intention of the newly elected. 

While the work was thus taking a regular course 
in its interior, it received a sanction long looked 
for, and one that already was making its future 
bright. The civil authority had by degrees become 
accustomed to the secular character which St. Vincent 
had endeavored to preserve in the community ; 

* Afterwards eight years vocation was required. 



306 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

although at first the magistrates, even those most in 
its favor,* were astonished. Success, therefore, 
crowned the efforts which Mile. Le Gras had not 
ceased to make since the loss of the papers. The 
royal favor and approbation were obtained. The 
terms of the ordinance read: " Nov. 1657. The 
king, desirous of favoring all the good works in his 
kingdom for the glory of God, and rendering 
homage to the new confraternity which * had had its 
commencement so filled with benediction, and its prog 
ress so abundant in Charity, authorizes it to extend it 
self in all the states subject to his obedience. He takes 
it under his special protection and that of his succes 
sors, permits it to receive donations and legacies, and 
grants it considerable privileges and exemptions/ f 

Royal protection only confirmed public opinion. 
All over the kingdom the name of the Daughters 
of Charity commenced to be heard. " It pleases 
God," said Mile. Le Gras, "to give renown to what 
the Sisters have been doing for a long time un 
noticed;" and St. Vincent wrote: "You cannot be 
lieve how God blesses these poor Sisters wherever 
they go. The other day I asked a priest who has 
them in his parish how they were doing, and 1 dare 
not repeat all the good he told me of them. The 
same with others; some more, some less. Not that 
they do not commit faults; alas! who does not? 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras to St. Vincent, April, 1650. 
f Letters patent registered in Parliament, Dec. 16, 1658. (Arch. 
Nat., Carton L, 1054.) 



Calls for the Daughters of Charity. 307 

But they never tire of acts of mercy, which is the 
characteristic of God. Thus they are in repute 
everywhere." The Saint continues: "A bishop wants 
them for three hospitals; another requests them for 
two hospitals ; a third, also, who spoke to me but 
three days ago. is urging me to send them to him." 
In another letter he enters more into details: Mgr. 
the bishop of St. Malo does too much honor to the 
poor Daughters of Charity in wishing to employ them 
in his town ; but that cannot be at present, for Mile. 
Le Gras has no one ready to go, and cannot supply 
those who have been asking for them a long time. 
Mgr. the bishop of Cahors * is earnest in his solicita 
tions ; Mgr. d Agde f asks them for his city and for 
Pezenas ; for two years the Abbe Cy ron is waiting for 
for them in Toulouse ; the bishop of Angers wants them 
for a new hospital ;J and the Chancellor, adds Mile. 
Le Gras, " for an establishment one hundred and fifty 
miles from here." Nor was this yet all. The Ladies 
of Charity when they went to pass the summer in the 
country " aux champs" in the fields, as was then said 
often wanted the Sisters for the poor people on 
the domain;! finally, the Sisters themselves, overbur- 

* " For four years Mgr. of Cahors has been asking with such 
earnestness that he is angry with me because Mile. Le Gras had 
not the means of satisfying his desire." (Instructions given by 
M. Vincent, November 4, 1658, to the Sisters leaving for Cahors.) 

f Mgr. Fouquet, brother of the Superintendent of Finance. 

\ To the Superior of St. Meen, June 14, 1656. 

Letter of Mile. Le Gras. 

|| In this way Mme. Fouquet generally brought a Sister to Vaux. 



308 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

dened with work notwithstanding their courage, 
were asking for reinforcements. " Sir," wrote one 
of them to St. Vincent, " we are overloaded with 
labor, and we must succumb if not assisted. I am 
constrained to write these few lines at night, guard 
ing the sick, having had no rest during the day; 
and as I write I have two dying patients to attend to. 
I go to one and say, My friend, raise your heart 
to God ; ask His mercy ; then I come and write a 
word or two, and run to the other to say, Jesus! 
Mary ! my God ! 1 hope in you, and return to my 
letter. Thus I come and go, and write in between, 
having my mind quite divided." But not forgetting 
the end in view, she concludes thus: " I beg you most 
humbly to send us another Sister." 

Alas! Mile. Le Gras was obliged to reject most of 
these requests. A sorrowful task, for it grieved her to 
see so large a harvest whitening and so few gleaners. 
"Ask our Lord for laborers for His work," she repeated 
to her Daughters, and she tried to establish in some 
diocese in the middle of France, at Agde or Cahors, 
a seminary independent of the house in Paris, the 
advantage of which would be to recruit new subjects 
and be able more easily to furnish Sisters for more 
distant places.* With all this insufficiency of numbers, 
she managed to send Sisters to the Insane Hospital, 
called the " Little Houses," at Paris; Varese, in the 
diocese of Chartres; to the hospital at Fere, "where 

* Council held April 25, 1656. 



The Daughters of Charity in the Army. 309 

they soon became the edification of the whole city ;" 
toCahors; to Metz, where the queen wanted them 
to make known the sanctity of the Catholic religion 
to heretics and Jews, numerous in that city.* She 
sent two Sisters to the Duchess of Ventadour for 
her estate back of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, in lower 
Normandy,f and two for the hospital of Ussel, in 
Limousin. She promised three to Narbonne, six to 
Saint-Menehould, and several to Alise in Burgundy, 
where St. Vincent undertook the construction of an 
hospital for all pilgrims and infirm persons attracted to 
the warm springs or the tomb of St. Reine. These new 
foundations swelled the number of provincial establish 
ments to thirty-four, to which we must add the five hos 
pitals of Paris and the twenty-six parishes of that city 
where the sick were attended in their own dwellings. 
Besides the hospitals, schools, and houses of 
mercy in the parishes, the Sisters of Charity were 
called on to nurse the sick and wounded sol 
diers. Already at Sedan, 1654, and at Arras, 1656, 
they had made their first campaigns, "praying to 
God for the king s army and the enemy s conversion; 
for we are under too much obligation to our dear 
France to need any recommendation from me to 

* Instructions given to the Sisters on their departure for- Metz. 

f" These poor girls!" wrote Mile. Le Gras, testifying to their 
fidelity to God, "they are fifteen miles from Caen, and no camp or 
other messenger goes there. Thus they are sometimes three months 
without hearing from us, and our letters are often lost; nevertheless 
they live as if they were with us." (Jan. 8, 1657.) 



3io Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

you," said their Mother. After the taking of Dun- 
kerque from the Spaniards, the queen ordered them 
to Calais, where six hundred wounded soldiers 
were being decimated by an epidemic ; the young 
king himself being attacked by it also. Some 
touching details remain of the departure of those 
destined for this post of honor. All the Sisters were 
assembled in the parlor where so many separations 
had already been witnessed. The four departing 
were standing around Mile. Le Gras, and were taking 
leave of St. Vincent, whom most of them would see 
no more on earth. The Saint was so deeply im 
pressed with the greatness of their mission that he 
could scarcely speak. " What a subject of humiliation, 
my daughters," he tried to say " what a subject of 
humiliation for you that God wills to be served by you 
in such great things ! Men go to war to kill ; and you 
you go to repair the evil which they do. In kill 
ing the body they often, also, kill the soul ; and you 
you go to give your life for the one and for the 
other." Then, as if moved by a secret presentiment: 
" When you are in the midst of the battle, have no 
fear ; if one of you should lose her life oh ! would 
it not be a blessing for her?" These words were 
spoken with such a tone of certainty that Sister 
Claude Muset, a little fearful of this mission, felt all 
her fears vanish like smoke, and she set out with joy. 
This she stated at the process of his canonization. 

All four were chosen from the strongest and 
most robust of the company ; yet, a short time after 



The Daughters of Charity in Madagascar. 3 1 1 

their arrival, one of the number, Frances, died, and 
the three others, dangerously sick, had to be carried 
to a convent of the Dominicans. At this news 
twenty of their companions in Paris offered to re 
place them, making- their offering with such ardor and 
enthusiasm that Mile. Le Gras compared it to that of 
soldiers at the call of battle. One old Sister among 
the rest, Henrietta Gesseaume, burning with the 
desire of risking her life, called on St. Vincent at the 
Hotel-Dieu at a time when she was sure of meeting 
him there, and entreated his permission to make one 
of the party for the scene of war. En route for 
Calais she heard that Sister Marguerite had become 
a second victim. " Sister Marguerite is dead also, 
sword in hand.* It takes more than that to discour 
age us ; " she wrote to Mile. Le Gras.f " On the 
contrary, we are longing to arrive, to assist the 
poor soldiers stretched on the ground on a little 
straw a pitiful sight, they say." Thus the pious 
batallion moved on with new ardor to the combat. 

Still another apostolate appeared in the horizon. 
Not only the ambulance-halls of France and Poland 
demand the valiant Daughters of Mile. Le Gras, but 
the far-distant isles of the Indian Ocean. " Your 
name," Saint Vincent had said to them one day, " is 
spread abroad ; it is known in Madagascar, where 

* Letter of Mile. Le Gras. The queen raised a monument at her 
own expense, on which she had engraven the names of the two 
Sisters and that of St. Vincent de Paul. 

f Aug. 8, 1658. 



312 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

you have been asked for, and our missionaries who 
are there write to us that it would be well if you 
had an establishment there to gain the souls of the 
poor negroes." * 

These words were not premeditated, but Mile. Le 
Gras took them as a hope. " Oh, what a blessed 
journey !" she exclaimed. " I think it is not more 
than ten or twelve hundred miles !" And she asked, 
laughing, " Would that be enough to frighten Sister 
Henriette ?" f At all events it did not frighten Sister 
Nicole Haran,:}: who, at Nantes, had collected the 
ruins of a shipwreck from which three missionaries 
miraculously escaped ; they were going, moreover, 
to Madagascar. Nevertheless she wrote to St. 
Vincent that she felt urged to go and serve God in 
that abandoned place. She Avas far from being the 
only one, for Mile. Le Gras hesitated not to say, 
" The greater number of our Sisters do not wish the 
journey to Madagascar to be made without them." || 
Here we have precisely the Sister of Charity of the 

* " Recueil des Conferences." 

f Letter to a Sister. 

\ Sister Nicole Haran was elected Second Superioress of the Sisters 
of Charity. 

The Gazette de France speaks of this miraculous preservation, "at 
tributed, they say, to the faith of a Mission Brother." This Brother, 
called Christopher, had constructed a raft, with his mantle for sail, 
and, his crucifix in his hand, he directed this frail skiff and kept up 
che tourage of his companions. The other passengers, 120 persons, 
and everything in the wreck, perished in the waves. 

| Letter to St. Vincent, Jan. 1658. 



Death of Mile. Foliation. 313 

nineteenth century, and such as the foundress loved 
ready for everything", armed with strong confidence 
in God, abandoned to Him to do whatever He 
wills, minding- no office or duty, neither low nor 
high nor difficult.* The Saint blessed the Lord for 
courage so extraordinary in poor village girls, and, 
like St. Benedict on the heights of Mt. Cassin fore 
seeing in a ray of light the future of his Order, he 
also perceived from the heart of Paris the extension 
of his work all over the world. " The day will 
come," he said to the Sisters, " when God will send 
you to Africa and the Indies." But he did not 
believe the hour had arrived, and events justified 
his prudence ; for, driven by the tempest into the 
port of Lisbon, the missionaries fell into the hands 
of the Spaniards, and having put to sea the year 
after, their vessel went to pieces on a rock. 

While the Sisters of Charity were thus shedding 
the odor of virtue everywhere, the trunk of the 
parent-tree, the confraternity whose name they 
bore, was receiving a cruel blow. Mile. Pollalion 
had just died. This faithful friend of Mile. Le Gras, 
whose name brings us back to the laborious years of 
their apostolic course, had also founded a spiritual 
family ; f but at the cost of what efforts and what sac 
rifices ! Her historian says she went from house to 

* Counsels quoted by Mathurine Guerin. 

f The Daughters of Providence, or of Christian Union, Rue d Ar- 
belete, from which arose the community of New Converts in the 
quarter Saint-Germain. 



314 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

house begging-, often eating only a morsel of bread 
picked up in haste as she went along to save time, 
sometimes after thirty hours absolute fast. She 
spent a great part of the night in prayer, and in 
winter she was often seen making a pilgrimage bare 
foot to Aubervilliers,* that she might obtain from 
God the sanctification of her Daughters and the pre 
servation of the king. Finding her end approaching, 
she had herself carried on a litter from Rouen, 
where she had been on business, to her house in 
Paris, and had scarcely arrived in the chapel of 
the convent itself, where she had just time to receive 
Extreme Unction, before she expired.f 

One of the Daughters of Charity that Mile. 
Pollalion had known in the little house of the 
Faubourg Saint-Victor when, during the absence 
of Mile. Le Gras, she took her place, went to 
join her soon after in eternity. This was no other 
than Barbara Angiboust, who, after devoting herself 
in Champagne to the victims of the war, had suc 
cessively founded establishments at Bernay, in Nor- 

* Notre Dame des Vertus (that is to say, of miracles), at Auber- 
villiers,was agreat devotion in the seventeenth century. M.Olier went 
there to consult God before commencing his foundations. He went 
again every year, and came back to Paris by way of Saint-Lazarus. 

f The universal martyrology gives her the title of Venerable, 
and the Archbishop of Paris, convinced of her sanctity, substituted 
the Mass of the Holy Trinity for the Mass of Requiem usually said 
on the anniversary of her death. ("Vie de la venerable servante de 
Dieu Marie Lumagne, veuve de M. Pollalion, etc." Paris, chez He- 
rissant, a la croix d or et aux trois vertus, 1744.) 



Death of Barbara Angiboust. 315 

mandy, and at Chateaudun. Attacked by a malady 
which permitted her not to communicate, she asked 
to have the Blessed Sacrament brought to her room, 
and adored it with transports. Then she called around 
her bed of suffering the little children brought up in 
the hospice, to exhort them to piety ; and the Sisters, 
to encourage them to spare nothing in the service of 
the poor. After her death* she looked so wonderfully 
beautiful that the women of the city, who came in 
crowds to lay their beads on her body, asked if 
she were not painted. So great was the concourse 
of people that the gates had to be shut against them. 
" Barbara," wrote Mile. Le Gras, " was one of the 
oldest and most faithful of the company, and God 
had honored her in her sickness with the most strik 
ing marks of being His servant, commencing thus 
in this world to recompense her fidelity." On 
this consideration she wished not only to recom 
mend her to the prayers of the whole congregation, 
as she did each of the Sisters deceased, but she 
wished a special veneration and attachment shown 
her. For this purpose she summoned all the Sisters 
to a High Mass chanted in the church of the Mis 
sionaries, and to a Conference in which the virtues of 
Sister Barbara were made the subject of reflection, 
such Conference being only held for the most holy. 
Two of her companions came from Chateaudun to 
recount the traits of virtue which they had wit- 

*Dec. 27, 1658. 



3i 6 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

nessed ; afterwards each of those who had known 
her in Paris or elsewhere expatiated on what they 
had seen in her. They praised particularly her 
firmness in executing the orders given her, her 
exactness to rule, her detachment from everything, 
her generosity in treading under foot all human 
respect. When it came Mile. Le Gras turn to 
speak, she treated of her meekness, and related a 
circumstance which had come under her own obser 
vation of the affability and kindness shown by 
Barbara to a Sister who had committed pretty 
serious faults against her. " What !" she answered 
when the other asked pardon, " shall I not suffer 
something from you when you have so much to 
suffer from me?" After this trait, which seemed to 
support the counsel ordinarily given by Mile. Le 
Gras, she summed up all that had been just said of 
this holy life : " See, my dear Sisters, if it is not well 
to persevere in the love of God."* 

Alas ! these beautiful fruits dropping from the tree 
indicated but too surely the approach of autumn. 
These successive losses were only so many precursory 
signs of that which was threatening and would soon 
spread sorrow and desolation throughout the com 
pany. 

* Letter to Sr. Anne Ardemont, November 13, 1659. 




CHAPTER XVI. 

1659 1660. 

Last Illness of Mile. Le Gras Her Death Her Funeral Her 

Tomb. 

MONG the masterpieces of modern art is 
one representing 1 a mother, a saint, al 
ready transfigured, her features worn by 
suffering- and transparent as her veil ; 
her eyes fixed on. heaven, holding on to earth only 
by the hand of her son, she is ready to depart and 
ripe for eternity. Such, in this moment, appears 
the venerable woman whose life we have en 
deavored to retrace. Her soul on high, she seems 
detained on earth only by her love for her Daughters ; 
the day will come when that tie shall no longer ar 
rest her flight. 

Several times of late years Mile. Le Gras had 
made an apprenticeship of death, or, as we might 
say, a trial of it. In May 1656 she was expected 
surely to die ; but our Lord " drew her out of the 
agony," as she said herself, and " she had to be 
resigned to a prolongation of her exile."* " It did 
not please the goodness of God to blot me out of 
the earth, although I have merited such for a long 

* Letter to the Abbe Vaux, June 14, 1656. 



3i8 Life of Mile. Lc Gras. 

time " she wrote to Sister Frangoise de Mes- 
nage* "and I must wait the order of His provi 
dence." A private notef informs us how she was 
to wait. " Recovering from my late severe sickness, 
I asked M. Vincent, our most honored Father, with 
what disposition I should take up the resolution of 
living longer, and his charity told me with the reso 
lution to deny my satisfactions and renounce myself." 
This advice astonishes our tepidity, since life for 
many years had been perpetual suffering for her 
and we know not what else she had to conquer in 
this respect. But God, so merciful to our weakness, 
has, in regard to the saints, requirements whose ex 
tent our ignorance cannot measure, often advancing 
the work of their sanctification by multiplying ex 
terior accidents, privations, and sorrows. 

It was to be thus with Mile. Le Gras. Some weeks 
after this a severe fall left long and cruel traces. The 
following year she had a swelling on her sho ulder 
which was treated by bleeding a remedy much in 
in vogue her time, the abuse of which was often more 
fatal than the disease itself. Finally, on August 22, 
1657, she wrote that she had been very ill ; and in July 
1659, that she was still alive, but almost in constant 
relapses since Easter. Yet she did not interrupt her 
vigilance, requiring strict account from her first 
assistant of the prayers of the community and their 
exactitude, and being filled with joy to hear the Sis 
ters repairing to the chapel in the morning. On the 

*June 10, 1656. f Oct. 30, 1656. 



Last illness of Mile. Le Gras. 3 1 9 

least respite from suffering she was at work imme 
diately. Possessed with the idea that something 
more was wanting regarding the spirituality of the 
company, she drew up a memorial on the subject 
and sent it to St. Vincent. She superintended the 
construction of a new building, for which Provi 
dence more than once sent her money on the very 
day she had to pay the workmen. She continued 
also to direct retreats for ladies ; one worthy of re 
mark at this time was that of the Baroness Mirepoix, 
who after her retreat went to work with the Ladies 
of Charity. 

She had always been tormented by the fear of 
not having the assistance of St. Vincent at her last 
moments. One word from him could dissipate 
her greatest alarm and calm her wildest terrors. 
Those who have read St. Vincent s life have found 
Mme. de Gondy possessed by the same fear. The 
great age and declining health of St. Vincent justified 
this disquietude on the part of Louise. He had at 
tained his eighty-fifth year, but that did not deter 
him from rising every day at four o clock in the morn 
ing, fasting rigorously, and sleeping on a single straw- 
mattress ; but his limbs could with difficulty support 
him. Thus he had to discontinue his visits to the 
community of the Daughters of Charity, although so 
near. Soon after, to complete the sacrifice, he could 
not descend to the parlor of Saint- Lazarus for the Con 
ferences,* and at length he appeared no longer, even 

* The last was held Dec. 14, 1659. 



320 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

in the chapel. The grief of Mile. Le Gras at this 
expected separation is easy to understand. " I have 
nothing to offer to our Lord," she said, * " if not the 
only consolation which His goodness had given me 
for thirty-five years." 

Correspondence with this faithful guide of her 
life, who since her vocation had held a large space 
in her existence, was now her only resource ; and 
yet St. Vincent answered rarely, although it re 
quired no long letters. " The poor are content with 
little." " Visits and business increased so much that 
with difficulty we could have an answer. See to 
what a state it pleases Divine Providence to bring 
us." Yet, always submissive, she adds : " I accept 
it for His love, in the way He ordains. May His 
good pleasure be for ever accomplished ! It seems 
to me that our Divine Lord has put me in a state to 
suffer henceforth everything in peace." f This res 
ignation was more than ever beneficent and necessary, 
as M. Portail was also very ill, and was not to be seen. 
" The great lords alone see him ; he has a little 
hermitage at the end of the enclosure, from which he 
will not budge, and he comes rarely to the Confer 
ence." \ Hence solitude was deepening around her 
soul, prepared by all these bereavements for the great 
sacrifice. 

February 4, 1660, shortly after writing to Poland 

* Letter to St. Vincent, Dec. 19, 1659. 

f Letter to St. Vincent, sending a picture, "Jesus Crowned with 
Thorns," Jan. 4, 1660. 

\ Letter to Sister Mathurine Guerin, Jan. 9, 1660. 



Last illness of Mile. Le Gras. 321 

to a Sister whose courage had been somewhat shaken 
by the commotions of the war,* she was attacked by 
a fever which, at the end of eight days, became so 
violent that all hope of saving her appeared lost. 
She suffered much without complaining or wishing 
to be pitied. " It is necessary that pain should be 
where sin has abounded," she said ; " God is just ; in 
exercising justice He is merciful." The Holy Viat 
icum and Extreme Unction were administered. 
Michel Le Gras, his wife and daughter, were pres 
ent. "My dear children," she said to them after 
receiving the last Sacraments, " I pray God, the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, by the power 
given to parents to bless their children, that He give 
you Himself His benediction, detach you from earthly 
things, and, attaching you to Himself, make you live 
as good Christians." Then turning to her Daughters, 
she blessed them in turn, recommending to them a 
love for their vocation and the service of the poor. 

Every human resource and all supernatural 
means were resorted to for her relief. A stole of 
St. Charles Borromeo and a relic of St. Francis 
de Sales were applied, and, as she felt easier the 
night following, it was thought that these great 
saints had obtained a reprieve for her. Alas! it was 
only a respite God had granted to a family He willed 
not to overwhelm by a double affliction at the same 
time. 

* The queen, fleeing from the enemy, had taken refuge at Dantzig, 
and taken the Sisters with her. 



322 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

M. Portail received the last Sacraments on the 
same day as Mile. Le Gras, although not seeming so 
ill as she was. On the Hth of February, however, 
he breathed his last, after a life of seventy years, 
forty-five years of which were passed in the Congre 
gation of the Mission. "He had always feared 
death," St. Vincent wrote; "but seeing it approach, 
he beheld it with calmness, and holily and sweetly 
died as he had lived." 

As to Mile. Le Gras, she lived for nearly three weeks 
without fever, continuing faithful to the end in her love 
for the poor, and wishing to be informed of the aid they 
received in the house or at their homes. She also gave 
necessary orders that nothing might be wanting to 
them. 

On March Qth the fever returned, with a com 
mencement of gangrene in the arm. On the I2th she 
asked to receive Communion a second time. When 
told that the priest of Saint-Laurence promised her 
that blessing for the next day, she expressed aloud her 
joy and gratitude. " God be blessed ! God be blessed !" 
And during the night she repeated, " What happiness, 
my Lord ; if I live 1 shall receive You to-morrow !" 
She communicated with such effusions of respect and 
love as deeply moved all the assistants. The priest of 
Saint-Laurence asked her to give her blessing once 
more to her Daughters, and she consented. " My dear 
Sisters," she said to them, resuming in that solemn 
moment what had been the passion of her life and 
the supreme wish of her heart, " I continue to ask 



Last illness of Mile. Le Gras. 323 

the blessing of God for you, and beg Him to give 
you grace to persevere in your vocation and serve 
Him in the way He demands of you. Take great 
care to serve the poor, and above all live well 
together in great union and cordiality, loving one 
another, imitate the union of the life of our Saviour, 
and beg the Holy Virgin to be your only Mother." 
She added that she was dying in great esteem of their 
vocation, and if she lived one hundred years she would 
ask nothing for them but to be faithful to it. 

After this last advice to her Daughters, she 
wished to say farewell to the Father of her soul. 
She sent him a message to that effect, begging 
him to write her with his own hand some word of 
consolation; but the Saint, to secure her one merit 
more for eternity, would not grant the favor asked, 
and contented himself with sending her word by one 
of his priests that, if she were going in advance, he 
hoped to meet her in heaven. Although nothing 
could be more painful than this last sacrifice, she 
accepted it without any apparent regret. 

Several ladies came afterwards to visit her, and one 
of them asked if she did not rejoice on going to possess 
the glory of heaven. "Ah! it is inexpressible," an 
swered the sick lady, " but I am not worthy of it." 
The Duchess of Ventadour,* not wishing to leave her, 
sat by her bed the greater part of the night of March 

* Marie de la Guiche, second wife of Charles de Levis, Duke of 
Ventadour. When an infant her mother took her to the Carmelites 
to receive the benediction of Mother Madeleine. 



324 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

14, sharing the care necessary between Sisters Juli- 
anne, Barbara, and Frances of Paula. Towards six 
o clock in the morning, Mile. Le Gras, always detached 
from herself, urged them to take some rest, promising 
to let them know when the time would come. Her 
ardor for prayer redoubled as her strength declined ; 
and as if to give a last proof of her attachment to 
the Church, she made use of her language, repeat 
ing with Job, " Have pity on me, because the hand 
of the Lord hath touched me," and with David, 
" Look on me, and have mercy on me, for I am 
alone and poor." For a moment her mind wan 
dered, and she murmured, "Take me out of here." 
A priest of the Mission, who was assisting, presented 
the cross, saying, " Jesus Christ did not ask to come 
down from the cross ;" she answered, " Oh no ; He 
remained on it." She added, " Let me go, because 
my Saviour comes for me." A moment later a 
thought of approaching judgment made her fear. 
" O my God !" she said, " must I appear before my 
Judge?" The priest answered her by this verse of 
the Psalm : " To Thee I have lifted up my soul. 
My God, in Thee have I hope." She finished it 
herself : " I shall not be confounded." 

In the morning, Sisters from the Foundling came 
to see her. They knelt around her bed, but she bade 
them rise ; and being scarcely able to speak, yet she 
found strength sufficient to give them her constant 
advice : " Take great care in serving the poor." 

Finally, at eleven o clock, she had her bed-curtains 



Death of Mile. Le Gras. 325 

drawn aside to warn her Daughters, as she had 
promised, that her hour was approaching, and she 
entered on her agony. It lasted half an hour, during 
which her eyes were constantly raised to heaven. 
She followed the prayers and recommendation of 
the soul to the end, the Duchess of Ventadour hold 
ing the lighted taper for her. Then she wished once 
more to bless her Daughters kneeling around her, 
and, making a great effort, she said: " My dear Sis 
ters, I wish that all our Sisters were here ; but you 
can tell it to the others. I pray our Lord to give 
you the grace to live true Daughters of Charity, 
in union and charity one with the other, as God 
requires of you." Like St. John she had always 
the same thought, the same advice to give to her 
children. The priest having proposed to give her 
the benediction at the moment of death, which 
Pope Innocent X. had granted to her and her com 
panions, " It is not time yet," she murmured, quite 
low ; a little after she appeared to want something 
with great earnestness, and they asked if the time 
were come. Striking her breast three times, she 
said " Yes," with much earnestness. From that 
time she spoke no more, and requested the cur 
tains to be closed around her, as if to sleep. Fifteen 
minutes after she sweetly slept in God. This was 
Passion-Monday, March 15, 1660, between eleven 
o clock and noon. The priest of Saint-Laurence (her 
parish), to whom she had made her general confession, 
was present, and exclaimed, " What a beautiful soul, 



326 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

taking- with it the grace of its baptism !" Thus 
in his enthusiasm anticipating the language of 
history. 

The body remained exposed that day and the 
next, and received numerous proofs of public vene 
ration. The Wednesday following her funeral took 
place. To satisfy the desire expressed in her will, 
the funeral was modest. " If anything were done 
for her different from the other Sisters, it would sig 
nify that in death she was not worthy to be a true 
Sister of Charity and servant of the members of 
Jesus Christ." * Although she had requested to be 
interred near the church of Saint-Lazarus, in a little 
court that was formerly a cemetery, Saint Vincent 
granted the petition of the priest of Saint-Laurence, 
who solicited for his church the honor of receiving a 
deposit so dear to his parish, and she was placed in 
the Visitation f chapel, where it had been her cus 
tom to pray, and outside of which were ranged 
the graves of the Sisters. A large cross, with this 
inscription, " Spes Unica," according to her recom 
mendation, was suspended over the place where she 
reposes and reproduced outside, thus connecting her 
tomb with the tombs of her Daughters. 

The first author who wrote her life adds here : " It 
seems that God was not satisfied to make known the 
merit of His faithful servant through the good He 

* Will of Mile. LeGras. 

f This chapel, the first on the right on entering the church, is now 
dedicated to our Lady of La Salette. 



The Tomb of Mile. Le Gras. 327 

effected by her ministry during life, but He would 
also reveal her glory by extraordinary effects oper 
ated at her tomb. From time to time there came 
from it a vapor which exhaled a delicious perfume 
similar to that of the violet and iris. Numbers of 
persons bore witness to it ; and, more surprising still, 
the Sisters who came there to pray were so per 
fumed that they carried the odor with them to the 
sick Sisters and into the infirmary of the house. I 
might add the experience which I have had of it 
several times, if it were of any consideration in 
in this place ; and I can truly say that after taking 
every precaution possible to discover if there 
were not some natural cause for it, I could find 
none."* 

The personal qualities of this author, and the ap 
probation given his book by five prelates and five 
doctors of the Sorbonne, confer incontestable value 
on this testimony. Gobillon was priest of the parish 
of Saint-Laurence, and the marvellous phenomenon of 
which he wrote took place in his time. The truth 
of his words is confirmed by his contemporaries. 
Nothing, therefore, authorizes us to doubt the 
truth of a favor not uncommon in the history 
of the servants of God. " But," continues our 
author, " whatever be the nature of this odor from 
the tomb of this servant of the poor, there is one all 
spiritual from the example of her life, which is a 
miraculous work of grace and the most glorious 

* Gobillon, op. cit., pp. 185, 186. 



328 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

mark of her sanctity." This odor has not ceased to 
spread and to perfume the Church, and more than 
one soul has wished, without judging in anticipation 
the decision of supreme authority, that the precious 
ashes of her whose story it falls on us to relate may 
never leave the tomb of their repose except for a 
place on our altars. 

In the eighteenth century, after the beatification 
of Mme. de Chantal, the Sisters of Charity received 
letters expressing the desire that "the same honor 
might be granted to Mme. Louise de Marillac."* 
The Abbe of Saint-Fonds wrote to them : " To judge 
of her works by the great good which followed them, 
she merits to be declared blessed ; " and he added : 
" All Paris, where your Mother was born, will be with 
you ; and as it acknowledged a little shepherdess for 
its patron and treasure, it would have a second in 
Louise de Marillac." This thought seemed so truth 
ful, that when the Sisters of Charity came into the 
possession of the remains of their foundress, the Su 
perioress f and officers, acting in the name of and for 
the rest of the community, had to bind themselves 
by a solemn act, in presence of the priest of Saint- 
Laurence, " to let her feasts be celebrated in that 
parish and make to it a present of part of the relics, 
in case that God, manifesting the sanctity of His faith 
ful servant, would permit her to be honored in the 
Church." 

*Arch. of the Mission. 

f Sister Marie-Anne Bonnejoye. The paper, dated 1755, is pre 
served in the Archives of the Mission. 



The Heritage of the Daughters of Charity. 329 

More than one hundred years have rolled away 
since this engagement, and two hundred since the 
death of Mile. Le Gras, and the seed she sowed has 
not ceased to increase. 

At the hour in which we write, twenty thousand 
of her Daughters, spread over the two hemispheres, 
are everywhere giving new life to her charity. 
Collecting and sheltering children, serving the sick, 
consoling the poor, carrying aid to the wounded and 
the prisoner in fine, accomplishing towards the lit 
tle ones those acts of mercy which the Saviour has 
held up to us as characteristic of the " kingdom of 
heaven" in this world ; renewing their work every 
day without fail and without noise is not this, for 
them, the mark of their origin, the features of their 
race, the heritage and fruit of their Mother s lessons ? 
And is it not still more for her the ever-subsisting 
proof of a sanctity that we have, alas ! ill succeeded 
in bringing out of obscurity, but which we pray God 
one day to make manifest ? 




CHAPTER XVII, 

Conference on the Virtues of Mile. Le Gras Translation of her Re 
mains What became of them during the Revolution and after 
wards. 

|HE day after the death of Mile. Le Gras, 
St. Vincent wrote to all the houses of the 
Daughters of Charity announcing the loss 
they had sustained, and recommending to 
their prayers the holy soul which " he had great 
reason to believe in possession of glory;" being sick, 
four months elapsed before he was able, as he wished, 
to assemble his dear Daughters to speak to them of 
their Mother. 

At length, July 24th, he assembled them at Saint- 
Lazarus, where, Sister Jeanne Loret tells us, 
they found means of seeing him without giving 
him the trouble of coming down to the parlor. 
" Our honored Father is well, thank God, in mind 
and heart, but .... he can no longer rise without 
assistance. Let us prepare ourselves for the will of 
God, for he can scarcely survive this winter."* 
Everything contributed to make this reunion a solemn 
time: the intention which brought them together, 
and the age of him who seemed also taking leave of 
his Daughters while presiding over the last testimony 
of veneration given to " this great servant of God." 

* Letter addressed to Mathurine Guerin. 



Conference upon the Virtues of Mile. Le Gras. 331 

A faithful hand has preserved for us the details of 
this meeting. It is a portrait of Mile. Le Gras taken, 
almost the day after her death, by those who knew 
her best, her father according to grace, and her 
daughters by adoption. Hence we believe we ought 
to give the Conference entire, although at the risk of 
repeating the portions of it already quoted in the 
course of this work. We shall evoke the gratitude of 
the reader by offering him, in all its freshness and life 
a document still new to him : 

" Monsieur our honored Father," writes the Sister, 
whose name we know not, but to whose faithful 
hand we are indebted for these details, " having 
reached the place of conference and invoked the 
assistance of the Holy Spirit, as was his custom, 
spoke to us as follows : My dear Sisters, I give 
God thanks for having preserved me to this hour, 
that I may see you all once more assembled to 
gether. You may well imagine how much I wished 
to be able to do so before the extreme illness 
of Mile. Le Gras ; but I also had a sickness which 
greatly enfeebled me. That was the good pleasure 
of God, and I believe He permitted it only for the 
greater perfection of the person of whom we are going 
to speak. 

" As the Lord has also disposed of M. Portail, who 
always had great zeal for the sanctification of your 
company, if we say something of him en passant, it 
will not be out of place. 

" But it is principally of Mile. Le Gras that we 



332 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

now treat: of her virtues those above all which 
you propose most especially to imitate ; for you 
should follow her example if you wish to be good 
Daughters of Charity. This Conference will have 
three points, as usual. The first, the reasons why 
the Daughters of Charity should entertain themselves 
with the virtues of such of their Sisters as have gone 
to God ; and particularly with those of their very 
dear Mother, Mile. Le Gras. Second point, what are 
the virtues remarked in her. Third, which of her 
virtues strike us most, and which do we propose 
most to imitate, by the grace of God/ " 

The first Sister whom the Saint called on could 
not speak ; * sorrow and tears were choking her voice. 
She could not recall the thought of her good Mother 
without, at the same time, recalling to mind that she 
had lost her. She conquered herself in a little while, 
as we shall see farther on. He had to ask another, 
and she replied : " The first reason which occurs to 
me, Father, why we should go over the virtues of our 
most honored Mother is to give thanks to God for 
them ; the second is to persuade us to imitate them; 
and if we do not, it will be a great subject of confu 
sion for us before God, because He gave her to us as 
a model which we ought to follow. As to the virtues 
which I have remarked in her, the first is that she 
always had her mind on God, above all in her pains 
and sickness, in all of which she considered only the 

*This was Sister Julienne Loret. 



Conference upon the Virtues of Mile. Le Gras. 333 

good pleasure of God. She was never heard to 
complain of her infirmities ; on the contrary, she 
always appeared content and gay. Secondly, she 
had a great love for the poor, and took great 
pleasure in serving them. I have seen her receiving 
the poor creatures just out of prison ; she washed 
their feet, bound up their wounds, and dressed them 
in the garments of her son. Thirdly, she had great 
charity for infirm Sisters; she went often to visit 
the infirmary ; she was happy to do them some 
little service ; she took great care to assist them in 
death ; and if it were at night, she arose, unless when 
she was very sick. When her sickness was such that 
she could not go herself, she sent her assistant to do 
her part, to remember her to them, and give them 
some words of consolation. She endeavored also to 
visit those in danger of death in the parishes of Paris. 
Her tenderness for the Sisters was so great that she 
had to be cautiously informed when God saw fit to 
dispose of them ; and then her tears flowed in abund 
ance. With a heart like hers, we are not surprised 
that she entertained for her son and the other mem 
bers of her family all the affection prescribed by 
nature and religion. Fourthly, she carried humility 
as far .as it could go. She was the first on her knees 
to ask pardon of all her Sisters. I have seen her 
stretched on the ground, where she wished to be 
trodden under foot. She washed the dishes, and 
would have done all the hard work of the house if 
her strength would have permitted her. She served 



334 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

at table and in the refectory, asked pardon for her 
faults, and performed penance, such as holding her 
arms extended or lying on the floor." 

M. Vincent having asked another what she re 
marked, she said : " Father, Mademoiselle had great 
prudence in everything. It seemed that she knew all 
our faults, for she mentioned them before we had time 
to speak of them to her ; but she used great prudence 
in her admonitions. She recommended us always 
not to seek our own interests in our actions, but only 
the glory of God. She was also truly interior." 

"My Sisters," St. Vincent continued, "a very es 
sential virtue has just been remarked in your worthy 
Mother. Truly I never knew a person possessed of 
more prudence than she. She possessed it to the 
highest point, and I wish with all my heart that the 
company had this virtue so necessary to it. It con 
sists in seeing in what manner we should comport 
ourselves on all occasions, and above all in examining 
well the means, the time, and the place of making the 
remarks we are sometimes obliged to make. May it 
please God, my Sisters, to give you this virtue ac 
cording to His knowledge of your necessity for it, 
since ordinary prudence will not suffice for you. You 
have to treat with persons of rank and with the poor; 
and you ought to know how to comport yourselves 
exactly in these different circumstances. And what 

J 

will teach you? Prudence. There is a false pru 
dence which makes one disregard the time and place, 
and hence makes one act inconsiderately. It is very 



Conference upon the Virtues of Mile. Le Gras. 335 

difficult not to fall into this fault. Alas! my God, 
there is no religious house where it is not found. 
Nevertheless it is very dangerous ; and you know 
that there have been some among you who by it have 
lost their vocation. If there is imprudence in your 
company, there will be as much evil said of it on one 
side as there is good on the other. At Narbonne the 
most beautiful eulogiums are said of our Sisters, be 
cause their modesty and circumspection are admira 
ble. Elsewhere they say : There are Sisters without 
prudence, who do not mind what they do. Prudence, 
then, my Sisters, prudence everywhere; with pru 
dence you will everywhere have tranquillity ; without 
it you will everywhere have trouble and disorder. 
But, to have it, you must ask it of God. And who 
will help you to obtain it? Your good Mother, who 
is in heaven ; she has not less chanty for you in that 
happy abode than she had on earth ; she has still 
more, and in a manner more perfect. Address your 
selves then to her; for although we cannot honor in 
public worship the dead who are not canonized, yet 
we can pray to them in private." 

After these reflections, M. Vincent asked another 
Sister what she had remarked in the virtuous de 
parted. 

" Father," she replied, " I remarked that she 
desired very much for the company to preserve its 
spirit of humility and poverty. She often said, We 
are the servants of the poor, consequently we ought 
to be more poor than they. " 



336 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

" You are right," said our most honored Father, 
" to say that your good Mother esteemed poverty 
much ; to be convinced of it we need only see 
how she was clothed ; but although clothed very 
poorly, she thought it too much, and asked per 
mission to live henceforth like the poor. And 
whatever belongs to the company, she always wished 
it kept in that spirit. In fact, this is the sov 
ereign means to preserve it. Poverty is a virtue 
which our Saviour practised on earth and which He 
wished His apostles to practice. The Master and dis 
ciples were poor in their clothing. The same voice 
which said, Wo, to ye rich, also said, The foxes have 
holes, and the birds their nests : but the Son of Man 
hath not where to lay his head. It was with much 
wisdom, then, that your pious Mother made you prac 
tise exact poverty -in everything for twenty-five years : 
in your clothing, your nourishment, and all your 
needs. What a misfortune should any one of you relax 
on this point, and, instead of being satisfied with the 
frugality of the refectory, should seek the ladies 
table ! Ah ! if unhappily some one should say, We 
are not well nourished; * Such a way to live, etc., 
my Sisters, you should cry out, Wolf ! wolf ! You 
must send away such as the spirit of the demon, which 
must be chased away at the commencement. My 
Sisters, preserve poverty, and poverty will preserve 
you. Content yourselves to be clothed in rags, but 
not to depart from your simplicity. Imprint, O Lord, 
these maxims on our hearts ; engrave them so deeply 



Conference upon the Virtues of Mile. Le Gras. 337 

there that, seeing a Daughter of Charity, one may see 
resplendent in her the spirit of poverty and exclaim, 
* Blessed be God who has given her that spirit ! 

After these reflections the Sister resumed her re 
marks, saying, " I remarked that Mile. Le Gras 
showed as much affection for one Sister as for an 
other, and tried to satisfy every one." 

" That is true," replied M. Vincent ; "and although 
the effusion of her heart did not always appear the 
same, I know she had love for all." 

" Father," added the Sister, " Mademoiselle had 
great zeal for the salvation of souls. She was very 
interior, and her mind much occupied with God." 

M. Vincent attached much importance to this last 
article. After proving that to be interior was to have 
the mind and heart elevated to God, and to be disen 
gaged from all affection to the world, from parents or 
country, in a word, from all earthly things, he ex 
horted the Sisters to say often, " Destroy in me, O 
Lord, all that is displeasing to Thee, and grant that I 
may be no more so full of myself; grant that in each 
of my actions I may have no other desire than that 
of pleasing Thee." 

Again he returned to Mile. Le Gras ; and after re 
marking that the greatest saints were not without their 
shading of imperfection, he said that the little hasti 
ness sometimes perceptible in her was nothing, and, 
although she humbled herself for it a moment after, 
there would be hard work to find any sin. To say 
that hers was like the anger of Jesus Christ when He 



338 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

drove the venders from the Temple would be saying 
what is right. " Be ye angry and sin not," said the 
royal prophet. He added that " for the thirty -eight 
years of their acquaintance he had known in that 
lady only a soul always pure ; pure in her youth, 
pure in her married life, in her widowhood. In her 
confessions she wept over her slightest faults with 
such bitterness that he could scarcely appease her." 

From all these remarks our most honored Father 
concluded that each one of those to whom he spoke 
ought to use all her efforts to become interior that 
is to say, to occupy herself with God alone, and see 
but Him in all her actions. "Thus, my dear Sisters, 
when you are tempted to yield to anything against 
your rule, you must say to yourselves, I am a 
Daughter of Charity, and consequently Daughter 
of Mile. Le Gras, who, notwithstanding the inclina 
tions of nature, knew so well how to conquer herself 
and occupy herself with God alone. Ah ! I will 
follow her example and overcome myself. " 

But since tepidity makes excuses and intrenches it 
self in the idea that it is not given to all to imitate 
privileged souls, whom God conducts by ways of 
predilection, M. Vincent, who profited by every 
thing to conduct to virtue, demonstrated that the 
Daughters of Charity could and ought to walk in the 
footsteps of their Mother in Jesus Christ. 

A letter which he had just received from Poland 
furnished a proof of this important truth. One of 
his priests in Varsovia had written him that the 



Conference upon the Virtues of Mile. Le Gras. 339 

queen had made a long journey, leaving at her 
departure the poor Daughters of Charity to keep 
order everywhere; that they had acquitted them 
selves so well of this task, and with such prudence 
and general satisfaction, that the queen on her return 
was charmed with accounts from all quarters, and 
went to spend an entire day with them in their house, 
and gave them every testimony of singular affection. 

" See, my Sisters, what odor your company is 
placed in by a life truly interior, truly devoted to God. 
Take this lustre from it and you take all. What evil is 
done by a Sister who walks a contrary path ! She 
gives talk to the whole city ! What do I say ? to the 
whole province! The priests, the princes even, are 
told of her bad conduct. Yes, my daughters, the evil 
done by one is enough to destroy the whole company. 
Let us then redouble our zeal, and ask of God inces 
santly that the whole community and each of its mem 
bers may be sanctified and their number increased." 

M. Vincent made two others speak. The first said 
simply that she had nothing to say, if not that the 
holy deceased was a mirror on which the company 
had only to keep their eyes and be perfect. " I have 
always recognized in Mademoiselle so much support 
and charity for us that it consumed her." " Father," 
said the second, " she had so much charity for me 
that when she perceived in me the least trouble of 
mind, she spoke to me with great sweetness." 

The Sister who had been spoken to first and could 
not respond for weeping now rose and said : " Father, 



340 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

if you think it well for me to speak, I will try to do 
so." " You will do me a great pleasure, my daughter," 
answered our most honored Father, who was so over 
come that he could not restrain his tears. 

After saying in few words that it was just for 
the Daughters to entertain themselves on the vir 
tues of their dear Mother, as much for the glory of 
God as to animate themselves to follow her ex 
ample, which they were obliged to, since God had 
made use of her to teach them how to conduct 
themselves in order to be pleasing in His sight, she 
continued thus: "In regard to the virtues practised 
by this worthy Mother, it would need a book to 
write them and minds much more elevated than ours 
to relate them. Nevertheless, as obedience requires 
it of me, I must do it; but when I shall have said all 
that memory can furnish there will still remain much 
left unsaid. Her admirable humility showed itself on 
so many occasions that they cannot be recounted. That 
it was which made her so respectful to all her Sisters, 
so that she was the first to salute them, to speak to 
them always in a tone of supplication, to thank them 
so affectionately for any service rendered her, and 
for the labor or trouble attending certain employ 
ments, so that I was oftentimes quite ashamed. I 
have seen her humble herself so far as to beg me to 
warn her when she did wrong. My embarrassment was 
great because I could find no occasion to do what I was 
commanded, although I watched for it in order to do 
what was required of me under obedience." 



Conference upon tke Virtues of Mile. Le Gras. 341 

" You are right, my Sister," said M. Vincent. 
" That is what I told you already. It was difficult 
to remark a fault in her. Not that she had none. 
The just fall several times a day ; but these faults 
were so slight that they were imperceptible." " Con 
tinue, my daughter." 

" When it happened sometimes, Father, that 
some Sisters would not take their admonition 
in good part and would be angry in my presence, 
she would ask me if she were not the cause, and 
if she had not spoken harshly or otherwise than 
was right; and when I had assured her that she 
had not, she always excused those who had 
showed discontent, as also those whose faults had 
been reported. We must suffer, she said. God has 
chosen us for that. We must give example to others 
and be ver} 7 courageous to support our Sisters. She 
has sometimes sent for me on purpose to ask pardon 
when she thought she had given me pain, although it 
was I who was in the wrong ; and she often prevented 
me when I would try to be the first to excuse myself. 

She always accused herself with great humility 
in the Conferences on Fridays. She imputed to her 
self all the faults committed in the community, as 
if God had permitted them as a punishment for her 
cowardice in His service. She had great charity 
for the poor, whom she served with great pleasure, and 
for the Sisters, whom she supported and excused as 
much as possible. It is true she reproved with an 
air of severity when it was necessary; but it was 



342 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

always on the principle of charity. She had a 
mother s compassion for those who suffered in body 
or mind. She kept for several years Sisters who 
might have been sent away for their imperfections. 
She always waited to see if they would correct them 
selves: and how many, perhaps, have been saved by 
that? She had so great a love for holy poverty 
that she never would consent to wear anything new, 
although she gave to others very willingly whatever 
was necessary. She would never consent to have a 
cloak made from a piece of serge given her for that 
purpose. Hers was all worn and pieced in different 
colors; but she would never consent to leave it aside. 
If something new was left for her to wear, she had it 
taken away the moment she perceived that it was 
new. She never wore a head-dress but those which 
she believed were bought at the second-hand store. 
One of her most ardent wishes was that the com 
pany after her death would preserve the same spirit of 
poverty and frugality which she judged necessary for 
its existence. It was a torture for her to see that in 
her infirmities it was necessary to nourish her dif 
ferently from the rest of her Sisters. She humbled 
herself and asked pardon for her necessities as if they 
were fatilts. She had the most admirable confidence 
in Divine Providence, and unceasingly exhorted her 
Daughters to trust in that beneficent Hand which 
never failed those who leaned on it for support. Her 
submission to the will of God was equal to her confi 
dence. This submission, which is more apparent in 



Conference upon the Virtiies of Mile. Le Gras. 343 

infirmities, shone with lustre in all her sickness, but 
especially in that which took her from us. She suffered 
the most violent grief in being deprived of the pres 
ence of those dearest to her on earth ; and although 
she could not but feel keenly all these trials, she never 
testified the slightest annoyance. She had the great 
est meekness, and she received so sweetly all the 
Sisters who went to her that they were always edi 
fied. To judge of the wisdom of her guidance, we 
have only to cast our eyes upon the good state in 
which she left the company in both spiritual and 
temporal matters. But to wish to mention all her 
virtues would be to wish never to finish." 

As our honored Father had intimated in the be 
ginning of the Conference that we might say a word 
of M. Portail, a good Sister who was full of venera 
tion for him spoke as follows: She had remarked in 
him a very great charity for his neighbor; so much 
that, in midwinter he went in the mud into the 
chapel to hear a poor Sister s confession, saying that 
our Lord had done much more for even a Samaritan 
woman. She also praised his charity and zeal for 
the salvation of souls; zeal that went so far that he 
could not restrain his tears when a poor Sister lost 
her vocation. 

Finally, M. Vincent closed the Conference with 
these familiar words, which show so well his 
humility : " I beg our Lord, although I am an un 
worthy and miserable sinner, to give you His bless 
ing, by the merit of that which He gave to His Apostles 



344 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

when He departed from them, and I pray that He 
detach you from all earthly things and attach you to 
those of heaven. May the blessing of God the Father 
Almighty, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost 
descend upon you and remain forever. Amen." 

What Solomon had predicted for the strong 
woman had been accomplished in Louise. Her 
children had arisen and had called her blessed. But 
after this homage rendered to " the great servant 
whom God had called to Himself," it still remained, 
before they finished, to imbibe her spirit in order to 
choose the one who was to have the painful honor of 
succeeding her. God permitted St. Vincent to ac 
complish this task. Contrary to the sad forebodings 
of several, he was able, on August 27, 1660, to as 
semble once more the Daughters of Charity around 
him. This was the last ! With his usual openness 
of heart he told them that one day Mile. Le Gras 
beino- sick, he had asked her which one of her Sisters 

> 

she judged capable and the most proper to replace 
her. After some moments of hesitation and reflection, 
she said : " Sir, as you have chosen me with the per 
mission of Divine Providence, it seems to me that the 
first time she ought not to be named by the plurality 
of votes, but that you yourself ought to appoint her. 
For my part, I think that Marguerite Chetif would 
be very right. She is a Daughter who has succeeded 
everywhere, and everywhere been good. At Arras, 
where she is, she has done well, and has been very 
courageous among the soldiers." " And as Mile. Le 
Gras stopped at this point, I also," added the Saint, 



Mile. Le Gras Successor in Office. 345 

" stop at her advice." This said, obedient to the last 
wish of the foundress, he named Marguerite Chetif 
Superioress of the Daughters of Charity. 

It was his last will. Three weeks after, the little 
company, made doubly orphans, celebrated the 
funeral obsequies of St. Vincent, September 20, 1660. 
During the ceremony Sister Marguerite was remark 
able for her grief. " She excited the pity of every 
one," we read in a letter of the time. On coming 
from the church her Sisters, commencing with the 
oldest, went and embraced her, renewing aloud their 
promise of obedience. 

" Be consoled, Mother," they said to her, with all 
cordiality possible, " be consoled ; you will not have 
as much trouble as you think; we promise to be 
more docile and more affectionate than ever." * 

The lessons of Mile. Le Gras had borne their fruit ; 
but if her spirit was with them, her mortal remains 
reposed too far from them and in too lowly a rest 
ing-place. To give them more honorable sepulture, 
to have possession of her remains, was the most 
ardent desire of the Daughters of Charity, and they 
soon set about the work. 

In concert with M. Le Gras her son, and by the 
intervention of Mme. de Miramion, they first ob 
tained from the Archbishop of Paris permission to 
open her tomb and replace her wooden coffin by one 
of lead. Consequently, April 10, i68o,f at 9 o clock 

* Letter of Marguerite Chetif, Nov. 8, 1660. 

f It was Passion-Wednesday, twenty years, to the very day, after 
the funeral of Mile. Le Gras. 



346 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

in the evening, they proceeded to the opening of the 
tomb, in presence of M. Jolly, Superior-General of 
the Mission, Mathurine Guerin, then Superioress of 
the Daughters of Charity, and three officers of the 
community, Madame de Miramion, and a Sister of the 
community, and last, Mile. Le Gras, grand-daughter 
of the deceased, and M. Gobillon, parish priest of 
Saint-Laurence. The bones were found intact and of 
a reddish color. Mme. de Miramion rolled them in 
linen she had prepared for this purpose, and placed 
them herself in a new leaden coffin bearing an in 
scription on copper. After all present had said a 
short prayer, the remains were sprinkled with holy 
water and lowered again into the tomb, where they 
rested nearly one hundred years. At length, October 
22, 1755, the Archbishop of Paris, yielding to the re 
newed entreaties of the Daughters of Charity, per 
mitted them to transport her precious remains into 
their chapel in the Faubourg Saint-Denis.* There 
they remained until the Revolution. In 1797 the 
mother-house was confiscated and sold ; the chapel 
was demolished, and also part of the build 
ings, to open two streets which, by a kind of 
derision, received the names of Charity and Fi 
delity, and the Sisters had to purchase the bones 
of their Mother for sixty livres,f in order to 

*This translation was made November 22 of the same year. 

f The receipt of the sixty livres, still extant, is couched in these 
terms : " I acknowledge to have received from citizen Mile. Frai^oise 
the sum of 60 livres for a case of lead enclosed in a box, such as has 
been found in the destruction of the chapel of the forenamed Sisters 



Translation of the remains of Mile. Le Gras. 347 

claim them as their property. They concealed them 
in a house inhabited by two of the Sisters in the 
Faubourg Saint-Martin (No. 91) ; afterward, not be 
lieving them sufficiently secure, they placed them in 
a little case two feet long by fourteen inches wide, 
the easier to hide, which they carried to No. 455 
Rue Magons-Sorbonne, where the Mother Superior 
and several of her companions had found refuge. 

A new era for the Daughters of St. Vincent was scon 
to open. On the ist Nivose, year 9 (December 21, 
1800), the Minister of the Interior, Chaptal, decreed 
" that help to the sick could not be assiduously ad 
ministered except by persons vowed to the state of 
service in the hospitals," and he directed by the en 
thusiasm of charity that the citizen Deleau, so-called 
Superioress of the Sisters of Charity, should form 
pupils for the service of the hospitals.* He granted 
for that purpose a house formerly occupied by the 
orphans, No. 746 Rue Vieu-Colombier. f The 
community, which had been dispersed during the 
tumult, reassembled here by degrees. J By the ad- 

of Charity. Given at Paris, this 3d vendemiaire, year 6 of the repub 
lic." " LEBRUN-LEJEUNE." 

* Moniteur ttniversel of the gth Nivose, year 9. 

\ This house is now the barracks of Pompiers. 

\ The Daughters of Charity, obliged by the Revolution to abandon 
their costume, wore a black dress and bonnet. The fourth Sunday of 
Advent, 1804, Pope Pius VII. came to visit them. He appeared as 
tonished that they had not resumed their habit, and was told that no 
religious community had dared to do so. He spoke of it to the em 
peror, saying that the good Sisters of Charity looked like widows. 
The emperor, at this request, authorized the Sisters to resume their 
costume. This was in the spring of 1805. 



348 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

vice of the director, M. Placiard, the remains of Mile. 
Le Gras were brought here. Two of the Sisters re 
ceived from the hands of the porters their precious 
burden, and bore it to the chapel, where they rested 
some seconds on the steps of the choir ; they then 
crossed the infirmary to a hall on the second story 
set apart for retreats, where the sacred remains were 
deposited until further advice. 

Even here the wanderer s course was not to be at 
an end. June 28, 1815, the entrance of the allied forces 
into the town of Saint-Denis obliged the pupils of 
the Legion of Honor to take refuge in Paris, and 
the house of Vieux Colombiere was assigned as 
their dwelling. The Sisters of Charity received an 
imperial decree to abandon the Hotel de Chatillon, 
formerly inhabited by Mme. de la Valliere, * and 
they had to hasten their departure. It so happened 
that the foundress herself preceded them to their 
new residence. One of the Mothers of the Semi 
nary, Sister Gaubert, seized with fear at the ap 
proach of the troops, without waiting the hour fixed 
for departure, called a carriage, placed in it the 
box containing the venerated remains, and, taking 
her crucifix in her hand, commended herself to the 
guidance of God. She was conducted to the Rue 
du Bac, where all the Sisters arrived soon after. 
Finally, several years later,f all fears being dispersed, 
the remains of Mile. Le Gras, which had been hidden 

* The beginning of this change of residence, necessitated by the in 
sufficiency of Rue Vieux Colombiere, was due to M. de Champagny, 
then Minister of the Interior. 

f November 5, 1825. 



The Tomb of Mile. Le Gras. 349 

in a secluded corner of the house to this time, were 
solemnly brought to that chapel so dear to the Sis 
ters by an apparition of the Immaculate Virgin. 
They repose now near the steps of the sanctuary. 
The place is marked by a slab of black marble, on 
which is engraved the epitaph of the Church of 
Saint-Laurence, to which are added the dates of 
subsequent translations. We shall be thanked for re 
producing the text, which we took with respectful 
emotion from the stone itself. 

HERE LIES 

MADAME LOUISE DE MARILLAC, 
WIDOW OF M. LE GRAS, 

SECRETARY OF COMMANDS 

TO QUEEN MARIE DE MEDICIS, 

FOUNDRESS AND FIRST SUPERIORESS 

OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY, 

SERVANT OF THE SICK POOR. 



INTERRED IN THE CHAPEL OF THE VISITATION 

IN THE PAROCHIAL CHURCH OF SAINT-LAURENT, 

MARCH 17, l66o. 

TRANSLATED OCTOBER 24, 1755, 

INTO THE CHAPEL 
OF THE OLD HOUSE OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY, 

FAUBOURG SAINT-DENIS; 
FROM THERE SHE WAS WITHDRAWN 

SEPTEMBER 2$, J799J 

AND, AFTER SEVERAL OTHER TRANSLATIONS, 

WAS AT LAST DEPOSITED IN THIS CHAPEL 

FOR THE CONSOLATION OF THE COMPANY, 

NOVEMBER 5, 1824. 



TRUE MOTHER OF THE POOR, 

MODEL OF ALL VIRTUES, 

WORTHY OF ETERNAL REPOSE, 

MAY HER VENERATED DUST, 

RECALLING HER CHARITY, 

INFUSE HER SPIRIT. 



350 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

We shall add but one word more in closing; but 
that word, borrowed from the archives of the com 
pany, will be more eloquent than all that could be 
written of Louise de Marillac : 

"The work she founded counted in 1881, in France 
alone, nine hundred and twenty-three establishments ; 
eight hundred and nine in the rest of Europe ; two 
hundred and thirty in Asia and America: that is to 
say, nearly two thousand houses where the poor are 
served and God is glorified." 



APPENDIX. 




WILL OF MADEMOISELLE LE GRAS. 

|N THE name of God, Father, Son, and 
Holy Ghost. Prostrate in all humility, in 
the belief that God is in all places, sole 
Being and Creator of all immortal souls, 
with true knowledge of my own nothingness and 
impotence without His grace, I humbly implore His 
mercy on my misery, which has made me guilty of 
so much ingratitude for His goodness. I have 
offended this goodness by my sins, thus becoming 
unworthy to participate in the merits of Jesus cruci 
fied. Yet in these merits I place all my hope, and 
supplicate the Holy Virgin to be a true Mother to 
me and obtain for me pardon for the abuse I have 
made of the grace of God. To the moment of my 
death, and subject to the good pleasure of God, I 
supplicate my good angel guardian, St. Louis, and 
all the saints to help me by their intercession in 
this important passage to which I submit myself, 
and would were I not obliged thereto, for the love 



352 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

of God, and to honor the moment of the separation of 
the divine soul of my Saviour, who desires my salva 
tion, that I may glorify Him eternally with the 
Father and the Holy Ghost. 

I protest before God, and before all creatures, that 
I wish to die in the Holy Roman Catholic and Apos 
tolic Church, and I command my son, as far as I can, 
to do the same, it being the only path to paradise, 
for which we were created. In the hope that God 
will grant him this grace, I beseech His bounty to 
take full possession of all that he is, to do in him and 
with him His most holy will. I likewise pray Him 
to water with His most efficacious grace, for time 
and eternity, the blessing which, as mother, he has 
empowered me to give, and which I now give him, 
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the 
Holy Ghost, Amen, imploring the sacred humanity 
of our Saviour to have pity on our sinful souls at 
the hour of our death. 

I very humbly ask pardon of my good angel 
and of my most honored Father and director, 
by whom it has pleased the mercy of God to 
hold me willingly attached to the accomplishment 
of His most holy will, for the little correspond 
ence and fidelity I have shown for the charitable 
care that they have done me the honor to take of my 
salvation. I acknowledge that without this care I 
would often have turned miserably away from God. 
I also most humbly ask pardon of all my dear neigh 
bors whom I have disedified or scandalized by my 



The Will of Mile. Le Gras. 353 

sins, of those whom I have displeased or offended in 
any way whatever, and of all creatures of which I 
have made a bad use or contrary to the holy will 
of God. I abandon myself to God to make such res 
titution in this world or the next as it will please 
His merciful justice to ordain. 

The obligation of mother, together with the 
strong natural affection I have always had for my 
son, urges me to recommend him to remember the 
care which, for his salvation, the goodness of God 
had of his education, and to be grateful all his life, 
striving never to do anything contrary to the Most 
Holy Will. To aid you in this, my son, take counsel 
in all your affairs of persons who are competent 
and who lead good lives. And that the advice you 
receive may be more useful to you, always ask it 
before forming your decision ; otherwise you will 
not freely give your reasons for and against the 
thing you propose, and in that case you will deceive 
yourself. I rely so much on the kindness of M. 
Vincent that I am certain he will never refuse you 
his assistance in your wants, whether temporal or 
spiritual. You know our obligations yours and 
mine to him, and hence I entreat you, should you 
ever be so happy as to have an opportunity to serve 
him or his company, you will do it with all your 
heart, remembering that you are particularly obliged 
to do so, not only in gratitude for his benefits re 
ceived by us, but also for the service he renders to 
the holy Church our Mother. Do the same, and for 



354 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

the same reason, I beg- you, for the gentlemen of the 
community of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet. 

I beseech my son often to remember to pray for 
the soul of his father, to call to mind his good life, 
how he greatly feared God and was scrupulous in 
keeping himself irreproachable ; especially should 
he remember his patience in the great sufferings 
which were sent to him in his last years, and in 
which he practised very great virtue. O my son, 
remember to honor always the Marillacs, and to 
serve them willingly, should God ever send an occa 
sion to do so. Also M. the Count and Mine, the 
Countess of Maure, and all those to whom I have 
the honor to be related. I know they will always 
retain their affection for me, and while you comport 
yourself as a man of honor they will never refuse 
you assistance in your wants, as I humbly supplicate 
them, remembering that their predecessors have 
always obliged us in that way, doing us the honor 
to acknowledge our relationship. What I say, my 
God, Thou knowest to be on account of the need I 
fear for my son whom Thou hast given me, and not 
for vainglory. 

I declare that the heirs of M. Gachier, in Au- 
vergne, have on hand seven or eight hundred livres, 
without the interest of said sum, since the death of 
the late M. Le Gras, my husband, which sum belongs 
to me as his first creditor, on account of my dowry 
and agreement. I have never been able to recover 
this money from M. Bonnefoy, his grandson and sole 



The Will of Mile. Le Gras. 355 

heir, against whom I did not wish to take proceed 
ings up to this time, and I still entreat my son to 
settle this affair as meekly as possible.* 

I give and bequeath ten crowns of this money 
mentioned in the last article, whenever it shall be 
received, to the deserving poor of the town of Mont- 
ferrand. 

I bequeath thirty livres a year in perpetuity, 
after the death of my son, to the venerable Priests of 
the Mission, first established with the blessing of 
God by St. Vincent, in the College des Bons-Enfants, 
near the gate of Saint-Victor. This on condition that 
they shall have three low Masses said every year, 
viz., one on the first day of the year, the second on 
the Feast of All Saints, and the third on the Im 
maculate Conception of the Holy Virgin. These 
Masses to be said at St. Paul s and in the chapel of 
Saint-Amable. This obligation was imposed on me 
at the death of my father, and I had the power to 
dispose of it at my death ; this power of disposal 
being given me by M. de Marillac, deceased, former 
Keeper of the Seals. These aforesaid gentlemen of 
the Mission shall, moreover, be obliged to give in 
alms, on each day of the celebration of said Masses, 
five sous to the work, five to the poor; and also two 

*On the margin : "I remember that, immediately after the decease 
of M. Le Gras, M. Gachier told me he wished to pay the sum, and 
commenced by sending me one hundred livres or more, which I do 
not remember to have receipted to his credit. 

(Signed) " MARILLAC." 



35 6 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

tapers, weighing one pound, to be burned All Souls 
Day during the holy Mass said in the above-named 
chapel, and then given to the work. They shall, 
besides, feel bound to say three low Masses, one on 
St. Thomas s Day, before Christmas the anniver 
sary of my deceased husband and the other two on 
the anniversary of my death and that of my son. 
And this to honor the moment our Saviour died on 
the cross, that the merit of this perpetual divine 
sacrifice may be applied to those who are in the 
agonies of death, and those in mortal sin to obtain 
from the mercy of God an efficacious grace to con- 
vert them. I leave eighteen livres to my confessor 
at the parish where I shall die, in gratitude for all 
the trouble his charity has taken with me, and I wish 
him to employ that sum in any books or things use 
ful to himself. I give six crowns to my god 
daughter, who is also the god-daughter of my son, 
Anne Louise Mitais, to be employed by her in pres 
ents when she shall be capable of doing so, and I 
recommend her to my son, in case that her mother 
die. before she is either married or becomes a re- 
Jigious, or is of an age to take care of herself. 

I give one crown to each of the confraternities 
here named, in which I have had the honor to be re 
ceived, asking pardon of God for my many failings 
as regards the devotions prescribed by said confra 
ternities, which leads me to believe that it would be 
better to be enrolled in a few and be faithful to them. 
The places where I have the honor to be enrolled 



The Will of Mile. Le Gras. 357 

are at Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, for the Confra 
ternity of the Blessed Sacrament ; at the Jacobins, for 
the Confraternity of the Five Wounds of our Lord ; 
at the Cordeliers of the Great Convent, for the Cord 
of St. Francis ; at the Jacobins of La Rue Faubourg 
Saint-Honore, for the Rosary ; at the Augustinians 
of the Faubourg- Saint-Germain, for the Cincture 
of St. Monica; and at Saint-Laurent, for association 
to the Company of the Blessed Sacrament. 

I give six crowns a year to the Daughters of 
Chanty my dear Sisters with whom I have had the 
honor to be for several years of which eighteen 
livres shall be for materials to make ointments for the 
poor who come to their house. I declare that I should 
be obliged to do a great deal for them if God gave me 
the means, and I beg my son to be always mindful of 
the charity they have done me, and to consider it a 
special blessing if he ever have occasion to be em 
ployed for them in which I exhort him from my 
heart not to fail. 

I give and bequeath ten crowns to be distributed to 
the beggars on the first Sunday or feast-day after my 
death, after a sermon given them by some charitable 
person, who will do this for the love of God, in the 
church of Saint-Laurent, or in the chapel, or rather at 
Saint-Lazarus, if this be possible. I beg the preacher, 
in the name of our Lord, to speak only for the poor, 
teaching them their obligation to know God ; who 
are the good and the wicked among the poor ; how 
advantageous their condition would be for their sal- 



358 -Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

vation, could they use it well ; what they should do 
before lowering themselves to beg; with what humility 
they should ask an alms ; their obligation to serve God 
and hear Mass on Sundays and feasts; make them 
resolve to kneel in prayer morning and evening, and 
do it for the glory of God and the good of those 
souls who are lost for want of knowing the obliga 
tions of their state. 

I leave one crown every year in perpetuity to the 
Daughters of Charity, my dear Sisters, to commence 
the year of my decease, on condition that one of 
them will say, every year, five rosaries for my son, 
viz., on the Presentation of the Holy Virgin, her 
Immaculate Conception, the third Friday of Feb 
ruary, Good - Friday, and the Friday of Ember- 
days and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, between 
the hours of seven and eight, on the aforesaid days, 
to obtain from God a particular grace for those who 
receive holy orders. 

After my debts and legacies are paid, my son, 
as sole heir, shall enjoy my property. After his 
death, all I leave will pass to the poor, whom I con 
stitute my heirs after him. In case he marries and 
has children, he and his children will enjoy it accord 
ing to the law regulating substituted successions ; but 
I intend and will that, should he have no legitimate 
offspring, the poor shall enjoy the little that God has 
given me ; and for this purpose I humbly supplicate 
M. Vincent de Paul, Founder and General of the 
Priests of the Mission, and after him his successors, 



The Will of Mile. Le Gras. 359 

to look after this disposition, so that, should the sub 
stitution take place, they may collect the revenues 
and make the annual distribution, since I know that 
their principal duty is to labor for the salvation of 
the poor, for which I would willingly sacrifice my 
life. 

But in case that God gives the blessing of a firm 
establishment to the company of Sisters of Charity 
of the parishes, or if they can subsist as they have 
done for several years, remaining under the direc 
tion of the above-named gentlemen of the Mission, my 
intention and last will is, that, with the exception of 
one hundred livres which these same gentlemen of 
the Mission will enjoy, the Sisters of Charity inherit, 
for the ends and on the conditions aforesaid, the 
little that I leave, and thus they may have more 
means to assist the sick poor in the country places 
where they find less aid. I pray the goodness of 
-God, should He please to give any merit to this dis 
position, to apply it as a means to bring down His 
mercy (of which we have great need) on the soul of 
my son, and on my own soul, at the moment of our 
death. f 

I very humbly beg M. Vincent, by the charity God 
has given him for his neighbors, and by the love 
he bears the sacred Humanity of our Redeemer, to 
pardon me all my neglect of gratitude for the honor 
he has done me in exercising so much charity to 
wards my son and myself, for which I thank him 
with all my heart, and beg him to continue his holy 



360 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

affection for my son, to be to him a father, giving 
him good counsel and aid in all his needs. I also 
ask him to grant the prayer which for the love of 
God I make him, and his successors should God call 
him away before me, of being the executor of this 
my will with my son, to whom I have proposed this 
substitution. In return for their charity on this 
point I promise, should God be pleased to show me 
mercy and permit me to enter his paradise, to do 
for them all that a soul can do. 

I commit and willingly abandon my soul into the 
hands of God, its creator and last end, and freely 
leave my body to the earth to await the resurrection. 
As to the place of my sepulture, I leave it entirely, 
tinder the disposition of Divine Providence, to the 
care of M. Vincent, whom I beg to remember the 
great desire I have testified to be buried alongside 
the wall at the foot of the church of Saint-Lazarus, in 
the little court which, from bones found there, ap 
pears to have been once a cemetery. 1 still greatly 
desire to be buried there, and I ask it of his charity 
for the love of God. I also ask that there be placed 
as soon as possible against the wall in the same place 
a large wooden cross with crucifix attached, and an 
inscription at its foot bearing this title : " Spes 
Unica." The whole to be at the expense of the little 
I leave and which God has given me to dispose in 
this my will. 

For my funeral I declare that I do not wish any 
greater expense to be incurred than what is usual in 



The Will of Mile. Le Gras. 361 

the funerals of our deceased Sisters ; and that should 
any one desire to have it otherwise, I believe even 
now that he never had any affection for me, because 
it is not reasonable that my miserable body, which 
has so often offended God and occasioned offence, 
should be held in any consideration. Moreover, 
this would be to pronounce me undeserving to ap 
pear as having died a true Sister of Charity and 
servant of the members of Jesus Christ, although, 
nevertheless, I am unworthy of that quality. 

Behold, O my God, Thy poor creature, prostrate 
at the feet of Thy grandeur and majesty ! acknow 
ledging herself a criminal, and deserving of hell, to 
which Thy strict justice would have condemned me, 
were it not for the immense love which made 
Thy Son become man to deliver me. May it please 
Thy Divine Majesty that I, with my son, be of the 
number of those who through Thy Son will eternally 
glorify Thee ! and deign to look benignly on the acts, 
desires, and dispositions made in this will, drawn up 
in the belief that such is Thy divine will, which has 
always directed mine, and without which I protest 
with all my strength never to will anything, and in 
which, I affirm, i wish to terminate my life, as I have 
this writing, which I have done and signed with my 
own hand, this Friday, the I5th day of December, 
1645. LOUISE DE MARILLAC, 

By the grace of God sound of body and mind. 



362 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

FIRST CODICIL. 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of 
the Holy Ghost. This day, Feast of Holy Innocents, 
in the year 1653, I have reviewed my will, which I 
believed to be made in the best form in my power to 
produce its effects. Accordingly, I confirm it and ap 
prove of all its articles ; and inasmuch as there has 
been a change in my son whom Divine Providence 
has destined for marriage, and that by his contract I 
have given him five hundred livres annual income, 
arranged in divers deeds which I have placed in his 
hands, and being assured by his own word, shortly 
before his marriage, that he will have no need of my 
little income, that it will be doing no wrong to him 
or his children if he does not receive it, I think I 
am bound in conscience to declare what follows as 
my desire in the execution of my will, desiring with 
all my heart that if God gives it any merit, His good 
ness may apply it for the salvation of all the family 
and to draw mercy on my poor soul. 

First, as the gentlemen of the Mission shall not 
be obliged to have the Masses mentioned in my will 
said until after the death of my son, he shall enjoy 
the thirty livres set apart for this purpose, which 
shall be collected from the rent of the city house 
which I reserve to myself; from this revenue also 
shall be taken all the other legacies which I have 
made, excepting the ten crowns on the money due to 
me in Auvergne. 



The Will of Mile. Le Gras. 363 

Should it happen, unfortunately, that this revenue 
be lost and that no recourse can be had to the prop 
erty of Mme. de Vandy,* who sold it to me in ex 
change for revenue which she owed me on her prop 
erty, I pray my son still to execute this my will, in 
consideration of all that he knows I have done for 
him ; remembering that by the account rendered to 
him after the death of his father, my good husband, 
whom may God have in His mercy ! he is indebted 
to me I think four thousand livres. God is my 
witness that I do this act in the belief that I am 
obliged to do so; and not for the purpose of hav 
ing the Masses celebrated, in case the revenue be 
entirely lost, because this fund was assigned for 
that purpose. 

In consequence of this present declaration the 
deed of that revenue will remain in the hands of 
the Priests of the Mission, who will enjoy the re 
mainder of the income, if there be any, conjointly 
with the Sisters of Charity. I beg them all to ask for 
mercy on me. 

Said deed will be found, with the account 
above mentioned, in the drawer of my cabinet from 
Germany, which I beg M. Vincent to give to my 
son, together with the. other few pieces of our furni 
ture, of which he will find a memorandum, if it please 
God. 

Thou knowest, O my God, that I am wholly 

* Innocent de Marillac, cousin of Louise. 



364 Life of Mile. Lc Gras. 

Thine; that Thy Providence has been, by Thy 
grace, the guide of my conduct in every state of 
life: for which I humbly thank Thee, asking par 
don now for all my forgetfulness and ingratitude. 
I offer Thee this little disposition, as made by 
Thy will, renouncing every other consideration. 
I beg Thee by the love of Jesus crucified to give 
Thy blessing to me, also to my son and his family, 
that we may glorify Thee eternally. 

Made and signed this day and year here men 
tioned. LOUISE DE MARILLAC. 

SECOND CODICIL. 

This day, Thursday, being the eleventh of May, 
four hours from sunrise, in the year one thousand six 
hundred and fifty-six, at the command of the lady 
Louise de Marillac, widow of Michel Le Gras, de 
ceased, who, while living, was equery to the late queen, 
Marie de Medicis, the undersigned notaries were 
brought to the house where the lady lived, in the 
Faubourg Saint-Denis, opposite the church of Saint- 
Lazarus, where they found her in bed, sick in body, 
although strong in mind, memory, and understand 
ing, as appeared by her words and bearing : who said 
and declared that she had made her will, written en 
tirely by herself on the fifteenth of December, one 
thousand six hundred and forty-five, also a codicil 
written by herself on the day of Holy Innocents of 
the year one thousand six hundred and fifty-three. 
Having read the will and codicil during her sickness, 



The Will of Mile. Le Gras. 365 

she wished to make a new codicil, and for this end 
dictated and named to said notaries as follows : 

Having reason to be satisfied with the conduct of 
Michel Antoine Le Gras, equery, her only son, bai 
liff in Saint-Lazarus and counsellor in the Court of Ex 
change, and with the young lady Le Clerc, his wife, on 
account of the respect and tokens of affection which 
she had received from her since their marriage ; being 
assured that, should said son die without children, his 
goods and those he might have from said lady, his 
mother, would be used for the benefit of the poor, 
she therefore has revoked and does revoke the sub 
stitution which she made of her property by afore 
said will for the benefit of the poor ; wishing that her 
son above named enjoy the same and freely dispose 
of it as he. pleases. She wills and ordains, according 
to said will and codicil, that the revenue which be 
longed to her on the city house be for the benefit 
of the gentlemen of the Mission, to whom she has 
made abundant legacies and gifts on the conditions 
named by said will and codicils, and that they com 
mence to receive them and accomplish the conditions 
prescribed on the day of the decease of her son. More 
over, to give on the first dividend received, thirty 
livres for the poor of Saint-Laurent, her parish, and 
eighteen livres for the legacies which she had made 
by her will to her confessor, and still another eigh 
teen livres to her granddaughter, the daughter of 
the above-named son, during her life, to be employed 
in giving a dinner to the poor of the parish in which 



366 Life of Mile. Le Gras. 

she may live : at which dinner she will serve the poor 
guests. Wishing, moreover, the said will and codi 
cils to be executed, and begging M. Vincent to be, 
with said son, executor of the present codicil. This 
was thus made, said, and named by the said lady, Le 
Gras, to said notaries ; and being re-read to her by 
one of the same, the other being present, she has 
pronounced it to be well understood, in the said house 
where she was living, in a little room on the first story, 
where she was in bed sick, on the same day and year, 
and she signed thus : LOUISE DE MARILLAC. 

LE GARON et GALOIS, Notaries. 



GENERAL STATEMENT 

OF THE ESTABLISHMENTS SERVED AND DIRECTED BY 

THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY. 

France 891 

Algeria 32 

Belgium ... 36 

Austria 44 

England 17 

Scotland and Ireland 6 

ItaI 7 333 

Prussia and Poland 73 

Portugal 4 

Spain , 292 

Switzerland 4 

Levant 34 

Isle of the Reunion 2 

China 8 

United States 103 

Gautemala 13 

Panama 3 

Ecuador 7 

Peru !8 

Brazil 25 

La Plata I3 

Chili I9 

RECAPITULATION. 

France and Algeria 923 houses 

Foreign.... 1054 



Total 1977 houses 



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cation. The Priest of Auvrigny. 

Episodes of the Commune. The Better Part. 

The Village Steeple. 

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Tastefully Bound in Imitation Cloth, with full Gilt Sides and Back. 

Price, per volume, 35 cents. 

Life of Our Blessed Lord. Lamoriciere. 

Life of the Ever- Blessed Virgin. Life of St. Patrick. 
The Diary of a Confessor. The Holy Isle. 

A Man at Twelve. 



THIRD SERIES. 

18nio. With Frontispiece. 
jrtracthrelf Bound in Imitation Cloth, with full Gilt Sides and Back. 

Price, per volume, 15 cents. 

Adolphus. Nina and Pippo. 

A Broken Chain. The Baker s Boy. 

Nicholas. The Last Days of the Papal Army. 

Zuma, a Peruvian Tale. 



Most admirable in their kind. f THOMAS FOLEY, Bishop of Chicago. 



Commendable in their contents, attractive in their appearance, and remarkably cheap. 

t ANTOINE, Bishop of S/ierbrooke. 

Their beautiful appearance, highly moral and religious tone, and extreme cheapness, 
flt them admirably for the object for which they are intended. 

t A. M. A. BLANCUKT, Bislwp of Fort Vancouver. 

Excellent, and very appropriate. t L. Z. MOREAU, Bishop of St. Hyacinthe. 

Elegantly gotten up, and very reasonable in price. 

t P. T. O REILLY, Bishop of Springfield. 

Beautiful presents for Schools. t E. P. WAUUAMS, Bithop of Ogdensburg. 

Good and useful Books. THOMAS S. PRESTON, V.G. 

They have my fullest approbation. G. RAYMOND, V.G., New Orlean . 

They please me very much. H. HUDON, S.J., Pres. H. Francis Xavier s College, N. Y. 
Admirable books, so cheaply gotten up and so prettily bound that we wonder much 
you can pay expenses on them. If Catholic literature was reduced in price and made &s 
presentable as these books, it would be a boon. 

THE SISTERS OP MERCY, Eureka, California. 

You merit the approval and gratitude of the Catholic Schools at large, for the publica 
tion of The Premium Book Library" Series. SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME, Philadelphia. 

BENZI&ER BROTHERS, Hew Tort, Cincinnati, ani St, Lonis. 



MAILED FREE, TO ANY ADDRESS, ON RECEIPT OF PRICE. 

NEW PRACTICAL MEDITATIONS 

FOR EVERY DAY IN THE YEAR 

ON THE 

Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

CHIEFLY INTENDED 

FOR THE USE OF RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES. 

BY THE 

REV. FATHER BRUNO VERCRUYSSE, S. J. 
THE ONLY COMPLETE ENGLISH TRANSLATION. 

PUBLISHED WITH THE APPBOBATION AND TINDER THE DIRECTION OP THE AUTHOR. 

WITH THE APPROBATION OF THEIR EMINENCES THE CARDINAL ARCHBISHO 
OP NEW YORK AND THE CARDINAL ARCHBISHOP OF MECHLIN. 



2 vols., 1244 pages. Extra cloth, beveled boards, red edges, $5. 

A work I have long desired. t JOHN M. HENNI, Archbishop of Mihcaukee. 

The best book of its kind in the English language, with which I am acquainted. 

t A. M. A. BLANCHET, Bp. of Nesqnaly. 

Although designed for religious communities, I would recommend its attentive perusal 
to all those who aspire to Christian perfection. t ANTOINE, Bp. of Sherbrooke. 

They are really practical Meditations, which ought to be in the hands of all persons. 

t Louis, Bp. of Burlington, Vt. 

I am confident that the use of them will prove highly beneficial to all who aspire to 
Christian perfection. 

T. CUARATJX, S. J., Superior- General of the Mission of New York and Canada. 



A MEMORIAL OP A CHRISTIAN LIFE. 

CONTAINING 

A.11 that a Soul, newly converted to God, ought to do that it may 
attain the Perfection to which it should aspire. 

FROM THE SPANISH OP 

The Venerable F, Lev/is de Granada, 

OP THE ORDER OP ST. DOMINIC. 
REVISED EDITION, WITH A PREFACE BY 

ONE OF THE DOMINICAN FATHERS OF NEW YORK, 



One Vol., 18mo, cloth, 420 pp., 75 cts. 

COPT OP A LETTER PROM 

THE PROVINCIAL OF THE DOMINICAN FATHERS. 

NEW YORK, 28th February, 1874. 
MESSRS. BENZIGER BROTHERS : 

DEAR SIRS : We are pleased to find that you still continue the publication of that most 
excellent work, "A MEMORIAL op A CHRISTIAN LIFE." The offspring of the genius and 
piety of the Venerable Louis of Granada, it has lived in all languages for three centuries, 
and received the approbation of the whole Christian world. Feeling that its circulation 
would do an immense good, we would l>e glad if our Fathers would recom 
mend It to the Faithful at our Missions. 

This new translation, by one of our Friars, removes the objections made to former 
editions, and is the only one of which we approve. J. A. ROTCHPOKD, O. P. 

BENZIGER BROTHERS, New York, Cincinnati, & St. Louis 



ZEAL IN THE 

WORK OF THE MINISTRY; 

OR, 

THE MEANS BY WHICH EVERY PEIEST MAY EENDEE HIS 
MINISTEY HONORABLE AND FRUITFUL, 

ADDRESSED TO ALL CLERGYMEN GENERALLY; BUT MORE 

ESPECIALLY TO THOSE CHARGED WITH 

THE CARE OF A PARISH. 

BY L ABBfi DUBOIS, 

Chanoine ffoneraire de Coutances, A ncien Missionaire, Cur/, andSupenew 
(fun Grand Seminairc. 

Translated from the Fifth French Edition. 

Crown 8vo, cloth, $2.50 



From the Host Ret. JAMES GIBBONS, D.D., Archbishop of Baltimore : 

u I am glad to find that you have published an English translation of the work of 
the Abb6 Dubois on 4 ZEAL IN THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY. It is a book well calcu 
lated to stimulate the piety of the clergy, and to impress them with re 
newed ardor in the fulfilment of their arduous labors. 

li The excellence of this manual may be inferred from its popularity and diffusion 
in the original French. I would be delighted to know that every priest exercising the 
ministry in this diocese would be supplied with a copy." 

From the Right Rev. THOMAS L. GEAGE, D.D., Bishop of St. Paul : 

41 1 thank you from my heart for having reprinted that most inestimable book 
for priests, l ZEAL IN THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY. Nothing will gratify me more 
than to have this book in the hands of every priest in my diocese. 

From the Right Rev. T. MULLEN, D.D., Bishop of Erie : 

" l ZEAL IN THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY, though addressed by its distinguished 
author, the Abbe Dubois, to the clergy of France, is a book from which the ministers 
of our holy religion at all times and in all countries may derive much useful and 
solid instruction not to be found in any other work." 

From the Right Rev. S. V. RYAN, D.D., Bishop of Buffalo : 

* I am more than pleased that you have brought out the Abb6 Dubois excellent 
work on l ZEAL IN THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY, with which, in the original, I 
have been long familiar. I will be happy to recommend it to our clergy, to whom the 
perusal of it cannot fail to be most useful." 

From the Right Rev. C. H. BORGESS, D.B., Bishop of Detroit : 

u We have taken great pleasure in the perusal of the excellent work, ZEAL 
IN THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY, by L Abbe Dubois, and feel confident that, by 
having published the work, you will not only merit the full approbation, but tht 
sincere gratitude of the clergy." 

From the Right Rev. P. T. O REILLY, D.D., Bishop of Springfield : 

" You sent me some time ago a book which should be in the hands of every 
Priest in the country. I mean ZEAL IN THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY. It is an 
excellent work, replete with solid instructions, and I thank you for it." 

BENZIGER BROTHERS, NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, dt ST, LOUIS. 



PICTORIAL 

LIVES OF THE SAINTS, 

WITH REFLECTIONS, FOR EVERY DAY IN THE YEAR. 

WITH A PREFACE BY 

A,-ER-TD Ix/CoG-ITSTlSriNr, XD.TD., 
PASTOR OF ST. STEPHEN S CHURCH, NEW YORK. 




ST. BR1DG1D RECEIVING THE VEIL. 

The present volume offers in a compendious form the lives of many eminent servants of 
God, forming, as it were, A BOOK OF DAILY MEDITATIONS. It is embellished with a 
beautiful Chromo Frontispiece of I he Holy Family and a full-page picture of St. Patrick 
the glorious Apostle of Ireland ? made, expressly for this work, from a fin steel engrfu-ing. 
In addition the book contains an illustration for almost every life given, altogether NEARLY 
FOUR HUNDRED ILLUSTRATIONS, making it the most attractive book now published. 
To crown all, there is a Preface by the learned and eminent Dr. Edward McGlynn^ in which 
is set forth in burning words the great benefit to be gained by reading and meditating on the 
Lives of the Saints, those shining stars of heaven, the glory of the Church, who shed an ever- 
luminous ray o er the narrow and stormy path which all must travel in order to reach the 
haven of eternal bliss. 

The work has been greatly admired by OUR HOLY FATHKR, POPE LEO XIII., who 
sent his special blessing to the publishers, by the hands of Very Rev. Dr. Kostlot, Rector 
of the American College, Rome. It is approved by His Eminence the Cardinal, Arch 
bishop of New York ; The Most Reverend Archbishops of Milwaukee, Oregon, Phila 
delphia ; The Right Reverend Bishops of Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Co 
lumbus, Detroit, Erie, Fort Wayne, Galveston, Grass Valley, Greenbay, Leaven- 
worth, Louisville, Marquette, Nesqualy, Ogdensburg, Peoria, Providence, Savan 
nah, Scranton, St. Cloud, St. Paul, Wheeling. 

The work is issued in the best style on highly calendered tinted paper, and the side is 
beautified by a symbolical design of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, the Queen of All 
Saints. Sold only by Subscription. 

Elegantly bound in extra cloth, full gilt side, $3.50; elegantly bound in extra cloth, full 
gilt side, gilt edges, $4 ; elegantly bound in French morocco, full gilt side, gilt edges, $5.50, 

Printers to the Holy Apostolic See^ 

NEW YORK, 811 BROAD W AY. 

CINCINNATI. 143 Main Street 8nr. Loots, 206 South 4th St. 



SHORT STORIES 



O1ST CHK,ISTI^u3Sr 3DOOT 1 

A COLLECTION OF EXAMPLES, 



Illustrating the Catechism. 

Translated from the French 

BY Miss MARY McMAHON. 



12mo,, Cloth. With 6 Full-page Illustrations, $1.00. 

The usefulness of example in religious teaching is uni 
versally admitted, but as no little research is necessary to find 
suitable examples, this "book attempts to supply them. The 
ideas are suited to the comprehension of the young minds for 
whom the work is especially intended, and under the intel 
ligent direction of pious instructors, will prove not only a 
worthy complement to Deharbe s Catechism whose 
order and arrangement it follows but will add a constant 
and varied interest to the religious instruction. 

Children are always eager for stories, and the Catechism 
class will never seem long or tedious to the pupils, if, from 
time to time, one of them is selected to read or to relate some 
of the historical facts to be found in this collection. Of the 
choice of examples, no justification is necessary, for it is 
certain that the pupil who goes through the book thoroughly 
and attentively, will acquire a knowledge of not only the 
principal personages of the Old and New Testament, but also 
of those of the Church. 

The original work, which is 

Approved by a Cardinal, three Archbishops, 
and many Bishops 

of France, has passed through several editions, and the 
publishers are confident that this translation rftis only to be 
come known to meet with like success. 



BENZIGER BROTHERS, NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, and ST, LOUIS, 



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