Louise, Letter 0011. To sisters Barbe Angiboust and Louise Ganset

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoWritings of Louise de MarillacLeave a Comment

Author: Louise de Marillac · Translator: Louise Sullivan, D.C. · Year of first publication: 1991 · Source: Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac. Correspondence and Thoughts. Translated from the original French edition Sainte Louise de Marillac: Ecrits Spirituels.
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(at Richelieu)1

October 26, 1639

My dear Sisters2,

I have no doubt that you have been greatly moved by the death of Madame Goussault3, widow of the President. The debt we owe her should lead us to imitate her so that God may be glorified. I hope that you will do so with the help of His grace. You have already felt the effects of this grace, my Daughters, in the good which His loving kindness has willed you to accomplish in the place where you now are. However, I have learned what I have always greatly feared. Your work, which has been succeeding so well for the relief of the sick and the instruction of girls, has done nothing for your advancement in perfection. On the contrary, it seems to have hindered it since the good odor of virtue which you were spreading is beginning to dissipate.

Reflect, my dear Sisters, on what you are doing. You frequently cause God to be offended. God is not glorified and your neighbor is scandalized. On account of you, the holy exercise of charity is held in less esteem. How will you dare one day to appear before God to render Him an account of the use you have made of the great grace which He gave you when He called you to the state in which He has placed you? He had expected to derive glory from your works but you have usurped it. You, Sister Barbe, do so by your lack of cordiality toward the sister whom God has given you, by your haughty attitude and by the little forbearance you show for her infirmities. How could you forget that when you were placed with her as her superior you were obliged to become like a mother with even greater responsibilities than a natural mother since you must help your sister to work out her salvation and grow in perfection. This obliges you to act with great gentleness and charity as the Son of God recommended when He was on earth. When you accepted this duty, were you not immediately aware of the degree of humility which it required of you since it furnishes you with so many occasions to recognize your weaknesses? Should you not always keep before your eyes the awareness that when you command something you are doing so by obedience, and that of yourself you have no right to order anything?

Courage, my dear Sister! I hope that the harm is not so great that it is without remedy. Place your faults clearly before your eyes without making excuses because in reality nothing outside of ourselves is the cause of the evil we commit. Admit this truth before God. Stir up in your heart a great love for our dear Sister Louise. In the sight of the merciful justice of God, throw yourself at her feet and ask her pardon for your coldness toward her and for all the pain that you have caused her. Promise her that, with the grace of God, you will love her as Jesus Christ Himself wills you to and will show her the concern that you must have for her. Then embrace her with these true sentiments in your heart.

And here you are, my dear Sister Louise, fallen once again into your bad habits! What do you think of the state you are in? Is it a life without restraint? Far from it. It must be one of continual submission and obedience. Is it possible that you have never reflected upon this, or if you do so that you have so little love for God and so little fear for your salvation that you fail to do what you are obliged to do? My Daughter, practice a little mortification. What do you gain by making visits or going on pilgrimages without permission? Do you want to live according to your own will in everything? Have you forgotten that you must not do anything or go anywhere without the permission of Sister Barbe, whom you accepted as your superior before your departure, and whom you must love as much or more than if she were your mother? I think that you never reflect on your state in life because you do so many things that are incompatible with it. Would you not regret losing your vocation for such trifling satisfactions?

I believe that the cause of most of the faults that you commit—and this has just occurred to me—is that you have money and have always liked possessing it. Take my word for this and rid yourself of this affection. Place everything in the hands of Sister Barbe and be satisfied with what she considers appropriate. Cultivate a love for poverty in imitation of the Son of God. By so doing, you will obtain the graces necessary to be a true Daughter of Charity. Otherwise, I doubt very strongly that you will persevere. I say this to you with the fear that you will not heed my word, but 1 could not refrain from speaking. Accept it graciously because it is the love that God gives me for each of you that causes me to speak in this way. Courage, my dear Sister! I am confident that you will not disregard my little corrections. Recognizing how much God merits to be loved and served, repent for having so badly acquitted yourself of this responsibility from the time He gave you the grace of calling you to this way of life, and particularly to this place where He has bestowed His blessings upon your holy employment. Take a much firmer resolution than you have made in the past. Throw yourself at Sister Barbe’s feet with . .. (letter torn).

Do you not see that your souls are not at rest, and therefore, that you are not sharing in the holy peace which the Son of God brought to those who are of good will, nor are you partaking in that peace which He left to His holy Apostles when He ascended into heaven.

Admonishing you of your faults has brought my own before my eyes. This causes me, my Daughters, to tell you that the one that troubles me most at this time is the bad example I have given you in the practice of the virtues which 1 recommend to you. I beg you, my dear Sisters, to overlook this, to ask pardon of God for me and the grace to amend my life, which I desire with all my heart.

I have also been very negligent about writing to you. I hope and pray that you pardon me. I offer to our good God the act of reconciliation which I am convinced you will make with hearts filled with good will. I unite my heart to yours so that together we may obtain the mercy of which we stand in need and the grace to live henceforth in the love of Jesus Crucified, in whom I remain, my very dear Sisters, your very humble sister and servant.

P.S. Do you know, my very dear Sisters, what I expect of your reconciliation after a renewal of affection? It is that you will open your hearts to one another; that you will rarely be seen one without the other; that you will make your visits to the city together; that you will avoid particular friendships with the Ladies, refraining from visiting them at all and preferring to remain at home with one another. I do not mean that you should refuse the visits that good women will have the charity to make to you. True humility will regulate everything.

  1. Richelieu: As early as 1637, Cardinal Richelieu asked Monsieur Vincent for missionaries for the city, south of Chinon, which he had had constructed at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The Daughters of Charity were sent there at the end of the year 1638 to serve the sick and to run the school.
  2. Louise Ganset, Daughter of Charity, was sent to Richelieu in 1638, to the galley slaves in 1644, and to Maule a few years later.
  3. Madame Goussault, bom Geneviive Fayet. In 1631, she became the widow of Antoine Gousault, Advisor to the King and President of the Administration of Finances. She suggested the establishment of the Confraternity of Charity of the Hfltel-Dieu to Monsieur Vincent and became its President. She favored sending the Daughters of Charity to Angers. She died like a saint on September 20, 1639.

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