Madame de Gondi Passes from This Life to a Better One. Monsieur Vincent Goes to the College des Bons Enfants
The foundation of the priests of the Mission was the one dearest to the heart of Madame de Gondi. She recognized the great fruit it could produce in the Church for the salvation and sanctification of many souls. After God had allowed her to put the finishing touches on this project, it seemed, like another Saint Monica, she could say in her heart that her work on earth was at an end. God heard her prayers, calling her to himself to receive the crown prepared for her because of her great service to his divine Majesty. 1
Only two months after signing the contract of foundation, she was stricken with an illness that soon brought her to the last extremity. Her previous sicknesses and the fatigue brought on by her life of zeal and charity left her with little strength to resist the progress of her latest sickness. On the eve of the feast of Saint John the Baptist in 1625, she passed from this life to her eternal home. 2 This death must have been precious in God’s sight, for it was preceded by a saintly life that would fill an entire volume were it set down in writing. Monsieur Vincent was the one person with the most complete knowledge of her excellent qualities and her rare virtues, but he kept a close silence on all her actions in which he had any part. He never spoke of these things so as not to reveal his own part in them. Since this holy and virtuous woman had done almost nothing for the service and glory of God without the cooperation of Monsieur Vincent, her works could not be spoken of without attracting attention to himself. He feared this more than anything and did all he could to avoid it.
After the last respects were paid to Madame de Gondi, her body was taken to the Carmelite monastery on the Rue Chapon as she had requested. Monsieur Vincent left soon afterwards for Provence to bring the sad news to her husband. He knew well that this news and the painful separation it involved would deeply affect the general of the galleys. He at first concealed his reason for coming, speaking instead of the obligation the general had to thank God for the special graces he and his family had received. This thanks to God is shown by a perfect spirit of dependence on God and a desire to conform ourselves to his holy will in all things without reserve. Finally, he came little by little to the sad news he bore. After his first shock, the general was consoled by Monsieur Vincent with all that the Holy Spirit suggested as consolation in the face of the sad news and as a help to him in bearing this affliction, which he felt so deeply and so sharply, with peace and tranquility of spirit. We can truthfully say that among the special graces Monsieur Vincent had received from God was his gift of consoling the sorrowful and assuaging the interior sufferings of others. Our Lord Jesus Christ had given him this grace by a special outpouring of his Spirit. This enabled him to say in imitation of the Lord, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to evangelize the poor, to console the afflicted, and to cure those wounded in heart.” 3
This gift of Monsieur Vincent had often been experienced by the saintly departed woman, who suffered much from the interior pains God saw fit to send her. In this state she could find no surer consolation than that offered by Monsieur Vincent. She recognized in him such a concern for the true good of her soul and a source of such graces for her family that she never wanted him to leave her household. She regarded him as the Ark in the house of Obededom, attracting God’s blessing by his very presence. All this explains why in her last testament she begged him, “for the love of our Savior Jesus Christ and of his holy Mother, never to leave the household of the general of the galleys, nor, after his death, the home of her children.” In addition, the testament continued by asking the general to retain Monsieur Vincent for himself and the children, to remember and practice his wise recommendations. She was well aware that if they did, they would benefit greatly from his prudent direction.
Monsieur Vincent was not satisfied to remain in this house, for though well run, it had too much of a worldly atmosphere about it. Considering what God was calling him to, he preferred to obey that call rather than fulfill what his patroness has so earnestly desired. He ardently besought the general to assent to his leaving to take up residence in the College des Bons Enfants. He finally obtained this agreement and moved to his new home.
In 1625 this faithful servant of God, who had sailed on the stormy sea of the outside world, came by a singular gift of divine Providence to that sure harbor where he was to lead a truly apostolic life. He renounced all honors, dignities, and other worldly goods to commit himself to work at his own spiritual perfection and the salvation of others through the practice of the virtues taught and lived by Jesus Christ. 4
It was here that he laid the foundations of his Congregation of the Mission, committed as were the first disciples of Jesus Christ to follow that first missionary, come down from heaven to live among us. He dedicated himself to the same cause as did Jesus during his mortal life.
To appreciate God’s designs in regard to this new Congregation of the Mission, it is necessary to know the one chosen by the infinitely wise Providence as its founder. We must see how God gave him all the qualities of mind and heart so necessary to succeed in this project of such importance to the glory of his name and the good of the Church. It certainly will not be easy to discover what his humility so carefully concealed. What charity or obedience obliged him to reveal we can know but we cannot know the main facets of his disposition. These were interior and of a spiritual nature. In the following chapter we can present only a superficial and imperfect sketch of his character. Yet this will be enough to give some indication of the person we will speak of in the remainder of this work.
- PL 32:775.
- June 23. She died in Paris, at age forty-two.
- Isa 61:1; Luke 4:18.
- He spent a year arranging his temporal affairs and providing for the future of his sons, and then retired to the Oratory, where for thirty-five years he lived a most courageous and edifying life. He continued to support the charitable works of Saint Vincent. The saint wrote to his former benefactor to take his leave as his life was coming to an end; see CED VII:435-36. Father de Gondi died at Joigny, June 29, 1662.