Vincent, Letter 0007. Madame de Gondi to Saint Vincent

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Author: Vincent de Paul .
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[September1 1617]2

Monsieur,

I3 was not mistaken when I feared losing your assistance, as I mentioned to you so many times, since I have indeed lost it. My anguish over this would be unbearable without a very special grace from God which I do not deserve. If it were only for a time, I would not be so upset; but when I think of all the occasions on which I shall need to be assisted by direction and counsel, either in death or in life, my grief begins anew. Consider then whether my mind and body can bear this grief for long. I am not able to seek nor receive assistance elsewhere, because you are well aware that I am not free to reveal the needs of my soul to many people.

Monsieur de Bérulle4 promised me that he would write to you, and I am calling upon God and the Holy Virgin to give you back to our home for the salvation of our whole family and of many others towards whom you will be able to exercise your charity. I entreat you once again to practice it towards us for the love you bear Our Lord, to Whose goodness I entrust myself on this occasion, although with a great fear of not being able to persevere.

If you refuse me after that, I shall hold you responsible before God for whatever happens to me, and for all the good that I shall fail to do for want of being helped. You are putting me in danger of being very frequently deprived of the sacraments in various places because of the great difficulties which may befall me there and the few people who are capable of assisting me. You know very well that the General has the same desire as I, which God alone is giving him by His mercy. Do not resist the good that you can do by assisting in his salvation, since he is destined one day to assist in that of many others. I know that, since my life serves only to offend God, it is not dangerous to place it in peril, but my soul should be assisted at death. Remember the apprehension in which you saw me during my last illness in a village; I risk falling into a worse state. The mere fear of that would do me so much harm that, were it not for my former excellent health, I think it might possibly cause my death.

  1. Letter 7. – Abelly, op. cit., vol. I, chap. IX, p. 41.
  2. Madame de Gondi received the letter in which her husband apprised her of Saint Vincent’s decision on September 14; it was after that letter that she wrote hers.
  3. Françoise-Marguerite de Silly, wife of Philippe-Emmanuel de Gondi, was born in 1580 of Antoine de Silly, Comte de Rochepot, Baron de Montmirail, Ambassador to Spain, and of Marie de Lannoy. Shortly after Saint Vincent entered her house as her children’s tutor, she entrusted to him the direction of her soul. The Saint’s influence was not long in making itself felt. The devout woman formed the habit of visiting and serving the sick, and of distributing abundant alms to the poor. She had missions given on her estates and joined the Confraternity of Charity in Montmirail. She died on June 23, 1625, after having her saintly director named head of the Collège des Bons-Enfants, and having provided him with the means of establishing the Congregation of the Mission by a gift of forty-five thousand livres. (Cf. Abelly, op. cit., vol. I, chaps, VII-XVIII; Hilarion de Coste, Les éloges et vies des reynes, princesses, dames et damoiselles illustres en piété, courage et doctrine [Paris: S. Cramoisy, 1630], vol. II, pp. 389 ff.; Régis de Chantelauze, Saint Vincent de Paul et les Gondi [Paris: E. Plon, 1882].)
  4. Pierre de Bérulle was born in the Château de Cérilly (Yonne), near Troyes, on February 4, 1575. Shortly after his priestly ordination, which took place in 1599, he was named Chaplain of the King. His talent for debate enabled him to bring back to the bosom of the Church several prominent people, among others the Comte de Laval, the Baron de Salignac, and a presiding justice of the Parlement of Paris. The King, Louis XIII, entrusted him with the honorable mission of conducting to England Henriette-Marie of France, daughter of Henri IV, who was going to marry the Prince of Wales, the future Charles I of England. With the help of Michel de Marillac, Keeper of the Seals, and of Madame Acarie, he established the Carmelites in France in 1603, and in 1611, he founded the Congregation of the Oratory of which he became the first Superior. His influence over the clergy was considerable. He gathered around him the most virtuous and eminent priests of Paris. It was to his house that Saint Vincent, after his arrival in the city, went to seek help and advice. Pierre de Bérulle looked askance at the birth of the Congregation of the Mission and even tried to prevent its approbation in the Curia of Rome. He was made a cardinal and died a year later on October 2, 1629. (Cf. vol. II, no. 677.)

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