The presence of Mary is abundant, clear and solid in the experience of St. Louise and St. Vincent. As Vincentians, let us draw from this wellspring available to us.
St. Vincent and the Immaculate Conception
Within the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, St. Vincent saw the humble and chaste Virgin, emptied of herself so as to welcome God and allow herself to be filled with God. These are fundamental dispositions for those desiring to empty themselves and clothe themselves in the spirit of Jesus Christ: “…from all eternity, God decided to prepare this dwelling place, to adorn her with rarer and more worthy gifts than any other creature, so that she would be a temple of the Divinity, a palace worthy of her Son. If the eternal foresight searched so far to discover this repository for His Son and, once he had found her, adorned her with all the graces that could embellish a created being, as God declared through the angel sent as an ambassador, how much more should we foresee the day and the dispositions required for receiving him.”
Key concepts: welcoming God, being filled with God, clothing oneself with Christ, self-emptying
St. Louise and the Immaculate Conception
St. Louise wanted to develop and write her thoughts about the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. She assures us from the beginning of this development that she intends to write them “entirely.” The Church had not yet proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception (that would occur on 8 December 1854) when St. Louise wrote this text. This feast, however, so strongly rooted in the people, was already being celebrated. St. Louise’s text perfectly captures what the Church would later teach on the Immaculate Conception. We, sinners, must imitate the life of Mary, honoring her for her great dignity and asking her intercession because no one is as united to Christ as she.
It is worthwhile to slowly read the text of St. Louise and to discover the earnestness of her presentation and the richness of her intuition.
Mary, the ideal of life
St. Louise de Marillac discovers and proposes the Virgin Mary as the ideal for life. She is the Model of all states of life; the Model of accomplishing the will of God; the Model of poverty; the Model of purity.
Devotion to the Virgin Mary
There is a text by St. Louise that perfectly synthesizes of what devotion to the Virgin Mary consists. It is a systematic treatise that can enlighten us today.
All Christians must:
- Have a great love for the holy Virgin Mary;
- Celebrate feasts in her honor in the daily liturgy;
- Imitate her virtues;
- Choose some “little devotional practices” to Mary.
The “little devotional practices” of St. Louise in honor of the Virgin
In her Rule of Life in the world, St. Louise enumerates several devotional practices in honor of the Virgin Mary:
- The Office of the Blessed Virgin;
- A quarter of an hour of prayer exactly at midday to honor the moment when the Incarnation of the Word took place in the womb of the Blessed Virgin;
- The rosary every day, meditating upon one of the mysteries;
- The renewal of her vows and good resolutions every first Saturday of the month, having chosen Saturday because she took the Blessed Virgin for her protectress;
- Praying the Hail Mary, honoring the Blessed Virgin;
- Fasting on eves of all feasts of the Blessed Virgin.
Expression through Art
St. Louise was a painter, and she prepared and offered paintings of the Virgin as an expression of her love for her and her desire to honor her appropriately.
Mary, only Mother of the Company
St. Louise de Marillac probably did not know her mother, but she always saw Mary as the Only Mother and confided to the Blessed Virgin, Only Mother, what she loved most in this world: her son and the Company of the Daughters of Charity. She wanted this Company to be consecrated to Mary, whom she always considered its Only Mother. There are many texts that capture this desire and conviction of St. Louise, especially in her correspondence with St. Vincent.
Source: Marian Spirituality and the Vincentian Charism by by Corpus Delgado, C.M., Province of Zaragoza
Mary has been a powerful source of strength in my life. I owe her my life and my safety. There are 5 events where I could have been a statistic but came out and past these events, still me, still human, still moving forward. The first one is the one I will tell here. I was 9 years old. I was in a big empty field digging holes in the ground–I think I thought I could make my own cave. Then, a young man came to me, and then pulled down his pants and showed me what I had never seen before. He told me to do ‘stuff’.to him. I stood frozen in place. Then he came over to me, put his hand over my mouth, said he had knife in his pocket, and I had better not scream. (how could I? I was frozen in my place.) BUT I COULD PRAY! I remembered Sister Nila from first grade teaching us the HAIL MARY. “Pray,” she would say, ‘when you are afraid, and Mary will give you the strength to overcome your fear.” In my head , I said the first half of the Hail Mary–and then, froze again. Then I remembered, the second half, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for now and at the hour of our death.” I unfroze.
I had the power to break away and run, run, run far away to the street. At that moment, my father was driving our grocery delivery truck back to the Store. I yelled and yelled for him to stop. When he did, I told him I was almost ‘kidnapped’—I didn’t know any other way to explain it.
No one ever caught the man that I know of. But I was forever caught up in the power of prayer, of Mary, of saying prayers to Mary.
I am 75 years old now. Yet, I remember that event like yesterday, and I remember the power of the ‘Hail Mary’.
Yes, this happened. Everytime I read a story of a child caught and killed–I remember it. I remember the power of Mary and how she saved me–she ‘unfroze’ me and gave me the power to break away and run. gh