Louise de Marillac, who had a solid theological formation, recognized that: “the Incarnation of the Son of God was, in the eternal plan, for the redemption of the human race.” (Spiritual Writings, 830) The rupture between God and humanitybrought about by sin could not go on forever. By sending His Son to earth, God wanted to renew the Alliance and allow humanity to find once again a meaning for its existence. For Louise de Marillac, the Redemption is a new creation, a re-creation which can take place only at the end of a long process of transformation, death, and resurgence of life.
Suffering humanity seems to Louise to be a prolongation of the suffering humanity of Christ. The service of love of every member of the Vincentian Family is a continuation of the Redemption, allowing each poor, humiliated, annihilated human being to live again, to resurrect, and to become a living person, freed from evil and sin, in a word, free. Louise’s astonishing reflection echoes that of Saint Paul who dared to say: “I now find my joy in the suffering I endure for you. I make up in my body what is lacking in the suffering of Christ in favor of His body, the Church.” (Col I, 24)
The Passion of the Son of God is so profound that Louise will insert it into the seal of the Company of the Daughters of Charity, “The charity of Jesus Crucified urges us.” For Louise, this love must animate and enflame the heart of every Daughter of Charity for the service of those most in need. Louise often concludes her letters with a reference to this unheard of love manifested by Jesus on the Cross. She makes the words of Saint John in his first epistle her own: “This is what love is: we have not first loved God, rather it is He who has loved us and who sent His Son as a victim of expiation for our sins. This is how we shall henceforth know love: Jesus has given His life for us, we also must give our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 4, 10, 16)
The Eucharist is not limited in time to the life of Christ. When His Hour was approaching, Jesus found a way to prolong it in such a way that it is always with us. Louise de Marillac is in wonder before this the extraordinary event of the Eucharist: “The Son of God took a human form… Nevertheless, this did not satisfy His great love for us. He desired an inseparable union of divine nature with human nature. He accomplished this after the Incarnation by the admirable institution of the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in which the fullness of the divinity dwells continually in the Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity.” (Spiritual Writings, 784)
It seemed to Louise that God wanted to constantly express His great love to humankind. The Incarnation already manifested this great desire for union. The Eucharist concretizes it in a yet greater way. Louise de Marillac does not stop at the aspect “memorial and sacrifice” of the Eucharist. Rather she speaks extensively of communion “this admirable and, in a human sense, incomprehensible action.” (Spiritual Writings, 822)
To receive the Body of Christ is, according to Louise de Marillac, to become a participant in the life of God. Christ gives Himself as nourishment so that humans can draw new energy from it to accomplish their tasks on earth. In imitation of Christ, Christians are called to give themselves entirely if they want to bring life and love to their neighbor. The reception of communion brings exceptional strength because it confers on us “the capacity to live in Him as He lives in us. (Spiritual Writings, 823)
In response to such a gift from God, Louise desires for herself and for those she accompanies on their spiritual journey “loving union” (Spiritual Writings, 823.) with God. Is it really possible for a human being to experience such a union with God? The period of thanksgiving after communion allows time to repeat to God all one’s joy, all one’s gratitude because Christ coming within us renders us like unto Him. Let us rejoice “in contemplating this admirable invention and the loving union by which God , seeing Himself in us, makes us, once again like unto Him. This he does by communicating not only His grace but Himself.”(Spiritual Writings, 823)Louise de Marillac does not know how to thank her Lord and her God for having thus willed to remain on earth so that all persons might offer Him all the glory that His Holy Humanity already receives in heaven.
Louise has a very clear and profound perception of Divine Love. Like the biblical writers, she recognizes that “God is a devouring fire.” (Heb 12, 26) In their daily lives, the sisters and all those who share the Vincentian charism are invited to allow this Divine Fire to fill their being and to welcome the plenitude of the love that the Spirit comes to spread in their hearts. It is in this relationship that they will find strength, energy, and creativity to accomplish their service of love with those who suffer from poverty in all its forms, long-standing and new.
Louise de Marillac recognizes that to follow Jesus and to serve Him in His suffering members means loving with an “uncommon love “ (Spiritual Writings, 829), with a love that is strong, solid and unshaken by any difficulty. This strong love manifests itself concretely and on a daily basis by attentiveness to the individual, gentleness and kindness toward all.The more the Love of God grows, the more there is a consciousness of the dignity and liberty of each individual and the respect due to every person. This is how Christ expressed His Love.
Written by Sister Elisabeth Charpy, D.C. Province of France North and Sister Louise Sullivan, D.C. Province of Albany, NY