St Louise de Marillac, Patroness of Social Workers

‘The love of Jesus crucified urges us.’

It is delightful and challenging to read Pope Francis’ writings. In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Christus Vivit’ addressed to ‘Young People and to the Entire People of God (2019), the Pope writes with a very youthful heart, mind and disposition.


Pope Francis wrote, ‘I have let myself be inspired by the wealth of reflections and conversations that emerged from last year’s Synod.’ This Synod, the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops took place in 2018, with its theme ‘Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment’. In this document, the Pope echoed ‘the myriad voices of believers who made their opinions known to the Synod’ and the young people who, were not believers ‘shared their thoughts’ and ‘raised issues ‘that led’ the Pope ‘to ask new questions’ (Christus Vivit).

The Pope focused on ‘Jesus, Ever Young’ in Sacred Scripture and continued to say to the readers ‘You, are the Now of God.’ This is powerful Good News. He praised the work of many young saints and encouraged the youth saying, ‘Through the holiness of the young, the Church can renew her spiritual ardour and her apostolic vigour.’ (no. 50). Young saints are introduced in this chapter of the Exhortation.


Throughout the Grow in Love programme, a variety of saints’ lives are explored. In Grow in Love 8, Sixth Class, a new feature emerges, which briefly describes the life of A Christian hero/heroine. These heroes/heroines include recognised saints and people who lived their lives in holiness. The condensed accounts are accessible on the VERITAS Grow in Love website in the e-book for Sixth Class.

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The Church honours the saints, firstly, because each one loved God and loved other people in daily life. Secondly, saints are honoured because they are exemplars to imitate. Several saints became saints because their lives were influenced by the lives of the saints they read.

St Thérèse of Lisieux wrote, ‘I love to read the lives of the saints very much. The account of their heroic deeds inflames my courage and spurs me on to imitate them.’ (catholicism.org)

Today, 9 May, the Church honours St Louise de Marillac (1591-1660), co-foundress of the Daughters of Charity with St Vincent de Paul. She is one of the Christian heroines included in Grow in Love. The children read a brief account of the life of St Louise. Louise allowed Jesus to show her the way, (this lesson is entitled, ‘Jesus Shows Us the Way’). Jesus continues to shows his disciples the way. This is the way of love. Helpful resources on the dashboard of the Grow in Love website include, the songs ‘Use What You’re Given’, ‘Who Do You Say That I Am’? and a vimeo of ‘The Parable of the Three Servants’ (Mt 25:14-30).



St Louise de Marillac was born in Paris in 1591. Louise never knew her mother, which caused her sadness and suffering, but her Dad loved her. She attended school in the Dominican Abbey at Poissy, and received a very good education. Later, she went to live in a boarding house with other young girls. The mistress of the house was poor so Louise helped with daily housekeeping and encouraged the other girls in residence there, to engage in craftwork to assist in the upkeep of the boarding house. Louise was always willing to help those in need and she used her skills and talents to recruit the assistance of her colleagues.

These two characteristics of Louise- a willingness to help those in need and her skill in collaboration were instrumental, as well as her deep love for God, in her contribution to founding the Company of the Daughters of Charity.

Prior to her marriage, Louise desired to join the Capuchin nuns. She was refused on the grounds of ‘delicate health.’ On 5 February 1613, Louise married Antoine Le Gras and later they were blessed with the birth of their son Michel Antoine. They were happily married but Antoine got sick. He required constant nursing care and Louise devoted herself entirely to him. Antoine died in December 1625.

Louise struggled greatly for some years. She spent time at spiritual reading, prayer, writing and she took care of Michel and provided for him, until he could do so for himself. She reflected arduously on what God wanted her to do with her life. St Vincent de Paul was her spiritual director and over time, Louise ‘devoted herself to prayer and works of mercy among the poor.’ On Pentecost 1623, Louise in her prayer was enlightened by the Holy Spirit and was cleared of doubts which she experienced.

In 1629, Louise began her work in earnest with St Vincent de Paul and the Confraternities of Charity that were set up in parishes around Paris and in the country areas. She worked with the Ladies of Charity and helped them in their mission of corporal and spiritual works of mercy for the poor.

In 1633, St Louise de Marillac and St Vincent de Paul founded the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul to assist the Ladies of Charity in their work of alleviating poverty. Originally some of these girls were servants of the Ladies of Charity. Sometimes the Ladies, instead of visiting the sick and the poor in their homes sent their servants instead.

The Company of the Daughters of Charity began with some of these servants of the Ladies. Louise gathered a small number of women to live in community to serve the sick and poor people. Initially, like the mustard seed, numbers were small but increased with time.

St Vincent and St Louise were ‘two persons whose hearts and souls’ saw Jesus Christ in every person who was poor. The Sisters identified those who lived in poverty with Christ. This was the founding spirit and it still lives on today. The Sisters still strive to give themselves to God, to live in community and to serve those who live in poverty.

The first Sisters visited the sick poor in their homes and the young girls who lived in poor circumstances needed to be educated. Gradually, the Sisters extended the ministry to include hospital visits, galley slaves, the foundlings, the soldiers on the battlefields, those who suffered in war torn villages and those with mental health issues.

Throughout her life, St Louise prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance and enlightenment. She was devoted to Mary, Mother of God. She encouraged the Daughters of Charity to imitate Mary’s virtues so that they could better love God in community and in their neighbour, especially those who lived on the margins of society. The motto of the Daughters of Charity is, ‘The Charity of Jesus crucified urges us.’

Today, by God’s grace, the ministry of the Daughters of Charity continues internationally and the Vincentian Family includes a wider collaborative membership, including the Daughters of Charity.

St Louise de Marillac is the patron saint of sick people, widows and orphans, and in 1960, Pope John XXIII, now St John XX 111 proclaimed her the Patroness of Social Workers.

SING from the video lyrics of the Grow in Love website: ‘Who Do You That Say I Am?’, ‘Go Tell Everyone’, ‘Whatsoever You Do’, ‘Use What You’re Given’, ‘They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love’, ‘Christ Be Our Light’, and ‘Where Your Treasure Is’.

PRAY with Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


In ainm an Athar, agus an Mhic agus an Spioraid Naoimh. Áiméan.


O my God, I believe in you

and in all that your holy Church teaches

because you have said it

and your Word is true.

You are the Christ,

the Son of the living God.

Lord, I believe; increase my faith. Amen.


O my God, I put my hope in you

because I am sure of your promises.

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil and

grant us peace in our day,

as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour,

Jesus Christ, Amen.


O my God,

I love you with all my heart,

with all my soul, and with all my strength.

Lord, increase our love.

Help us to love one another. Amen.

‘All will recognise you as my followers when they see the love you have for one another, alleluia.’ (Benedictus antiphon)

“I tell you most solemnly, what you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.’ (Magnificat antiphon)

‘He has not forgotten his love nor his faithfulness to Israel. The furthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power.’ (Psalm 98:2)

‘We must have continually before our eyes our model, the exemplary life of Jesus Christ. We are called to imitate this life.’ (Louise de Marillac, Spiritual Writings, (L. 217, p.261).

St Louise de Marillac, pray for us.


Sr Anne Neylon