Foundress of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, b. at Paris, August 12, 1591, d. there, March 15, 1660
Le Gras, LOUISE DE MARILLAC, VENERABLE, foundress of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, b. at Paris, August 12, 1591, daughter of Louis de Marillac, Lord of Ferrieres, and Marguerite LeCamus; d. there, March 15, 1660. Her mother having died soon after the birth of Louise, the education of the latter devolved upon her father, a man of blameless life. In her earlier years she was confided to the care of her aunt, a religious at Poissy. Afterwards she studied under a precepterss, devoting much time to the cultivation of the arts. Her father's serious disposition was reflected in the daughter's taste for philosophy and kindred subjects. When about sixteen years old, Louise developed a strong desire to enter the Capuchinesses (Daughters of the Passion). Her spiritual director dissuaded her, however, and, her father having died, it became necessary to decide her vocation. Interpreting her director's advice, she accepted the hand of Antoine Le Gras, a young secretary under Maria de' Medici. A son was born of this marriage on October 13, 1613, and to his education Mlle Le Gras devoted herself during the years of his childhood. Of works of charity she never wearied. In 1619 she became acquainted with St. Francis de Sales, who was then in Paris, and Msgr. Le Camus, Bishop of Belley, became her spiritual adviser. Troubled by the thought that she had rejected a call to the religious state, she vowed in 1623 not to remarry should her husband die before her.
M. Le Gras died on December 21, 1625, after a long illness. In the meantime his wife had made the acquaintance of a priest known as M. Vincent (St. Vincent de Paul), who had been appointed superior of the Visitation Monastery by St. Francis de Sales. She placed herself under his direction, probably early in 1625. His influence led her to associate herself with his work among the poor of Paris, and especially in the extension of the Confrerie de la Charite, an association which he had founded for the relief of the sick poor. It was this labor which decided her life's work, the founding of the Sisters of Charity. The history of the evolution of this institute, in which Mlle Le Gras plays so prominent a part, has been given elsewhere (see Sisters of Charity); it suffices here to say that, with formal ecclesiastical and state recognition, Mlle Le Gras' life-work received its assurance of success. Her death occurred in 1660, a few months before the death of St. Vincent, with whose labors she had been so closely united. The process of her beatification has been inaugurated at Rome.
JOSEPH S. GLASS