The international site of the Daughters of Charity asks that question. In response they offer the first part of reflections of two noted researchers Sisters Elisabeth Charpy, DC and Louise Sullivan, DC on St. Louise and the Incarnation.
Why the Incarnation?
Louise de Marillac liked to understand things clearly. She used to reflect on what could have led God to send his Son on earth. One sentence summarizes her thoughts on the reason behind the Incarnation: “God never showed greater love for His creatures than when He resolved to become Man.” (Spiritual Writings, 700)
After Adam had rejected God in his life and wanted to make himself his own god, the Incarnation manifests the great consideration God has for humankind. God wants to renew contact with the sinner at the very depth of his suffering and restore his confidence in himself. He wishes him to understand clearly the dignity of his being made in the image and likeness of God. Louise de Marillac insists that this divine desire could be fulfilled only in total respect for the liberty of the person. Each individual can respond to this grace or reject it as he or she decides. God does not predetermine human choices. Each person is free and thus has the full capacity to make a choice and to say yes or no to God’s initiatives.
Accomplishment of incarnation
The promise of the Incarnation of the second person of the Trinity is inscribed in God’s loving plan for the human race. For Louise, humility defines God every bit as much as does love. God is no longer the distant, demanding God, the All-Powerful One so often presented to the people. The Incarnation itself would suffice to reveal this. However, many acts of the life of Jesus further confirm this. By His birth in a manger Jesus became “a child so as to be more accessible to His creatures. (Spiritual Writings, 718) Louise reflected on “the humility Our Lord practiced at His Baptism” (Spiritual Writings, 719) And, while meditating on the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday evening, she exclaims, “Nothing should keep me from humbling myself. For this, I have the example of Our Lord. (Spiritual Writings,715) Jesus had a legitimate interest in reminding His followers of their obligation to honor Him but He accepts to humble Himself to the point of “washing the feet of His Apostles.” (Spiritual Writings, 719)
Louise de Marillac loved to imagine the Trinity conferring with one another, looking for a way to express all its love to humanity, and deciding together on the Incarnation of the Word: “As soon as human nature had sinned, the Creator, who wanted to repair this fault by a great act of pure love, ordered, in the Council of His Divinity, that one of the three Persons should become Man .By so doing, He gave proof of deep, true humility. (Spiritual Writings, 700)
Mary the mother Jesus
The Incarnation of the Son of God is real. The Word became flesh in the Virgin Mary. With great emotion and gratitude, Louise de Marillac contemplates the choice God made of Mary, a simple woman of Nazareth: “God had destined her as the mother of His Son.” (Spiritual Writings, 735) From personal experience, Louise knew what it meant to give life to a child, to provide it with the most intimate part of her being, her blood. She wanted to express the full extent of the happiness that filled her: “Blessed may you be forever, O my God, for the choice you made of the Holy Virgin! … You used the blood of the Blessed Virgin to form the body of your dear Son.” (Spiritual Writings, 801)
All Mary’s glory comes from her divine maternity. Louise proclaims that Mary is the “masterpiece of God’s omnipotence in a nature that is purely human.”(Spiritual Writings, 831) Is not praising Mary for the choice God made of her also glorifying God Himself? God so loved humankind that He wanted to come Himself into their midst by receiving His humanity from Mary
Holy Humanity of Christ
In 1652, Louise de Marillac wrote to the Sisters of Richelieu to remind them of the importance of contemplating the life of the Son of God during His stay on earth. There they will discover true charity: “Gentleness, cordiality, and forbearance must be the practices of the Daughters of Charity just as humility, simplicity and the love of the holy humanity of Jesus Christ, who is perfect charity, is their spirit. That, my dear Sisters, is a summary of what I think I should tell you about our Rules.” (Spiritual Writings, 406)In her long letter of August 1655 to the Sisters who were in faraway Poland, Louise also stresses the importance of contemplating the human life of Christ: “…honor Jesus Christ by practicing the virtues which He, Himself, in His holy humanity taught us.” (Spiritual Writings, 478)
The last letters of Louise return to this same theme. At Christmas 1659, she wrote to Geneviève Doinel: “You invite me to go to the Crib so that I can meet you there near the Infant Jesus and His Holy Mother… You will learn from Jesus, my dear Sisters, to practice solid virtue, as He did in His holy humanity, as soon as He came down upon earth. It is from the example of Jesus in His infancy that you will obtain all that you need to become true Christians and perfect Daughters of Charity.” (Spiritual Writings, 666)Louise’s emphasis on the contemplation of the humanity of Jesus Christ shows how greatly she desired the life of every Daughter of Charity to be a reflection of the countenance of Christ with its infinite goodness and its incommensurable love. Christ is truly the Rule of the Daughter of Charity as He is for the entire Vincentian family.
To be continued…
See also these reflections from the 350th anniversary celebrations
- Who is Jesus for Louise de Marillac? Download in Word or PDF
- Who was Jesus for Vincent? Download in Word or PDF