Sacred Heart – Spirituality of Vincent and Louise

by | Jun 20, 2014 | Formation, Spirituality and Spiritual Practice

Louise Lord of Charity cropFather Robert Maloney CM offers an in-depth study of “The Heart of Jesus in the Spirituality of Vincent dePaul and Louise de Marillac

“For Vincent, the heart of Jesus was the source of missionary zeal. For Louise, it was the font of a burning charity that was both affective and effective. Hence, “Mission et Charité” have had a central role in the lives of their followers, with different accents, in the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity.”

“The emblems of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity both appear to derive from (Louise’s painting above) “The Lord of Charity”.

He provides background to the spread of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, through Franics deSales and St. John Eudes.

Using Vincent’s own words  he provides rich insights in the heart of Jesus in the spirituality of Vincent de Paul. these words have to be read rather than summarized.

His section on the heart of Jesus in the spirituality of Louise is rooted not only in her words but also in her art. For many his section on what we can learn about about Louise’s devotion from her paintings may be both surprising but also a new way of entering into her spirituality. He focuses particularly on three of her paintings related to the Sacred Heart: “The Good Shepherd”, “A medallion of Christ” and “A large ‘Lord of Charity'”.

Before concluding with implications of the spirituality of the Vincentian Family today he looks at the emblems of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity which seem to derive from Louise’s painting “The Lord of Charity.”

The final section looks at implication for us today and how focus on the heart of Jesus

  • heightens our awareness of the limitless love of God
  •  summons us to learn to be gentle and humble
  • draws us to be vulnerable
  • offers us an often unused road toward wisdom and discernment
  • moves us to have a love that is expansive (mission) and that is both affective and effective (charité

The article concludes…

Love is a fire. It is a flame, Saint Vincent said. The expansive love of Jesus’ heart, his zeal, mirrored in our hearts, is a love that burns with compassion for those around us and drives us out to serve them. It is warm, but also concrete and effective, as the Vincentian tradition reminds us again and again. When it burns within us, people see in us the reflection of the heart of Jesus.

It is a mistake to think this love is always serene and peaceful. Dorothy Day, quoting Dostoevsky, reminds us: “Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”98 It can mean dying in countless everyday ways. It can mean pouring out one’s blood, as did the pierced heart of Jesus on the cross. But it is the only thing worthwhile. It lasts, as Paul attests.99

Devotion to the heart of Jesus has its historical roots in a profound experience of God’s love as revealed in Christ. It is a way in which people have attempted to express God’s self-revelation to them. They experience that, in the person of Jesus, they have met God, who is love, and that, in going to the very depths of Jesus’ person, to his heart, they have found forgiving, healing, saving love.

What we call “Devotion to the Sacred Heart” is a popular devotion, with its own recommended set of prayers and practices.100 It began with John Eudes and Margaret Mary Alacoque, and is a specific instance of how focus on Jesus’ heart came to be concretized over a long period in history.

But a simple focus on the heart of Jesus, like that found in the beliefs of Vincent and Louise, has roots that are basic to Christian spirituality. It draws us to meditate often on God’s deep personal love for us. Here, there is no question of a piety that today we call “intimism,” a type of spirituality that is overly focused on oneself without any social dimension. Vincent and Louise wanted to avoid that type of piety completely.

Rather, the accent here is on what is central to the Good News: God, who reveals himself in Jesus, loves us deeply. The Scriptures are filled with images to express this. God holds us in the palm of his hand. He walks with us on the journey. He reveals himself to us face- to-face. He forgives us our sins. He lives with us. He dies for us.

Mission et Charité characterize the family to which Vincent and Louise gave birth. The two founders’ focus on the heart of Jesus, and the extraordinary impact of Jesus’ heart on their own hearts, moved them toward missionary zeal and toward affective and effective charity.