My very dear Sister, I entreat Jesus, born into this world and the sole object of our love, to be your strength and consolation at the beginning of this new year.
[…] I just now received your dear letter and I am going to repeat what I have already told you concerning the teaching of catechism. […] I am afraid that Sister Julienne’s method of catechizing was not clearly understood. […] Last summer two or three heretics living in Saint-Denis were converted. God knows that is a sizable number for that district. Our Lord always forbade His Apostles to speak about what He was doing. […] If the time has come for the work that, for a long time, the Daughters of Charity have been doing quietly, to blossom into the open, may the holy name of God be blessed! […] With regard to the convalescent soldiers, I think, my dear Sister, that you would be wise to put them in a corner of one of your wards or in some other place where there is an accessible exit. You know how important this is and you are aware ofthe prohibition in the Rules against remaining in the company of men (SLM, letter 650).
Letter to Sister Maturina Guérin who is in La Fère caring for wounded soldiers, January, 1660.
- La Fère was a small town, but strategically located in the south of Picardy, near the border between France and the territories of the Austrian Empire, continually at war. The kings of France had established in La Fère a hospital for the soldiers wounded in the incessant battles and for the convalescent soldiers, who were grouped in one of the corners of the room.
- Hospitals were a room ventilated by windows at the top of the walls. The beds were lined up in three rows, next to the walls and in the middle. At one end an altar was erected to celebrate the Eucharist and to keep the Blessed Sacrament, becoming a kind of chapel. And in the churches only priests could speak, and, exceptionally, lay men, but never women. Sr. Juliana broke this rule by explaining the catechism, with the consent of Saint Louise de Marillac.
- But this letter has another great importance: written only two months before the death of the saint, who already felt sick; but she had not lost the energy to program the new year that began.
- She organizes the service in the hospital and through the streets of the city; she organizes catechesis, breaking without fear the taboos that dominated society; it is based on the prints that direct the steps of the Sisters; she breaks with the Vincentian criterion of doing everything in humility and without attracting attention; but always keeping the Rules, on the relations with men, so feared then.
- This is a strong teaching to encourage and organize us all, Vincentians, in the coexistence and apostolic service of this new course 2017-2018 that begins in September.
Questions for dialogue:
- Do you meet to organize the new year? What are you looking for: to be a “star”?, fame for your Association? the welfare of the poor or the glory of God?
- As a good Vincentian, do you take care only of the task entrusted to you or of every need and every poor person you encounter in life?
- In the Vincentian branch to which you belong, do you see energy, spirit and illusion to continue? What do Saint Vincent, Saint Louise, and Blessed Frédéric teach you on this?
Benito Martínez, C.M.