Pentecost and the Lumière

Have you ever had an experience that was so life-changing and memorable that you just had to write about it afterwards? Perhaps you relayed it in great detail in a diary, prayer journal, or letter to a friend. St. Louise had experience like that on the Feast of Pentecost in 1623.

Louise had been going through a very difficult time. In 1620, after only seven years of marriage, her husband Antoine fell ill. His illness, probably tuberculosis, made him moody and irritable and would, five years later, result in his death. In this time of darkness, Louise began to blame herself for her husband’s distress and wondered whether this was a punishment from God. She even questioned her life choice of marriage (and she had never forgotten her original intention to become a nun, a choice which had been denied by the superior of the order due to her own fragile health.) Louise was filled with great anguish and self-doubt. She questioned her own goodness and felt that she was a failure in the eyes of God. Anyone who has struggled with depression, hopelessness, or regret can identify with her feelings at this time.

While at Mass on the Feast of Pentecost, Louise received a powerful experience of God’s love and grace, which she called “Light” (in French, Lumière). We are blessed that her written description of this event still exists to this day and we can read the compelling words written in her own hand:

My mind was instantly freed of all doubt. I was advised that I should remain with my husband and that a time would come when I would be in a position to make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and that I would be in a small community where others would do the same. I then understood that I would be in a place where I could help my neighbor, but I did not understand how this would be possible since there was to be much coming and going.”

It is interesting to note that, even though Louise received great assurance of God’s love, guidance, and care for her, she did not yet have a full understanding of what the future would hold. In fact, we know that she would continue to care for her ailing husband for at least two more years before his death. During that time, however, Louise would also meet Vincent de Paul who would become her spiritual director and would continue God’s healing work in her heart. Together, they would revolutionize the care of those living in poverty and ultimately found the Daughters of Charity in 1633 where Louise would see the fulfillment of her Lumière in the taking of vows that her heart had longed for in the comings and goings of numerous Daughters of Charity in the service of those who are poor.

Can you recall a time when you felt an inner assurance of God’s love and care for you, even when the future seemed uncertain?

Written by Sister Chris Maggi, D.C.