Marillac, Louise de (1591–1660)

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Marillac, Louise de (1591–1660)

Saint who founded the Sisters of Charity in 1633 . Name variations: Madame le Gras. Born in Paris, France, on August 15, 1591; died of gangrene on March 15, 1660; daughter of Louis de Marillac (counselor to Parliament) and his second wife Marguerite (le Camus) de Marillac; married Antoine le Gras, in 1613 (died 1626); children: one son. Her feast day is March 15.

The daughter of a counselor to the French Parliament, Louise de Marillac lost her mother at an early age, after which she assumed the management of the family household. A pious young girl, she vowed to become a nun, but she married instead in 1613. When her husband Antoine le Gras was stricken with an incurable disease nine years later, Marillac accepted his illness as divine punishment for having broken her earlier religious vow. After his death in 1626, she became a nun, keeping her son, her only child, with her.

Under the blessing and guidance of St. Vincent de Paul, Marillac founded the Sisters of Charity in 1633, with a group of five young country girls. The order first devoted itself to teaching catechism, but as it increased in membership, it broadened its purview, opening small schools and conducting retreats. Later, the order founded hospitals for the poor and mentally afflicted. The Congregation of Sisters of Charity was sanctioned by King Louis XIV in 1657, and by the pope in 1668, the same year that Marillac was elevated to superior-general. She died two years later and was mourned by her mentor St. Vincent. Ill himself and unable to visit her on her deathbed, he sent a message that "she should go on ahead and he would hope to see her soon in heaven."


Englebert, Omer. The Lives of the Saints. Translated by Christopher and Anne Fremantle. London: Thames and Hudson, 1951.