ST. VINCENT DE PAUL
St. Vincent de Paul, church recognize him as Father of the poor (Apostle of Charity)
St. Vincent De Paul(1580-1617)
Vincent was born at Pouy in Gascony, in the south of France, in 1580 or 1581, the third child in a family of four sons and two daughters. His family was a solid peasant family capable of making ends meet only through hard work and frugality. His father encouraged and helped him toward the priesthood, to which he was ordained on September 23, 1600, at the age of nineteen or twenty. Among his chief reasons for becoming a priest was his desire to get an office in the Church from which he could obtain enough money to retire early, return home, and provide for his family.
His early hopes for advancement came to nothing (two trips to Rome, promises of a bishopric, money from a will). In 1608, Vincent moved to Paris, where he came under the influence of Father (later Cardinal) Pierre de Bérulle, whom he took as his spiritual director, and Father André Duval, a professor of the Sorbonne, who was to be his “wise man” for the next three decades. This marked a turning point in Vincent’s spiritual journey: ambition was receding, and attention to God and vocation were advancing.
Accused of theft by his roommate, Vincent did not defend himself, showing himself to be more like the Lord and less interested in self-advancement and public image — the real thief confessed years later. In 1612, he was named pastor of Saint-Medard in Clichy, a poor rural parish just northwest of Paris. As pastor, he experienced the priesthood in a way unknown to him to that point, and told the bishop he was happier than the bishop himself, and even the pope.
However, in less than a year Bérulle recalled him to Paris to become chaplain to the Gondi family and tutor to their children. In January of 1617, Vincent was on the Gondi estates in Picardy, and heard the confession of a dying man, who told Madame de Gondi that he would have been damned without Vincent’s ministry. She urged Vincent to preach a sermon on general confessions, which produced such a response that other priests were called to help hear all the confessions.
Now, very conscious that the poor were not being evangelized or helped, Vincent felt called to a more pastoral ministry. With Bérulle’s help, he became the parish priest in Châtillon-les-Dombes in the southeast of France, helping his fellow priests to a more faithful way of life, as well as ministering to and teaching the people. In August 1617, as he was preparing for Sunday Mass, a parishioner brought news of the illness and destitution of an entire family in the parish. He preached on their need, and that afternoon the people responded in overwhelming numbers by carrying them food and supplies. Vincent then called a meeting of interested women, and urged them to put order into their generosity by taking turns. With rules drawn up by Vincent, they established a group which became the first Confraternity of Charity.
By December, 1617, Madame de Gondi prevailed in her request that Vincent return to their family by giving him freedom to preach missions in various towns and villages. In 1619, at the urging of Monsieur de Gondi, King Louis XIII, appointed Vincent chaplain general of the galleys with responsibility for the spiritual well-being of all the galley convicts of France.
During this period Vincent experienced a twofold conversion. First, he was being converted to the poor, who were becoming the center of his life. Second, he was also being converted to his priesthood, seeing it not as a career, but as a personal relationship with Jesus. However, his “conversion” does not seem to rest on one dramatic moment, but rather on a gradual opening to the power of God’s grace working in him, and allowing him to see his world more clearly in the light of Christ.
St. Vincent De Paul(1617-1660)
Toward the end of 1618, the bishop of Geneva, Francis de Sales, arrived in Paris, and inspired Vincent with the power of humility and gentleness. Vincent reflected: “How good you must be, my God, if Francis de Sales, your creature, is so gentle and lovable.” Vincent’s disposition was naturally moody and melancholy, but he now decided that he could not simply say he was made that way and could not change. He went to Soissons to make a retreat, asking God to help him change. His prayer was answered, not immediately, but gradually as he came to understand the direction his priesthood should go and the beauty of serving others.
Vincent continued giving local missions to the people. Madame de Gondi, seeing the effect of these missions, set aside money for a community to preach such missions on a wider scale, and asked Vincent to find a community able and willing to do so. Vincent asked the Jesuits and several other communities, but none were able to accept this additional apostolate. Vincent went to his old mentor, Father Duval, to share his concern and ask for advice. Duval told him that God was clearly calling Vincent himself to do the work of the missions. Vincent accepted the call, and in April, 1625, founded the Congregation of the Mission to evangelize the poor people of the countryside.
The Archbishop of Paris approved the Congregation, giving them the Collège des Bons Enfants for a motherhouse. Members were secular priests who made simple vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability. In 1628, the Congregation gave its first retreat to candidates for the priesthood in preparation for their ordination. This gradually led to additional efforts to help priests in their vocation. In 1633, the motherhouse moved to the former priory of Saint-Lazare, north of the city. Beginning in 1635, additional houses were established, in France, in other European countries, and in Africa. Vincent also served as spiritual director for a growing number of people, one of whom was a widow, Louise de Marillac, in whom Vincent saw leadership potential. The Ladies of Charity, a coalition of noblewomen Vincent had organized to serve poor people, had grown and spread, as had the Confraternities of Charity. Vincent found it impossible to oversee all these groups, so he turned to Louise. Despite frail health, Louise traveled from town to town, visiting, guiding and encouraging the fledging organizations.
Vincent assumed direction of the Hôtel-Dieu, a large hospital in Paris. Both Vincent and Louise realized that greater commitment would be needed to give the necessary care with consistency and love. Young women from rural areas began to appear, ready to assist. In 1633, Louise welcomed several of them into her own home for training, and they became the nucleus of a new type of religious community, the Daughters of Charity. They lived in houses, not convents; their cloister was the city streets; their enclosure was their commitment to God and service. They gave their lives to visiting the sick in the homes, ministering in hospitals, caring for prisoners, orphans, the mentally ill, and the homeless of Paris. They also taught catechism to rural children.In 1639, Lorraine was devastated by war. Vincent collected money and other forms of aid, sending members of his Congregation to distribute the aid and organize relief, and sending Daughters of Charity to minister to victims and refugees. This ministry continued during the 30 years war, and a brutal civil war called the Fronde.
In June of 1643, Vincent began serving on the Queen’s Council of Ecclesiastical Affairs. There he exercised significant influence on the selection of good and worthy bishops, oversaw the renewal of monastic life, dealt with Jansenism, and was able to keep the plight of the people and the poor before the government of France.Vincent continued his work until his death on September 27, 1660. A witness tells us, “At the moment of his death, he surrendered his beautiful soul into the hands of the Lord, and seated there, he was handsome, more majestic and venerable to look at than ever.”
ST LOUSIE DE MARILLAC
St. Louise de Marillac, church recognize her as patron of social workers
St. Louise de Marillac, (born August 12, 1591, Paris/Ferrières, France—died March 15, 1660, Paris; canonized March 11, 1934; feast day March 15), cofounder with St. Vincent de Paul of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, a congregation of laywomen dedicated to teaching and hospital work.
Louise de Marillac was born on 12th August 1591, probably in Paris. Her marriage on 5th February 1613 to Antoine Le Gras, ended prematurely with his death on 21st December 1625, and she was left with their only child, Michel. In 1624 she had taken Vincent de Paul as her spiritual director, and it was under his guidance that she gave herself, after Antoine’s death, to the service of the poor and the visitation of the Confraternities of Charity. Together on 29th November 1633, they founded the Company of the Daughters of Charity, and thereafter the care and training of the Sisters became Louise’s life work.
Louise was a member of the powerful de Marillac family and was well educated. Poor health prevented her from joining the strict order of Poor Clares, and in 1613 she married Antoine Le Gras (secretary to Queen Marie de Médicis of France), by whom she had a son, Michel. Widowed in 1625, she had already chosen Vincent de Paul as her spiritual guide, and he encouraged her to undertake charitable works. She trained girls in the spiritual life and taught them to assist in visiting, feeding, and nursing the needy.
In 1633 Vincent de Paul founded the Daughters of Charity with Louise as their superior. Because they were neither enclosed nor called nuns, their concept pioneered in bringing women into religious service outside the cloister. Indeed, the congregation was the first noncloistered religious institute of women devoted to active charitable works.Louise died on 15th March 1660, and was canonised on 11th March 1934. On 10th February 1960, Pope John XXIII proclaimed her as the patron saint of all Christian social workers.She was a wife, mother, teacher, nurse, social worker and co-founder of the Daughters of Charity. She was an organiser, a radical thinker who lived her life intensely and enthusiastically. Louise herself knew suffering and through a life of deep faith she was able to find and treasure Jesus Christ in the broken spirits and bodies of the destitute people she served.
Friendship with St Vincent de Paul
Vincent and Louise worked together as a team. Vincent provided the original vision of service of poor people, a vision shaped by the love of Jesus Christ. Louise helped transform that vision into reality. They have inspired thousands of people through the ages to offer a caring compassionate face in Christian ministry. Today countless individuals and groups all over the world continue to be influenced by their example and spirit.
ST CATHERINE LABOURE
SANCTITY THROUGH LOVING SERVICESt. Catherine Laboure
The fact that Saint Catherine rested her hands on the lap of the Blessed Mother did not make her a saint. She personally worked no miracles, nor did she practice externally heroic charity like other great saints. She was not materially poor as were the children of Fatima and Saint Bernadette… She sprang from upper middle class parents among the meadows and vineyards of Burgundy, France. Her father was an educated man and an excellent farmer living in the village of Fain-les-Moutiers not far from Djon. Her sanctity consists in half a century of faithful service as a simple Daughter of Charity.
CHILD OF MARY
As the evening Angelus sounded, Catherine was born of Pierre and Madeleine Louise Labouré on May 2, 1806. She was the ninth child of a family of eleven. Fifteen minutes after her birth, her name was entered on the city records. The next day, she was baptized on the feast of the Finding of The True Cross. It seems more than a coincidence that Catherine was born at the ringing of the Angelus; surely it was God’s charming touch—the heralding by our Lady’s bells of the saint who was to be so highly favored by Mary. Nor was it an accident that Catherine’s name received the prompt attention of the world… certainly it was her holy mother’s intuition that led Madeleine Louise Laboure to call attention to her special child. Even the feast of Catherine’s baptism was prophetic, for Catherine was to find the cross in every turn of her life, to have deep devotion for it, and to see a mysterious vision of the cross.When Catherine was nine years old, her mother died. After the burial service, little Catherine retired to her room, stood on a chair, took our Lady’s statue from the wall, kissed it, and said: “Now, dear Lady, you are to be my mother.”
GOD HAS DESIGNS
After living a year in Paris with her Aunt Margaret, Catherine came back to her father’s home to supervise the household. She was her father’s favorite child, and this efficient, stern, upper middle class farmer depended on her. On January 25, 1818, Catherine received her First Holy Communion. From that day on she arose every morning at 4:00 a.m., walked several miles to church in order to assist at Mass, and to pray.One day she had a dream in which she saw an old priest say Mass. After Mass, the priest turned and beckoned her with his finger, but she drew backwards, keeping her eye on him. The vision moved to a sick room where she saw the same priest, who said: “My child, it is a good deed to look after the sick; you run away now, but one day you will be glad to come to me. God has designs on you—do not forget it.” Later, she awoke, not knowing the significance of the dream.Sometime later, while visiting a hospital of the Daughters of Charity, she noticed a priest’s picture on the wall. She asked a sister who he might be, and was told: “Our Holy Founder Saint Vincent de Paul.” Catherine had seen this same priest in the dream.
SISTER CATHERINE, DAUGHTER OF CHARITY
In January of 1830, Catherine Laboure became a postulant in the hospice of the Daughters of Charity at Catillon-sur-Seine. Three months later, she was again in Paris, this time to enter the Seminary at the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity. Shortly after she entered her new home, God was pleased to grant her several extraordinary visions. On three consecutive days she beheld the heart of Saint Vincent above the reliquary in which his relics were exposed, each time under a different aspect. At other times, she beheld our divine Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament; this would occur especially during Mass when he would appear as he was described in the liturgy of the day.
MARY APPEARS TO SAINT CATHERINE LABOURÉ
THE FIRST APPARITION
On the eve of the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, July 19, the Sister Superior spoke to the novices about the virtues of their Holy Founder and gave each of them a piece of cloth from his surplice. Catherine earnestly prayed to Saint Vincent that she might see the mother of God with her own eyes.She was convinced that she would see the Blessed Virgin Mary that very night. In her conviction, Catherine fell asleep. Before long, a brilliant light and the voice of a child awakened her. “Sister Labouré, come to the Chapel; the Blessed Virgin awaits you.” Catherine replied: “We shall be discovered.” The little child smiled, “Do not be uneasy; it is half past eleven, everyone is sleeping… come, I am waiting for you.” She rose quickly and dressed. The hall lights were burning. The locked chapel door swung open at the angel’s touch. Amazed, Catherine found the Chapel ablaze with lights as if prepared for midnight Mass. Quickly she knelt at the communion rail, and suddenly, she heard the rustle of a silk dress… the Blessed Virgin, in a blaze of glory, sat in the director’s chair. The angel whispered: “The Blessed Mother wishes to speak with you.”
First ApparitionCatherine rose, knelt beside the Blessed Mother and rested her hands in the Virgin’s lap. Mary said: “God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world.”A pain crossed the Virgin’s face.”Come to the foot of the altar. Graces will be shed on all, great and little, especially upon those who ask for them. You will have the protection of God and Saint Vincent. I always will have my eyes upon you. There will be much persecution. The cross will be treated with contempt. It will be hurled to the ground and blood will flow.” Then after speaking for some time, the Lady like a fading shadow was gone.Led by the child, Catherine left the chapel, marched up the corridor, and returned to her place in the dormitory. The angel disappeared and as Catherine went to bed, she heard the clock strike two in the morning.
SECOND APPARITION MARY REAPPEARS
Catherine lived the normal life of a novice of the Daughters of Charity until Advent. On Saturday, November 27, 1830, at 5:30 p.m., she retired to the Chapel with the other Sisters for evening meditation. Catherine heard the faint swish of silk… she recognized our Lady’s signal. Raising her eyes to the main altar, she saw her beautiful Lady standing on a large globe.The Virgin Spoke, this time giving a direct order: “Have a Medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence.”Third Apparition.Catherine asked how she was to have the medal struck. Mary replied that she was to go to her confessor, a Father Jean Marie Aladel saying of this saintly priest: “He is my servant.” Father Aladel at first did not believe Catherine; however, after two years, he finally went to the archbishop who ordered two thousand medals struck on June 20, 1832. When Catherine received her share of these first medals from the hands of the priest she said: “Now it must be propagated.”The spread of a devotion to the medal urged by Saint Catherine was carried out so swiftly that it was miraculous itself.
THE SILENT LIFE OF SAINT CATHERINE LABOURÉ
We might expect that praise and prominence would be the lot of one so favored by heaven. But she sought none of it; rather, she fled from it. She wanted to be left alone to carry out her humble duties as a Daughter of Charity. For over forty years, she spent her every effort in caring for the aged and infirm, not revealing to those about her that she had been the recipient of our Lady’s medal. The Sisters with whom she lived held her in the highest esteem, and each one longed to be her companion.In 1876, Catherine felt a spiritual conviction that she would die before the end of the year. Mary Immaculate gave Catherine leave to speak, to break the silence of forty-six years. To her Sister Superior, Catherine revealed the fact that she was the sister to whom the Blessed Mother appeared. On the last day of December 1876, Saint Catherine passed on—once again to the Body of St. Catherine Laboure in Parishands of Mary—this time, however, in heaven. Today her beautiful remains still lie fresh and serene. When her body was exhumed in 1933, it was found as fresh as the day it was buried. Though she had lived seventy years and was in the grave for fifty-seven years, her eyes remained very blue and beautiful; and in death her arms and legs were as supple as if she were asleep. Her incorrupt body is encased in glass beneath the side altar at 140 Rue du Bac, Paris, beneath one of the spots where our Lady appeared to her.In the Chapel of the Apparition you can gaze upon the face and the lips that for forty-six years kept a secret which has since shaken the world.
SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON
Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, SC, (August 28, 1774 – January 4, 1821) was the first person born in what would become the United States to be canonized by the Catholic Church (September 14, 1975). She established the first Catholic girls’ school in the nation in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she also founded the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of CharitySister.
Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born on August 28, 1774, the second child of a socially prominent couple, a surgeon, Dr. Richard Bayley and Catherine Charlton of New York City. The Bayley and Charlton families were among the earliest European settlers in the New York area. Her father’s parents were French Huguenots and lived in New Rochelle, New York. As Chief Health Officer for the Port of New York, Dr. Bayley attended to immigrants disembarking from ships onto Staten Island, and cared for New Yorkers when yellow fever swept through the city (for example, killing 700 in four months). Dr. Bayley later served as the first professor of anatomy at Columbia College. Elizabeth’s mother was the daughter of a Church of England priest who was rector of St. Andrew’s Church on Staten Island for 30 years. Elizabeth was raised in what would eventually become (in the years after the American Revolution) the Episcopal Church.
Her mother, Catherine, died in 1777 when Elizabeth was three years old, possibly due to complications from the birth of her namesake Catherine, who died early the following year. Elizabeth’s father then married Charlotte Amelia Barclay, a member of the Jacobus James Roosevelt family, to provide a mother for his two surviving daughters. The new Mrs. Bayley participated in her church’s social ministry, and often took young Elizabeth with her on charitable rounds, as she visited the poor in their homes to distribute food and needed items.The couple had five children, but the marriage ended in separation. During the breakup, their stepmother rejected Elizabeth and her older sister. Their father then traveled to London for further medical studies, so the sisters lived temporarily in New Rochelle with their paternal uncle, William Bayley, and his wife, Sarah Pell Bayley. Elizabeth endured a time of darkness, grieving the absence of a second mother, as she later reflected in her journals. In these journals, Elizabeth showed her love for nature, poetry, and music, especially the piano. Other entries expressed her religious aspirations, and favorite passages from her reading showing her introspection and natural bent toward contemplation. Elizabeth was fluent in French, a fine musician, and an accomplished horsewoman.
Marriage and motherhood
On January 25, 1794, at age 19, Elizabeth married William Magee Seton, aged 25, a wealthy businessman in the import trade. Samuel Provoost, the first Episcopal bishop of New York, presided at their wedding. Her husband’s father, William Seton (1746–1798), belonged to an impoverished noble Scottish family, and had emigrated to New York in 1758, and became superintendent and part owner of the iron-works of Ringwood, New Jersey. A loyalist, the senior William Seton was the last royal public notary for the city and province of New York. He brought his sons William (Elizabeth’s husband) and James into the import-export mercantile firm, the William Seton Company, which became Seton, Maitland and Company in 1793. The younger William had visited important counting houses in Europe in 1788, was a friend of Filippo Filicchi (a renowned merchant in Leghorn, Italy, with whom his firm traded), and brought the first Stradivarius violin to America.
Shortly after they married, Elizabeth and William moved into a fashionable residence on Wall Street. Socially prominent in New York society, the Setons belonged to Trinity Episcopal Church, near Broadway and Wall Streets. A devout communicant, Elizabeth took the Rev. John Henry Hobart (later bishop) as her spiritual director. Along with her sister-in-law Rebecca Mary Seton (1780–1804) (her soul-friend and dearest confidante), Elizabeth continued her former stepmother’s social ministry—nursing the sick and dying among family, friends, and needy neighbors. Influenced by her father she became a charter member of The Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children (1797) and also served as the organization’s treasurer.When the elder William Seton died, the Seton family fortunes waned during the volatile economic climate preceding the War of 1812. The couple took in William’s six younger siblings, ages seven to seventeen, in addition to their own five children: Anna Maria (Annina) (1795–1812), William II (1796–1868), Richard Seton (1798–1823), Catherine (1800–1891) (who was to become the first American to join the Sisters of Mercy) and Rebecca Mary (1802–1816). This necessitated a move to the larger Seton family residence.
Widowhood and conversion to Catholicism
The Seton home in New York City was located at the site on which a church now stands in her honor, with the adjacent James Watson House serving as the rectory.A dispute between the United States of America and the French Republic from 1798 to 1800 led to a series of attacks on American shipping. The United Kingdom’s blockade of France and the loss of several of his ships at sea led William Seton into bankruptcy, and the Setons lost their home at 61 Stone Street in lower Manhattan. The following summer she and the children stayed with her father, who was still the health officer for the Port of New York on Staten Island. From 1801 to 1803 they lived in a house at 8 State Street, on the site of the present Church of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary (built in 1964). Through most of their married life, William Seton suffered from tuberculosis. The stress worsened his illness; his doctors sent him to Italy for the warmer climate, with Elizabeth and their eldest daughter as his companions. Upon landing at the port of Leghorn, they were held in quarantine for a month, for authorities feared they might have brought yellow fever from New York. William died on December 27, 1803, and was buried in Italy’s Old English Cemetery. Elizabeth and Anna Maria were received by the families of her late husband’s Italian business partners, Filippo and Antonio Filicchi, who introduced her to Catholicism.
St. Peter's, Barclay Street, 1785
Returning to New York, the widow Seton was received into the Catholic Church on March 14, 1805, by the Reverend Matthew O’Brien, pastor of St. Peter’s Church,then the city’s only Catholic church. (Anti-Catholic laws had been lifted just a few years before.) A year later, she received the sacrament of Confirmation from the Bishop of Baltimore, the Right Reverend John Carroll, the only Catholic bishop in the nation.In order to support herself and her children, Seton had started an academy for young ladies, as was common for widows of social standing in that period. After news of her conversion to Catholicism spread, however, most parents withdrew their daughters from her tutelage. In 1807, students attending a local Protestant Academy were boarded at her house on Stuyvesant Lane in the Bowery, near St. Mark’s Church.Seton was about to move to Canada when she met a visiting priest, the Abbé Louis William Valentine Dubourg, SS, who was a member of the French émigré community of Sulpician Fathers and then president of St. Mary’s College, Baltimore. The Sulpicians had taken refuge in the United States from the religious persecution of the Reign of Terror in France and were in the process of establishing the first Catholic seminary for the United States, in keeping with the goals of their society. For several years, Dubourg had envisioned a religious school to meet the educational needs of the new nation’s small Catholic community.
After living through many difficulties in life, in 1809 Seton accepted the invitation of the Sulpicians and moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland. A year later she established the Saint Joseph’s Academy and Free School, a school dedicated to the education of Catholic girls. This was possible due to the financial support of Samuel Sutherland Cooper, a wealthy convert and seminarian at the newly established Mount Saint Mary’s University, begun by John Dubois, S.S., and the Sulpicians.On July 31, Seton established a religious community in Emmitsburg dedicated to the care of the children of the poor. This was the first congregation of religious sisters to be founded in the United States, and its school was the first free Catholic school in America. This modest beginning marked the start of the Catholic parochial school system in the United States. The congregation was initially called the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s. From that point on, she became known as “Mother Seton”. In 1811, the sisters adopted the rules of the Daughters of Charity, co-founded in France by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac.
Later life and death
The remainder of Seton’s life was spent in leading and developing the new congregation. Seton was described as a charming and cultured lady. Her connections to New York society and the accompanying social pressures to leave the new life she had created for herself did not deter her from embracing her religious vocation and charitable mission. The greatest difficulties she faced were actually internal, stemming from misunderstandings, interpersonal conflicts and the deaths of two daughters, other loved ones, and young sisters in the community.Seton died on January 4, 1821, at the age of 46. Today, her remains are entombed in the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
ST.JEANNE ANTIDE THOURET
Jeanne-Antide Thouret (27 November 1765 – 24 August 1826) was a French Roman Catholic professed religious and the founder of the Thouret sisters. Thouret’s life was one of service to children and the ill across France in schools and hospitals – some of which her order established. This active apostolate did not cease when the French Revolution forced her into exile in both Switzerland and the Kingdom of PrussiaPrussi.
Jeanne-Antide Thouret was born on 27 November 1765 as the fifth child; three brothers and one sister came before her. She was baptized on 27 November in the name of her godmother. Her father worked as a tanner and his mother died in 1781 which prompted her to take care for her siblings and aid her father. She also had to deal with an aunt who disagreed with her father letting her look after the siblings.In 1787 she joined the Vincentian Sisters in Paris on 1 November 1787 (after having entered it at Langres that July) and worked at several hospitals and joined the order despite her father’s disapproval; her father died in the late 1780s. The French Revolution saw the authorities order her in May 1794 to return to the secular life and the authorities beat her when she refused this; it took several months for her to recover. The revolution also forced her into exile in Switzerland on 15 August 1793 due to anti-religious repression and it was there that she teamed up with other exiles to tend to the ill.
Thouret was later forced to relocate to the Kingdom of Prussia in 1795 due to prejudice in Switzerland and was at Neustadt an der Waldnaab in Bavaria where her little sister died. In 1797 she left Wiesent near Regensburg and reached Einsiedeln in Switzerland before making the trip to Landeron. Thouret returned to Landeron where she met her order’s vicar general from Besançon who asked her to found a school and a hospital.
On 15 August 1797 she returned to France in Besançon where she founded a school for poor girls. On 11 April 1799 she founded a new congregation in Besançon known as the Thouret sisters with the support of Letizia Ramolino (Napoleon’s mother). From May to September 1802 she busied herself with compiling the rule of her new congregation. On 23 July 1819 her institute received papal approval in a meeting held with Pope Pius VII who gave canonical privileges to her convents. The Archbishop of Besançon did not grant diocesan approval to the order despite the pope having given his own approval. The religious and eight others then moved to Naples.Thouret died at “Regina Coeli” monasterium in Naples on the evening of 24 August 1826 from a cerebral hemorrhage. In 2008 there were 2620 religious in a total of 326 houses and the congregation now operates in places such as Malta (since 1868) and Spain (2014).
The cause of sainthood was introduced on 16 July 1900 while holding two processes in both Naples and Besançon under Pope Leo XIII – she was titled as a Servant of God – while Pope Pius XI declared her to be Venerable on 9 July 1922 upon the confirmation of her life of heroic virtue.Pius XI also beatified Thouret on 23 May 1926 and then canonized her less than a decade later on 14 January 1934.
Agostina Livia Pietrantoni (1864-1894) virgin, Congregation of the Sisters of the Charity of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret
“Once there was, and there still is, but with a new face now, a village named Pozzaglia. In the Sabina hills… and there was a blessed house, a cosy little nest filled with childrens’ voices, amongst which that of Olivia who was later called Livia and was to take the name of Agostina in the religious life.”The very short life of Sister Agostina, which inspired Paul VI, the Pope who beatified her, to relate it in extraordinarily poetical terms, began and unfolded itself: “simple, transparent, pure, loving…but ended sorrowfully and tragically… or rather symbolically.” 27th March 1864. Livia was born and baptized in the little village of Pozzaglia Sabina, at an altitude of 800 meters in the beautiful area which is bordered geographically by Rieti, Orvinio, Tivoli. She was the second of 11 children! Her parents, Francesco Pietrantoni and Caterina Costantini, were farmers and worked their small plot of land along with a few added plots which they leased. Livia’s childhood and youth were imbued with the values of an honest, hard-working and religious family, in the blessed house in which “all were careful to do good and where they often prayed”. This period was marked especially by the wisdom of Uncle Domenico who was a real patriarch.
At the age of 4 Livia received the Sacrament of Confirmation, and around 1876 she received her first Holy Communion, certainly with an extraordinary awareness, judging by the life of prayer, generosity and sacrifice which followed it. Very early on, in the large family in which everyone seemed to be a beneficiary to her time and help, she learned from her mother Caterina the thoughtfulness and maternal gestures which she showed with such gentleness towards her many younger brothers and sisters. She worked in the fields and looked after the animals… Therefore, she barely experienced childrens’ games… or school which she attended very irregularly, but from which she drew great benefit to the point of earning the title of “teacher” from her classmates.
Work and Pride
At the age of 7, along with other children, she began “to work”, transporting by the thousand, sacks of stones and sand for constructing the road from Orvinio to Poggio Moiano. At the age of 12 she left with other young “seasonal workers” who were going to Tivoli during the winter months for the olive harvest. Precociously wise, Livia took on the moral and religious responsibility for her young companions. She supported them in this tough work far from their families, and proudly and courageously stood up to the arrogant and unscrupulous “bosses.”
Vocation and detachment
Through her wisdom, her respect for others, her generosity, her beauty, Livia was a young attractive woman… and several young men in the village had their eyes on her. Their admiring looks did not escape mother Caterina’s notice and she dreamed of marrying her daughter well. Yet what did Livia think? What was the secret of her heart? Why did she not make a choice? Why did she not make up her mind? “Malle daring by the voice which spoke to her inwardly, the voice of her vocation, she surrendered; it was Christ who would be her Beloved, Christ, her Spouse.” To these in her family or in the village who attempted to dissuade her by saying she was running away from hard work, Livia replied: “I wish to choose a Congregation in which there is work both day and night.” Everyone was certain that these words were genuine. A first trip to Rome in the company of her Uncle Fra Matteo ended in bitter disillusionment; they refused to accept her. However, a few months later, the Mother General of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Jeanne-Antide Thouret, let her know that she was expecting her at the Generalate. Livia understood that this time she was saying farewell for ever. With emotion she took leave of the village people, all the loved corners of her land, her favourite prayer places, the parish and the Virgin of Rifolta; she kissed her parents goodbye, received on her knees the blessing of Uncle Domenico, “kissed the door of her house, traced the sign of the cross on it and left hurriedly…”
Formation and mission
23rd March 1886. Livia was 22 when she arrived in Rome at Via S. Maria in Cosmedin. A few months as a postulant and novice were enough to prove that the young girl had the makings of a Sister of Charity, that is of a “servant of the poor”, in the tradition of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Jeanne-Antide. Indeed, Livia brought to the Convent a particularly solid human potential inherited from her family which guaranteed its success. When she received the religious habit and was given the name of Sister Agostina, she had the premonition that it fell to her to become the saint bearing this name. For Indeed she had not heard of any Saint Agostina!Sister Agostina was sent to the Hospital of Santo Spirito where 700 years of glorious history had led it to be called “the school of Christian charity.” In the wake of the saints who had preceded her, amongst whom were Charles Borromeo, Joseph Casalanz, John Bosco, Camillus de Lellis, Sister Agostina made her personal contribution and in this place of suffering gave expression to charity to the point of heroism.
Silence, prayer and goodness
The atmosphere in the hospital was hostile to religion. The Roman question poisoned peoples’ minds. The Capuchin fathers were driven out, the Crucifix and all other religious signs were forbidden. The hospital even wanted to send the sisters away but was afraid of becoming unpopular. Instead their lives were made “impossible” and they were forbidden to speak of God.But Sister Agostina did not need her mouth in order to “cry out for God” and no gag was able to prevent her life from proclaiming the Gospel! First in the childrens’ ward and later in the tuberculosis ward, a place of despair and death, where she caught the mortal contagion of which she was miraculously healed, she showed a total dedication and an extraordinary concern for each sick person, above all for the most difficult, violent and obscene ones like “Romanelli.”
In secret, in a small hidden corner she had found for herself to reside, in the hospital, Sister Agostina commended them all to the Virgin and promised her many more vigils and greater sacrifices in order to obtain the grace of the conversion of the most stubborn ones. How many times she offered Joseph Romanelli to Our Lady! He was the worst of them all, the most vulgar and insolent, especially towards Sister Agostina, who was more and more attentive towards him and welcomed his blind mother with great kindness when she carne to visit him. He was capable of anything and everyone had had enough of him. When, after the umpteenth provocation at the expense of the women working in the laundry, the Director expelled him, from the hospital, he sought a target for his fury and poor Agostina was the victim he picked. ‘I will kill you with my own hands.” “Sister Agostina, you only Nave a month to 1ive!,” were the threats which he had sent to her several times in little notes.
Romanelli was not joking, in fact, and Sister Agostina put no limits either on her generosity for the Lord… She was prepared to pay the price of love with her own life, without fleeing or placing any blame. …When Romanelli caught her unawares and struck her before she could escape, that 13th November 1894, her lips uttered nothing but invocations to the Virgin Mary and words of forgiveness.