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missionary priests, answering in no slight degree to an irregular movement made among ourselves, in a different manner, some years ago, and called “The Home Mission Society." His congregation, still existing as he formed it, was the result of his own missions, his own experience, his own labours and preachings among a people long neglected and demoralized. In his own parish his preaching awakened two young ladies who had been before then awake to the world and the things of the world only. They were converted, and thenceforth devoted themselves, just as we see ladies among ourselves always do, to the service of others, living not to themselves but to Him Who died for them and rose again.
The Father, whose children they were in CHRIST Jesus, soon left them to themselves, or rather to Him Whose Spirit and Grace were with them. . When he returned again to that place, one of these ladies, who had not gone back in his absence, asked him, as he went up to the pulpit, to mention to the hearers the case of a poor family who were in much want.' He did so, and with the usual result, a plenary one, for the poor people were so overloaded with provisions of all kinds, that one might almost be reminded of the scene on the sea of Galilee, when the men who had toiled all night and taken nothing, were at once unable to drag their net to shore. The eloquent and pathetic preacher, whose power consisted in simplicity, saw an abundant result of his charitable appeal. He praised a zeal which did not,
however, appear to him to be very wise. “This," said he,"is great charity, but it is very regu. lated ; these poor people have too much provisions now, and soon they will again have none."
This led him to think if there was not a means to be found of systematizing Charity, so as to prevent it from being thus called forth by an ebullition of feeling that would pass away with the circumstance that produced it. He communicated this reflection to some ladies of his parish, of fortune and piety, who entered with ardour into the design he was forming; Vincent, therefore, drew up a plan for an association which they were to form, and which he wished them to try for some time before he rendered it permanent by obtaining the approbation of his ecclesiastical superiors. This is an extract from one of the statutes of this Confrerie :- “ Each associate shall in turn go to visit the sick; shall prepare their food, and serve them with their own hands; they shall repeat to them some words of our LORD, and shall try to cheer and enliven them if they appear to be too much cast down by trouble.” them a rule, and caused them to meet together each month to report the good done, or that which was to be done.
Such, says a biographer, was the beginning of that association of Charity which has been like the mother of all the orders that have since been established. It was from this again that there sprung the order of Sisters of Charity, or Filles de Charité,
(as they were all to be single women,) in the way we shall now relate in the following extracts, which it is necessary to remark, speak of a period some years after the formation of the aforesaid association of charity.
“The application with which Vincent de Paul, who was then established in Paris, at Saint Lazare, laboured for the reform of the clergy, did not cause him to forget the necessities of the country poor. He had formed the Confreries de la Charité everywhere he could; but neither himself nor his missionary priests could visit them, except very rarely. It was to be feared that the first warmth of an association so useful would slacken by degrees, if there was not some person capable of going among them from time to time, to animate their exertions, and kindle among them that spirit of mercy which should be the principle of their charitable union.
“GOD sent him a worthy instrument for such a work, in a pious and talented widow named Le Gras, who at his desire undertook for several years to travel from place to place among the various branches of this association, visiting them in each parish, calling together on her arrival in any place or village, the women who composed the association of charity in that place, instructing, animating, directing, or helping them, as they had need. This did great good, but still, owing to all the various accidents of life to which persons living in the world, with all its engagements and necessary duties, must be exposed,
it was found after a course of years that more was wanted.”
Thus speaks a Priest of Vincent's missionary congregation.
“ It was not enough that the father of the poor had established a congregation of Priests almost solely devoted to their service; Heaven willed that he should establish also one of women, whose zeal should have as it were a still more extended scope, and who, without regard to age or sex, could perform all those offices which the apostolic ministry and the modes of society did not permit those priests to do. As the formation of the great establishment of which I speak is essentially united with the history I am writing, I must make known its origin, its functions, its progress.
“About seventeen years had passed from the time when Vincent de Paul had established the Confreries de la Charité in favour of sick poor. This association had passed from the country into the towns, and a good number of ladies of high condition had joined it.
But all that which rendered their assemblies more brilliant rendered them also less useful. The first ladies had been those whose piety led them to serve
poor in their own person ; but of those who came after them many joined the association because it was the fashion ; others, truly, acted from purer motives, but then their husbands feared for them the effects of the bad air of sick rooms, and would not allow them to follow the dictates of their
heart.” (As for young ladies who had not husbands, I suppose such a thing as district visiting would not be thought of in France.) “Thus the end was that it soon became necessary for these ladies to dispense their charity by deputy, and to employ servants for that purpose who had neither affection nor ability. To remedy this disorder it was necessary to have servants expressly trained for the purpose;
and how to have them trained was a difficulty.
“Finally, Vincent, after many trials and prayers yielded to the anxious wish of Madame le Gras, and allowed her to consecrate the whole of her future life to this labour of love. It was towards the close of the year 1633, that he sent her three or four country girls, simple peasants, who appeared to him disposed to undertake the most painful offices of charity." These three or four peasant girls were the first Sisters of Charity. “ See in this, (says the same writer,) the first commencement of that virgin company
which under the name of Daughters of Charity, (Filles de la Charité, or Sours de la Charité) has had so immense, so happy a development. Small in its birth as the grain of mustard seed, it has, like it, become a great tree. Its roots, enriched less by the substance of earth than by the dew of Heaven, have spread far and wide, and we see the orphan so long abandoned, the desolate widow, the soldier covered with wounds, the modest retiring poor, the sick of all diseases, come and sit under its shadow,