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Feast of St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and Charles Fuge Lowder (September 27)   2 comments

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan, by Jan Winjants

Image in the Public Domain

But a Samaritan, as he journey, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

–Luke 10:33-34, Revised Standard Version (1946/1952)



Roman Catholic Bishop of Geneva

His feast transferred from January 24



“The Apostle of Charity”

confessor of


Cofounder of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul

Her feast transferred from March 15



Founder of the Society of the Holy Cross

His feast transferred from September 9




This is a post about how people, living or dead, can influence each other positively.  The central figure is St. Francis de Sales, who spent much of his life tending to the spiritual and physical needs of others.

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can his faith save him?  Suppose a fellow-Christian, whether man or woman, is in rags with not enough food for the day, and one of you says, “Goodbye, keep warm, and have a good meal,” but does nothing to supply his or her bodily needs, what good is that?  So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14-17, The Revised English Bible (1989), corrected to avoid the singular “their,” which offends my sense of making the distinction between singular and plural clear




Nothing makes us so prosperous in this world as giving alms.

–St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales, born to nobility at Chateau de Thorens, Savoy, on August 21, 1567, became a major figure in French literature and the Roman Catholic Church.  He, educated by Jesuits at the College of Clermont in Paris, went on to study law in Padua from 1588 to 1592 then to become a lawyer briefly before entering the priesthood on December 18, 1593.  Father Francis de Sales was active in the Counter-Reformation, restoring entire districts to Holy Mother Church, hence his nickname, the “Apostle of the Chablais.”  The saint became the Bishop Coadjutor of Geneva in 1599.  Three years later he succeeded the Bishop of Geneva.  In 1610 St. Francis and St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1572-1641) founded the Congregation of the Visitation, to provide social services to children, the poor, the sick, and the dying.  The Bishop of Geneva supported good works as a spiritual principle.  As he wrote,

There is nothing which edifies others so much as charity and kindness, by which, as by the oil in our lamp, the flame of good example is kept alive.

St. Francis, who was a charming, well-mannered, poised mystic, ascetic, and Christian humanist strong in character, left a written legacy.  His complete works in the original French filled 21 volumes (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, and XXI).  Highlights of his writing included Introduction to the Devout Life (1609; in English translation since 1613), Treatise on the Love of God, Defense of the Standard of the Holy Cross, Controversies, and The Rule of Faith.

English-language compilations of the saint’s wisdom available at include the following:

  1. Practical Piety Set Forth by St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Prince of Geneva (1851) and
  2. The Mystical Flora of St. Francis de Sales:  or, the Christian Life Under the Emblem of Plants (1877).

Toward the end of his life St. Francis provided counseling to St. Louise de Marillac (1591-1660), who was caring for her husband and raising her son while undergoing a spiritual crisis at the time.

St. Francis died at Lyon, France, on December 28, 1622.  Pope Alexander VII beatified him on January 8, 1662, and canonized him on April 19, 1665.

St. Francis is the patron of authors, confessors, the Roman Catholic press, deaf people, educators, writers, journalists, the Diocese of Annecy (in France), the Diocese of Baker (in Oregon), the Diocese of Columbus (in Ohio), the Archdiocese of Cincinnati (in Ohio), the Diocese of Houma-Theibodaux (in Louisiana), the Diocese of Oakland (in California), the Diocese of Wilmington (in Delaware), the Diocese of Keimoes-Upington (in South Africa), and the town of Champdepraz (in Italy).




We must love our neighbor as being made in the image of God and as an object of His love.

–St. Vincent de Paul


Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received. On the contrary, if you consider the poor in the light of faith, then you will observe that they are taking the place of the Son of God who chose to be poor. Although in his passion he almost lost the appearance of a man and was considered a fool by the Gentiles and a stumbling block by the Jews, he showed them that his mission was to preach to the poor: “He sent me to preach the good news to the poor.” We also ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause. Since Christ willed to be born poor, he chose for himself disciples who were poor. He made himself the servant of the poor and shared their poverty. He went so far as to say that he would consider every deed which either helps or harms the poor as done for or against himself. Since God surely loves the poor, he also love whose who love the poor. For when on person holds another dear, he also includes in his affection anyone who loves or serves the one he loves. That is why we hope that God will love us for the sake of the poor. So when we visit the poor and needy, we try to be understanding where they are concerned. We sympathize with them so fully that we can echo Paul’s words: “I have become all things to all men.” Therefore, we must try to be stirred by our neighbors’ worries and distress. It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible. Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.

–St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul was the “Apostle of Charity.”  Whereas St. Francis de Sales, his contemporary, was of noble origin, St. Vincent came from the peasant class.  He, born at Pouy (now Saint-Vincent-de-Paul), near Dax, in southwestern France, on April 24, 1581, grew up on a small farm.  St. Vincent received his initial education at Dax.  Then he studied at the University of Toulouse.  The saint, ordained a priest in 1600, earned his Bachelor of Theology degree from the same university four years later.

While traveling from Toulouse to Narbonne St. Vincent became a captive of Barbary pirates, who sold him into slavery at Tunis.  For about two years the saint was a slave.  In June 1607 he escaped to freedom, along with his third master (an Italian), whom he had converted.  That phase of St. Vincent’s life informed his subsequent actions.

By 1611 St. Vincent had arrived in Paris, where he became the Curate of Clichy and associated with members of the royal court.  For a time he served as the chaplain to Queen Margaret of Valois then as tutor to Pierre, the eldest son of Philippe Emmanuel de Gondi, the Count of Joigny and the Admiral of France and the General of the Galleys.  In 1617, during a preaching mission in Picardy, St. Vincent became aware of and alarmed at the unmet spiritual needs of many rural people.  Later that year he began a brief tenure as the Curate of Chatillon-les-Dombes.  With financial support from the Count of Joigny and his wife, Marguerite de Silly, the Countess of Joigny, the saint established the Confraternity of Charity.  The new order, consisting of women, most of them married, ministered to the poor and the sick.  In 1617 St. Vincent also founded the Ladies of Charity, a group of wealthy women who financed charitable work.  (Many of them were, however, unwilling to work directly with the poor.)  He also founded the Sons of Charity for the purpose of supplementing the work of the Confraternity of Charity.

St. Vincent, back in Paris from 1619, became the royal chaplain to the galleys.  He worked on behalf of convicts and founded a hospital for galley slaves at Marseilles.  The saint also recruited St. Louise de Marillac to supervise workers in the Confraternity of Charity.  And, in 1625, with the assistance of the Count and Countess of Joigny, St. Vincent founded the Congregation of Priests of the Mission (the Lazarites), to fulfill the spiritual side of the mission to the peasants.




Be diligent in serving the poor.  Love the poor, honor them, my children, as you would honor Christ Himself.

–St. Louise de Marillac

St. Louise de Marillac came from nobility and moved in those social circles, but not without certain familial difficulties.  She, born in Meux, France, on August 12, 1591, was a daughter of Louis de Marillac.  Her mother was not his wife.  Louis recognized his daughter yet did not make her his legal heir.  The saint grew up among aristocrats, so she enjoyed certain advantages, but her stepmother rejected her.  St. Louise received an elite education at the convent of Poissy, where an aunt was a nun.  The young saint discerned a vocation to monastic life, but her first attempt to become a nun ended in rejection.

The 23-year-old saint married Antoine Le Gras, secretary to the Queen, in 1613.  The couple had one child, Michel, who, in the polite language of 2016, had special needs.  St. Louise was active in her parish and in the Ladies of Charity.  Due to her family situation she experienced profound doubts and deep depression in the early 1620s.  There was Michel, of course.  Two uncles found themselves on the wrong side of the law during a time of civil unrest; the state imprisoned both and executed one.  Furthermore, Antoine became an invalid.  At this time St. Francis de Sales counseled her.  St. Louise had an epiphany on the Feast of Pentecost, 1623; her doubts subsided.

Antoine died in 1626.  The widow, still her son’s caregiver, found a way to organize her days to focus on spiritual development.  She wrote her “Rule of Life in the World.”  She also met St. Vincent de Paul, who became her confessor.  He convinced her to supervise the work of members of the Confraternity of Charity, financed by the Ladies of Charity.  More hands were necessary, so Sts. Vincent and Louise founded the Daughters of Charity in 1633.  Members of the order worked in orphanages, homes for the elderly, shelters for the homeless and the mentally ill, schools for poor children, and battlefield hospitals.  St. Louise functioned as the leader of the order until she died at Paris on March 15, 1660.

Pope Benedict XV beatified St. Louise on May 9, 1920.  Pope Pius XI canonized her on March 11, 1934.

St. Louise is the patron of disappointing children, people who have lost parents, people rejected by religious orders, those who are sick, the Vincentian Service Corps, widows, and social workers.




The Church teaches us that mercy belongs to God. Let us implore Him to bestow on us the spirit of mercy and compassion, so that we are filled with it and may never lose it. Only consider how much we ourselves are in need of mercy

–St. Vincent de Paul

St. Vincent de Paul performed many charitable deeds.  Aside from those I have written about already he collected alms for civilians devastated by war and purchased the freedom of Christian slaves in northern Africa, among other works of mercy.

Grace was a major theme in St. Vincent’s theology.  He understood grace well, for, by it, he had overcome his natural irascibility and became a kind and humble man.  He also cited grace when arguing against Jansenism, the Roman Catholic counterpart to Calvinism.  (The Roman Catholic Church condemned Jansenism as a heresy.)

St. Vincent died at Paris on September 27, 1660.  Pope Benedict XIII beatified him on August 13, 1729.  Pope Clement XII canonized him on June 16, 1737.

St. Vincent is the patron of the Brothers of Charity, the Sisters of Charity, the Saint Vincent de Paul Societies, the Vincentian Service Corps, charitable societies, charitable workers, volunteers, charities, hospitals, hospital workers, lepers, prisoners, horses, lost articles, Madagascar, and the Diocese of Richmond (in Virginia).




Charles Fuge Lowder derived inspiration from St. Vincent de Paul nearly two centuries after the elder saint’s death.

Lowder’s spiritual journey began in Bath, England, where he entered the world on June 22, 1820.  His mother was the former Susan Fuge.  His father was Charles Lowder, a banker.  The saint studied at Kings College School, London, before matriculating at Exeter College, Oxford (B.A., 1843; M.A., 1845).  At Oxford Lowder came under the influence of John Henry Newman (1801-1890), who was still an Anglican at the time.  Lowder became an Anglo-Catholic and set his course for ordination.  He became a deacon in The Church of England on August 29, 1843, a.k.a. Michaelmas.  The date of his ordination to the priesthood was December 22, 1844.

As a deacon Lowder contemplated becoming a missionary to New Zealand.  That was, of course, a godly goal, but it was not where the saint’s destiny lay.  No, Lowder’s destiny was to be a slum priest.  His first assignment as a priest was chaplain to the workhouse at Axbridge.  From 1845 to 1851 he served as the Curate of Tetbury, Gloucestershire.  Starting in 1851 the saint found himself where he wanted to be–in a hub of ritualism.  He became one of two Assistant Curates at St. Barnabas, Pimlico.  There he continued to work among slum dwellers.

At the time ritualism was quite controversial in Anglicanism.  The Church had two opposite wings–the Anglo-Catholics (or Tractarians), who favored smells and bells, candles, eucharistic vestments, et cetera, in the style of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelicals.  Some Evangelical Anglicans were adamant to the point of accusing Anglo-Catholics of being in league with Satan.  The controversy raged for a long time.  In some ways it has never ended, for, among Continuing Anglican denominations in 2016, for example, one can identify both Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical bodies that cannot stand each other yet agree that those of us in the Anglican Communion are heretics.

At. St. Barnabas, Pimlico, support for ritualism was not universal.  One Mr. Westerton, a candidate for church warden in 1854, opposed that style of worship.  He went so far as to hire a man to wear a sandwich board and campaign for him on sidewalks.  This was too much for Lowder, who gave eggs to choirboys, who threw them at the campaigner.  Westerton sued Lowder, who received a fine from a court and a six-weeks-long suspension from the Bishop of London.

Lowder visited France in May 1854.  There he cleared his head and studied the life of St. Vincent de Paul.  Lowder concluded that The Church of England needed an order of priests modeled after the Lazarites.  On February 28, 1855, Lowder and five other Anglo-Catholic priests founded the Society of the Holy Cross, devoted to missions and to charitable work among the poor.  The saint was so Catholic in his orientation that he, as a priest, committed himself to lead a celibate life.

Lowder left St. Barnabas, Pimlico, in August 1856, and accepted an offer to become the priest in charge of St. George’s-in-the-East to the London Docks.  The mission thrived, leading to the establishment of St. Peter’s Church at the London Docks in 1866, with Lowder as the Perpetual Curate from 1866 to 1873 and as the Vicar from 1873 until his death.  In 1857 Lowder invited Elizabeth Neale (1822-1901), sister of John Mason Neale (1818-1866), priest, hymn writer, and hymn translator, to join the mission at the London Docks.  The mission offered a wide range of social services, and the presence of Elizabeth Neale and her new order, the Community of the Holy Cross, of which she was the first Reverend Mother (1857-1896), expanded the range of social services among women.

Ritualism continue to prove to be controversial at Lowder’s new cure.  Some Evangelical Anglicans and other opponents of Anglo-Catholicism rioted outside the church, disrupted services, and threw rocks at the building.

Lowder was the first priest in The Church of England to receive the title “Father”  He was “Father Lowder” and “the Father of Wapping.”

The published works of Lowder available at are:

  1. S. Katharine’s Hospital:  Its History and Revenues, and Their Application to Missionary Purposes in the East of London:  Considered in a Letter to the Right Hon. and Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of London (1867);
  2. Ten Years in S. George’s Mission:  Being an Account Origin, Progress, and Works of Charity (1867); and
  3. Twenty-One Years in S. George’s Mission:  An Account of Its Origin, Progress and Works of Charity (1877). also offers a biography of Father Lowder from the early 1880s.




Opposing and attempting to overthrow an unjust system is a legitimate spiritual calling.  So is working within such a system to effect the maximum possible good at the moment.

The poor will always be with us.  That statement is a recognition of objective reality.  A companion to that simple statement is the divine mandate to work for economic justice and to provide relief to the poor.  Changing institutionalized inequality–artificial scarcity, which is alien to the Kingdom of God–is a daunting task.  So is helping people effectively in the here and now.

Our four saints worked within extant social institutions to help as many poor people as effectively as possible at the moment.  They also founded new religious institutions to work for the same goal.  Both strategies were important for, had they waited to change socio-economic-political structures, they would have done nothing to help the poor they assisted.  Yes, ancien regime France was economically exploitative of the majority of the population.  It deserved to fall.  Its collapse was inevitable, even though the French Revolution of 1789-1799 had pronounced excesses.  Yes, the Industrial Revolution in England gave rise to the reference to “those dark Satanic mills” in Jerusalem.  Political reform was necessary and morally proper.

One should not permit the perfect to become the enemy of the good.  This is a timeless principle that applies to the lives and labors of our four saints, whose vocation was to help the least among them.








Almighty God, we praise you for your servants

St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and Charles Fuge Lowder,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60