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Blessed Rosalie Rendu – What About You?

Fr. Michael Carroll, in his homily closes a three-week program  focusing on the call to the vowed life, and in particular, the vowed life of a Vincentian or Daughter of Charity. He is currently the  Director of the Miraculous Medal Shrine and former Provincial of the Eastern Province.

He shares insight into the life Blessed Rosalie Rendu, Daughter of Charity, who famously said:

“You will go and visit the poor, ten times a day, and ten times a day you will find God there……you go into their poor homes and there you find God.”

He concludes with Leo XIII’s challenge to Katherine Drexel, which is the same challenge that is given to each of us. “What about you”? “What are you going to do”?

Rosalie Rendu

On Friday, February 7, the Church, the Daughters of Charity, and the Vincentians, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, celebrated the Feast of Blessed Rosalie Rendu, Daughter of Charity.

Her time was 19th century Paris. She lived through two periods of revolution in her country as well as the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

Her Paris was not the city of beauty, museums, restaurants and pristine parks and rivers. She wouldn’t know that city. Rather her Paris was marked by street battles, daily capitations, sickness and hunger – fear.

Her Faith was threatened and there was little respect for the habit she wore.

The Sister’s home was a place of refuge for people fleeing war and members of the Church running from death.

Blessed Rosalie Rendu brought God’s love to this sorrowful situation.

Sister Rosalie was a talented woman who was a leader and organizer of care for the poor of 19th Century Paris’ abundant slums, which were suffering from the rapid migration of people to the cities during political and social revolution.

Rosalie was three years old when the French Revolution broke out. She remembers that her family home was full of priests and sisters fleeing the guillotine.

During the persecution of the Church, Daughters of Charity were martyred and the Congregation was suppressed.

Finally at age 17, the novitiate was reopened and Rosalie entered the convent of the Daughters of Charity.

Her first assignment was her only assignment as a Daughter of Charity. She spent 54 years in one of the poorest slums of Paris.

Her success was found in the rule that she lived by. She would tell others, “One of the greatest ways of doing good to the poor is to show them respect and consideration.

Sister Rosalie was strengthened knowing the truth of these words of St. Vincent de Paul.

“You will go and visit the poor, ten times a day, and ten times a day you will find God there……you go into their poor homes and there you find God.”

Blessed Rosalie would say her prayers as she made her rounds. She would tell the young Sisters that she never prayed as well as she prayed on the streets on her way to the poor. She often said that there was so much to pray for after visiting the poor since their burdens were so great.

In 1830, the Revolution sparked to life again. She found herself on the barricades. The ones that we know so well from Les Misérables. There she cared for fighters on both sides of the conflict.

This Blessed Sister’s reputation for love and service extended beyond the slums. She was welcomed into the homes of the wealthy, as well as the offices of government. From these men and women, she received support for her work with the poor.

Frederic Ozanam, a college student, came to her with a group of friends and wanted to learn how they to could serve God’s neediest. She taught them how to do a home visit and they, in turn, taught others. Blessed Frederic Ozanam went on to become the Founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Sister Rosalie is remembered for working in cholera infested neighborhoods where she cared for the sick and buried the dead, picking them up off the streets herself.

At her death, 50,000 people came out to bid adieu to this great servant of Charity, this “out of the ordinary Sister.”

Her grave stone bears the following inscription.

‘To Sister Rosalie,

From her grateful friends,

The rich and the poor.”

Sister Rosalie Rendu, Daughter of Charity.

Died in 1856 at the age of 70.

164 years later, fresh flowers appear every week on her grave.

Blessed Rosalie Rendu serves as a great example for us of the bright light that Jesus calls us to be in today’s Gospel.

Today we finish our three weeks of focusing on the call to the vowed life, and in particular the vowed life of a Vincentian or Daughter of Charity.

Over these weeks we have been reminded that all of us Baptized are called to live lives of service. Service defines who we are as a Christian people.

Some of us are called to the vowed life: To a life of service like Blessed Rosalie Rendu or St. Vincent de Paul.

May God give each of the grace that we need to know the form that our service will take.

One more thought…

During the visit of the Holy Father to Philadelphia, while speaking at the Cathedral, he told the story of St. Katherine Drexel, Philadelphia’s native Saint. He recalled her visit to Pope Leo XIII when she asked him what he would do to take care of ministering to the country’s Native Americans.

His response to St. Katherine was, “What about you? What are you going to do?”

Leo XIII’s challenge to Katherine Drexel is the same challenge that is given to each of us.

“What about you?” “What are you going to do?”

(Please share this story and question with someone you think would be interested.)

 

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