The year 2020 marks 260 years since the deaths of both founders of the Daughters of Charity, Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. Louise had had bouts of serious ill health for much of her life, but the year 1660 saw her receive unction – or last rites – twice in the same year. In her final days, she met with the earliest members of the Daughters and with the lay members of the Vincentian family at the time, the Ladies of Charity. The priest who was by her bedside reported her last words; when he issued his apostolic pardon, she responded simply with “Yes.” She died mid-day on March 15, 1660.
Vincent was ill himself at this time, so ill that he could not be at Louise’s side as she lay dying. For the last months of his life, he was confined to the Paris Motherhouse of the Vincentians on Rue de Sèvres. In July, he managed to give two conferences to the Daughters of Charity on the virtues of their foundress. Unable to talk at length, Vincent instead let the assembled Daughters talk of Louise’s ability to raise her mind to God, to never complain of her ailments, of supporting sick Sisters, her willingness to perform the tasks that others would consider work for servants, her love and concern for the members of her community, and, of course, her humility in her service to the poor.
Before Vincent began to move to the matter of electing Louise’s successor, he added a final admonishment to the Daughters: “Courage! Dear Mademoiselle Le Gras will help you. She has been present for all that we’ve said.”
In Louise’s las months, when she had heard of Vincent’s illness, she sent him notecards with some of her home remedies. By August, he could no longer make it to the chapel for Mass, either as a celebrant or congregant, even on crutches. At last, after members of his community pressed and pressed him, he finally allowed himself to be carried to Mass each day.
On September 26, 1660, Vincent received his last rites and blessed the priests of the Vincentians and the Daughters of Charity for the last time. He passed away on the morning of the 27th seated in a chair by his fireplace.