Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Saint of Les Miserables?

Sister Rosalie Rendu 1786-1856

February 7th we celebrate the feast of Blessed Rosalie Rendu, Daughter of Charity.  She lived and served in Paris during the time depicted in Les Miserables.  Here is just a little bio from our prayer book:

Rosalie Rendu was born in Confort, France on September 9, 1786.  She entered the Daughters of Charity on May 25, 1802, just after the Community was reestablishe in France after the French Revolution.  Her zeal for the poor drove her to establish the means to educate poor children; care for infants; to support the elderly unable to care for themselves; and to supervise young working girls.  Friend and guide to the rich as well as the poor, Sister Rosalie involved the wealthy in her service of the poor.  One of her disciples in her mission of service was Frederick Ozanam, founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  After fifty years of dedicated service to the poor in the Mouffetard district, she died on February 7, 1856.

Our international site has a nice video on her life:

Sister Rosalie basically ran a comprehensive social services program in a very poor district of Paris.  Her office was just blocks from the barricades made famous from Victor Hugo's Les Mis.  She was loved and admired by rich and poor alike.  Evidence of this is her gravesite which is by the gate in the public cemetary.

I took this photo myself a couple of years ago when I had the privilege of visiting our mother house in Paris.  Notice the fresh flowers---there are always fresh flowers.  The flowers are placed by the people in the city.

This is the base of her tomb stone.  It basically says, to the good Sister Rosalie from her friends the poor and the rich.  I didn't understand the full significance of the placement of her grave or her having her own until I was there. 
In Paris, things are a bit land-locked in their cemetaries.  So, for quite some time there has been the practice that a family has a plot, the person is buried in a wooden casket.  When the next person is buried, the previous person's remains/ashes are pushed to the side and the next person is buried.  Our Sisters have 3 plots-one for our superioresses and 2 others for the other Sisters. Here is a photo of part of one of the tombstones.  It has 2 columns of names set up for the front and back.

So, after Sister Rosalie's death the people of the city, her friends the rich and poor insisted that she have the special place near the gate.

Below is artwork showing Sister Rosalie protecting a general.  The rebel fighters from the area honor Sister Rosalie's plea to spare the life of the soldier because of her relationship with these men and the good she has done for them and those living in such terrible poverty in their district.

"I am a Daughter of Charity.  I have no flag.  I come to the assistance of those in distress wherever I meet them."  Blessed Rosalie Rendu


The spirit of our little company is to look out for the down-trodden, and in the process to unite all God's children so we can all see we have something to give but also something to receive.
Blessed Rosalie Rendu is great model! 
"Remember that the poor are more affected by the way assistance is given, than they are by the assistance itself."    Blessed Rosalie Rendu
 Today I celebrate 19 years since I made my "vows for the first time"--not to be confused with first vows made by most communities.
To find out more about our vows watch the video of Sr. Pauline, Irish Daughter of Charity:


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