St. Vincent’s Reading List XXVII: The Ladies of Charity

Reglemens de la Compagnie des Dames de la Charite de la Paroisse de S. Paul, pour le soin des Pauvres. Paris: Chez Pierre Colin, 1669.
Call Number: SpC. 267.4420944 L155r1669


Reglemens de la CompagnieVincent de Paul’s vision of service to the poor revolved around organized parish-based efforts (the Confraternities of Charity), institutional efforts (i.e., Hotel Dieu in Paris), and emergency relief efforts (i.e., relief of the war-torn provinces). The organizational boundaries between these efforts were rather experimental and porous. What characterized them all, however, was the leadership role played by lay women, especially the Ladies of Charity and the Daughters of Charity.

In each case, Vincent required a written “rule” to be initially tested and proved by concrete experiences. Vincent was careful to ensure that his methodology was not simply adopted by these organizations, but also the faith, values, and attitudes required of those who would serve Jesus Christ in the poor.

Volume 13b of the English translation of St. Vincent’s Correspondance, Conferences, Documents (originally edited by Pierre Coste, C.M.) contains numerous examples of these early rules for the Confraternities of Charity and the Ladies of Charity finishing with the rule for the Ladies of Charity of Hotel Dieu completed by Vincent shortly before his death in 1660.

The Reglemens de la Compagnie des Dames de la Charite de la Paroisse de S. Paul, or Rules of the Company of the Ladies of Charity of the Parish of St. Paul, was written in 1669 and is one of the earliest known printed rules for the Ladies of Charity. The document is a fascinating testament to the maturity and sophistication of the identity, organization and ministry of the Ladies of Charity, who served the spiritual and material needs of poor people in an urban, parish-based setting. The Church of St. Paul, located on the rue Saint-Antoine in the Marais district of Paris, was a Jesuit church. The Daughters of Charity had been sent by Louise de Marillac to minister in this parish, and the Reglemens delineates the working relationship between the Ladies and Sisters. The leadership roles of the pastor and the officers of the Ladies are also carefully delineated.

Since the Reglemens is reflective of concrete experiences, it gives a fascinating insight into the lives of the Parisian poor, whom the text describes as “lovable and precious representations of the holy humanity of Christ himself.” Thus, the Ladies of Charity are reminded to always “regarder Jesus Christ dans les Pauvres, & les Pauvres comme membres de Jesus Christ.”1


1Reglemens de la Compagnie des Dames de la Charite de la Paroisse de S. Paul, 33.


St. Vincent’s Reading List is recurring blog series exploring texts known to have been read and recommended by St. Vincent de Paul, those which can be presumed to have been read by him, and important works published during his lifetime (1581-1660). All materials discussed are held by DePaul’s Special Collections and Archives. The entire series may be viewed here.

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