St. Vincent’s Reading List XXVIII: Vincent and the Visitation Order

La Maniere de donner l’habit aux Soeurs de la Visitation de Saincte Marie. Lyon: Vincent de Cursillys, 1643.
Call Number: SpC. 255.975 M278c1643

 

Vincent de Paul’s relationship with the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary began with its founders Francois de Sales and Jeanne-Francoise Fremiot Baronne de Chantal. This new order spread rapidly during the 17th century. When the first monastery was established in Paris in 1622, Vincent became its ecclesiastical superior at the request of Francois de Sales. He would also serve as the superior of the order’s other monasteries founded in Paris. Each Visitation monastery was a self-governing entity joined with the other monasteries of the order only by a shared rule, spirituality and customs.

St. Vincent dePaul and St. Franois de Sales
St. Vincent dePaul and St. Franois de Sales

In this era, enclosed monasteries of women were required by canon law to have a male ecclesiastical superior. For the almost four decades he served in this role, Vincent always faithfully fulfilled his many duties. For example, he presided over the monthly Chapter meetings and consulted with the elected Mother Superior and her councilors. He conducted annual canonical visitations, meeting with each nun personally. He gave spiritual conferences, chose the monastery’s confessors, and presided over elections. Any extern (an individual not living in the monastery) needed his permission to enter the cloister. He also presided over special anniversary celebrations, and other community celebrations such as the reception of novices and the profession of solemn vows.

Vincent de Paul was deeply imbued with the spirit, traditions, and rule of this venerable order and despite his many efforts to resign this responsibility as he grew older, and as his other activities and responsibilities increased, the sisters and successive archbishops of Paris would never consent. Vincent thus remained in this position of leadership until his death in 1660.

The present volume is a contemporary custom book for the Visitation monasteries, laying out the ceremonies to be followed when a new nun would first take the habit, and when she would profess her solemn vows. This was a ceremony that Vincent would have conducted numerous times over the course of the years.

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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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