Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, commonly known as the apostle of charity, and the founder two religious Orders (the Fathers of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity).
The Daughters of Charity were long renowned for their work in orphanages, homes for the aged, and hospitals. They were the first active Order created for women and their particular style of dress reflected the clothes worn by peasant women in St. Vincent’s native Normandy. Yet their most important contribution, perhaps, is the fact that they were among the first professional nurses. Until Florence Nightingale came around with the Red Cross, nursing was strictly an occupation that was left to women religious and others who could share in their work. In this, the Daughters of Charity were truly pioneers.
The following is a description of the Daughters of Charity from Fr. Dirvin’s excellent biography, St. Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal (TAN Books and Publishers):
The Daughter of Charity is one of hte sights of Paris, the city of her birth. She is more omnipresent than the gendarme. In her billowing blue gown and white headdress she walks the boulevards, the back streets, the alleys. She descends into the depths of the metro and climbs to the heights of the garret. She is never without the huge market basket slung over one arm, and packed with the foods and medicines of her trade, nor the black cotton protect her strached white linen from the sudden rain. She moves ceaselessly, silently, seemingly unaware of the bustle and roar about her, seeking her quarry; and her quarry is always the same: the poor, the hungry poor, the sick poor, the evil poor – but always poor.
Her convent is the house of the sick, her cell the chamber of suffering, her chapel the parish church, her cloister the streets of the city or the wards of the hospital; obedience is her enclosure, the fear of God her grate, and modesty her veil. So St. Vincent had ordained in founding the Community. (p. 54)