Mizael Donizetti Poggioli, CM, writes of Blessed Rosalie Rendu, Daughter of Charity, and her struggle to restore people’s dignity.
More than anyone else, Sister Rosalie lived in accord with the teachings and the insights of Vincent de Paul, who together with Louise de Marillac, founded the Daughters of Charity.
Vincent stated that the Sister’s cell should be the city streets and their monastery should be the homes of the poor. Every day Rosalie walked along the streets of one of the most destitute areas of Paris. There, she held her rosary in one hand and carried on her arm a basket of bread; she walked quickly because she knew that someone was waiting for her.
The purpose of Rosalie’s life of self-sacrifice was to struggle against misery in order to restore people’s dignity.
Sister Rosalie ministered in the Mouffetard district of Paris, an area characterized by every form of poverty, psychological and spiritual misery, disease, unsanitary and unhealthy housing. She was known for her visits to the homes of the poor and for her tireless service on behalf of the poor.
She encouraged many lay people to engage in service of the poor. Frederic Ozanam and his companions, founders and first members of the Vincent de Paul Society, were mentored by Sister Rosalie. It was she who pointed out the families that were to be visited and she also taught those young college students to see and to serve Christ in the person of the poor.
She established various institutions to serve the poor of Mouffetard, for example, schools, a health clinic, orphanages, a home for the elderly, nurseries, a training school for young workers.
She was thoroughly convinced of Vincent’s words: if you reach out to the poor on ten different occasion during the day, then on ten different occasion you will encounter God.
Rosalie spoke to God about the many poor people that she encountered: I never pray as well as I do when I am on the streets.
Sister Rosalie was surrounded by many generous and effective collaborators and it seemed as though no one was able to resist the requests of this most persuasive woman.
She touched the hearts of those who had money and power and convinced them to share their blessings.
She encouraged and counseled her committed friends to seek social reform.
Above all else, she went out to the peripheries to encounter her lords and masters; she went out to the peripheries where people lived in misery.
As it is often said about Saint Vincent so also we could say that Sister Rosalie had the gift of humanity and that gift enabled her to accompany those persons who suffered (she understood them and loved them with her whole being … and that was her secret). In 1848, during the time of the Revolution, a soldier, whom she saved from death, asked: who are you, my sister? She responded: I am a simple Daughter of Charity. Yes, a Daughter of Charity and only a Daughter of Charity … but a Daughter of Charity to the very core of my being!
Rosalie Rendu was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Rome on November 9th, 2003.
Charles T. Plock, CM