“This not going to go anywhere!”

You may have come to that conclusion about some personal or professional relationships you have been in.

I have also talked with more than one parent who was distraught by a relationship between their child and someone quite different in background. The differences seem too great.

As we celebrate the feast of St. Vincent DePaul, let’s explore the relationship between two of the great saints of history – St. Vincent and St. Louise – truly an improbable relationship.

Vincent and Louise  – an improbable couple

We are blessed to know the outcomes of the 35-year intersection of these two lives. 

In their final chapters, they were true collaborators and equals.

Their journey together changed themselves, France, the Church, and vowed life. They also anticipated much of Vatican II.

However, in the early chapters, few, even they themselves, saw what they would accomplish together.  They were very different in backgrounds, experiences, personalities, and ways of operating, and seemed doomed only to end in disaster.  An Australian Daughter of Charity, Maggie Reynolds, cites illustrations of the following.*

Their personalities were very different

Vincent was outgoing, flexible, confident, affectionate, adventurous, practical, realistic, cautious, prudent, patient, pragmatic, observant, charming, organized, visionary, moody and wise.

Louise was introverted, anxious, scrupulous, sensitive, reserved, creative, melancholic, impulsive, tenacious, impatient, serious, reflective, pensive, organized, assertive, strong-willed, and a worrier.

Their ways of operating were very different

Vincent was an action-orientated, practical man. He was collaborative, organized, confident, and outgoing. He was also flexible, adaptable, reflective, prudent, objective, patient, steady, and a great networker.

Louise was resolute but had the gift of gentle persuasion. Like Vincent, she was collaborative and organized but also introspective and a great planner who paid incredible attention to detail. She was complex, sensitive, and impulsive.

So, it is unsurprising that they experienced some disagreements, tensions, and conflicts that challenged their relationship.

35 years of listening to the spirit and walking together

Today, most would agree that the following would be among the more exciting movements in the church today.

  • A lay-centered church focused more on the People of God and the poor than the hierarchy
  • A recovery of the ideal of a church of the poor
  • A concept of holiness that is more mission-oriented than a monastic emphasis on personal sanctification
  • A practical vision of the role of women in ministry

These movements were not on my radar when I was ordained in 1965. Much less would I have associated them with St. Vincent. Yet, I am discovering that each of these can be seen in the improbable collaboration between Vincent and Louise.

In many ways, we are still trying to catch up to them!

What does the collaboration of Vincent and Louise say to us?

They are proof that whatever our differences in background, personality, life experiences, trials, conflicts, and tensions we experience, these are not impediments to doing good and achieving goals.

Vincent and Louise grew into models of true collaborators in ministry, indeed for those in every walk of life.

Together, they seem to model the “walking together” and “listening to the Spirit” Pope Francis calls us to.

Walking together is challenging, time-consuming, and even frustrating, but it is also trusting that our time together is well spent and that our efforts will produce new life.


Are you open to being surprised by the Spirit?

*I am indebted to the research of Sr. Maggie Reynolds, D.C. of Australia. Unfortunately, I just discovered that due computer crashes, I no longer have access to the well-documented text sent to me by her Visitatrix many years ago. Today, I draw the above from my lengthy presentation still found on famvin.org “Collaboration between two exceptional people“