Blessed Placide Viel

(entered heaven this day in 1877)

Dear Valerie,

Stress and anxiety, my very dear niece, have a remedy.  Well, maybe “remedy” is not the best word.  We can’t completely eliminate them in this life anymore than soldiers can be completely freed from tension as long as a war is still going on.  But we can harness them; you can find a deep, constant, flowing peace of heart even in the middle of life’s struggles and demands.  And today’s saint shows you how.

Her aunt, St Marie Madeliene Postel, founded the Sisters of the Christian Schools.  From an early age, Placide (her name before joining her aunt’s Congregation was Eulalie) felt a mysterious attraction to her aunt and the work she was undertaking.

But Placide’s family was poor – peasant farmers.  And his humble background only exacerbated her naturally shy temperament, making her an unlikely candidate for Aunt Marie’s group of nuns.  Even so, and even though she had had no schooling, her aunt let her join the Congregation when she was 18.  After a few years of formation she worked in the administration of some of their schools, and proved so diligent and virtuous that she was made assistant-general for the whole Order when only 26.  As you can imagine, such a public post painfully grated against her retiring temperament.  Add to that the indignant envy of some of the older sisters and you have a perfect recipe for stress and anxiety.

To make matters worse, she was named second superior general of the Order when her aunt died.  She was only 31.  She held the post for the next 30 years.  During that time she not only had to win over the envious nuns by heroic, persevering charity, but she had to devote much of her time to raising funds for the fledgling Congregation.  That required a steady string of appointments with the most illustrious figures of French society – for a shy peasant girl from Normandy, nothing could have been more stressful.

Besides fundraising, she ran the Order’s convents, orphanages, nursery and elementary schools.  She opened 36 new schools, and she secured papal approval for the Order.  She passed away having worked herself to death tending wounded soldiers during the Franco-Prussian war.

The circumstances of her life were as rough as a stormy sea.  She knew what stress and anxiety were all about.  But she also knew that she was fulfilling God’s will.  That simple fact enabled her to find strength and joy, way down in the ocean depths of her heart.  That’s the secret.  If you know you’re doing God’s will, if you know you’re where he wants you to be, no amount of stress or anxiety can disturb the peace of the inner chamber of your heart.  They just can’t get in; the door’s locked with one of those “do not disturb” signs on that doorknob – at least, that’s the case when you really love God.

Your loving uncle,


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