Saint Vincent de Paul
Apostle of the Poor and Homeless
Our cry rings out to the whole world. Take notice! We are in the times of great Saints in the making. We are in the times of unequaled sinners. Enemies of God, we put you on notice: We’ve been there before; we’ve suffered the arrows of persecution in times past and we are still here. We are not finished. For the last 2000 years, just as it appeared the end was near, the Church was about to collapse, the world was coming to an end, God raised up Super Saints, those who said Yes to God’s call to holiness. One such great Saint in the making, one soul who reached for and received the crown of glory in Heaven, was St. Vincent de Paul.
In the history of the Church, we find The Lord very often raising the lowly to confound the proud. The Church is in need! All of Europe is being devastated by the onslaught of Calvinism and Lutheranism. The Heresy of Albigensianism that had its beginning in Albi, the south of France, had left its scars of division, even hundreds of years after it was condemned. Now, there was the threat coming from their neighbors to the north - Germany, Switzerland and the Nordic countries. People were confused; often their priests did not live what they preached and so the faithful stopped going to church. Would He lose these precious souls? God raised up another Saint and, through his living out of the Gospel, a Defender of the Faith. France, eldest daughter of the Church, would give the world and the Church a Seventeenth Century Mother Teresa.
A farmer’s son sows seeds which will grow into a beautiful spiritual bouquet in the garden of the Lord.
In southern France, close to the Spanish border, in the small village of Pouy, the family of a future Saint was expecting the birth of their third child. This day, a little bitter from the cold and dampness, would be brightened by the cry of a baby boy, as he takes his first peek at the world outside the safety of his loving mother’s womb. The Saint, we want to tell you about, our dear St. Vincent de Paul, was that baby! Born under humble circumstances, into a family of poor farmers, St. Vincent would always have a special place in his heart and his vocation for the poor, whether physically or spiritually deprived.
God placed this special child in the hands of holy parents, poor in the foolish eyes of the world, but rich in their faith. Vincent’s parents did not wait to have their baby baptized! Instead, a few short days after he was born, they brought him to their local parish to be initiated into the Church, receiving the first of the seven Sacraments, the Sacrament of Baptism. These parents of a future Saint were eager to have their newborn son begin his life not only as their son, but more importantly as a son of God; and to insure this, their focus was to have the priest quickly wipe him clean of the stain of Original Sin, that he would be ready to begin his journey on earth leading to Paradise and eternal life with a Heavenly Family.
The seed of faith, which had been planted by God would now be nurtured by this holy family. Holiness was evident in Vincent Defender of the Faith from infancy; his family said that from his earliest years, he would become elated when he was praying. As a child, he could be heard singing and praying the psalms, as he tended the cattle in the fields.
Jean de Paul, little Vincent’s father, had to work hard; the land was dry and parched when there was too little sun and did not yield a good crop; and when there was too much rain and not enough sun the crops were flooded and the results were always the same; too much work for too little return. Often the land did not yield enough to feed the livestock, no less the family. Out of necessity, the boy Vincent, along with his five brothers and sisters helped out the family, by working on the farm.
Vincent was assigned to watch over the sheep. As a young shepherd he early devised a way to tend his charges, even during the rainy season. When the land became so soaked, he could not walk without sinking up to his knees in the mud, Vincent improvised! He took some sticks of wood and made them into stilts; they raised him about three feet from the ground. His life story does not go into how many times he fell and got up again; all we do know is that he learned to balance himself and joyfully went about his appointed responsibilities. Through his new-found elevation, he not only remained dry, he was able to care for his flock, surveying the fields, guarding and counting each head, lest one should wander off and get lost. We can see God preparing Vincent for the walk he would have as pastor of a human flock.
Young Vincent and his love for the poor
What is one man’s suffering is another man’s joy; for as God, the Author of life, can turn dead seeds into sweet smelling blooms, God can turn what would appear a distasteful situation into an asset. There are times when out of necessity, if compromise is inevitable, farmers will build the barn better than the house. With the de Paul family, the barn was attached to the house, with only a split door separating the members of the barnyard family from the human family. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, the body heat of Saint Vincent de Paul the cows and other livestock furnishing much needed warmth in the winter; and when it was too inclement for man or beast in the yard, the family was able to feed their four-legged friends through the upper opening in the split door.
The de Paul family took care to not only labor earnestly to provide for the needs of the flesh, but at day’s end, to provide food for the soul. After the meal was over, all gathered around the fireplace in the kitchen (where they also slept); the father told them stories of the lives of the Saints; they all prayed together, offering praise and thanksgiving for their daily bread and supplicating the Lord to continue granting them what they need. As their parents tucked them into bed, the children would ask them for their blessing. [Do we bless our families before they go to sleep? Is our blessing the last thing our families bring with them when they leave the house?]
Although poor, Vincent’s parents were generous. Each Sunday, during the Sacrifice of the Mass when the time came for the Offertory, they placed what little money they had in the basket. In addition, no matter how hard the times, they always found money to give to those less fortunate than they. Vincent grew up with this holy example, always remembering Jesus’ words, “Whatever you do to the least of My brothers, that you do unto Me.”
From the time he was a young boy, Vincent saw Jesus in the faces of the poor. This would mold his noble heart into the life he would be called to, as advocate of the poor. One time, Vincent had saved thirty pieces of silver. He had dreamed about what he would buy for his family to make life a little easier. Then one day, Vincent encountered a poor beggar on the road; without a moment’s hesitation Vincent gave the poor soul all the silver he had. Had he seen Jesus? Was this his way of placing no one before the Lord. Whoever gives up mother and father...
At an early age, his mother instructed Vincent to turn to his Heavenly Mother, sharing all his joys and sorrows, his wounds and his triumphs, confident She would never let him down. As was the custom of other children of the area, Vincent built a little shrine to Mother Mary in a tree. There he would pour out his heart to her. He and his family would go on pilgrimage once or twice a year to a shrine to Notre Dame, in Buglose. On the way they would encounter other Frenchmen going to venerate their Mother; some petitioning and others responding with thanksgiving for prayers answered. Vincent remarked, later in life, that he could not remember Our Lady not answering his prayers. He taught that the more we love the Blessed Mother, the more we love Jesus, the happier we will be.
Vincent begins his journey to the priesthood
Vincent showed a thirst and aptitude for learning, which was further enhanced by a truly virtuous soul. When he was interviewed by the Bishop, to see if he qualified to receive First Holy Communion, he answered so brilliantly and authentically, the Bishop not only said he was ready, but encouraged the parents to send him to the city to further his education. His father responded by scraping together what little he had, to secure an education for this special son, with the Cordeliers or Franciscan Recollects.
Life at the college for Vincent was like a dream come true; he absorbed Grammar and Latin like a sponge; he excitedly looked forward to each day, like a child awaiting Christmas. What with his remarkable ability to learn and his humble and always eager desire to help, his joyful Yes to all in need, he became a friend and example to the other students at the College.
As you cannot hide a light under a bushel basket; he came to the attention of Mr. Commet, a nobleman of the village who asked him to tutor his children This overjoyed Vincent as what little he earned would enable him to cease being a financial burden on his parents. After four years he shared with Mr. Commet that he found himself drawn to the priesthood. Monsieur encouraged him to go answer the Lord’s call to serve Him as an “alter Christus.” Mr. Commet advised Vincent’s father of his son’s desire to become a priest, and he immediately sold two of his steers.
In 1596, at sixteen years of age, Vincent entered the University of Toulouse, where he studied and prepared for the priesthood. Shortly after entering, he received the tonsure. He was among the young men who that day were vested in the Franciscan habit and received into the Order of St. Francis. The Bishop cut his hair along with that of the other future priests present, and Vincent was no longer a lay man; he had taken his first step; he was now a cleric! After receiving minor orders, the Subdiaconate and then the Diaconate, on September 23, 1600, at less than twenty years old, Vincent realized his dream; he was ordained a Priest; he was no longer Vincent, but Father Vincent. He returned to the little chapel at the beginning of the woods, where he prayed as a little boy, and fervently celebrated his first Mass there.
St. Vincent’s walk was the living out of the Gospel. Like St. Francis, his focus in life was to be more like Jesus. But initially he sought Jesus, studying the Word of God and the Traditions of the Church. The more he did, the more he became the Gospel. Although he desired to continue his studies, the lack of funds and the debt he had incurred, when he was preparing for the priesthood, did not permit him to do so. But his holiness and generosity toward the poor came to the attention of a good woman who bequeathed her estate to him. Upon her death, he would receive 500 crowns of silver!
Now, the only problem was that this sum was owed to the departed by an unscrupulous debtor. He had fled to Marseille in
In this ceremony the Bishop cuts snips of hair from the front, back, two sides and the crown, as an invitation by the candidate to accept the Lord as his only portion. In some orders the top of the head leaving a crown of hair solely on the top of the head. This is a permanent sign of his commitment.
Today, a priest is not ordained until close to twenty seven years old, but in the days of Vincent de Paul the age was more like twenty four.Saint Vincent de Paul order to avoid paying the woman. Vincent knew that the only way he could hope to collect his inheritance was to seek out the debtor and appeal to him to pay. In 1605, Vincent left for Marseille to retrieve his inheritance!
In Marseille, he found the scoundrel, only to have him offer far less than the debt he owed; but having wisdom, St. Vincent accepted the paltry sum and prepared to return to Toulouse. A young gentleman staying in the same inn as Vincent, suggested he book passage on the boat he was taking to Narbonne. As this fit his budget and would save him time, Vincent joyfully accepted.
Vincent is sold into slavery
The two new-found friends boarded the ship; the voyage began smoothly; the sun was shining; the Mediterranean Sea was calm; all was well aboard the ship. But suddenly, ominously in the horizon loomed three ships carrying the colors of the Saracens. They signaled the ship, advising the French to prepare for them to board her. No sooner had they finished coming aboard, the Saracen pirates began fighting immediately. Although the French sailors, along with Vincent who joined in, fought bravely, they were greatly out-numbered and the ship was soon taken over. Vincent’s dream of returning home was now a horrible nightmare; the deck, brilliantly lit earlier by the rays of the sun, was now covered with blood and lifeless bodies. The wounded Vincent and those not killed were taken prisoners and placed in chains for the rest of the voyage.
At the end of eight days, after the pirates had satisfactorily benefited from other piracies, they arrived in Tunisia. Now, Vincent was penniless, the Saracens having stripped him and all aboard of all their possessions. When they landed, in order to not be challenged by the French authorities, the pirates falsely claimed they had taken the slaves (Vincent was one of them) from a Spanish ship. They paraded them around the port, offering them for sale. Having no takers, they brought them to the livestock auction here animals were bought and sold. The prospective buyers probed and inspected the Christians, just as they would animals. They opened their mouths, inspected their teeth; they looked them over, as they would a steer or goat. When the auctioneer asked for bids, the buyers offered less than for a beast of burden.
Finally, Vincent was bought by a fisherman. As Vincent was not a good sea traveller, he soon became sick and useless to the fisherman, and was returned to the market, to once again suffer the humiliation of being auctioned off like a side of beef. Vincent was sold to an elderly physician. Now the physician was kind and quickly learned to love Vincent, like a son. He paid him a fair wage and did not treat him as a slave. There were some problems; the good doctor was deeply interested in magic and wanted to ingrain this sorcery in Vincent; in addition, he tried to share all the knowledge he had amassed, his fifty years of research in alchemy; and if that was not bad enough, being a Moslem, he tried endlessly to convert Vincent to Islam! Vincent prayed to Our Lady, tirelessly begging to be delivered from the temptations that were assailing him; it would be so easy to give in; he was so tired of fighting. But he had his Mother Mary! Later speaking of this time, he gave full credit for his victory over the seductions that lambasted him to Mary.
The doctor was invited by the Grand Sultan to visit him in Constantinople. In spite of his age, this was an invitation, the good doctor could not refuse. The old man died enroute and Vincent was now the chattel of the doctor’s nephew who had inherited him as part of the legacy. It was August, 1606, and Vincent had lost the only kind person he had met, since being taken prisoner. The nephew was as cruel and heartless, as his uncle had been kind and generous. But God is always listening and never gives us more than we can bear. The nephew wanted no part of his uncle’s businesses and sold all he had inherited, including Vincent.
The nephew heard that the French ambassador to Turkey was arriving with an authorization to free all the French citizens who had been sold into slavery, so he quickly sold Vincent to Niçois, a former Christian who had become an apostate to escape the fate of Christian captives. To avoid being sold into slavery or sentenced to death, Niçois had renounced his religion and became a follower of Mohammed. Now, the Sultan was generous to the apostate; he rewarded him for his apostasy by presenting him with property and a grand vacation home in the mountains. But none of this made Niçois happy. He wandered aimlessly, seeking some peace in his soul.
Niçois brought Vincent to the desert where he worked under the broiling heat, radiated by the sun on the white sand. Although he was not mistreated, his food and lodging were very poor. But Vincent offered up all his suffering for the conversion of the apostate. As he worked, Vincent unceasingly sang to the Blessed Mother, invoking her aid.
Niçois had three wives, one of whom was Moslem. In her own right, she was very spiritual, praying to Allah five times a day. As she watched Vincent laboring under the hot sun, her heart was moved to pity. She silently grieved over his captivity and the conditions he lived under. She could see he was a good and holy man, and was impressed by his peace, the peace her husband did not have. She could not help marveling at Vincent’s strength, his acceptance of his state in life.
She found herself drawn to Vincent’s holy demeanor, as she listened to his chanting of the Psalms, the Salve Regina, and the Divine Office, as he went about doing his work. She asked Vincent to translate the chants, especially the Salve Regina. Vincent, with all the ardor he had stored up, began to teach her about Jesus and the Catholic Faith. The woman would look into Vincent’s tear-filled eyes, as he spoke of his Lord Who came to the earth to save all men, and she could feel all the love he had for his God. One night, she excitedly recounted to her husband, all that Vincent had told her. Then she began scolding her husband for having left his religion, saying she could not understand how he could deny such a loving God and abandon a beautiful religion which teaches love and compassion. She was to be the instrument which God would use to release her husband from the bondage of apostasy.
The following morning, the apostate sought out Vincent; he fell down on his knees, confessed all that he had done and told Vincent he wanted to return to his Faith. Vincent said the only way he would achieve peace was to return to France where Niçois could do penance for his sins. Months later the two, under the cover of night, clandestinely escaped to France, landed in Marseille and finally arrived in Avignon. It just happened to be that the vice-legate of the Pope lived in Avignon. There, in the church of St. Peter, the fallen Christian made peace with the Church. Niçois shared his desire to make penance for his grave sins. The legate, impressed by his sincerity helped him to enter the Monastery of the Brothers of Charity, where he remained serving the sick in the hospital, until his death. Vincent left for Rome.
Vincent having gained the patronage of the vice-legate, who gave him letters of introduction, remained in Rome for quite a time. The Vatican was awesome for Vincent; here was the holy land upon which the center of his Faith rested, his Church nourished by the blood of Martyrs. His eyes welled up with tears, and his voice choked with emotion, as he filed past the tombs of Popes, who had served the Church in unbroken succession, beginning with the first Pope - St. Peter.
St. Vincent returns to Paris and knows persecution.
He could have stayed and basked in the glory that was Rome, but knew he had to go on to Paris. News of Vincent de Paul’s involvement in the conversion of the apostate came to the attention of Pope Paul V10 and in 1608, Vincent was commissioned to go to Henry IV on a confidential mission. Vincent departed for Paris, poste-haste.
Because Vincent was not otherwise employed, the King asked him to be the Queen’s chaplain. The Queen told the King she sincerely repented her past conduct and wanted to change her life, and that she gladly accepted Father Vincent as her Spiritual Director and confessor. The Queen became very devoted; soon everyone looked upon her with admiration. Her selfishness replaced by selflessness, her life became filled with great acts of mercy and charity.
Queen Margot entrusted Father Vincent with the task of distributing great sums of silver to the poor and visiting the sick in the Hospital of Charity. Now, although Father preferred visiting the poor, he obeyed the Queen and ministered to the nobility. It was on such an occasion, he met King Henry IV’s son, the Dauphin and future King Louis XIII. While in the service of Queen Margot, Father Vincent returned to his interrupted studies and followed the lessons being given at the Sorbonne, with the idea of receiving a degree in Canon Law. He studied industriously, but never at the expense of his duty to the Queen and the poor. He distributed large sums to the poor, never keeping a coin for himself. He refused to live in the Palace.
Vincent chose to board, out of humility, in a modest lodging in the area of St. Germain. It was owned by a Judge of the Tribunal, Monsieur de Sore. Vincent was so happy, but his peace was to be short-lived. One day, when Vincent was sick in bed, with a fever (from an illness contracted in Africa), the Judge entered the room and, as was his custom, placed a large sum of money in the safe. But in a hurry and somewhat distracted, instead of leaving the key in a safe place, he left it on the server. Later the delivery boy from the pharmacy brought medicine to Father Vincent. Upon seeing him sound asleep, and noticing the key, he opened the safe and stole all the contents. On his return, the judge seeing the safe ajar and his money gone, accused Vincent.
Although Vincent calmly protested he was innocent, he was not able to prove it; he was not believed and was to bear the stigma of being a thief for six years. During the six long years, without friends, and anyone who believed in him, he never endeavored to defend himself. He just bore the scandal, resignedly repeating over and over again, “God knows the truth.” Finally six years after the fact, the truth always surfacing, the criminal was arrested for another crime and, wanting to clear his conscience, confessed to the crime Vincent had been accused of. St. Vincent never told anyone of his ordeal. Instead he used this as a teaching on retreats. Without using any names, he stressed the positive rather than remember and dwell on the negative, teaching that we can sustain the pain of false accusations, which pierce our hearts, by remembering always that God in His timetable will reveal the truth, if it is His Will. Thank God, even if it was after six years, that in Vincent’s case, it was God’s Will!
Vincent meets a holy priest and his life takes a new course
Not all was sad in Paris, for St. Vincent. There he met up with a holy priest, Father de Bérulle, who would later become a Cardinal. Again we see God the Omnipotent Chessman putting His chess pieces in position, lining them up to serve Him and His Church. Father De Bérulle asked St. Vincent to serve as Curé of a small parish outside Paris. Then he commissioned him to be Spiritual Director to Countess Joiguy and serve as teacher to her children.
St. Vincent was a champion of the Sacraments, preaching often on most especially the Sacrament of Penance. One day, when the countess was away on a trip, someone came to St. Vincent and asked him to hear the confession of a man who was dying. Before administering Extreme Unction (or the Sacrament of the Sick as it is now called), St. Vincent asked the man to make a general confession. When he helped the man examine his conscience, St. Vincent discovered the man had previously made imperfect confessions. Because he had not properly examined his conscience, this rendered his former confessions sacrilegious.
When Countess Joiguy returned and her subject told her that he might have died with sins on his soul, had St. Vincent not prepared him, she begged St. Vincent to preach that Sunday in their country church on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. After his homily, the people flocked in such great numbers to have their confessions heard, St. Vincent had to ask the local Jesuits for help.
The time came when Father de Bérulle told Vincent it was time to leave the countess’ home and serve the common people who were in such dire need of spiritual nourishment. Gathering five other priests, Vincent formed a little community and they began converting many back to the true Faith, calling them (including royalty) to cease living scandalous lives painful to God. Countess Joiguy was in full accord with the great work that Vincent was doing; but she made him promise he would always be available, he would never abandon the care of her soul, and he would be there to help her at the moment of her death. Always devoted to those whom God entrusted to her, the countess convinced her husband to support Vincent’s Company of missionaries who would help their peasants and teach them how to live a better life.
Violence deals a blow to France which leaves her lamenting!
May 14, 1610, was a sad day in the history of France, for on this day, King Henry IV was assassinated. The whole world was shocked and grief-stricken. Cardinal de Bérulle asked Father Vincent and another holy priest to come and study with him, how to restore France to her heritage as a holy Christian country. For fifteen years France had been suffering terribly from the devastating religious wars which had attacked and were now crippling her. Upon carefully studying the problem, the Cardinal, decided to found a Society of the Oratory in France, fashioned after that of Philip Neri in Italy.
Vincent spent a year at the Oratory, when he was asked by the Curé of the church in Clichy to take over as pastor. On May 2, 1612, Vincent became Curé of this parish outside Paris. The parish was badly neglected, with few attending Mass. Vincent recalled the original peasants with whom he had felt so at home, the simple believers who loved their church. Now the church was in great need of repair, the parishioners as well as the church building which was falling down. His first sermon was on his plans to restore the church and as the parish grows to build a larger one to accommodate the additional believers. St. Vincent began to teach catechetics; the congregation joined him singing beautiful chants during the Mass, and before you knew it the church was too small!
One day, on his way to pay a visit to a family living in a château, Vincent met the lady who would before too long, become co-founder of his Daughters of Charity, Louise de Marillac.12 Wherever he went, he was well-loved by the people; he was bringing to them, the Jesus for Whom they had been starving, without knowing it. But that too was to come to an end, when in less than a year, he was asked by Cardinal de Bérulle to move on. His parishioners accompanied him out of town, weeping at their loss; and he for his part, said he would never forget them and his time with them. He never did!
St. Vincent is again taken away from his beloved poor
Cardinal de Bérulle advised Vincent that his new mission was of paramount importance, as it concerned Monsieur de Gondi, the Commander in Chief of the Navy and Prince of the realm. When he asked the Cardinal for an outstanding tutor for his children, he had recommended Father Vincent. Now, although he had left his heart with the peasants in Clichy and his life to serve the poor and disadvantaged, he obeyed! Although he did not initially understand this latest Will of the Lord, he would in time see His plan; Father Vincent, through his relationship with the royal family would meet the wealthy and influential who would become patrons of what he would begin later.
In the beginning his time was spent mainly with the children, but soon he was speaking to the servants about Jesus their Savior.
Then it was time for the master of the château! Watching his dedication, his goodness, the influence he had on his children and others of his household, the Count’s respect for Vincent grew so much that he began to count on him for guidance.
Before going to engage in a duel, one day, the Count asked Father Vincent if he could attend his Mass. When the Mass was over, Father Vincent went down on his knees and told the Count that he knew he was going to engage in a duel. Vincent demanded, in the Name of the Lord, he desist from this act of violence; and should he not obey, the good Lord would bring down His justice upon the Count and his posterity. What Vincent was proposing was contrary to the lifestyle required of a noble, as part of the royal family and the King’s Court. Monsieur de Gondi had never heard anyone speak to him in this fashion, with such strength and courage. Right there, he pledged to God to never duel again. The Count spoke of this incident and soon the entire court was talking about the Curé. They followed the Count’s example and became benefactors of St. Vincent’s apostolate.
Soon, his wife asked Father Vincent for Spiritual Direction. Although she was well known for her piety, her spirit was disquieted. After she confessed to Father Vincent, she had peace. She asked him to guard her soul, from that time on, by giving her direction. Now, Madame de Gondi had peasants in Picardie and unhappily they were much neglected. With no priests, there was no Mass, no Sacraments, no guidance; God was no longer Someone, He became something of the past. Madame asked Father Vincent to preach to her people. He did with such force and fire, soon there were long lines waiting to go to confession.
Vincent goes to the physically and spiritually impoverished.
All in order, Father Vincent knew it was time to follow his heart and organize missions to the poor. He felt an excitement and it was with much urgency that he asked Cardinal de Bérulle for his blessing. He came just as the Cardinal received a communication begging for help in an important parish in the region of Châtillon les-Dombes. Vincent was sent! He said au revoir to his tearful charges and assured them he would pray for them, and that they needed no one but the Good Lord Who is watching over them. It was with mixed feelings he was on his way; he had grown to love this little family and would miss them; but his heart was beating wildly in anticipation of his new assignment; he was on his way to serve the poor, at last!
What this Curé found was a foretaste of what St. John Vianney walked into in Ars, in a later century. There was no one to greet him; the people had become impious, indifferent to the Church and finally to God. The parish church was in horrible disrepair; no more was it used by man to worship his Lord; instead the four-legged animals were making God’s home, their home. The Curé of Ars, said, “Take away the priest and the people will worship animals.” Father Vincent found the Catholics in the village were few; whereas the Protestants were many. The few Catholics he met were unfriendly, without compassion, weak and self-seeking. The village, like many in Europe, was fractured by the division that had come about through the influx of Calvinism into a once Catholic community. The new Curé would have his hands full!
As the rectory was occupied by the poor and homeless who had no other home to go to, Father went over to the hotel, looking for a place to stay. Jean Beynier, the owner was friendly and Protestant! Respecting his wishes, the new Curé guarded what he said. But the owner, seeing over the weeks the abundance of the Curé’s kindness to all, and his deep sincerity, was won over by him, converted to the Faith and became one of the Curé’s staunchest supporters. Father Vincent did not look upon the Protestants as enemies but as brothers.
Father did the same as he had done in Clichy; he taught them catechism with so much ardor and passion the Catholics were proud to be Catholic; the Protestants began coming to the little church, converted and the numbers grew and grew! No more baying and mooing of four-legged creatures inside the sanctuary; those whom God had created in His Image now sang. The church sounded as if it was filled with the voices of Angels mingling with those of humans. People, as in Clichy, came from far and near to attend the Mass and participate in all the activities of this church which was alive!
One Sunday morning, just as Father was about to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass, someone ran in and told him that there was a family who was very ill, with no one to care for them. With no one to cook for them, the children were starving! Father Vincent spoke so passionately of the plight of the family, that very afternoon what should he see, from these former apathetic villagers, but families going back and forth bringing help and provisions to the family in need. Father Vincent commended them, but said now they had to devise a system where they would continue to care for the family until they were able to care for themselves. And the people responded, Parishioners and Protestants, alike. The house of God was no longer divided; almost all in the village, in less than five months became Catholic.
When he instructed the people how to serve the poor, he said it is not what you give but how you give it. When you give, see Jesus before you and then serve His children how you would serve Him. At last, Vincent was doing what he was born to do! Then he received word from his good friends, the de Gondi family, that they needed him. As he had heard no word from the Bishop of Paris, before responding, the Curé asked Cardinal de Bérulle for permission. That granted, once again Vincent obeyed! Those who had been touched by him were saddened by his departure, but they were changed; he had touched their lives, given them a new way to live, and they would not forget!
St. Francis de Sales enters St. Vincent de Paul’s life.
It’s 1618, and as the Lord would have it, St. Vincent de Paul made the acquaintance of St. Francis de Sales. Now, St. Francis de Sales, had become known as the holy Bishop of Geneva. He and the faithful of Switzerland had suffered greatly when his diocese became the cradle of Calvinism.13Years before the enemy struck, first ideologically and that failing - physically - St. Francis de Sales had founded the Order of the Visitation whose charism was to visit the poor and the sick. He had shared this dream with St. Jane Frances de Chantal. But as it was not permitted, at that time, for sisters to come and go from their convents, there was nothing St. Francis could do, but forsake his project. The sad truth is, should the Church have granted the sisters leave to visit the poor and infirmed, it would not have been prudent in any case, what with the violence being visited upon those who resisted the zealot Calvinists, in Geneva.
The sisters being cloistered, could not leave the convent. What were the options? Open a boarding schools for girls! But who was to teach them? The holy bishop and St. Jane Frances de Chantal asked St. Vincent de Paul to be the Spiritual Director of the Visitation of Paris, the school where the daughters of the nobility would board and receive an education. Although eager to be with the poor, St. Vincent agreed, out of obedience to the bishop and respect of their friendship. For the most part, the students, touched by his strong witness grew more fervent, in some cases, than his strongest collaborators. The young socialites went out on missions of mercy and God’s plan began to take form. St. Francis de Sales died the 29th of December, and St. Vincent de Paul became St. Jane Frances’ Spiritual Director. But his commitments to the Visitation Sisters and their foundress, did not deter St. Vincent from serving the sick and the poor.
St. Vincent de Paul never stopped taking seriously his mission to distribute resources to the poor, and offer hope and shelter to the homeless and forgotten. When men became rare, who would work at shoveling coal into the furnaces of ships, the French navy took prisoners and, under the most inhumane conditions, subjected them to forced labor aboard the ships. Hearing of their plight, St. Vincent visited them. He went into the holds of the ships where they suffocated from the heat and lack of air; into the prisons, cold and dank, where they hopelessly awaited their fate, as slaves on board the ships, working in the holds shoveling coal into hungry furnaces.
St. Vincent de Paul not only ministered to them, the abandoned; but upon seeing the deplorable conditions, the rats and vermin in the jails, the lack of sanitation, St. Vincent fought, crying out vehemently against man’s total inhumanity toward his fellow man. He reached the ears of his powerful benefactors; who thereupon visited the jails, and conditions were improved! The prisoners, seeing the kindness and real caring of St. Vincent went to confession and began their walk back to God and His Church; St. Vincent had shown them there is a God of love and they had hope!
An old friend goes Home
In 1625, his loyal friends Count and Countess de Gondi made a will leaving the budding Society of St. Vincent de Paul a considerable inheritance: 45,000 books.14In addition to this, at their bidding, the Count’s brother, Archbishop John Francis Gondi of Paris, gave the new community a college to house their new institution, with the Count and Countess generously providing the necessary funds. The Archbishop had only one condition, he required that the new Congregation commit to providing relief to the needy out in the countryside, as well as in Paris, and spiritual assistance to convicts, all at no charge. In April, 1625, St. Vincent and his company took possession and St. Vincent was on his way.
A good friend goes Home! On the 23rd of June, 1625, two months after the founding of the Mission, the Countess de Gondi went to her Lord, at forty two years of age. She had tried to do God’s Will as she understood His Will, and now the Lord, in response to her generous heart took His daughter by the hand and led her peacefully Home. She had her wish; she died, comforted by the presence of her beloved Spiritual Director Father Vincent de Paul. True to his promise, he had attended the countess right to the last moments of her life; having done so, he was free to join his congregation.
Her husband was not with her when the Countess closed her eyes for the last time. It fell to Father Vincent to bring him the sad news. Now, the Count, like his wife, had become very spiritual; he resignedly accepted his wife’s death as God’s Will. But this premature death of his dear wife showed him how meaningless the treasures of this world were and he asked to be admitted into the newly founded Congregation of Priests of the Mission. As Father Vincent de Paul had not the authority to grant this, he suggested instead that the Count become a disciple of Cardinal de Bérulle and priest of the Oratory.
The work greater than the workers, God sends help!
Many houses opened, all over France, in Montpellier, Périqueux, Montauban, Troyes, Annecy, Marseille and too many to list here. God blessed this selfless work. Members of the Royal Court took up where the Countess de Gondi had left off; so many of the houses of our Daughters of Charity were run by these ladies. They visited the sick and the abandoned, offering solace and compassion. They went into hospitals totally lacking any semblance of hygienic practice; because help was scarce they often changed beds of patients who had not been given fresh linens, but rather were using the soiled bedding of the sick person before them. They went into the poorest of areas and entered homes unlike any they had ever seen.
The roster of volunteers of the Daughters of Charity read like a royal Who’s Who, with Marie de Gonzague, future queen of Poland; Charlotte de Montmorency, mother of Henry II, third prince of the Condé family (with roots tracing back to the Bourbon family); Madame Fouquet, mother of the Superintendent; Madame de Lamoignon, wife of the President of Parliament; Madame Séguier, wife of the Grand Chancellor. But soon, the work grew faster than the help; many of these volunteers from the Royal houses needed to spend time with their families and attend to affairs of state, befitting their station in life.
God always forms holy clusters, putting together people He has chosen to do His Will. We can see, with all the diversions placed in our Saint’s path, he needed help. Besides, God never wants any of us to think it is we who are responsible for the conversion and healing that comes about, so he chooses others to help us. And so, it was with St. Vincent de Paul. God brought Margaret Naseau into the picture. She had been working on a farm and after milking the cows would teach the illiterate of the farm, the catechism and how to read and write. Hearing of St. Vincent, she set out to join him.
Though she and her lady friends were of good intention, they lacked the necessary direction and leadership to do the work. And so a lady of the nobility, well educated and talented, Louise de Marillac comes back into St. Vincent’s life. She had known him in Clichy. She had been married a short time when her spouse died. Having heard of St. Vincent and his work with the poor and sick, she left Clichy where she was from, and set out for Paris to meet him. In 1625, she met with St. Vincent and told him her heart’s desire was to serve the poor. In 1630, she made a vow to serve the poor, the rest of her life. Serving in the new society of the “Servants of the Poor” was all she could think about.
God’s Will be done, eight years later, in 1633 Margaret Naseau and her ladies came together in Louise de Marillac’s home and the congregation of the Sisters of Charity, also called the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul was founded.15
In 1642, the little company was actively attending the sick, when their beloved Margaret Naseau went to her reward, having contracted the dreaded plague from the sick she so loved. So, she died as she lived, her loins girded, serving the least of God’s children, ready to help one more soul, no matter the cost.
This is the congregation that Catherine Labouré belonged to when Our Lady appeared to her as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and asked her to have a medal struck which became the Miraculous Medal.
The Daughters of Charity continued to multiply. Their beginnings humble, they were now traveling to the whole world, propagating the Faith through acts of mercy, as well as by lessons on the catechism. Wherever you found the sick and suffering, you were sure to find St. Vincent’s Daughters, with one mind and heart; caring for the infirmed in hospitals, visiting and serving the poor, mothering orphans, educating young girls, directing soup-kitchens, running dispensaries and homes for the old and infirmed, the mentally ill. Acting as missionaries in distant countries, they have over 40,000 Daughters spread over the face of the earth, today.
The joy and the agony of growing pains
St. Vincent de Paul drew up a Rule which was approved by Pope Urban VIII in 1632, with King Louis XIII giving his added support. The Lord had blessed the Mission so powerfully and quickly that soon the buildings could not hold all the young men seeking to serve the Lord in His royal Priesthood. God’s instrument needed help! In 1633, the Lord sent the Prior of the regular canons of St. Victor who, upon hearing of St. Vincent’s plight, offered the Priory of St. Lazarus to the new community. Owing to the spaciousness of the Priory, it became the mother house of the Congregation. It had originally housed lepers, but as there was no further need, it would be utilized to house future priests, those who, spreading the Word of God, would bring healing to the leprosy of the soul! This is how the first Fathers of the Mission got the name: Lazarites or Lazarians.
So great was his work, Pope Alexander VII wrote a brief declaring that all receiving Holy Orders, must first make a ten day retreat under the spiritual direction of the Fathers of St. Vincent’s Congregation. In his lifetime, this priest from the most humble of backgrounds, without earthly riches, without high position in society was to touch not only the world of the Seventeenth Century but to continue long after he went to the Father.
It is time to train those who bring the Lord in the Word
and in the Holy Eucharist to the faithful.
St. Vincent de Paul could no longer supervise the development of the Daughters of Charity, as his obligation was to the world, not only supplying to the hungry, the bread which feeds the body, but the Bread Who is the Life of the world, Jesus in His Eucharistic Presence. To bring Jesus to the world, that they might know Him and love Him, Father Vincent would need priests! He set about preparing seminarians for the priesthood.
Now they did not have plentiful seminaries like we have, today. Father Vincent used the house of Saint-Lazar for fifteen day retreats, which would prepare young men for the Priesthood, after they had completed their studies of Theology in the Sorbonne. He gave these retreats five times a year. It grew till he was having retreats in all the dioceses of France, then on to other countries and finally Rome.
The seminarians had all of fifteen days to prepare for their ordination to the priesthood, that which makes them priests forever. So, St. Vincent had all his Priests of the Mission speak to their bishops about the problem, and that was the beginning of seminaries and the many years the future priests would study in preparation of so important an apostolate.
The work of St. Vincent comes to the attention of the King
King Louis XIII heard of St. Vincent and his work. He asked if the Daughters of Charity could be nurses in his armies, and the Priests of the Mission - military chaplains. St. Vincent de Paul and the King became close friends, and the King began to consult St. Vincent. Because of his intervention, the King reconciled with the community.
February 11, 1638 the King consecrated France to the Blessed Mother and decreed that in memory of that event each year, on August 15th, a procession be made in her honor. The Holy Virgin granted the King his petition; a few weeks after the consecration, the enemy forces that had attacked France retreated! And if that was not enough, as he had prayed for an heir to succeed him to the throne, a son was born, who would be the future King Louis XIV.
In 1643, the King became seriously ill and called for St. Vincent. He prepared his friend, the King, for death. After Father finished chanting the Te Deum, King Louis XIII commended his soul to God and the King was dead.
The King was dead; now, as the heir apparent, the little Prince was not quite five years old, his mother the Queen became the Regent of France. She chose St. Vincent to be her Spiritual Director. This was a great honor, and St. Vincent accepted humbly. Under his influence, she changed her frivolous lifestyle and became interested in the plight of her country and the critical crisis attacking her subjects. She sold her jewelry and gave the money to the poor.
The Queen named St. Vincent - Secretary to the Council of Conscience (The Congregation of Faith), which in essence is the Grand Council which determines the outcome of all religious matters, settles all questions concerning the Faith and generally resolves everything pertaining to the Church. Since Cardinal Mazarin was the President of the Council, St. Vincent immediately set out, on horseback, for Mazarin’s château in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Now, the Cardinal was one of the most powerful men in France; he knew most of the clergy of France; he was named head of all the dioceses of important Bishops who contributed generously and were great influences on civil as well as church matters. Unfortunately Cardinal Mazarin, not satisfied or secure in his position and power, even as Prime Minister of the Realm, was jealous of the influence St. Vincent had over the Queen.
Every time St. Vincent tried to speak, the Cardinal interrupted him. When he was allowed to speak, the Cardinal mocked him - in front of all the members of the Court! Then the final blow, Mazarin finally ended by ridiculing the poverty of his cassock. St. Vincent responded: “I am poor, it is true, because all that I have goes to the poor, but I am proper and my cassock is not class, but neither is it torn, nor is it spotted.”
A short while later, Mazarin discharged St. Vincent from the Court and demanded that the Queen cease receiving him. The Queen was torn, for, on one hand, she had confidence in her Prime Minister Mazarin; but on the other hand, she looked upon St. Vincent as a Saint and selfless benefactor to his country. Although she saw in St. Vincent only holiness, and in Mazarin only shrewdness, she made the hard decision to deny St. Vincent de Paul entry to the palace.
St. Vincent de Paul, the Don Bosco of the 17th Century
There is only one God, and St. Vincent made no one on earth God; so although he loved his Queen, he could go on, as his Savior before him, alone, without man’s approval or recognition, to do the Father’s Will.
St. Vincent, our Apostle of Charity, never lost sight of the poor and never stopped trying to help them rise from their utter desolation. In France, the situation was so dire, mothers were abandoning their babies, leaving them on the steps of churches and convents, and worse on street corners. Then there were those who, out of desperation, sold their babies into slavery, to professional beggars, who would later use the innocent children to soften the hearts of passers-by, so that they would give them money.
This deplorable condition came to St. Vincent’s attention; he vowed to gather up all the forsaken babies, get back those who were being used as slaves, and provide a home for them. He approached the Daughters of Charity. At first, they were hesitant; this would be a monumental undertaking! But then the Apostle of Love was love itself, and they could not resist St. Vincent or his impassioned cries in the Name of the Baby Jesus, Who was refused a place in the inn.
They gathered all the lost children and gave them food and lodging; they taught them how to read and write, as well as a trade they could work at the rest of their lives. With this ammunition and newly gained confidence they would never be sold into slavery, again. But all this cost great sums of money! The wealthy Daughters of Charity, stripped of their farms and much of their wealth by the many religious wars France had suffered, were about to give up. St. Vincent called an assembly of all the Dames of Charity. He told them that the lives of these children were in their hands; he reminded them that they had had mothers to save them, if need be. Who would save these children; were they, by their exodus condemning them to die? The women burst into tears; they did not have silver but they could sell their jewelry and fine clothes. The Queen donated a château. The Foundling home was solidly established and that worry was behind St. Vincent.
Violence and anarchy bring death to the streets
The greatest festering sore on humanity was the violence which plagued mankind, with no one safe to walk the streets of Paris. Not only thousands of the poor, and unfortunate, but malcontents, professional beggars and vagrants who did not want to work, entrenched themselves on the steps of the churches and in the town square, demanding alms. Occasionally some beggars became thieves and even killers, accosting passers-by in the evening. They became a danger to the citizenry, and the ministers not knowing how to provide for them, had no recourse but to incarcerate them.
Now, St. Vincent had had a similar problem in Mâcon, with the beggars becoming a veritable curse. When they were rounded up and thrown in jail, he was able to secure the release of those who were truly poor and not bandits, and find work for them. But in Paris his course would not be as simple, with her more than 40,000 beggars. St. Vincent began by founding a home!
The Queen donated the grand Hospital of Salpêtrière. The Daughters of Charity organized a work-house. Now, the idea was that the beggars would move into the house and remain voluntarily, without any restraints; but the minister of justice, because of the great number of vagabonds, insisted the whole lot be interred in prison, the truly poor along with the indigents. St. Vincent was very upset about this treatment of the helpless, but he knew all he could do was try to ease the pain and bring some solace to the prisoners by having the Daughters of Charity visit and look after their needs. After he got them released from prison, not all took him up on his generous offer; they had become too dependent on begging and went on with their profession of the street. But when they were in need, they knew they could find a warm welcome in the the houses founded by St. Vincent.
More misery and fire ignite the countryside of France
It seems, when one problem is solved another crops up. Poor Belle France,18during the Thirty Years War,19 was laid waste by the pillaging and plundering of her fields and countryside! Soldiers ravaged her once beautiful provinces. No one group - neither French nor foreigners invading France - could take all the blame for what happened. Soldiers, not having received pay for months, were starving and helped themselves to anything in their path. When the peasants tried to stop them from stealing what little they had, they killed the men, raped the women and took the children, leaving behind only the smoke of burning homes, as evidence of their cruelty.
Now there were those who survived. If what they had gone through was not enough, a great famine covered the land. People were desperate; there was nothing to eat. Some searched the fields and the forests for what Mother Nature would yield; they tried to subsist on herbs; they peeled bark from the trees. Hearing of these new victims, St. Vincent organized, poste-haste, a traveling soup- kitchen; with this he provided enough nourishment for the peasants to survive, until they could take care of themselves.
There was the caring for the ill and wounded! St. Vincent set up camps with make-shift hospitals in tents, out in the fields. When they ran out of cloth for bandages, they used the fine silks and brocades, donated by the Crown, which had been gowns for special state occasions and fabric used for the grand royal funerals of Richilieu and Louis XIII! The haves gladly gave all they had to the havenots; although some who write would like to say otherwise. But as we have said before, history is history; this is what the Saints have reported and that’s good enough for us.
The Lazarites came, along with doctors and surgeons, armed with medicines for the sick and victims of the epidemic that was spreading across France. They cleared away the bodies of the dead, giving them all proper Christian burials. Those who transported the provisions, had to travel past enemy encampments, risking their lives with each mile, to bring succor to suffering brothers and sisters; but the Priests of the Mission went all the way, from beginning to end, with courage their shield and love their sword. The entire country wrote to St. Vincent thanking him for all he did. They dubbed St. Vincent “Father of the Country.” St. Vincent truly epitomized the foundation he begun, “Secours National.”21 He saved from death or desperation, hundreds of thousands of homeless poor who came to him for help.
Most of the provinces of the North and the East of France benefited from the genius of the charitable St. Vincent. But from 1648 on, there was over the entire region of Paris, dire and desperate consequences resulting from the Civil War, called “la Fronde” or the Catapult. And catapult it did, to more and more wars and divisions. This war was primarily between the princes and the parliament, jealous of Mazarin’s power. But always, although the battle is among the few, with the few benefiting, it is the people at large, the poor people who suffer.
Although Cardinal Mazarin, now a refugee in Saint-Germaine-en-Laye, had released him from the Court, hearing of the famine in Paris, St. Vincent did not hesitate to render service to the Court, disregarding the apparent danger confronting him enroute. He had to pass the lines of Clichy and thanks to these old parishioners who remembered him, they came to his aid and sent him off with provisions.
Peace at last, but not for all!
Saints and Saint makers. Show me a Saint and I will show you instruments in his or her life who formed their Sainthood whether through love or hatred, jealously or generosity, avarice or selflessness. All these Our Saint Vincent de Paul knew and had in his life.
Going before the Queen, St. Vincent reported the bread had arrived at the capital. A little later, thanks partly to his intervention, a treaty was signed with her adversary Ruell. Peace at last! But the peace was to be short-lived. Once again, Mazarin would make trouble through his deviousness; he convinced the Queen that Condé22 wanted to dethrone the young Prince, and arrest the young heir to the throne and his friends.
She ordered the army to prepare for war! Full of fear, his dirty work complete, Mazarin fled for his life! The Queen manning one of the cannons, gave the command for the gates to be opened! She would greet the unsuspecting Condé when he returned to Paris. He entered the gates, with his men, and because he was innocent, he never expected the reception of cannon balls aimed at him and his troops.
Violence begets violence; the war was on and the people went mad! Incensed by the famine, the wars, the unending loss of lives, the poverty they were enduring, a mob attacked the Hotel de Ville,23 setting it on fire and a senseless massacre ensued with the crowd haphazardly killing everyone in sight.
St. Vincent transformed the Saint-Lazare into a shelter for refugees from the entire countryside. He made provisions for those who were homeless, as a result of the flames sweeping through Paris. But not many came, because not many survived the lunacy that turned the people against themselves.
With courage and fire, but above all with the immense love he had for the poor people, innocent victims of the disputes of the mighty, St. Vincent wrote firmly to the Queen, sharing his thoughts of her and Mazarin. With the throne’s interest, primary, the Queen took St. Vincent’s advice and the Prince returned alone to Paris. He was greeted by cheers and great acclamation, “Long live King Louis XV!” Only he was able to end the war and maintain the peace! One of his first acts was to dismiss Mazarin!
St. Vincent de Paul, Founder and Defender of the Faith
Founder! St. Vincent de Paul founded twenty five houses that stretched to the far corners of Europe from France to Piedmont, Italy, Poland and beyond. Never satisfied, St. Vincent founded other confraternities and called them Charity; they were dedicated to attending the needs of the sick; then another branch of Charity, called Dames of the Cross was dedicated to the schooling of young girls; and another was created to care for orphan children, most of whom had been abandoned by their parents.
A Priest, forever! Though these corporal acts of mercy were paramount in his mind and heart, he relentlessly pursued his vocation of bringing the Sacrament of Penance to everyone. This Saint cared for the poor and rich equally, the famous and the infamous, Kings and Queens as well as paupers without homes, none more important than that he or she was a child of God. Amidst all the blows, slanders, and controversy which colored his life, this true son of Jesus kept his eyes on the cross; often, especially at the strike of each hour, making the Sign of the Cross on his chest (secretly with his thumb). No matter what happened in his life, good or bad, he always attributed it to the Will of God. Although he longed to be united with His Lord in Heaven, he was sensitive to the suffering of those on earth, and peacefully served them.
Defender of the Faith! St. Vincent never shrunk from telling the truth as he knew it. Now, there was a controversy splitting the Church concerning “Divine Grace.” Michael Baius was a professor and doctor of Divinity at Louvain, the world renowned university which has been attended by many famous priests like Archbishop Sheen. Baius proposed a theory concerning the Grace bestowed upon man before and after the fall, and other speculations which, among seventy six other hypothesis, were condemned by Pope Pius V in 1567. Baius accepted the Pope’s decision and disavowed all that he had written, including his theory on Grace.
Cornelius Jansenius and John Verger, students at Louvain, years later, came up with theories on Divine Grace, based on the errors of Baius that had been condemned. They were so committed to their new theory, Jansenius was convinced to write a book containing his theories on Divine Grace. Later, Jansenius became a Bishop and never published the book. Before his death, he said that he waited upon the judgment of Mother Church regarding his writings.
But sadly, after Jansenius died his friend Verger had the book published with some embellishments of his own. He became the foremost and most articulate proponent of Jansenism. He was so eloquent that initially even St. Vincent was taken in by him. But when he heard Verger express some of his errors and teach that the Church had failed five or six hundred years before, St. Vincent renounced him and his false brand of Theology. Feeling the weight of responsibility that we all have, to speak the truth and defend the Church against her defectors, St. Vincent used every means at his disposal to expose these errors.
The Sacraments! St. Vincent loved the Sacraments and stressed the importance of all seven Sacraments on the Mystical Body of Christ. He emphasized especially, the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. When he taught on confession, he repeated over and over again the importance of making a sincere and perfect confession, being truly sorry for our sins; the danger being those who pretend true remorse are more accountable for this sin than all the sins they may have eliminated from their confession; for this sin is not only against the Sacrament of Penance, but against the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ Whom they are receiving unworthily.
St. Vincent de Paul prepares to go Home
At the end, good and worthy father, his thoughts were of those he was leaving behind. It was 1658! Knowing they would need direction after he went to the Father, St. Vincent left each of his sons a small book of rules he had written for them, and pleaded with them to earnestly live by them. His congregation was again affirmed and confirmed by two more popes: Alexander VII and Clement X. Like the other great Saints before him, he gave to the last ounce of his blood. Eighty years old, his body racked with fever, drenched with sweat, awake most of the night, sleep impossible due to his uncontrollable shaking, he awakened, as always, at four in the morning. He did as he had done his sixty years of priesthood; he spent his first three hours praying; then celebrated Mass; then after Mass prayed for those in the last throes of agony that they might have a peaceful death.
Precious Saint, servant of God, Father Vincent received the last Sacraments, gave his last words of direction to his missionaries gathered around him; then his head gently fell back and he peacefully went to the Lord and His Mother Who I am sure were there waiting to take him home. Well done, little son. Welcome Home! On the 27th of September, 1660, after having labored on earth eighty years, he was gone. His congregation buried him in the church of St. Lazarus in Paris, with much ceremony. They all came, those he had touched who had not preceded him Home! They were an amazing bouquet of the Church, all sizes, all colors, nobles and peasants, brothers and sisters, all, filing by his tomb, bidding their friend goodby, for awhile.
Miracles started immediately!
The cause for his Beatification was opened. In 1712, investigating his remains, they found his body beautifully intact, incorrupt. A heavenly aroma rose from the open casket. His clothes were as fresh and unsoiled as the day he had been buried, fifty two years before. The coffin was solemnly closed, and although the people had already proclaimed him a Saint, now all waited for the findings of the Church. Upon carefully, scrupulously going into his life, his writings, investigating miracles attributed to him, Vincent de Paul was declared Blessed in 1729; and in 1742, Pope Clement XII declared him a Saint.
Au revoir, sweet apostle of Charity; we hate to say au revoir
In this dark world where the enemy of God is trying to block out the Light Who is Jesus, where the devil, in his furtive fight to gain men’s souls for Gehenna, has deluded everyone into thinking there is no such thing as sin; in this world where people have become amoral, not knowing right from wrong, a voice still cries out, like St. John the Baptist “Repent and be saved!”
Like his Savior Who died and had pity for all, even those crucifying Him, like His Savior Who was born to save mankind, like He Who healed the lame and gave sight to the blind, St. Vincent never sacrificed his Father in Heaven and his vocation on earth, that of a priest of the altar as he served the physical needs of the faithful. He never compromised his love for the Church out of love for the poor and the rich; to him they were all one and the same, loving his God through his neighbor. He was available; no hours too many, no sacrifice too great. Like Jesus, born of the lowest of estates, he came to serve not to be served. Like Jesus he too walked the Way of the Cross, persecuted, abandoned, and humiliated.
There is so much to learn about this Super Saint. To most he is remembered solely for his acts of mercy and charity. But like that other Saint of mercy, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, he was devoted to the Eucharist and the Church, and like her it was the Eucharist Which sustained him in his work and love for the poor. The picture I think we will have forever when we think of this Super Saint is, more than anything else, he was a priest, a true alter Christus, another Christ.
Browse our Saint Vincent de Paul Collection
More on this heresy and other heresies the Church fought and won, throughout her 2000 year history, read Bob and Penny Lord’s book: Scandal of the Cross and It Triumph, Heresies throughout the history of the Church.
another Christ in Latin
the science of changing metal into gold
via his vice-legate from Avignon
St. Vincent’s Congregation has celebrated January the 15th as a solemn Feast Day from that day till today, in commemoration of this momentous occurrence in their community’s history.Saint Vincent de Paul 18
12 Her tomb is in the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal in Paris.
13read more on Calvin and Calvinism in Bob and Penny Lord’s book: Tragedy of the Reformation
14 a large inheritance for that time, as books were so rare
16This community is not composed of order priests but secu¬lar priests who take the four vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability. They are committed to (1) labor among the poor, feeding their souls as well as their bodies (2) the sanctification of their own souls through spiritual exercises prescribed by their founder St.Vincent de Paul (3) the conversion of sinners and (4) preparing men for the priesthood.
Queen, Anne of Austria.
17This building is located near the train station, La Gare d’Austerlitz.
18 beautiful France
19 read Bob and Penny Lord’s book: Tragedy of the Reforma¬tion
20 the other name for the Fathers of the Mission
21 help of the nation
22 the one with whom she had reconciled through St. Vincent
About the Authors:
Bob and Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors of many best selling books about the Catholic Faith. They are hosts on EWTN Global Television and have written over 25 books. They are best known as the authors of “Miracles of the Eucharist books.” They have been dubbed, “Experts on the Saints.”