Feast Day: September 27
Vincent, the son of poor French peasants, was born in 1581. When he grew up and became famous, he loved to tell people how he had taken care of his father's pigs. Because he was intelligent, his father sent him to school. And after finishing his studies, Vincent became a priest.
At first, he was given an important position as the teacher of rich children, and he lived rather comfortably. Then one day, he was called to the side of a dying peasant. In front of many people, this man declared that all his past confessions had been bad ones. Suddenly Father Vincent realized how badly the poor people of France needed spiritual help. When he began to preach to them, crowds went to confession. He finally decided to start a congregation of priests to work especially among the poor.
The charities of St. Vincent de Paul were so many that it seems impossible for one person to have begun so much. He took care of criminals who worked on the sailing ships. He started the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac. He opened hospitals and homes for orphans and old people. He collected large sums of money for poor areas, sent missionaries to many countries, and bought back prisoners from the Mohammedans. Even though he was such a charitable man, however, he humbly admitted that he was not so by nature. "I would have been hard, rough and ill-tempered," he said "were it not for God's grace." Vincent de Paul died in Paris on September 27, 1660. He was proclaimed a saint in 1737 by Pope Clement XII.
Jesus asks us to be good to others, especially to those who suffer. He says to us too, 'As long as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me."
Interview with St. Vincent de Paul
JCLUB: You are known for your service of the poor. Did you always love the poor?
St. Vincent: Yes, I grew up poor in southern France. I have great memories of my family working hard together. I was a shepherd of sheep and pigs. God eventually used my love for my family to teach me how to love all people, but especially those who are poor!
JCLUB: So is that why you became a priest—to help the poor?
St. Vincent: Well, actually, at first I was thinking more about earning money to provide for my family and retire early. Gradually I learned that being a priest means serving and providing for the good of all people.
JCLUB: Who were some people that influenced you?
St. Vincent: One was Father Berulle. He was very wise and good. I witnessed the power of humility in the saintly example of Saint Francis de Sales, the bishop of Geneva. Saint Louise de Marillac helped me as I directed the men and women who wanted to follow my example in service to the poor.
JCLUB: How did the organizations like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul that were named after you get started?
St. Vincent: During my lifetime, I founded a few groups of men and women to serve God in the poor. Through the centuries, people have been inspired by my vision and have formed other groups to serve the poor. From heaven I pray for them.
Following in the Footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul
St. Vincent de Paul received his inner strength to serve the poor through prayer. Early in the morning he began his day with God. As the day went on he talked to God. He let God hear about the happy stuff and the tough things.
St. Vincent de Paul, help us to turn to God always, even when we just need a listening ear. May we learn how to reach out to others, and get our inner strength through prayer.
Did You Know?
- Since wheat was scarce, young Vincent’s usual meals included a small grain called millet.
- Once while shepherding, Vincent noticed a poor man and gave him everything he had—one and sixpence.
- Once he said, “I would have been hard, rough and ill-tempered were it not for God’s grace.”
- St. Vincent’s advice was so highly regarded that King Louis XIII called for him as he was dying.
Image caption: Vincent de Paul by Simon François de Tours (1606-1671); public domain