St. Vincent de Paul
St. Vincent de Paul
An Enslaved Priest
Vincent de Paul was born on April 24, 1581 to a poor peasant family in the village of Pouy in France. He was taught under the Franciscans. He was doing so well that he was hired as tutor to the children of a nearby wealthy family. He saved all his earnings to continue his formal studies at the University of Toulouse where he studied theology.
In 1600, at the age of 19, Vincent de Paul was ordained to the priesthood. After his ordination, he remained in Toulouse for a time. In 1605, while he was on board a ship traveling from Marseilles to Narbone, Vincent was captured by Turkish pirates. He was sold as a slave. Two years later, he and his master, whom he had converted, managed to escape and both returned to France.
Working for the Poor
Vincent went to Avignon and later to Rome to continue his studies. While he was there, he served as a chaplain to the Count of Goigny. He was also placed in charge of distributing money to the deserving poor. He also became a pastor in a small parish in Clichy for a while. At the same time, he also served as a tutor and spiritual director.
Vincent went to many places to visit and help the sick, the elderly and the poor. However, in order to continue this mission, he realized he needed more money and more people to help all those who needed help. And so, he began to ask wealthy people to donate money and distribute them to the sick and poor of his community. He was so nice and kind that the wealthy people did not mind handing him money for such a worthy cause.
From that time on, Vincent spent his life preaching missions to and providing relief to the poor. He also established hospitals for them. Later on, he extended his ministry and concern to convicts. Vincent’s desire and mission to evangelize and assist the poor was so great that, with the help of St. Louise de Marillac, he founded a lay institute of women, called Daughters of Charity, to help serve the poor and the neglected. He also established a religious institute of priests, the Congregation of Priests of the Mission, now known as the Vincentians.
Reforming the Clergy
Vincent also helped in reforming the clergy and the manner they were taught and prepared for the priesthood. He did this through retreats and later by helping develop a precursor to modern-day seminaries. At one point, his congregation was directing 53 major seminaries. Vincent’s retreats were opened to priests and laymen and were so well-attended that it was said he infused a “Christian spirit among more than 20,000 persons in his last 23 years.”
On September 27, 1660, Vincent de Paul died in Paris. Pope Benedict XIII beatified him on August 13, 1729. On June 16, 1737, less than 8 years later, he was canonized by Pope Clement XIII. The Bull of Canonization recognized St. Vincent de Paul for his charity and reform of the clergy, as well as for his early role in opposing Jansenism. His feast day is September 27.
Five Interesting Facts About St. Vincent de Paul
- St. Vincent de Paul is the patron of all charitable societies.
- St. Vincent de Paul’s initial intention in becoming a priest was to get an office in the Church, earn enough money to retire early, and then go home and provide for his family.
- St. Vincent de Paul was said to have a mean temper. In his prayers, he often begged God to slow his anger. His work with the poor eventually softened his heart and became the kind and tender pastor God desired him to be.
- St. Vincent de Paul’s heart was incorrupt. His heart and bones have been placed inside a wax figure of his body. His relics can be seen in the Church of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris.
- St. Vincent de Paul wrote more than 30,000 letters in his lifetime. Nearly 7,000 of these had been collected in the 18th century.
Prayer to St. Vincent de Paul
O God, who for the relief of the poorand the formation of the clergyendowed the Priest Saint Vincent de Paulwith apostolic virtues,grant, we pray, that, afire with that same spirit,we may love what he lovedand put into practice what he taught.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.