He lived from: 1581 – 1660
Feast Day: 27th September
Related Article : St Louise de Marillac
“Go to the Poor and there you will find God.”
Vincent was born in Pouy, France on 24th April 1581 to a poor peasant family. His early education was provided by the Franciscans. He was an exceptional student. So much so, he was eventually hired as a tutor to the children of a wealthy family. With the money he earned, he was able to continue with his theological studies at the University of Toulouse. In 1600 he was ordained. In 1605 travelling by ship, he was captured and brought to Tunis where he was sold as a slave. During this time, he endured terrible conditions. He mixed with convicts, galley slaves, street urchins and the destitute opening his eyes to everyday suffering. Two years later he managed to escape and returned to France. A humble and sensitive man, he subsequently spent his life preaching missions and providing relief to the poor. He established hospitals for them and this work became his ardent passion. As time went on, he extended his ministry to the care of convicts. His need to evangelise was so great, he founded the Sisters of Charity in order to assist him in this work of tending to the poor, homeless and orphans. For those avid readers of this blog, you may recall a written profile of St Louise de Marillac and it is at this point in Vincent’s life that they met. Together they collaborated in building hospitals and refuges for the poor.
Even Florence Nightingale was said to have been greatly influenced by the work of the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul in her ministry to the victims of the Crimean War in the nineteenth century.
Vincent also founded the Congregation of Priests of the Mission, which is now known as the Vincentians.
During this time, there were not many priests in France and those that were in existence were neither well-formed nor faithful to their way of life. Vincent helped reform the clergy in the manner in which they were instructed and prepared for the priesthood. He provided retreats for them which ultimately led to the seminaries that we have today. It is said that in his last 23 years, he had influenced and instructed more than 20,000 clergy and laity in the word of God.
Today there are nearly 4,000 Vincentians in 86 countries. In conjunction with St Louise de Marillac, they founded the Daughters of Charity. There are more than 18,000 Daughters serving the needs of the poor in 94 countries. He died in Paris on 27th September 1660.
His incorrupt heart can be found in the Convent of the Sisters of Charity in Paris. His bones were embedded in wax and are located at the Church of the Lazarist Mission again, in Paris.
Two miracles have been attributed to St Vincent. A nun was cured of ulcers and a laywoman cured of paralysis. Pope Benedict XIII beatified him on 13th August 1729. On 16th June 1737, he was canonised by Pope Clement XIII.
He is sometimes referred to as “The Apostle of Charity” and “The Father of the Poor”.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul is an international voluntary organisation in the Catholic Church. It was founded in 1833 supporting its members in the provision of assistance and service to the poor.
Thank you for reading and God Bless,