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1580 – 1660  |  Canonized 1729

Feast day: September 27

 St. Vincent de Paul was born in 1580 to a peasant family in France.  Although he later achieved fame for his dedication to the poor, he spent his early life attempting to escape his humble roots. His family shared his ambition, hoping that a career in the priesthood would better the family fortune.  Vincent became a priest at the young age of 19, and he spent most of his early priesthood mingling with members of the elite. 

In 1605, Vincent was returning home by boat from a trip.  His ship was attacked and he was captured by pirates, who brought him to Tunis in Northern Africa. He was then sold into slavery and he remained in bondage for two years.  During this time, he prayed to God, telling Him that if his life was spared and he was freed, he would devote the rest of his life to the service of the poor.

After his eventual escape from Africa, Vincent served a church in rural France. The poverty he found there shocked him—it was not uncommon for people who were unable to find work in his poor community to die from starvation.  He began to take stock of his resources, and his former connections with the wealthy and influential led him to seek their financial assistance. He met with affluent friends and inspired them to organize into groups going from house to house – requesting furniture, food and clothing. They were extremely successful in their efforts, and other parishes began to seek him out to learn how they could organize in the same way.  Soon, churches all over France were using the same techniques Vincent had created to help their neighbors in need.

He helped form the Sisters of Charity and then expanded his work, founding hospitals, orphanages and homes for people who were mentally ill.  He also devoted his last years to serving prisoners and slaves, sharing with them his story of hope as a former slave himself.  He died on September 27, 1660, and was canonized a saint in 1729.

He is the patron saint of charitable organizations and the inspiration for The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which was founded 150 years later. 

Reflect

It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbor. I belong to God and to the poor.”

 –St. Vincent de Paul

Vincent believed the most effective form of charity is personal.  But it went beyond the thought that personal relationships help us serve the poor.  They also transform us.  From the poor, we learn the value of simplicity and the witness of unshakeable faith.

Reflect on a time when you felt like you learned something from someone you were serving.  How are you changed by that encounter?

Pray

Noble Saint Vincent de Paul,
beloved servant of the poor,
may we follow your example and do good works
among those whom society has abandoned,
enslaved, or forgotten.
Inspire us to feed the hungry,
to love a child,
to provide comfort and medicine to the sick,
to clothe those whose garments are threadbare,
and to offer hope and our Lord’s words
to all who need respite.
Pray for us to our beloved God
that we may commit ourselves selflessly
to doing the same charitable acts
that you did all your life,
and intercede with him
that we may have the favour of his guidance
and strength and love upon this important and meaningful work. Amen.

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