St Vincent De Paul, Patron Saint of Charities
In Giovanni Boccacio’s stories, Abraham a Jewish businessman converts to Catholicism after visiting Rome. He witnesses the corruption and concludes “that what these scoundrel clerics so zealously want never takes root.” Therefore, Abraham concludes: “It is quite to me your Church must have the Holy Spirit for its foundation & support”
Just like Abraham, Vincent originally became a priest to pursue a life of leisure, but that changed after he heard the confession of an impoverished dying man; The deathbed confession of a dying servant opened Vincent de Paul’s eyes to the crying spiritual needs of the peasantry of France. This seems to have been a crucial moment in the life of the man from a small farm in Gascony, France, who had become a priest with little more ambition than to have a comfortable life.
The Countess de Gondi—whose servant he had helped—persuaded her husband to endow and support a group of able and zealous missionaries who would work among poor tenant farmers and country people in general. Vincent was too humble to accept leadership at first, but after working for some time in Paris among imprisoned galley slaves, he returned to be the leader of what is now known as the Congregation of the Mission, or the Vincentians. These priests, with vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability, were to devote themselves entirely to the people in smaller towns and villages. – The Franciscan Media
⁰0Later, Vincent established confraternities of charity for the spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick of each parish. From these, with the help of Saint Louise de Marillac, came the Daughters of Charity. The Daughters of Charity introduced him to low-income families, and Vincent brought them food and comfort. He mobilized wealthy women in his native France to collect funds for hospitals, victims of war, and to ransom 1,200 enslaved people from North Africa.
These days St. Vincent de Paul is known as the patron saint of charity, and today we celebrate his feast day. Renowned for his compassion, humility, and generosity.
Like many saints and by his own admission, Vincent was a hard person to get along—even his friends admitted it. He said that except for the grace of God he would have been “hard and repulsive, rough and cross.” But he became a tender and affectionate man, very sensitive to the needs of others.
Vincent was canonized in 1737. Pope Leo XIII made him the patron of all charitable societies, including the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1833 by Blessed Frédéric Ozanam.
The Society is a lay Catholic organisation and does not receive any direct funding from the Catholic Church. The Society enjoys a close relationship with the Catholic Church and is assisted through parishes and schools.
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