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Grumpy Old Saint Vincent de Paul: Father Of The Poor

“We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God” – Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul, CM (24 April 1581 – 27 September 1660), was an Occitan French Catholic priest who dedicated himself to serving the poor. By his own account, Vincent was a grumpy person with a short fuse, quick to anger and but for the grace of God he would have been hard and repulsive, rough and cross.

 Eventually, he was renowned for his compassion, humility, and generosity.
Vincent de Paul has become known as the “The Apostle of Charity” and “Father of the Poor.” His contributions to the training of priests and organizing parish missions and other services for the poor shaped the Church’s role in the modern world.

Just three days after being elected bishop of Rome and successor to St.Peter, 76-year-old Pope Francis, who even two weeks later hadn’t yet referred to himself as pope, told representatives of the international media, “I would so like a poor church, one for the poor!”

Two miracles have been attributed to the work of Vincent de Paul, a nun cured of ulcers, and a laywoman who was healed of paralysis. Saint Vincent died at Paris, 27 September 1660. He was beatified 21 August 21, 1729, by Pope Benedict XIII and canonized 16 June 1737 by Pope Clement XII Pope Leo XIII made him the patron of all charitable societies. Outstanding among these, is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1833 by his admirer Blessed Frédéric Ozanam.

According to the Catholic Catechism: “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.” CCC 828

“We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God” – Vincent de Paul

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.

In 1622 Vincent was appointed a chaplain to the galleys. After working for some time in Paris among imprisoned galley slaves, and although Vincent was too humble to accept leadership at first, 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. In the city, he organized the rich women of Paris to collect funds for his missionary projects, founded several hospitals, collected relief funds for the victims of war, and ransomed over 1,200 galley slaves from North Africa. He was zealous in conducting retreats for clergy at a time when there was great laxity, abuse, and ignorance among them. He was a pioneer in clerical training and was instrumental in establishing seminaries.

Founded in Paris by Frederic Ozanam in 1833, the St Vincent de Paul Society was established by like-minded individuals who wanted to put their faith into action. Frederic, along with his university colleagues, wanted to respond in a practical way to the hardship and poverty he was witnessing.

Saint Vincent, please continue to look out for the poor.

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