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Saint Vincent de Paul

Born: 1581     Died: September 27th, 1660
Feast Day: September 27th

What he said

"Do not be content to say: I am a Christian! But live in such a way that it may be said of you: we have seen a man who loves God with all his heart and keeps his commandments."

What the world was like

Vincent de Paul lived during a turbulent time in Europe. During his life, France fought the Thirty Years War with other great powers in Europe. Entire regions of Europe were devastated by the war, which were caused in part by the religious divisions between Catholics and Protestants.

Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, and Blaise Pascal were all famous scientists who lived during this time. The first calculator, telescope, and submarine were invented.

The first English settlement in America was established at Jamestown, and the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. These settlements flourished with the help of Native Americans.

 

Who he was

Saint Vincent de Paul was born in the countryside of France. His hard-working parents made many sacrifices so that he could go to school. He decided to become a priest, but not because he wanted to serve the Church entirely. He admitted later in his life that he had been embarrassed by his humble background, and wanted to earn a position of respect and authority. As a priest, Vincent served the royal family of France and later became the private chaplain and tutor in the powerful Gondi family.

This family owned a lot of land, and many poor tenant farmers lived on the land of their estates. Part of Vincent's responsibilies was to minister to the spiritual needs of these people. The more he served them, the more his attitude towards the poor changed. He realized that many people who called themselves Christian, including himself, neglected the needs of others. He decided to leave his comfortable position with the Gondi family so that he could work more closely with those in need: the poor, sick, abandoned, and uneducated.

One of the characteristics of his work was his willingness to respond to any cause. He raised aid for war-torn regions of France, served in prisons, started schools, and cared for orphans. Vincent's example inspired many others to come and join in his work. He organized a congregation of priests who took as their mission the education of the poor and evangelization in foreign countries. He also helped people to start local charitable societies.

Through his work, Vincent met a widow named Louise de Marillac. She and some of her friends wanted to devote their lives to serving the poor, sick, and others in need. With the help of Vincent, they formed the Daughters of Charity. They were unique at the time because they worked actively among the poor, while most other religious communities spent their days secluded in prayer and meditation. Louise also became a saint!

Vincent was very honest about his own faults. He told people that as a young man he had been very proud, and that he had a bad temper! At the end of his life, people only knew him as a kind and humble man, who treated everyone, from the Queen of France to the poorest person, with great respect and love.

What he means for us

Saint Vincent de Paul recognized that his faith in Christ needed to be an active faith in service of his neighbor. Through his example of charitable work, we can learn to be more aware of the needs of others.

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