- St. Vincent de Paul, Our “first” vocation story….
- Vincentians- Who we Are
- Discerning a Vincentian Vocation
- Formation for Mission
I St. Vincent de Paul, Our “first” vocation story….
St. Vincent de Paul was born in 1581 into a poor peasant farming family in southern France. His Formed in the Catholic faith of his devout parents, he desired to do more with his life. With his parents’ blessing, Vincent left to study for the priesthood. In 600 he was ordained a priest.
After further studies, Vincent de Paul went to Paris where he obtained a lucrative priestly assignment to support his family. At first, all went well; Vincent became pastor of a parish and chaplain to the wealthy de Gondi family. He achieved what he had always wanted: status, comfort, and security. Strangely enough, Vincent was unhappy and could not understand why.
Two distinct, yet related incidents brought Vincent de Paul into the world of the poor, and were the means for a conversion to Jesus Christ. Once, he was asked to hear the confession of a sick worker on the de Gondi estate. The man, away from the Church for decades, recovered and later said had it not been for Vincent, he would have died in sin. Vincent was shocked at the number of people working on the estate who had never been to Mass or received the sacraments.
On another occasion, as Vincent was preparing to celebrate Sunday Mass, he was informed of a local family who were quite ill and in desperate need of food and medicine. Vincent made an urgent appeal for help from the pulpit. After Mass, he saw a steady stream of people going to the house of the sick family with food and medicine. Yet this family, like many others, needed ongoing assistance. Vincent saw a need to organize this outpouring of charity.
The shocking extent of poverty Vincent discovered- both spiritual and material- was quite a disturbing revelation. It came at a time when he questioned his faith and direction in life. But once Vincent committed himself to loving Jesus Christ and directing his energies in service to the poor, his questions faded and his life’s path became clear. He saw Christ in the poor and the poor as the Body of Christ. His only fulfilment came in serving Jesus Christ in the poor.
However, Vincent realized he could not realize of sustain that vision alone. He established the Congregation of the Mission, a community of men to serve the Church as priests and brothers, and the Daughters of Charity, a community of sisters to serve the poor. With his talent for organization, Vincent began “Associations of Charity” in parishes to minister to the poor. He persuaded wealthy families to fund projects for the poor and to even join him in serving the poor.
To sustain his ever-growing vision of love of Christ and service to the poor, Vincent de Paul lived a spirituality he shared with his religious communities and lay co-workers. To encourage spiritual growth, Vincent cultivated virtues he believed essential to follow Jesus faithfully as a servant of the poor. They came to him in his prayer, reflection, and service.
By his life and witness, Vincent de Paul gave the Christian virtues of humility, meekness, simplicity, zeal, and self-denial a human face, and engendered a spirituality of love of God and service to the poor that is a beautiful blend of contemplation and action.