Today we celebrate the canonisation of our beloved founder St. Vincent de Paul through the reflection of our brother Carlos Albeiro Velásquez Bravo, CM!


St. Vincent de Paul was not born a saint - we celebrate the canonisation of our founder


The Italian sculptor Pietro Bracci sculpted in marble the colossal image of St. Vincent de Paul which was placed in 1754 in the central nave of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Depicted as the “Father of the poor”, the saint’s movement is immediately apparent, indicating with his right index finger the way of the mission and holding the crucifix in his left hand. At his feet is the open Gospel with the inscription of the Lucan text that inspired it: “evangelizare pauperibus misit me”. The reason for the placement in this Vatican niche was his canonisation, celebrated in the same basilica a short time before: on 16 June 1737 by Pope Clement XII.

To evoke his canonisation today, 287 years later, allows us to refresh the meaning of his “holiness”.  He is part of this “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12,1) who encourage us not to stop on the way and to keep on walking towards the goal. Vincent de Paul was not born a saint. His holiness did not consist in “whitening his eyes in a supposed ecstasy” as Pope Francis colloquially puts it in the apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exultate (cf. n. 96), but in a human journey of faith and charity, made on the basis of research and discovery, of reading the Gospel and the life of the people, of committed prayer, of silence and listening, of meeting others, of confrontations and struggles. His life was not a string of devotions but a path of incarnated spirituality. He was not born a saint, he became a saint. His life moved in the human framework of imperfections, he made mistakes, he was a sinner, but he walked under the loving gaze of the Lord and advanced in this task of achieving the stature of Christ in him. On the road to holiness, the poor and the marginalised are the protagonists, they sanctified Vincent de Paul.

And as “the saints who have already reached the presence of God maintain with us bonds of love and communion”, Vincent de Paul is not in a niche, but throbs in the hearts of all his children. He is not a man of yesterday, he is of today. His canonisation reminds us that to be saints it is not necessary to be bishops, priests, nuns or religious, but to take up the daily path of love wherever we are.  We understand the holiness of Vincent de Paul as a mission. Every saint is a mission; he is a project of the Father to reflect and incarnate, at a given moment in history, an aspect of the Gospel (GE 19).

When we contemplate the whole of his life, we see a whole path of sanctification that reflects Jesus Christ who made up the meaning of the totality of his person. Vincent de Paul conceived the whole of his life as a mission (cf. GE 23).

How opportune to speak of holiness today! We are witnessing a market of offers of spiritualities, not always evangelical or committed: so many forms of spirituality without an encounter with God reign in today’s religious market (GE 111). In the light of the life of the saint of the poor, we should review our path of holiness so as not to be distracted by what is not. Vincent de Paul was canonised, i.e. he was recognised by the Church as an intercessor and a model who has much to say to us.

Aggiornamento, holiness and mission are three words – not the only ones – that describe the conciliar movement as openness to the Spirit who is able to make things new, as a call to all the baptised to follow Christ and as apostolic commitment in the heart of the world. This is how holiness was forged in the life of Vincent de Paul: attentive to the signs of the times and places, allowing himself to be led by the Spirit and walking the human paths of mission.

The saints “surprise and unsettle” (GE 138). There are moments and facets of their lives that amaze us. May Vincent de Paul help us to understand our life as a mission and to reach out to where he has already reached. We are not born saints, but we strive to be so on this road we are travelling together.



Carlos Albeiro Velásquez Bravo, CM