Saint Vincent de Paul - apostle of the poor
Young Vincent and his love for the poor
What is one man's suffering is another man's joy; for as God,
the Author of life, can turn dead seeds into sweet smelling blooms,
God can turn what would appear a distasteful situation into an asset.
There are times when out of necessity, if compromise is inevitable,
farmers will build the barn better than the house. With the de Paul
family, the barn was attached to the house, with only a split door
separating the members of the barnyard family from the human family.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, the body heat of the
cows and other livestock furnishing much needed warmth in the winter;
and when it was too inclement for man or beast in the yard, the
family was able to feed their four-legged friends through the upper
opening in the split door.
The de Paul family took care to not only labor earnestly to provide
for the needs of the flesh, but at day's end, to provide food for
the soul. After the meal was over, all gathered around the fireplace
in the kitchen (where they also slept); the father told them stories
of the lives of the Saints; they all prayed together, offering praise
and thanksgiving for their daily bread and supplicating the Lord
to continue granting them what they need. As their parents tucked
them into bed, the children would ask them for their blessing. [Do
we bless our families before they go to sleep? Is our blessing the
last thing our families bring with them when they leave the house?]
Although poor, Vincent's parents were generous. Each Sunday, during
the Sacrifice of the Mass when the time came for the Offertory,
they placed what little money they had in the basket. In addition,
no matter how hard the times, they always found money to give to
those less fortunate than they. Vincent grew up with this holy example,
always remembering Jesus' words, "Whatever you do to the least of
My brothers, that you do unto Me." From the time he was a young
boy, Vincent saw Jesus in the faces of the poor. This would mold
his noble heart into the life he would be called to, as advocate
of the poor. One time, Vincent had saved thirty pieces of silver.
He had dreamed about what he would buy for his family to make life
a little easier. Then one day, Vincent encountered a poor beggar
on the road; without a moment's hesitation Vincent gave the poor
soul all the silver he had. Had he seen Jesus? Was this his way
of placing no one before the Lord. Whoever gives up mother and father...
At an early age, his mother instructed Vincent to turn to his
Heavenly Mother, sharing all his joys and sorrows, his wounds and
his triumphs, confident She would never let him down. As was the
custom of other children of the area, Vincent built a little shrine
to Mother Mary in a tree. There he would pour out his heart to her.
He and his family would go on pilgrimage once or twice a year to
a shrine to Notre Dame, in Buglose. On the way they would encounter
other Frenchmen going to venerate their Mother; some petitioning
and others responding with thanksgiving for prayers answered. Vincent
remarked, later in life, that he could not remember Our Lady not
answering his prayers. He taught that the more we love the Blessed
Mother, the more we love Jesus, the happier we will be.
Vincent begins his journey to the priesthood
Vincent showed a thirst and aptitude for learning, which was further
enhanced by a truly virtuous soul. When he was interviewed by the
Bishop, to see if he qualified to receive First Holy Communion,
he answered so brilliantly and authentically, the Bishop not only
said he was ready, but encouraged the parents to send him to the
city to further his education. His father responded by scraping
together what little he had, to secure an education for this special
son, with the Cordeliers or Franciscan Recollects.
Life at the college for Vincent was like a dream come true; he
absorbed Grammar and Latin like a sponge; he excitedly looked forward
to each day, like a child awaiting Christmas. What with his remarkable
ability to learn and his humble and always eager desire to help,
his joyful Yes to all in need, he became a friend and example to
the other students at the College.
As you cannot hide a light under a bushel basket; he came to the
attention of Mr. Commet, a nobleman of the village who asked him
to tutor his children This overjoyed Vincent as what little he earned
would enable him to cease being a financial burden on his parents.
After four years he shared with Mr. Commet that he found himself
drawn to the priesthood. Monsieur encouraged him to go answer the
Lord's call to serve Him as an "alter Christus." Mr. Commet advised
Vincent's father of his son's desire to become a priest, and he
immediately sold two of his steers.
In 1596, at sixteen years of age, Vincent entered the University
of Toulouse, where he studied and prepared for the priesthood. Shortly
after entering, he received the tonsure. He was among the young
men who that day were vested in the Franciscan habit and received
into the Order of St. Francis. The Bishop cut his hair along with
that of the other future priests present, and Vincent was no longer
a lay man; he had taken his first step; he was now a cleric! After
receiving minor orders, the Subdiaconate and then the Diaconate,
on September 23, 1600, at less than twenty years old, Vincent realized
his dream; he was ordained a Priest; he was no longer Vincent, but
Father Vincent. He returned to the little chapel at the beginning
of the woods, where he prayed as a little boy, and fervently celebrated
his first Mass there.
St. Vincent's walk was the living out of the Gospel. Like St.
Francis, his focus in life was to be more like Jesus. But initially
he sought Jesus, studying the Word of God and the Traditions of
the Church. The more he did, the more he became the Gospel. Although
he desired to continue his studies, the lack of funds and the debt
he had incurred, when he was preparing for the priesthood, did not
permit him to do so. But his holiness and generosity toward the
poor came to the attention of a good woman who bequeathed her estate
to him. Upon her death, he would receive 500 crowns of silver!
Now, the only problem was that this sum was owed to the departed
by an unscrupulous debtor. He had fled to Marseille in order to
avoid paying the woman. Vincent knew that the only way he could
hope to collect his inheritance was to seek out the debtor and appeal
to him to pay. In 1605, Vincent left for Marseille to retrieve his
inheritance! In Marseille, he found the scoundrel, only to have
him offer far less than the debt he owed; but having wisdom, St.
Vincent accepted the paltry sum and prepared to return to Toulouse.
A young gentleman staying in the same inn as Vincent, suggested
he book passage on the boat he was taking to Narbonne. As this fit
his budget and would save him time, Vincent joyfully accepted.
Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors and television hosts
on EWTN, Global Catholic television. They are prolific writers about
the Catholic faith, especially the Saints. For more information about
Saint Vincent de Paul go to http://www.bobandpennylord.com/St_Vincent_de_Paul.htm
Re-published from TrueChristianity.info
in October 2012
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