Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest

(Mass for the school children.)

Back in the days when Saint Vincent became a priest, they had a rather easy life and were quite wealthy.  This was the expectation he had when he was ordained.  That was his goal in some ways until he heard the deathbed confession of a dying servant.  That encounter led him to realize the extremely great needs of poor people in France at that time.

That same servant’s Master had been persuaded by his wife to support the creation of a group of missionary priests to serve the poor.  The countess asked Father Vincent to lead the group, and although he declined at first, he later returned to do it.  That group is now known as the Congregation of the Mission or the Vincentians.  They took vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability and devoted themselves to serving the poor in smaller towns and villages.

Later, along with Saint Louise de Marillac, 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.  Over time, this became a parish-based society for the spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick.  This became the inspiration for the organization now known as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.  You know the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, because we collect clothing for them every year.

Saint Vincent was also very interested in helping with the formation of priests.  He wanted the priests to realize the needs of the poor and to know that the idea of becoming rich wasn’t part of priestly life.  In our gospel today, Jesus urges his disciples to pray for true servants in the priesthood: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”  Saint Vincent de Paul converted his attitudes from the cynical and even slothful ambitions of the clergy in those days, and turned instead to follow his true passion, bringing Christ to the needy and the downtrodden.

We too are called to be true servants of our Lord, by looking out for the needs of those who maybe don’t have as many advantages as we do, by caring for the poor and being true friends of those in need.