Thursday, September 27, 2012

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, priest

(Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; Luke 9:7-9)

It is said that St. Vincent de Paul was largely responsible for France’s overcoming of Jansenism. This seventeenth century heresy has the power to take over one’s soul with its obsession about being saved. Taking its name from a Dutch bishop, proponents of Jansenism would recommend constant confession as a way to avoid eternal fire. St. Vincent, on the other hand, would have the faithful work acts of charity as a demonstration of God’s favor.

Born a peasant, Vincent was ordained a priest at the age of twenty. So obviously talented, he might have pursued a comfortable life with the revenue of a small monastery to which he was appointed chaplain. However, the acquaintance of a cardinal in Paris steered his life in another direction. Rather than enjoying the comforts of the rich, Vincent began visiting prisons and galley ships to comfort prisoners. In time he founded the Congregation of the Mission, priests first known as Lazarists and then as Vincentians, to work among poor country people. He is also responsible for the Daughters of Charity, who have become renowned for their charity.

Today’s gospel comments that King Herod greatly wanted to see Jesus. So would many people throughout the centuries. We have only to turn to saints like Vincent de Paul to catch a glimpse of him.