Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, priest
(Ezra 9:5-9; Luke 9:1-6)
In a book on character development author David Brooks comments on the essentials of being a good person. Humility to recognize one’s mistakes is necessary, he says, along with a firm desire to change one’s defective ways. This process is seen taking shape in today’s first reading from the Book of Ezra.
The book describes the exiled Jews’ return to Jerusalem and their rebuilding the Temple. In the passage read today Ezra reflects on what went wrong to begin with. He recognizes his people’s great sins which are known from the words of past prophets. The people idolized money, neglected the poor, and became proud in their sinfulness. As the text indicates, they had to be taken down many notches if they were ever going to be God’s people. The reading claims that the period of chastisement is over. God has shown the people mercy. They can start anew on the quest of holiness.
We might see a similar trajectory in the life of St. Vincent de Paul. After his ordination he was chaplain to the queen of France and recipient of revenues from a small monastery. Eventually he became aware of the plight of peasants. He quit his ministries to the upper crust to become a pastor to the poor. From then on he founded institutions and indeed religious congregations to assist those in need. He became a saint in both a religious and secular sense. His life was characterized by virtue and his friendship with God solid.