Thursday, September 27, 2018

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 was destroying souls in the name of grace.  It taught the need of an obsession over not committing sin, especially of the sexual sort, so that one might be assured of the grace for heaven.  Taking its name from a Dutch bishop, proponents of Jansenism recommended constant confession as a way to avoid eternal fire.  St. Vincent, on the other hand, promoted work of charity as a demonstration of God’s favor.

Born a peasant, Vincent was ordained a priest at the age of twenty.  Very talented, he might have had a comfortable life with the revenue received from a monastery to which he was appointed chaplain.  But the acquaintance of a cardinal in Paris steered his life in another direction.  Rather than enjoying a life of leisure, 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 folk.  He is also co-founder with St. Louise de Marillac of the Daughters of Charity, who have become renowned for their work with the poor. 

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