Today the Church celebrates St. Vincent de Paul (c. 1580-1660), one of the Church’s greatest patrons of the suffering and of those who minister to them. He himself was well acquainted with suffering. When he was in his mid-20s, he was traveling by sea when his ship was intercepted by pirates. The thugs sold him into slavery in North Africa, where he is believed to have served under four different masters over two years before he was able to escape back home to France.
Among the countless charitable endeavors that St. Vincent initiated, one of the most important was the effort he undertook with a religious order he founded, the Daughters of Charity, to care for orphaned or abandoned children (“foundlings,” as they used to be called). His motivation for creating a network of homes for such children was, in the words of the old Catholic Encyclopedia,”finding out how miserably these tiny waifs were cared for by the State.” The same encyclopedia adds the harrowing detail that some of these children were “deliberately deformed by miscreants anxious to exploit public pity.”
For anyone who feels broken or unloved, St. Vincent de Paul’s life and spirituality are a beautiful reminder that those who are poor in spirit are particularly close to the heart of Christ. He once observed, ”We have never so much cause for consolation, as when we find ourselves oppressed by sufferings and trials; for these make us like Christ our Lord, and this resemblance is the true mark of our predestination.”
O Saviour, who gave us the law to love our neighbor as ourselves, who practised it in such perfect fashion towards men, let you yourself be, O Lord, your eternal thanks! O Saviour, how happy I am to be in the state of loving my neighbor! Grant me the grace to acknowledge my good fortune, to love this blessed state, and to ensure that this virtue may be revealed now, tomorrow and always. Amen.
St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!