Charity Heroes: St. Vincent de Paul and Vogt

(Illustration by Pat McNamara)

Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, and if you’re not familiar with his story or why he matters, you’ll want to avail yourself of Doctor-now-Professor Pat McNamara’s excellent and informative profile of this enterprising and surprising saint, who started on his path for all the wrong reasons:

“An intelligent child from a poor family, he initially saw the priesthood as an escape from poverty. Once he acquired a wealthy parish, he planned to use his income to take care of his parents in their old age. In pursuing a religious vocation, he had mixed motives, to say the least.

A stocky man of medium height, Vincent was shrewd, astute, and possessed of enormous common sense. One biographer describes him as having “a gift for winning other people’s good will.” Another writes that he “charmed everyone on first approach.” He was undeniably ambitious, but he balanced this with a deep compassion for society’s least. In time, he would translate that compassion into action.

But as a young priest, he was less interested in reform than in his own income. In time he acquired several prestigious positions, including chaplain to the wealthy De Gondi family. It was there while ministering to the tenants on their vast estates that he discovered his life’s mission. It happened over time as he identified three major problems in seventeenth century France: religious ignorance, poorly trained clergy, and widespread poverty.”

Read the rest, here. It really is quite a story, and tomorrow you’ll find yourself feeling happy that you have come to know this great saint.

Meanwhile: he’s adorable, smart, authentic, passionately Catholic and just an all-around interesting guy to listen to, so I’m letting you know that Brandon Vogt will be featured tonight on EWTN’s “The Journey Home” at 8pm ET; he’ll be sharing share his conversion story and talking about his book, The Church and New Media of which St. Vincent dePaul would approve, since 100% of Brandon’s profits are going to charity.

By the way, the Patheos Book Club will be talking about The Church and New Media next week, along with another book…I wonder if you can guess which that might be?

If you guessed right, then don’t miss Kathryn Jean Lopez’ thoughts on it:

“the best sermon you’ve ever heard. The best class you’ve ever taken. Or the homily you’ve never heard and the classroom you never had available to you.”

And if that’s not high-praise enough (and there cannot be too much) read Tim Muldoon’s review

“What makes Cézanne’s painting remarkable is that it provides a transition between the Impressionist period (think of those color-splashed water lilies of Monet) and the work of modern painters like Picasso and Matisse). What Cézanne opened up for later artists was a new way of seeing things, and a new way of inviting people to look at the world. Instead of treating painting as a flat, two-dimensional representation of the world, Cézanne suggested that painting can move our minds to a consideration of the world that is not available to us in our normal way of seeing.

Barron’s book does something analogous: it invites us to see the forest of Catholic faith rather than the individual trees. And it does it in a way that expands our vision, recalibrates it. There is something deeply sacramental about his approach, by which I mean not only his interest in the fact that Catholics celebrate sacraments, but also his ability to use discreet images and examples as windows, as it were, into the mystery of Catholic faith. If a sacrament is a visible image that opens us up to an invisible reality, then Barron’s book is an understandable text that opens us up to a beautiful and ineffable mystery.”

I told you. A revolution!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Maureen

    But it doesn’t mention him getting kidnapped by pirates.

    I grant you, it’s a very hardheaded man who can be kidnapped to North Africa by Muslim pirates, enslaved, ransomed, brought back, and then goes back to seminary still fairly determined to support his parents. But everybody who leaves out the pirates and the enslavement is leaving out quite a lot.

    When you think of St. Vincent de Paul, think Muslim slavers. This has been a public service announcement.

  • Amy

    I have several collections on the lives of the saints. One instance recollected tells of a dying peasant who cries out to Vincent and to everyone surrounding him, how every confession he made was a bad one. Vincent realizes how badly the people needed spiritual help. After preaching to them, they made confessions. (Saints for Young Readers.)
    In another book of saints ( much older) they had his feast day on July 19th. His capture by pirates was part of his biography.

    Makes me wonder – will vocations to the priesthood rise as Catholic men of all ages, up to the cut off age to enter seminary, seek security from an economy to become priests for selfish, economic reasons, as did St. Vincent?

    When economies are bad, there is a jump in military recruitments. The same can happen with a rise in vocations. It can be stated that “some” foreign seminarians come to study in American seminaries for they know their living conditions and their salary will be greatly substantial than in their own countries.

    So few priests in my lifetime, have I observed lived as humbly as St. Vincent de Paul and countless other model saints. God allowed St. Vincent to be captured by pirates, to see the human misery and ignorance of the faith among his people which turned the heart of this once hard and ill-tempered man into a holy man, a humble, charitable man.

    Pray for our priests and bishops that those who’s hearts are full of the world may receive the graces and act upon those graces to become heroic, humble and faithful, tending to the flocks they have been charged with, with the zeal, fortitude and love as those saints who have been given title of Saint, or Blessed.

    Thank you, God for giving us so many Saints to inspire our lives, especially, St. Vincent de Paul whose life we celebrate today.

  • diane

    That kid is old enough to write books? He doesn’t look old enough to shave, lol. (Sorry…I bet he gets this reaction a lot, though.)

  • Maureen

    You know, a lot of older people are always on about how priests join up for a safe job. Any time any young man joins up or expresses interest, that’s what you hear, just like every young woman interested in being a nun is automatically told they’ll be scrubbing stairwells upside down.

    Nobody has ever explained to me how being a priest is a “safe job” or even a “good job”. Even at Taco Bell, you’re not on call 24 hours a day. You aren’t expected to make people happy and holy at Taco Bell. You can’t be sent across the country or across the world on your bishop’s whim at Taco Bell. You can’t be sued or sent to prison on some random person’s whim at Taco Bell, because they have cameras.

    Maybe in France back in the day, it was a job to make money at. Not now.

  • Maureen

    And as for more young men joining the military in economic downturns, it’s seldom a matter of the kid picking it as a safe job. It’s usually a matter of “now my mom can’t whine about all the great jobs I’m not getting instead and how I should be doing something “better”, so it’s a lot easier to do what I want and join the military.”

  • Amy

    Diocesan priests receive salary, housing, medical, food, insurance – about $10000- a year. Sounds secure to me.

    Religious order priests – everything belongs to community. When they move, they carry their belongings in a few suitcases.

    Military men and women have opportunities to advance in rank, pay, get paid education, insurance, housing, food allowances…they can make it a career, get out and use their skills to find opporunities around the world. Obviously, if you are a tank driver, your prospects outside of the military are bleek. Many do not join for patriotic reasons – it is purely economical. If they can pass the entrance tests, physical tests and boot camp, they have many opportunities to take advantage of. It is a sacrifice, yes.

    To be a priest or religious is also a sacrifice 24/7. Hopefully, those who desire to be priests or religious do so for they have a true vocation and are not in it for the security it also provides.

  • Amy

    Correction – $100000 a year.