Vincent was born poor and initially longed for a life of wealth. He was also intelligent and became a priest to pave the way from need to nobility. On the journey, he underwent a difficult spiritual crisis that resulted in a desire to help the poor. Exalted positions such as chaplain to the Queen’s court and tutor to the wealthy de Gondi family were not fulfilling to him. The profit of an ecclesiastical career was abandoned for a parish and for work with the marginalised and forgotten.
Vincent instituted an order of priests (the Congregation of the Mission or Vincentians) whose mission it was to share Jesus’ good news in the villages through preaching and service.
With Louise de Marillac, he co-founded the Daughters of Charity. Vincent pledged his life to the sick and insane, orphans and old people, beggars and the starving, prisoners and galley slaves. There was no form of poverty – physical, emotional or spiritual – which he did not try to alleviate.
Most of all, though he was committed to the poor sinful men and women who did not know what great love God had for them.
There was a time when this “Friend of the Poor” could no longer visit the people he loved. As he neared his eightieth year, his health deteriorated and he endured much suffering. He was finally confined to bed and departed to his reward on 27th September 1660, which is now his feast day.
Date of birth: 24th April 1581
Place of birth: Pouy, France
Parentage: Peasants, worked on a farm
Occupation: Priest and servant of the poor
Canonisation as Saint: 1737
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