Today is the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul. Vincent was born in the year of 1581 in France. While he was a gifted teacher, he is most well-known for his mission of charity to the poor in France. His mission to the poor was not only to distribute alms, but also to preach retreats to the poor. Vincent invited others into his mission when he founded the Congregation of Priests of the Mission, commonly known as the Vincentians, the Ladies of Charity, and the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac. Vincent died in the year 1660.
One fact I did not know about Vincent was that he was once a slave. After his ordination, he was captured while traveling from Marseilles and sold into slavery in Tunisia in Africa. He escaped after two years. Without having any concrete evidence, I think there is a connection between Vincent’s time as a slave and his focus on the poor after his escape. His time as a slave could have shown the hardships the poor suffer. His time where he was not looked at and avoided made him turn his attention to those treated similarly when he was in his home culture.
As we pray with St. Vincent today, let us pray with the difficult moments in our lives when we felt forgotten or in need of help. The connection with the moments when we needed the helping hand, the gift of money to make ends meet, or the listening ear in turn helps us to give what we received. We ask the Lord to reconnect us with those moments in our life so that, like St. Vincent, we may turn our gaze to the poor. Pope Francis reminded the Church, “We need to be good to people who cannot pay us back” in order to see a different world. Let us pray for that grace.
Is there a moment in your life that has made you more compassionate?