St Vincent de Paul and Church of St Vincent de Paul redirect here. For the church dedicated to him in Paris, see Church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Paris, and for other uses, see Vincent de Paul (disambiguation).

Vincent de Paul (24 April 1581 – 27 September 1660) was a priest of the Catholic Church who became dedicated to serving the poor. He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He was canonized in 1737.[1]

Biographical overview[edit | edit source]

St. Vincent was born in Pouy, Landes, Gascony, France, to a family of peasant farmers. He had four brothers and two sisters.[2]

He studied humanities in Dax, France, with the Cordeliers and he graduated in theology at Toulouse. He was ordained in 1600, remaining in Toulouse until he went to Marseille for an inheritance. In 1605, on his way back from Marseille, he was taken captive by Turkish pirates, who brought him to Tunis and sold him into slavery.[3] After converting his owner to Christianity, Vincent de Paul escaped in 1607.

After returning to France, de Paul went to Rome. There he continued his studies until 1609, when he was sent back to France on a mission to Henry IV of France; he served as chaplain to Marguerite de Valois. For a while he was parish priest at Clichy, but from 1612 he began to serve the Gondi, an illustrious family. He was confessor and spiritual director to Madame de Gondi, and he began giving preaching missions to the peasants on the estate with her aid.[3]

In 1622 de Paul was appointed chaplain to the galleys, and in this capacity he gave missions for the galley-slaves.[2]

In 1625 de Paul founded the Congregation of the Mission, a society of missionary priests commonly known as the Vincentians or Lazarists. In 1633, with the assistance of Louise de Marillac he founded the Daughters of Charity.[1] He also fought against the Jansenist heresy.

De Paul was renowned for his compassion, humility and generosity.[1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

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Veneration[edit | edit source]

In 1705, the Superior-General of the Lazarists requested that the holy process of de Paul's canonization be instituted. On 13 August 1729, Vincent was declared blessed by Pope Benedict XIII. He was canonized nearly eight years later by Pope Clement XII on 16 June 1737. In 1885, Pope Leo XIII gave him as patron to the Sisters of Charity.[3] He is also patron to the Brothers of Charity.

St. Vincent's body was exhumed in 1712, 53 years after his death. The written account of an eye witness states that "...(t)he eyes and nose alone showed some decay." However, when the body was exhumed again during the canonization in 1737 it was then discovered to have decomposed due to an underground flood. His bones have been encased in a waxen figure which is displayed in a glass reliquary in the chapel of the headquarters of the Vincentian fathers in Paris. His heart is still incorrupt, and is displayed in a reliquary in the chapel of the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity in Paris.[4]

In 1737, his feast day was included in the Roman Calendar on 19 July, because his day of death was already used for the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian. It was originally to be celebrated with the rank of "Double", which was changed to the equivalent rank of "Third-Class Feast" in 1960.[5]

St. Vincent is honored with a feast day in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church (USA) on September 27.

One of the feasts celebrated by the French Deist Church of the Theophilanthropy was dedicated to Vincent de Paul.

Pope Paul VI transferred the celebration of his memorial to September 27, Cosmas and Damian having been moved to September 26 to make way for him, as he is now better known in the West.[6]

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, a charitable organisation dedicated to the service of the poor, was established by French university students in 1833, led by the Blessed Frederic Ozanam. The Society is today present in 132 countries.[7]

DePaul University takes its name from Vincent de Paul.

Vincent de Paul in literature & fiction[edit | edit source]

Pierre Fresnay portrays Vincent de Paul in the 1947 biographical film, Monsieur Vincent.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Attwater, Donald, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, Aylesbury, 1982 pp 337.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Michael Walsh, ed. "Butler's Lives of the Saints" (HarperCollins Publishers: New York, 1991) pp 304.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2
  4. The Incorruptibles, Joan Carroll Cruz, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1977, pp. 248-9.
  5. General Roman Calendar of 1962
  6. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 140
  7. Herbert Hewitt Stroup, 1985 Social welfare pioneers Roman and Littlefield ISBN 0882292129 page 185


External links[edit | edit source]

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