“Go to the poor: you will find God.”
St. Vincent de Paul
Feast Day: September 27
Patron of charities, horses, hospitals, leprosy, prisoners, spiritual help, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, and volunteers
This great saint and lover of the poor began very poor, born in 1581 to a peasant family in France. Educated by the Franciscans, Vincent developed a love for God and the poor from a very young age. He was quite intelligent and soon earned enough money tutoring kids to put himself through school. He was ordained a priest at the age of 19 and a few years later, while traveling at sea, his ship was hijacked; Vincent was captured and sold as a slave. After two long years of slavery, Vincent and a friend escaped and made their way back to France, where Vincent became a pastor, spiritual director, teacher, tutor, and chaplain in charge of dispensing money to the poor.
Apparently not busy enough, Vincent also went on to establish hospitals, write extensively, call out and reform clergy who lacked proper theology, found an institute for lay women (the Ladies of Charity), found an institute for priests (Congregation of the Mission), preach missions, and oversee more than 50 seminaries. He did all of this without forgetting his primary role and love: to serve the poorest of the poor. In fact, the primary mission of the institutes he founded was serving the poor.
Vincent died at age 80 and left an incredible legacy that still serves the poor today. In addition to the centers that bear his name, there are currently over 18,000 Daughters of Charity who serve in nearly 100 countries. Additionally, the priestly institute he formed has over 4,000 members in roughly 85 countries. It is said that Vincent wrote over 30,000 letters in his lifetime, 7,000 of which have been located and collected. Multiple collections of these letters are visible and readable today.
Vincent did not set out to become a saint; rather, he sought to serve God and help others. The more he served, the more opportunities to serve were put before him. Vincent just kept saying “yes” to God, and that is the challenge put before you, too. Can you say “yes” to God, today? Will you say “yes” tomorrow?
Ask St. Vincent de Paul to pray with you now, that you may see the “poor” — those who are financially poor but also may be “poor in spirit” — in your life. Through St. Vincent de Paul’s intercession, may you come to recognize those who are in need of the Lord’s mercy and may you have the urgency, like this great saint, to do something about it.
• Ordained a priest at 19
• Escaped slavery after two years of being held in confinement
• Established many organizations to help the poor
• His writings have been recorded in numerous anthologies throughout the years
Learn more about saints who lived extraordinary lives in seemingly ordinary circumstances in our book “100 Saints Every Catholic Teen Should Know.” We can also live holy lives worthy of sainthood!