Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hail, Vincent, Priest

St. Vincent de Paul

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Vincent de Paul (1580 AD - 1660 AD).   From a peasant family in Gascony, Vincent was an exceptionally intelligent youth who entered the seminary at Toulouse and was ordained in 1600.   Though he would spend his life in service to France's orphans, widows, and poor, found hospitals for the galley slaves of Paris and Marseilles, reform seminary training in France, and found two religious congregations, perhaps the most remarkable and telling episode in Vincent's life occurred shortly after he'd been ordained.  Travelling by sea from Toulouse to Marseilles, Vincent was captured by Turkish pirates and sold as a slave in Tunis.  Two years later, Vincent escaped from Tunis with his master, whom Vincent had converted.   The following account of these years comes from the life of St. Vincent compiled in 1748 by the Bishop of  Rodez:

By resignation to the divine will … .and ... meditation on the sufferings of Christ, [St. Vincent] learned to bear all his afflictions with comfort and joy, uniting himself in spirit with his Divine Redeemer, and ...copy[ing] in himself his lessons of perfect meekness, patience, silence and charity. [Vincent was sold] to a renegado Christian who came from Nice in Savoy. … This apostate had three wives, of which one, who was a Turkish woman, went often to the field where Vincent was digging, and out of curiosity would ask him to sing the praises of God. He used to sing to her with tears in his eyes, the psalm, Upon the rivers of Babylon, &c., the Salve Regina, and such like prayers. She was so much taken with our holy faith, and doubtless with the saintly deportment of the holy slave, that she never ceased repeating to her husband, that he had basely abandoned the only true religion, till, … without opening her own eyes to the faith, she made him enter into it himself. Sincerely repenting of his apostacy, he agreed with Vincent to make their escape together. They crossed the Mediterranean sea in a small light boat which the least squall of wind would overset; and they landed safe at Aigues-Mortes, near Marseilles, on the 28th of June, 1607, and thence proceeded to Avignon. The apostate made his abjuration in the hands of the [papal] vice-legate, and the year following went with Vincent to Rome, and there entered himself a penitent in the austere convent of the Fate-Ben-Fratelli, who served the hospitals according to the rule of St. John of God.

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us.

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