Today is the feast day of my most favorite saint, Vincent de Paul!
I didn't know much about St. Vincent until I attended DePaul University. He's known as the Evangelizer of the Poor and he did tremendous work in France for the priesthood, establishing the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac, founding the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians), and then inspiring others like Blessed Frederic Ozanam to start the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The thing that really attracted me to St. Vincent was that he didn't get the whole "holiness thing" down until he was about 40. When I was in my 20s that was really inspiring, but now that I'm close to banging on the door of 40, it's a little daunting; I have only 2 years to get my act together! Getting to know Vincent helped me to understand how to be a follower of Christ in the "real world". His charism (way of living) is my charism.
St. Vincent wasn't born a saint. That might seem obvious, but so often when I think about a saint, well, he or she is saintly. I figure they had the whole Christian life figured out from an early age. Vincent was born into a poor family and became a priest in order to escape poverty. It's not that he was a bad priest before it all clicked for him, but his motivations might have been more financial than saintly.
The pivotal moment in Vincent's life came when he heard the confession of a dying peasant. He saw his own parents in this man and realized that he had neglected the poor. One moment changed his life and he worked with gusto to make significant changes in France. I could go on and on about St. Vincent, but I'll only share one very cool story.
In a way, St. Vincent saved the Church in France during the Revolution. When establishing the Daughters of Charity, he stipulated that a Vincentian had to be connected to the community. During the French Revolution all the priests and religious were thrown out of the country. As the government was getting ready to chuck the Daughters out of France, someone wised up and said, "Uh, you know they run all the hospitals, care for orphans, and care for the prisoners, right? Maybe we should let them stay." And then, a very crafty Daughter said, "Oh, sure, we can stay, but you have to allow the Vincentians to stay, too. It's part of our founding documents." Absolutely brilliant!
A very blessed and happy feast day to all Vincentians, Daughters, and everyone else in the Vincentian family!