Paul, Vincent De
Paul, Vincent de one of the most eminent saints of the modern Romish Church, and founder of the congregation of "Priests of the Missions," was born of very humble parentage at Ranquines, in the diocese of Dax, France, in 1576. The indications of ability which he exhibited as a youth interested in him several people of influence and means, and he was sent to Toulouse to be educated. He became an ecclesiastical student, and was admitted to priest's orders in 1600. For a time he was tutor in a noble family, and was then made principal of the college "Des Bons Enfans." On a voyage which he was making from Marseilles to Narbonne the ship in which he had taken passage was captured by corsairs, and he was sold into slavery at Tunis.
After having spent several years in the most forlorn condition, he succeeded in claiming his master, a renegade Christian, to the true faith, and together with him Paul made his escape from Barbtry. They landed in France in 1607. Shortly after this he went to Rome, and was entrusted by the pontiff with an important mission to the French court in 1608. He now took up his residence in Paris, and became the almoner of Marguerite de Valois. He also taught, and as tutor of the children of M. de Gondy, the commandant of the galleys at Marseilles, gained the friendship of this distinguished man, and secured the appointment as almoner-general of the galleys in 1619. It was at this time that the well-known incident occurred of his offering himself and being accepted in the place of one of the convicts, whom he found overwhelmed with grief and despair at having been obliged to leave his wife and family in extreme destitution. But Vincent de Paul is especially noted for having laid the foundation of what eventually grew into the great and influential congregation of "Priests of the Missions," an association of priests who devote themselves to the work of assisting the parochial clergy by preaching and hearing confessions periodically in those districts to which they may be invited by the local pastors. The rules of this congregation were approved by Urban VIII in 1632, and in the following year the fathers established themselves in the so- called priory of St. Lazare, in Paris, whence their name of Lazarists (q.v.) is derived. From this date his life was devoted to the organization of works of charity and benevolence. To him Paris owes the establishment of the Foundling Hospital, and the first systematic efforts for the preservation of the lives and the due education of a class theretofore neglected, or left to the operation of chance charity. The pious Sisterhood of Charity is an emanation of the same spirit, and Vincent was intrusted by St. Francis de Sales with the direction of the newly founded order of Sisters of the Visitation. The queen, Anne of Austria, warmly rewarded his exertions, and Louis XIII chose him as his spiritual assistant in his last illness. Vincent de Paul was placed by the queen-regent at the head of the Conseil de Conscience, the council chiefly charged with the direction of the crown in ecclesiastical affairs; and the period of his presidency was long looked back to as the golden sera of impartial and honest distribution of ecclesiastical patronage in France. Vincent was not, in any sense of the word, a scholar; but his preaching, which (like that of the fathers of his congregation of Lazarists) was of the most simple kind, was singularly affecting and impressive. He left nothing behind him but the Rules or Constitutions of the Congregation of the Mission (1685); Conferences on these Constitutions (4to), and a considerable number of letters, chiefly addressed to the priests of the mission, or to other friends, on spiritual subjects. He died at an advanced age at St. Lazare, Sept. 27, 1660, and was canonized by Clement XII in 1737. His festival is held on July 19, the day of his canonization. See Mrs. Jameson, Legends; Jervis, Hist. of the Church of France, 1:319 sq.; 2:11; Hook, Eccles. Biog. 7:592.