Vincent (St) De Paul

Vincent (St.) De Paul a Roman Catholic ecclesiastic and philanthropist, was born April 24, 1576, at Pouys, near Acqs, in Gascony, in the reign of Henry III. His education was entrusted to the Franciscan monks after he was twelve years old, and in 1600 he was ordained. He was captured by corsairs while voyaging from Toulouse to Narbonne, taken to Tunis, and purchased by a renegade of Nizza, whom he induced to return to Christianity. After being liberated, he sojourned for a time in Rome, and on his return to France became house chaplain to queen Margaret, where he was involved in temporary scepticism with regard to religious matters. His friend Berulle, founder of a society of Peres de l'Oratoire de Jesus, obtained for him the pastorate of Clichy, and the position of chaplain to count Gondy and tutor to his three sons. His faithful visitation of his parish caused the countess to set apart the sum of 16,000 livres for purposes of priestly visitation over her domains; but the great confidence reposed in him by the countess oppressed him, and he obtained a new parish at Chatillon-les-Dombes (1617) among the poor: Here, again, he was eminently useful, converting Calvinists and worldlings of either sex, and organizing the first sisterhood of charity (Confrerie de Charité) with a view to regular and systematic care of the poor by women. Having been persuaded to return to count Gondy's parish, he' repeated the measure of organizing sisterhoods, and began to visit the prisoners, especially the galley-slaves, whose condition Alas miserable in the extreme. For them he established a hospital, and he so devoted himself to care for their physical and spiritual welfare that many other persons were led to imitate his spirit. Louis XIII gave him authority to prosecute such labors in 1619 by commissioning him Aumonier Royal des Galeres de France. At Macon, in Burgundy, he found a surprising number of beggars, who were, besides, ignorant of the commonest and most necessary articles of the faith; and he consequently delayed his journey long enough to organize, with the assistance of the local authorities, a society of St. Charles Borromeo in their behalf (1623). In 1625 the donation of the countess Gondy bore fruit in the founding of the organization of Priests of the Mission (confirmed by Parliament in 1631, and provided with a rule of his devising thirty years later), and to the service of this society Vincent devoted the principal energies of his later years. The object of the order was the prosecution of preaching and pastoral labor, performed in harmony with the plans of the resident bishops, among the peasantry; but its operations were subsequently carried on over the cities also. It received the cordial support of a number of ladies, some of them belonging to the higher orders of society. Its house became a benevolent asylum, in which as many as eight hundred laymen- found a temporary refuge in a single year. Especially noteworthy were the labors of these priests in the army and among the victims of the war on the German border. They collected money for the support of the sufferers, and even denied themselves bread that the hungry might be fed. Their visitations in time extended to the Roman Campagna, Tunis, Algiers, Ireland, Poland, Corsica, Madagascar, etc.

The numerous Confreres de Charité suffered from the fact that the ladies who composed them were too largely engrossed with the care of their own households. This induced Vincent, on the suggestion of Madame le Gras, to found the Order of Filles de Charité, or Sisters of Charity, also called Soeurs Grises. They are not nuns. After a novitiate of five years, they take a vow which binds them for only a single year. He also organized a society of Matrons, whose work was principally attendance at the great hospital of Paris, the Hotel Dieu; and to these must be added a seminary for his missionary order modeled after those established among the Jesuits. He served the government also as spiritual councilor of state. In these multifarious occupations he ripened to a gentle old age in the imitation of Christ. He shattered his health by a winter journey when seventy-four years of age, and lingered for eleven additional years, until death relieved him, Sept. 27,1660. He was beatified in 1727 and canonized 1737.

See Abelly, La Vie de Vincent de Paul (Paris, 1664, and often); Collet, La Vie de Saint Vincent de Paul (1748; in extract, Paris, 1819); also Stolberg, Leben des heil. Vinc. 5. Paula, etc. (Münster, 1818), and numerous later essays; Jameson [Mrs.], Legends of the Monastic Orders, p. 347 sq.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Géneralé, s.v.; and Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.

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