The Catholic Church celebrates St. Vincent de Paul’s feast day on September 27th. Most of us know his common life: He was born poor in the French village of Pouy on April 24, 1581. He founded the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac. He died September 27, 1660.
During the feast day homilies, we hear some of the amazing works that he did for the poor, but here are some little known facts about the life of this amazing saint.
1 . Vincent went into the priesthood to retire and live comfortably
Vincent was born into a peasant family who lived humbly through hard work and frugality. His father encouraged him to become a priest. He decided to follow his fathers’s advice. He would become a priest so that he could get an office in the Church, earn enough money to retire early, and then go home and provide for his family (he was third of 6 children). Little did he know what God had planned for him.
2. He was kidnapped
St. Vincent was ordained in 1600. In 1605, he left to go on a mission trip. On the way, he was captured, shipped to Tunis, and sold as a slave for two years. He managed to escape and returned to France. This must have been a real tough time on the new priest – especially since the kidnapping held up his plans to further his career.
3. He was accused of theft
After trying and failing to advance himself in to higher ranks of the church, St. Vincent was falsely accused of theft by his roommate. Because he no longer cared about his public image, he did not defend himself. St. Vincent humbled himself like our Lord. The real thief finally confessed years later.
4 The confession of a dying man changed his life
Saint Vincent had been in Italy, but returned to France to be chaplain and tutor to the Gondi family. He heard the confession of a man who lived at the estate who was dying. Before the man died, he convinced Madame de Gondi to endow Vincent and get him to preach on confession. When Father Vincent spoke about the power of confession, he lead so many of the poor to reconcile that he had to recruit more priests!
Saint Vincent realized the need for priests to minister to the poor of France, the people many forgot about because of their lack of position in society. About this same time, he finally realized his occupation as a true vocation and recognized his relationship with Jesus Christ.
5. He was a man with a temper
St. Vincent had a mean temper. He often prayed that God would slow his anger. It didn’t happen over night, but his work with the poor ultimately softened his heart and he became the kind and tender man God called him to be.
6. His body is Incorrupt
St. Vincent’s bones and heart are perfectly incorrupt, and have been placed inside a wax figure of his body. His relics can be seen in the Church of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris. There is also a bone fragment relic at the St. Vincent de Paul Church in Omaha, NE, placed upon a small shelf in front of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
Bonus Fact: St. Vincent de Paul did not found the St. Vincent de Paul Society
When St. Vincent was canonized by Pope Leo XIII, he became the patron of charitable societies. It was actually Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, an admirer of the saint, who founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 1833, in his honor.
St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!