Vincent de Paul (1581?-1660)
Vincent de Paul (1581?-1660) Born in 1581 into a farming family in Pouy, France, Vincent's initial desire to be a priest was mainly for social advancement and monetary gain. Through a process of careful planning and being in the right place at the right time, Vincent was ordained a priest at the ripe age of nineteen by an elderly bishop who could barely see or hear.

Beginning his ordained life with less than pure motives, Vincent's change of heart began in the middle of one of his visits to the poor tenants of a wealthy estate holder.

When Vincent was called to hear the confession of a dying man, the spiritual naiveté of the penitent shocked Vincent. The poor man knew next to nothing about his religion. Not long after, Vincent preached a sermon on general confession from the pulpit (pictured below) in the village chapel of Folleville, France. In it he asked the people to take to heart the necessity of repentance.

The response overwhelmed him.

For hours the villagers stood in line to go to confession. Inside they poured out their longing for the Gospel and for good priests to minister to them. Vincent had not guessed at their hunger or their need. Based on this conversion of heart, Vincent gathered a little band of missionary priests to his side.

In 1626, Vincent and three priests pledged to, in his own words, "Aggregate and associate to ourselves and to the aforesaid work to live together as a Congregation...and to devote ourselves to the salvation of the poor country folk."

The Congregation of the Mission was born.

More men became priests to join Vincent and his three original companions and began preaching all across France.

Vincent's works are astounding when viewed as a whole.

Within Vincent's lifetime the Congregation of the Mission had spread throughout the world.

At Vincent's funeral, the preacher declared that Vincent had just about "transformed the face of the Church". No one disputed this claim.

Funny, charming, impassioned, candid - Vincent de Paul had an extraordinary capacity to connect with all types of people and to move them to be inflamed with the Gospel and to live their lives in charity.

His basic vision was simply that the Good News of Jesus Christ should be announced to the poor through word and service.

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(Soy P. Juan Jose Mendoza)