Sister Gabriele from the Benedictine Monastery on the Mount of Olives sent us a short biography of Saint Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) in order to commemorate his feast day.

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Those who knew the young Vincent would probably not have imagined that one day he would become the great saint of Christian charity.

Born to a family of peasants in south east France, Vincent shared in the hard labor of his parents. However, he was a boy with a lively spirit and his father began to have hope for his future: if Vincent became a priest he would be able to find a good source of income… and he would be able to leave the raw rural life – and also help his family.

So Vincent was sent to high school and he engaged in his studies enthusiastically. He eagerly left behind the milieu of his origins, of which, at that period, he was ashamed. One time he even refused to come and see his father who had travelled to come and visit him at school.

Before he reached the age of twenty, he was ordained a priest and began to seek out a good and profitable posting. After a stormy time, he arrived in Paris where he did indeed find a good position: he succeeded in being named chaplain to the queen. Soon he was frequenting high society and yet he discovered that he missed the simplicity of his former life. The fact that he had found a good posting left him unsatisfied and he began a search for something “more”.

Two encounters were decisive in order to radically transform his life: meeting a person who suffered great moral and spiritual solitude and the encounter with a family that suffered from sickness and misery. Vincent was profoundly touched by these encounters and begins his work: until the end of his days he would engage in the renewal of the priests so that they might carry out their ministry among Christians. This is the origin of the “Priests of the Mission” also names Lazarists. He would also organize a work of charity so that it would not simply be the result of a spontaneous action of a moment but would rather be sustained over time for the poor, orphans, the sick and the prisoners… With Louise de Marillac, he founded the “Daughters of Charity”. (These sisters are present in our country in Mamila and Ein Karem in Jerusalem, in Haifa and in Nazareth as well as in Bethany and Bethlehem, where they administer institutions for the handicapped, orphans and the sick). For his works, Vincent was able to count on the help of many: many and influence from some, energy and physical help from others.

Misery was widespread in the 17th century and innumerable difficulties had to be overcome however in the midst of all this, in the course of his work, Vincent de Paul was able to give a face to the goodness and the tenderness of God who comes close to each one of his creatures. This is a face which continues to shine and attract.