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The Life of Saint Vincent de Paul
"You should never tread on the heels of Providence; but if Providence opens the way, you should run." These words of St. Vincent de Paul characterize this saint who "ran" with every opportunity to provide for the spiritual and material needs of the poor, and indeed, of all the people of his time. He was not so much an originator, but rather a great organizer.
From humble beginnings in the village of Pouy, in France, Vincent, at an early age displayed quick intelligence and a keen wit. As a teenager he felt called to ministry and in 1600 was ordained a priest.
His work with the poor and his preaching attracted widespread attention, and his spiritual character was recognized by St. Francis de Sales who appointed him spiritual director to the Visitation Community that Francis founded together.
In 1625 Vincent founded his own community, the Congregation of the Mission, which was devoted to working among the poor and for the formation of priests. And some eight years later (1633) together with St. Louise de Marillac, the founded the Sisters of Charity, whose main work was care of the sick and care of orphans and children in need.
Vincent was sensitive to the needs of the people and the difficulties of the Church in his time. He was able to provide for the needy through the charitable works that he established and met the challenges to the Church by the instructions that he gave. The spiritual formation of priests and the education of seminarians were priorities in his endeavors on behalf of all He wanted his priests and religious to be as sensitive to all the needy as he himself was.
His personal spirituality is revealed in these words addressed to his priests: "Do the good that presents itself to be done. I do not say we should go out indiscriminately and take on every' thing, but rather those things God lets us know he wants of us. We belong to Him and not to ourselves. If He increases our work. He adds to our strength also."
To all his religious he wrote: "It is our duty to prefer the, service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible." Vincent was very practical in his approach to ministry to the poor and sick.
"Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if your leave him for such service. ..Charity is certainly greater than any rule.
Moreover all rules must lead to charity." From St. Vincent De Paul we learn courage in the face of difficulties, and absolute trust in the grace and power of God .In the opening prayer of the mass we acknowledge in Vincent "the courage and holiness of an apostle." Vincent was a model of zeal in ministry and he appreciated the power of prayer, the need for spiritual growth and the happiness that comes from doing the work of God, especially among the poor.