This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 27 -- Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul

Looks like a good guy to me. 
I have a tendency to admire the saints who reject wealth and comfort.  They seem more... holy.  And certainly some of them, notable Francis of Assisi, seem more virtuous.  And yet, Saint Vincent de Paul reminds me that great service can be achieved from luxurious places. 

Vincent was a farm boy, but he rose smoothly within the Church.  In the seventeenth century, the Church and the military were probably the only vehicles for social mobility (and even then there were no promises, since the aristocracy reserved many spots in each for itself).  [Okay, to be fair, commerce and industry were creating a rising middle class, but I think of that as more of an eighteenth century, Industrial Revolution phenomenon.] 

Back to Vincent.  He entered a Franciscan college at fourteen, and even though he took time off to tutor in a wealthy home, he was still ordained at age twenty.  He was a chaplain at the royal court, serving Queen Margaret of Valois.  He honed the social skills needed to move easily among the upper crust. 

This reminds me of GOB Bluth and his Franklin puppet. 
He may have been captured by pirates and enslaved in Tunisia.  According to his letters, he converted his third master to Christianity and was returned to France.  Of course, there are records of him serving in Court at the same time, so this remains a puzzling mystery about Vincent. 

What's not mysterious is the impression that Saint Francis de Sales made on him.  Francis had renounced his personal wealth and dedicated himself to service of the poor.  I don't see anywhere that Vincent became nearly as personally austere as Francis, but he did start organizing for the relief of the needy.  His wealthy, well-connected friends were generous in support -- and some became the Ladies of Charity.  The success of this service organization led to its expansion by recruiting peasant girls (always a surplus commodity); it became the Sisters of Charity, an independent Order of uncloistered nuns. 

He was also active in training new priests who would serve remote villages and other under-served populations.  These Vincentians have spread globally and are now based in a Motherhouse in Perryville, Missouri. 

I don't know if he was really kidnapped by pirates; I don't care either.  I don't know if he ever embraced the austerity that some more famous advocates for the poor adopted; again, I don't care.  And it doesn't fall to me to judge the faith of another; a lifetime of service is enough. 

DePaul University in Chicago, founded by the Vincentians, serves about 25,000 students including around 16,000 undergrads.  They are the Blue Demons, a fact I find inexplicable. 

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