Acta Sanctorum: St. Vincent de Paul (Sept 27)
September 27, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

September 27
St. Vincent de Paul
Life (1581-1660)

Vincent was born in France in 1581 during a time not unlike today: a time marred by war, disease, and poverty. As a young peasant boy, Vincent learned the meaning of hard work by tending the family livestock as their primary means of support. His parents recognized that he was clever and creative, and sacrificed to send him to school.

Vincent was also ambitious. He wanted out of the peasant life, and decided that the priesthood was the best way to acquire a career, family security, and a respectable position in society. At age 19, he was ordained a priest and headed to Rome to complete his education. Throughout his 20s, Vincent’s attitude was, “What’s in it for me?” So he often sought out wealthy benefactors. However, in his 30s, a profound spiritual change was beginning. He had battled depression, and wrestled with doubt. In working to help others, Vincent discovered the meaning of his own life. He experienced conversion to a life of surrender to the will of God, and consistent service to the poor.

In his first parish, he showed his talents in organizing service to the marginalized. From there, he improved the horrendous conditions of galley slaves; he recognized the abysmal state of the priesthood, and attracted other dedicated priests to reform the clergy, as well as to bring the Word of God and sacraments to the poor. Today, these priests and brothers are known as the Congregation of the Mission: Vincentians.

In the 1620s, Vincent met a holy collaborator, a woman who would become a Saint in her own right: Louise de Marillac. Louise and Vincent together co-founded the Daughters of Charity, a group of more than 25,000 members worldwide today.

In the early 1600s, Vincent established the first charitable organization comprised of affluent and generous lay people, working to care for the poor. This group was the forerunners of the Ladies of Charity, the oldest organization of lay women in the Church. It is currently an organization of 250,000 women volunteering in virtually all countries.

For over three decades, Vincent worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the needs of those who were poor. He held weekly instruction conferences for the clergy, organized retreats, established seminaries and missions, and structured war relief efforts. He was instrumental in establishing orphanages, hospitals, emergency services to refugees, nursing of wounded soldiers, and care of plague victims and the elderly.

At the heart of his accomplishments was his deep conviction of the fundamental dignity of every human person, made in the image and likeness of God, and his conviction that all persons benefit in the mutuality of service. Vincent’s life and teaching affirm that no one is so rich that he cannot receive, and no one is so poor that he cannot give.

Vincent’s life work served to bring Good News to the poor, and give voice to the voiceless. He not only changed the face of France, but also inspired millions to carry on his mission globally. In fact, today, nearly two million followers of Vincent, not only the groups he directly founded, such as the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity, the Ladies of Charity which is the oldest functioning group of lay women with its 250,000 members today, but also, the more than half million members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the various groups of Sisters of Charity… in short: priests, Brothers, Sisters, members of lay movements… they are all animated by the same desire to help the poor and the marginalized.

St. Vincent’s life was a perfect example of how deep compassion can change our lives and communities. Getting to know Vincent enables us to discover what inspired and possessed him, and what touches our own hearts, and calls us today to actions of love and justice to transform our world.


Scripture  (1 Cor 1:26-31)
Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.


(Year A)  I hope that since you wrote to me God will have dispersed the clouds which were troubling you, and therefore I will only say one word about them en passant. It seems that you have been in doubt as to whether you are of the number of the predestinated; to which I reply, that although it is true that without a special revelation from God no one has infallible tokens of his predestination, yet according to the witness of S. Paul, there are tokens whereby the true children of God may be recognised, with such a degree of probability, that it hardly leaves any room for doubt. And these marks, Monsieur, I see them all in you, by the grace of God; the very letter in which you tell me that you cannot discover them reveals some of them, to me, and my long acquaintance with you makes me sure of the rest. Believe me, I do not know a soul in the world which belongs more entirely to God than yours does, nor a heart more turned from evil, more seeking after good, than yours.
But it does not seem to me so, you will say, and I answer that God does not always permit His children to discern the purity of their inner being, amid all the stirring of a corrupt nature, to the end that they may humble themselves continually, and that their treasure may be all the safer for being thus hidden. The holy apostle had seen the wonders of heaven, but did not hold himself to be thereby justified, because he saw in himself too much darkness and strife ; but all the time, he had such a confidence in God, that he was persuaded nothing in this world could separate him from the love of Jesus Christ. This example ought to suffice, Monsieur, to lead you to abide in peace amid your darkness, and to have an entire and perfect trust in the infinite goodness of our Lord, who, being desirous to finish the work of your sanctification, invites you to abandon yourself wholly to the arms of His Providence. Suffer Him, then, to guide you according to His Fatherly love, for He does love you, and so far from casting away one with so much of good in him as you have, He never forsakes even a wicked man who hopes in His mercy. (Letter to a priest)

Musical Selection

Whatsoever you do to the least of my people 
That you do unto me. 
When I was hungry, you gave me to eat; 
When I was thirsty you gave me to drink. 
Now enter into the home of my Father. 
When I was weary, you helped me find rest; 
When I was anxious, you calmed all my fears. 
 Now enter into the home of my Father. 
When I was homeless, you opened your door; 
When I was naked, you gave me your coat. 
Now enter into the home of my Father.
When I was laughed at, you stood by my side;
When I was happy, you shared in my joy.
Now enter into the home of my Father.


Merciful God,
whose servant Vincent de Paul,
by his ministry of preaching and pastoral care, 
brought your love to the sick and the poor:
give to all your people a heart of compassion 
that by word and action they may serve you
in serving others in their need;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, now and for ever. Amen. (English Missal)